Saturday, 7 January 2012

USS Cod repair sparks memories of old Cleveland Diesel Engine plants in World War II

A little memory motor sputtered to life in Jim Jaworski when he heard recent news that the vintage World War II engines of the USS Cod Memorial submarine in Cleveland are being refurbished.

The sub's twin 1,600hp engines were made by General Motors' Cleveland Diesel Engine division where Jaworski's father, uncle and about 5,000 other Northeast Ohioans worked during the 1940s.
Though Cleveland Diesel may not be as renown as the old Cleveland Bomber Plant (now the International Exposition Center) where about 15,000 workers made B-29 bombers, its contributions were just as vital to the war effort.

Some 70 percent of the U.S. Navy's submarine engines came from the Cleveland Diesel Engine plants on West 106th Street and Clinton Road, which also produced engines for 48 types of Navy ships.
Jaworski, 70, of Berea, said the firm originated with Cleveland auto manufacturer Alexander Winton, who switched from cars in the early 1900s to diesel engine production for maritime vessels and locomotives. GM bought the company in 1938.

Jaworski's uncle, Leo Vosniak, started working at the plant as a machinist in 1939.

"That's why I smoke a pipe and became a mechanic, because my uncle did," said Jaworski, seated in his Berea Motor Works shop, surrounded by floor-to-ceiling parts bins, assorted engines, and classic cars, primarily Rolls Royces.

His father, Nick Jaworski, was foreman in an area of the plant that produced engine fuel injectors. But Jaworski said most of the stories he heard about the factory came from his uncle.

Jim Jaworski.JPGView full sizeCourtesy of Jim JaworskiJim Jaworski's uncle, Leo Vosniak, is shown working at Cleveland Diesel Engine which produced 70 percent of the engines for U.S. Navy submarines during World War II.

There was the tale of how these massive, two-story-high engines initially had bronze flywheels -- until one blew through the side of an engine on a ship, through the ship's side and then through both sides of an adjoining ship. The bronze flywheels were promptly replaced with cast iron versions, Jaworski said.

Engines produced at the plant were tested at a slant, reflecting real-world usage aboard ships commonly tilted by waves. Jaworski said that when it was discovered that engine studs could snap when subs were depth-charged, the studs were re-machined to allow for that stress.

The importance of their work was not lost on Cleveland Diesel employees, according to Jaworski.
"Lives depended on them," he said. "So whatever they sent out to sea had to be as right as it could be."
He noted that his uncle once said that before the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor, parts ordered from suppliers might take weeks to arrive. "He said that after the war broke out, they'd order something and it'd get there still hot off the lathe," Jaworski added.

After the war, production and employment at the plants fell with decreased demand. But Cleveland Diesel continued making engines for Navy ships, including stainless steel versions during the Korean War which wouldn't trigger magnetic mines.

As the Navy converted to nuclear-powered submarines, there was less need for diesel engines, and GM closed the Cleveland plant in 1962.

Looking back on its World War II heyday, Jaworski said Cleveland Diesel might not have gotten its due historic recognition because of the secrecy that workers were sworn to uphold. "They couldn't talk about their work," he said.

But as far as he's concerned, those bygone home-front factory workers are his heroes of the war.
"They had to come up with new ideas and develop stuff that nobody had ever done before," he said. "The work that they did was really technically challenging in terms of the design and machining process.

"It's really a wonderful story."
New US defense plans shore up submarine production

Norwich, Conn. —

Electric Boat in Groton will benefit from the reshaping of the nation’s military, which will place a larger emphasis on Asia and emerging tactics that require a powerful undersea warfare presence, federal lawmakers said Thursday.

“We’re going to be fighting wars in different ways than we have. But we in Connecticut produce weaponry that fits that new kind of warfare,” U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., said in an interview with The Bulletin’s editorial board. “I will fight relentlessly and resourcefully for those defense products made in Connecticut.”

Blumenthal’s comments came hours after President Barack Obama and Defense Secretary Leon Panetta issued a 16-page strategic plan called “Sustaining U.S. Global Leadership: Priorities for 21st Century Defense,” aimed at shaping the nation’s military over the next decade.

Blumenthal and U.S. Rep. Joe Courtney, D-2nd District, expressed confidence that the report’s focus on the Pacific and endorsement of strategies, including electronic and cyber warfare, bodes well for EB.

‘Versatile and effective’

“Submarines are versatile and effective, and the vital role their unique capabilities will play in a changing defense landscape was reaffirmed again by today’s report,” Courtney said in a press release. “It ... emphasizes for a leaner, more agile force.”

Thursday’s news follows the announcement late last month of a $191.3 million EB contract for continued engineering, technical services and other work on a missile compartment for two vessels.
In a separate statement issued later in the day, Blumenthal said he’s confident the country’s defense plan means Virginia-class submarines will continue to be built in Eastern Connecticut.


EB President John P. Casey shares that hope.

“We remain confident the capabilities brought to bear by our products satisfy many of the strategic priorities outlined by the secretary today, and we will closely follow details that emerge as the budget process unfolds,” he said in a statement to the Blog.
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Blumenthal, a member of the Senate’s Committee on Armed Services, also called for priority-based funding in the defense budget.

“The smart cuts can be made with significant savings. But we have a difficult road ahead, there’s no question. The challenges would be difficult even if there were no Republican or Democratic parties, because the challenge really is to meet those defense needs within very restrained and limited resources,” he said. “In making those cuts, there will have to be give and take.”

EB in October won $91.2 million on top of an earlier contract for modification to develop and update design drawings and evaluate new technology for Virginia-class submarines.

Steady stream of work

Tony Sheridan, president and CEO of the Chamber of Commerce of Eastern Connecticut, said the possibility of two new submarines being built annually is “good news.”

“Two submarines allows for a steady stream of work. It’s supporting a sizable enough workforce that can be productive without the constant layoffs and re-hires,” Sheridan said. “The ripple effect of putting together a submarine is very, very broad. And it’s marvelous because of the fact that so much of this work cannot be exported.”

Maureen Murray, of Colchester, was happy to hear of the prospects.
“I’m not for war, but if the jobs to support them have to exist, I’d like them to exist in my backyard,” she said. “You can’t even get a support job around here right now.

Russia to Upgrade Oscars

Oscar Shifts From Quality To Quantity

January 7, 2012: Russia is planning to rebuild its Oscar II class nuclear submarines to carry a wide variety of missiles. Currently, each Oscar II carries 24 large anti-ship missiles. But by rebuilding the missile launchers (which are outside the pressure hull) to carry more, but smaller missiles, each Oscar II can carry up to 72 missiles. This makes it easier to overcome the anti-missiles of enemy surface ships. What is lost in range and warhead size will be made up with better target detection and countermeasures technology. 
  Russia has eight Type 949A SSGNs (nuclear powered cruise missile submarine). Known in the West as the Oscar II class, these boats began entering service just as the Cold War ended (three were in commission when the Soviet Union disintegrated in 1991). Construction continued on six more, and by 1997, eight were in service. Seven Oscar IIs remain in service, as the Kursk was lost in 2000, to a well-publicized accident. The Oscar's were designed as "carrier destroyers," with long range cruise missiles that could, in theory, take out an American aircraft carrier. 
 
The Oscar II class boats have a surface displacement of 14,000 tons. They have eight torpedo tubes (four 650mm/25.6 inch, four 533mm/21 inch), and 24 SS-N-19/P-700/Shipwreck/Granit missiles. These anti-ship missiles have a range of 550 kilometers, a speed of 1600 kilometers an hour, and a 750 kg (1,650 pound) high-explosive warhead (or a nuclear warhead of 350 or 500 kilotons as an option). The Oscar's crew of 107 contains 48 officers. That's because of the high degree of automation, and the need to offer officers pay and accommodations to attract the technical talent required to keep these boats going. The United States and Russia are no longer at each other's throats, especially on the high seas. The Oscar's are expensive to operate, and were scheduled for retirement over the next decade, as their nuclear reactors were due for refueling. The decision to refurbish the Oscar IIs indicates that the navy believes it won't get money for replacement boats.
 
The P-700 missile is an older, and bulkier, design. New launching tubes would allow it to fire more of the Yakhont (also known as Oniks, P-800 or 3M55). This is a 8.9 meter (27.6 foot) long, three ton missile with a 300 kg (660 pound) warhead. Early ship launched versions had a range of 120 kilometers, but the more recent models have a range similar to the Harpoon. The big advantage of the Yakhont is its high speed (about 2,500 kilometers an hour). This makes it more difficult to defend against.
 
The 546 kg (1,200 pound) Harpoon is 4.6 meters (15 feet) long, has a 222 kg (487 pound) warhead and a range of 220 kilometers. It approaches the target low, at about 860 kilometers an hour. GPS gets the missile to the general vicinity of the target, then radar takes over to identify and hit the target. The Harpoon has successful combat experience going back two decades. Most corvettes and many frigates are small enough to be destroyed by one Harpoon. Yakhont does more damage because of the high speed, and greater weight. Yakhont was originally deployed as a "carrier killer". Both missiles cost about the same ($1.2 million each).
January 7th - On This Date


1909 C31 Submarine HMS C31 laid down
1915 E36 Submarine HMS E36 laid down
1995 Victorious Submarine HMS Victorious completed
1940 HMS Undine HMS Undine was on her fourth war patrol in January 1940 when her asdic failed due to a leak. At 0940 on 7th January, Undine sighted what was thought to be three trawlers 20 miles west of Heligoland; but were in fact German minesweepers. Undine unsuccessfully attacked the leading vessel; minutes later there was a large explosion followed by others as the minesweepers opened fire. Undine was at 50 feet and proceeding blind due to the loss of asdic. After 5 minutes of no further attacks Undine raised her periscope as she did so an explosion shook the submarine, blowing her upwards and rendering the hydroplanes useless. Without the use of the hydroplanes escape would have been impossible and the order to abandon ship was give. Whilst the crew entered the water, to be picked up by the minesweepers, demolition charges were set and the submarine scuttled.
1940 HMS Seahorse HMS Seahorse sunk

On 26th December 1939 HMS Seahorse sailed from Rosyth for patrol off the east coast of Denmark. Four days later she shifted position to the entrance of the Elbe. She did not return on her due date of 9th January 1940. It was first thought that she had been mined but German records, examined after the war, suggested she was the victim of the German First Minesweeper Flotilla which reported a sustained depth charge attack on an unidentified submarine on 7th January 1940. Thanks to the research of Mr Bob Coppock of the RN Historical Branch, it is now accepted that Seahorse was mined while moving between Zones E and B in the Heligoland Bight. The wreck has been discovered off the Danish coast.
1941 Rover HMS Rover attacks the Italian merchant Edda with four torpedoes about 15 nautical miles west-north-west of Tobruk, Libya. All torpedoes missed and Rover was damaged by depth charges from the Italian torpedo boats Clio und Castore.
1960 Polaris Launch of first fully-guided flight of Polaris missile at Cape Canaveral (flew 900 miles)

Friday, 6 January 2012

Strait of Homruz powder keg: US-Israel to meet Great Prophet?

With tensions around the Strait of Hormuz sky-high, Iranian plans to conduct the country's "greatest naval war games” could coincide with joint US-Israeli exercises in the Persian Gulf. With both sides taking positions, could a real battle be looming?

Hopefully the massive exercises will remain just that. But with three armies on the playing board, one spark could be enough to ignite an all-out war.

Iran, which recently held a 10-day naval exercise near the Strait of Hormuz to demonstrate its military prowess, is now planning new, ‘massive’ naval drills codenamed The Great Prophet.

The drills will be carried out by the country’s elite Revolutionary Guard, which has its own air, naval and ground forces separate from those of the regular military.

On Thursday, the semiofficial Fars news agency quoted the Iranian Revolutionary Guard's naval commander, Admiral Ali Fadavi, as saying the next round of war games would be "different" from previous ones, AP reports.

However, on the same day, an Israeli military spokesman speaking under condition of anonymity said his country was gearing up for the largest joint missile defense exercise ever held with the United States.

The drill, called "Austere Challenge 12," is scheduled to take place in the upcoming weeks. Its primary purpose is to test multiple Israeli and US air defense systems, especially the “Arrow” system, which the country specifically developed with help from the US to intercept Iranian missiles.
Perhaps more alarmingly to the Iranian leadership, thousands of US troops will be deployed to Israel in support of the drill.

While the Israeli military claims the latest exercises are unconnected with recent events, Martin Van Creveld, a military historian at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, said the drill would be used to gain leverage over Iran.

"Defending against an attack is not something that you improvise from today to tomorrow. It's something you have to prepare, you have to rehearse… This, among other things, is an exercise to show Iran, the people in Tehran, that Israel and the United States are ready to counterattack," AP cites him as saying.

Tensions in the region have soared since the Islamic Republic threatened to block the Strait of Hormuz – through which one sixth of the world’s oil passes – in response to Western plans to ban oil imports from Iran.

And following Washington's decision Saturday to approve sanctions targeting the country’s oil Industry over Tehran’s alleged secret nuclear weapons program, the game of brinkmanship being played by all sides could push the entire region over the edge.
Thousands of US troops deploying to Israel
 
Without much media attention, thousands of American troops are being deployed to Israel, and Iranian officials believe that this is the latest and most blatant warning that the US will soon be attacking Tehran.

Tensions between nations have been high in recent months and have only worsened in the weeks since early December when Iran hijacked and recovered an American drone aircraft. Many have speculated that a back-and-forth between the two countries will soon escalate Iran and the US into an all-out war, and that event might occur sooner than thought.

Under the Austere Challenge 12 drill scheduled for an undisclosed time during the next few weeks, the Israeli military will together with America host the largest-ever joint missile drill by the two countries. Following the installation of American troops near Iran’s neighboring Strait of Hormuz and the reinforcing of nearby nations with US weapons, Tehran authorities are considering this not a test but the start of something much bigger.

In the testing, America's Theater High Altitude Area Defense, or THAAD, missile system will be operating alongside its ship-based Aegis system and Israel's own program to work with Arrow, Patriot and Iron Drone missiles.

Israeli military officials say that the testing was planned before recent episodes involving the US and Iran. Of concern, however, is how the drill will require the deployment of thousands of American troops into Israel. The Jerusalem Post quotes US Commander Lt.-Gen Frank Gorenc as saying the drill is not just an “exercise” but also a “deployment” that will involve “several thousand American soldiers” heading to Israel. Additionally, new command posts will be established by American forces in Israel and that country’s own IDF army will begin working from a base in Germany.
In September, the US European Command established a radar system in Israel.

With America previously equipping Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates with weaponry to wreck any chance of an Iranian nuclear weapon program from close by, the US will now have added forces on the ready in Israel and Germany under what Tehran fears is a guise being merely perpetrated as a test-run. RT reported last week that the US is equipping Saudi Arabia with nearly $30 billion F-15 war planes, a deal that comes shortly after Washington worked out a contract with Dubai to give the UAE advanced “bunker buster” bombs that could decimate underground nuclear operations in neighboring Iran.

Since the US surveillance mission over Iran that left overseas intelligence with a captured American drone aircraft, tensions have only escalated between the two nations. After Iran threatened to close down the Strait of Hormuz, a crucial path for the nation’s oil trade, the US dispatched 15,000 marines into the area.

World cannot survive 24h without Persian Gulf oil

Iranian officials have also promised a crushing response to any military strike against the country, warning that any such measure could result in a war that would spread beyond the Middle East.
An Iranian navy boat fires a missile during the Velayat 90 drills in the Persian Gulf on December 30, 2011.
Commander of Iran's Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC) naval forces says the world cannot last 24 hours without Persian Gulf oil, stressing that Tehran is fully capable of closing the Strait of Hormuz.

“Today, out of the 1,300 billion barrels of oil in the world, 800 billion barrels are in the Persian Gulf,” said Rear Admiral Ali Fadavi said on Friday, adding that it is impossible to imagine a world without the energy produced in the Persian Gulf region.

The Strait of Hormuz lies between Iran and Oman and is a narrow shipping channel that leads in and out of the Persian Gulf.

Statistic-wise, the strait is one of the world's most important waterways, with a daily flow of about 15 million barrels of oil, which accounts for 90 percent of Persian Gulf exports and 40 percent of global consumption.

Describing Iran as an absolute regional power, Fadavi said the Islamic Republic has had “repeated experiences” in closing the Hormuz Strait, especially during the Iraqi imposed war in the 1980s.

The IRGC navy commander further pointed to US failures in Iraq and Afghanistan, and said the US is incapable of maintaining its own security let alone that of the Persian Gulf.

Iran's First Vice President Mohammad-Reza Rahimi warned on December 27 that imposing sanctions against the country's energy sector will prompt Tehran to prevent oil cargoes from passing through the strategic Strait of Hormuz.

“If they impose sanctions on Iran's oil, not even a drop of oil will be allowed through the Strait of Hormuz,” he warned.

Iran's Navy Commander Rear Admiral Habibollah Sayyari also said on December 28 that Iran has complete command over the strategic waterway and that “closing the Strait of Hormuz is very easy for Iranian naval forces.”

The Bahrain-based US Fifth Fleet responded by saying it would not “tolerate” any disruption in the Strait of Hormuz.

"[The fleet] maintains a robust presence in the region to deter or counter destabilizing activities," a spokesperson for the fleet said.

The US, Israel, and some of their allies accuse Tehran of pursuing military objectives in its nuclear program and have used this pretext to push for the imposition of sanctions as well as to call for an attack on the country.

Tehran, however, refutes such allegations as “baseless” and maintains that as a signatory to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and a member of the IAEA it has every right to develop and acquire nuclear technology for peaceful purposes.
January 6th - On This Date



1916 W1 Submarine HMS W1 completed
1925 L53 Submarine HMS L53 completed
1931 Thames Submarine HMS Thames laid down
1940 Tempest Submarine HMS Tempest laid down
1943 Stygian Submarine HMS Stygian laid down
1916 HMS E17 Whilst patrolling north of Texel Island, HMS E17 struck an uncharted sandbank. Badly damaged the submarine was forced to surface. The Royal Netherlands Navy Cruiser Noord Brabant approached the stricken submarine to investigate. E17 believing the Cruiser was belligerent submerged, but owing to the damage was forced to surface again. E1 signalled the un-identified cruisers for assistance and her crew were taken off and interned. E17 finally sank at 1140 on Thursday 6th January 1916.
1942 HMS Triumph Lost with all hands

26th December 41, Triumph sailed from Alexandria for a cloak and dagger landing near Athens before patroling in the Aegean, she reports the landing on the 30th Dec but fails to rendezvous back there on the 9th Jan and is presumed mined off the island of Milo, southeast of the greek mainland.

She had earlier struck a mine in December 1940 but miraculously survived. There were no miracles the second time.
1944 HMS Untiring HMS Untiring torpedoes and sinks the German barge F 296 south of Moneglia, Italy.

Thursday, 5 January 2012

Former US Ambassador Says Submarines Could Save Israel From Iran


Thursday, January 5th   

In Wednesday morning’s New York Post, Ronald Lauder – former United States Ambassador to Austria and current President of the World Jewish Congress – made the case for enhanced Israeli submarine activity in the Indian Ocean as a necessary deterrent against an Iranian military threat.
In regards to a possible attack from Iran, Lauder writes “That’s why Israel needs to use the Mediterranean and Indian Oceans as a bastion for its diesel-powered submarines”.  He briefly touches on the limited capabilities of diesel powered submarines and points to an Israeli test in the Indian Ocean, which sent a warhead 1,000 miles, as proof that the Israeli Navy can operate in the world’s third largest ocean.

They can, in a time of absolute necessity, for very short time-frames.

According to one military expert, diesel powered submarines are not designed and are not capable of making long range runs without the assistance of other submarines to help re-fuel.

“The size of the Israeli Navy, it’s very small, maybe with two more coming. You need a very significant number of submarines to have a strong presence all the time. The Indian Ocean is far away and huge limiting factors are diesel fuel and food”, says Retired US Naval Officer and current professor at the US Army War College, John Patch.

Lauder writes “To be credible, Israel will need more than a five-boat fleet of subs. At least two submarines must be at sea at any given time, one in the Indian Ocean, to ensure a genuine deterrent, while others are undergoing maintenance, retrofitting and refueling”. According to Patch, at least two diesel submarines would need to be operating in the Indian Ocean at once if the navy were to be engaged in long term operations there, due to the need for re-fueling.

Food may seem like a simple problem to solve, but it’s not.

 “U.S. boomers that go on long patrols, their biggest limiting factor is food.  It’s either provided by a ship at sea, which is not done by many countries because it’s very hard to pull up next to a ship, or you do it in port, and you get some repair parts and supplies”.

There is little doubt that Israel would be in favor of any and all deterrents against an Iranian attack, but in the case of a sustained Israeli submarine presence in the Indian Ocean, according to the professor it most likely isn’t possible anytime soon.

 “In a pinch, to do it in a crisis situation, you could probably do that, but it would be very hard”, said Patch.
India rejoins the nuclear submarine league

NEW DELHI, Jan. 5 (UPI) -- India officially rejoined the nuclear submarine operators' club when the Russian manufacturers handed over to an Indian crew the Nerpa, in Russia's far east.

The crew will set sail for India toward the end of January in the 8,000-ton submarine that will be renamed Chakra, The Times of India said.

Nuclear submarines are operated also by the United States, Russia, Britain, France and China. India briefly operated a nuclear submarine form 1988-91 when it leased a Charlie class vessel from Russia. It, too, was called the Chakra while in service with the Indian navy.

The Akula II class Nerpa submarine will be with the Indian navy under a 10-year lease from the Russians, The Times of India report said.

Handover of the Nerpa was completed during a signing ceremony at the Bolshoi Kamen shipbuilding yard in Bolshoy Kamen, a small coastal town whose main activity is construction and repair of nuclear subs.

Bolshoy is around 25 miles from Vladivostok in the isolated Primorsky Krai region and is off-limits to foreigners.

The Nerpa leaves Russia after a controversial history, including a fatal on-board fire in November 2008 just after the vessel was made operational by the Russian navy.

The vessel was sailing through the Sea of Japan when the firefighting system was accidentally activated, Russian media reported at the time. Three naval personnel and 17 civilian specialists died after inhaling chemical gases, Russia's Defense Ministry said.

Amur Shipbuilding began construction of the Nerpa at their plant in Komsomolsk-on-Amur around 1993. The ship was intended for the Russian navy but delays and financial problems lengthened the construction schedule.

A $650 million deal with Indian government in 2004 rescued the program which by then had been stopped. The Nerpa finally was launched in October 2008 and entered service with the Russian navy in late 2009, pending handover to India.

The Chakra will be joined by another nuclear submarine, the Arihant, built by the Ship Building Center in Visakhapatnam. A launch ceremony for the 6,000-ton, 365-foot Arihant was in July 2009 and the ship with a crew of up to 100 is expected to be operational by the end of this year.

A report by the defense news Web site Defense Professionals in July 2009 said the Arihant design possibly is based on the older 5,000-ton Russian Charlie-II class submarine. Russia decommissioned it last Charlie class sub in 1994.
Australia should build own subs, report says

 
AN AMERICAN military think tank says Australia should design and build its own submarine despite concluding the best thing about the current Collins class is its occupational health and safety program.
A report into ''Australia's domestic submarine design capabilities'' by the Rand Corporation recommends the government draw a ''core group of technical personnel'' from the workforce sustaining the Collins class submarines to start the project.

The Rand analysis, contained in a 254-page report, was carried out between November 2009 and February 2010, and was made public last month.

''The fact they [Defence] have released it at all should be seen as evidence the shape of the future submarine is being thought about seriously,'' the Australian Strategic Policy Institute's Andrew Davies said.

The report was commissioned shortly after the release of the 2009 Defence white paper that called for a new fleet of 12 submarines to be designed and built in Adelaide.

The Rand report's release follows that of the Coles Review into the sustainment problems that have crippled the Collins class submarines, which was made public in mid-December.

A second Rand Corporation report, ''Learning from experience: lessons from Australia's Collins submarine program'', was made public at the same time.

''The Royal Australian Navy's submarine safety program is one of the Collins program's most successful aspects,'' that report found.

A critic of long-standing delays in the future submarine program, Professor Ross Babbage, said the time taken to make the capability report public was indicative of a ''slow motion'' approach.
He believes that instead of spending up to $40 billion on a locally built fleet of submarines, Australia should buy or lease US-built Virginia class nuclear submarines.

China's Pearls Unstrung - Part 2


China's rationale



The Chinese government is aware of the looming security dilemma and has tried to alleviate regional concerns. For one, it is against China's national interest to be in direct conflicts with other countries. China and India, for instance, recently restarted military-to-military relations, nearly a year after India froze exchanges because of a visa dispute related to territorial claims.

Similarly, China announced that it had agreed to hold talks with Vietnam on how to resolve conflicts arising from a sovereignty dispute over the South China Sea. For another, the Chinese government wants to portray itself as a global moral pole.

A 2008 Congressional Research Office Report indicates that China is trying to use soft power in Southeast Asia and boost economic ties with ASEAN. Thus, it is not in China's best interest to jeopardize relations with its neighboring countries. China's growing naval capabilities and assertiveness, however, do not halt because of these concerns.

China's pearls unstrung - for now

According to Pehrson, the Chinese political elite has three major concerns: first and foremost the survival of the regime, followed by the stability of the country and the territorial integrity of China. Susan Shirk believes that the CCP has a deep sense of domestic insecurity, because two decades of economic reform and opening to the world have transformed Chinese society radically and created latent political challenges to communist rule.

The CCP's reliance on the military has become ever stronger since the 1989 Tiananmen student movement, which the military violently suppressed. Thus, the PLA is enjoying bigger budgets in part because today's leaders are less politically secure and have a greater need to keep the military satisfied.

Robert Suettinger, former national intelligence officer for East Asia, states that this reliance creates an obligation for party leaders that makes it more difficult to resist PLA demands for more expenditures. Consequently, double-digit increases in the military budget have given the PLA the money to purchase advanced destroyers and submarines from Russia.

Navy hawks, with their newly acquired hardware, are increasingly becoming what Professor David Shambaugh calls "hard power realists", who argue that "China should use its newly built military and economic influence to coerce others toward the ends China desires".

According to the bigger picture, China's increasing naval capability derives from national security concerns, which involve energy security, maritime security, and territorial integrity. By the early 1990s, China's fast economic growth and the stagnation of domestic oil output required the import of more energy resources.

Beijing has been trying to find other sources of energy from around the world, but it remains dependent on Middle Eastern oil. These energy demands are beginning to noticeably influence strategic thinking and military planning. Beijing wants to hold sway over vital sea lanes between the Indian and Pacific oceans through a chain of naval facilities and military ties, which, again, leads to the debate of the perceived string of pearls.

The South China Sea not only has stores of oil and natural gas that could make it a second Persian Gulf. As Abraham Denmark reports for Foreign Policy, it is "also a major highway linking the oil fields of the Middle East and the factories of East Asia, with more than 80 percent of China's oil imports flowing over its waters", most of which go through the Strait of Malacca.

The Chinese Navy, however, is faced with a "Malacca dilemma" since the strait is currently beyond the navy's operational reach. Therefore, securing sea lanes for energy and raw materials supports China's energy policy and is the principal motivation for China's increasing naval capabilities and activities such as the construction of deep water ports at Gwadar. This will ease the "Malacca dilemma" and reduce the likelihood of a "distant blockade" of Chinese shipping by the US Navy.
Maritime security and territorial integrity are closely intertwined. "The safeguarding of a nation's territorial integrity must have a large and powerful armed force," states the PLA's National Defense University (NDU).

Similarly, the NDU's study of military strategy notes the growing importance of "the rights and interests of our continental shelf and maritime exclusive economic zones, especially the threats facing strategic resource development and strategic passageways".

According to the ONI report, China ratified the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) to bolster its claim to sovereignty over most of the South China Sea. Article 76 states:
The continental shelf of a coastal State comprises the seabed and subsoil of the submarine areas that extend beyond its territorial sea throughout the natural prolongation of its land territory to the outer edge of the continental margin, or to a distance of 200 nautical miles from the baselines from which the breadth of the territorial sea is measured where the outer edge of the continental margin does not extend up to that distance.

The Chinese government uses this article to legitimize its naval activities in the western Pacific as protection of maritime security and territorial integrity.


Implications for the United States

China's naval expansion in the western Pacific generates differences between it and the United States. For one, China is a signatory of the UNCLOS and views the South China Sea as its own territory. The United States, on the other hand, is not a signatory, arguing that the Law of the Sea "will endanger US sovereignty, harm economic interests, and weaken national security".

Washington instead pursues an "open sea" policy in the region. For another, the United States favors a status quo that benefits it, while China seeks to become "Asia's natural leader".

These differences between the two countries are enough to raise tension in the western Pacific. On March 8, 2009, five Chinese ships shadowed and maneuvered dangerously close to a US Navy vessel in the South China Sea. Even if direct incidents are rare, China could still clash with US allies such as the Philippines, Taiwan and Japan.

Shirk fears that if there is a naval clash over oil and gas fields in the East China Sea, the United States, as Japan's military protector, could feel compelled to intervene. This scenario would constitute what Thomas Christensen calls "posing problems without catching up".

China can pose major problems for US security interests without catching up with total US military power. Again, a security dilemma, similar to the one between China and its neighbors, looms large in US-China relations.

If dealt with shrewdly, this security dilemma is not inevitable. Differences aside, the US and China share mutual security interests that provide opportunities for cooperation and strong incentives to manage and mitigate bilateral tension. These interests include meeting the challenges of globalization, transnational security concerns, "combating terrorism, protecting the environment, and public health issues".
Since the security dilemma in part derives from the inability to gauge other countries' intentions, it is crucial to improve communications between the United States and China.

The Department of Defense 2010 Quadrennial Defense Review Report suggests that the US and China should "sustain open channels of communication to discuss disagreements in order to manage and ultimately reduce the risks of conflict that are inherent in any relationship as broad and complex as that shared by these two nations".

China expert Michael Swaine further suggests that the two countries engage in strategic dialogues, sustain and strengthen military-to-military links, and expand ways of cooperating on other security issues such as disaster and humanitarian relief, counter-terrorism, and other non-traditional threats.
Indeed, despite differences, the two do engage in military dialogues. According to the Wall Street Journal, the chief of the People's Liberation Army visited the United States on a weeklong trip this summer. Later, then-US defense secretary Robert Gates met with his Chinese counterpart as the two countries sought to build upon recent exchanges and a warming military relationship.
Although China's increasing naval capability has much to do with national security rather than power projection, its navy and conservatives are gaining ground in its complicated political world.
China, however, has multiple interest groups. Besides military hawks, according to David Shambuagh, a group of globalists believe that China must shoulder the responsibility for addressing global governance issues and that sovereignty has its limits as "non-traditional" challenges must be dealt with multilaterally.

They prefer soft power to hard military power. These globalists have lost their voices since 2008, which means the US should identify the reasons why they have been silent. It then should take measures to help expand the globalism camp, which backs smoother US-China relations.
The string of pearls theory fails to accurately describe the Chinese national security reality. China has not built foreign naval bases, yet the pearls are indeed manifestations of increasing Chinese naval presence and capabilities. China's increasing naval capabilities are leading to a dangerous security dilemma. But these conflicts are not unavoidable.

The United States needs to engage with China and reach out to Chinese leaders who are less hawkish and more international. In short, the US should do whatever it can to keep the string of pearls a theory rather than provoke China into making it into a reality.

Iran’s threats over Strait of Hormuz a symptom of ‘weakness,’


Iran’s threats over Strait of Hormuz a symptom of ‘weakness,’ U.S. says



Iranian military personnel place a national flag on a submarine during the "Velayat-90" navy exercises in the Strait of Hormuz in southern Iran on January 3, 2012, the End day of ten-day war games. Iran's military warned one of the US navy's biggest aircraft carriers to keep away from the Gulf, in an escalating showdown over Tehran's nuclear drive that could pitch into armed confrontation.

Tensions between the United States and Iran reached their highest level in two decades Tuesday when Iran wrapped up 10 days of naval war games with a warning to Washington not to attempt to return the nuclear-powered aircraft carrier the USS John C. Stennis to the Persian Gulf.

After Iran’s navy test-fired cruise missiles designed to sink ships in the narrow Straits of Hormuz on Monday, the head of Iran’s armed forces, Major General Ataollah Salehi, threatened to take action against the U.S. aircraft carrier if it should try to transit the Straits and return to the U.S. Navy’s Fifth Fleet headquarters in Bahrain.

“Iran will not repeat its warning … the enemy’s carrier has been moved to the Sea of Oman because of our drill. I recommend and emphasize to the American carrier not to return to the Persian Gulf,” Iran’s state news agency IRNA quoted Gen. Salehi as saying.

“I advise, recommend and warn them [the Americans] over the return of this carrier to the Persian Gulf because we are not in the habit of warning more than once.”

U.S. officials immediately dismissed the Iranian threat, insisting U.S. Navy ships in the region stand “ready to counter malevolent actions to ensure freedom of navigation.”


An Iranian long-range shore-to-sea missile called Qader (Capable) is launched during Velayat-90 war game on Sea of Oman's shore near the Strait of Hormuz in southern Iran January 2, 2012.
“We see these threats from Tehran as just increasing evidence that the international pressure is beginning to bite,” U.S. State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said Tuesday. “They are feeling increasingly isolated and are trying to divert the attention of their own public from the difficulties inside Iran,” she told a daily news conference.

White House spokesman Jay Carney said the Iranian warning “reflects the fact that Iran is in a position of weakness” and suggested Tehran’s threats to close the Strait of Hormuz, through which more than one-third of the world’s oil flows, is merely bluster aimed at creating a diversion.
 “This is a significant escalation of tension between the United States and Iran, and the start of a more dangerous phase in the West’s attempt to curtail Iran’s nuclear program,” warned Vali Nasr, of Washington’s Brookings Institution.

Gen. Salehi’s threat came just two days after the United States adopted stiff new economic sanctions against Iran that will penalize foreign companies doing business with Iran’s central bank.
The new sanctions could also encourage the European Union to follow suit before the month is out in declaring an embargo on Iranian oil sales and effectively cutting off much of the Iranian government’s funding.

French Foreign Minister Alain Juppe said Tuesday he was convinced Iran was pursuing nuclear weapons. He said he wanted to see “stricter sanctions.”

The United Nations has imposed four rounds of sanctions against Iran in a bid to convince it to abandon a nuclear energy program that is suspected of secretly developing nuclear weapons.
But Iran has responded to the pressure with increasingly strident rhetoric and outright belligerence in the last few days, defiantly announcing it manufactured nuclear fuel rods on its own; test-firing medium- and long-range missiles; threatening to close the Straits of Hormuz and conducting naval war games in the Gulf of Oman and the Arabian Gulf.

Iran’s defiance has unsettled world oil markets and pushed the price of oil above US$111 a barrel on Tuesday.

But it is also taking a heavy toll on Iran’s own economy, which saw its currency, the rial, go into a nosedive Tuesday, losing 12% of its value in just one day.

Iran’s currency has lost 40% of its value in the last month, as frightened Iranians, anticipating the new sanctions, have rushed to move money from savings accounts into gold or foreign currency.
Foreign investment has dried up, reducing Iran’s oil exports and hindering the country’s importation of gasoline.

Faced with public protests sweeping the region as a result of the Arab Spring, Iran’s leaders are also nervously eyeing national parliamentary elections scheduled for March 2 — the nation’s first vote since a bitterly disputed presidential election brought tens of thousands of demonstrators into the streets in 2009.

Iran’s rulers continue to crack down on critics at home and on Tuesday sentenced the daughter of former Iranian President Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani to six months in prison for “making propaganda against the ruling system.”

But by being belligerent and bellicose toward their foreign critics Iranian leaders may hope to rally people to their side in a fit of nationalism.
They could also simply be trying to push up the price of oil to keep their economy afloat.
“The Islamic Republic’s goal may be more financial than military,” said Michael Rubin of the American Enterprise Institute. “Iran’s economy is teetering. Unemployment and inflation are both in the double digits. To keep afloat, Iran needs high oil prices. Should the price of oil fall below $80 per barrel, even the brutal Revolutionary Guards may not be able to maintain domestic stability for long. They know that by simply threatening tanker traffic, they can drive up the price of oil, adding hundreds of millions of dollars to their coffers.”

Either way, there may not be much room left for miscalculation.

“I think we should be very worried because the diplomacy that should accompany this rise in tension seems to be lacking on both sides,” Richard Dalton, a former British ambassador to Iran and fellow at the Chatham House think-tank told Reuters news agency.

“I don’t believe either side wants a war to start. I think the Iranians will be aware that if they block the Strait or attack a U.S. ship, they will be the losers. Nor do I think that the U.S. wants to use its military might other than as a means of pressure.

“However, in a state of heightened emotion on both sides, we are in a dangerous situation.”