More US Navy “Jeep” Carriers (LHA) for Marine F-35Bs, what about the USN’s big Carriers?

Further to this post and “Comments”,

US Navy’s Supercarriers (CVN) Slowly to Go the Way of the Battleship (BB)?

a lot of thinking is still going on but it’s good that people are realizing there likely will have to be major changes to the fleet to deal with the PRC’s rise–by David B. Larter (tweets here) at Defense News:

US Navy upgrades more ships for the F-35 as the future of carriers remains in flux

Former acting Navy Secretary Thomas Modly hadn’t been out of the job more than a month before the Navy canceled an ongoing study he’d launched into the future of aircraft carriers — a review he optimistically termed “Future Carrier 2030.”

Modly and his predecessor, Richard Spencer, had been excited by the prospect of fielding smaller, more risk-worthy carriers that could reduce the chance of China or Russia landing a major punch in a conflict simply by sinking or disabling a single ship, such as a Nimitz- or Ford-class aircraft carrier with thousands of sailors and tens of billions of dollars of hardware aboard.

But very soon after Modly’s spectacular departure, former acting Secretary James McPherson canceled the study until further notice. Still, as the effort to move to a smaller carrier seems frozen — as it has been for decades every time someone suggested it — the Navy is forging ahead with preparing its big-deck boats — the amphibious assault ships — for operating with the Marine Corp’s F-35B. The Corps’ F-35 fighter jet is a short-takeoff-and-vertical-landing variant [emphasis added].

The Navy recently inked a $200 million contract with BAE Systems to upgrade the amphibious assault ship Boxer to be able to operate with the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, the fifth landing helicopter assault ship [LHA, more here] to be so amended [emphasis added].

“The USS Boxer [dry-dock availability] will complete a combination of maintenance, modernization, and repair of the following systems: Hull structure, propulsion, electrical plant, auxiliary systems, and communications and combat systems, as well as alterations to prepare the ship for operations with the F-35B Joint Strike Fighter (JSF),” according to a statement from Naval Sea Systems command.

But the idea of smaller carriers is one the Navy has been flirting with more recently. Last fall, the Navy packed 13 F-35Bs on the amphibious assault ship America. Then-Navy Secretary Spencer later said the ship could hold up to 20 [emphasis added].

“I will tell you, we are augmenting the aircraft carrier with our ideas, such as this lightning carrier,” Spencer said at the Brookings Institution think tank. “Twenty F-35 Bravos on a large-deck amphib. My cost performance there is tremendous. Does it have the same punch? No, it doesn’t, but it does have a very interesting sting to it.”

The Boxer, which is an older class of big-deck amphib, could likely pack about 15 F-35Bs if it were dedicated for the purpose, according to Bryan Clark, a senior fellow at the Hudson Institute.

The idea of a lighter carrier is also one that has intrigued Defense Secretary Mark Esper. In an interview with Defense News that coincided with the fiscal 21 budget rollout, Esper raised the possibility that lighter carriers were still on the agenda [emphasis added].

“There are various ways to do carriers,” Esper said. “So we can talk numbers or we can talk the sizes of carriers, right? There’s been discussion in the past about: Do you keep building big carriers, or do you go to smaller carriers, lightning carriers? Acting Secretary Modly and I have talked about that.

“I think this gets into the future fleet designs we look at. That will be one element that we look at.”

‘What’s the objective?’

The Navy has shied away from lighter carriers for decades because, as expensive as the carriers are, they generate more sorties for less money than it would cost a comparable number of smaller carriers to generate.

But the utility of a smaller carrier that still has a mean bite was recently demonstrated when a COVID-19 outbreak on the carrier Theodore Roosevelt sidelined the flat top in Guam in the middle of its deployment. The Navy directed the America to the South China Sea to provide presence there to dissuade China from taking advantage of the Roosevelt’s misfortune…

Revolution in naval affairs coming?

Mark Collins

Twitter: @Mark3ds

Trump, the germaphobe über-macho Risk-Taker vs the Losers

Fintan O’Toole (tweets here), quite a way with words, dissects the US president’s primitive psyche–excerpts from an article at the New York Review of Books:

Vector in Chief

…Trump’s narcissism, mendacity, bullying, and malignant incompetence were obvious before the coronavirus crisis, and they have been magnified rather than moderated in his surreal response to a catastrophe whose full gravity he failed to accept until March 31, when it had become horribly undeniable…

Even after he belatedly accepted the seriousness of the threat, the grotesque spectacle of his turning vital public information briefings into campaign rallies—with journalists serving as necessary objects of contempt and facts being indiscriminately jumbled with wild hunches and bitter invective—was, to his fans, a signal that nothing had really changed. Since the president had not altered his conduct, why should they?..

…Trump could reasonably claim to be a pioneer of coronavirus-era social etiquette. In keeping with his authoritarian posture, he might have said—for once with some credibility—“I alone knew what was coming. Now all my people must do as I have been doing for years.” His addiction to hand sanitizer is notorious. In his 1997 book, The Art of the Comeback, Trump called handshaking “one of the curses of American society” and declared himself “a clean hands freak.” In How to Get Rich (2004), he wrote, “As you may have heard, I don’t like germs. I’m still waging a personal crusade to replace the mandatory and unsanitary handshake with the Japanese custom of bowing.”

In his first press conference as president-elect in January 2017, Trump addressed salacious allegations that he had been filmed in Moscow with prostitutes performing “golden showers” by insisting that this could not have happened because “I’m also very much a germaphobe, by the way.” He stopped a filmed interview with George Stephanopoulos for ABC News in June 2019 when his acting chief of staff Mick Mulvaney coughed off camera: “Let’s do that over. He’s coughing in the middle of my answer. I don’t like that, you know.” He angrily admonished Mulvaney: “If you’re going to cough, please leave the room. You just can’t, you just can’t cough.” It is almost as if Trump invented the Covid-19 protocols: wash your hands often, don’t shake hands, and keep your distance from anyone with a cough…

We must bear in mind that Trump’s “real people,” the ones who make up his electoral base, are disproportionately prone to the chronic illnesses (the “underlying conditions”) that make Covid-19 more likely to prove fatal. A 2018 Massachusetts General Hospital study of more than three thousand counties in the US reported that

“poor public health was significantly associated with the additional Republican presidential votes cast in 2016 over those from 2012. A substantial association was seen between poor health and a switch in political parties in the last [presidential] election.”

For every marker of the prevalence of poor health (such as diabetes, obesity, days of illness, and mortality rates), there was a marked shift toward voting for Trump. Trump has acted in relation to Covid-19 like the God who tells the Jews to mark their homes with a sign so that the plague he is inflicting on Egypt will pass by their doors—with the malign twist that he has instead marked out his own chosen people for special harm.

…to understand Trump’s incoherence, we have to take into account two contradictory impulses within the right-wing mindset: paranoia and risk. The right appeals to the fear of invasion, of subversion, of contamination. But it also valorizes risk. The contemporary Republican Party, through Trumpism, has managed to ride both of these horses at the same time.

The paranoia is for the little people: their “way of life” is under threat (from Muslims, Mexicans, liberals, socialists, political correctness, feminism, anti-gun movements, and so on) and Trump alone can save them. The great border wall symbolizes this promise of safety. The embrace of risk, on the other hand, is for the actual beneficiaries of casino capitalism, for whom safety (which is to say public regulation) is a bad thing. Trump has managed to hold these two notions of security and danger together. His problem with the virus is that it makes that double act impossible: the risk impulse is deadly for his voters, but the conservative intellectual establishment cannot give it up.

…For Trump’s Republican allies, this does not of course mean self-sacrifice. It means the sacrificing of others: the old, the poor, the chronically ill. And here a crucial word in Trump’s lexicon must be whispered: losers.

…in Trumpworld, as in the right-wing ideology he embodies, life’s losers are not just hateful. They are a different species. Winners are one kind of human; losers a lesser breed. Trump—like so many of the superrich—believes that this division is inherited: “What my father really gave me,” he tweeted in June 2013, “is a good (great) brain, motivation and the benefit of his experience–unlike the haters and losers (lazy!).”..

And an earlier post based on a piece by Mr O’Toole:

“So how could Biden imagine himself as the reincarnation of the Kennedys?”

Mark Collins

Twitter: @Mark3ds

Whither the British Military, Part 2? And the Canadian?

Further to this post based on piece by Julian Lindley-French (tweets here)–note pieces by Thin Pinstriped Line at end–the conclusion of another post at that blog that is also very relevant to the future of the Canadian Armed Forces:

The Post COVID BBQ Of Sacred Cows – Defence in a post COVID19 world


Working out how to define what our national security interests are, versus what can be afforded and what is credible in a post pandemic world where so much has changed will be extremely difficult. Armed forces continue to be seen as a key tool of national security, but are they going to be more difficult to use in coalition operations, and will the deployment of troops be credible in a world of restricted movement and flaky supply chains?

Perhaps the most difficult to answer question is, regardless of the risk to global security, is Defence still a priority for funding? Facing a significant recession and difficult public spending decisions, is maintaining large and capable armed forces still a priority at a time when so many other decisions need to be taken?

Or, are we approaching the point when perhaps the unthinkable is possible. If the size of the recession and change means that large parts of the UK defence industrial supply chain may be at risk of collapse anyway, have we reached a potential tipping point when large scale changes and cuts to defence spending is possible in a way not previously deemed possible?

If you no longer have an industrial base to protect in the same way, and the willpower and need to deploy large armed forces is diminished, then why not use this as an opportunity to slash defence spending, freeing up money for other more politically high priority projects?

COVID-19 has shown that the international system is changing, and this is one of those moments when it may be possible to forsee changes and decisions being taken on a scale that would never previously have been looked at. The biggest challenge facing the UK armed forces right now may be a sense that they are, for all the popular support for the concept of the armed forces, deemed far easier to cut in significant amounts now than at any time in the last 75 years.

It is not clear what the next 12-18 months hold, and it is far too early to predict what the next defence review will conclude. But it is clear that significant change is ahead, and so is turbulent times. Realistically nothing Defence does is sacred anymore, and no matter how much the armed forces will wish to protect their sacred cows from major cuts, there is no certainty that they will survive the post COVID BBQ party.Without doubt, we live in interesting times.

No kidding. As for Canada:

COVID-19 may well be the End of the Canadian Armed Forces as we have Known them…and of our Effective Sovereignty

Mark Collins

Twitter: @Mark3ds

China vs India, or, the Himalayan Military Cockpit, Ladakh Section

This all just keeps going on–first a post from 2016:

The Himalayan Military Cockpit, Indian Tanks to Ladakh Near China Section

Now the current confrontation, from Foreign Policy’s “South Asia Brief” by Ravi Agrawal (tweets here):

Why India and China Are Sparring

The two nuclear powers have long had their differences. But the pandemic has led to some frayed nerves—and revealed longer-term ambitions.

Perhaps predictably, U.S. President Donald Trump tweeted on Wednesday an offer to help resolve growing border tensions between India and China. More surprisingly, he described the situation as a “now raging border dispute.” Trump’s words were hyperbole, but they partially reflected the most serious tensions between the two nuclear powers—representing a third of the world’s population—in nearly three years.

In the best of times, both India and China restrict journalists from entering border areas, and the pandemic has made it more difficult to get accurate information. Let’s start with what we know. This month, Foreign Policy highlighted two clashes between Indian and Chinese soldiers, on May 5 and May 9, at separate border areas in India’s east and north. While no one was killed in those hand-to-hand combat skirmishes, more than 100 soldiers were injured.

The Indian press, aided by trickles of information from defense officials, has since reported that Chinese army brigades comprising thousands of soldiers have crossed into Indian territory to set up tents and trenches at key points near the Himalayas. In response, India’s army has deployed reinforcements, sparking fears of a larger conflict.

The Economist reports that on Wednesday, New Delhi and Beijing activated a high-level diplomatic channel to diffuse tensions. And China’s ambassador to India, Sun Weidong, struck a calming tone, telling reporters, “We should never let differences overshadow our relations.”

The longer-term question is why tensions were sparked in the first place—and what that portends. A few thoughts:

First, the coronavirus pandemic may have strengthened—and sped up—Beijing’s growing conviction that it has the power to take bold moves around the world. This may also explain the timing of its decision to change the national security law in Hong Kong. Even in 2008, as the world reeled from the global financial crisis, Beijing responded with massive stimulus measures and a global lending spree, expanding its influence and power. In other words, China may be taking advantage of a crisis.

Second, China’s incursions are likely also a response to years of Indian construction of roads and airstrips along the Line of Actual Control that divides the two countries, improving India’s military supply chain connectivity in the area [emphasis added]. Beijing’s recent moves may also be a response to the 2017 standoff between the two countries in Doklam, in territory claimed by Bhutan, when India stopped Chinese troops from building a road.

Third, as Sumit Ganguly and Manjeet Pardesi wrote in Foreign Policy, since 1988 China and India have shared an understanding to keep the peace so they could focus on their domestic growth and stability. But 32 years ago the two countries had similarly sized economies and spent nearly the same amount on defense. Today, China’s GDP is more than five times that of India, and it spends four times as much on defense. The dynamics of the relationship have completely changed [emphasis added].

There are, of course, other contributing factors, not least the fact that both countries are led by nationalist strongmen who are struggling to respond to the pandemic and its economic fallout. Both India and China have jingoistic media and populations that increasingly enjoy a bit of muscle-flexing. Even so, the worst of the current flare-up seems to have passed. But the trend lines suggest that we may see more clashes in the future.

On verra. More at this Indian story:

The Ladakh Stand-Off Between India And China Explained In Maps, Pictures

Chinese and Indian patrols frequently cross paths in this area of dispute but in most cases, soldiers of both sides retreat after performing a ‘banner drill’ where each side asserts its claim to the disputed area…

A related post:

World Defence Spending Continues Upward–But COVID-19

Mark Collins

Twitter: @Mark3Ds

British Tories really Hardening vs the PRC and Huawei

Further to this post,

UK and Huawei/5G: Dragon Says my Way or else; plus Canadian Crown v, Meng Wanzhou [ruling at the latter “Comments”]

boy are some people really taking off their blindfolds (here’s looking at you now, PM Trudeau)–by James Forsyth, Political Editor of the Spectator:

Prepare for a big Huawei U-turn

The UK has made a strategic choice to get ‘off the trajectory of ever-increasing dependence’ on China, I reveal in the magazine this week. This is important as the UK was about to go over the precipice in terms of dependence on China with the decision to allow Huawei to construct a lasting part of the UK’s 5G network.

That is now not going to happen. Downing Street describes its previous Huawei decision as a ‘legacy issue’, emphasising how no one was particularly comfortable with the compromise they came up with—Huawei’s role would be capped and it would be kept away from ‘the core’ of the network. This is just as well: had Boris Johnson sought to proceed he would almost certainly have lost the vote in the Commons, such is the depth of feeling in the party [!!! emphasis added, meanwhile the Canadian Commons just did this: “Conservatives…pushed for a vote to convene the Commons Canada-China committee to hold hearings on Hong Kong – meeting while the House is not in session – but this motion was defeated by the (minority government) Liberals and NDP]. If you want a sign of the shift in Tory attitudes to Beijing, just look at how normally cautious MPs are rushing to sign up to Tom Tugendhat and Neil O’Brien’s new China Research Group [more here], which wants a far more critical approach to the issue. As one of those central to party management put it to me before the Dominic Cummings issue arose, the ‘government has to do something different’ on Huawei. With Tory MPs now less inclined to accept the centre’s authority, this is even more the case [emphasis added, imagine that in our Liberals–or other parties].

Concern about Huawei goes far deeper than Tory MPs. The US national security establishment has hardened its view on China considerably in the past year and there is now a bipartisan consensus that its rise needs to be checked. As one of those advising Boris Johnson on this matter warns: ‘You can’t be in a situation where, whoever wins in November, our credibility is draining with our most critical ally.’ Combine all of the above with concerns over Beijing’s bullying of Canada and Australia and you have a potent case for changing course [emphasis added, how much longer will Republicans and Democrats tolerate our government’s endless dithering on Huawei? See: “Huawei, 5G, Canada and…COVID-19 and our Comprador Class“].

One of Johnson’s closest political allies tells me: ‘The original plan is dead. It is only a matter of how they configure the shift.’ I am told that the choice now is between a time limit for the use of Huawei kit in 5G infrastructure, or no role at all for the Chinese company — with ‘sentiment shifting to the harder position’.

C’mon Canada, get with the Five Eyes program!

Mark Collins

Twitter: @Mark3Ds

Theme song:

“Joint Statement from the UK, Australia, Canada, and United States on Hong Kong”, plus Terry Glavin (and Jonathan Manthorpe)

Further to this post,

Dragon vs Hong Kong Cartoon of the Day, plus Globe and Mail’s Editorial

I’m glad PM Trudeau’s government saw its way to agreeing with this sharpish text:

Signatories to this statement reiterate our deep concern regarding Beijing’s decision to impose a national security law in Hong Kong.

Hong Kong has flourished as a bastion of freedom. The international community has a significant and long-standing stake in Hong Kong’s prosperity and stability. Direct imposition of national security legislation on Hong Kong by the Beijing authorities, rather than through Hong Kong’s own institutions as provided for under Article 23 of the Basic Law, would curtail the Hong Kong people’s liberties, and in doing so, dramatically erode Hong Kong’s autonomy and the system that made it so prosperous.

China’s decision to impose the new national security law on Hong Kong lies in direct conflict with its international obligations under the principles of the legally-binding, UN-registered Sino-British Joint Declaration. The proposed law would undermine the One Country, Two Systems framework. It also raises the prospect of prosecution in Hong Kong for political crimes, and undermines existing commitments to protect the rights of Hong Kong people – including those set out in the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights.

We are also extremely concerned that this action will exacerbate the existing deep divisions in Hong Kong society; the law does nothing to build mutual understanding and foster reconciliation within Hong Kong.

Rebuilding trust across Hong Kong society by allowing the people of Hong Kong to enjoy the rights and freedoms they were promised can be the only way back from the tensions and unrest that the territory has seen over the last year.

The world’s focus on a global pandemic requires enhanced trust in governments and international cooperation. Beijing’s unprecedented move risks having the opposite effect.

As Hong Kong’s stability and prosperity are jeopardised by the new imposition, we call on the Government of China to work with the Hong Kong SAR Government and the people of Hong Kong to find a mutually acceptable accommodation that will honour China’s international obligations under the UN-filed Sino-British Joint Declaration.

This statement is much better that the fairly limp one the UK, Australia and Canada issued May 22, text here. Meanwhile in Beijing:

Chinese lawmakers approve controversial Hong Kong security bill as tensions with U.S. rise

Members of China’s mostly rubber stamp parliament, the National People’s Congress, in the Great Hall of the People to the west of Beijing’s Tiananmen Square, burst into prolonged applause when the tally showed 2,878 votes to one in favour of moving forward with legislation, with six abstentions [democracy with Chicom characteristics].

Details of the law are expected to be drawn up in coming weeks. It is expected to be enacted before September…

And from Terry Glavin (tweets here)–are Canada’s Liberals now finally starting to, er, see the light? One can hope but only future actions will tell the real tale:

Canada was warned not to cozy up Huawei and Beijing. Now here we are.

…We listened instead to Jean Chrétien and the pro-PRC Liberal old guard. Remember that if—or when—Xi Jinping takes revenge over the Meng Wanzhou decision…

UPDATE: Note this from close follower of the PRC’s activities in Canada, Jonathan Manthorpe (tweets here):

Crisis in China-Canada relations will intensify following decision in Meng case

The crisis in Sino-Canadian relations sparked by the detention on an extradition warrant of Meng Wanzhou, the chief financial officer of China’s leading communications company Huawei Technologies, was long overdue and should be welcomed.

The fallout from Meng’s detention on charges of fraud and evading sanctions against Iran lodged by the U.S. Department of Justice has exposed the contradictions and incompatibilities in the relationship between Canada and the People’s Republic of China…

Since diplomatic relations with the PRC were established in 1970, leading elements among Canada’s political leaders and the country’s business and academic establishments have become enmeshed in the relationship with Beijing.

The PRC has become Canada’s second-largest trading partner, but it is an unbalanced relationship. In 2019, imports from China totalled $46.8 billion, and exports to China were $24.4 billion.

In several universities and colleges, tuition revenues from Chinese students are a dangerously large part of the budget [see: “COVID-19 and the Cross of Students from China for Anglosphere Universities“].

Promoters of the relationship argue that making the PRC a stakeholder in democratic and law-driven institutions and customs will encourage political and social reform in China.

The establishments of the totalitarian regime in Beijing by leader Xi Jinping, the Huawei affair, and Beijing’s determination to crush the movements for democratic reform in Hong Kong, have shown that there is no hope of reform. Without it, Canada cannot have a stable, mutually respectful relationship with the PRC.

There is no meeting ground between the PRC and Canada on questions of human and civic rights. The Chinese Communist Party’s view of the relationship between the citizen and the state is diametrically opposed to that in Canada…

Canada cannot and shouldn’t sever relations with Beijing, but Ottawa must focus on expanding its relationships with the Asian countries with which Canada does share values and interests. Japan, South Korea, Taiwan, Singapore, India, Australia, New Zealand and Indonesia are top of the list. Most of these and several other countries are members with Canada of the Comprehensive and Progressive Trans-Pacific Partnership. It is this trade alliance that Ottawa should make the cornerstone of its post-Huawei relationship with the Pacific Rim.

Jonathan Manthorpe is a journalist and author specialising in international affairs. His book “Claws of the Panda: Beijing’s Campaign of Influence and Intimidation in Canada,” was published in 2019, and his forthcoming book, “Restoring Democracy in an Age of Populists and Pestilence,” will be available in July.

Fully concur, one hopes PM Trudeau and members of his government have a good look at the piece.

Mark Collins

Twitter: @Mark3Ds

Will Certain of the Leaders of some First Nations in British Columbia Get the Power to Block any more Pipelines ?

The question of who speaks for First Nations, with what authority and with how much power is getting increasingly murky–from an opinion piece in the Globe and Mail by Gary Mason:

The Wet’suwet’en deal could be a recipe for disaster

When we last left the great pipeline dispute involving the Wet’suwet’en Nation, governments in Ottawa and B.C. were trying to bring calm to an ugly feud that had ignited railway blockades across the country.

Then the COVID-19 pandemic struck, and the imbroglio suddenly seemed like a far less urgent priority.

As it turns out, however, the disagreement that began when a small group of Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs and their supporters obstructed construction of the Coastal GasLink pipeline [website here] in northern B.C. was not being entirely ignored. On the contrary, an extraordinary deal was being worked out between the two levels of government and a handful of Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs that has the capacity to fundamentally alter politics in this country forever.

It also has the potential to be viewed, ultimately, as a horribly one-sided sellout by British Columbia and Ottawa…

According to the hereditary chiefs, this deal, if ratified, would make the Wet’suwet’en the first Indigenous nation in Canada to be recognized as having aboriginal title over its territory – which includes the right to decide on the uses of that land [emphasis added]. The two sides have set out a timeline of 12 months to work on the finer details, including areas of jurisdiction. They include child and family wellness, water, wildlife, fish, lands and resources, among others.

…There are so many potential land mines in this agreement, it’s hard to know where to begin. But let’s start with how it gives power to hereditary chiefs over elected chiefs and their councils. In many cases, elected chiefs represent a new generation of Indigenous leadership. The hereditary chiefs who signed this agreement appear to be able to use their new power to stop the pipeline from crossing their land. The way I read this arrangement, the hereditary chiefs will have exclusive domain over natural-resource development.

Hereditary chiefs elsewhere are undoubtedly going to see this agreement as precedent-setting. They will insist on the same powers. And that has the potential to undermine many other royalty-sharing agreements that elected band councils have signed with resource companies [emphasis added].

To summarize: The deal does nothing to solve the Coastal GasLink dispute. The hereditary chiefs had their leadership recognized by government and had to give up nothing in return – including any promise to not continue blocking the pipeline from crossing their territory [emphasis added].

Crystal Smith, the elected chief councillor of the Haisla First Nation who is recognized as one of the most dynamic and progressive-minded young Indigenous leaders in the country, sees the deal creating intractable problems inside the Wet’suwet’en community.

“I think it is a recipe for disaster,” Chief Smith told me over the phone…

Sounds like a reasonable assessment to me and likely yet another blow to efforts to export B.C.’s natural gas to Asia as LNG, and to the expansion of the Trans Mountain pipeline (now owned by the federal government, website here) to Vancouver to export the output of Alberta’s oil sands.

Mark Collins

Twitter: @Mark3ds