US NAVY SPEARHEADS SYRIAN STRIKES
American naval forces remained at the forefront of the action as two warships launching cruise missiles joined carrier-based jets in conducting strikes against terrorist targets in Syria.
While the aircraft launched from the USS George H.W. Bush as she sailed in the Arabian Gulf, the cruiser USS Philippine Sea and destroyer USS Arleigh Burke fired Tomahawk Land Attack Missiles (TLAM) from the Red Sea.
Jets from the air forces of Jordan, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Qatar also joined the assault against the so-called Islamic State of Iraq, Syria and the Levant (ISIL). The US Air Force contributed strike jets and also deployed attack drones, the whole operation being under the direction of US Central Command. US Marine Corps squadrons based aboard the USS George H.W. Bush were part of strike packages.
“The US military will continue to conduct targeted airstrikes against ISIL in Syria and Iraq as local forces go on the offensive against this terrorist group,” a Pentagon spokesperson explained. Furthermore, according to the Pentagon, American units also targeted what was described as “a network of seasoned Al-Qaeda veterans sometimes referred to as the Khorasan Group.”
This was to “disrupt imminent attack plotting against the United States and Western allies.” The Khorasan Group had, said US military sources, established “a safe haven in Syria to develop external attacks, construct and test Improvised Explosive Devices and recruit Westerners to conduct operations. In total, US Central Command conducted eight strikes against Khorasan Group targets west of Aleppo to include training camps, an explosives and munitions production facility, a communication building and command and control facilities.”
The Syrian government in addition to key allies such as Britain, the latter not at that time engaged in air strikes, were advised of the attacks on ISIL and Khorasan Group targets prior to the action. Meanwhile, in Iraq the day before the Syrian air strikes, American air forces continued to attack ISIL, destroying various vehicles and also bombing targets around Kirkuk.
NORTH KOREA DEVELOPING SUB-LAUNCHED MISSILE?
South Korean and US intelligence sources claim that Pyongyang may be developing Submarine Launched Ballistic Missile (SLBM) technology in order to obtain a second strike capability.
No specific details about the suspected North Korean missile tube, or even the host submarine have been given but it is believed the dimensions are sufficient to house a nuclear-armed SLBM.
Some of the technology could have been derived from decommissioned Project 629 Golf Class submarines acquired by North Korea from Russia in the early 1990s and at least one accompanying R-27/SS-N-6 ‘Serb’ SLBM.
Technology from the latter is thought to have found its way into the North Korean BM-25 Musudan ballistic missile that has a range of between 2,500km and 4,000km. North Korea also appears to have developed the required cold launch technologies in its latest Surface-to-Air Missile (SAM) systems. Pyongyang already has a solid fuel missile, the 220km range KN-02, which could be re-engineered to fire from the tube.
North Korea is thought to have approximately 20 Chinese Type 033 submarines, some of which could be modified to house missile tubes. It may also have substantially rebuilt at least one of the ex-Soviet Golf Class subs. Liquid or solid fuelled missiles could also be fired from suitably modified surface ships, though this is a less survivable option.
ISRAELI BOAT No4
The fourth Dolphin Class submarine constructed in Germany, Tanin, has made her way to Israel. Allegedly capable of firing nuclear-armed cruise missiles, the Air Independent Propulsion (AIP) vessel is a development of three earlier Dolphin Class boats that have now been in service with Israel’s navy for over a decade.
The Tanin’s arrival will considerably enhance the capabilities of the Israeli submarine flotilla. She is able to dive deeper, travel further and has greater endurance. She is more capable across the board in comparison to the older Dolphins. A second enhanced Dolphin, named Rahav, is expected to arrive in Israel next year while another is still under construction.
Despite official ambiguity over its non-conventional weapons programme Israel is widely known to at least be a nuclear weapon state. Though the German government has an official policy of not supplying weapons to regions involved in active conflict, and is a supporter of non-proliferation efforts, it has in Israel’s case ignored the fact that the submarines constructed in Germany will likely be used to carry nuclear weapons.
US COAST GUARD FIRES ON HOSTILE IRANIAN DHOW
A small boat from a US Coast Guard Cutter on patrol in the Persian Gulf found itself under the threatening muzzle of an Iranian gun when the craft approached a dhow during maritime security duties.
The Rhib had launched from the USCG Cutter Monomoy to, according to a US Department of Defense (DoD) statement, ‘query the Iranian dhow, a common approach in the Persian Gulf intended to improve maritime security in the region.’
The approach was not welcomed by the Iranian vessel, which turned a machine gun on the Rhib. This, said the DoD, was done with ‘hostile intent’. In response the small boat’s crew fired a deterrent shot, which may or may not have hit the Iranian dhow, which immediately withdrew without any communication with the Americans.
A DoD spokesperson explained: “US military rules of engagement state that commanders always have the inherent right and obligation to exercise unit self-defence in response to a hostile act or demonstrated hostile intent.”
The American actions were in stark contrast to the response of British sailors in Rhibs from HMS Cornwall when similarly threatened in 2007. They allowed themselves to be taken hostage by the Iranians without firing a shot.
IRAN SEEKS MISSILE RANGE INCREASE
The Iranians intend to double the range of their Ghader/Able Anti-Ship Missile (ASM). The Ghader is Iran’s development of its Noor anti-ship cruise missile, which in turn was based on the Chinese C-802/CSS-N-8 Saccade. It is an air-breathing weapon with the range extended out to 300km (from 200km-220km).
This has been achieved by increasing the length of the forward section of the missile in order to carry more fuel for the turbojet engine. The Moqtader is likely to require more complicated structural changes to double the fuel for its own range extension.
It was first revealed in 2012, and can be land or ship-based.
The Iranians claim it has a high resistance to Electronic Counter-Measures (ECM). Iran has many land-based ASM batteries on its side of the Strait of Hormuz, which it has several times in the past threatened to close if conflict with the West arises.
AMERICANS SAY RUSSIA WAS CHASING A PHANTOM SUBMARINE
United States European Command (EUCOM) has countered Russian claims of chasing an American attack submarine out of the old Cold War-era confrontation zone of the Barents Sea by suggesting the Kremlin’s naval forces were pursuing phantoms.
In a statement released to the influential US Naval Institute News, EUCOM denied outright that any US Navy SSNs had been in the area at the time of the alleged detection and expulsion in August.
However, EUCOM said that it could not speak on behalf of other nations. The Royal Navy is the only other Western fleet with SSNs that has in the past made regular patrols in the Barents but today that is unlikely.
British force levels are so low at present it is believed no RN boats have been deployed into the Barents for some years. The main focus for the few SSNs the UK has in service lies to the south, in the Mediterranean and points east of Suez. British naval sources never confirm or deny any operational movements by RN submarines anyway.
The Russians, though, have been adamant that their Anti-Submarine Warfare (ASW) units – surface warships supported by a May (IL-38) Maritime Patrol Aircraft (MPA) – had indeed ‘expelled the submarine from Russian boundary waters.’ It was only the latest incident of shadowboxing between the navies of NATO and the Russians since relations between East and West soured thanks to the Crimean annexation and Moscow’s armed interference elsewhere in the Ukraine.
British warships have shadowed Russian naval forces in the English Channel, while a May MPA and a corvette of the Russian Navy snooped around NATO exercises in the Baltic. In the Black Sea a Russian fighter jet made several low-level swoops over a US Navy destroyer. In July Russian fighter jets made an attempt to interfere with a US Air Force RC-135 surveillance aircraft over the Baltic. In September jets and a turbo-prop surveillance aircraft from the Russian Navy’s air arm flow low circles around a Canadian frigate on a NATO exercise in the Black Sea.
In all cases the Western ships and aircraft have ensured they are in international waters or air space and have not strayed into Russian sovereign zones. For their part, the Russians have stuck to their line despite the American denials about an SSN being chased away. One Russian Naval Staff source claiming that both USN and RN submarines are ‘virtually constantly on duty’, though it stressed such forays into the Barents are conducted beyond Russia’s 12-mile limit so do not violate any territorial waters.
The Russians have claimed the mystery ‘intruder’ was a Virginia Class SSN. The Russian Navy has, meanwhile, in the past few years also been conducting similar patrols off the American eastern seaboard and, according to some claims, even into the Gulf of Mexico.
JAPAN BOOSTS DEFENCE SPENDING
In light of the growing instability in East Asia, the Japanese defence ministry has requested a 2.4 per cent budget increase for 2015 that will take the allocated amount to US $47.25 billion.
If approved it will reverse a downward trend over the last decade and return defence investment to levels last seen during the 1990s. High on the list of requirements for the military is the need to improve intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (ISR) gathering capabilities, particularly in relation to ballistic missile and maritime threats.
Japan also feels it is important to protect its outermost island possessions.
The shopping list includes 20 Kawasaki P-1 Maritime Patrol Aircraft (MPA), to be built in batches of five from 2018 onwards, and two new Atago Class (AEGIS-equipped) destroyers. The latter will increase the number of such vessels in the Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force (JMSDF) to eight by the end of the 2020 fiscal year.
The budget increase request came weeks after a Defence White Paper published by Tokyo criticized China for ‘high-handed actions’ and also lambasted Beijing for ‘attempts to change the status quo by coercion.’ Another motivating factor is North Korea’s ballistic missile programme.