On February 11, 2011, the Prime Minister of Canada, The Right Honourable Stephen Harper, P.C., M.P., the Minister of National Defence, The Honourable Peter McKay, P.C., M.P. and Senator The Honourable Fabian Manning, P.C. visited the National Research Council of Canada’s Institute for Ocean Technology (IOT) in St. John’s, Newfoundland. Dr. Mary Williams, Director General of IOT, introduced the Prime Minister and his colleagues to the engineering staff of Marine Robotics Inc. (MRI), whose Autonomous Underwater Vehicle (AUV) development laboratory is located within the Institute.
It was explained to the visitors that the twin hulled SQX AUV on display has an innovative and patent pending propulsion and control system developed together by staff of IOT and MRI. The AUV is designed to accomplish two primary missions: ocean floor surveying, as well as to be a mine countermeasures (MCM) platform. The MCM function was explained in some detail, as well as the challenge of designing and building control software that allows the AUV to conduct pre-programmed missions to completion without human intervention.
A mistake by a US Navy intelligence official has given the world an unexpected peek into the secret world of China’s navy. The US Office for Naval Intelligence (ONI) committed the blunder of posting, on an open website, the agency’s assessment of the state of the Chinese navy. Before the ONI could rectify this indiscretion by pulling off the report, it had been downloaded and posted on publicly accessible websites.
The 47-page report, entitled, “A Modern Navy with Chinese Characteristics”, is still posted on the website of the Federation of American Scientists, a policy advocacy body at: http://www.fas.org/irp/agency/oni/pla-navy.pdf
The ONI report analyses the capabilities and the future direction of the People’s Liberation Army (Navy), or PLA(N). Interestingly, the ONI assessment differs substantially with the conventional view — widely prevalent in India and the Indian Navy — of a China racing unstoppably towards naval superpower.
The assessment notes China’s recent deployment of Task Groups — each consisting of two warships and a replenishment vessel — for anti-piracy operations in the Gulf of Aden. This marks the first time in over 600 years that a Chinese flotilla has operated in waters beyond China’s immediate vicinity. But the report concludes, “none of these operations indicates a desire on the part of the PRC (People’s Republic of China) to develop a constant global presence. Beijing’s ambition appears to remain focused on the East Asian region, with an ability to protect the PRC’s maritime interests in distant seas when required.
The Chinese navy last went global during the Ming rule in the early 15th century, when the great Chinese admiral Zhang He stamped the authority of the Chinese navy across the Indian Ocean, reaching to the shores of Africa. But, in 1435, China decided to focus inwards. Around 1477, by the emperor ordered the burning of records of Zhang’s seven great voyages, from 1405-1435. Thereafter, no further naval activity was permitted in the southern seas.
This inward focus continued through Mao’s revolutionary war, which brought the communists to power. Thereafter, a coastal navy was sufficient to enforce China’s claims over most of the East and South China Seas, and the need to deter Taiwan from declaring independence. But the US Navy’s dominating presence in the Asia-Pacific and need to protect China’s supply lines convince Beijing of the need for greater naval power. China’s Defence White Paper of 2008 calls for expanding the navy’s operating range, and a greater role in international security.
The PLA(N)’s most key acquisition, says the ONI report, is a sophisticated anti-air capability, which would allow its ships to operate in “distant seas”, far from land-based air-defence systems. The Luyang I class of destroyers, already formidable, have been followed by the Luyang II class and the Jiangkai II frigates, which are linked with an air-surveillance network as good as America’s world-standard Aegis system.
Submarines, both conventional and nuclear, will be a key deterrent in the PLA(N). The ONI report says that Beijing will replace its large number of low-tech submarines with “smaller numbers of modern, high-capability boats (submarines)”. But while the number of surface ships remains constant, today’s fleet of 62 submarines will increase over the next 10-15 years to 75. [In that time-frame, India’s submarine fleet will be about one-third that of China’s.]
Most worrisome for the US Navy’s pre-eminence in the region, is the programme to develop the world’s first Anti-Ship Ballistic Missile (ASBM), a variant of China’s Dong Feng – 21 missile. The ONI report reveals that the ASBM’s peculiar flight path, involving a mid-course trajectory correction, will make it very difficult to intercept.
Despite the addition of high-tech platforms, US intelligence estimates that much of the PLA(N) will still remain outdated 10-15 years from now. Its surface ships will remain vulnerable to air attack, while command and control systems will still be relatively undeveloped. Therefore, while the PLA(N) will be gradually expanding beyond the South China Sea, it will focus on what Beijing calls, “military operations other than war.” These include protecting its international lines of supply, humanitarian relief, and naval diplomacy.
The strength of the Chinese fleet was listed as:
Submarines- 62 (53 diesel Attack Submarines, six nuclear Attack Submarines, three nuclear Ballistic Missile Submarines). The U.S. has 72 submarines, all nuclear (53 attack and 18 ballistic missile.)
Destroyers-26. The U.S. has 52.
Frigates-48. The U.S. has 32, including two of the new LCS vessels.
Amphibious Ships 58. The U.S. has 30, all much larger and equipped with flight decks and helicopters, plus landing craft.
Coastal Patrol (Missile)- at least 80. The U.S. Navy had a few of these, but got rid of them. China uses these for coastal patrol and defense, a concept they inherited from the Russians.
In addition, the U.S. has eleven aircraft carriers (ten of them nuclear powered) and 22 cruisers.
Most of the Chinese ships are older (in design, if not in the age of the vessels) than their American counterparts. China is building new classes of ships, with more modern equipment and weapons.
Their new destroyers have better anti-aircraft weapons, although nothing to match the American Aegis system, much less the 20 U.S. Aegis ships with anti-missile capability. China is trying to develop classes of nuclear submarines that come close to the capabilities of their American counterparts.
China is also vastly outmatched in naval aviation, with nothing comparable to the hundreds of American maritime patrol (P-3) aircraft. But China is building aircraft carriers, and upgrading its naval aviation.
Only a portion (about a third) of the U.S. fleet is facing China, because of other commitments, while nearly all the Chinese fleet operates along their coast. But the U.S. also has major naval allies in the region (like Japan and South Korea), while China has none. The Chinese fleet is no match for the U.S. Navy now, but the Chinese are building and planning for the future. In another few decades, the Chinese expect the situation to be quite different. But the question is the timeline and scale of the ambitious building plan of PLA Navy.
The Varyag aircraft carrier, Type 052C “Chinese Aegis” and Type 093/094 submarines are always the focus point of Western defence analysts. Some sources in the Chinese defense industries indicate that China will continuously push its huge Navy construction in world economic crisis. In next few years the hardware construction of Chinese Naval Force is going to enter an higher climax.
In Dalian Shipbuilding Corporation, Varyag has become a covering smog of PLA Navy’s intention. China will simultaneously build two 70,000-80,000 displacement Carriers in Dalian Shipbuilding Corporation and Shanghai Jiangnan Changxing shipbuilding base. Chinese’s new carrier is believed to have conventional power propellant (some people notes that one conventional power and another is nuclear power) and steam catapult, not ski-jump ramp. Besides, Dalian Shipyard will build a steam turbine powered large air-defense destroyer, which will be a expanded type of 051C destroyer (Type 051D?).
Not only the aircraft carrier, Shanghai Jiangnan Changxing shipbuilding base will build other 3 general 7000-tonne class (some opinions say 9000-10000 ton) missile destroyer, whose armament includes HHQ-9G long-range air-defense missile, HHQ-16 medium-range air defense missile, YJ-XX anti-ship/land-attacking missile, anti-submarine missile and 1 Z-15 helicopter. As the fire-control system, the improved Array Scan Radar in Type 052C is an option but Chinese people are developing a ship-borne sensor which is similar to SAMPSON multi-function air tracking radar used in British Type 45 destroyer.
Type 052D, the upgrading version of well-known Type 052C destroyer, will become the air-defense core of PLA Navy Aircraft Carrier Group. Huangpu Shipbuilding Corporation located in Guangzhou will start the production of 4 Type 052D destroyers.
Hudong Shipbuilding Company, another shipbuilder in Shanghai, will carry the task of producing 6-8 23,000-tonne class “flush deck” amphibious transport dock ships. As the bloom of Type 054A frigates appeared in Chinese ship yards, the performance of this new missile frigate has been recognized by PLA Navy. It can be sure that the production of Type 054A frigate will be continue in Hudong and Huangpu shipbuilding Yards.
The underwater fleet is also being paid great attention by PLA Navy planners. In their international fleet review, PLA did not uncover its newest submarines, such as Type 093/094 nuclear submarines and Type 041 (NATO “Yuan” class) diesel-electric submarine.
China’s first aircraft carrier (36 combat aircraft) battle group is said to be supported by 4 type 052D destroyers, 4 General missile destroyer, 2 Type 054A frigates, 2 Type 093 Nuclear Submarines. Such a battle group would pose a significant strike force presence in the South China Sea Island.
We released some new brochures at today’s Underwater Battlespace conference being held in London, England.
The new Software Defined Sonar technology brochure can be downloaded from here.
The new Caruso SF7 brochure for naval applications can be downloaded from here.
During yesterday’s pre-conference workshop, Norman Friedman, an internationally known strategist and military technological analyst, gave a very interesting presentation on Net Centric Warfare. Network Centric Warfare (NCW) is a naval concept for transforming military operations in the 21st Century. NCW focuses on using information technology to link together ships, submarines, autonomous underwater vehicles, aircraft, and shore installations into highly integrated networks that present an overall tactical “picture” to enhance situational awareness. NCW could significantly improve naval capabilities and lead to substantial changes in naval tactics, doctrine, and organization.
In May, 2008 the Government of Canada awarded Marport a $1.4 million contract to upgrade the depth sounders on the Halifax class frigates. Marport’s sounder will replace the existing AN/SQN 501 equipment with an open architecture, software defined solution designed for submarines and surface ships. A software defined sounder incorporates agility, configuration flexibility and future-proofing. This will ensure that Marport’s depth sounder remains the most comprehensive and highly capable in-service sounder in the world, thus sustaining a key advantage for the Canadian Navy.
It was a busy holiday season around Marport’s offices as we prepared to deliver. Marport personnel worked harder than Santa’s elves to ensure that the systems were shipped to the Navy depot by December 31st.
Bravo Zulu to all staff who pitched in – with special thanks to Gilles, Neil, Brian K. and the teams at ELEKTO and PF Collins.