Maritime Strategy: Indian and American Perspectives

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Published on: 05/22/2010
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#287, 30 April 2009

Maritime Strategy: Indian and American Perspectives

Kimberley Layton and Marian Gallenkamp
Research Interns, IPCS

Report of the IPCS Seminar held on 30 April 2009

Chair: Maj Gen (retd.) Dipankar Banerjee, Director, IPCS
Speakers: Capt. (retd.) Edward Lundquist, US Navy
Cmde. (retd.), Ranjit Rai, Vice President, Indian Maritime Foundation

Edward Lundquist

The United States has adopted a new maritime strategy called a Cooperative Strategy for 21st Century Seapower, in order to respond to new challenges in a changing world. For the first time, all three services, i.e. the US Navy, the US Marine Corps, and the US Coast Guard, are guided by a national and integrated strategy, reflecting a significant paradigm shift. The aim of the strategy is to meet new evolving challenges resulting from the high degree of interconnectivity around the world such as multipolar power structure after the Cold War, new threats to national and maritime security, especially of a transnational nature, the proliferation of sophisticated weapons, and the growing instability in some regions of the world.

In today’s world, approximately 20,000 ships cruise on the oceans, nearly all following certain sea lines of traffic. Their cargos get traded multiple times before they even reach their destination through the internet and other new forms of communication. 95 per cent of this communication takes place under the sea via underwater cables.

Climate change and the resultant rise of sea levels, and an increase in natural disasters constitute a threat to the many people living along the coastlines as humanitarian relief and emergency aid usually are provided via the sea. Furthermore, global warming causes a meltdown of multi-layer ice in the arctic region that in turn opens up new passages in the arctic sea, which were not accessible before. The proliferation of weapons like missiles, mines, new silent u-boats and the like places a threat to the United States and its navy, as does cyber attacks and multiple forms of terrorism.

The strategic implication of growing instability and disorder is to put in place a forward policy driven by the objective of preventing wars as winning them. In order to do so, the strategy identifies four key capabilities, which are enduring capabilities since the Cold War: forward presence, deterrence, sea control, and power projection. Two new core capabilities characterize the paradigm shift in the US new strategy: maritime security and humanitarian assistance/disaster response. Both of them are clearly focused on preventing instability and eventually war.

The new sea-based capability includes an electronic capability, a cyberspace capability, a ballistic missile defense capability, an amphibious lift for expeditionary warfare capability, and a logistic capability. But the United States no longer has the capacity to meet all the demands of its combatant commanders of the four large regions (e.g. Central Command, Southern Command, European Command, and Pacific Command) and so it is important to have friends, partners, and allies, which in turn have different capacities and capabilities on their own. These fleets can be complementary or supplementary forces to the United States and help to secure the oceans.

In order to address the requirements of the new Cooperative Strategy for 21st Century Seapower, the US Navy needs and plans to have new acquisitions. There is and will be an increase in the development and use of various types of unmanned, remote controlled robotic systems (e.g. drones) and expand in the ballistic missile defense capability. Furthermore, a number of new DDG 1000 and DDG 51 destroyers will be built, as well as new maritime patrol aircrafts. Older ships like the CG 47 Ticondaroga-class guided missile cruisers are getting modernized to meet the fleet’s requirements. The goal is to build up a fleet of 315 ships and to reduce the operating coasts of this fleet. Therefore an open architecture system is used during modernization, which is cost efficient and enables to do changes in the ship’s set up faster. As it is important to have the sea-based ability to detect and shoot down missiles, there is much progress and innovation in the field of laser guns and so called rail guns.

Finally, whole new type of ships has been developed that perfectly matches the requirements of a changed maritime strategy: The Littoral Combat Ship (LCS). LCS 1, the USS Freedom, has already been commissioned, and provides for a revolutionary flexibility. Besides a gun up forward and a missile launcher aft, the ship provides for a large space or volume inside that can be filled with different ‘boxes’. These box modules can contain a vast variety of different capabilities, just as required by the mission of the ship, and can be set up inside the ship independently. The modules can be changed in less then 72 hours without the need of an improved port. LCS-class ships have a maximum speed of 50 knots and a crew of only 40 men (plus respective stuff to operate the different modules). Its three main purposes are anti submarine warfare, anti surface warfare, and mine countermeasures. It uses unmanned systems to an extend that exceeds all other ships of the United States Navy.

Ranjit Rai

The geostrategic significance of the Indian Ocean is reflected in the fact that at least 60,000 ships transit through it. Whoever controls the Indian Ocean will dominate Asia in the 21st century. China recently displayed its own submarines. Relations with China are cooperative at present but there is a competitive rivalry in trade and power projection. In the Malacca Straits India has a responsibility because it is a signatory to the laws of the sea. Japan has recently authorised its navy to fight pirates off the Somali coast. It will escort non-Japanese ships and use its weapons for more than self defence purposes. This is an amazing development because it means that Article 9 has been broken.

The Indian navy made a maritime strategy which contains a full capability plan. It discusses interoperability: the Indian navy cooperates with the US, Japan and everyone. The Indian navy has the cooperative spirit that the American navy talks about and it is a positive thing that this cooperation is working.

The Indian Navy’s hydrographic department is the most proficient in the world; I have never grounded a ship and am absolutely confident with Indian charts. I have even navigated through narrow passages in the Andaman Islands. No ship in the world has ever been grounded because of Indian navy charts. Saudi Arabia also asked for the Indian Navy’s services because they are proficient and twenty times cheaper for chart-making than anyone else.

Indian navy expansion continues. The old Sea Harriers are still strong, there are two aircraft carriers and the navy is building six catamarans designed by Australia. It is also going to get 5 offshore vessels. There is a new system where data can be sent directly to ships. This is very innovative and groundbreaking.


• China is not formally a part of the combined maritime force but they are working informally with other navies. At the moment there is a Chinese ship sending email to a Yahoo email account in Bahrain, where it is taken to an operations centre and from there it gets transmitted back the US and the coalition, and then it goes back again. They’re using this type of ad hoc communication network to coordinate their activities. That is not to say that China is receiving direction from the coalition but rather that there is a discussion and so all warships that are out there on the ocean know each other’s location and purpose. By providing this type of information it is possible to assist each other, such as by accompanying each other through dangerous passages. It is an informal system but it is working successfully.
• Other routes are going to be better patrolled in the area off the Somali coast, but convoys will probably not be terribly useful or become the main way for getting ships through the Gulf of Aden simply because merchant ships will not stop to wait for an escort. This pertains to risk management because say there are approximately 20,000 transits through the area and about 100 pirate incidents and 40 attacks, then most vessels assume it will not happen to them.
• Those from inside China describe it as the only major nation with a ‘reunification problem’. When you talk of china, you talk of Taiwan and that issue needs to be resolved before you consider China able to have a global dominant navy.
• Within the US military there is much focus on winning the peace not just winning the war, winning hearts and minds, and so on. What role does the navy have in this enterprise?
• What is involved in refitting a ship?

• Adm. Mike Mullen came up with the theory that to cover all bases you need both large and small capability, all over the world, wherever there is potential instability. That is a capability that the US does not have. This has been acknowledged and so it has invited other actors to engage with the US, and in return the US asserts that it can help those nations. For example in Djibouti, there is a US team working with local sailors to teach them how to better maintain and operate their boats. This is just a small example but the US Navy performs these types of activities in many places. It is useful to gain a little of the knowledge that these people have and are willing to share. These activities help the US build up capability that was lacking. The US Navy is trying to grow its capabilities in this particular way because this type of awareness and knowledge of a region is vital. Knowing the language, for example, is extremely beneficial. The US frequently acknowledges the importance of these partnerships.
• Following World War II, the US had thousands of ships that they ‘cocooned,’ basically wrapped them up. Then when the Korean War began, the cocoon was ‘peeled off’ and they were put back into operation: older but still capable. This happens with merchant ships too. Nowadays the US Navy has fewer ships and they keep them for longer but the ones that are ‘laid up’ are in what is called Inactive Ship Facilities. There are several of these facilities currently keeping ships in preservation and then if the need arises they can be brought out and recommissioned. There will of course be some updating required which might become expensive, but it must be done. The varying work done on the ship is decided on a case by case basis depending on where the ship is going. If it is going to an ally, for example, the work done is different to if it is going to be sold in a foreign military sale.


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