August 17, 2017

Ballistic Missile Defence (BMD) Missiles Unviable for Australia

Running parallel to the threat of North Korean missiles to the US Guam territory issue is a sporadic, ill-informed Australian domestic debate on the viability of any Australian ballistic missile defences (BMD).

Isolated current and former Australian politicians (Abbott and Rudd respectively) advocate BMD for Australia against the North Korean threat. The Australian Government insists that Australian BMD is  technically ineffective and would be hugely expensive. 

I agree. This particularly applies to such scenarios as North Korean, Chinese or Russian ICBM nuclear warhead reentry vehicles descending on the terminal phase of their flight toward major Australian cities and military/intelligence sites. See Diagram-Map 1. below.

Diagram-Map 1. Guam already in range. NK is steadily developing ICBM to hit any targets in Australia. Darwin may already be in range. (Map courtesy The Daily Telegraph)
---

In view of physical realities and cost Australia doesn't have THAAD or Patriot missiles. One of Australia's AWDs (Air Warfare Destroyers) (HMAS Hobart) has AEGIS. Hobart is about to be commissioned and two more are being completed. None have BMD capable SM-3 missiles and might not have.

Australia best anti-missile missile hope is the US Ground-Based Midcourse Defense (GMD) system - and that's a poor system. 

US Ground-Based Midcourse Defense (GMD)

The US Ground-Based Midcourse Defense (GMD) BMD system goes back to Reagan era SDI "Star Wars" years and is nowhere near ready after more than US$41 Billion spent. GMD:

-  has a high failure rate, that is, a low success rate in shootdown-friendly tests,
-  would be ineffective against most enemy submarines firing nuclear tipped ballistic and cruise
   missiles from most launch positions at Australia, and
-  probably needs decades more development
-  again is extremely expensive making it perhaps of low marginal utility compared to a sovereign
   Australian nuclear deterrent


Unlike the US Australia has no overpolar (over Alaska) interceptor "chokepoint" see Diagram-Map 2 below which would increase the US chances of interception. Australia's geography, with more than 10 dispersed large cities and 10+ dispersed military/intelligence bases, would need 20+ interceptor batteries (perhaps talking 100 x GMD missiles - see below).

Diagram-Map 2.  includes the US$multi-billion giant radars deployed forward for interception of enemy ballistic missiles at their midcourse overflight "chokepoint" over Alaska. Australia has no such chokepoint but instead would need to construct 20+ interceptor batteries - a system probably more expensive than the ineffective US system. (Diagram-Map courtesy http://www.analisidifesa.it/2017/06/la-nuova-guerra-fredda-si-combatte-a-suon-di-missili/ ).

Patriot, THAAD or SM-3s located in Northeast Asia have the greatest chance of shooting down North Korean ICBMs in the early boost-phase. Australia could only send one or two AEGIS Air Warfare Destroyers, future armed with SM-3, across the world, to Northeast Asia, in the unlikely event of North Korea launching something. Australia's US, Japanese and South Korean allies are better situated for action in Northeast Asia.

The best deterrent against North Korea (like all enemy nuclear armed states) is nuclear weapons. Australia lacks its own nuclear weapons. Australia, like SK and Japan, therefore relies on their US ally's nuclear weapon deterrent.

Pete

August 15, 2017

Improvements & Higher Costs of Soryu Mark IIs Over Mark Is

Based on Anonymous comments of August 11-12, 2017 I have compiled TABLE 1 below. For an overview of the Soryu program see TABLE 2 below that:

Soryu Mark IIs are likely to cost more than US$91 million = 10 Billion (B) Yen (¥) than Soryu Mark Is, due to new:
-  LIB batteries replacing (LABs+Stirling AIP) and diesel generator sets (gensets) for greater power
   generation, and
-  sonar systems for improved detection of the enemy and for better submerged navigation-by-sonar

TABLE 1
Item/Submarine Type
Soryu Mark I
Soryu Mark II
Comments
SS order number
16SS – 26SS
27SS and 28SS
See Soryu Table below
Batteries + AIP (where applicable)
LABs + Stirling AIP

Cost of batteries/Soryu in Billion Yen (¥***B) [2]
LABs ¥1.44B
NCA-LIBs ¥8.3B
LIBs per Soryu almost 6 times costs of LABs
Battery cost/performance [3]
4.5 (for 576 LABs fitted)
5.4 (for 480 LIBs fitted)

Specific energy (Wh/kg) [4]
40-60
240
LIBs have 4-6 x the specific energy of LABs
Budgeted costs per Soryu in Billion Yen [5]
26SS ¥51.7B (FY2014)
27SS ¥64.4B (FY2015)
28SS ¥63.6B (FY2016)
MK IIs ¥12-13B more than MK Is for LIBs, new snorkel generation system, gensets. Sonar system.
Costs in Soryu Mark Is [6]
gensets cost about ¥2B & sonars ¥3-4B



[1]  Soryu Mark IIs will likely be equipped with (NCA LIBs) Lithium nickel cobalt aluminium oxide ( LiNiCoAlO) made by GS Yuasa. 

[2]  According to the Japanese Ministry of Defense’s Acquisition, Technology & Logistics Agency (ATLA) the costs of LABs and NCA-LIBs are reported to be 1.44 ¥B and 8.3 ¥B, respectively. This makes NCA-LIBs just under 6 times more expensive than LABs for each Soryu sub. But, in terms of cost/performance (see [3]), NCA-LIBs are not overly expensive.

[3]  More precisely, price ratio of LAB to NCA-LIB is 4.5 and 5.4 for 576 and 480 LIBs in Soryu Mark II, respectively.

[4]  Specific energy of NCA-LIBs are 240 Wh/kg and LABs are 40-60 Wh/kg. The specific energy of NCA-LIBs are 4 to 6 times that of LABs nearly the same as the above mentioned price raitio.

[5]  Soryu Mark IIs will cost ¥12-13B more than Mark Is for LIBs, new snorkel generation system, gensets and sonar system. This suggests major enhancements in the gensets and sonars for the Soryu Mark IIs.

[6]  The Soryu Mark Is have gensets costing about ¥2B and sonars costing ¥3-4B.

 TABLE 2 - Overvie of SORYU (& Oyashio) Programs as at August 15, 2017
SS
No.
Build No
Name
Pennant
No.
MoF approved amount ¥ Billions & FY
LABs, LIBs, AIP
Laid Down
Laun
-ched
Commi-ssioned
Built
By
5SS Oyashio
8105 Oyashio
SS-590/ TS3608
¥52.2B FY1993
LABs only
 Jan 1994
Oct 1996
Mar 1998
 KHI
6SS-15SS
Oyashios
10 subs
8106
-8115
various
SS-591-600
¥52.2B per sub
FY1994-FY2003
LABs only
 15SS Feb
2004
15SS
Nov
2006
15SS
Mar 2008
 MHI
&
KHI
16SS
Soryu Mk 1
8116
Sōryū
SS-501
¥60B FY2004
LABs + AIP
Mar 2005
Dec 2007
Mar
2009
MHI
17SS
8117
Unryū
SS-502
¥58.7B FY2005
LABs + AIP
Mar 2006
Oct 2008
Mar
2010
KHI
18SS
8118
Hakuryū
SS-503
¥56.2 FY2006
LABs + AIP
Feb 2007
Oct 2009
Mar
2011
MHI
19SS
8119
Kenryū
SS-504
¥53B FY2007
LABs + AIP
Mar 2008
Nov 2010
Mar
2012
KHI
20SS
8120
Zuiryū
SS-505
¥51B FY2008
LABs + AIP
Mar 2009
Oct 2011
Mar
2013
MHI
No
21SS
No 21SS built
22SS
8121
Kokuryū
SS-506
¥52.8B FY2010
LABs + AIP
Jan 2011
Oct 2013
Mar
2015
KHI
23SS
8122
Jinryu
SS-507
¥54.6B FY2011
LABs + AIP
Feb 2012
Oct 2014
7 Mar 2016
MHI
24SS
8123
Sekiryū
SS-508
¥54.7B FY2012
LABs + AIP
KHI
25SS
8124
Seiryū
SS-509
¥53.1B FY2013
LABs + AIP
22 Oct 2013
12 Oct 2016
Mar? 2018
MHI
26SS
8125
SS-510
LABs + AIP
2014
?
Mar 2019?
KHI
27SS First
Soryu Mk 2
8126
SS-511
LIBs only
2015
2017?
Mar
2020
MHI
28SS  Second
Soryu Mark 2
8127
SS-512
¥63.6B FY2016
LIBs only
2016?
2018?
Mar 2021?
KHI
29SS First of
New Class
?
?
¥76B FY2018
LIBs only
?
?
2023?
MHI?
Table courtesy of exclusive information provided to Submarine MattersLABs = lead-acid batteries, AIP=air independent propulsion, LIBs=lithium-ion batteries. ¥***B = Billion Yen.


Anonymous and Pete

August 14, 2017

Against North Korea Nuclear Deterrence Surer Than Ballistic Missile Defences

Shooting down NK ballistic missiles with AEGIS - SM-3 then THAAD in the boost phase and beginning of the mid flight phase is probably the best chance to shoot down the missiles. But still difficult to shoot down all. Shooting down single or multiple missile warheads in the terminal phase when they are plunging from space at hypersonic speeds is the most difficult time to hit them. (Map/Diagram courtesy US Missile Defense Agency, Raytheon, Lockheed Martin via CNN)
--- 

Ballistic missile defences (BMD) to defend countries ever further from North Korea (NK) include:

South Korea (SK) relies on:
-  Patriot missiles, 
-  only one battery of US THAAD missiles (more blocked by China)
-  US ship based AEGIS aiming SM-3 missiles. Several ships per US carrier group) see Submarine 
   Matters’ article in April 2017.
-  SK does have AEGIS destroyers but they do net yet have SM-3. 
-  SK lacks its own nuclear weapons - the best deterrent against NK nuclear weapons

Japan has:
-  AEGIS destroyers mounting SM-3 
-  some AEGIS armed US ships may also protect Japan.
-  Patriot missiles
-  For more complete protection Japan could purchase AEGIS ashore and/or THAAD
   (Russia opposes Japan acquiring THAAD. China may oppose THAAD for Japan also.). 
-  Japan lacks its own nuclear weapons - the best deterrent against NK nuclear weapons

Guam has:
-  THAAD
-  the US has nuclear weapons - the best deterrent against NK nuclear weapons
-  Japan’s new Defence Minister Onodera said Japan’s right of collective self-defence could legally 
    permit Japan to intercept NK ballistic missiles aimed at (or near) for Guam. But Japan's BMDs
    may be incapable of shooting down an NK missile launched for Guam.

Guam already in range. A risk is NK might aim to launch missiles near Guam but they might hit Guam by mistake - thus resulting in US retaliation. NK is steadily developing ICBM with the range to hit Australia. (Map courtesy The Daily Telegraph).
---

Australia has:
-  no SM-3, THAAD or Patriot missiles. A major reason is that they would likely be very ineffective
   against ICBM warhead re-entry vehicles once the ICBMs have reached Australian airspace from
   China, Russia or North Korea.

The US capability to extend nuclear deterrence to all of its allies (including South Korea, Japan and Australia) and its own Guam territory, has been tested as effective since 1949 (year of Russia's first nuclear test). Nuclear deterrence has existed much longer than inaccurate BMD systems.

See this very useful interactive site (on SM-3, Aegis, THAAD and Patriots) from the US DoD Missile Defense Agency.

Pete

August 11, 2017

Australia would support the US Against North Korea, Prime Minister Turnbull says.

Over the last 24 hours Australia's Prime Minister Turnbull has declared that Australia, as an ally of the US, would come to the aid of the US, if the US went to war with North Korea (NK).

Turnbull's words were "America stands by its allies, including Australia of course, and we stand by the United States...So be very, very clear on that. If there's an attack on the US, the ANZUS Treaty would be invoked and Australia would come to the aid of the United States, as America would come to our aid if we were attacked."

When Turnbull was specifically asked what would happen in the event of an attack on the US territory of Guam, Turnbull said: “We would come to the aid of the United States. Now, how that manifests itself will obviously depend on the circumstances and the consultations with our allies [which includes New Zealand under ANZUS].”


COMMENT

If NK carried out its threat to fire missiles at the US Territory of Guam this might be a trigger for a US counter-strike against NK. If NK's action is judged "an attack on the US" Australia might then send air and/or sea units to reinforce US forces facing NK.

Australian military assets that might conceivably work with US forces could include:

Aircraft, for example, Australian:

-  AP-3C Orions and/or P-8 Poseidons to patrol against NK submarines, NK ships and boats.
-  Boeing 737 (platform) E-7A Wedgetail AEW&C aircraft
-  Airbus A330 Multi Role Tanker Transport (MRTT) aerial refueling aircraft
-  possibly Australian F/A-18/F and/or F/A-18A strike aircraft, and
-  EA-18G (Growler) electronic jamming aircraft

Perhaps ships, including:

-  2 Anzac class and/or Adelaide class frigates. 
-  Australia's first Air Warfare Destroyer, HMAS Hobart, is unlikely to be commissioned in time.
-  For the frigates' long voyage north 1 replenishment ship (HMAS Sirius or HMAS Success
-  Collins submarines for blocking defence, closer to Australian waters.

A form of Australian assistance to the US already is the Australian missile tracking station at Pine Gap near the town of Alice Springs, Northern Territory, Australia. Pine Gap is an Earth/ground station which works with satellites to detect North Korean, Chinese and Russian missiles being launched and helps determine their flight direction. The Gap is jointly run by Australian and US agencies.

It is still unclear what South Korea, Japan, China and Russia might do given their geographic proximity to North Korea.


Pete

August 10, 2017

Would North Korean Agents Go On A One Way Suicidal Nuclear Bomb Mission?

SITUATION


"Nuclear Intelligence ReportIn August 2017, the Washington Post reported on a confidential assessment carried out by the U.S. Defense Intelligence Agency which suggested that North Korea had successfully developed nuclear warheads for missiles within reach of the US mainland.[74] 

Reacting to the report President Trump stated that future threats would be "met with fire and fury and frankly power, the likes of which this world has never seen before." In response North Korea announced that it was examining an operational plan to strike areas around the U.S. territory of Guam in the Pacific, including the Andersen Air Force Base.[75] " and Naval Base Guam which includes nuclear attack submarine (SSN) Squadron 15.

COMMENT

Even if North Korea hasn't yet miniaturised warheads small enough to fit on a missile or torpedo, North Korea could try to deliver larger nuclear devices (maybe 2+ tons), especially to South Korea and/or Japan by other means, including North Korean:

-  mini to medium submarines carrying fitted nuclear demolition charges. The subs would need to be 
   manned by a crew prepared to die or escape by diver delivery/propulsion vehicle (which allow 
   divers to "swim" away faster). 

-  nuclear devices on "civilian cargo ships" or "trawlers" that may have been at sea for days-weeks. 
   Escape the explosion using fast rigid dingies.

-  on aircraft: transport, "civilian" aircraft, or regular reconnaissance aircraft. Bomber aircraft may be
   a bit obvious. A semi-suicidal crew would need to parachute or eject.

-  a well disguised truck load?

-  via a tunnel under North Korean-South Korean border.

All of these methods would be near suicidal for the delivery crew. I don't know how frequently North Korean troops or agents are prepared to carry out suicide missions, but there is a history of it from the 1996 Gangneung submarine incident.

Pete