March 31, 2016

More on China's Future SeaWeb

If the pink submarine is a 4,500 tonne Future Australian submarine moving within 50km of the Chinese coast - things may not end well. Chinese undersea SeaWeb sensors may alert (lightweight torpedo carrying) ballistic or cruise missile batteries that a potential target sub is within range. Chinese smart and mobile seafloor mines, sown among the sensors, are another threat. The diagram is  on page 16 of American ex-submariner, Bryan Clark’s important paper The Emerging Era in Undersea Warfare, January 22, 2015.

The Chinese have proven themselves very patient and methodical island builders in the South China Sea. Why wouldn't they methodically sow a large pattern of undersea SeaWeb sensors out to 50 km off their coast in the South China Sea. Such sensor network construction can also compensate for the suspected lower quality of Chinese submarines

SeaWebs are mainly undersea sensors, databases and anti-submarine weapon cueing networks.

As the USNS Impeccable found in 2009 the Chinese resent intelligence gathering near their shores. Impeccable was also suspected of sowing US undersea SeaWeb sensors on the approaches to China's nuclear submarine base at Yulin/Sanya on Hainan Island. 

The ocean-island geographies of the South and East China Seas are tailor-made for the growing development of China’s SeaWeb networks. Such networks may include lines of sensors from Chinese island air/naval bases (eg, Subi, Fiery Cross and Mischief Reefs). See map above

Soon Scarborough Reef (or Shoal) only 140 miles (220 km) from Manila Philippines, may be added to the list of new Chinese island air/naval bases. A SeaWeb sensor line may also be strung between Scarborough and the large Chinese base island of Hainan (see red dashed line on the map below).

Harry Kazianis, writing in the Asia Times, has produced a very interesting body of articles on the China threat to Western interests in East Asia. His article “Coming soon to the South China Sea: Beijing’s best weapons of war”, March 25, 2016, in part, deals with China’s SeaWeb development:

"Sonar nets: While not an outright kinetic-style weapon, stringing together a sophisticated sonar network that could seekout US submarines – the very heart of America’s efforts to negate China’s A2/AD strategy — could provide a decisive advantage.

While there is little in English-based open source documents, Lyle Goldstein and Shannon Knight have uncovered various Chinese language open source materials that show Beijing is working on — as of at least 2014 — sonar net test sites in the East, South and Yellow Seas. It stands to reason that China has continued to work on and enhance such efforts. If Beijing were able to perfect such technology and deploy such a capability in such a manner where a new sonar net was set up in around China’s new islands in the South China Sea, such a system might make Washington very wary of deploying advanced nuclear-powered subs there in a crisis. As I explained back in 2014:

“If Beijing were to perfect such technology it could largely negate the military capabilities of America’s submarine forces, which in many respects are the foundation of the budding Air-Sea Battle operational concept [and very likely its successor, JAM-GC]. If China were able to field such a network … American subs could be pushed back beyond the range of such networks. This would impact the ability of American forces in a conflict to deliver kinetic strikes on the Chinese coast [and as well as China’s new South China Sea islands] by way of Tomahawk Land Attack Missile (TLAMs). Considering the investment Washington is making in new versions of nuclear attack submarines, specifically a new version of the Virginia Class that includes a new payload module to carry more TLAMs, Washington would be wise to consider how to respond to Beijing’s latest move.” [see WHOLE ARTICLE BY HARRY KAZIANIS]


Large Australian, US or Japanese UUVs could perform and intelligence gathering tasks required near the Chinese coast. Such UUVs could be submarine, ship launched, air-dropped. They could also be  launched from friendly coasts or islands in the region. Being much smaller than subs UUVs are harder to detect. And no crews to lose.



Anonymous said...

Hi Pete,

the major powers could give PHL, VN, ML huge discounts on them sonar-nets, UUV and associated hardware in exchange for discreet intel-exchange.

It's not a one-way road.

Josh said...

It seems clear that the PRC is deploying some kind of bottom based detection system. This may take the form of hydrophones, but its important to note that sonar conditions in this area, particularly in the shallower East and Yellow seas, would not allow a SOSUS-like system to work - the deep sound channels allowing for long range detection are not present. Passive acoustic detection would have to be much more localized. Other sensors might be deployed alongside or in place of hydrophones - ASW induction loops would be perfectly viable in most of the yellow see for instance. Magnetic sensors would also be workable at such shallow depths.

That said, there are problems that would likely challenge such a system.

1st, and probably the biggest problem, target classification in such heavily congested waters would be problematic. Nuclear plant noise would be fairly unique to an opponent SSN, but other noise sources would not be SSN specific or even sub specific, particular if the sensor involved was not acoustic or not cross referenced with other sensors (acoustic, radar,visual) that could help reject friendly or neutral shipping, submerged or not (assuming someone didn't do something snarky like intentionally simulate emissions of neutral shipping).

Second, the USN is known to have decoys and torpedo target simulators. They come in various sizes from external counter measures tubes (6"), trash disposal unit (9"), and full up heavy weight torpedo size. The larger models in addition to simulating passive sub noises and responding to active pings with an appropriate counter ping also generate a magnetic field to activate MAD sensors.

Another point to raise is that the area involved is a double edged sword to the PLAN: While it is their back yard and readily accessible to their units and even land based weapons, they are late comers to the party: the USN staked out that turf long ago. It is is likely that many operations laying sensors or cables are under some form of observation at this point, either by MPAs, SSNs, or the likely emplacement of the USN's own sensors on the sea floor. The USN first deployed such sensors half a century ago; it stands to reason that some kind of detection system has been in place. It may be the PLANs back yard, but to a certain extent the USN has a home field advantage. In addition to the USN's long time presence in the area, the US can train and test systems in sonar calibration ranges off its west coast and in the Caribbean out of range of any opponent navy; the PLAN is bottled up and has to test, train, and deploy with the constant threat of observation.

Finally, while a land based rocket propelled torpedo weapon may by physically possible, the targeting challenges associated with using it based solely on seabed emplaced sensor data make it unlikely to be extremely useful without some additional targeting information from some other platform. The tracks of such sensor are likely not weapon delivery grade to begin with, on top of all the complications mentioned above.

This isn't to discount the utility or wide spread use of a detection system or missile delivered ASW torpedo or nuclear depth bomb (particularly if an area was off limits to friendly subs and made a 'free fire' zone for all submerged targets). This is just to note some of the complications such a system would have to face(and its presumed USN counterpart).


Peter Coates said...

Hi Josh

Your comment is of such soup-herb quality that I'm giving it prominence in the revised article text.



Peter Coates said...

Hi Anonymous

So "the major powers could give [Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia] huge discounts on...sonar-nets, UUV and associated hardware in exchange for discreet intelligence-exchange. It's not a one-way road."

As Snowden revealed in his disgusting doc dump, there is a whole world of intelligence international relations out there that exists, unpublisized, beneath the surface.

This SeaWeb hardware and software is indeed great power (and Israel) high-tech, with production enhanced by economies of scale.

So it makes sense Great Powers like Russia would supply SeaWeb and sigint LandWeb sensors to allies or client states (eg. India, Cuba (a bit), Venezuela, Syria on the Med, on Land many of the 'stans including highly venal Afghanistan, and Russia's major customer China (for essential SeaWeb and sigint LandWeb items))

And yes, I imagine, information, instead of hard-cash, is a more usual currency for those in the info biz.



Peter Coates said...

Hi Again Josh

As I want to publish a short article about the Japanese flotilla (arriving Subic Bay Sunday) and actually get time to exercise tonight I'll incorporate your comment in a revised Chinese SeaWeb article for publishing late Sunday Oz time.



Anonymous said...

In addition to acoustic and magnetic sensors, there are other new technologies on
the horizon:

US Navy to patent device for submarines that detects anything
underwater while keeping itself super stealthy:

"a new patent application filed by the US government describes a quantum
photonic imaging device that uses quantum entanglement to silently detect
and identify targets. The device generates a pair of entangled photons,
and one of the photons, known as the "signal photon", is transmitted
into the unknown."


Not sure how this compares to existing blue-green LIDAR sensors though.

There's also this:

Tiny MEMS gravity sensor could detect drug tunnels, mineral
deposits could trigger commercial revolution larger than
MEMS motion sensors:

"A new device the size of a postage stamp can detect 1-part-per-billion changes
in Earth’s gravitational field—equivalent to what the gizmo would experience if
it were lifted a mere 3 millimeters. The technology may become so cheap and
portable it could one day be mounted on drones to spot everything from hidden
drug tunnels to valuable mineral deposits."


How useful would this be for detecting Subs?

Peter Coates said...

Hi Anonymous [at 1/4/16 5:33 PM]

Thanks for the photonic, LIDAR and gravity sensor concepts. I'll add them to the rewrite on Sunday.

An aspect enhancing the usefulness of these different technologies is that the Chinese, or any high tech powers, could deploy not only seafloor sensors but disposable tethered or floating/buoy sensors. Such a network can involve "projectors" (eg. of light) and recievers. Once an unfortunate sub crosses between them there may be a telltale fluctuation in signal.

So better to risk a UUV which might also be disposable - maybe only planning a one-way mission. Basically collect intel - burst transmit collected data to satellite - then self or kamikaze destruction.



MHalblaub said...

Sorry, but all these autonomsly working UVVs are even more fiction than a lethal F-35 for a capable enemy.

A submarine in such area would need a hard kill system against torpedoes. - Dear S, can Japan offer an introduced system? - Small and simple decoys (call them UVV if you like) to stear up an enemy reaction.

So why not a rather small and silent 1,000 submarine with an AIP only propulsion system based on methanol? Also a Diesel engine running on many surfaced boats may hide a submarine running the same engines.


Josh said...

Always glad to contribute!


Anonymous said...

Hi Pete

Recently two news on submarine reported, one is from SK and another is from Philippines. I think that China’s activities promote submarine acquisition movement.

Type 209 submarine [1] for Indonesia was launched [2,3] in South Korea. Other two submarine will be delivered to Indonesian Navy from May/2017 to 2018. Total contract price of three submarines is 124 billion yen (ca.41 billion yen). Is it a bit expensive for precedent submarine of Type 214, because contract price of current Soryu-class is ca.52 billion yen. Are these 209s equipped with fuel cell?

Philippines Mulls acquisition of submarines [4]. A country selling submarine to Philippines and Taiwan should fear of wrath of China.


“Daewoo Shipbuilding & Marine Engineering Co. holds a launching ceremony of a 1,400-ton, diesel-electric submarine to be delivered to Indonesia at its shipyard in the southern port city of Geoje on March 24, 2016.”


[4]“Philippines Mulls Submarines as China Row Simmers”


Ztev Konrad said...

Isnt there a precedent for a country having control of islands that are geographically part of the countries they are nearest to.
Clipperton Islands which are controlled by France.
"Clipperton Island .... is an uninhabited 6 km2 (2.3 sq mi) coral atoll in the eastern Pacific Ocean, 1,080 km (671 mi) south-west of Mexico.
It is 5500km north east of Tahiti.

The Anadaman and Nicobar Is in the Indian Ocean are 150km north of Aceh Indonesia but controlled By India. The history of these islands control goes from Denmark and then Austria in Maria Theresa's day. Finally the british control as part of the Indian empire which included Burma.

"At independence of both India (1947) and Burma (1948) (now Myanmar), the departing British announced their intention to resettle all Anglo-Indians and Anglo-Burmese on the Islands to form their own nation, although this never materialised. The Islands became a part of the Indian Union in 1950[occupation] and were declared a Union Territory in 1956.
Then there is Diego garcia in the Southern Indian Ocean, which was administered as part of Mauritius by the British, but separated at independence and the inhabitants forcibly removed.
It is now essentially a US military base.
"Mauritius sought to resume control over the Chagos Archipelago which was split from its territory by the UK in 1965 to form the British Indian Ocean Territory. Between 1968 and 1973, the Chagossians, then numbering about 2,000 people, were expelled by the British government to Mauritius and Seychelles to allow the United States to establish a military base on the island."

So we have a well established precedent that great powers just take reefs atolls etc when they are in their national interest to do so. Except it is a terrible thing when China does it?

Ztev Konrad said...

We have even seen with Australia and its small neighbour Timor Leste. Reefs and atolls weren't at stake, just valuable ocean floor oil and gas fields.
Australia abrogated its agreement on UNCLOS covering equitable maritime boundaries so it could have a bigger share of the billions of dollars at stake.
The UN law of the Sea is just like a tee shirt, you only wear ones you like?

"Timor-Leste is also confident that an international court or tribunal applying these principles would base a maritime boundary between Timor-Leste and Australia essentially on the median line.
However, Timor-Leste is unable have an independent umpire decide a maritime border with Australia because of a decision in March 2002 by Australian's then Foreign Minister Alexander Downer to pull Australia out of the compulsory jurisdiction of international courts and tribunals in relation to maritime boundary matters. This decision was made just two months before Timor-Leste finally achieved its independence."

Apparently Australia feels its previous agreements on harvesting sea cucumbers should the basis of the maritime boundary.

Of course Australia has other territories that some how came into its own jurisdiction despite being not usually part of their continental shelf or even as a colonial territory.

Christmas Island was part of the Singapore / Straits settlements
"Australia's Christmas Island Act was passed in September 1958 and the island was officially placed under the authority of the Commonwealth of Australia on 1 October 1958"
The island is 378km from Java but 1500 km from the nearest point in Australia mainland.
As we have seen with the refugee situation, when it suits Australia, it declares Christmas island NOT to be part of Australia

Cocos Islands
The islands were annexed by the British Empire in 1857.... Queen Victoria granted the islands in perpetuity to the Clunies-Ross family in 1886. The Cocos Islands under the Clunies-Ross family have been cited as an example of a 19th-century micronation.
. In 1946, the administration of the islands reverted to Singapore and it became part of the Colony of Singapore.
On 23 November 1955, the islands were transferred to Australian control under the Cocos (Keeling) Islands Act 1955 (an Australian Act) pursuant to the Cocos Islands Act, 1955 (a UK Act)

Australia is in no position to contest the unilateral actions by China in the South China Sea, as they have done exactly the same when it suited its national interests.
Its clear they feel they have been disadvantaged as they werent part of the imperial games of territories, that continued right up the late 1950s.

Peter Coates said...

Hi MHalblaub [1/4/16 10:30PM]

The lack of a weapons on UUVs does not automatically make subs (of any size) preferable.

Australian sub missions (especially since 1970s) have been about intelligence gathering. Australia has fired a whole 2 torpedos in its submarine history (in 1915, WW1).

I think, long range anti-ship/sub missiles like the Tomahawk (fired from land, island, ship or aircraft) fill much of the rare submarine weapon needs.



Peter Coates said...

Hi S [2/4/16 10:56AM]

I think South Korea's Type 209 pricing to Indonesia looks reasonable.

If Japan wins it will find that the sale to Australia costs will be much higher than the Soryus for Japanese Navy costs. The pricing process to sell complex weapons system for foreign customers will be a whole new experience for Japan. Translation of submarine technical manuals alone, will be a very large cost for Japan.

Yes, I saw, "Philippines Mulls acquisition of submarines". The Philippines is suddenly wanting to buy ASW helicopters and looking for two new frigates. I wonder where the money is coming from?

Does the Phil Navy have the deep technical knowledge and discipline to operate subs? With subs being very unforgiving/dangerous for their crew - even in peace time.



Anonymous said...

Hi Pete and MHalblaub (1/4/16 10:30 PM)

Question: Dear S, can Japan offer an introduced system?

Answer 1: In future, yes.

Japanese Ministry of Defense is conducting research on two kinds of Unmanned Underwater Vehicles (UUV). One is mine detecting system which is used in combination with Unmanned Surface Vehicle (USV) and another is Large UUV for continuous warning and surveillance of threat and for long range delivery of underwater equipment. Details are not known, but there are various technical challenges remained for both UUVs.

Hybrid power system comprised of fuel cell and secondary battery is used for LUUV to respond to following defensive power loads: one is high efficiency operation to reduce energy consumption at searching the threat, and another is response to rapid change of load to track the detected target.

Question: So why not a rather small and silent 1,000 submarine with an AIP only propulsion system based on methanol?

Answer 2: Small submarine is not bad idea from the standpoint of being detected. But, other effect should be considered.

Answer 3: Electric power of AIP is too low (e.g., 60kW per an AIP generator).


Anonymous said...

Philippines has been sending navy officers to submarine schools but thats about it

This news article says one officer was sent to Germany.

Anonymous said...

The USN is buying micro UAVs to be launched from submerged Virginia SSN. These UAVs are networked together and they provide targeting for 3rd party strike platforms.

The solution to a SeaWeb is a swarm of decoys or just tag along one of those container ships.

I wonder how effective are those sensors in an environment with literally tens of thousands of fishing boats and fishing nets being towed.

MHalblaub said...

Dear S,

the dry weight for an MTU4000 engine is about 9,290 kg with about 3,000 kw or about 300 kw/t.
The Siemens PEM fuel cells provide about 120 kW per 930 kg or about 130 kW/t.
The point is a fuel cell can produces energy 24 hours 7 days a week without being surfaced. Therefor electric power provided by a fuel cell systems with weight of a diesel generator.

The power to weight ratio for the MTU4000 is without the generator and does even not give the power output of the generator.

Yes, a smaller submarine can be mass produced and therefore be much cheaper for Australia.

I asked for an introduced anti torpedo hard kill system and not about UUVs. Sorry, English is not my native language. I knew that small UUVs are already operated by Japanese Navy like the SeaFox:


Anonymous said...

Hi Pete & MHalblaub (5/4/16 6:31 AM)

Low power and needs for huge amount of oxidizer restrict application of AIP including Stiring system and FCs for submarine.

Fuel cell (FC) shows excellent properties such as high energy density, but it cannot lease large amount of energy at short period. In the case of Soryu-class submarine, huge energy lease of 4,000kW-6,000kW, which AIP cannot achieve, is needed to submerge at maximum speed after firing torpedoes or for escaping from enemy attack.

Theoretically, huge energy lease by FCs is possible by increase of its number or size. high electric power of 1300kW may be achieved by equipment of FCs which 10 times bigger than current FCs. But, at the same time, huge amount (10 times larger than current loading) of liquid oxygen must be loaded, and this is not realistic solution to achieve both long term surveillance and high speed combat.

Information on anti-torpedo hard kill system is not found.


Peter Coates said...

Hi MHalblaub and S

I think its true to say that AIP becomes less useful, with its weight less economical, the

- longer range the mission

- with that the more days of a mission

- with less opportunity to refuel an AIP system

- the heavier the warload which may tend to include land attack cruise missiles and large UUVs, and

- the more energy hungry the combat system (with Australia and Japan probably adopting even more elements of the hungry US combate system).

I think it likely that all these factors will increase for Australian and Japanese submarines. Hence Australia will continue to do without AIP and Japan is phasing out AIP.



MHalblaub said...

Dear S,

huge peak powers are always provided by the batteries of a conventional submarine. The diesel engines can only provide power surfaced. It doesn't matter how the batteries were charged: once a day for one hour at 24,000 kW or for 24 hours at 1,000 kW.

Dear Pete,

to refuel an AIP LOX and Methanol are required. Both are liquids. I can see no problem for refueling even at sea.

The energy density of LOX and Methanol is quite equivalent to diesel after converted to electricity. So range is a matter of efficiency of the submarine propulsion system and the stored amount of fuels.

An AIP only submarine requires less weight of systems to provide the same amount of energy. A diesel system always needs a high peak power to recharge for the short time surfaced.


Peter Coates said...

Hi MHalblaub [at 6/4/16 7:03AM]

I understand a sub refueling (diesel, LOX, methanol) at sea may be rare as it would lose discretion (be exposed) while refueling - and then tracked by the odd Yuan, Kilo or Song thereafter. Also refueling LOX at sea sounds dangerous and difficult to do.

For Aussie subs refueling at some protected ports (probably not China's Port of Darwin) may make more sense.

Yes submarines with very short missions, like Gotlands and 212As [I had the wrong number before :] when in the Baltic, may operate on AIP only.



MHalblaub said...

Dear Pete,
I am not talking about today's submarines operating without diesel. I am proposing to build conventional submarines without diesel at all just with fuel cells.

Refueling and rearming at sea a good option in case your only base is FUBAR.