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Sea State

Posted By on February 9, 2015 @ 12:30

The Royal Australians Navy's Landing Craft Heavy (LCH) HMA Ships Brunei, Labuan and Tarakan depart Cairns Harbour in formation. [1]There was a fascinating blip on the radar this week—a branch of Chinese local government accidentally let slip [2] that work on China’s second aircraft carrier is underway. Boasts that a local company in Changzhou, Jiangshu province, had won a contract to provide electrical cabling were swiftly deleted, as was a report in a local newspaper.

A second carrier fits into a broader trend of growth for the Chinese navy, both in capacity and ambition. This piece [3] from The Diplomat is a reminder of China’s growing presence in the Indian Ocean. More Chinese carrier-related analysis here [4] from James Holmes.

Still on China’s maritime ambition, The Washington Quarterly carried a piece on ‘The myth of Chinese counter-intervention [5]’. The heart of the argument:

…although China is certainly developing military capabilities that would complicate U.S. intervention in a major conflict in the region involving China, Chinese writings on military strategy and operations rarely if ever mention the concept of counter-intervention.

The article’s received considerable attention, but the central premise seems open to challenge. If we judge that China has the capability to deny the waters of East Asia to American surface vessels, it’d be courageous to assume they wouldn’t just because they hadn’t written about it often.

The Australian last week carried a story [6] about the Prime Minister’s Office shelving an announcement on the future submarine program late last year, in which:

It is understood that France, Germany, Sweden and Japan were to be named in a selective tender process that would allow Australia to solicit bids from other governments, rather than just corporations.

New-ish Defence Minister Kevin Andrews has said he intends to take a cautious approach to the new submarine:

It’s better to take a little bit more time and get the decision right rather than rushing into something, which given the life of any of these vessels, which is 30 to 40 years or so, that you make a mistake about.

Yesterday evening Prime Minister Tony Abbott promised [7] that Australian shipbuilder ASC will be able to tender for the Royal Australian Navy’s next generation of submarines. ‘You would expect the Australian Government to want to get the best product and you would expect the Australian Government to give Australian suppliers a fair go’, the PM said.

On the supply side, Angela Merkel seems particularly keen [8] that Germany have a shot at providing the Collins-class replacement. IHS Jane’s has it [9] that German company TKMS has also offered submarines to Thailand.

Australia now as supplier, not customer: Defence Minister Kevin Andrews has undertaken to donate [10] two Landing Craft Heavy vessels to the Philippines, the HMAS Tarakan and Brunei, formerly of the RAN. That comes as PAL in Indonesia finishes off [11] building two Strategic Sealift vessels for Manila.

Finally, South Korea has this week launched its Submarine Force Command [12]. ‘The launch of the submarine force command is a clear display of our will to perfectly defend our East, West and South Seas through the enhanced quality and quantity of our submarine capabilities’, the ROK Navy press release noted.

Harry White [13] is an analyst at ASPI. Image courtesy of Department of Defence [14].

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URLs in this post:

[1] Image: http://www.aspistrategist.org.au/wp-content/uploads/2015/02/20140721ran8566787_180.jpg

[2] let slip: http://www.washingtonpost.com/world/china-builds-second-aircraft-carrier-but-deletes-news-reports-announcing-it/2015/02/02/d1539d91-a8fb-479e-a390-a692999a0d6d_story.html

[3] This piece: http://thediplomat.com/2015/01/chinas-navy-to-send-more-ships-to-the-indian-ocean/?utm_content=bufferae621&utm_medium=social&utm_source=twitter.com&utm_campaign=buffer

[4] here: http://foreignpolicy.com/2015/02/03/the-long-strange-trip-of-chinas-first-aircraft-carrier-liaoning/?utm_source=Sailthru&utm_medium=email&utm_term=Flashpoints&utm_campaign=2014_FlashPointsr

[5] The myth of Chinese counter-intervention: http://twq.elliott.gwu.edu/projecting-strategy-myth-chinese-counter-intervention

[6] carried a story: http://www.theaustralian.com.au/national-affairs/defence/tony-abbott-sunk-sub-plan-days-before-jettisoning-david-johnston/story-e6frg8yo-1227206995672

[7] promised: http://www.adelaidenow.com.au/news/south-australia/prime-minister-tony-abbott-promises-south-australia-chance-to-tender-for-future-submarines-project-to-win-leadership-votes/story-fni6uo1m-1227212228292?nk=d61a589c658aeb29b093212501ed0071

[8] seems particularly keen: http://thediplomat.com/2015/01/is-germany-still-in-the-race-for-australias-biggest-arms-deal-of-the-century/

[9] has it: http://www.janes.com/article/48467/tkms-offers-type-209-and-type-210-submarines-to-royal-thai-navy?elq=%3Cspan%20class=eloquaemail%3Erecipientid%3C/span%3E&utm_campaign=PC6110_E15%20DF%20NL%20Naval%2002_03_15&utm_medium=email&utm_source=Eloqua

[10] undertaken to donate: http://kevinandrews.com.au/latest-news/2015/01/30/defence-minister-announces-gifting-two-landing-craft-philippines/

[11] finishes off: http://news.usni.org/2015/02/02/analysis-philippines-naval-build

[12] launched its Submarine Force Command: http://www.straitstimes.com/news/asia/east-asia/story/south-korea-launches-submarine-command-counter-north-korea-threat-20150201

[13] Harry White: https://www.aspi.org.au/about-aspi/aspi-staff/analysts/harry-white

[14] Department of Defence: http://images.defence.gov.au/20140721ran8566787_180.jpg

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