Tag Archives: asia

Japan’s Aging Air Force

18 Oct

Japan faces a big dilemma. It’s two main adversaries in the region, Russia and China, which Japan has several territorial disputes with, have already begun developing the next generation of combat aircraft and have begun massive modernization efforts while Japan has been operating the same fleet primarily made up of 200 F-15s since the late stages of the Cold War. It’s fleet is becoming older and increasingly more expensive to maintain. Finally, after a decade of shrinking defense budgets, the JASDF is getting a big budget with money for upwards of $8 billion worth of air power. While originally eyeing the American F-22 Raptor, Japan has had to look elsewhere due to the ban on exports imposed by the US Congress, which is a shame because I think that if any US ally needs a shot at getting the F-22 it’d be Japan. They need it. Instead, Japan will choose from 3 different aircraft. They are:

The F-35 Lightning II

The F/A-18 Super Hornet

And the Eurofighter Typhoon

Not bad choices. Any one of these aircraft should fair very well against most of what the Russians, Chinese and North Koreans have to throw at them. Japan has currently set aside funding for 40 planes but that number is certainly going to  rise significantly in the face of Russian and Chinese rearmament. They’re likely to choose one of the American fighters due to their military alliance with the US and they already work closely with the American military which uses the same parts and equipment so cooperation would be easier. If Japan wants to maintain stability in the region then investing in its power projection capabilities is paramount and this new fighter deal will go a long way to achieve that end.

Australia: Strength of a Middle Power

6 Oct

Australia has a relatively small but highly capable military in relation to its population size and economic strength. The Australian Defense Force’s abilities are augmented by its close ties with major powers like the US and the UK. In fact, Australia recently signed a defense pact with the US, putting it on the same level as the UK, which would give Australia access to America’s most advanced military technology and allow US forces almost unrestricted access to Australian bases. In addition to being designated as a major non-NATO ally, Australia also has other defensive pacts with New Zealand, Malaysia and Singapore.

Australia is widely believed to have the most capable air force and navy in the South-East Asian region and it has highly respected light infantry and frigate groups that are well suited to peacekeeping missions, however the small size of the army and aging equipment limit unaided participation in high intensity warfare far from Australia’s shores and relegates it to a support role during most international actions. Despite some limitations, the ADF is well suited for its role in domestic security and counter-terrorism efforts. It has also proven itself time and again to be a steady and true ally with tens of thousands of capable soldiers who have a proud history of service. See the links for some of Australia’s contributions.

Australia in:

World War 1, World War 2KoreaVietnam1st Gulf War

 

Active Duty Military: 59,000

Reserve Military: 22,000

Standby Reserves: 22,000

GROUND FORCES

  • Tanks: 59
  • APCs/IFVs: 1,861
  • Towed Artillery: 303
  • MLRSs: 36
  • Mortars: 1,000
  • AT Weapons: 500
  • AA Weapons: 100
  • Logistical Vehicles: 12, 495

AIR POWER

  • Total Aircraft: 374
  • Helicopters: 100

NAVAL FORCES

  • Merchant  Marine Vessels: 45
  • Submarines: 6
  • Frigates: 12
  • Patrol Craft: 14
  • Mine Warfare Craft: 6
  • Amphibious Assault Craft: 8

Russia’s Rearmament

3 Oct

After the collapse of the Soviet Union and the subsequent economic depression, Russia’s armed forces have been in a steady decline for the last two decades, plagued by poor training in their conscript-based  military, outdated equipment, corruption, lack of funding and international embarrassment by its poor performance in the 2008 Russo-Georgian War. But the Kremlin is breathing new life into its army by giving it a bigger budget, investing in new technology, changes in training and a much needed restructuring. Despite some groundbreaking ideas, Russia’s rearmament has encountered many obstacles and there are many old guard generals and politicians voicing their opposition to the “westernization” of the armed forces. Even in the face of intense criticism and the global financial crisis, Russia is still pushing ahead.

Moscow’s leadership is currently planning to abolish the WW2 era “mobilization” army which was designed to produce soldiers as quickly and cheaply as possible to fight in the million-man battles of the Eastern Front. Troop levels are expected to fall from 1.2 million to around one million active duty soldiers with a sizable reserve force and the military will spend much more money per soldier to bring their standards in training and equipment into line with other major powers. Most of the soldiers being laid off are part of the bloated officer corps. 37,000 alone were fired in 2009 for failing to meet the new standards. Russia has a fascinating phenomena called “phantom” divisions, which are pretty much officers who have no soldiers to command and do no actual work but reap the benefits of a high ranking position. Despite the decrease in manpower they are not expected to close any far-flung facilities or dismantle unused weapons systems. Even with these manpower reforms, government officials have time and again reneged on their promises to end conscription, a major grievance of the civilian population.

Russia has long been a leading arms producer of the world and is currently developing several new weapons systems including a joint venture with India to produce the Sukhoi/HAL FGFA stealth fighter. With a projected $650 billion to spend on modernizing the military, Russia is currently planning on procuring at least 150 new ICBMs, an advanced early-warning radar network, a fleet of supersonic Tu-160 strategic bombers, 600 other warplanes, 1,000 helicopters, 35 corvettes, 15 frigates, 20 submarines (of which 8 will be of the new nuclear Bulava class), at least one aircraft carrier, 2 French-made helicopter carriers, drone aircraft, French FELIN infantry combat suits and foreign small arms among other things. Whether Russia can ensure the funds go to where they are supposed to go is another thing. And the vast majority of industries that supplied the Soviet Union’s military industrial capacity during the Cold War have long since closed down after the budget cuts of the early 1990’s so it remains to be seen if their economy is capable of supporting a growing war machine.

Russia has come quite far in recent years in regards to its modernization efforts but there is still much improvement that needs to be done in order to turn its military into a world-class fighting force. Here are just a few examples of internal issues they are currently facing:

  • Corruption within all aspects of Russia’s military establishment is a critical issue that must be addressed. The chief military prosecutor has claimed that 20% of Russia’s entire military budget is stolen every year. However auditors have put the actual number at 40%.
  • The hundreds of thousands of soldiers being laid off will likely have no other opportunity for work with unemployment at 10%. Many are concerned that, like after the collapse of the Soviet Union, the jobless soldiers will have no other choice but to join the infamous Russian Mafia.
  • Soldiering is an unpopular career for the most part and authorities often employ questionable tactics when recruiting.
  • Sexual abuse and forced prostitution of young recruits by older soldiers is also fairly common.
  • Conscripts who finish their time at a young age are often unable to continue their education and receive no help from the government which greatly diminishes their chances of earning a prosperous living.
  • Treatment of soldiers by their superiors is often brutal and inhumane. There was even a case of soldiers being fed dog food to save money.
  • Russia’s military industrial complex is spinning out of control, with weapons developers exercising considerable sway in determining national policy, causing many alarmed analysts to claim that the MIC problem in Russia is far more dangerous than in the US. Interesting report on Russian MIC here.

As we can see, there are many serious problems that, if go unresolved, will result in not only instability in the military but in the rest of the population. It’s in Russia’s best interest to take care of these things so the rest of the military modernization can move along as smoothly as possible. You can’t raise the ultimate warrior on Kibbles n’ Bits.

History of US Arms Sales to Taiwan

26 Sep

The US has had close ties with the Republic of China (Taiwan) since their fight against Japan in World War 2. And American support continued despite the ROC’s defeat by the communist forces of the People’s Republic of China in 1950. Taiwan was an important part in the plan to contain the spread of communism in Asia during the Cold War and offered behind the scenes assistance to anti-communist forces in Korea and Vietnam. After the Taiwan Relations Act was passed in 1979, it became US law to supply Taiwan with military hardware and to defend them against outside aggression, specifically China. The US has made good on this promise on 3 separate occasions known as the Taiwan Strait Crises in 1954-55, 1958, and 1995-96 when American naval forces in the region were mobilized to deter Chinese military posturing.

As of now, there have been at least 53 separate arms deals reaching an estimated $60 billion worth, not including inflation which could very well raise the deals to over $100 billion. Most sales are for advanced technology such as surface-to-air missiles, fighter jets and other hi-tech equipment not easily produced indigenously. I’ve tried to compile all available data I could find so let me know if you notice something that I left out.

1979, July- 48 F-5E, $240 million

1979, November- 500 AGM-65 Maverick, $25 million

1980, January- BGM-71 TOW, MIM-23 Hawk, MIM-72 Chaparral, $280 million

1980, July- M110A2, $3.7 million

1982, April- Aircraft parts, $640 thousand

1982, June- Armored personnel carriers, mortar vehicle, command vehicle, $97 million

1982, August- $620 million

1982, November- Vehicles, spare parts and ancillary equipment, $97 million

1983, February- 66 F-104G, no data on dollar value

1984, June- 12 C-130, $325 million

1985, February- 12 F-5, F-100, T-33, T-28 radar and spare parts, $325 million

1985, June- 262 MIM-72 Chaparral, $94 million

1986, August- S-2T, AN/TPQ-37, S-2E/G, Oliver Hazard Perry class frigate, $260 million

1989- 88 Standard Missile, $44 million

1990, August- F-5, F-104, C-130 radar, $108 million

1991, September- 110 M60A3, $119 million

1992- 8 C-130, $220 million

1992, July- Rental of 3 Knox class frigates, $230 million

1992, August- 207 Standard Missiles, $126 million

1992, September- 150 F-16s, $6 billion

1993, January- 200 Patriot missiles and related equipment, $10 billion

1993, March- 4 E-2T, $900 million

1993, June- Aircraft parts, radar and navigation equipment, $156 million

1993, November- 150 Mk46  Mod5RC torpedoes and related components, $54 million

1994, February- Rental of 3 Knox class frigates, $230 million

1994, September- 4 MSO ocean minesweepers, no data on dollar value

1994, October- Rental of 2 Newport class tank landing ships, $2.6 million

1995, May- 160 M60A3, $223 million

1996, August- 1299 FIM-92 Stingers and related equipment, $420 million

1996, September- 110 Mk46 Mod5 torpedoes, $69 million

1997, March- AGM-84A, AH-1W, S-70C, $232 million

1997, May- 700+ DMS systems, $58 million

1997, May- 2 Knox class frigates, no data on dollar value

1998- 4 S-70C, $70 million

1998, March- OH-58, AH-1W and related equipment, $452 million

1998, August- unknown material, $350 million

1998, October- unknown material, $440 million

1999, April- Early warning radar defense system, $800 million

1999, May- Hellfire II, ANVRC-92E, SINC-GARS-based radio systems, intelligence electronic warfare systems, high-mobility multipurpose wheeled and additional equipment, $87 million

1997, July- E-2T and F-16s, $550 million

2000, March- Improved Hawk system and related equipment, $202 million

2000, June- F-16s on-board navigation and targeting pods, AN/ALQ-184 electronic countermeasure pods, $356 million

2000, September- AIM-120C medium-range air to air missiles, Harpoon ship-to-ship missiles, 155 mm self proelled artillery and communications eqipment, $1.4 billion

2001, April- incomplete order, $18 billion

2003, November- 200 AIM-120C-5, no data on dollar value

2004, April- 2 Ultra-high frequency early warning radar and remote equipment, $17.8 million

2007, March- 453 AIM-120C-5 missiles, air-to-air missiles, $421 million

2007, 66 F-16 C/D, $3.7 billion

2007, September- P-3C, Standard Missiles-2, $2.23 billion

2007, November- Patriot missile system upgrades, $939 million

2008, October- Patriot anti-missile system, E-2T, Apache helicopters and other weaponry, $6.46 billion

2011, September- Upgrades for F-16s, $5.85 billion

There’s a PDF file on this site with the original details.

The US is required by law to aid Taiwan in developing its military but is loath to sacrifice its increasingly vital relationship with China and the decision to upgrade Taiwan’s older F-16s instead of selling them new ones has shaken the Taiwanese government. They have a few options on the table if they wish to close the ever widening gap between them and the mainland. First, they could see about simply buying the production license for the F-16 if that’s what they really wanted. It’s less diplomatically sensitive and would allow Taiwan to build as many as it needs. Second, they could develop their own fighter program. Such an endeavor is expensive but Taiwan is one of the most developed countries in the region and already has a high technological base from which to work from. How Taiwan handles the situation could very well decide by what terms it eventually rejoins the mainland, of its own free will with special conditions for reunification or by Chinese conquest.

Pakistan: Asia’s Wild Card

20 Sep

Unless you’ve been living under a rock or just now becoming socially conscious then chances are you’re aware of the precarious situation Pakistan finds itself in. Attacked from outside by Afghan insurgents and besieged from within by terrorists and rebels, it has somehow endured since 1947, albeit with several coup d’états. It has quickly gone from being America’s closest ally in the War on Terror to one of its most hated enemies and has nearly become a global pariah due to internal struggles and an unwillingness by its leaders to crackdown on religious extremism.

Diplomacy

Once called America’s “most allied ally in Asia”, relations have been rocky between both countries since the 1965 Indo-Pakistani War in which the US refused to offer military support. This generated anti-American sentiments in the country which have never abated, despite the billions of dollars that the US has pumped into the country since it’s formation. Relations hit a further snag in 1977 when the majority of aid was cut off following the beginning of Pakistan’s nuclear program. Relations peaked during the Soviet Invasion of Afghanistan when Pakistan was used as a CIA staging area for operations against communist forces.

Throughout the War on Terror, American officials and officers have typically been very loose with lavishing praise on Pakistan for it’s efforts. However, behind closed doors, and more recently in public, it’s a different story. Reports that the ISI, Pakistan’s spy agency, has been protecting and warning insurgents of impending operations against them are surfacing weekly and American officials have constantly pressed Pakistan to do more in the war but most pleas fall on deaf ears. The situation came to a head with the awesome unilateral assassination of Osama bin Laden in Pakistan, just down the road from a major military academy in an upscale neighborhood in a big city. Publicly shamed and internationally embarrassed, Pakistan officials tried to deflect blame from themselves by complaining that their sovereignty had been violated and that they had no prior knowledge of bin Laden’s location. Right.

Since then, US-Pakistani relations have been in a downward spiral and despite what officials on both sides are saying, the partnership between the two countries likely won’t survive much longer. Pakistan has distanced itself from America and has made repeated overtures for a possible alliance with China, one of its largest military suppliers. At first China relished the thought of grabbing up a former American ally. However, after several terrorist attacks in China’s far west province of Xinjiang, perpetrated by members of the East Turkestan Liberation Organization that were linked to training grounds in Pakistan by the Chinese government, they took a forceful stance. Now China views Pakistan as a troublesome ally, possibly more trouble than they’re worth. It’s been a disastrous year for Pakistani diplomacy which has only hurt the government’s reputation among the people. Pakistan’s arch-rival is India and the two have fought numerous wars and border skirmishes usually resulting in a stalemate since they have only begun upgrading their outdated militaries in recent decades.

Military

The military senior officers are the ones who truly run Pakistan. In fact, the president’s speeches are even written for him by military officials. Their armed forces are the seventh largest in the world in terms of active troops with 617,000 currently in service and at least 513,000 reservists. Despite being armed with some of the best equipment in the region throughout most of the last half of the 20th century, Pakistan has lost every conventional war it’s fought. Main foreign suppliers are China, the US, France, Russia and Italy. Despite the country’s poverty and constant state of war against insurgent groups not aligned with the military or ISI, Pakistan is making a considerable effort to modernize its military, forming partnerships with other countries, most notably China and Russia, in order to speedily and affordably develop new weapon systems, specifically tanks and fighter jets. Pakistan watches India’s rising economic and military power with a wary eye and seeks to develop a regional alliance to counter their growing strength and influence. While originally seeking closer ties with China, recent events have caused Pakistan to look elsewhere. Perhaps to Russia or Iran in the future.

Pakistan is a declared nuclear power. After losing the Indo-Pakistani War of 1971, Pakistan lost 150,000 square kilometers of land and millions of citizens to the creation of Bangladesh, a humiliating defeat that left a psychological scar on the leadership. In response to India’s nuclear program, Pakistan began one of it’s own and has since built an estimated 90-110 nuclear warheads. Here’s a look inside the mind of the Pakistani leadership.

If India builds the bomb, we will eat grass and leaves for a thousand years, even go hungry, but we will get one of our own. The Christians have the bomb, the Jews have the bomb and now the Hindus have the bomb. Why not the Muslims too have the bomb? ~ Zulfikar Ali Bhutto 1965

Smart and empathetic guy, huh? Just think, if they had invested those billions of dollars required for their nuclear program into infrastructure and education where they would be today. Despite it’s nuclear power status, Pakistan has refused to sign the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and has not ruled out a first strike.

Threats

Pakistan faces numerous challenges that, if not addressed and handled carefully, could endanger the stability of south Asia and perhaps the world at large. The civilian government holds no power. The spy agency and the military dominate the country with an iron hand with President Zardari mainly acting as a figure head and mouthpiece for the military. Pakistani Taliban, terrorist networks, and other insurgent groups operate freely in lawless regions outside of the main cities and make regular incursions into Afghanistan to do hit-and-run attacks against ISAF soldiers before retreating into Pakistan where they can’t be followed (usually) and poor education along with little government oversight has led to a sharp increase in the number of radicalized young people who join the rebel groups, creating an endless cycle with little chance of ending anytime soon. The revelation that the Pakistani government was using millions of dollars to lobby American government officials was yet another serious blow to US-Pakistani relations, one that swiftly turned American public opinion against them and in turn, increased the likelihood of a suspension in aid money.

Safety of Pakistan’s nuclear arsenal is also a key concern. Several months ago, a handful of terrorists successfully captured a naval base in Karachi from dozens of heavily armed soldiers and held the base for several hours. Boldness on the part of the insurgents and total ineptitude by the Pakistani forces can only lead to a disastrous outcome should a nuclear facility ever be targeted. Support for terrorist organizations like the ones who committed the horrendous Mumbai Massacre have alienated Pakistan even further and may very well lead to the next Indo-Pakistani War in the near future. Damning evidence has also surfaced in recent weeks that Pakistani scientists sold nuclear secrets to the highest bidder. Customers include North Korea, Libya and Iran.

Pakistan is one of the greatest threats to the stability of the world today, right behind North Korea in my opinion. But the sad fact is that although they provide little help in the war in Afghanistan, their support is vital and so they will probably go unpunished. One thing is for sure though. The next time Pakistan needs something from the United States, we won’t be there to help when half the country is under water, the military throws another coup, or they get demolished by India. Regardless, the vast majority of the world will watch their destruction and feel nothing.

China’s Impenetrable Island Fortress

12 Sep

In recent years, a secret military base operated primarily by the People’s Liberation Army Navy has been discovered by Western intelligence on Hainan Island near the city of Sanya, on the island’s southern point. The entire fortress complex is essentially one massive cavern capable of hiding up to 20 nuclear submarines while the harbor outside supports nuclear ballistic missile submarines and jetties long enough to moor an aircraft carrier. The only ways into the base are through the heavily defended submarine entrance or through 11 massive 60 ft high blast doors. It has been suggested that the base may be capable of withstanding multiple nuclear strikes.

The base is a mile stone for China’s mission of building up it’s ability to project force abroad. Current estimates by the US government have determined that China will have 5 Type-094 nuclear submarines by the beginning of 2011, each able to carry a payload of 12 intercontinental ballistic nuclear missiles. The harbor has two 950 meter piers and 3 smaller ones capable of accommodating 2 carrier strike groups or amphibious assault ships.  There is also a demagnetization facility to remove the residual electronic fields from a submarine before it’s deployment. This interesting revelation may explain why Chinese subs have been able to occasionally avoid the radar and sonar systems of American vessels in the last few years.

The location of the base, near territory that is disputed with several other countries, has sparked tensions and raised fears about China’s growing assertiveness with its claims. Suspicion of Chinese motives on the part of other countries is well founded. The base is within easy striking distance of the Strait of Malacca, Straight of Sunda and Lombok Strait. These three locations see roughly 50% of all the world’s shipping. A blockade by a capable naval force could be crippling for East Asia, Oceania, and even the Americas.

While already large by military standards, the base is expected to go through a period of expansion as China is believed to be planning on building an additional 6 aircraft carriers and add to its submarine fleet. The Hainan region was chosen specifically for it’s proximity to regional flashpoints, but also due to the deep water just off the coast that exceeds 5,000 meters in  depth in some places, which greatly increases the difficulty in finding and tracking a submarine’s movements.

While China’s wish to defend its interests abroad and assert itself more aggressively is understandable in light of its recent success, its actions have already started a regional arms race with surrounding countries, most notably India. Both are competing to develop more advanced ICBMs and counter measures against each other’s missiles in order to maintain some semblance of a military balance. One thing is for sure, Hainan’s base will have an important role to play should any regional conflict break out.