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WASHINGTON, June 24, 2021 - The State Department has made a determination approving a possible Foreign Military Sale to the Government of the Philippines of F-16 Block 70/72 Aircraft and related equipment for an estimated cost of $2.43 billion. The Defense Security Cooperation Agency delivered the required certification notifying Congress of this possible sale today.

The Government of the Philippines has requested to buy

ten (10) F-16C Block 70/72 aircraft;
two (2) F-16D Block 70/72 aircraft;
fifteen (15) F100-PW-229EEP engines or F110-GE-129D engines;
fifteen (15) Improved Programmable Display Generators (iPDG);
fifteen (15) AN/APG-83 Advanced Electronically Scanned Array (AESA) Scalable Agile Beam Radars (SABR);
fifteen (15) Modular Mission Computers 7000AH;
fifteen (15) LN-260 Embedded GPS/INS (EGI) with SAASM and PPS;
twenty-four (24) Advanced Medium Range Air-to-Air Missiles (AMRAAM) AIM-120C-7/C-8 or equivalent;
one (1) AIM-120 Guidance Section;
forty-eight (48) LAU-129 missile launchers;
three (3) KMU-572 Laser Joint Direct Attack Munition (LJDAM) tail kits;
six (6) Mk-82 500lb bombs;
six (6) Mk-82 500lb Inert training bombs;
six (6) FMU-152 or FMU-139 fuzes;
six (6) Sniper Advanced Targeting Pods (ATP) or Litening ATP;
fifteen (15) Multifunctional Information Display System Joint Tactical Radio System (MIDS-JTRS) aircraft terminals,
and; fifteen (15) M61A1 Vulcan Anti-Aircraft 20mm guns. Also included are AN/ARC-238 radios;
Advanced Identification Friend or Foe with Combined Interrogator Transponder and Mode 5;
Joint Helmet Mounted Cueing Systems II (JHMCS II) or Scorpion Hybrid Optical-based Inertial Tacker (HObIT);
Integrated Electronic Warfare Suite;
Electronic Combat International Security Assistance Program (ECISAP) support;
AN/ALE-47 Countermeasure Dispenser Systems (CMDS);
Joint Mission Planning Systems (JMPS) or equivalent;
LAU-118 launchers with Advanced Launcher Interface Computer (ALIC);
LAU-117 missile launchers;
DSU-38 Precision Laser Guided Sensor for LJDAM;
Harpoon interface adapter kits;
PGU-28 High Explosive Incendiary (HEI) ammunition;
PGU-27 ammunition training rounds (non HEI);
Cartridge Actuated Devices/Propellant Actuated Devices (CAD/PAD);
ARD-446 impulse cartridges;
ARD-863 impulse cartridges;
BBU-36/B impulse cartridges;
BBU-35/B impulse cartridges;
MK-124 smoke flares;
MJU-7/B Flare Cartridge L463;
BRU‐61 Bomb Racks;
BRU‐57 bomb racks;
MAU‐12 bomb racks and TER‐9A triple ejection racks;
weapons support, test equipment, and missile containers;
chaff and flare;
Night Vision Devices (NVD) and support equipment and spares;
secure communications;
cryptographic equipment;
aircraft and personnel support and test equipment;
integration and test;
weapons, ammunition, pylons, launcher adaptors, weapons interfaces, fuel tanks, and attached hardware;
travel pods, precision measurement equipment laboratory, calibration, and simulators;
spare and repair parts, repair and return services;
maps, publications, and technical documentation;
studies and surveys;
classified / unclassified software and software support;
personnel training and training equipment;
facilities and facility management,
design and/or construction services;
U.S. Government and contractor engineering, technical and logistics support services;
and other related elements of logistical and program support.

The estimated total cost is $2.43 billion.

This proposed sale will support the foreign policy and national security of the United States by helping to improve the security of a strategic partner that continues to be an important force for political stability, peace, and economic progress in South East Asia.

The proposed sale will improve the Philippines’ capability to meet current and future threats by enabling the Philippines to deploy fighter aircraft with precision munitions in support of counterterrorism operations in the southern Philippines, increasing effectiveness and minimizing collateral damage. The Philippines is committed to modernizing its military forces and will have no difficulty absorbing this aircraft and services into its armed forces.

The proposed sale of this equipment and support will not alter the basic military balance in the region.

The principal contractor will be Lockheed-Martin, Greenville, SC. There are no known offset agreements proposed in connection with this potential sale.

Implementation of this proposed sale will require the assignment of U.S. Government and contractor representatives (fewer than 20) to the Philippines to provide technical support for maintenance operations and to conduct flight and maintenance training.

There will be no adverse impact on U.S. defense readiness as a result of this proposed sale.

This notice of a potential sale is required by law. The description and dollar value is for the highest estimated quantity and dollar value based on initial requirements. Actual dollar value will be lower depending on final requirements, budget authority, and signed sales agreement(s), if and when concluded.


U.S. Position on Maritime Claims in the South China Sea

Press Statement

Michael R. Pompeo, Secretary of State

July 13, 2020

The United States champions a free and open Indo-Pacific. Today we are strengthening U.S. policy in a vital, contentious part of that region — the South China Sea. We are making clear: Beijing’s claims to offshore resources across most of the South China Sea are completely unlawful, as is its campaign of bullying to control them.

In the South China Sea, we seek to preserve peace and stability, uphold freedom of the seas in a manner consistent with international law, maintain the unimpeded flow of commerce, and oppose any attempt to use coercion or force to settle disputes. We share these deep and abiding interests with our many allies and partners who have long endorsed a rules-based international order.

These shared interests have come under unprecedented threat from the People’s Republic of China (PRC). Beijing uses intimidation to undermine the sovereign rights of Southeast Asian coastal states in the South China Sea, bully them out of offshore resources, assert unilateral dominion, and replace international law with “might makes right.” Beijing’s approach has been clear for years. In 2010, then-PRC Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi told his ASEAN counterparts that “China is a big country and other countries are small countries and that is just a fact.” The PRC’s predatory world view has no place in the 21st century.

The PRC has no legal grounds to unilaterally impose its will on the region. Beijing has offered no coherent legal basis for its “Nine-Dashed Line” claim in the South China Sea since formally announcing it in 2009. In a unanimous decision on July 12, 2016, an Arbitral Tribunal constituted under the 1982 Law of the Sea Convention – to which the PRC is a state party – rejected the PRC’s maritime claims as having no basis in international law. The Tribunal sided squarely with the Philippines, which brought the arbitration case, on almost all claims.

As the United States has previously stated, and as specifically provided in the Convention, the Arbitral Tribunal’s decision is final and legally binding on both parties. Today we are aligning the U.S. position on the PRC’s maritime claims in the SCS with the Tribunal’s decision. Specifically:

    The PRC cannot lawfully assert a maritime claim – including any Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) claims derived from Scarborough Reef and the Spratly Islands – vis-a-vis the Philippines in areas that the Tribunal found to be in the Philippines’ EEZ or on its continental shelf. Beijing’s harassment of Philippine fisheries and offshore energy development within those areas is unlawful, as are any unilateral PRC actions to exploit those resources. In line with the Tribunal’s legally binding decision, the PRC has no lawful territorial or maritime claim to Mischief Reef or Second Thomas Shoal, both of which fall fully under the Philippines’ sovereign rights and jurisdiction, nor does Beijing have any territorial or maritime claims generated from these features.

    As Beijing has failed to put forth a lawful, coherent maritime claim in the South China Sea, the United States rejects any PRC claim to waters beyond a 12-nautical mile territorial sea derived from islands it claims in the Spratly Islands (without prejudice to other states’ sovereignty claims over such islands). As such, the United States rejects any PRC maritime claim in the waters surrounding Vanguard Bank (off Vietnam), Luconia Shoals (off Malaysia), waters in Brunei’s EEZ, and Natuna Besar (off Indonesia). Any PRC action to harass other states’ fishing or hydrocarbon development in these waters – or to carry out such activities unilaterally – is unlawful.

    The PRC has no lawful territorial or maritime claim to (or derived from) James Shoal, an entirely submerged feature only 50 nautical miles from Malaysia and some 1,000 nautical miles from China’s coast. James Shoal is often cited in PRC propaganda as the “southernmost territory of China.” International law is clear: An underwater feature like James Shoal cannot be claimed by any state and is incapable of generating maritime zones. James Shoal (roughly 20 meters below the surface) is not and never was PRC territory, nor can Beijing assert any lawful maritime rights from it.

The world will not allow Beijing to treat the South China Sea as its maritime empire. America stands with our Southeast Asian allies and partners in protecting their sovereign rights to offshore resources, consistent with their rights and obligations under international law. We stand with the international community in defense of freedom of the seas and respect for sovereignty and reject any push to impose “might makes right” in the South China Sea or the wider region.


Populism Blindsided: America, Duterte, and the Philippine Military

Despite his best efforts, the Philippines’ president hasn’t been able to cut ties between the U.S. and the Philippine defense establishment.
By Mesrob Vartavarian
June 11, 2020

After four years in office, President Rodrigo Duterte has been unable to sever ties between the United States and the Philippine defense establishment. These linkages persist against Duterte’s wishes despite his thorough consolidation of power via political patronage and populist demagogy.

Duterte’s February 11 note to abolish the Philippines-United States Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) by August 2020 could have triggered seismic changes in the Asia-Pacific’s geostrategic landscape. The VFA, which took effect in 1999, is the keystone of U.S.-Philippine defense cooperation in the post-Cold War era. Its termination would endanger the 1951 Mutual Defense Treaty and 2014’s Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA) which promotes maritime security in the South China Sea and interoperability between U.S. and Philippine military forces. Most importantly, the EDCA allows American troops, warships, and planes temporary access to a series of Philippine military installations from which they can coordinate appropriate responses to Chinese infringements on Philippine maritime sovereignty. Duterte hoped to engage China in a quid pro quo, whereby his expulsion of the American military would result in substantial Chinese economic investments, particularly across his political base on the island of Mindanao.

It appears Duterte’s intention to nix the VFA was an impulsive decision made without close consultation with senior officials, and there was opposition to the move. Having received senatorial ascension in 1999, certain establishment figures contended the VFA could not be discarded without wider debate. More serious problems arose as the growing COVID-19 pandemic manifested itself across the Philippine archipelago. Stringent quarantine regulations resulted in severe economic contraction and cast doubt on future investments. Chinese investors are hardly eager to accelerate business venutres in a country having difficultly containing contagion. To do so would only precipitate further COVID outbreaks back home. Plus, Beijing’s constriction of strategic sea lanes without appropriate compensation during an economic downturn served Manila no purpose. As a result, Secretary of Foreign Affairs Teodoro Locsin Jr. announced on June 1 that Duterte had ordered the suspension of the VFA’s termination due to recent political and economic developments. Yet there is more to this reversal than commercial considerations.

Leaving aside their formal acceptance of Duterte’s initial decision, the principal opposition to the VFA’s termination has come from the military. The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) is loyal to Duterte on most fronts, including his controversial war on drugs. However, the AFP insists on maintaining its special relationship with Washington, regardless of their commander-in-chief’s open hostility to American military involvement in the archipelago. Current pressures to turn away from old alliances have thus far been deflected.

This present reality has emerged from a complex past. The modern Philippine military was originally established as an American colonial institution geared toward pacifying insurgent bands resisting the imposition of foreign domination. From 1901 onward internal pacification increasingly became the duty of an insular constabulary under civilian jurisdiction. Regular soldiers, by contrast, turned their guns outward to guard national sovereignty. After Cold War tensions spread to Asia in 1950, the United States assumed the Philippines’ external defense burden and merged the constabulary with the regular army to conduct a protracted counterinsurgency campaign against armed agrarian bands striving for structural socioeconomic reform. A heretofore largely professional army experienced creeping politicization as it became involved in internal policing, local elections, and civic action programs. AFP politicization underwent an exponential increase during Ferdinand Marcos’s two decades in power. Upon proclaiming martial law in 1972, Marcos relied on the military as his regime’s principle enforcement agency.

Simultaneously, American policymakers became ever more committed to maintaining control over sprawling air and naval installations at Clark Field and Subic Bay. These bases provided crucial logistical, refurbishment, and repair services during the Vietnam War. Washington’s interest in Clark and Subic only deepened after the fall of Saigon as planners formulated a Pacific rim strategy deploying naval and air forces to contain expanding Soviet influence in a united communist Vietnam. In the Philippines, nationalist critics, heavily concentrated in elite intellectual circles, viewed the bases as a manifestation of American neo-colonial control. As fixed territorial installations utilized to serve the strategic interests of a foreign power, Clark and Subic did indeed infringe on Philippine sovereignty.

American attachment to the bases came to override all other concerns. As Marcos began to lose control of the country to communist insurgents in the 1980s, American officials cast about for ways to retain their strategic foothold without a dictatorial regime. By that point, forces calling for democratic change were too strong to be denied. Beneath the dramatic events that led to the 1986 People Power revolution, however, quieter steps were taken to guarantee established Philippine-American military linkages. The Pentagon and State Department lent extensive support to an AFP faction led by General Fidel Ramos. This faction aligned with President Corazon Aquino (1986-1992) to beat back a series of attempted coups led by more radical officers throughout the 1980s. Direct military rule through a national junta did not serve its interests. The Ramos group exercised AFP prerogatives indirectly through an extensive network that drew support from associates in Washington, Manila, and various Philippine provinces. As AFP chief of staff (1986-1988), secretary of national defense (1988-1991), and president (1992-1998), Ramos established greater coherence over the military and lessened its proclivities for extraconstitutional change. A combination of nationalist sentiment and declining U.S. interest led to the closure of American bases in the Philippines by 1992, but Ramos was instrumental in initiating the negotiations that led to 1999’s VFA. Continual training, joint exercises, and weapons transfers institutionalized AFP-U.S. efforts to maintain interoperability. Efforts at interoperability were further consolidated during the Arroyo (2001-2010) and Aquino III (2010-2016) administrations.

Duterte has been blindsided by these realities. During his first year in office, Duterte directed most of his energies toward prosecuting, and building popular support for, a securitized drug war. His neglect of campaign promises to devolve greater autonomy to Muslim areas of the southern Philippines contributed to the 2017 siege of Marawi city. AFP commanders requested U.S. assistance without informing the president of their intention to do so beforehand. Navy SEAL operators soon deployed to provide advice and technical assistance. Most recently, Duterte’s efforts to build popular support by scrapping the VFA and attacking establishment oligarchs diverted attention away from dealing with COVID-19. He has had to back down yet again.

U.S.-AFP linkages are firm, yet they require careful management. Massive and indefinite deployment of American military forces to the Philippines is not a sustainable proposition given understandable nationalist sentiments. Greater emphasis must be placed on temporary rotational deployments that can be backed up by greater intervention should the need arise. In addition, the cultivation of human relationships and personal connections between Philippine commanders and their American counterparts are essential. Although the Philippines does not possess the financial wherewithal to purchase advanced American weaponry, the U.S. defense establishment surely possesses the means to train more Filipino officers. This must not be construed as a neo-colonial relationship wherein Philippine forces are viewed as an appendage to American power. Such interactions should be presented as an outside power modernizing and supplementing the defensive capabilities of a medium-sized state eager to preserve its territorial integrity. Beneath the volatile pronouncements that typify electoral political systems, policy-level initiatives on both sides must remain consistent and predictable.

Mesrob Vartavarian holds a B.A. and M.A. in history from UCLA and a Ph.D. in history from Cambridge. He has published numerous articles in academic journals and is a regular contributor to Forces of Renewal Southeast Asia (FORSEA). Vartavarian is currently a visiting fellow at Cornell University’s Southeast Asia Program.

(Note:  modified version of a comment I posted in the FB honeypot -- reposted here for discussion purposes.)

The Jose Rizal Class Frigates and the Data Link Controversy:  To Accept or Not To Accept

As pointed out in recent articles, the newly built BRP Jose Rizal (FF-150) is schedule to depart Ulsan, South Korea bound for Subic Bay, and is scheduled to arrive on May 23, 2020.

The project has been surrounded by controversy, much of it centered on whether the ship's data link system is what was agreed upon when the contract was signed with Hyundai Heavy Industries.  Many in the Philippine defense community have charged that the data link system which has been installed on the ships are substandard and is in violation of the terms of the contract.  Some have called for the ships not to be accepted.

While these issues are serious and must be dealt with, the practical realities of the defense of the nation, including defense against Chinese incursions and sovereignty violations in the West Philippine Sea, are the major factor which will determine the disposition of these ships.  Like it or not, the brutal truth is that the Philippine Navy is desperate for hulls, and that more than anything dictates that the two frigates of the Jose Rizal class would have to be accepted.

As I've pointed out in previous posts, with two of the three GDPs on the shelf, the only long range, extended duration patrol assets left between the PN and the PCG are the BRP Andres Bonifacio, BRP Conrado Yap, and the PCGs BRP Gabriela Silang. Beyond that are the handful of remaining WW2 assets, but those are likely to be retired in short order. Everything else in the inventory of the PN and PCG have the necessary range, but can't stay out to sea for very long. Go out, then come back after a few days.......not very conducive to maintaining presence not just in the WPS (which is a very vast area all by itself), but also other hotspots like the Sulu Sea, Bashi Channel, Benham Rise, etc........

I hate to say this, but it is what it is. Whatever you feel about them, two additional hulls is still two additional hulls. If those ships are accepted, then it is doesn't end there. If there is an issue with the data link, then the PN needs to continue to work to fix that issue even after those ships have been accepted and enter service.

But as I've said before.........when this whole thing started, I kept my expectations low........very low. Specifications before hiring a consultant that's supposed to develop the specifications, small budget for two frigates but we wanted all the bells and whistles, FFBNW........a whole lot of contradictions which cause you to want to impossibilities to happen at the same time. And it's taken them since 2012-2013 to get to this point?

Just hope that they learn from their mistakes after this. It shouldn't take 7 or 8 years to get this done, with a fair amount of the process being a clusterf@#k of epic proportions.

Some of you feel that we should flat out junk this project, not accept these frigates, and move on to the corvette project. But it isn't as simple as that. It sends a bad signal to other shipyards who might jump in. Both the Philippine government and HHI would end up eating the massive losses for the JRCF project. This would particularly hurt HHI, which has been on life-support the past few years due to the worldwide shipbuilding downturn (more so now with a general worldwide economic downturn on top of that). Other shipyards would worry that they may similarly be put in that position, given that we do have a track record of being flaky (just ask the Italians). What we don't want is the perception that we are "not worth the risk". We have improved our reputation and are beginning to be seen as a potential good customer. It was certainly enough for Austal, which wanted nothing to do with the JRCF project, to now jump in to offer to build 6 OPVs in Cebu. They're not going to do that if we are seen as risk exposure.

But it still comes back to needing hulls in the water, which we seem to have a very difficult time dealing with. Ask yourself this: if this deal was jacked up, do you trust the same clowns that jacked up this deal to come up with a better deal and not take 7 or 8 years to get it right? And are you willing to go without those 2 extra hulls in the meantime?

Sometimes if you screw up, it's just better to be forced to live with your mistakes for all to see. Maybe we learn our lessons as a result.


It’s Time to Rethink Philippine Policies on China

By examining the underlying assumptions, it’s clear a rethink of Philippine China policies is needed.
By Rej Cortez Torrecampo
April 23, 2019

Reactions in social media depict a growing frustration among the general Filipino public regarding the political will of the current administration to secure the country’s territorial integrity and sovereignty in relation to the South China Sea (referred to in the Philippines as the West Philippine Sea). With the fast approaching midterm elections in the Philippines, the Duterte administration’s low-key approach toward security concerns in the sea could be a major issue that the opposition could underscore in their campaign. Still, regardless of one’s political conviction or inclination, the country cannot simply escape the reality that its security is undermined by the lack of national consensus on how to deal with China.

In order to contribute to the current discussion on the Philippines’ foreign policy toward China and its national security imperative, the following policy assumptions need to be evaluated: first, the Philippines must seize the opportunities from an economically powerful China, and, second, without an actual threat of a military attack from China, the government should have nothing to worry about in dealing with Beijing. These assumptions are derived from closely examining the pronouncements and statements of key officials, who in one way or another, influence and drive the country’s foreign policy. Understanding these assumptions and identifying negations allows one to transcend discussions from the usual policy dichotomy of confrontation or engagement.

On the first assumption, there is little to debate on the economic weight and importance of China in international affairs and the opportunities low and medium-income economies can reap from China’s economic growth. As a developing state, the Philippines is obviously drawn to this idea. House Speaker Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo stated that China’s development model is something to consider and that it “has given us [the Philippines] the lesson that there is just not one path for development.” She also argued that with China’s participation in key government projects, Beijing should be regarded as a partner in development, not a threat. This sentiment is shared by many in the private sector. There are those who believe that the administration’s approach to improve relations with China is “a big push to its own Philippine Development Plan.” Further, despite the security risks raised by the United States against Huawei, leading telecommunication companies in the Philippines are steadfast to continue their partnership with Huawei. The Huawei’s 5G technology is considered ahead of the technology of its Western competitors, which is why Philippine telecom company, Globe, is seeking Huawei’s technology for their 5G services.

These considerations may strengthen the case that the Philippines should consider China more as an economic partner than a threat to national security. But while the Philippines could certainly gain from engaging with China, these opportunities and gains also have their drawbacks.

First, Chinese investments are strategic rather than benevolent, and thus, the primary objective is not to aid the Philippines in its development, but rather to improve China’s position in achieving its own objectives and protecting its interests. For instance, its infrastructure development projects with developing countries including the Philippines, which is now considered by many as coinciding with the administration’s Build, Build, Build program, is driven by its overcapacity problem back home. Also, China’s inclination to support the development of the Philippine government media agency through training and donations is guided by Beijing’s storytelling approach to influence the international narrative on China. This means that benefiting from China’s growth is not a decision solely made by those seeking to benefit, but rather, is dependent on China’s interests, objectives, and willingness to share the opportunities with other countries. This view allows us to examine China’s duality : an economic partner and also a risk for national development and security.

Second, allowing China, through its associates, to participate in investments on critical industries and infrastructure hands them a clear leverage in any dispute or conflict that may arise between China and the Philippines. The economic clout built carefully by Beijing can be used as a tool to push the Philippines into submission even before conflict erupts or to prevent the latter from countering the former. In short, China does not need to fire a single shot to win a war; all they need is for the Philippines to cooperate. Without a strong foundation of trust and confidence, the issue that needs focus from defense and security planners is not a question of intention but of China’s capacity to cause disruption through the technologies it has shared with the Philippines.

Last, while China may exploit natural resources and dominate investments in the Philippines, one cannot deny the role of governance in this situation. Recipient states such as the Philippines have the responsibility of ensuring that the inflow of capital and technology from foreign sources, in this case China, are distributed for the benefit of the people and not just a few, and are transparent and efficient. Notably, China’s FDI and foreign assistance to developing states are inherently different from that of the West since Beijing does not consider good governance or other political issues as a prerequisite for its financial support. This runs the risk of colluding with corrupt officials and of handing more benefits to Chinese companies rather than to Filipino businesses. As Elizabeth Economy and Michael Levi examine in their book By All Means Necessary: How China’s Resource Quest is Changing the World, China’s investment in resource-rich countries are either transformative — having positive political and social effects — or destructive — making domestic conditions worse. The outcome is therefore likely dependent on the recipient states and their government, and not on China.

On the second assumption, it touches on the pitfalls of identifying new security risks and challenges. While many China scholars have argued that firing the first shot is not in Beijing’s military playbook, such a claim does not disprove the skepticism that China is using other means to advance its position — at the expense of other states including the Philippines. This is most glaring in the maritime and territorial disputes in the South China Sea. China’s use of non-military vessels to increase presence in the sea has previously been considered a security challenge for both military operators and international law experts, something that was shared with the public. It has also used tactics and approaches that most Western scholars regard as “gray zone” strategy or tactics. Since this particular strategy adopts an incremental approach to achieve its objectives and desired conditions, the larger defense and security community has failed to identify how China’s seemingly singular and isolated actions in the political, economic, social, and technological realms actually build up into a strong claim and control in the South China Sea.

Further, the improved relations between China and the Philippines was made possible by setting aside political disagreements, particularly on the South China Sea, and proceeding with non-controversial issues such as economic and technological partnership. With this, the compartmentalization of bilateral issues between Manila and Beijing has led the former to be more cautious not to disrupt its relations with the latter especially over hard to resolve issues such as the South China Sea disputes. For instance, the recent news of Chinese militia swarming Pag-asa Island was initially received mildly by Malacanang, saying that Chinese fisherfolks accessing the resources in the area can stay while militias should leave, if proven to be present. Later, the government argued that the Philippines has no capacity to win a war against China, and that Beijing has only given assistance to the Philippines thus far without asking for favors especially in relation to yielding territories. These messages effectively translate into the assumption that so long as China does not use force or invade the Philippines, there is nothing to worry about when engaging with China.

This narrow view of security, focusing on a military attack or invasion, cripples the ability of government to recognize new security threats and multi-domain challenges that have security and military implications. Further, these new security threats may not even have a military implication, but nonetheless they may still expose the vulnerability of the Philippines and its population, which is why it makes it all the more difficult to lobby for greater national security consciousness. To illustrate, one may think of Huawei’s technology as non-threatening and a welcomed development for the Philippines’ poor and lagging Information and Communications Technology (ICT). However, the possibility of espionage and indiscriminate surveillance of users is definitely a risk for data privacy and national security. But instead of choosing between the false dichotomy of accepting Chinese technology and rejecting them all together, the government should consider investing on building its capabilities to detect threats and malicious activities in data collection and acquisition, data storage, processing, transmission, and delivery. This way, it could benefit from this technology while reducing the risk of exposure to future attacks and disruptions.

Rethinking security to move beyond the narrow view of military security has the highest potential of expanding the policy options of the government, thereby allowing it to look at issues and decisions both from a development and security standpoint. The future of national security is largely determined by how current policy-makers and planners view conditions of the future; these views are framed and driven by what assumptions are adopted and considered today.

Rej Cortez Torrecampo is the Senior Research Specialist of the Philippine Center of Excellence in Defense, Development, and Security. The opinions expressed in this article do not necessarily reflect the official position of the Center


US Secretary of State Criticizes China’s South China Sea Practices

Mike Pompeo also criticized China’s “debt trap” diplomacy.

By Ankit Panda
March 14, 2019

China has pushed back on a speech made earlier this week by U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on the country’s international practices, including its behavior in the South China Sea and use of debt as a tool of statecraft.

“By blocking development in the South China Sea through coercive means, China prevents ASEAN members from accessing more than $2.5 trillion in recoverable energy reserves,” the U.S. secretary of state said, speaking in Houston, Texas, on Tuesday.

“To contrast, the United States Government promotes energy security for those Southeast Asian nations. We want countries in the region to have access to their own energy,” Pompeo added.
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“We want to help them. We want to create partnerships. We want transparent transactions, not debt traps. We explore responsibly.”

“China doesn’t play by that same set of rules. Its values are simply different,” Pompeo underscored.

In the South China Sea, China, along with Vietnam, the Philippines, Malaysia, Brunei, and Taiwan, has competing claims. Beijing has clashed with Vietnam in particular over hydrocarbon exploration rights in disputed waters.

The Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs hit back at Pompeo’s remarks, describing them as “irresponsible.” Lu Kang, a spokesperson for the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs, said that “Nations in the region are capable of resolving and managing the disputes in their own ways.”

Echoing longstanding warnings from China for the United States to stay out of regional disputes, including in the South China Sea, Lu said that “Nations outside the region should refrain from stirring up trouble and disrupting the harmonious situation.”

Building on months of U.S. criticism of China’s overseas financing practices, Pompeo also took aim at what the U.S. has called “debt trap” diplomacy.

“[China is] using the debt trap … to put these countries in a place where it isn’t a commercial transaction. It’s a political transaction designed to bring harm and political influence in the country in which they’re operating,” Pompeo added, calling on the audience of primarily oil industry leaders to work with the U.S. government to push back on these practices.

“We need to roll up our sleeves and compete by facilitating investments all across the world and encouraging partners to buy from us, and by punishing the bad actors,” Pompeo noted.

The Trump administration has identified China as a great power competitor of the United States and has pursued a “free and open” Indo-Pacific strategy to push back on what it sees as growing Chinese influence in the region.


The Chinese Navy’s Marine Corps, Part 1: Expansion and Reorganization
February 27, 2019

By Dennis J. Blasko and Roderick Lee

Editor’s Note: This is the first part of a two-part article discussing organizational reforms and evolving missions for the PLA Navy (PLAN) Marine Corps. The first part focuses on the growing order of battle for the PLAN Marines. The second part, which will appear will focus on the creation of a service headquarters for the PLAN Marines, and their expanding training for expeditionary warfare and other missions. Taken as a whole, this two-part article provides significant new information and analysis to update the December 3, 2010 China Brief article titled “China’s Marines: Less is More.”


On August 16, 2018, the Department of Defense Annual Report to Congress: Military and Security Developments Involving the People’s Republic of China 2018, reported that “One of the most significant PLAN structural changes in 2017 was the expansion of the PLAN Marine Corps (PLANMC).” The PLA Marine Corps (中国人民解放军海军陆战队) has historically been limited in terms of personnel, geography, and mission—with a primary service focus on amphibious assault, and the defense of outposts in the South China Sea. However, under currently estimated plans for service expansion, “by 2020, the PLANMC will consist of 7 brigades, may have more than 30,000 personnel, and will expand its mission to include expeditionary operations on foreign soil.”1

The expansion of the PLANMC, which commenced in April 2017, is an important element of reforms to the PLA’s operational forces. For the past two decades, the Marine Corps consisted of only two brigades, the 1st and 164th Marine Brigades (each estimated to number from 5,000 – 6,000 personnel) assigned to the South Sea Fleet stationed in Zhanjiang, Guangdong. After recent reforms, the number of brigades now amounts to a total of eight, with four new Marine combined arms brigades, a Special Operations Forces (SOF) brigade, and the core of a shipborne aviation (helicopter) brigade added to the previously existing two brigades. The four new combined arms brigades were formed out of units transferred from the Army, while the SOF and helicopter brigades were created from standing Navy units. A corps-level headquarters for the Marine Corps also has been identified. Though the Chinese government has not officially explained these developments, this new structure probably amounts to a total of up to approximately 40,000 personnel distributed among eight brigades at full strength.

The expanded Marine Corps, supported by Navy long-range sealift, likely will become the core of the PLA’s future expeditionary force. Training that began in 2014 further indicates that the eventual objective for the Marine Corps is to be capable of conducting operations in many types of terrain and climates – ranging beyond the PLANMC’s former, and continuing, focus on islands and reefs in the South China Sea. The manner by which the force has expanded, however, suggests that the PLA leadership was not motivated by an immediate need for a larger amphibious capability; rather, it appears to be consistent with several new missions undertaken by the Chinese military over the past decade that have provided impetus for the addition of new Marine units. It will likely take several years for all of the Marine Corps’ new units to reach full operational readiness as measured by personnel, equipment, and training.

Expanded Order of Battle

After “below the neck” reforms and restructuring implemented throughout PLA in 2017, Marine units are now found along China’s eastern seaboard from Shandong in the north, to Fujian and Guangdong in the east opposite Taiwan, to Hainan in the South China Sea. In northern Shandong, a former Army motorized infantry brigade of the old 26th Group Army has been transformed into a new Marine brigade (Jiefangjun Bao Online, September 30 2017). On Shandong’s southern coast, a second new brigade has been formed from what likely was a former Army coastal defense regiment located near Qingdao (Qingdao Television, February 12 2018). Further south, an Army coastal defense division stationed around Jinjiang, Fujian was the basis for a third new brigade that remains in that same locale; and may also have provided manpower and resources for a fourth new brigade that recently moved to Jieyang in eastern Guangdong province  (Anxi, Fujian Government website, August 1 2017; Jieyang News, August 17 2018). Although the PLA has not widely publicized either the creation of these new brigades or their true unit designators, the emergence of photos and new military unit cover designators associated with the Marine brigades both suggest a 1st through 6th brigade numbering scheme.2

As the new Marine brigades are being organized and equipped for their new missions, the two previously existing brigades also appear to have been reorganized. Most significantly, to streamline their chain of command, the former amphibious armored regiment headquarters appear to have been eliminated: command is now passed directly from brigade level to the newly established combined arms battalions (similar to the Army’s brigade command structure). Marine combined arms battalions are distinguished between amphibious mechanized and light mechanized combined arms battalions. Some, if not all, Marine brigades also have, or will likely have, units trained for air assault operations (Jiefangjun Bao Online, December 10 2017), and will be reinforced by operational support battalions.3

It is likely that in coming years older equipment will be retired and all Marine units will be issued new amphibious vehicles—such as the tracked ZBD05 Infantry Fighting Vehicle (IFV), tracked ZTD05 Assault Vehicle, PLZ07 122mm Self-Propelled Howitzer, the eight-wheeled ZBL09 IFV, the eight-wheeled ZTL11 assault vehicle, and the Mengshi Assault Vehicle. (The latter three vehicles have been observed deployed to the Djibouti Support Base). Some reconnaissance units are also receiving light 8×8 all-terrain-vehicles for terrain that is inaccessible to larger vehicles (, April 9, 2018).

In total, the Army probably transferred over 20,000 personnel to the Navy’s new Marine units, while retaining its own amphibious capability. The Army’s two former amphibious infantry divisions—one previously stationed in the Nanjing Military Region near Hangzhou and the other in the Guangdong Military Region near Huizhou—were both transformed into two combined arms brigades each, while keeping their amphibious weapons and capabilities. A fifth former amphibious armored brigade also was converted into a new Army combined arms brigade located in Fujian. The decision to maintain these amphibious units in the Army reflects that service’s continued role in building capabilities to deter further steps toward Taiwan independence—one of the missions of foremost importance to the PLA.

Had the senior PLA leadership perceived the need to increase rapidly the Navy’s amphibious capacity, it could have decided to transfer to the Marine Corps those existing Army amphibious units, all of which were equipped and trained for assault from the sea. But by transforming a motorized infantry brigade and multiple coastal defense units—none of which were outfitted with amphibious equipment, nor trained extensively in amphibious operations—the PLA leadership understood that it would take multiple years for these units to be equipped, and even more annual training cycles before they would be fully trained to undertake amphibious operations. So, while the Marine Corps has been expanded in size, its actual amphibious capabilities will increase gradually over the next several years.

The new Marine special operations force (SOF) brigade has been formed out of the Navy’s existing SOF Regiment stationed in Hainan, which includes the Jiaolong (“Dragon”) commando unit (China Central Television, December 12 2017). The former Navy SOF Regiment’s missions and capabilities overlapped with that of the Marine Corps, and therefore their transfer is a logical evolution as the Marine Corps expands. Eventually, the new brigade will likely number approximately one thousand personnel more than the old regiment (estimated to have been about 2,000 strong). Some of those personnel may have been transferred from the 1st and 164th Marine Brigades’ structure, each of which probably included SOF elements in their former reconnaissance battalions. Of all the new Marine units within the expanded force structure, the SOF Brigade currently is the most combat ready.

The 2018 DOD report on the Chinese military also noted the creation of an independent aviation capability for the PLA Marines, stating that the expanding PLANMC “may also incorporate an aviation brigade, which could provide an organic helicopter transport and attack capability, increasing its amphibious and expeditionary warfare capabilities.”4 The new Marine Shipborne Aviation (helicopter) Brigade apparently has been built out of elements from all three PLAN independent air regiments (Weibo, January 27 2018). These regiments have been busy since 2009, provided the aircraft for 15 of 30 of the Navy’s deployments to the Gulf of Aden escort mission (PLA Daily, July 16 2018).

Currently, the new Marine helicopter unit likely has considerably less than a full contingent of aircraft compared to an Army Aviation Brigade, which when fully equipped probably consists of over 70 helicopters. The Military Balance 2018 estimates the Navy’s entire helicopter fleet at slightly over 100 aircraft, with about half being transport helicopters—while the others are anti-submarine warfare, early warning, and search and rescue aircraft needed to support the rest of the Navy’s operations.5 Heretofore the Navy apparently has experimented with only a few armed Z-9 helicopters (People’s Navy, July 31 2012). Until additional attack helicopters are added to the force, as a stop gap measure it would be possible for the Army to temporarily assign a few of its attack helicopters to the Marines to assist in training and doctrine development for amphibious operations. Thus, it is likely that it will take several more years to add additional transport and attack helicopters and train the pilots and crews before the new Marine helicopter brigade is at full strength and combat ready.

This article will continue in the next issue of China Brief, with “The Chinese Navy’s Marine Corps, Part 2: Chain-of-Command Reforms and Evolving Training.”

Dennis J. Blasko, Lieutenant Colonel, U.S. Army (Retired), was an army attaché in Beijing and in Hong Kong from 1992-1996 and is the author of The Chinese Army Today: Tradition and Transformation for the 21st Century, second edition (Routledge, 2012).

Roderick Lee is an analyst with the United States Navy. His work focuses on Chinese maritime forces and strategy. He earned his Master of Arts degree from The George Washington University’s Elliott School of International Affairs.

Hoping for Japanese destroyers and other equipment?  Not so fast.

Why Shinzo Abe faces an uphill battle to revise Japan’s constitution

By Adam P. Liff and
Ko Maeda
December 12, 2018

Japan’s ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) last week abandoned its widely anticipated plan to present a formal proposal to revise the 1947 constitution to the current session of the Diet, Japan’s legislature. Revising the constitution is a longtime ambition of conservative Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, the longest-serving Japanese prime minister in 50 years. With Abe likely to serve through 2021, Abe and his conservative allies appear determined to try again next year.

Will this revision effort succeed? It’s an open question.

Part of the LDP proposal is to modify the constitution’s Article 9 “peace clause,” in which Japan renounces war and the maintenance of “war potential.” This means the success/failure of the revision push carries significant implications for Japan and its U.S. ally. Depending on the wording, a revision could enable new military platforms, roles and missions for Japan’s Self-Defense Forces.

In a regional security environment increasingly shaped by North Korea’s nuclear and missile programs and expanding Chinese military and paramilitary activities, Abe and his allies see Article 9 as restraining Japan’s national defense capacity — and an obstacle to expanded efforts to contribute to regional security.

Despite these ambitions and Abe and his LDP’s widely-asserted dominance of Japanese politics since 2012, revising the constitution won’t be easy. Period. On their terms, it’s near impossible. Here are three major reasons why:

1. Amending Japan’s constitution is difficult

Democracies protect their constitutions by setting a high procedural bar for any amendments. Japan is no exception, and its 71-year-old constitution has never been amended. In fact, revision has never been formally attempted, despite longstanding demands from conservative politicians and the LDP itself putting forward an ambitious full-text draft revision in 2012. Amending the constitution requires a two-thirds majority in both houses of the Diet. After that, the final step involves a national referendum, where a simple majority is required.

To be sure, Abe’s LDP is by far Japan’s most powerful political party, with a single-party majority in both houses. Many commentators note the party could cobble together an ad-hoc coalition of “pro-revision forces” from other parties and independents, and thus surpass the two-thirds threshold. But the fact that Abe’s LDP does not independently control two-thirds of the seats is significant for any revision proposal’s prospects.

2. Japan’s public remains ambivalent

Even if a supra-partisan grouping of pro-revision Diet members could reach a consensus on a concrete amendment proposal, especially on Article 9 — the most controversial aspect of contemporary debates about revision — opinion polls show a sharply divided public.

The reasons for this ambivalence run the gamut from pacifism in reaction to Japan’s pre-1945 militaristic past, to concerns about entrapment in a U.S.-initiated war far away from Japan. But Japanese also seem ambivalent about any revision, not just Article 9. An April 2018 survey suggests that only 29 percent of the public thinks constitutional revision is necessary — 27 percent think it is not and the rest answered “not sure.”

These findings suggest that even if a proposal reaches a public referendum — for which there is no postwar precedent — the result is uncertain. A vocal minority passionately opposed to revision may turn out in force. Japan also faces a packed political calendar next year, including the abdication of Emperor Akihito. Abe and the LDP have reason to tread carefully.

3. The LDP rules in coalition… and its junior partner’s support base is largely pacifistic

Though much of the public (and media) discourse, especially outside Japan, focuses exclusively on Abe and his LDP, the most direct obstacle to their Article 9 ambitions is hiding in plain sight. Since 1999, the LDP has cooperated in every national election with a much smaller junior partner and ideologically strange bedfellow: Komeito. This smaller party enjoys a de facto veto over Abe and the LDP on matters highly salient to its pacifist support base — especially Article 9 and other defense policy-related matters.

Since the LDP controls about 90 percent of the coalition’s parliamentary seats, Komeito’s leverage seems puzzling. But when it comes to constitutional revision, our new article explains the spoiler role Komeito is able to play, and how. The two parties have developed an odd mutual dependency that enables Komeito to punch significantly above its weight in intra-coalition policy debates.

Our analysis exposes the structural roots of the LDP’s remarkable electoral dependence on its junior partner, and demonstrates the implications for LDP Diet seat totals and, by extension, Komeito’s disproportionate influence in coalition policy decision-making. Because Komeito’s primary support base is politically active and pacifistic adherents of Soka Gakkai, a lay Buddhist movement, fundamentally revising Article 9’s existing clauses is anathema.

What is the source of Komeito’s leverage? Under Japan’s mixed electoral system, the main battleground of general elections is single-member districts (SMDs). Since 2003, the LDP and Komeito have avoided fielding competing candidates in all of them. Typically, the LDP stands down in the 8 to 10 SMDs where Komeito fields a candidate — who usually wins. In exchange, Komeito mobilizes its supporters to vote for LDP candidates everywhere else. These mutual “stand down” agreements give each party greater representation in the Diet than they would have otherwise.

Our research shows that so many LDP incumbents rely on Komeito supporters nowadays that the LDP would probably lose its single party majority in the Lower House without Komeito support. Both parties know this, which explains why the LDP tolerates such significant concessions, even on core policy concerns affecting national security.

We thus conclude in our article that Komeito is a significant source of Abe and the LDP’s current Diet strength. But this also leaves the majority party politically vulnerable. The same mechanism that explains the LDP-Komeito coalition’s remarkable durability is also likely to frustrate the LDP’s efforts to revise the constitution. Thus, even if a historic Article 9 revision goes through on Abe’s watch — which is by no means guaranteed — the actual substance is likely to fall far short of the LDP’s ambitions.

Adam P. Liff is an assistant professor of East Asian international relations at Indiana University’s Hamilton Lugar School of Global and International Studies. He is also a Non-resident Senior Fellow at the Brookings Institution.

Ko Maeda is an associate professor of political science at the University of North Texas.

United States of America / US Defense Secretary James Mattis resigns
« on: December 21, 2018, 07:27:18 AM »

Dear Mr. President:
December 20, 2018

I have been privileged to serve as our country’s 26th Secretary of Defense which has allowed me to serve alongside our men and women of the Department in defense of our citizens and our ideals.

I am proud of the progress that has been made over the past two years on some of the key goals articulated in our National Defense Strategy: putting the Department on a more sound budgetary footing, improving readiness and lethality in our forces, and reforming the Department’s business practices for greater performance. Our troops continue to provide the capabilities needed to prevail in conflict and sustain strong U.S. global influence.

One core belief I have always held is that our strength as a nation is inextricably linked to the strength of our unique and comprehensive system of alliances and partnerships. While the US remains the indispensable nation in the free world, we cannot protect our interests or serve that role effectively without maintaining strong alliances and showing respect to those allies. Like you, I have said from the beginning that the armed forces of the United States should not be the policeman of the world. Instead, we must use all tools of American power to provide for the common defense, including providing effective leadership to our alliances. NATO’s 29 democracies demonstrated that strength in their commitment to fighting alongside us following the 9-11 attack on America. The Defeat-ISIS coalition of 74 nations is further proof.

Similarly, I believe we must be resolute and unambiguous in our approach to those countries whose strategic interests are increasingly in tension with ours. It is clear that China and Russia, for example, want to shape a world consistent with their authoritarian model – gaining veto authority over other nations’ economic, diplomatic, and security decisions – to promote their own interests at the expense of their neighbors, America and our allies. That is why we must use all the tools of American power to provide for the common defense.

My views on treating allies with respect and also being clear-eyed about both malign actors and strategic competitors are strongly held and informed by over four decades of immersion in these issues. We must do everything possible to advance an international order that is most conducive to our security, prosperity and values, and we are strengthened in this effort by the solidarity of our alliances.

Because you have the right to have a Secretary of Defense whose views are better aligned with yours on these and other subjects, I believe it is right for me to step down from my position. The end date for my tenure is February 28, 2019, a date that should allow sufficient time for a successor to be nominated and confirmed as well as to make sure the Department’s interests are properly articulated and protected at upcoming events to include Congressional posture hearings and the NATO Defense Ministerial meeting in February. Further, that a full transition to a new Secretary of Defense occurs well in advance of the transition of Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff in September in order to ensure stability within the Department.

I pledge my full effort to a smooth transition that ensures the needs and interests of the 2.15 million Service Members and 732,079 DoD civilians receive undistracted attention of the Department at all times so that they can fulfill their critical, round-the-clock mission to protect the American people.

I very much appreciate this opportunity to serve the nation and our men and women in uniform.


James N. Mattis


Sea Control Through The Eyes of the Person Who Does It, Pt. 1

November 21, 2018

The following article originally appeared in The Naval War College Review and is republished with permission. It will be republished in three parts.

By Christofer Waldenström

This article suggests a new perspective on the old problem of protecting ships at sea, for two reasons. First, although screen tactics and other defensive measures have been developed and used for many years, this new perspective will be useful in addressing two developments since the late nineteenth century: attackers are no longer just other ships but also aircraft, submarines, and, recently, missiles with very long ranges launched from the land; also, torpedo boats, coastal submarines, and mines have complicated operations in congested and archipelagic waters. The second reason for a new approach is that in order to support commanders in the problems of sea control we need to study the issues they encounter while solving them. This requires a description of each task that commanders have to do; without such a description it becomes difficult to determine which actions lead to increased control and which to loss of control, which in turn makes it harder to identify whether commanders are running into trouble and if so, why. The new analytical method introduced here represents an attempt at such a description. As such, it may enrich and extend traditional thinking about sea control and how to achieve it, especially in littoral waters.

Sea control is generally associated with the protection of shipping, and it refers normally either to a stationary patch of water, such as a strait, or to a region around a moving formation of ships. Today it is quite well understood how to protect such a region of water. To handle aircraft and missiles, defenses are organized in several layers, with an outer layer of combat air patrols to take out enemy aircraft before they can launch their weapons. Next is a zone where long- and short-range surface-to-air missiles take down missiles that the enemy manages to fire. Any “leakers” are to be handled by soft-kill and hardkill point defenses—for example, jammers, chaff, and close-in weapon systems. For submarines and surface vessels the logic is similar, but here maneuver is also an option. Since the attacking surface ship or submarine moves at about the same speed as the formation, it is possible to stay out of reach of the enemy. Maneuver seeks to deny detection and targeting and to force attacking surface ships and submarines to operate in ways in which they cannot muster enough strength to carry out their mission or are more easily detected.1

A prerequisite of a successful layered defense is detection of the enemy far enough out that all the layers get a chance to work. The restricted space of congested and archipelagic waters, however, may prevent the outer “strainers” from acting on the enemy. This gives small, heavily armed combatants opportunities to hide, perhaps among islands, and fire their weapons from cover, leaving only point defenses to deal with the oncoming missiles and torpedoes, with little room for maneuver.2 This increases the risk of saturation of defense systems and may allow weapons to penetrate.

The problems associated with archipelagic and coastal environments have been recognized since the introduction of the mobile torpedo.3 The torpedo gave small units the firepower to destroy ships much larger than themselves and made it possible for a small fleet to challenge a larger one, at least if it did not have to do so on the open ocean. To deal with such an inshore threat, the British naval historian and strategist Sir Julian Corbett suggested in 1911 that a “flotilla” of small combatants had to be introduced to deal with this type of warfare, because capital ships could no longer approach defended coasts, as they had when ships of the line dueled with forts.4 Today, the introduction of long-range missiles, mines, stealth design, and the ability to coordinate the efforts of land-, sea-, and air-based systems have further intensified this threat.5

Littoral environments seem to change the problem of sea control, at least in some aspects.6 Sensors, weapons, and tactics developed to handle threats on the open ocean may be less appropriate in congested and archipelagic waters. Radar and sonar returns are cluttered, missile seekers are confused, and targeting is complicated by the existence of islands and coastlines close to the ships to be protected. The land-sea environment introduces variables that make the sea control problem hard to solve using methods developed for an open ocean. As the uncertainties and intangibles mount up, quantitative approaches become less feasible, and we can only rely on human judgment.7 That is why it is important to study what commanders find difficult when executing sea-control missions in littoral environments.

It has been shown to be fruitful, when studying the problems people face when trying to solve a task, to have a model of the task that describes what the decision maker is required to do.8 Whether that task description takes the form of a document—a formal description or formula—or an expert, the approach is similar—you compare people’s behavior to the description and try to identify where and why they differ. Since experts differ, formal descriptions are preferable, if feasible. For the sea-control task, the description can either list the problems that the commander must solve in order to get ships safely to their destinations or define the variables of interest and the states they must be in for sea control to be considered established.

To get a description of what is required to establish sea control one can study what doctrine has to say. A major U.S. Navy doctrinal publication, Naval Warfare, characterizes sea control as one of the service’s core capabilities and states that it “requires control of the surface, subsurface, and airspace and relies upon naval forces’ maintaining superior capabilities and capacities in all sea-control operations. It is established through naval, joint, or combined operations designed to secure the use of ocean and littoral areas by one’s own forces and to prevent their use by the enemy.”9 British Maritime Doctrine has a similar description of sea control: “Sea control is the condition in which one has freedom of action to use the sea for one’s own purposes in specified areas and for specified periods of time and, where necessary, to deny or limit its use to the enemy. . . . Sea control includes the airspace above the surface and the water volume and seabed below.”10 A North Atlantic Treaty Organization publication, Allied Joint Maritime Operations, relates the level of control to the level of risk: “The level of sea control required will be a balance between the desired degree of freedom of action and the degree of acceptable risk.”11 Two academic analysts offer a more minimalistic view, arguing that tying the definition of sea control to specific military objectives creates contrasts between the challenges posed by, for example, littoral environments and blue-water environments.12 To accommodate these contrasts and allow for the full range of operations, they put forward “the use of the sea as a maneuver space to achieve military objectives” as a definition of sea control.

However, two issues make it hard to use these descriptions for studying the problems commanders face in sea control tasks. To say so is not to criticize their doctrinal utility but rather to point out that for the purposes of this article, their meanings need to be expressed in a somewhat more formal way. The first issue is related to how the definitions describe when sea control has been established. All these definitions describe sea control from a general perspective, as a state, implying a line between when that state has been reached and when it has not. As result, it would be possible to use such a description to determine whether sea control has been established, at least in theory. A necessary precondition of such a description, however, is that it contain concepts—or to be more specific, a set of variables—that can be observed from the outside. For each variable there must be specified the value it must have, or the condition it must be in, in order to say that the overall state has been reached. Only then are we able to use the definition to measure whether a commander has succeeded in establishing sea control. The second issue regards the “general,” “outside” perspective that characterizes all these descriptions—a conceptual view, detached from the environment, the task, and the decision maker. In a sea-control task, however, several factors, variables, need to be considered in order to determine the degree to which the commander has managed to solve it: geography, type and duration of the operation, the enemy’s units and weapons, own resources, and the size of the region are just a few examples. A description covering all possible aspects of sea control and all possible situations would probably be quite complicated, containing many variables and many states; new variables not considered at the beginning might even have to be added as they arise.13 This is not an attractive situation for a scientific concept. Another approach would go in the other direction, stripping the definition of variables and formulating it on a very general level (the academic definition cited above is such an attempt).14 Such a definition covers a wide range of situations, but it is not very specific and provides no guidance as to when sea control has been established.

It would seem, then, that defining sea control from a general perspective is not helpful for present purposes. The point is to not separate the definition of sea control from the person trying to achieve it, or from the environment, or from the task. Such a definition would assume the perspective of the commander, describe sea control as a task that the commander has to accomplish, and lay out what is required to accomplish that task.15 Such a definition could, as we have postulated about the analytical definition we need, either describe the problems that the commander must solve in order to protect the ships or be a representation of the sea-control task. Such a description would allow systematic investigation of the effects of different tasks and different environments on the commander’s ability to establish sea control.

In fact, I argue, to investigate the concept empirically, sea control is best described from the inside. Taking the perspective of commanders trying to achieve control makes it possible to investigate systematically the problems they face and in turn, perhaps, to derive guidance for the design of training and support systems. The point of departure for such a description is the idea that securing control at sea is analogous to establishing a “field of safe travel,” a concept that has been proposed to describe the behavior of automobile drivers.16 This approach can be useful for investigating the problems commanders at sea face, and it may enrich and extend traditional thinking about sea control and how to achieve it, especially in littoral waters.

The Field of Safe Travel

Driving a car has been described analytically as locomotion through a terrain or a field of space. The primitive function of locomotion is to move an individual from one point of space to another, the “destination.” In the process obstacles are met, and locomotion must be adapted to avoid them—collision may lead to bodily injury. Locomotion by some device, such as a vehicle, is, at this level of abstraction, no different from walking, and accordingly it is chiefly guided by vision. This guidance is given in terms of a path within the visual field of the individual, such that obstacles are avoided and the destination is ultimately reached.

The visual field of a driver is selective, in that the elements of the field that are pertinent to locomotion stand out and are attended to, while irrelevant elements recede into the background. The most important part of this pertinent field is the road. It is within the boundaries of the road that the “field of safe travel” exists.17 The field of safe travel is indefinitely bounded and at any given moment comprises all the possible paths that the car may take unimpeded (see figure 1). The field of safe travel can be viewed as a “tongue” that sticks out along the road in front of the car. Its boundaries are determined by objects that should be avoided. An object has valence, positive or negative, in the sense that we want to move toward some (positive valence) and away from others (negative valence). Objects of negative valence have a sort of halo of avoidance, which can be represented by “lines of clearance” surrounding it. The closer to the object the line is, the greater the intensity of avoidance it represents. The field of safe travel itself has positive valence, the more so along its midline.18

The field of safe travel is a spatial field. It is, however, not fixed in physical space but moves with the car through space. The field is not merely a subjective experience of the driver but exists objectively as an actual field in which the car can operate safely, whether or not the driver is aware of it. During locomotion it changes constantly as the road turns and twists. It elongates and contracts, widens and narrows, as objects encroach on its boundaries.

It is now possible to investigate how the concept of a “field of safe travel” applies to naval warfare. As stated above, the purpose of sea control is to take control of maritime communications, whether for commercial shipping or naval forces. The practical problem for a commander is consequently to protect commercial vessels and warships as they move toward their destinations. These ships will be referred to as “high-value units.”

The analogy is straightforward: to make sure that the high-value units get safely to their destinations the commander must create a “field of safe travel” where they can move without risk of being sunk. At the simplest level, without the complication of hostile opposition, the problem of maneuvering a high-value unit is exactly the same as that of driving a car: make sure that it gets to its destination without running into something (that is, for a vessel, colliding or running aground). As such, there is no difference between a high-value unit’s field of safe travel and an automobile’s.

The fields of individual ships are, however, not of interest here and will not be further discussed; our focus is the field of the commander of the naval operation. In that field, the most pertinent element of the environment is not the terrain (though coasts and islands delimit how the ships can move) but the enemy. Consequently, the boundaries of the commander’s field of safe travel are determined most importantly by enemy units that threaten to sink the commander’s high-value units (see figure 2). In contrast to fixed objects in a driver’s field of safe travel, islands and coastlines may actually have positive valences for a commander, as they can offer protection. Nevertheless, the definition of the field remains the same: the commander’s field of safe travel comprises all the possible paths that the high-value units can take unimpeded.

Though the analogy is straightforward, there are several differences between the driver’s field of safe travel and that of the commander. First, the driver of a car has limited ability to influence the shape of the field of safe travel and can only see and react to obstacles that encroach on the field. Commanders, on the other hand, can actively shape the field of safe travel and have powerful means to do so: they can scout threatening areas to determine whether enemy units are present, and if they detect a threat they can eliminate it by applying deadly force. Second, the commander is up against an enemy who means to do harm. An opponent who uses cover and deception can make it more difficult to establish the requisite field.

Third, the commander’s field of safe travel cannot, like the field of a driver of an automobile, be directly perceived; it is too vast. Instead, the commander must derive the field, using data provided by sensors carried by the units in the force. As will be seen later, this difference complicates matters for the commander. Nevertheless, it is important at this point to notice that the field of safe travel is not merely a subjective experience of the commander but exists as an objective field where the commander’s ships can move safely.


PCG to host 2nd maritime exercise with US, ASEAN nations

August 27, 2018, 5:52 pm

MANILA -- The Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) will host again the week-long maritime security exercise, bringing 100 local and foreign maritime law enforcement counterparts from eight nations in Manila.

This year is the second hosting of the PCG of the Southeast Asia Cooperation and Training (SEACAT) exercise’s boarding workshop which will be held from August 27 to 31 at Coast Guard Surface Support Force in South Harbor, Port Area, Manila.

The exercise aims to address common concerns of maritime security threats prevalent in the ASEAN region such as illegal fishing, smuggling, illegal drug and human trafficking. It also aims to promote mutual international cooperation between participating agencies.

The workshop, led by the US Navy, will be joined by the PCG, Philippine Navy, Royal Brunei Navy, Royal Singapore Navy, Royal Thai Navy, Indonesian Maritime Security Agency (BAKAMLA Indonesia), Indonesian Navy-Komando Armanda I, Royal Malaysia Police, Malaysia Maritime Enforcement Agency, and Thailand Maritime Enforcement Coordinating Center.

The US Coast Guard Law Enforcement Detachment will lead the conduct of maritime interdiction operation/vessel board, search and seizure (MIO/VBSS) workshop on best practices of use of force and demonstration of arresting techniques; lecture on smuggling trends; drills on flex and handcuffing, positive control measures for compliant and non-compliant boarding, and multiple-man room entry, tactical team movement and inspections and weapons retention to be executed aboard PCG vessels.

The multilateral exercise aims to evaluate the agencies’ maritime information exchange capabilities with SEACAT headquarters through Information Fusion Center based in Changi Naval Base, Singapore and 3rd Thai Naval Area Command in Phuket, Thailand.

Participating countries have sent liaison officers to man the watch team that will facilitate exchange of information, coordinate surveillance operations, and alert respective headquarters in the conduct of MIO/VBSS operation to the vessel of interest.

To mark the conclusion of the exercise, a sea-phase activity will be conducted with two tracking and boarding scenarios in the Philippines waters, one at the west off Subic, Zambales while the other is in the Sulu Sea respectively. (PCG PR)

General Discussion / Russian visit first for PH Navy
« on: August 22, 2018, 11:07:28 PM »

Russian visit first for PH Navy

By Priam Nepomuceno August 22, 2018, 2:02 pm

MANILA -- The coming port visit of one of the two Tarlac-class strategic sealift vessels (SSVs) in Vladivostok is the first time a Philippine Navy (PN) ship will be visiting Russian territory.

This was confirmed by Navy spokesperson Cmdr. Jonathan Zata in a message to the PNA Wednesday.

"(The visit of the PN to Vladivostok, Russia is the) very first," he added.

Zata said the proposed schedule for the Russian port visit is by the end of September.

When asked on the number of officers and enlisted personnel, the PN spokesperson said the final figure is still being finalized.

"The final number is being confirmed since it (the visit) will also be a training opportunity for new personnel of the PN," Zata added.

The scheduled PN port call is in reciprocation of the visit of Russian warships in Manila last June and those of last year, Department of National Defense (DND) Secretary Delfin Lorenzana earlier said.

The Tarlac-class SSVs are the largest PN ships in service as of this posting. These vessels have an overall length of 120 meters, breadth of 21 meters, draft of five meters and can carry a payload of 2,800 tons.

Both have a cruising speed of 13 knots and maximum speed of 16 knots and a minimum operating range of 7,500 nautical miles. Both SSVs can carry 500 troops, two rigid-hull inflatable boats, two landing craft units and three helicopters. (PNA)

General Discussion / PH to acquire more missiles for new ships
« on: August 10, 2018, 11:07:37 PM »

PH to acquire more missiles for new ships

By Priam Nepomuceno August 10, 2018, 1:05 pm

MANILA --- The Philippines will be acquiring more missile weaponry to arm its new ships, Department of National Defense (DND) Secretary Delfin Lorenzana disclosed Thursday.

Lorenzana made the announcement after the successful test-firing of the Philippine Navy's (PN) Rafael Advanced Defense Ltd. Spike-ER (extended range) surface-to-surface missile off Lamao Point in Limay, Bataan last August 9.

The weapon was fired from one of the PN's three Spike-ER armed multi-purpose assault craft (MPACs).

The MPACs were constructed by the Subic-based Propmech Corporation and activated on May 22, 2017.

"We are getting more of those ( missile weaponry) because we're planning (to acquire) more vessels. By the way, we have an offshore-patrol vessel order (for the Navy), six of which would be built here in the country. It will be built by Austal, which is a subsidiary of Austal in Australia, in Balamban, Cebu," Lorenzana said in a media interview.

Asked for the contract price for the six off-shore patrol vessels, the DND chief said he cannot give specific figures yet as the deal is still being finalized.

The DND chief said the implication of the August 9 Spike-ER missile test-firing is that it boosted the PN's capability to efficiently employ such weapon in its operations.

"A Spike-ER missile was fired and accurately hit the designated target at approximately 6 KM (kilometers) away from the firing platform. The target was hit dead center even if the sea state condition was moderately rough with wave of at least one meter high but within the normal firing conditions of the missile," PN spokesperson Cmdr. Jonathan Zata earlier said.

The PN MPAC Acquisition Project entered into a contract with Rafael, through SIBAT of the Israel Ministry of Defense, for the supply and integration of the weapons systems to MPAC Mark III platforms.

"Another actual live firing demonstration of the Spike ER missile will be scheduled with the Commander in-Chief, the President of the Philippines, President Rodrigo Roa Duterte in attendance," Zata said.

The Spike-ER system, which arrived in the country last April, is the PN's first missile weapon, capable of penetrating 1,000 mm (39 inches) of rolled homogeneous armor and having a range of eight kilometers. (PNA)

General Discussion / PH Navy head meets with Russian counterpart
« on: August 05, 2018, 10:32:05 AM »

PH Navy head meets with Russian counterpart

By Priam Nepomuceno August 5, 2018, 9:28 am

MANILA -- In line with ongoing efforts to interact more with its foreign naval counterparts, Philippine Navy (PN) flag-officer-in-command, Vice Admiral Robert Empedrad, met with Russian Navy head Admiral Vladimir Ivanovich Korolev during the Russia Navy Day celebration last July 29.

Navy spokesperson Cmdr. Jonathan Zata, in a statement Saturday, said the event took place at Saint Petersburg, Russia where Empedrad represented the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) in the celebration.

"It was during this historic meeting that a draft MOU (Memorandum of Understanding) for deepening security cooperation between the two navies was discussed. The Chief of Russian navy assured his commitment to support the upgrade program of the PN in terms of training, maintenance and sustainment of future acquisition particularly the submarine acquisition project of the PN. He also mentioned about conduct of joint HADR (humanitarian assistance and disaster relief) training and regular visits of ships," he added.

Korolev also expressed his appreciation for the upcoming visit of a PN ship in Vladivostok, Russia.

In June, three Russian warships made a port visit in Manila.

Zata said the PN delegation was given the opportunity to visit Admiralty Shipyard, the Russian Navy's premier naval shipyard where its submarines are built.

The Main Naval Parade at Saint Petersburg is a commemoration of over three centuries of Russia’s rich history.

Celebrated on the last Sunday of July, this is the day where the Russian Federation honors members of the Russian Navy and showcase its strength and capabilities.

To mark this year's Navy Day parade, Russian President and Commander-in-Chief, Vladimir Putin attended the activity.

The Commander of the China’s People’s Liberation Army-Navy, Vice Admiral Shen Jinlong is also among the Navy Chiefs who attended and was met by Empedrad during the event.

The 14 chiefs and representatives of the invited navies were also tendered with a formal dinner by the head of the Russian Navy as the final event for the visiting delegations.

All heads of delegations agreed that the only way to achieve peace at sea is through cooperations among navies of the world. The official visit underscores the navy’s diplomacy efforts for increased interaction among other navies.

"These engagements are building blocks for closer cooperation in areas of mutual concern such as combating terrorism, violent extremism and transnational crimes, the conduct of humanitarian assistance and disaster response," Zata said. (PNA)


PH, Aussie navies hold maritime security exercise in Tawi-Tawi

By Teofilo Garcia, Jr August 1, 2018, 1:48 am

ZAMBOANGA CITY -- The Philippine Navy's Naval Forces Western Mindanao (NFWM) command and the Royal Australian Navy (RAN) are holding a joint exercise off the coast of Tawi-Tawi, an official said Tuesday.

Rear Adm. Rene Medina, NFWM commander, said the 10-day joint exercise -- the second leg of the 4th Combined PN-RAN Maritime Security Activity -- kicked off on Sunday in Tawi-Tawi.

Lt. Commander Musksin Jasid, NSJM chief, and Lt. Col. Judd Finger of the Australian government’s Joint Task Group 629 led the opening ceremony at the Naval Station Juan Magluyan (NSJM) in Batu-Bato, Panglima Sugala, Tawi-Tawi.

It was followed by a fellowship games between the PN and RAN delegates and a boodle fight meal, which served as a symbol of brotherhood and strong bond between the two navies.

Medina said the 4th combined PN-RAN Maritime Security Activity includes the conduct of a series of meeting procedures and maritime patrols in the Sea Lines of Communications (SLOCs), particularly in the waters of ZamPeLan, (Zamboanga Peninsula and Lanao) Basilan and Tawi-Tawi.

He said there will also be various ship drills aboard PN and RAN vessels to test the readiness of the crew.

The PN vessels BRP-Felix Apolinario (PC-395), BRP-Anastacio Cacayorin (PC-387, and Multipurpose Attack craft BA 482 are participating in the activity. The participating RAN vessels are the HMAS Wollongong and HMAS Ararat.

Medina underscored the importance of the activity in enhancing the maritime inter-operability between the PN and RAN and other regional state navies. It also complements the current operations of the Naval Task Group Basilan and Naval Task Group ZamPeLan to pre-empt and end piracy, kidnappings and terrorism in the maritime domain, he added.

The first leg of the Maritime Security Activity was held in the Naval Forces West Area of Responsibility in Palawan from July 16 to 25, this year. (PNA)

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