Sunday, June 4, 2023

What Makes A Navy?

One may ask, and the proper answer will be: people--first, and then--ships. Both are crucial but here is a funny thing, which many still cannot wrap their brains around. Especially true for West's media "experts" whose tactical-operational and technological horizon is limited to iPhones and Clanciesque meaningless cliches. Here is an example from CNN:

It’s a growing problem that has United States naval commanders scratching their heads: How to keep up with China’s ever-expanding fleet of warships. Not only is China’s navy already the world’s largest, its numerical lead over the US is getting wider, with the head of the US Navy warning recently that American shipyards simply can’t keep up. Some experts estimate China can build three warships in the time it takes the US to build one. It is just one of the concerns, alongside Beijing’s increasing aggression in the South China Sea and around Taiwan, that’s likely to be weighing on the mind of US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin as he joins top military figures from across the region at this weekend’s Shangri-La Dialogue in Singapore. The chance of a breakthrough on any of those issues this weekend appears slim, not least because China has pointedly rejected a US proposal for Austin to meet his Chinese counterpart Li Shangfu at the forum. But experts who spoke to CNN before the summit say a potential solution to one of them – the Chinese fleet’s numerical advantage – is within reach, if the US is prepared to think outside the box. Washington, they say, has something Beijing doesn’t: Allies in South Korea and Japan who are building some of the highest spec – and affordable – naval hardware on the oceans. Buying ships from these countries, or even building US-designed vessels in their shipyards, could be a cost-effective way of closing the gap with China, they say. Their warships are “certainly a match for their (Chinese) counterparts,” says Blake Herzinger, a research fellow at the United States Studies Center in Australia, while Japan’s warship designers “are among the world’s best,” says Carl Schuster, a former director of operations at the US Pacific Command’s Joint Intelligence Center in Hawaii. 

The tone of the piece reeks of desperation and of... a complete detachment from the realities of naval warfare of 2020s. The US is impressed by PLAN's, indeed impressive, Type 055 DDG.  

These are elegant warships which pack a massive punch in terms of land-attack salvo or... anti-shipping missiles. With 13,000 ton full displacement these are really cruisers rather than destroyers, albeit today this distinction is notional. They carry a whopping 112 VLS cells and are equipped with HHQ-9 AD system which is a navalized fusion of Russia's S-300 and Western technology. Plus, and here is an important distinction, it carries YJ-18 anti-shipping missile (a Chinese knockoff of Russia's 3M54 Kalibr) and, allegedly, hypersonic ballistic anti-shipping missiles YJ-21. We will omit here discussing YJ-21 issue because there is precious little about its actual capabilities, if one discounts some short video of its test. 

But in any case, these ships DO carry a shitload of anti-shipping missiles and that is what matters in the end. And here is the point. CNN appeals to... South Korean "match" called Sejong the Great:

But some Western analysts say the Type 055 may have a peer in South Korea’s Sejong the Great-class destroyers. At 10,000 to 12,000 tons displacement, the Sejongs are slightly smaller than China’s Type 055s, but they have more firepower, with 128 VLS cells and weapons that include surface-to-air, anti-submarine and cruise missiles. The three Sejongs, which cost about $925 million each, are the pride of the South Korean fleet. “With this one ship, (the South Korean Navy) can cope with multiple simultaneous situations – anti-aircraft, anti-ship, anti-submarine, anti-surface – and defend from ballistic missiles,” the country’s Defense Media Agency says. Retired South Korean Adm. Duk-ki Kim, the first person to captain a Sejong, says it’s more than a match for China’s Type 055. “China is focusing on quantity and price competitiveness rather than the quality of its vessels,” Kim, now vice president of the Korea Association of Military Studies, told CNN. 

Didn't we hear this before (highlighted in yellow)? Let's take a look at Sejong the Great. Oh, boy!

Then we take a look at this "match" to PLAN's Type 055 specs and lo and behold! It is the same as it looks because it is yet another iteration of nearing obsolescence venerable (all flights) US Navy's Arleigh Burke-class DDGs. Same good ol' Aegis, same good ol' AN/SPY-1D and same... 16 subsonic anti-shipping missiles SSM-700K which are iterations of subsonic anti-shipping Harpoons and other analogues in NATO which are outpaced and outranged by any modern anti-shipping missile in Russian or Chinese arsenals. 

While naval warfare is a very complex matter and involves much more than SuWa (Surface Warfare) it is precisely in this crucial field where Sejong the Great is not just NOT the "match" to PLAN's Type 055, but not even in the same league because same as vaunted  Patriot PAC3 which performed dismally in 404, Aegis ships can only perform defense against slow flying (subsonic) targets and maybe, just maybe, against easy tactical-operational ballistic one. Against salvos of supersonic anti-shipping missiles, not to speak of hypersonic ones--they are useless. In this case of a missile exchange between Type 055 and Sejong the Great, the latter wouldn't even know what hit it, because Type 055 enjoys here an overwhelming advantage, especially with good over-the-horizon targeting. 

Some admirals in the West (and Asia) are easily impressed by platforms--big, imposing, nice looking. Nothing wrong with the aesthetic part of it, I am the same way myself--I love beautiful ships. But the term "platform" should be engraved into the minds of real warriors--platforms are called such because, in the end of the day, for all other supremely important issues, such as propulsion, signal processing, ECM et al, the reason platforms exist is to carry weapons. And in terms of strike weapons South Korean "match" is not even in the same league as Type 055. As is the whole Western naval weapons' arsenal, with NATO and its Asian allies falling behind in modern strike weapons behind Russia and China not by years, but generations. 

In the end, even this corvette packs so much striking power that it is even not necessary to compare. 

It is four times smaller than Sejong the Great, yet it still has better air defense than Aegis and it can launch 8 Zircons in a salvo. So, when speaking about "matches" it is only natural for claimants to offer serious counter-arguments and not some amateurish BS and platform-centric military porn. Or, as they say among serious people: either put up or shut up.

No comments:

Post a Comment