May 22, 2019

Can failed election candidate ex-General Subianto Rule Indonesia by Martial Law Instead?

Will the Indonesian Army step in to restore order in riot torn Jakarta, Indonesia’s capital? Can former General Prabowo Subianto, who failed to win the Presidental Election exploit this?

On May 21, 2019 the incumbent Joko Widodo (a man of non-military background) was democratically re-elected President of Indonesia.

But the losing candidate, former General Subianto, has “refused to accept the election results and [has] declared himself the winner”. This has encouraged mobs in Jakarta to riot today.

The Indonesian police have attempted to contain the riots with 6 people killed and 200 injured. Might the police be deemed inadequate to contain the situation? Might the Army be "called on" to restore order?

Since the Indonesian Army won independence against the Dutch colonialists in 1949 many in the Indonesian Army believe they are born to rule. This feeling is particularly strong amongst members of the Indonesian Special Forces (Kopassus). Kopassus is notorious for taking the law into its own hands. Subianto just happens to have been a Commanding General of Kopassus from December 1995 to March 1998.

Subianto just happens to have a record in 1998 of fomenting riots with the intention of using his military forces to “restore order”.

"Less than three months after his appointment as head of [Army Strategic Command (Kostrad)], on the first day of the May 1998 riots, [General Prabowo Subianto] urged the commander of the Indonesian National Armed Forces, Wiranto, to let [General Prabowo Subianto] bring his Strategic Reserve units from outside Jakarta into the city to help restore order.

Hundreds of men trained by Kopassus (Prabowo's former command) were flown from Dili to Yogyakarta in chartered planes, and then on to Jakarta by train. [General Prabowo Subianto] publicly urged Indonesians to join him to fight "traitors to the nation".

On the morning of 14 May [1998], Kopassus troops escorted young thugs from Lampung in southern Sumatra into the capital. Thus [General Prabowo Subianto] was accused of using his contacts in his former command to import and create trouble, while Wiranto had declined to give Prabowo's current command, Kostrad, permission to quell the existing trouble, in line with classic Javanese tactic to stir chaos to discredit a rival and/or seize power."

So now in 2019 will former General Prabowo Subianto, after failing to gain power by democratic means, associating himself with troops who “restore order”. Could he, in the long run, rule by martial law?

Ex-General Prabowo Subianto choosing to wear quasi-military dress during his 2019 Presidential Election Campaign (Photo courtesy SCMP)


May 21, 2019

Coalition Election Win Good for Naval Group Submarine Build in South Australia

The win for Australia's Morrison Coalition Government over Shorten's Labor Party on May 18, 2019 means continuity for Australia's future Attack class submarine project with Naval Group remaining main contractor.

The Coalition retained all of its electoral districts/seats in the key submarine building state of South Australia meaning most of the build will stay in South Australia.

A Liberal Party candidate within the Coalition even won an additional seat (Boothby) in Adelaide, South Australia. This makes it even more important to the Coalition of having most of the submarine build continue in South Australia.

Before the Election there was a general expectation that a Shorten Labor Government would win. Such a win might have caused a broad review of Naval Group winning the major contractor position in the submarine build. The so-called "leaking", in mid May 2019, of compensation payment details if the deal with Naval Group broke down can in retrospect be seen as a quietly authorised warning to Labor not to break the deal with Naval Group.


After suffering 5 Prime Ministers in 9 years Australians were not ready for a new won. Retaining the incumbent, Scott Morrison, while not perfect, satisfies the need for continuity. In the election campaign Morrison preached JOBS, LOWER TAXES and ECONOMIC STABILITY rather than Labor's call for HIGHER TAXES and idealistic measures to reduce CLIMATE CHANGE.

Labor carried a false assumption that most Australians rate CLIMATE CHANGE as a near main or main concern. That assumption seems to be a minority, usually leftwing view, of those wealthy enough not to worry about their jobs. The Election results point to more Australians feeling that manmade climate change, if it exists, being a very longterm (100+ year) change with the small Australian economy responsible for only 1.28% of world greenhouse gas emissions. 

The Australian media are making a big thing of the "unexpected" defeat of Shorten's Labor Party. But Shorten was ONLY AHEAD of the Liberal/National Party (L/NP) Coalition by 1 to 2% in the pre-Election SURVEYS.

Some call Morrison a "Conservative". But he is a CENTRIST appealing to a broad group of voters. He could easily be a Democrat on the American scale.

Labor was particularly hurt in the northeastern state of QUEENSLAND when Labor and Greens from the southeastern states of Victoria and New South Wales wanted to cancel, for Climate Change and rare species reasons, the future, massive, Adani-Carmichael coal project. Queenslanders resented these southerners and rated more highly the Coalition's push for Adani's future jobs and its positive impact on Queensland's economy .

Also Labor did poorly in WESTERN AUSTRALIA where mining, oil and gas are job creaters even if this impacts Labor's concern for the environment.

Finally SHORTEN lacks charisma and hence is UNPOPULAR with the electorate compared to Morrison.

Bill Shorten concedes defeat on May 18, 2019 Election night and, at the same time, he resigned from the leadership of the Labor Party (Photo courtesy The Canberra Times).


May 16, 2019

What Taiwan's future submarines could be used for - Part 2.

Taiwan's submarine squadron is very much orientated to defend against a Chinese seaborne invasion or at least a naval blockade. The shortest China to Taiwan distance is the 100 nautical mile wide Taiwan Strait

An excellent source is Professor Anthony H. Cordesman’s lengthy “Chinese Grand Strategy – A Net Assessment: Cooperation, Competition and/or Conflict” Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), Revised November 28, 2018, (10 MB, PDF) . The link was kindly sent to me by GhalibKabir.

On page 253 Professor Cordesman quotes an estimate of 72 Chinese attack submarines (SSK and SSN's) by 2020. This is versus Taiwan's 2 x 34 year old Hai Lung class submarines. Taiwan's new submarines are only likely to be commissioned from 2027 at the rate of one per year. This means 4 Taiwanese submarines in 2030 may need to face 72 Chinese submarines of equal (Song class) or superior Yuan  class SSKs and Shang SSNs. If Trump's isolationist trend typifies subsequent Presidents then Taiwan may not be able to rely on US SSNs adding to the anti-China force.

In any case a cross Taiwan Strait invasion may be more directly influenced by land based missiles - where China is also vastly superior (Table below). China's cruise and SRBMs-MRBMs are mainly land attack missiles. Such missiles are suitable because of the short range nature and well designated targets in the Taiwan Strait theater. Such Chinese missiles could saturate Taiwanese land and ship targets leaving submerged Taiwanese submarines as one of the last methods of defence.

The US DoD estimates that in 2019 China will have up to 540 land based cruise missiles and almost 2,000 SRBMs/MRBMs. All of these could be launched well back from the Chinese coast enabling them to hit Taiwanese land targets. In the case of cruise missiles and the DF-21D MRBMs they will be able to hit moving Taiwanese targets including surface ships and submarines at sea. (Table courtesy US DoD via FAS). 

By their submerged invisibility Taiwan's submarine can cause hesitation and doubt in Chinese ships invading or blockading. These submarines may also be a last line of defence if Taiwan is laid waste by missile strikes. The increasing availability of  loiter (or sit on the seafloor) then attack torpedos/AUVs/UUVs launched from submarine torpedo tubes can utilise a possible Taiwanese undersea sensor advantage(?)

Use of submarine fired Harpoon missiles as land attack weapons against Chinese cities is a sensitive option which may draw a devastatingly angry response from China.

A factor that may diminish the relative contribution that 4 modern Taiwanese subs (in 2030) could make in the Taiwan Strait is their likely absence from the Strait. This is because almost all of the Taiwan Strait is only 200m deep, or less (see map above). This makes operations of 4 Taiwanese submarines too dangerous but in contrast favouring 50+ Chinese submarines prepared to absorb some loses. (See map much larger courtesy Encyclopædia Britannica, Inc.)

Taiwan may have an advantage in Taiwanese or US laid seabed sensor arrays in the Taiwan Strait. This does not mean wide-oceanic SOSUS arrays but Reliable Acoustic Path (RAP) aka Fixed Distributed Systems (FDS). RAP/FDS are more concentrated sensors suitable for closed water/chokepoints like the Taiwan Strait. As they can detect and identify Chinese subs and ships travelling just above them they can act as sensor components of  weapons systems. They can do this  by communicating data by raised buoy-to-satellite or undersea cable to Taiwanese shore bases - with the satellites or bases alerting/cueing weapons platforms. Such weapons can include land, submarine or patrol boat fired torpedos, anti-ship missiles, missiles that carry anti-submarine torpedos or depth charges, or the RAP/FDS being directly hooked up to bottom rising mines. 

Of course the picture of Chinese supremacy in submarine numbers is more complex than 72. China's Navy is divided into three "Theater" or "Fleets" all with different tasking. It is the Eastern Theater Navy (aka "East Sea Fleet" ) above Headquartered at Ningbo, that would most directly deal with the Taiwan Strait. The Eastern Theater Navy has 18 SSKs, no SSNs, 44 surface ships and many MPAs and helicopters capable of finding and sinking Taiwan's 4 modern subs (by 2030). (Map of Major Naval Units, courtesy US Defense Intelligence Agency, China Military Power 2019
page 68.)

Like South Korea, Taiwan is way too close to an over-armed opponent.


May 14, 2019

Taiwan's future FOREIGN Designed submarines - Part 1.

As announced in the South China Morning Post (SCMP) May 9, 2019: Taiwan has offered a glimpse (see Photo A. below) of the home-built submarine designed to deter China. The shipbuilder says the first "indigenous" submarine will be launched in five years [very optimistic!] as construction work begins. Taiwan’s President Tsai Ing-wen hails progress as proof of the island’s ability to defend itself.

Pete Comment

"Indigenous submarine" is a political slogan to justify the high cost of building 8 non-standard foreign designed submarines. This slogan is also used in Taiwan's attempt to deflect mainland China's anger away from the foreign (US, Japanese, UK and European) submarine companies designing and building the "indigenous" submarines. The submarines will be assembled in in Taiwan's China Shipbuilding Corporation (CSBC) Kaohsiung shipyard but they are a collection of specialized, mostly existing, components - sonars, computers, weapons, highly specialized motors and diesels etc, that Taiwan cannot invent.

Replacement subs for Taiwan have long been blocked by Chinese pressure deterring, foreign assistance, through trade threats. Only the US government's 2018 decision to allow US companies to assist Taiwan has made the "indigenous" submarine program possible.

In 2018 Submarine Matters identified the major contractors designing and instructing how to build the "indigenous" submarines. Contractors include "retired" Japanese KHI and MHI employees and the US combat system and more generalized submarine integrator Lockheed Martin. The sub's US built Harpoon missiles and Mark 48 torpedoes are standard components of the Lockheed Martin integration.

Another, perhaps notional, major contractor assisting Taiwan is UK Gibraltar based Gavron Ltd. Gavron may not have the staff or experience to design submarines but Taiwan identifying it spreads out Chinese blame of those countries assisting Taiwan to the UK.

Doubt that it is a fundamentally new, indigenous, submarine is even more evident given the short "five year" construction phase and relatively small budget Taiwan has quoted over the years 

The "indigenous" submarine building program and subsequent Lockheed Martine upgrades also serves Taiwan as an opportunity to financially and politically maintain, even strengthen ties with the US. Taiwan's sees the US as its main protector under the rather tentative Taiwan Relations Act.

"Indigenous" submarine's close resemblance to Japan's Soryu indicates its not indigenous!

Photo A. The most recent model (above) of Taiwan's future submarines bears a striking similarity to Japan's latest Soryu class submarine (at Photo B. below).  (Photo courtesy Focus Taiwan News Channel May 9, 2019). Points of similarity include:

-  flat on top, as part of a teardrop shape
-  position of fin/sail is well forward 
-  diving planes are mounted on the fin/sail 
-  the Soryu uses Harpoon anti-ship and land attack missiles. Taiwan will also use Harpoons as a
   carry over from Taiwan's current Hai Lung class (see Wiki's right sidebar)
-  Japan's Type 89 torpedoes are similar to Taiwan's US made Mark 48 torpedoes used on Taiwan's
   current Hai Lung class
-  both subs have X-plane tails

Photo B. The model is of Japanese Navy Soryu class submarine
(Courtesy Japan's )

Taiwan's future "indigenous" submarine is much smaller than the Soryu. This suggests Taiwan's submarine might carry less diesel fuel for shorter range defensive missions of Taiwan's small landmass and it probably won't have AIP.

Mike Chou, executive vice president and director of Taiwan's CSBC's submarine development center, revealed that the future submarine prototype will be about 70m long, 8m "wide" [beam] and 18m "high" [ = 8m beam + 10m sail/fin]. It will be around 2,500 to 3,000 tons. 

This is considerably smaller than the Soryu's 84m long, 9.1m beam, 2,900 tonnes (surfaced) to 4,200 (submerged).

Instead Taiwan's future submarine appears to be a slight increase in size and therefore capability to Taiwan's existing Hai Lung class (66.9m long, 8.4m beam, 2,376 tons (surfaced) to 2,660 tons (submerged).

The projected extra tonnage capacity might be taken up with emerging torpedo tube launched autonomous sensors/weapons, eg. AUV/UUVs and additional smart homing or mobile mines.

More on Thursday about weapons and what Taiwan's future submarines will be used for.


May 10, 2019

How Strategically Late Might Australia's Future Submarine Be?

What are the key indicators of timeliness of Australia's Future Attack class Program? Naval Group (then DCNS) was announced as the Future Submarine Program winner in 2016. In 2016 Naval Group coined the name of the Future Submarine as the "Shortfin Barracuda".

Since then the Australian Government has announced the beginning of the the shipyard build in Osborne, Adelaide South Australia, and several contract signings.

But on timeliness we also need to look at authoritative French sources - the most important being Jean-Michel Billig.

Jean-Michel Billig, Executive Vice President Future Submarine Program, Naval Group, apparently said in Le Monde, February 11, 2019, : 

""the first Shortfin Barracuda will not be operational before - at best - 2038, thirteen years after the planned end of life of the Collins"".


Pete Comment

Meanwhile in the Indo-Pacific region countries are launching much more recent conventional submarines (China, Russia, India, Indonesia, Japan, South Korea...) than the Collins.

China's conventional submarines in particular are incorporating technologies that may not be put in Australia's Attack class. Some Chinesea (Yuan class) submarines already have Air Independent Propulsion (AIP) and soon Lithium-ion Batteries, likely making them more formidable than the Collins.

Meanwhile China's, Russia's and India's nuclear powered attack submarines (SSNs) will always be regionally superior to Australia's future Attack class (diesel fuel limited) conventional submarines.


Comments on Taiwan's FOREIGN designed submarine on Tuesday May 14, 2019.

Foreign, mainly Japanese, designers, designed Taiwan's future submarine.

Taiwan has no experience designing subs.

Also why does Taiwan want the future subs?

May 9, 2019

China's SSBN Submarine Force and Strategy Matures

Greg Torode and David Lague, edited by Peter Hirschberg) have written an excellent REUTERS article of May 2, 2019 “Special Report - China's furtive underwater nukes test the Pentagon”. This is on China’s Type 094 Jin class SSBNs, their missiles, the Yulin Naval Base, Hainan Island, southern China (map below) nuclear sub home and broader strategy/tactics for their use. 

Also see the superb interactive version of the article with a vivid satellite-eye-view of  Sanya and Yulin Base. The whole article is 2,282 words. Below are extracts amounting to just 593 words:

"In a January [2019] report, the Pentagon’s Defense Intelligence Agency said the Chinese navy would need a minimum of five Jin-class submarines to maintain a continuous nuclear deterrence at sea. China now has four.

To maximize its second-strike capability, China’s missile subs would need to be stealthy enough to go undetected as they sail to their patrol areas in the open ocean. U.S. and other foreign naval analysts say the Jin-class submarines are a sharp improvement over China’s earlier efforts, but they remain less stealthy than their U.S., Russian, French and British counterparts [and compared to India's 2 Arihant SSBNs?]

The 11,000-tonne Jin-class submarines are stationed on the southern coast of China’s Hainan Island, close to deep water channels leading into and out of the South China Sea. The geography of China’s coastal waters has forced Beijing to base its missile submarines in this [South China Sea] area, astride one of the world’s most important shipping lanes.

In the north, the Yellow Sea (see map above) is too shallow to conceal big, ballistic missile submarines.

The East China Sea is deeper but it’s confined by the Korean Peninsula, Japan’s island chain and Taiwan.

And Japanese and U.S. forces can deploy advanced anti-submarine warfare ships and aircraft based in Japan to closely monitor these waters and the channels [eg. Japanese subs patrol the Bashi Channel / Luzon Strait] that pass out into the Western Pacific, where the [Chines] submarines are ultimately headed. The Chinese need to reach these waters to be in a position to fire on the United States.

The South China Sea, by contrast, is much bigger and in parts deeper, making it more suitable for concealed submarine operations, according to Western submariners with extensive experience of patrolling in this area.

China would need to get its submarines out of Hainan, past surveillance and into seas east of the Philippines for their missiles to be in striking range of the United States.

This is a key reason why China has gone to such lengths to reclaim and fortify islands and reefs in the South China Sea that are expanding Beijing’s control over this area, according to Western submariners and military attaches.

The [Chinese] sub fleet’s vulnerability to detection also explains China’s extreme sensitivity to the [ship and aircraft] surveillance operations  of the United States and its allies in these waters. [China suspects US and allies ships and aircraft FONOPs are an excuse for conducting anti-submarine surveillance]

China [“now appears to be” has long been] on guard against foreign subs attempting to detect and shadow its ballistic missile fleet. As China’s Jin-class vessels put to sea, they appear to be flanked by protective screens of surface warships and aircraft on station to track foreign submarines, according to military officers and analysts familiar with allied surveillance of the Chinese coast.

China has also installed an array of sensors, antennas and satellite communications installations on islands in the Spratlys, according to the International Institute for Strategic Studies.”

The submarine base near Sanya is now under direct control of the Central Military Commission, the top military decision-making body, chaired by Xi Jinping himself. The new communications installations in the South China Sea have helped knit together the new command structure, allowing tighter control from Beijing, right down to individual vessels.

In 2017, Beijing appointed a veteran submariner, ViceAdmiral Yuan Yubai, to head [now heads] the Southern Theater Command, which is responsible for the South China Sea. His promotion was a clear indication of the importance China attaches to supporting nuclear sub operations, according to Chinese naval experts. Yuan is the first naval officer to head a command of this type, a promotion that’s part of a sweeping overhaul of the military structure by Xi Jinping.



A to scale comparison (Jin second from top) of all the latest SSBNs, except India's 2 Arihant class mini SSBNs (aka Baby Boomers) whose specs are 6,000 tons, 112m, 11m beam, 12 K15 mini SLBMs, 6 torpedo tubes. The diagram comes from csis .org's China Power’s December 2015 article “Does China have an effectivesea-based nuclear deterrent?

How the Quietness or Acoustic signature, of the Nato designation "Jin" Type 094, compares to  China's:

-  Xia, Type 092 SSBN
-  Han, 091 SSN
-  Shang, 093 SSN 
-  projected Type 095 SSN (with the signature computer modeled as at 2015) 

and to Russia's:

-  Akula, Akula II SSNs and Oscar II SSGN
-  Borey/Borei class "Dolgorukiy" SSBN, and
-  Yasen class "Severodvinsk" SSN


May 8, 2019

Yet Another Fatal Indian Naval Accident


India’s only operational aircraft carrier INS Vikramaditya (a modified Soviet Kiev class carrier)  entered Indian service in 2013. Vikramaditya replaced India’s ancient carrier INS Viraat (ex HMS Hermes) which was decommissioned in 2017).

Meanwhile India's much troubled INS Vikrant was laid down in 2009, launched 2013, and may enter service in 2021.  

As India's main SSN, SSBN and carrier competitor is the much faster builder China, India has more problems than accidents.


China’s Global Times, April 29, 2019 reported:

“Indian carrier's fire likely result of lax military regulation: Chinese experts”

Chinese military experts on [April 26, 2019] said that India's military culture cannot keep up with its ambitious weapon and equipment development, which might be the reason behind its aircraft carrier's fatal fire on [April 24, 2019].

A fire broke out at the engine room of India's aircraft carrier Vikramaditya while it was entering harbor in Karnataka's Karwar on Friday. The fire killed a naval officer who led the firefighting efforts in the affected compartment, according to a [April 25, 2019] report by the Times of India.

The cause of the fire is yet to be announced by Indian authorities.

Li Jie, a Beijing-based naval expert, told the Global Times on [April 26, 2019] that the fire was more likely to be out of human error rather than mechanical problems. The fire and the extinguishing process suggested that they are unprofessional and unprepared to address such an emergency, he said.

India has been actively developing its military in recent years, but "its military culture is lax and it has loose regulations," which cannot effectively train soldiers to operate advanced military equipment, Li said.

[Earlier] India's nuclear submarine, $2.9 billion worth [INS] Arihant was left out of commission after water rushed in as a hatch on the rear side was left open by mistake while it was at harbor in early 2017, the Hindu reported on January 2018.

Blasts of submarine [INS] Sindhurakshak that killed 18 personnel in 2013 was induced by mistakes made during the arming of the torpedoes. Extensive checks on weapon related safety systems and audit of Standard Operating Procedures on all operational naval units were made as corrective steps, the Economic Times quoted defense ministry official as saying in July 2018.

But Li noted that the Indian Navy's lax regulations mean sailors may neglect or fail to obey the rules on handling advanced equipment.

"Meanwhile, the cutting-edge weapons and equipment have higher requirement for the soldiers, who need to learn the knowledge of operation and maintenance," Li said....”

May 6, 2019

Maybe New Aussie "ALP" Government May 18, 2019. Submarine Program?

Those wearied by constant changes of political leaders in Australia can expect the likely removal of the Coalition Government in the May 18, 2019 Federal Election. In its place would be the Australian Labor Party (ALP). The ALP remains slightly ahead of the Coalition in "TPP" opinion polls. If it wins the ALP might adopt some substantial, though not revolutionary, changes in Australia's Future "Attack class" submarine program. Maybe in the following  ways:

1.  Still 12 new subs, but a review. On March 14, 2019 Australia’s DEFENCECONNECT reported:

"Ahead of the expected May poll, opposition spokesman [and likely future Minister] on defence Richard Marles has reaffirmed Labor’s commitment to the $50 billion future submarine program, but has stated that a Labor government would conduct a review of the project to ensure suitability..."

2.  Less of the submarine program in Adelaide. Major submarine work (eg. building one module)
     might be reallocated from Adelaide, South Australia to the pro-ALP, slightly leftwing, state of
     Victoria. The Coalition Government seems to have intentionally excluded Victoria (including its
     efficient Williamstown Dockyard) from the submarine building program. The ALP leader Bill 
     Shorten's own electoral seat of Maribyrnong is in Melbourne, Victoria. Also the Coalition
     Defence Minister Christopher Pyne (from Adelaide, South Australia) left the Government on
     April 11, 2019, hence he is no longer a "build all in Adelaide" factor.

     Other submarine program rearrangements effecting other Australian states, will follow, in accord
     with ALP priorities. 

3.  Unions to be more influential. As a former trade union leader Bill Shorten will be sensitive to
     calls from submarine building unions for better pay and conditions. This includes the principal
     shipbuilding union - the Australian Manufacturing Workers' Union (AMWU). See this (late April
     2016?) AMWU News Release which clearly supports Build In Adelaide and not overseas
     "The future of the South Australian economy depends on new shipbuilding orders..." Growing
     union influence vis a vis management and federal and state governments, remains likely.

Watch this space, for submarine program implications, following the May 18, 2019 Election. The Election will be close, as there are only 1 or 2% differences between the L/NP Coalition and the ALP according to Two Party Preferred (TPP) opinion polls.

Above is Bill Shorten (on the left) running neck and neck on the Election trail against current Coalition Prime Minister, Scott Morrison. (Photo courtesy Marco Catalano for ABC News)

Shorten pursuing fleeing Morrison for the Priministership. (Cartoon courtesy by John Shakespeare for the Sydney Morning Herald)