March 31, 2014

Chinese Fleet Searching for MH370

The 20,000 tone JinggangShanType 071 amphibious transport dock - part of China's MH370 search fleet.

Previous and current search area for MH370 debris - as at March 31, 2014. (map courtesy )

The following are ships of the Chinese FLEET (too big to be a flotilla) searching for MH370 in the area off Western Australia in the southern Indian Ocean. This is my estimate of ship names as at March 31, 2014. Note that complete accuracy is not assured as some ships may have left or not yet arrived. Its based on Chinese sources - not always accurate.

Haixun 01 (or 1001) 1,700 tons - is a Chinese (Type 718 Cutter) coast guard cutter. Its specialty is law enforcement and search and rescue. It is based in Shanghai and is the Chinese coast guard's most modern vessel. It carries two large dinghies and can carry one helicopter.

Qiandaohu Type 903 replenishment ship 20,500 tons, long term supplies, rations, fuel, spares. 

Xue Long (?) 21,025 tons polar supply ship – icebreaker . Mainly useful for long term supplies, cold rough weater,  and useful cranes to lift large objects out of water. Search helicopter. Can lower boats and dinghies to pick up floating objects. May still be in area.

JinggangShan, Type 071 amphibious transport dock – 20,000 tons carrying life-saving equipment, landing craft, underwater detection equipment, supplies of water and food, two helicopters, 30 medical personnel, 10 divers and a 52-member marine contingent.

KunlunShan Type 071 amphibious transport dock , - 20,000 tons, carrying life-saving equipment, landing craft, underwater detection equipment, supplies of water and food, two helicopters, 30 medical personnel, 10 divers and a 52-member marine contingent.

Haikou, Type 052C destroyer 7,000 tons, fleet operations, communications  and control,  mainly military use radar, sonar and optics. Search helicopter and small UAVs. Can lower boats and dinghies to pick up floating objects.

Nanhaijiu 115 rescue ship, and 

To give an idea of the scale of the Chinese fleet, though some ship names differ today, connect with The Beijing Review, March 31. 2014, "Chinese Ships Convene for MH370 Search, Australian PM Applauds Assistance"


March 28, 2014

MH370: Australia building better relations with China

Grieving relatives in front of the Malaysian Embassy in Beijing.

The two Chinese IL-76 transport-search aircraft on the tarmac at RAAF Pearce Air Force Base - just north of Perth in Western Australia.

Most of the passengers on MH370 were from China. Many of their relatives are in Beijing and Kuala Lumpur hoping for news. Many of the relatives may travel to Perth (Western Australia) the closest city to the suspected crash area in the Southern Indian Ocean. I wrote this article below that has been published, March 28, 2014 on Australia's On Line Opinion : 

"MH370: building better relations with China"

"The likely crash of MH370 into the Southern Indian Ocean raises a range of matters that will influence Australia's relations with China for years. One aspect is the presence of substantial numbers of Chinese military aircraft and warships utilising Australian military bases in Western Australia to search for MH370. Another matter is the likely entry into Perth of large numbers of grieving relatives of Chinese passengers who died in MH370. These matters have and will involve deep negotiations between Australia and China at the peak leadership, military, legal and diplomatic-consular level.

It is unusual for so many Chinese military assets to be present in Australia and operating off our coast. These aircraft and ships are of course being used for a humanitarian, soft power purposes, but as China is seen as a possible strategic problem their presence seems a little unreal. A Chinese destroyer was present at the International Fleet Review, Sydney Harbour, October 2013. However this is not the same as three or more large Chinese warships and an icebreaker operating off Western Australia for months, at least.

Two large Chinese Ilyushin transport aircraft are also involved in the search. They are operating from RAAF Pearce Air Force Base. Our airmen are unused to the constant presence of Chinese pilots and ground crew on an Australian base. In comments that might be amusing if the situation wasn't so tragic the Chinese news agency Xinhua reported from Perth, March 22, 2014: "Two highly-anticipated Chinese Air Force planes arrived Saturday …to drive the ongoing search …[The] Chinese IL-76 will be a welcome relief to the authorities here as the challenges of the task at hand begin to overwhelm available resources…The IL-76, emblazoned with a rich-red Chinese flag as well as a sky-blue hull and a white underbelly, created a rare ripple of enthusiasm across the airbase that is currently home to a large international press corp."

The likely entry into Perth of large numbers of grieving relatives, of Chinese passengers of MH370, may sadly present prolonged and unpredictable situations. Most of the relatives speak no English and have never been outside China. The Chinese tradition of recovering the bodies of next-of-kin is strong.

The anger of the relatives of Chinese MH370 passengers has been directed against the Malaysian government. Might this anger be directed against Australia as the inevitably long-term search and recovery operation continues out of Australia? Whatever happens any detection and recovery of the MH370 aircraft and of bodies (which is even more difficult) may take years. Some relatives in their grief expect authorities to rapidly know the answers when nothing can be detected and retrieved quickly. This is in a Southern Indian Ocean search area of thousands of square kilometres, where major parts of MH370 may be thousands of metres down on the sea floor.

Relatives' anger has escalated to demonstrations in Beijing itself – a city where only authorised demonstrations are permitted. The Washington Post has reported close-in official control of relatives' demonstrations against the Malaysian Embassy in Beijing. One Chinese government objective appears to be the minimisation of any possibility that relatives will blame the Chinese government itself. Prior to a demonstration of grieving relatives a few days ago plain-clothes Chinese government agents reportedly took control. This was achieved by: some concentration of relatives at one hotel; providing buses; supplying protest signs and T-shirts with authorised slogans aimed at Malaysia; close liaison with uniformed police; and, lecturing relatives on how to protest in an authorised and limited way.

As the closest landfall for MH370's recovery Australia may also become a type of witness in legal-political proceedings. Compensation and blame is a big issue. Chicago based Ribbeck Law has reportedly already filed a petition at the Cook County, Illinois Circuit Court against the Boeing corporation and Malaysian Airlines. Other lawsuits are likely. The US has provided invaluable satellite and naval support but, no doubt conspiracy theorists are developing pretexts to blame America (as in all things) for the disappearance of flight MH370.

Australian authorities in Perth and Canberra are probably liaising with China very closely on ways to avoid, tension, violence and bilateral misunderstandings. This is an extraordinary political, military, technical, humanitarian and legal matter. Australia has rarely worked with the Chinese government so closely. That Australia is working closely with China and that recovery of remains may take years is something relatives will need to understand."
Connect with this PerthNowNews report, "Perth’s Chinese community opens its arms to relatives of MH370 passengers", of March 27, 2014, at .

March 24, 2014

Evolved Collins Sub - Most Likely SEA 1000 Option

Would an evolved Collins, or any type of future SSK have any chance of chasing down Chinese SSNs, like the Type 093 Shang Class submarine above?

On the long term issue of Australia's future submarine SEA 1000 project John Kerin of the The Australian Financial Review, March 6, 2014 reported

"Evolved Collins favourite but timing unclear"

"An evolved Collins-class has emerged as the favoured option for Australia’s next generation of submarines amid signs the much maligned existing boats will remain in service beyond 2030.
The former Labor government’s defence white paper pared back the options to an updated Collins or a new design in its 2013 version, but all options are on the table for the Abbott government’s new white paper to be completed within 12 months.
Few sources close to defence believe it will opt for a new design given the risk of having an orphan boat class. Treasurer Joe Hockey is said to be uneasy with the mooted pricetag of $36 billion.
Defence Minister David Johnston has also cast doubt on whether Australia will double its fleet to 12, saying the number first mooted in the former prime minister’s 2009 white paper has never been justified.
The original Collins sub was a modified Swedish Kockums design and Australia would be unlikely to go without the expertise of one big European diesel submarine builder as well as rely heavily on the US Navy and its systems technology expertise.
One cause for optimism has been the amount of remediation work that has been undertaken on the Collins fleet since the release of the 2012 John Coles report by former defence minister Stephen Smith, which found the fleet was floundering but blamed most of the problems on poor maintenance practices and co-ordination between defence, the navy and submarine maintainer ASC.
Ironically, one reason behind the life extension program is that the hulls of the boats have spent so much time out of the water.
On a visit to the Techport precinct in South Australia, Senator Johnston was happy to report that the availability of the Collins-class boats was as good as it has been for a decade.
Johnston seems to have had a change of heart. When the former Labor government released its 2013 white paper, he said he wouldn’t “want to go back near Collins if it was the last thing on earth we had to do’’.
Prime Minister Tony Abbott, on the other hand, has always been more ­circumspect, saying while the Collins had its moments, it was a pretty effective piece of kit. The Australian Financial Reviewunderstands that means as many as four of the six boats would be kept in the water.
Some defence sources question the cost of keeping the boats in the water given they are ageing, even as other navies in the region update their fleets, often with cheaper off-the-shelf boats.
“There was talk before the election of the cost of keeping the Collins in the water approaching $1 billion a year and it is only going to get more expensive as they get older,’’ one defence source told the Financial Review.
“So it’s a question of how much the government is prepared to pay to keep them going,’’ the source added.


Australian Strategic Policy Institute analyst Andrew Davies said there was “still scope for a change of direction but the evolved Collins definitely has its nose in front at the moment’.
“The availability of the existing six Collins-class boats is actually ahead of the target and it appears the life extension program will see them through to at least 2030,’’ Dr Davies says.
The regional arms race includes not only the big players such as China and Japan, but also Indonesia, Singapore, South Korea and Vietnam.
Labor’s 2013 defence white paper retained its earlier target from the more ambitious 2009 document, to double the size of the fleet from six to 12, with the boat being larger than the Collins – 4000 tonnes as opposed to 3000 tonnes – and having greater range and endurance. The Coalition, though less enthusiastic, has eventually come around to the political reality that the new boats will be assembled in Adelaide at the government-owned ASC, given Australia has an indigenous submarine capability, and marginal seats in Adelaide would be at stake otherwise.
As with big ship projects, the work is likely to be spread across other shipyards around Australia.
A debate has raged about the appropriate approach to buying new submarines since the Australian Strategic Policy Institute report in 2009, which estimated it would cost $36 billion to design and build submarines in Australia compared with a $9 billion tag for buying smaller conventional submarines from Europe.
But the purchase of small conventional submarines was suspended after it was considered they simply were not suited to the seas Australian submarines operate in, or the roles which they undertake, which include eavesdropping on long-range patrols on large countries in north-east Asia.
An assessment by the Australian Industry Group has estimated the future submarine program could employ up to 5000 workers and 1000 Australian businesses, many of them small and medium enterprises.
However, the best signal about the Abbott government’s future intentions will be its upcoming commission of audit and just how much political skin and money it is prepared to invest in the risky project." ENDS

March 23, 2014

Chinese Satellite Gaofen-1 Possible Sighting of MH370 Debris

Chinese satellite (Gaofen-1) sighting (above) on March 22-23, 2014 of possible MH370 debris. 

Compare with similar sized objects in same area of ocean as the US DigitalGlobe satellite sighting (below) of March 21, 2014 (see )

Area of possible MH370 debris indicating Chinese satellite sighting. 


Australia's ABC Online March 23, 2014 reports .

[Australian] Prime Minister Tony Abbott says there is "increasing hope" that the southern Indian Ocean search for Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 will prove fruitful, after Chinese satellites detected a large object that could be debris.
Authorities have begun a fourth day of sorties into the search zone about 2,500 kilometres south-west of Perth, where they are now also searching for an object that China identified yesterday as being 22 metres long and 13 metres wide.
The object was spotted about 120 kilometres south-west of two possible objects seen on satellite images taken on March 16 and announced by the Australian Government on Thursday.
The Chinese satellite images were taken five days ago, on March 18, by the high-definition Earth observation satellite Gaofen-1....
"New Chinese satellite imagery does seem to suggest at least one large object down there, consistent with the object that earlier satellite imagery discovered which I told the Australian Parliament about last week," he said...
Mr Abbott said two Chinese aircraft and two Japanese Orions will today join the fleet flying into the search zone, which was yesterday expanded to 36,000 square kilometres."

See a highly detailed description of Gaofen-1 launched April 26, 2013 at and about future Gaofeng satellites at

March 20, 2014

MH370? Australian and other Aircraft Checking Pieces of Debris in Indian Ocean

There are initial reports on March 21, 2014 of a possible find of parts of MH370 in the southern Indian Ocean, far off the Australian coast. The suspected debris point is yellow with diagonal stripy lines (on the map above). There is poor visibility due to weather conditions. One piece of suspected debris could be 24 metres long.

[Connect with a later March 23, 2014 sighting by Chinese satellite (Gaofeng-1) of similar sized objects in the same area ]

[DigitalGlobe Inc , a Colorado-based company that collects satellite imagery for the U.S. government and other countries as well as private companies, confirmed it had collected the images on March 16. It did not say when the images were provided to Australian authorities. ]

On March 21, 2014 John Young, of the Australian Maritime Safety Authority (AMSA) said about the March, 2014 US satellite (DigitalGlobe) sighting “This is a lead. Probably the best lead we have right now...But we need to get there, find them, see them.” 

He warned that nothing could be assumed: the spot where the objects were spotted was located 2,500 km (1,600 miles south-west from Perth, Western Australia, and that finding anything would be a major challenge.

Officials said the debris had been spotted on March 16, 2014 by DigitalGlobe satellite imagery that was then presumably passed to the US National Geospatial Intelligence Agency (NGA) then passed to the Australian Defence Imagery and Geospatial Organisation (DIGO).

In addition to 4 Australian military aircraft and two Australian ships, one New Zealand P3 Orion and two US P8 Poseidon aircraft will be travelling to the area.

A US P8 Poseidon actually arrived in the area about 3 hours ago - its imagery is now being analysed in Canberra and Washington DC.
An Australian Hercules C130 had been dispatched to drop electronic marker buoys on any major debris found to assist in drift modelling. “They will provide an ongoing reference point if the task of relocating the objects becomes protracted,” said AMSA.

Swedish Cabinet responding to Russians or Submarine Industry?

Five instead of two A26s? (Graphics courtesy of TKMS-Kockums website

Events in Crimea and Ukraine have increased concerns in Sweden about the possibility of an increased conventional military threat from Russia. March 16, 2014 reports:

Sweden’s government is examining a proposal to boost military spending to defend its own territories and the strategic Baltic Sea area in the face of renewed Russian aggression in Ukraine. There is also a movement among high government officials to re-examine the long-running issue of joining NATO. The Swedish Cabinet will discuss, in coming weeks, a cross-party coalition proposal to significantly increase capital spending on the Navy’s submarine fleet.

…The Swedish Cabinet will examine in coming weeks a proposal by Foreign Minister Carl Bildt to expand the Navy’s submarine modernization program to cover the acquisition of five rather than two next-generation subs at an additional cost of $1.6 billion.

“We need to strengthen our military presence on Götland and our overall capability in the Baltic Sea. Two new subs is not enough. The ambition should be to have the best fighter and submarine capability for our size of any European nation,” Bildt said in a statement. “This is vital if Sweden is to create a credible defense.”

The Riksdag in June 2010 approved plans to buy two new submarines. The first of these were to have been delivered in 2018. However, the project has been delayed by several years, with the prospect that Saab, and not the Malmö-based, German-owned ThyssenKrupp Marine Systems (formerly Kockums), will get the contract.

Also see Corporate Battle Between SAAB and TKMS Over Kockums of March 14, 2014 at

Might the Swedish Cabinet be planning to spend more on submarines due to the resurgent Russian threat or is it simply a pretext to revive Sweden's submarine industry?


March 18, 2014

Some Doubt Whether Australia Will Build 12 Future Submarines

Australia's Defence Minister David Johnston - prepared to speak out on submarines.

Australia's Defence Minister David Johnston is one of the principal decision makers on current and future Australian submarine issues. Like all Defence Minister's he has his own public relations style.

On February 27, 2014 Rob Taylor and Patrick Barta of the Wall Street Journal reported some comments from Minister Johnston that may prove highly significant for future tenderers for Australia's future submarine program (SEA 1000). I've bolded what I see as the most significant comments. As will be seen the issue of how many future submarines Australia will build has not yet been finalized. see :

"Australia Australia Reviews Plan to Double Submarine Fleet"
Decision to Revisit $32 Billion Purchase Comes as Asian Neighbors Bulk Up Military Muscle

CANBERRA, Australia—Australia will review plans to double its fleet of submarines, with the new conservative government under pressure to rein in its budget even as Asian neighbors dramatically ramp up military spending.
Defense Minister David Johnston said he was unconvinced that Australia needed as many as 12 new conventional submarines currently foreseen by military planners. It comes as regional neighbors, led by China, build up their naval and air arsenals amid disputes over territorial waters, especially in North Asia.
At a cost of up to 36 billion Australian dollars (US$32.28 billion), doubling the submarine fleet would be the country's largest single military purchase.
"It's a mystery to me [where that number of 12 future submarines came from]," said Mr. Johnston, who has called for a review of military-equipment spending as part of a year long strategic planning process launched by the conservatives, who swept to power in September elections on a promise of fiscal restraint."
[Pete's comment: The first major explanation (I know of) as to how 12 future submarines are arrived at is in Australia's 2009 Defence White Paper  Defending Australia in the Asia Paciic Century: Force 2030  section 8.40, page 64: "In the case of the submarine force,the Government takes the view that our future strategic circumstances necessitate a substantially expanded submarine fleet of 12 boats in order to sustain a force at sea large enough in a crisis or conflict to be able to defend our approaches (including at considerable distance from Australia, if necessary), protect and support other ADF assets, and undertake certain strategic missions where the stealth and other operating characteristics of highly-capable advanced submarines would be crucial. Moreover, a larger submarine force would significantly increase the military planning challenges faced by any adversaries, and increase the size and capabilities of the force they would have to be prepared to commit to attack us directly, or coerce, intimidate or otherwise employ military power against us."  see ]

"That is a technical issue that the current circumstances will dictate and I want [the] navy to tell me what they foresee is the way forward. It might be more than 12, it might be less. I'm not sure," he said in an interview.
Australia's former Labor government in 2009 released a defense planning paper that called for a dozen large, conventionally powered submarines to replace the country's existing six-boat fleet of Collins class submarines.
Although much larger than submarines operated by regional neighbors, [Japan's 4,000 ton Soryus are larger!] the Collins class submarines have been plagued by technical problems. On Thursday, a fire erupted on the submarine HMAS Waller off the West Australian coast, Australia's Defense Department said. There were no casualties. [see ]
A new fleet of larger, more powerful and longer-range submarines would counter a growing undersea presence in Asia. Singapore, Indonesia, Vietnam and Malaysia are fielding new submarines to counter threats to some of the world's most important energy-trade routes, as well as to hedge against Chinese ambitions.
China in January sent a surface warship fleet—possibly backed by a submarine—into waters between Indonesia and Australia, demonstrating Beijing's naval reach. The move prompted some alarm in Canberra, which sent a maritime patrol aircraft to keep watch.
Southeast Asian nations typically operate submarines of about 2,000 submerged tons, while Australia envisages boats of 4,000 tons or more, possibly equipped with submarine-launched cruise missiles for land attack and capable of deploying special-forces soldiers.
Australia's submarine-replacement program, no matter how ambitious it turned out to be, wouldn't add to regional rivalries, with the close U.S. ally having long fielded a small but highly capable military that was well respected regionally, Mr. Johnston said.
"For many, many years we have owned and operated the world's largest conventionally powered submarine, so the neighborhood is well used to us having a large and unique diesel-electric submarine," he said.
Australia already has embarked on an expensive buildup of military equipment, including two 27,000-ton [Canberra Class] amphibious assault ships, new attack and transport helicopters, [Hobart Class] guided-missile destroyers, tanks and Super Hornet strike and electronic attack aircraft.
Australia has a defense budget of some A$26 billion in the fiscal year to June, or 1.6% of gross domestic product. The government plans in the next few years to buy up to 100 F-35 Lightning joint strike fighters to provide radar-evading air power, at a cost of up to A$16 billion.
But the military has come under pressure to reduce costs as the world's 12th-largest economy retreats from a mining boom, driving up joblessness and eating into government revenues. The government in December forecast budget deficits totaling A$123 billion over the next four fiscal years to June 2017, and said it would cut billions from spending.
But earlier this week the country, which two years ago agreed to rotate thousands of U.S. Marines and their aircraft through Australia's north, said it would buy A$4 billion of new Boeing Co. BA +1.88% -built P-8A Poseidon maritime patrol aircraft capable of ranging well into Asia. Those aircraft are likely to be joined later this year by a A$2.9 billion fleet of seven long-range MQ-4C Triton drones.
Mr. Johnston said he was open to the idea of Australia's far-flung Cocos islands, in the Indian Ocean southwest of Indonesia, being developed as a base for U.S. or Australian Tritons. But he said there was no proposal currently to upgrade the islands' dilapidated airstrip to expand maritime reach, as Chinese vessels increasingly patrol further from home.
China's growing assertiveness in the East China Sea and elsewhere was to be expected of any country with growing energy needs, Mr. Johnston said, including a demand for Australian oil and gas resources. China is Australia's largest trading partner.
"They are hostage to the importation of food and energy. I think they would be dilatory were they not to want to protect those sea lanes," he said. "I'm not reactive to these things that are happening in the South China Sea." ENDS

March 16, 2014

Chinese Military and "Dual-Use" Satellites

The use of Chinese ocean reconnaissance satellites to attempt to find Malaysian Airlines Flight MH370 prompted me to inquire about the capabilities of China's reconnaissance satellites. Such satellites are not specifically equipped to find crashed aircraft.  

China has steadily been developing and deploying a wide range of military-intelligence satellites and "dual-use" military-civilian use satellites. As will be indicated below the Chinese military (Peoples Liberation Army (PLA)) use satellites for:

- reconnaissance of sea (including submarines) and land "targets" including collection of all types of intelligence on China's potential or actual adversaries, 

- for anti-satellite and perhaps satellite repair purposes

- global positioning for military operations including ballistic and cruise missile guidance

- more specifically missile targeting of large US warships (see ISSSP article below) and US submarines 

- electronic (including signals) intelligence (ELINT) for military and counter-terrorism uses (the latter in support of the Ministry of State Security (MSS)).

"Dual-use" military-civilian use satellites very as to the proportion of military and civilian uses. Some satellites might be authentically dual use while other may be primarily or wholly military-intelligence use under the cover of civilian company ownership. Below are descriptions and links of some Chinese military and dual-use satellites.

Connect with a later March 23, 2014 sighting by Chinese dual-use satellite (Gaofeng-1) of possible MH370 debris 

After the glove-puppet histrionics of this 2019 Youtube above it is most useful to view it 2 minutes 20 seconds in.  China fields many reconnaissance "spy" satellite systems, including Shijiuns, Shiyans, Yaogans and  ZiyuansThe BeiDou or Beidou Navigation Satellite System (above) is also very military relatedI've bolded the names of satellites for easier reference.

The Chinese satellites can utilize their  ELINT sensors, Synthetic Aperture Radars (SARs) or electro-optical (EO) imaging sensors to detect submarines (submerged, snorkeling "snorting" or surfaced) - however their capabilities are unknown. If Chinese satellites become very efficient at detecting snorting Australian submarines (from the snorkel or near surface wake) these submarines may quickly become obsolete. Snorting-obsolescence is something for Australia's SEA 1000 decision makers to consider. Link with  

The 2049 Project in February 2014 produced the following commentary and list concerning reconnaissance satellites -

Satellite Platforms. To make up for its airborne platform deficiencies, the PLA has launched a large number of satellites that are capable of supporting theater missile operations with maritime reconnaissance data. These include electro-optical (EO) satellites for digital imagery in the visual and near infrared spectrum; synthetic aperture radar (SAR) satellites for nighttime, all-weather imagery; and electronic intelligence
(ELINT) satellites for locating and identifying ships by their electronic emissions. In 2012 alone, the PLA launched 11 new remote sensing satellites. It also launched three communications satellites and one relay satellite for beyond visual line of sight contact with ground stations. More recently, China launched its third series of naval ocean surveillance system (NOSS) satellites in September 2013.28 This underscores the key
role space-based ISR plays in supporting the PLA’s strike capabilities.29

Name Launch           Date                   Satellite Typ
Yaogan 9 (A,B,C)      Mar. 5, 2010       Naval Ocean Surveillance System (NOSS) 
Yaogan 10                 Aug. 10, 2010      Synthetic aperture radar (SAR) imagery 
Tian Hui 1A               Aug. 24, 2010      Military mapping satellite 
Yaogan 11                 Sep. 22, 2010      Electro-optical (EO) imagery 
Shi Jian 11-03            July 6, 2011         Unknown, possible early warning satellite 
Shi Jian 11-02            July 29, 2011       Unknown, possible early warning satellite 
Hai Yang 2A              Aug. 15, 2011      Dual-use ocean monitoring satellite 
Yaogan 12                 Nov. 9, 2011        Electro-optical (EO) imagery 
Shi Yan 4                   Nov. 20, 2011      Earth terrain mapping satellite 
Yaogan 13                 Nov. 30, 2011      Synthetic aperture radar (SAR) imagery 
Zi Yuan 1C                Dec. 22, 2011       EO or SAR imagery satellite 
Zi Yuan 3A                Jan. 9, 2012          Dual-use mapping satellite 
Feng Yun 2F              Jan. 13, 2012        Meteorological satellite 
Tian Hui 1B                May 6, 2012         Military mapping satellite 
Yaogan 14                 May 10, 2012       Electro-optical (EO) imagery 
Yaogan 15                 May 29, 2012       Electro-optical (EO) imagery 
Shi Jian 9 (A & B)     Oct. 14, 2012        Unknown military payload, possible ELINT 
Huan Jing 1C             Nov. 18, 2012       Synthetic aperture radar (SAR) imagery 
Xin Yan 1                  Nov. 18, 2012       Unknown, possible NOSS 
Feng Niao (1 & 1A)  Nov. 18, 2012       Unknown, possible NOSS 
Yaogan 16 (A,B,C)   Nov. 25,2012        Naval Ocean Surveillance System (NOSS) 
Gao Fen 1                 Apr. 26, 2013        Electro-optical (EO) imagery 
Shi Jian 11-05           July 15, 2013         Unknown, possible early warning satellite 
Yaogan 17 (A,B,C)   Sep. 1, 2013          Naval Ocean Surveillance System (NOSS) 
Feng Yun 3C             Sep. 23, 2013        Meteorological satellite 
Kuai Zhou                 Sep. 25, 2013         Rapid reaction imagery satellite 
Yaogan 18                Oct. 29, 2013         Synthetic aperture radar (SAR) imagery 
Yaogan 19                Nov. 20, 2013        Electro-optical (EO) imagery 
Sources: Gunter’s Space Page, Space Daily, Project 2049 Institute  

Professor S. Chandrashekar and Professor Soma Perumal of International Strategic & Security Studies Programme (ISSSP), National Institute of Advanced Studies (NIAS) Bangalore, India, have written China’s Constellation of Yaogan Satellites & the Anti-Ship Ballistic Missile – An Update (December 2013)

The Executive Summary (pp. ii-iii) is very informative – indicating the Anti-Ship Ballistic Missile of some of  China’s reconnaissance satellites. By their estimated resolutions the anti-submarine potential of the imaging satellites can be very roughly estimated. Executive Summary reads: 

"With the recent launch of the Yaogan 19 satellite China has in place an advanced space capability to identify, locate and track an Aircraft Carrier Group (ACG) on the high seas. This space capability is an important component of an Anti-Ship Ballistic Missile (ASBM) System that China has set up.

[see a list of all Yaogan satellites then, within that site, click on hyperlinks for each Yaogan satellite to get an animation of the real-time flight of each satellite - eg.  YAOGAN 17A listed as an “intelligence gathering” satellite.]

The current 19 satellite constellation consists of ELINT [Electronic Intelligence] satellites, satellites carrying Synthetic Aperture Radar (SAR) sensors as well as satellites carrying optical imaging sensors.

Based on the orbit characteristics, their local time of equatorial crossing and other related parameters, these satellites can be grouped into different categories that perform the various functions for identifying, locating and tracking the ACG.

Yaogan 9 (Yaogan 9A, 9B, 9C), Yaogan (16A, 16B, 16C) and Yaogan 17 (17A, 17B, 17C) are the three clusters that are equipped with ELINT sensors that provide broad area surveillance over the Oceans. With a coverage radius of about 3500 Km, they provide the first coarse fix for identifying and locating an ACG in the Pacific Ocean.

Yaogan 13, Yaogan 10, Yaogan 18 and Yaogan 14 are the satellites carrying a SAR sensor. resolution of 1 to 3 m , they provide all weather as well as day and night imaging capabilities over the regions of interest.[perhaps able to detect a submarine's snorkel, periscope, wake and of course, surfaced shape]

Yaogan 11, Yaogan 4, Yaogan 2 and Yaogan 7 constitute the high resolution optical satellites in the current constellation. The sensors they carry may have resolutions of between 1 to 3 m. [perhaps able to detect a submarine's snorkel, periscope and of course, surfaced shape]

Yaogan 19 and Yaogan 15 optical imaging satellites with medium resolution (5 to 10 m) capabilities. [perhaps able to detect a submarine's surfaced shape]

The Yaogan 12 which replaced the Yaogan 5 has the orbital characteristics of a SAR mission. Yaogan 18 SAR satellite. Having two satellites spaced so close to each other makes it unlikely that it is a SAR mission. Most probably this is a high resolution optical imaging satellite that complements the broad area coverage provided by the 1200 km orbit of the Yaogan 15 and Yaogan 19 satellites.

This seems to be an important component of a larger Chinese Access and Area Denial Strategy focused around a conflict over Taiwan..." see WHOLE PAPER 

Notes on satellites other than the Yaogan series are :

-  SY-7 / Shi Yan 7, launched July 19, 2013 Orbit 666 km x 673 km x 98.1 with an anti-satellite and/or satellite maintenance mission: Shiyan-7 has a system for testing a manipulator arm to capture other space objects About Chinese anti-satellite efforts generally see

-  ZY-3 / Zi Yuan III launched January 9, 2012 Orbit: 498 km x 506 km x 97.5° Ziyuan III is probably a 2,650-kg military photo surveillance satellite. It is reported that it is carrying an electro-optical imaging payload comprising three pointing forward, down and aft. The ground-facing camera has a resolution of 2.5 metres. The spacecraft also features an infrared spectrometer. According to Chinese press, Ziyuan II is a high-resolution remote-sensing satellite for civilian use”

-  ZY-1 02C / Zi Yuan I-02C launched December 22, 2011 Orbit: 770 km Mission: Ziyuan I-02C is probably a high-resolution military photo surveillance satellite.

-  SJ-6/4A / Shi Jian 6/4A and SJ-6/4B / Shi Jiun 6/4B  both launched October 6, 2010 588 km x 604 km x 97.8° Mission: Officially, the Shijian VI-04 group are designed to probe space environment But Shijian satellites are believed to have some kind of military surveillance role. They may also test technology demonstration and space research experiments.

-  The Beidou Navigation Satellite System is very Chinese military related. It consists of a limited test system that has been operating since 2000, and a full-scale global navigation system currently under construction. The full-scale global navigation system, officially called the BeiDou Satellite Navigation System (BDS) and also known as COMPASS or BeiDou-2, will be a global satellite navigation system consisting of 35 satellites. It became operational in China in December 2011, with 10 satellites in use, and began offering services to customers in the Asia-Pacific region in December 2012. It is planned to begin serving global customers upon its completion in 2020.

March 14, 2014

Corporate Battle Between SAAB and TKMS Over Kockums

The reality of corporate battles (Cartoon courtesy of

For the latest on this issue see June 11, 2014’s Australia's Future Submarine - Swedish vs German Claims . It is unclear whether Germany or Sweden hold the strongest intellectual property rights to the Stirling AIP.

The current corporate confrontation between SAAB and TKMS underlines the need for Australia future submarine project (SEA 1000) to be (reasonably) technically self reliant and flexible enough to tolerate changes in the threat-strategic environment, corporate and broader international economic environment. Australia needs as much autonomy as possible in intellectual property, spare parts and test facilities. 

Connect the current escalation in corporate conflict between SAAB and TKMS over Kockums with:

- Kockums loss of its traditional Singapore customer to HDW – see Singapore Buying Two HDW 218SG Submarines – Sweden’s Loss of December 3, 2013 , and

- German’s Sinking Kockum’s Swedish Sub-Maker of November 13, 2013 .


Birgitta Forsberg of affars Valdern (translated from Swedish) of March 12, 2014 reports :

"Thyssen Krupp ask FMV stop Saab"

"Kockums German owners ThyssenKrupp ask FMV stopping Saab from recruiting top people from Kockums.

n a letter to Lena Erixon, Director General for Defence Materiel Administration, [known as]  FMV, asking the head of the German Thyssen Krupp Marine Division, Dr. Hans Atzpodien FMV stopping Saab from recruiting key personnel from Kockums.
Thyssen Krupp wholly owns Kockums but has for years thwarted Kockums from exporting submarines because the Germans also owns the German shipyard HDW where they would rather control the business. Recently, FMV enough of the Germans' delaying tactics when it came to ordering a Swedish Kockums and instead asked Saab to do a feasibility study on Sweden's future submarines.As a result of the Saab has recently recruited top people from Kockums and also went yesterday, Tuesday, issued a press release that the company seeking employees for its shipping division.
The letter writing Atzpodien addition to the Thyssen-Krupp
§  - will support the export of the planned Swedish submarine A26
§  - is willing to negotiate a contract to sell the A26 to Sweden
§  - is willing to offer Swedish authorities influence at board level in Kockums or at least greater  transparency in company
§  - want to invest in to let Kockums produce a small submarine (up to thousand tons)
§  is willing to develop Kockums
§  - wants Kockums and HDW cooperate closer without infringing on the patents FMV own

His Atzpodien and Lena Erixon has a meeting scheduled for 18 March and it's ahead of the meeting that Atzpodien written the letter.

But the offer of influence has come before, and that the Germans want the Swedes to focus on small submarines, while the German shipyard HDW may take the major orders, are also known. According to a source, who sees the whole thing as a way to get Kockums out of the way as a competitor, there is no bigger market for small submarines. In other words, it is doubtful whether FMV soothed by letter. 
The whole thing is complicated by other agreements between Kockums and FMV, including for servicing submarines." ENDS



Joakim Wohlfeil on March 14, 2014 sent the following comment to Australia by the Indian Ocean:

"Breaking news update ;-) The Submarine war between Sweden and Germany escalates !!
SAAB has succeeded to recruit the full technical management team at Kockum, including the manager for the submarine division Per Nilsson and are now actively seeking to recruit the remaining ca. 230 engineers. ( ["Thyssen Krupp ask FMV stop Saab" see above].

According to local press in Malmö the engineers being feed up with ThyssenKrupp are joining SAAB en masse. As the Swedish government are the formal owners of the construction patent and drawings of all Swedish submarines SAAB could actually perform a hostile take-over without paying anything to ThyssenKrupp. (and this seems to happened with the blessing of the Swedish government).

2 days ago, ThyssenKrupp formally protested to the Swedish government ([the Defence Materiel Administration known as] FMV) and demanded they should stop SAAB´s hostile recruitment campaign.

In return Thyssen Krupp has offered.
- ThyssenKrupp will not block the procurement process of A26 and approve that it will be built in Sweden
- Thyssen Krupp will allow Kockums to market A26 for export (however it´s not said if the condition that HDW can see and approve Kockums export offerings will be lifted)
- Repeating the offer Sweden besides of A26 will be the new centre for small submarines (an offer that has earlier been rejected by Kockums employees and the Swedish government).

However, if Sweden suddenly seems to sit on the upside, ThyssenKrupp can answer with obstructing the upgrades and service of Swedish naval crafts that is contracted to the still ThyssenKrupp owned Kockums industriers (TKMD)"