“Soft despotism is a term coined by Alexis de Tocqueville describing the state into which a country overrun by "a network of small complicated rules" might degrade. Soft despotism is different from despotism (also called 'hard despotism') in the sense that it is not obvious to the people."

Saturday, January 20, 2007

Chinese ability to destroy satellites places US aircraft carriers at risk. Think Taiwan.

This headline from the Washington Post, Concern grows over China's satellite-killing missile test , better concern a lot of people. Satellites are the eyes, ears, brains, spinal cord and Achilles heel of the US military. Of prime concern to China would be the US carrier fleet. That would involve Taiwan and our what is increasingly becoming absurd political commitment to protect it from a Chinese invasion. The only possible non-nuclear way to protect Taiwan would be with the total reliance on US aircraft carriers. Their use is tied to communications satellites as is most of all the rest of the military.

I borrow heavily and condense from a Rand report on the uses of aircraft carriers and you can link to the pdf at the bottom of this posting.

Aircraft carriers and their embarked air wings have been central to the exercise of U.S. naval power since 1942. Time and again, the President has turned to these vessels as the initial policy instrument when the United States has been compelled to project military power or engage in hostile operations. From World War II to today’s Global War on Terrorism—playing key roles in four major wars, in operations in Afghanistan and Iraq, and in numerous other hostile and non-hostile missions far and wide—aircraft carriers have been used to make a show
of force, deter adversaries, engage friends and allies, provide humanitarian assistance, and bring airpower to bear against opponents.

Modern aircraft carriers, the largest warships ever built, are extremely capable combatants. Each U.S. carrier displaces about 100,000 tons, has a flight-deck area of almost five acres, and is nearly as long as the Empire State Building is tall. Each carrier accommodates more than 5,000 Navy personnel for months at a time.

A carrier’s most potent asset is its air wing. A typical carrier- based air wing today consists of a variety of fixed-wing aircraft (36F/A-18 Hornets, ten to 12 F-14 Tomcats, six S-3B Vikings, four E-2C Hawkeyes, and four EA-6B Prowlers) and helicopters (four SH-60 and two HH-60 Seahawks). As the F-14 is phased out in coming years, the fighters in the air wing will initially become all F/A-18 and later a mix of F/A-18s and F-35 Joint Strike Fighters.

The Navy intends to retain approximately 50 strike aircraft in the carrier air wing as it evolves over time. An extensive network of repair and maintenance, command, control, communications, and intelligence capabilities supports this air wing and the battle group that surrounds the carrier.

The most potent asset of an aircraft carrier is its air wing. A carrier is capable of supporting 125 sorties a day, surging up to as many as 200, and can do so for about two weeks before shutting down for one day of maintenance—after which it can do so all over again.

Today’s carrier air wings would have considerable difficulty maintaining more than a handful of aircraft at distances of 500 nmi or more from the ship. The situation is complicated by the need for persistent coverage in operational areas. Being able to fly a long distance, drop
ordnance, and return after spending only a short time in the target area may be appropriate in some situations. In other situations, however, being able to loiter over the area is highly desirable, either for ISR or strike purposes.

Recent missions in Operations Enduring Freedom and Iraqi Freedom have demonstrated the capability of carrier-based aircraft to support operations over a landlocked theater at distances as great as 750 nautical miles (nmi), with missions lasting between eight and ten hours each.

The carrier’s nerve center is the combat direction center (CDC), which controls pictures of the air, surface, undersea, strike, and information warfare, as well as being responsible for protecting the ship with its own self-defense systems. In addition, the embarked flag staff has its own combat center to provide additional command and control guidance in real time.

The backbone of command and control for tactical operations in the Navy is the Joint Tactical Information Distribution System (JTIDS), which is used to provide Link 16 data to the CDC. JTIDS/ Link 16 uses a secure, jam-resistant technology to transfer real-time sensor information, identify friend or foe (IFF) information, and geo-positional data for aircraft and ships.

These data provide situational awareness and battlespace management to the CDC, the ships in the immediate strike group, and other participants in the link, which can include most joint forces. JTIDS operates over line-of-sight ranges up to 500 nmi and can be relayed farther to support additional users in the network.

Satellite communication suites enable the carrier to access vast
information databases worldwide. These systems give the carrier
access to the Defense Satellite Communications System (DSCS) for
reliable, secure, beyond-line-of-sight information exchange with other
fleet units, fixed and mobile joint and allied forces, and Navy com-
mand, control, communications, computer, and intelligence (C4I)

The Chinese ability to disrupt U.S. command, control, communications, and computer intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (C4ISR) systems. Either development poses a great challenge to U.S. forces. If the Chinese can take out US satellites at a time and place of their choosing, they have just cost the US taxpayer one hell of a lot of money.



  1. Man, not just carriers, just about everything the US does nowadays has a satellite component. The US has gone way, way further down the road of throwing away non-sat communications, non GPS navigation skills than people realize.

  2. Asymmetrical Terrorist Guerilla Warfare on one hand, High Tech Space based Arms Race on the other.

    And, a complete surprise to the Administration on both counts!

    Meanwhile, we try to make defenders into terrorists! Let's sell more technology to the Chinese shall we?

  3. Quote of the Day:

    "In a time of universal deceit, telling the truth is a revolutionary act."

    George Orwell

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  5. You are correct fellow.I realize the entire miltary had gone that way. In 1969 I worked on an over the horizon back scatter radar sytem that was destined to be eclipsed with sattelite detection. The only way to avoid the threat is with manned space based carriers with shoot down capability.

    I wanted to focus on the carriers because so much miltary prestige and strategy is based on them.The combination of being blinded by satellite killers and some damn good cruise missile technology makes them a lot more vulnerable than people realize. The sinking of a carrier would make for a 911 moment for the military. Those who assume that would get an immediate nuclear response are mistaken.

  6. Bob, I believe you are correct. The Chinese are using a strategy with trade that is more influential than with military strategy. They help people make money. last night I linked a post about how Costa Rica sees trade with China and the US. The US and China are so interwoven with trade, it is inconceivable that they could come into conflict.

    The Chinese want to make a point with the US as to where they are in capabilities.

    It would be a good idea for every flag rank and general officer to vist China and have the Chinese reciprocate. It would be an enlightening experience for both sides.

  7. You need to read Tiger's link on "sell more technolgy".
    Good one Tiger!

  8. Look, you just make your satellites stealthy like a B-2 and you're done. Can't hit what you can't see, can't even launch when you don't have the one-line Charlie elements to get a firing solution.

  9. Like the B-2, Teresita?

    Go back and read the link, please. We sell EVERYTHING to the Chinese, remember? Just one big happy WORLD family.

    That is until one large aggressive group takes over - anyone here speak Mandarin?

  10. Tiger said, "That is until one large aggressive group takes over - anyone here speak Mandarin?"

    If a bunch of 7th century yahoos who lust after camels can hold off the world's lone superpower in Iraq, what do you think the red-blooded boys and girls from Idaho are going to do when the ChiComs try to come in? They're gonna have something more fun to do than plinking squirrels, that's what.

  11. That depends on the "Rules of Engagment" their wonderful patsy government allows.

    By that time we probably won't guns to plink around with anymore.

  12. From the link article:

    "Mr. Gowadia worked for B-2 developer and manufacturer Northrop Aircraft Inc. from 1968 to 1989 as part of an ultrasecret special access program for the B-2, and later as a Northrop contractor involved in classified research on missiles and aircraft. He also worked at Los Alamos National Laboratory in the 1990s. "

    We can't fight wars our leaders don't allow. ROE's have been one of the main problems all along.

    PC run amuck!

  13. So... to me the question becomes; is this the beginning of another arms race or not?

    Do our leaders have the gumption to even consider that?

  14. Tiger said, "By that time we probably won't guns to plink around with anymore."

    That would be something to see. President Hillary would say, "Okay boys, you work this side of the valley road, knock on every farmhouse you see and tell them to turn in their rifles." A child's balloon in a cactus nursery would have a longer life-span than that agent.

  15. Rufus has a point! From a FOXNEWS article:


    "Since the mid-1980s, the United States has had the ability to take down satellites, but the Chinese don't have satellites worth attacking, Pike said. The United States may have to develop alternatives to its current spy satellites — perhaps stealthy satellites or unmanned aerial vehicles, which are harder to detect than the current well-established U.S. satellite network."

  16. Just how much does China know?

    I wonder ...

  17. Financial Times has their point of view..."In the past year, however, two developments may have rattled Beijing. First, the US nuclear co-operation agreement with nuclear-armed India is the clearest indication yet of Washington’s wish to build up a counterweight to China in Asia and the Pacific. But second, last summer the Bush administration came out with a new policy asserting that the US regarded space as important a dimension for the nation’s security as air or sea power. It may have been no coincidence that, within weeks, China ruffled American feathers by using a ground-based laser to illuminate a US satellite – and highlight its own reach into space.

    The US is so dependent on satellites for surveillance, observation of the “battlespace”, communications and defence against any incoming missiles (or son of Star Wars) that it has reason to feel alarmed. The National Security Council on Friday called China’s test “inconsistent with the spirit of co-operation that both countries aspire to in the civil space area”.

    Ideally, that remark would translate into a realisation that hyperpower exceptionalism – America’s sense of entitlement to rights it concedes to no ally, let alone competitor – comes at a cost. But the risk is that this episode will instead translate into a new surge of defence spending that will delight the arms industry but do nothing to enhance international security.
    China sets off a new round of Star Wars
    Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2007

  18. More than the eye in the sky, the threat is to GPS, without which most all the US targeting systems fail.
    All the troops would be lost in the woods.
    Map, compass, sextent?

    No way drone UAVs or any other terrestrial systems will seamlessly supercede or supplement GPS positioning.

    That is the real target of a serious adversary.

  19. A chopper went down Northeast of Baghdad, 13 KIA, reportedly.

    Messes up those straight line projections, aye rufus.

  20. Another blunder of the Chinese (the recent militarization of Japan in response to the NoKors is another). This test was actually a gift to the U.S. military.

    General Schriever, who died in 2005, made headlines in 1957 when he gave a keynote address calling for U.S. space superiority. He received a severe reprimand from the Eisenhower administration, which had proclaimed space to be a peaceful commons. Fifty years later, though, U.S. space policy may be headed precisely in Schriever's direction.

    Is it legal to weaponize Space?

    The Chinese just put that issue to rest.

    Tensions ran high at the United Nations in 2006 when the United States delivered a hard-line statement defending its right to develop space-based weapons.

    Responding to international pressure, John Mohanco, the deputy director of the U.S. Office of Multilateral Nuclear and Security Affairs, said "our government will continue to consider the possible role that space-related weapons may play in protecting our [space] assets."

    The statement followed an alarming change of course last year when the United States became the first country to oppose the annual non-binding UN resolution, "Preventing an Arms Race in Outer Space."

    The rest of the world deemed it important to prevent an arms race in space, and wants a treaty to that effect. The need for such a treaty is compounded by the U.S. withdrawal in 2002 from the ABM Treaty, which included restrictions on space weapons.

    The recent actions of the Chinese just killed any such possibility of a treaty agreement by the U.S. and provided political cover.

    Simply read the U.S Air Force's "Transformation Flight Plan" or "United States Vision for 2020" for starters.

  21. Right on the mark elijah. Any one of these treaties, where one country is required to cease development and testing, ends up with new adversaries catching up with aging technology. Then we make it worse by sharing technology, such as my pet irritant, the international space station. Someone will have to explain to me the wisdom of sharing space technology with the Russians.

  22. Cynic I may be, but the US defending Taiwan from China is exchanging a queen for a pawn.

  23. The Chinese should be concerned.

    For over three years, there have been rumors that Taiwan is developing ballistic missiles and nuclear weapons.

    The Tiching Project is believed to be developing two missiles. One is a two stage, solid fuel missile, with a thousand kilometer range, carrying a 700 pound warhead. The other missile would just use the first stage, have a range of about 300 kilometers and the same size warhead. The short range version of the missile is believed to have been tested already.

    The nuclear weapons program has long been rumored. As long ago as the 1970s, the CIA declared that Taiwan could build nuclear weapons within five years. Since then, the time required has shrunk. Actually, the high quality of Taiwan's industrial and scientific capabilities indicates that nuclear weapons may already exist, but remain untested.

    Naturally, Taiwan has good reason to keep all this sort of stuff secret. If they openly admitted to owning ballistic missiles and nuclear weapons, China might, because of constant threats to "return Taiwan to Chinese control", feel compelled to do something drastic, and immediately. But ultimately, Taiwanese nuclear weapons, delivered by ballistic missiles, could provide the cheapest and most effective defense against Chinese invasion.

    Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said Tuesday other nations had nothing to fear from Japan's new
    "assertive diplomacy", after his return from an ice-breaking summit with China and South Korea. Japan would actively engage with its partners and allies to maintain international security, he said, playing down concerns in the region about the creation of the country's first full-fledged defence ministry since World War II.

    Any sign of a more militaristic Japan stirs unease in China, which was devastated by Japan's 1931 invasion and subsequent long war of conquest that killed millions of Chinese.

    China's state-run Xinhua news agency has said the step could upset the "regional equilibrium", while North Korea denounced the upgrade as "whetting the sword" for invading its neighbors again.

  24. No, rufus, I am not pleased, at all, that US troops were KIA to secure Mr Maliki as the Chief Mohammedan in Charge, in Iraq.

    The loss of a single trooper, after you, rufus, have "Declared Victory" is a loss than need not be made. The empowerment of Mr Maliki is no victory for US, the price paid, the deaths of US soldiers, not worthy of the Goal of sectarian Shia Government, in Iraq.

    Telling falsehoods about Mr Maliki's true loyalties will not make it so.

  25. Tiger-I speak mandarin. Very well. I can pass for a Taiwanese, or even a southern coast chinese for my mandarin. And if I work really hard at it, I can do a piss-poor imitation of the Beijing accent.

    Feh. Don't worry too much about China. When we(as in Greater China) take over the world, we can start cleaning up the mess you guys left behind. Fundie islamists? No worries. The suicidal leftoids we have aren't exactly the same breed as yours.

    That is, if our inherent jealousy and mean-spiritness towards our own folks(hello! Taiwan!) doesn't kill us first.

    Worry about the bigger existential problems, before you tackle the smaller ones. Trust me, China, and by extension the Taiwan issue, is the last of your problems.

    Rather than look at the sabre rattling going on, look at the cultural and economic ties between the various sino-entities: China, Taiwan, Hong Kong(and some say Singapore; after all, we gave them Stephanie Sun).

    They share the same language, the same history in many ways, and heck, the most telling point is that they share the same movie idols and pop stars!

    I guarantee that at one point or another, the integrated media will start to assert itself into the realm of intra-Sino politics. In Taiwan, that has already occured, though not all Chinese felt the media and celebrities comported themselves with dignity.

  26. I do business with a couple of Chinese companies. When I go to China, I never hear any talk about politics, but then that may have something to do with the fact I neither speak nor understand Chinese so my conversations are in English. It is safe to say that the Chinese in China do not like to talk politics when they speak English, even when encouraged to do so.

  27. "...what is increasingly becoming absurd political commitment to protect it from a Chinese invasion."

    I may have missed it, but...have we become independent of the fabs on Taiwan for our computer chips?

    If not, then our commitment re: Taiwan is neither so absurd nor political...unless you are telling me we do not need computer chips....

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  29. 3case, the American people are upset because we are involved in a civil war involving a nation of 26 million people. It is a fantasy that they would support the intervention in a war between 23 million and 1300 million. The US has a stated one China policy. I accept our master's declaration of policy. One China at war with the other one China would define a civil war.

    It is a long time since 1950 when Harry S. Truman ordered the 7th Fleet into the Taiwan Strait to prevent possible Chinese attack on the island.

    In 1971, the UN expelled Taiwan's nationalist government in favor of China. The US formally recognized the People's Republic of China in 1979. The U.S. accepted Beijing's "one China" mandate and abandoned its defense pact with the island. It is one screwball high wire act. It is the real no-tell motel of US foreign policy. I am not sure what part of the policy is the most absurd.

    Chips are another problem indeed.

  30. re: space

    Space began to be militarized in the 60s, denials be damned.

    re: Taiwan

    When last I checked (two years ago, for some reason) the US relied on Taiwan for about 40% of its chips. What comprised that 40%, I do not recall.

  31. I don't see why wafer chips are a problem. It's far more likely that China will continue selling chips to whoever wants them even if they somehow take over Taiwan.

    It's the myriad other issues of history that's keeping them apart.