Sonar Wars

The 8 March incident with Chinese trawlers and a US surveillance ship has big implications for our maritime security.

The Pentagon released photos yesterday from a dramatic encounter on Sunday (8 March) between Chinese trawlers and the oceanographic surveillance ship USNS Impeccable.  Impeccable, a civilian-manned ship belonging to the US Military Sealift Command, was conducting undersea surveillance in the South China Sea, about 75 miles south of Hainan Island.  Pentagon officials stated that Chinese harassment of Impeccable, and her sister ship USNS Victorious — operating further north in the Yellow Sea — began last week, when Chinese maritime surveillance aircraft conducted low passes over Victorious.  The intrusive “surveillance” continued on Thursday with a Chinese frigate cutting across Impeccable’s bow, followed by further close aircraft passes against Impeccable, and on Saturday, a voice warning to Impeccable over bridge-to-bridge (BTB) communications, from a Chinese intelligence collection ship, to leave the area or “suffer the consequences.” Continue reading “Sonar Wars”

Hit ’em Hard

Force options against Iran break down into seeking the following objectives: delaying her nuclear programs, reversing their progress, and preventing Iran entirely from achieving a nuclear weapons capability. This post develops these ideas, and discusses military options for the first objective of delaying Iran.

… Hit ‘em Low… and if they get up, Hit ‘em Again*


If, as some analysts suggest, Iran could achieve a nuclear “breakout capability” in 2009, is there anything that the use of force can achieve to prevent this?

The answer to this question is multifaceted and contingent.  It depends, in the first place, on how the question is posed.  It also depends on who is undertaking the use of force, and what the precise objectives are.  Ultimately, the single, bottom-line answer is yes – but only if sufficient force is used, for the objectives it is suited for, and only if the will exists to pursue those objectives.  Lesser objectives, and less force, will not achieve a satisfactory outcome.  I believe that conundrum represents much of what stayed the hand of the Bush administration throughout his tenure in office. Continue reading “Hit ’em Hard”

We have Ways

China’s naval activism increased substantially in 2008, with the highest number of submarine patrols ever, and a task force deployment to the Gulf of Aden. These developments increase strategic concern over China’s “string of pearls” strategy to have naval presence and access across South Asia.

… of Making You Live in Interesting Times


A key feature of a “Great Game,” maritime or otherwise, is that there are multiple players.  Russia has been the most overtly active in the past year or two.  But China’s level of activity has been steadily increasing for the last decade, and with the events of 2008, promises only to increase.

China has no history – yet — as a global maritime power.  But she is laboring diligently to become a regional maritime power, building her navy, piling up more operating days for it than any navy except the US Navy, and developing a network of Chinese-improved potential naval bases that today stretches across South Asia to Pakistan. Continue reading “We have Ways”