Wednesday, February 08, 2006

PLAN a Factor for USN Planning

The Congressional Research Service's Ronald O'Rourke wrote "China Naval Modernization: Implications for U.S. Navy Capabilities" (pdf) last November in response to widespread concern on Capitol Hill and elsewhere in the U.S. government. O'Rourke has written widely on American defense requirements, especially as it relates to the Navy, making this report well-worth a read.
China has come up repeatedly in congressional debate over the size of the Navy. The 288-ship fleet of today is half the size it was three decades ago. "You never want to broadcast to the world that something’s insufficient," [Senator John] Warner says, "but clearly China poses a challenge to the sizing of the U.S. Navy." [1]

I won't seek to summarize this lengthy and detail-packed report, but rather will offer a few hand-picked facts that I found to be of particular interest:
  • China appears to be developing short-range ballistic missiles (SRBMs) with maneuverable reentry vehicles (MaRV) capabilities that would potentially allow them to target naval vessels. (I previously posted on China's SRBMs as relevant to land-attack missions but did not include a naval analysis.)

  • China may have advanced Surface-to-Air Missiles (SAMs) that are somewhat effective against "stealthy" aircraft. (I previously posted on China's ability to detect American stealth aircraft, but didn't analyze the kill capability that is needed to operationalize that information.)

  • China's submarine acquisition will soon surpass the previous average of one per annum.
    China will have a net gain of 35 submarines over the next 15 years. [9]

  • John Tkacik of Heritage is cited offering a new translation of ShaShouJian: "Poisoned Arrow" (9). I would argue it isn't a particularly accurate translation, see here for more.
  • O'Rourke quotes heavily from a fascinating article in Signal:
    It is unlikely that Russian advisers would be onboard [Russian-made Sovremnyi and Kilos] during actual combat operations against Taiwan and U.S. Navy air, surface and subsurface threats. PLAN officers and crew are not expected to be able to handle operations when under fire, sustaining hits and suffering system degradation or loss. [21]
    I hadn't yet seen this argued. Provocative thought worthy of further study. That same article addresses China's "Aegis-like" systems.
In terms of what all this means for the US Navy:
A key potential issue for Congress in assessing the adequacy of the Navy’s ship force structure plan is whether it includes enough ships to address potential challenges posed by China’s naval modernization while also meeting other responsibilities, including maintaining forward deployments of Navy ships in the Persian Gulf/Indian Ocean region and the Mediterranean Sea and conducting less-frequent operations in other parts of the world, such as the Caribbean, the waters around South America, and the waters off West Africa. If increased numbers of Navy ships are needed to address potential challenges posed by China’s naval modernization, fewer ships might be available for meeting other responsibilities. [40]
He also addresses how many carriers, submarines, etc. the USN needs and how many of those should be forward-deployed in the Pacific.