The Air Force has just escalated its response to efforts by the airlines to hire away military pilots. They’re throwing huge retention bonuses to the pilots and boosting flight pay to $1,000 a month.
According to a report by BreakingDefense.com, the flight pay boost will add an additional $1,800 a month to the paychecks of officers. Enlisted men will see their flight pay go from $400 to $600 a month, a 50 percent increase, and taking their pay up $2,400 a year.
“We need to retain our experienced pilots and these are some examples of how we’re working to do that,” said Secretary of the Air Force Heather Wilson in an Air Force release. “We can’t afford not to compensate our talented aviators at a time when airlines are hiring unprecedented numbers.”
In addition to announcing the increased flight pay, Secretary Wilson announced the creation of an “Aircrew Crisis Task Force” under Brig. Gen. Michael G. Koscheski. This task force’s formation is a sign that the pilot shortage the Air Force is facing has not improved. The Air Force release noted that at the end of Fiscal Year 2016, the Air Force was short 1,555 pilots overall, including 1,211 fighter pilots.
The Air Force is looking to bring back 25 retired pilots to fill staff positions through the Voluntary Rated Return to Active Duty program, allowing pilots who are still current to be returned to front-line duties. The staff positions are non-flying, but retired pilots could have sufficient expertise to handle them.
This past June, the Air Force increased its Aviation Bonus cap from $25,000 a year to $35,000. These bonuses are paid to pilots who commit to stay past their service commitment for up to nine years.
The Air Force was also seeking to reduce the number of non-flying assignments for pilots, including headquarters positions and developmental opportunities. The Air Force is also trying to reduce additional units and add more flexibility for Airmen with families and children.
Turkey and the US-backed YPG forces — which have been helping the coalition fight ISIS in Syria — have been clashing off and on since at least April.
At the end of that month, the two sides exchanged rocket fire, which Turkey says killed 11 YPG fighters. In early July, Turkey deployed troops to the Kurdish-held border in northwest Syria, which the YPG commander called “a declaration of war.”
YPG and Turkish-backed rebels — who the YPG call mercenaries — clashed in northwest Syria on July 17, Reuters reported. The YPG said it killed three Turkish-backed rebels and wounded four more.
Turkey views the YPG as a terrorist group and extension of the PKK, which has been trying to set up its own Kurdish state within Turkey for decades. And the US has placed itself right between the two sides.
Turkey is the third-largest purchaser of US weapons, and in early May, the US began supplying weapons to the YPG to help in the coalition’s fight against ISIS.
The latter move has angered Turkey even more than the US’s unwillingness to extradite Fethullah Gulen, according to Kemal Kirisci, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution. Gulen is a Muslim cleric who lives in Pennsylvania and has been accused by Turkey of organizing the attempted coup in 2016.
These developments have coincided with Turkey’s gradual drift toward Russia. Ankara and Moscow recently agreed to build a pipeline through Turkey, which allows Moscow to bypass Ukraine, and last week, Turkey signed an agreement with Russia for the $2.5 billion purchase of Moscow’s advanced S-400 missile-defense system.
Turkey is also one of the three guarantors, along with Russia and Iran, of the Syrian de-escalation zones.
Kirisci told Business Insider that he can’t prove there is a direct connection between Turkey moving closer to Russia and the US supplying the YPG with weapons, but he did say, “You don’t need to be escorted to a village that you can see in the distance.”
“[Turkey] has been pissed off at the US for a long time,” Aaron Stein, a senior fellow with the Atlantic Council, told Business Insider. “They’re not leaving NATO, but they’re trying to show everyone that they have options.”
Stein added that “the US is partly to blame” for increased tensions between Turkey and YPG, but, he said, “all sides have blood on their hands in this thing.”
Kirisci also said that “the Pentagon is running its own show,” and the US State Department doesn’t appear to be checking its decisions.
“We are concerned [about increased tensions between Turkey and YPG] but doing everything we can to defuse the situation,” Marine Corps Maj. Adrian J.T. Rankine-Galloway, a Pentagon spokesman, told Business Insider.
Rankine-Galloway said that the weapons, which are tracked with serial numbers, will be collected from the YPG after the fight with ISIS concludes.
But Kirisci and Stein both said they were doubtful that the US will be able to collect the weapons from the YPG. “They’ll try, but it won’t happen,” Stein said.
It’s “to be determined” if a full-scale war will break out between Turkey and the YPG once the fight against ISIS is over, Stein said. The US probably won’t leave northwest Syria for a while, and its presence will help deter fighting between the two sides.
The skirmishes that have happened between Turkey and the YPG have happened in areas where there is no US troop presence.
Check out five reasons why veterans deal with problems better than anybody.
5. We improvise, adapt, and overcome
No mission ever goes as expected. Although we plan for what we think might happen, there’s always a hiccup or two. We pride ourselves on our ability to think on our toes, come up with plans, and solve problems in ways civilians couldn’t fathom.
That’s our thing!
4. We negotiate well under pressure
Many people freeze up when conflict arises. The military trains us to think under pressure and continue to execute until the mission is completed. We tend to carry that impressive trait over to the civilian workforce.
3. We learned to delegate responsibility
In the military, we’re trained to look for our team members’ strengths and positively utilize those traits. Not everyone can be great at everything. Focusing on individual talents builds confidence, which yields the best results when they’re tasked with a crucial mission.
Most civilians stay away from certain responsibilities if they know it’ll lead to a rough journey down the road.
We can tell. (Image via GIPHY)
2. Our experience alone solves issues
Most military personnel travel the world and encounter the problematic events that life throws at us. These experiences give us a worldly knowledge and teach us how we can better work with others outside of our comfort zone.
The sanctions against seven individuals and three entities, including the North Korean government, freeze any property within US jurisdiction and prohibit any transactions by US citizens with those targeted.
The sanctioned entities include the Workers’ Party of Korea.
“North Korea is run by a brutal regime that continues to engage in serious human rights abuses,” said Treasury Secretary Steven T. Mnuchin. “We are especially concerned with the North Korean military, which operates as secret police, punishing all forms of dissent. Further, the military operates outside of North Korea to hunt down asylum seekers, and brutally detains and forcibly returns North Korean citizens.”
The action comes about one week before President Trump embarks on his first trip to Asia, where he will visit Japan, South Korea, and China to hold discussions on curbing North Korea’s nuclear weapons and missile programs.
Mr. Mnuchin said the sanctions “target the North Korean military and regime officials engaged in flagrant abuses of human rights.”
“We also are targeting North Korean financial facilitators who attempt to keep the regime afloat with foreign currency earned through forced labor operations,” he said.
In September, the Treasury Department leveled sanctions against eight North Korean banks and 26 people linked to the country’s financial networks, seeking to curb Pyongyang’s belligerence.
The Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control said the new sanctions are aimed at North Korea’s Military Security Command and two of its top officials, Jo Kyong-Chol and Sin Yong Il, and Ri Thae Chol, the country’s first vice minister of the Ministry of People’s Security.
Also sanctioned are Ku Sung Sop, the consul general in Shenyang, China, and Kim Min Chol, an official in the North Korean Embassy in Vietnam.
Sure, we all know that kids with military parents have to move around a lot. It’s a bummer making friends in school since in a couple years you’re going to be bouncing off to another base and have to start all over again.
So, aside from the obvious fact that you can pack your house up in a day and fit most of it on the roof of a minivan, here are some other signs you might be a military brat.
1. You don’t have a hometown
Having to move every 3 years or so makes it hard to really get comfortable in any one place too long. The military lifestyle exposes military kids to new places and foreign cultures, but it can also be hard to have lasting friendships.
2. You know military time
Military brats actually know what 1600 hours means. But they need to be careful since using military time could confuse some of their non-military friends.
3. You have MREs in your house
Military brats have grown up having Meals Ready to Eat in their house. Many actually grow to like them and may even have their favorite meal.
4. The PX/BX is everything
The Post Exchange is where you go when you need new clothes and shoes. Why go to Walmart when you have the PX/BX within walking distance from your house?
5. You wake up early
Headquarter U.S. Army Pacific started the Suicide Prevention Stand Down with Reveille followed by a resilience run/walk. (Photo Credit: Russell K. Dodson)
Military brats don’t need an alarm clock to wake up in the morning. The bugle sounds of Reveille, which normally occurs at 0630 on military installations, will get those kids up faster than mom or dad ever could.
6. You know the importance of a promotion
Unlike other kids, military children get to take part in their parent’s promotion ceremonies. This teaches military brats the value of hard work and makes them appreciate their parents even more.
7. You get to do cool stuff
Military brats get to do all kinds of cool stuff like ride in military vehicles, learn the basics of military parachuting, fly around in military aircraft and much more. Often this makes them the envy of their non-military friends.
8. It’s hard to say good-bye
Saying good-bye to your parents when they go on deployment is never easy. You worry about them every day and hope they are alright. You can’t wait to be reunited with them again.
The loss of the submarine ARA San Juan this past November is the most significant loss of a submarine since an explosion sank the Russian Oscar-class nuclear-powered guided-missile submarine Kursk in 2000. All 44 sailors aboard the German-designed Type 209 diesel-electric submarine were lost when it went on eternal patrol.
ARA San Juan pierside.
(Photo by Martin Otero)
It took over four months, but the story of what happened to the San Juan was finally revealed in August of 2018. According to a report by TeleSurTV.com, the submarine suffered a fire in her forward battery compartment on Nov. 15, 2017, after seawater went down the submarine’s “snorkel.”
The crew of the sub fought the fire for two hours as the submarine descended. The vessel then reportedly imploded, instantly killing all 44 sailors on board. Claims that the submarine was in poor material condition were denied by the Argentinean Navy. A massive rescue effort, which included a Lockheed P-3 Orion and a Boeing P-8 Poseidon from the United States Navy, went on for weeks before the search was called off.
USS Cochino (SS 345) departing on her last mission. One civilian engineer was killed when she was lost, as well as six sailors from USS Tusk (SS 426).
In the years after World War II, the United States lost two Balao-class diesel-electric submarines. In 1949, USS Cochino (SS 345) suffered a pair of battery explosions that sank the ship despite a 14-hour effort to save the vessel. One civilian engineer on the Cochino and six sailors from USS Tusk were lost.
In 1958, USS Stickleback (SS 415) was taking part in a training exercise when she lost power, broached the surface, and was rammed by the John C. Butler-class destroyer escort USS Silverstein (DE 534). Efforts by the crews of both vessels, plus the submarine USS Sabalo (SS 302), the destroyer escort USS Sturtevant (DE 239), and the submarine rescue ship USS Greenlet (ASR 10) to save the Stickleback failed. The sub sank, but all aboard were rescued.
The U.S. has been quietly amassing firepower in the Pacific during a lull in tensions with North Korea, but recent developments on an under-the-radar nuclear weapon suggest preparation for a potential tactical nuclear strike.
While the B-2 and B-52 are known as the air leg of the U.S.’s nuclear triad, as they carry nuclear-capable air-launched cruise missiles, a smaller nuclear weapon that has undergone some upgrades may lend itself to a strike on North Korea.
Not only will the B-61’s new modification make it ideal for destroying dug-in bunkers, the kind in which North Korean leader Kim Jong Un might hide during a conflict, but it has an adjustable nuclear yield that could limit harmful radioactive fallout after a nuclear attack.
Though the U.S. has plenty of nuclear weapons that can easily hit North Korea from land, air, or sea, they’re predominantly large ones meant to deter countries like Russia or China.
A 2017 paper in MIT’s International Security journal suggested that recent advances in guidance systems and nuclear weapons could allow the U.S. to destroy all of North Korea’s nuclear infrastructure while causing 100 or so deaths, versus 2 million to 3 million deaths on both sides of the 38th parallel without them.
But Melissa Hanham, a senior research associate at the James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies, suggested the paper was flawed.
Hanham told Business Insider that the paper’s supposition that only five sites would constitute the bulk or entirety of North Korea’s nuclear infrastructure stood without merit.
North Korea has gone to great lengths to deter nuclear or conventional strikes by spreading its nuclear infrastructure across the country. The sites are shrouded in secrecy, and the U.S. intelligence community, despite its best, concerted efforts, has been wrong about their locations before, a former State Department official told Business Insider.
Trump seems to like the idea of tactical nuke strikes and striking North Korea
Despite evidence that tactical nuclear weapons won’t solve the North Korean military quagmire, President Donald Trump’s administration has looked favorably on smaller nuclear weapons.
The B-61 bombs live in military bases spread across Europe and are much less visible than big bombers, whose movements are often publicized. For example, The Aviationist reported in October that a civilian with a handheld radio scanner intercepted B-2 and B-52 pilots over Kansas training to pull off a strike on North Korean VIP targets.
But experts and politicians have characterized the idea of a nuclear strike as destabilizing and frankly crazy. Rep. John Garamendi, a California Democrat on the House Armed Services Committee, questioned the wisdom of it in an interview with Business Insider.
“Certainly, North Korea understands that the U.S. is pretty tough,” Garamendi said. “The U.S. is prepared and willing to respond to aggression by North Korea.”
He added: “But we must assume that if we were to do a bloody-nose attack, that North Korea would respond in some way. Then what?”
The Department of Defense was forced to issue an apology Sept. 21, 2019, after a tweet was sent out the day before suggesting the military was going to bomb millenials attempting to raid Area 51 into oblivion with America’s top bomber.
The offending tweet was posted on Sept. 20, 2019, by the Defense Visual Information Distribution Service (DVIDSHub), a DoD media service, in response to the “Storm Area 51” event, which was held the day the tweet was posted.
“The last thing #Millennials will see if they attempt the #area51 raid today,” the tweet read. The accompanying image was a B-2 Spirit bomber, a highly-capable stealth aircraft built to slip past enemy defenses and devastate targets with nuclear and conventional munitions.
Screenshot of the now-deleted tweet from the Defense Visual Information Distribution Service.
The tweet received some immediate backlash online. “The military should not be threatening to kill citizens, not even misguided ones,” Jeffrey Lewis, the director of the East Asia Nonproliferation Program at the Middlebury Institute of International Studies at Monterey, tweeted Sept. 20, 2019.
On Sept. 21, 2019, DVIDSHub deleted the troubling tweet and issued an apology. “Last night a DVIDSHUB employee posted a tweet that in NO WAY supports the stance of the Department of Defense,” the military media division wrote. “It was inappropriate and we apologize for this mistake.”
The “Storm Area 51” movement evolved from a Facebook post that went viral. Hundreds of thousands of people signed up for the “Storm Area 51, They Can’t Stop Us All” event, which jokingly called for people to overrun the remote Nevada air force base to “see them aliens.”
The event was ultimately canceled by the organizers due to safety concerns, although some people did show up and there were a handful of arrests.
The Air Force was taking the potential threat seriously though. “Our nation has secrets, and those secrets deserve to be protected,” Chief of Staff Gen. David Goldfein said a few days prior to the event. “People deserve to have our nation’s secrets protected.”
Acting Air Force Secretary Matt Donovan added that the service was coordinating its efforts with local law enforcement. “There’s a lot of media attention, so they’re expecting some folks to show up there. We’re prepared, and we’ve provided them additional security personnel, as well as additional barricades.”
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
It was 2006, and Army Staff Sgt. Brett Johnson of the 1st Ranger Battalion peered through night-vision goggles, slowly moving with his squad toward a house in Iraq with a high-value target inside. They knew there were armed militants nearby, but they had no idea they were about to run into one.
“Right as we were about to break the corner of the building, a guy — unbeknownst to us — was literally coming around the corner with an AK-47,” now-Sgt. Maj. Johnson of the 3rd Ranger Battalion recalled 13 years later.
But the insurgent didn’t make it, thanks to a sniper.
“As we broke the corner, he took the most perfect, well-aimed shot and put him down,” Johnson recalled. “Had he not been there, that guy … definitely would have shot one of us.”
“It was pretty incredible for him to take that shot. An error of one foot to the right could have hit one of us,” Johnson continued.
Things happen quickly in a firefight, and even the best technology can’t always keep up with the changing battlefield environment. That’s why the sniper’s reconnaissance skills and ability to relay intelligent information to the commander are crucial.
“We’ve got drones, we’ve got robots, we’ve got all kinds of stuff … but we still need that real-time battlefield information that keeps soldiers safe,” said Staff Sgt. Michael Turner, a sniper course instructor.
Becoming a sniper isn’t easy. The qualification course at the Army Sniper School in Fort Benning, Georgia, is seven weeks long, and any military branch or federal agency can send candidates. Instructors say there’s currently about a 60 percent attrition rate.
An Army Sniper School graduate prepares for a final challenge at Fort Benning, Ga., Feb. 28, 2019.
(Photo by EJ Hersom)
“As you go through it and see the maturity and discipline that it takes in order to take a shot and execute the orders … that takes an emotional toll on you, Turner said. “That’s why you need a more disciplined, intelligent soldier to process those emotions.”
It takes someone who knows how to manage resources and someone with serious patience — there’s a lot of observing and waiting for something to happen.
“They’re some of the most patient people I’ve ever met in my life,” Johnson said.
Take the stalking portion of the course. Using their homemade ghillie suits — camouflage uniforms they’ve personally retrofitted for durability and protection in all sorts of weather conditions — the sniper candidates get to “veg out” by incorporating vegetation into those suits to blend in with their surroundings. They then spend the next couple of hours moving at a snail’s pace through an area of woods. The goal — take a shot at the instructors who are looking for them in the brush, hoping to find them first.
An Army sniper school graduate walks past spotters after completing a stalk course where snipers try to evade detection from the course instructors at Fort Benning Fort Benning, Ga., Feb. 28, 2019.
(Photo by EJ Hersom)
But school instructors said a lot of candidates fail that part. When we visited, not a single sniper team got to take their shot.
“The hardest part about this school so far has been stalking for me, because I’m a big, gawky guy, so crawling through the woods is tough,” explained Staff Sgt. Johnnie Newton, who passed the course.
Then there are the technical aspects. They’re always refining their skills for every possible circumstance, like wind and distance.
“If I’m operating in a rural environment like Afghanistan, I have longer lines of sight and I’m at higher elevation. What that means is I’m able to extend the capability of my weapons system to a greater distance,” said Staff Sgt. Christopher Rance, team leader of the Army sniper course. “In an urban environment, things are a lot quicker, a lot more dynamic, with shorter field of views.”
Today, the Ticonderoga-class cruiser is the epitome of a vessel designed with the primary purpose of protecting capital ships from an aerial threat.
With the Aegis fire control system, two 64-cell Mk 41 vertical launch systems, and a pair of five-inch guns, among other weapons, the Tico can handle just about anything the enemy has that flies.
But this wasn’t the only cruiser designed to primarily confront the aerial threat. That honor falls to the cruiser USS Atlanta (CL 51), which was commissioned 17 days after the attack on Pearl Harbor. The Atlanta was also designed to serve as a scout or a flotilla leader for destroyers, but her main battery of 16 5-inch/38 guns gave her a powerful anti-aircraft armament.
The Navy originally ordered four of these cruisers, but doubled the total after the start of the war. Three slightly modified versions, known as the Juneau-class cruisers, were later acquired, but not finished until after the war.
According to the “Dictionary of American Naval Fighting Ships,” the USS Atlanta saw action in the Battle of Midway, the invasion of Guadalcanal, the Battle of the Eastern Solomons, the Battle of the Santa Cruz Islands, and the Naval Battle of Guadalcanal. In that last battle, she was heavily damaged by both friendly and enemy fire, and ultimately had to be scuttled.
Other than the second ship of the class, USS Juneau (CL 52) — best known as the vessel that the five Sullivan brothers from Waterloo, Iowa, perished aboard — the rest of the Atlanta-class cruisers survived the war.
The USS Reno (CL 96) did have a hell of a fight for survival after being torpedoed in November 1944.
The last Atlanta-class cruiser to serve in the United States Navy was the USS Juneau (CL 119), the lead ship of her sub-class that was completed in the months after World War II.
Russian media announced on Jan. 11, 2019, that it had significantly improved the stealth on its Su-57 fighter jet by applying a coating to the glass canopy on the cockpit, as well as similar upgrades to its Tu-160 nuclear bomber.
Russia’s state-owned defense corporation Rostec told Russian media the new coating “doubles radar wave absorption and reduces the aircraft cockpit’s radar signature by 30%” and added that Russia’s Su-57, Su-30, Su-34, Su-35, and MiG-29K jets already have the upgrade.
But none of those jets, including the Su-57, which Russia explicitly bills as a stealth fighter, are considered that stealthy by experts contacted by Business Insider.
While Russia’s Sukhoi fighter/bombers have enviable maneuverability and serious dogfighting capability, only the US and China have produced true stealth fighters.
Conspicuous rivets jutting out of the airframe and accentuator humps spoiled any possible stealth in the design, the scientist said.
Radar absorbing materials have been used to disguise fighter planes since World War II and have some utility, but will do little to hide Russian jets which have to carry weapons stores externally.
Other experts told Business Insider the Su-57’s likely mission was to hunt and kill US stealth aircraft like the F-22 or F-35.
TASS, a Russian state-run media outlet, described the Su-57 as a “multirole fighter designed to destroy all types of air targets at long and short ranges and hit enemy ground and naval targets, overcoming its air defense capabilities.”
But Russia has declined to mass-produce the jet despite declaring it “combat proven” after limited engagements against rebel forces in Syria that didn’t have anti-air capabilities.
While Eddie Rickenbacker has a claim to fame as the top American ace of World War I, there were plenty of other Americans who fought valiantly with Allies from the air.
One of them, Eugene Bullard, has the distinction of being the first African-American military pilot.
According to Air and Space Power Journal, Bullard was born in Columbus, Georgia, on Oct 9, 1894. At 8 years old, he left Georgia after his father narrowly escaped a lynching, and made his way to Norfolk where he worked a series of odd jobs before he stowed away on a ship bound for Scotland.
He worked more odd jobs across Scotland and England, including as a longshoreman and on a fish wagon, until he discovered talents for boxing and performing. That talent eventually landed him in Paris just as World War I started.
Bullard spent two years with an infantry unit and was wounded during the Battle of Verdun. He then transferred to the French Flying Corps. During his time in the infantry, he was nicknamed “The Black Swallow of Death.” Bullard would score two kills in just over two months of combat flying. After the U.S. ignored his application to be a pilot for the American military despite his combat experience, he was transferred to non-combat duties by the French until his discharge in 1919.
Bullard would settle down in France, but come to his adopted country’s defense again in World War II, first serving as a spy, then seeing ground combat near Orleans. After he was wounded, he was medically evacuated, along with his daughters to the United States. He eventually went to work as an elevator operator in New York City.
In 1954, France invited Bullard and two other men to re-light the Eternal Flame at the Arc de Triomphe. In 1959, he was named a Knight of the Legion of Honor, and was interviewed on the Today Show. The next year, Charles de Gaulle publicly declared Bullard a hero of France.
Bullard died on Oct. 12, 1961, after an illness caused by the wounds he had received. He was 67 years old. In 1994, 100 years after he was born, the U.S. Air Force granted him a commission as a Lieutenant.
In October 2006, a Chinese Song-class diesel-electric submarine capable of carrying torpedoes and antiship missiles surfaced within firing range of the aircraft carrier USS Kitty Hawk.
“Some navy officers interpreted it as a ‘Gotcha!’ move,” journalist Michael Fabey wrote in his 2017 book, Crashback. It was “a warning from China that US carrier groups could no longer expect to operate with impunity.”
Almost exactly nine years later, China again demonstrated its growing naval prowess, when a Kilo-class diesel-electric attack sub shadowed the aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan near southern Japan.
One defense official told The Washington Free Beacon that the sub’s appearance “set off alarm bells on the Reagan,” though there was no sign of threatening behavior.
The US still “owns the undersea realm in the western Pacific right now and is determined” to maintain it, Fabey told Business Insider in a February 2018 interview. But “China has grown — in terms of maritime power, maritime projection — more quickly than any country in the region,” he added. “The growth has been incredible.”
That expansion has prompted similar moves by its neighbors, who are asking whether China will abide by or remake the rules of the road.
‘Armed to the teeth’
Since 2002, China has built 10 nuclear subs: six Shang I- and II-class nuclear-powered attack subs — capable of firing anti-ship and land-attack missiles — and four Jin-class nuclear-powered ballistic missile subs, according to a 2017 US Defense Department assessment.
“China’s four operational JIN-class SSBNs represent China’s first credible, sea-based nuclear deterrent,” the assessment notes. Documents accidentally posted online by a Chinese shipbuilder also revealed plans for a new, quieter nuclear-powered attack submarine as well as a separate “quiet” submarine project.
The brunt of China’s undersea force, however, is its diesel-electric subs. It has access to 54 diesel-electric subs, but it’s not clear if all of them are in service, according to the International Institute for Strategic Studies, which said China’s current operational diesel-electric fleet was likely 48 subs.
The Defense Department believes China could have about 70 subs by 2020. While it looks unlikely to build more nuclear subs by then, adding 20 Yuan-class diesel-electric subs “seems to be entirely reasonable,” IISS says.
That expansion would require more investment in training and maintenance, but diesel-electric subs are potent, Fabey said.
“The submarine force [China is] putting out there is substantial, and partly because they have a lot of diesel-electrics and nuclear forces,” he told Business Insider. “Those diesel-electrics especially are … armed to the teeth. They’re armed with antiship missiles that really can give anyone, including the US forces, serious pause.”
China’s subs are also stretching their legs.
In May 2016, a Chinese nuclear-powered attack sub docked in Karachi, Pakistan — the first port call in South Asia by a Chinese nuclear attack sub, according to the Defense Department. (Chinese subs previously made port calls in Sri Lanka, much to India’s chagrin.)
In January 2017, a Chinese attack sub returning from anti-piracy patrols in the western Indian Ocean stopped in a Malaysian port on the South China Sea, over which Beijing has made expansive and contested claims. A Malaysian official said it was the first time a Chinese sub had visited the country.
In January 2018, a Chinese Shang-class nuclear-powered attack sub was detected in the contiguous zone around the Senkaku/Diaoyu Islands in the East China Sea— the first confirmed identification of a Chinese sub that area. That wasn’t the first unannounced maneuver by Chinese subs in the East China Sea, but those islands are disputed, and Japan protested the sub’s presence in that zone.
“You’re seeing Chinese submarines farther and farther and farther away” from China, Fabey said. “Chinese subs now make routine patrols into the Indian Ocean … This is a very big deal, just in terms of what you have to think is out there.”
‘Driving the Chinese absolutely crazy’
The US Navy has roughly 50 nuclear-powered attack subs. But many are aging, and the Navy’s most recent force-structure analysis said 66 attack subs were needed.
US Navy Adm. Harry Harris, head of Pacific Command, has said his command has half the subs it needs to meet its peacetime requirements. Adm. John Richardson, chief of naval operations, has also said maintenance backlogs could hinder efforts to deploy additional subs in the event of a conflict.
A sub shortfall was expected in the mid-2020s, as production of new Virginia-class attack subs was reduced after production of new Colombia-class ballistic-missile subs started in 2021. But the Navy has said US industry can continue to build two Virginia-class subs a year, even after starting to build one Columbia-class sub a year in 2021.
The 2018 budget included also money for increased production of Virginia-class subs — which are “the creme de la creme,” Fabey said.
China’s neighbors are also racing to add subs, looking not only for a military edge, but also to keep an eye on their turf.
Diesel-electrics are relatively cheap, and countries like Russia and China are willing to sell them, Fabey said. “So you have this big proliferation of diesel-electric subs, because with just the purchase of a few diesel-electric subs, a nation can develop a strategic force.”
“All those countries, they’re the home team, so they don’t need to have nuclear subs necessarily to go anywhere [and] project power,” he said. “They want to just project power in their little neighborhoods, and that’s why diesel-electrics are so amazingly good.”
“When you go and you go down to the thermals, the different layers of the ocean, it becomes very hard to detect subs … and you shut off everything except for electric power — it puts out less of a signal than a light bulb would,” Fabey added.
Between 2009 and 2016, Vietnam bought six Russian-made Kilo-class subs. That force “is driving the Chinese absolutely crazy,” Fabey said, “because China can no longer just operate in the Gulf of Tonkin, for example, at will.”
Japan is also growing its navy, which had 18 subs in early 2016. In November 2017, it launched its 10th Soryu-class diesel-electric sub, and in March 2018 it commissioned its ninth Soryu-class sub. Those subs have air-independent propulsion systems that allow them to remain submerged for up to two weeks. They also have quieting technology, can carry torpedoes and antiship missiles, and excel at navigating tough seascapes.
Indonesia, which had two subs as of spring 2017, is looking to add subs that can operate in shallow coastal waters. In August 2017, it commissioned its first attack sub in 34 years — a diesel-electric capable of carrying torpedoes and guided missiles and of performing anti-surface and anti-sub warfare.
In early 2017, Indonesia was working with or in talks with South Korean, French, and Russian shipbuilders to acquire more subs. (Jakarta has since reduced its original requirement for 12 new subs by 2024 to eight.)
Taiwan, whose efforts to buy foreign subs to join its four aging subs have been thwarted by China, announced a domestic sub-building program in spring 2017.
India already more than a dozen subs in active service. The country’s first domestic nuclear-powered ballistic-missile sub, INS Arihant, was commissioned in late 2016, after a seven-year development process. The next Arihant-class sub, INS Aridaman, was poised for launch in late 2017. India’s latest sub, the diesel-electric, first-in-class INS Kalvari, was commissioned in December 2017.
The next two Kalvari-class subs, built by a French firm, have already arrived. The six and last Kalvari-class sub is due to join the fleet in 2020. In July 2017, New Dehli contacted foreign shipyards with a request for information about building its next six nonnuclear subs.
India’s efforts have been plagued by delays, however. The Kalvari was supposed to be delivered in 2012 but was four years late. Mistakes have also set India back — the Arihant, for example, has been out of service since early 2017, when it flooded because a hatch was left open as it submerged.
India has expressed considerable concern about Chinese naval activity in the Indian Ocean, which includes submarine patrols, as well as its efforts to court countries in the region.
Beijing has sold subs to Bangladesh, which has bought two, Pakistan, which has bought eight, and Thailand, which may buy up to four.
Countries buying Chinese subs rely on China’s naval officers and technicians for support and maintenance — which extends Beijing’s influence.
“I believe that’s a counter to the increasing encroachment by Chinese forces,” Fabey said of India’s naval activity
“What the two countries have established on land, they’re now looking to establish in the ocean, India especially,” he added. “It’s not about to let China encroach just willy-nilly.”
All these countries are likely to face challenges developing and maintaining a sub force, Fabey said, pointing to the case of Argentina’s ARA San Juan, a diesel-electric sub lost with all hands in the South Atlantic last year. But subs are not the only military hardware in demand in East Asia, and the buildup comes alongside uncertainty about the balance of power in the region.
Apprehension about China’s growth has been tempered by increasing economic reliance on Beijing. And the current and previous US administration have left countries in the region, including longtime allies, unsure about what role the US is willing to play there.
“Everyone out in Asia is on one hand scared of China, and the other hand, they need China for trade,” Fabey said. “Also there’s a real sense of, ‘China’s right here, America’s on the other side of the world.'”
“And there’s a sense of reevaluating China,” he added, “because if you don’t have the 500-pound gorilla from the West, then you’ve got to worry about the 500-pound dragon in the East a little bit more.”