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A Low Visibility Force Multiplier – a recommendation

Thursday, June 5th, 2014

[by J. Scott Shipman]

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Low Visibility Force Multiplier, Assessing China’s Cruise Missile Ambitions, Dennis M. Gormley, Andrew S. Erickson, Jingdong Yuan

Through an interesting turn of events I was able to attend an event at the Center for a New American Security today where Dennis Gormley and Andrew Erickson discussed their new book, A Low Visibility Force Multiplier. A colleague with CIMSEC posted a link to a Wendell Minnick story in Defense News which led to the National Defense University pdf. I managed to read a large chunk last night/this morning—for a document that was written using open sources, the authors make a pretty compelling case that China’s Anti-ship Ballistic Missile (ASBM), the so-called “carrier killer” isn’t the only missile in the PLAN arsenal U.S. Navy planners need to factor in.

From the Executive Summary:

Assessment

China has invested considerable resources both in acquiring foreign cruise missiles and technology and in developing its own indigenous cruise missile capabilities. These efforts are bearing fruit in the form of relatively advanced ASCMs and LACMs deployed on a wide range of older and modern air, ground, surface-ship, and sub-surface platforms.(9) To realize the full benefits, China will need additional investments in all the relevant enabling technologies and systems required to optimize cruise missile performance.(10) Shortcomings remain in intelligence support, command and control, platform stealth and survivability, and postattack damage assessment, all of which are critical to mission effectiveness.

ASCMs and LACMs have significantly improved PLA combat capabilities and are key components in Chinese efforts to develop A2/AD capabilities that increase the costs and risks for U.S. forces operating near China, including in a Taiwan contingency. China plans to employ cruise missiles in ways that exploit synergies with other strike systems, including using cruise missiles to degrade air defenses and command and control facilities to enable follow-on air strikes. Defenses and other responses to PRC cruise missile capabilities exist, but will require greater attention and a focused effort to develop technical countermeasures and effective operational responses.

The authors speculate that China has done the calculus and determined they can’t match us (or perhaps have no desire) in platforms, but rather are choosing a lower cost alternative: omassive missile barrages—so massive ship defense systems are overwhelmed. Numbers matter; as the great WayneP. Hughes, Jr. (CAPT, USN, Ret) points out in his seminal Fleet Tactics and Coastal Combat, naval warfare is attrition warfare. With that in mind, this paragraph illustrates the gravity (emphasis added):

Cruise Missile Ratios

DOD transformation assumes that by shaping the nature of military competition in U.S. favor, or “overmatch,” rivals will continually lag in a demanding security environment. What if this is a false assumption? In other words, China may be choosing to com- pete in a traditional or conventional maritime environment in which transformed U.S. forces are structured and equipped in a significantly different way. As analyst Mark Stokes has reported, some Chinese believe that, due to the low cost of developing, deploying, and maintaining LACMs, cruise missiles possess a 9:1 cost advantage over the expense of defending against them. (103) The far more important—and difficult to estimate—ratio is that of PLA ASCMs to U.S. Navy defense systems. Numbers alone will not determine effectiveness; concept of operations and ability to employ cruise missiles effectively in actual operational conditions will be the true determinants of capability. Even without precise calculations, however, it appears that China’s increasing ASCM inventory has in- creasing potential to saturate U.S. Navy defenses. This is clearly the goal of China’s much heavier emphasis on cruise missiles, and it appears to be informed by an assumption that quantity can defeat quality. Saturation is an obvious tactic for China to use based on its capabilities and emphasis on defensive systems. PLAN ASCM weapon training, production, and delivery platform modernization continues to progress rapidly. Scenarios involving hostile engagement between PLAN and U.S. CSG forces could be quite costly to the latter due to the sheer volume of potential ASCM saturation attacks.

Dr. Erickson pointed out in today’s meeting that the Mark Stokes estimate may be an overstatement, but certainly illustrative of economics involved.

This is an important contribution and the challenges facing our Navy and Allies in the South China Sea/East China Sea lead me to conclude with hope that policy makers read and heed.

Strongest recommendation.

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AirTrains at the Antipodes

Friday, April 11th, 2014

[ by Charles Cameron -- playfully expressing his usual preference for play over terror ]
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In the upper panel, above, we have Inspire magazine’s take on the San Francisco AirTrain — an ad for mayhem.

In the lower panel we see an ad for Airtrain Brisbane, which suggests that traffic between you and the airport may be slow enough for you to solve the Sudoku puzzle on the billboard before you pass it… and suggests you take the Airtrain, where you will presumably be able to solve a similar puzzle on your iPad before reaching the airport in time for your flight.

The text of the Inspire ad reads:

For how long will you live in tension? Instead of just sitting, having no solution, simply stand up. Pack your tools of destruction. Assemble your bomb, ready for detonation.

It follows from this wording, incidentally, that “you” are in no hurry to catch a plane since — like Stephen Dedalus in James Joyce‘s Portrait of the Artist — “you” imagine “heaven” to be your destination.

**

But look again at the question Inspire asks:

For how long will you live in tension?

There is plenty of tension right there between the two ads: while AQ-style terrorism is designed to elicit terror, Sudoku suggests playful relaxation.

I’d like to take that a little farther. I’m more literate than numerate, to be honest — so I find crossword puzzles more appealing than Sudoku. And heck, I was even beaten once in boarding school (four with a bamboo cane) for doing The Times crossword instead of my math homework. So here’s an alternative, more peaceable version of our two images:

The upper panel shows a decidedly more pleasant variant on the Sudoku ad — while the lower panel shows Edward McGowan‘s original photo, which AQAP’s Inspire magazine swiped for use in their ad, and which is far more restful on the eye without the garish reddening that Inspire added for dire effect.

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Sources:

  • SFGate report on the Inspire ad
  • Ads of the World, AirTrain Sudoku ad

  • Ads of the World, AirTrain crossword ad
  • SFGate account of McGowan’s original photo
  • The Brisbane ads were designed by De Pasquale of Brisbane, Creative Director Cos Luccitti, Copywriter Jake McLennan, Art Director Daniele Milazzo.

    **

    One day, perhaps, you or I will be on our way to BNE Brisbane or SFO San Francisco, and we’ll see an ad that shows a DoubleQuotes board, with one panel filled with a neat quote or headline from the day’s news and the other one left blank for the reader to fill in… and a question:

    Mind quick enough to try for a creative leap?

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    American Caesar — a reread after 30 years

    Wednesday, September 4th, 2013

    [by J. Scott Shipman]

    American Caesar, Douglas MacArthur 188-1964, by William Manchester

    Often on weekends my wife allows me to tag along as she takes in area estate sales. She’s interested in vintage furniture, and I hope for a decent collection of books. A sale we visited a couple months ago had very few books, but of those few was a hardback copy of American Caesar. I purchased the copy for $1 and mentioned to my wife, “I’ll get to this again someday…” as I’d first read Manchester’s classic biography of General Douglas MacArthur in the early 1980′s while stationed on my first submarine. “Someday” started on the car ride home (she was driving), and I must admit: American Caesar was even better thirty years later. Manchester is a masterful biographer, and equal to the task of such a larger-than-life subject.

    MacArthur still evokes passion among admirers and detractors. One take-away from the second reading was just how well-read MacArthur and his father were. When MacArthur the elder died, he left over 4,000 books in his library—both seemed to possess an encyclopedic knowledge of history and warfare. Highly recommended.

    PS: I visited the MacArthur Memorial, in Norfolk, Virginia, recently while in town for business and would recommend as well.

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    Bouleversé by forgiveness

    Tuesday, January 8th, 2013

    [ by Charles Cameron -- not just "thinking outside the box" -- how about upending the whole thing and seeing what shakes out? ]
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    FWIW, this isn't the world, nor is it upside down -- it's just a rather different map, eh?

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    A celebrated stanza by the Indian poet-saint Kabir — beloved of both Hindus and Muslims — asks:

    Is there any guru in the world wise enough
    to understand the upside-down Veda?

    There’s a style of poetry used by Kabir and others to describe experience of the divine called “ulatbamsi” or the “upside down language” — and Linda Hess, Kabir’s great translator, writes of it as a language “of paradoxes and enigmas” — not too dissimilar, perhaps, to the koans or meditation paradoxes often encountered in zen training.

    **

    Boom! The French have the word “bouleversé” to cover the way we feel when suddenly our whole world seems turned upside down.

    Maybe it’s a modern idea? Bob Dylan, I’m delighted to say, no longer belongs to Robert Zimmerman except for purposes of copyright — his songs have entered the cultural bloodstream. Here’s his version:

    The battle outside ragin’
    Will soon shake your windows
    And rattle your walls
    For the times they are a-changin’

    The world often seems upside down, our values are often quite the reverse of what they might be if we had the kind of clarity that is implied in Samuel Johnson‘s celebrated quote:

    Depend upon it, sir, when a man knows he is to be hanged in a fortnight, it concentrates his mind wonderfully.

    And then there are those great ones for whom our world is manifestly unjust, manifestly topsy-turvy — or “through the looking-glass”, if you prefer.

    I mean, what else can being “in the world, but not of it” be all about, if it’s not about a major shift in perspective?

    **

    I’m writing about this at such length because I just read one of those paragraphs that turns my own world upside down. It came in the middle of a long piece on “restorative justice” and it focuses on the power of forgiveness.

    This particular paragraph describes how an Indian-American woman, Sujatha Baliga, came to see the unexpected power of forgiveness, and for her it occurred in a Buddhist context — but the power itself is beyond the boundaries of specific religions:

    Baliga had been in therapy in New York, but while in India she had what she calls “a total breakdown.” She remembers thinking, Oh, my God, I’ve got to fix myself before I start law school. She decided to take a train to Dharamsala, the Himalayan city that is home to a large Tibetan exile community. There she heard Tibetans recount “horrific stories of losing their loved ones as they were trying to escape the invading Chinese Army,” she told me. “Women getting raped, children made to kill their parents — unbelievably awful stuff. And I would ask them, ‘How are you even standing, let alone smiling?’ And everybody would say, ‘Forgiveness.’ And they’re like, ‘What are you so angry about?’ And I told them, and they’d say, ‘That’s actually pretty crazy.’ ”

    **

    I like the dark blue “sky” and the “clouds” at the top of the map I began this post with — but then, I’m a mostly vertical human who seldom stands on his head, so it looks “natural” to me. But that’s simply a matter of my point of view.

    I imagine maps like that one must please our friends “down under”.

    **

    A hat-tip to Hadar Aviram, whose California Corrections blog first pointed me to the article about Sujatha Baliga.

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    Luttwak on the Australian Strategic Pivot

    Sunday, September 30th, 2012

    Iconoclastic strategist Edward Luttwak has characteristically caustic words on an Australian -American strategic entente to contain an “autistic” rising China:

    Australia counters Chinese threat 

    AUSTRALIA has been quietly building a regional defence coalition to restrain China’s increasingly ”aggressive” and ”autistic” international behaviour, an influential adviser to the Pentagon says.

    Edward Luttwak bluntly contradicts Australian and US denials that they see China as a threat or want to contain its rise. ”Australians view themselves as facing a strategic threat,” he writes in his coming book, The Rise of China v The Logic of Strategy.

    The emerging latticework of regional defence arrangements augments ”the overall capacity of the US-Australian alliance to contain China”.

    The book praises Australia’s strategic initiative in forging ties with countries such as Malaysia, Indonesia and India that lie beyond America’s natural security orbit, as well as broadening the defence networks of close US allies such as Japan.

    ”Each of these Australian initiatives derives from a prior and broader decision to take the initiative in building a structure of collective security piece by piece, and not just leave it all to the Americans,” it says.

    ….The Australian National University’s Hugh White has argued that the US needs to ”share power” with what is going to be ”the most formidable power the US has ever faced”. But for Mr Luttwak, the ”logic of strategy” dictates that neighbours will naturally coalesce against the new rising threat, thus preventing China from realising anything like the relative military power that has been projected.

    ”The rapid accession to prosperity has been a very common way for countries to lose their sanity,” Mr Luttwak told the Herald. He said China suffered from ancient and new foreign policy weaknesses.

    ”The Chinese are autistic in dealing with foreigners, they have no sense of the ‘other’,” he said. ”They think they are incredibly brilliant strategists as if they had been conquering other nations, when in fact it’s been the other way around for 1500 years.”

    Ouch.

    China’s political system is in the midst of a particularly edgy and uncertain generational transition of power, following the succession machinery designed by China’s last “paramount leader”, Deng Xiaoping, to retain harmony among the ruling Communist Party elite.  Deng’s successors are following his script, but their hearts no longer appear to be in it – 15 years after Deng’s death, cracks have appeared in the facade of unity. Not a fatal flaw, but lacking a leader of Deng’s stature who, even in retirement, remained the supreme arbiter of China’s political system, factions of China’s elite have more room to push conflicting agendas.

    In foreign policy we see the effects in China’s erratically belligerent, then conciliatory behavior towards it’s East Asian neighbors and the United States. Strategically, it makes little sense for China to repeatedly generate friction over territorial claims to the entire South China Sea with Vietnam, Philippines, Taiwan, Brunei, Malaysia, Indonesia and the United States and push a separate dispute with Japan simultaneously, yet because of intra-elite, domestic politics, Beijing is unable or unwilling to restrain enthusiast Chinese officials from doing so.

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