Indo Pacific strategy

StingrayOZ

Super Moderator
Staff member
It would be extremely difficult to implement a complete naval blockade of Australia. We have a huge coast line, with few choke points. Ships can easily transit from Northern Qld to Tasmania on the east, and Adelaide on the south and any of the major ports on the West. Darwin is surrounded by shallow hot tropical waters, so operating a sub there would be problematic even, if they found much shipping to target.

Isolating Australia also doesn't buy you much for the amount of resources it would take. While certainly possible to conduct raids on shipping, hassle, tie up resources, conduct fear campaigns (as the Japanese did in WW2), actually naval blocking Australia up completely is a huge task. Even if you do, Australia has a whole continent of resources to access so all you would be doing is driving local innovation to access local resources.

That said, outside but near Australia is a number of choke points which could easily be cut by the actions of just one or two subs. Malacca straits is one for example. Straits of Hormuz is another. Australia would be vital to keeping both of those areas operational. Both of those are difficult points for most Western nations to access and maintain a presence.

As for weapons, harpoon is more viable for a sub than it is for a surface ship, but going into the future we would want to look at something better.
JSM/NSM maybe? The French I am sure would love for us to buy MdCN(MdCN (Missile De Croisière Naval - Naval Cruise Missile) - Naval Technology) which has a range of about 250Km. Sub-launched version of LRASM?

Maybe something else? Weren't we looking at partnering with Singapore on some rocket technology?

As for sub launched anti-air weapons, doable, how tactically useful is something I am less sure on. However if you are operating long range underwater drones, then giving up a drone and knocking out part of their anti-sub capability might be a useful trade.
 

Raven22

The Bunker Group
Verified Defense Pro
This was a very good augment in years in the past, but with aircraft radars with detection ranges in the 100s of KMs and weapons to suit and subs with modern sonars that can detect modern merchant ships at similar distances and again weapons of very long range,(i remember reading some years ago that the Americans were tracking noisey russian subs doing full power trials from the other side of the Atlantic and merchant ships are not built for stealth) it still leaves The escort in the position of simply trying to intercept the weapons and if these are fired in mass this could be difficult. I cannot see a traditional convoy as being workable against any high intensity threat. In a low intensity threat area it could still work. Even older missiles like the Exocet fired in number from either a sub or aircraft in numbers would present a problem for the merchant ships if they have not been fitted with either passive and or active defence. The very concentration which in ww2 made the convoy work could now be the problem due to modern detection methods and weapons and there ability to detect and be used at very long range and the main detection and defence against such weapons being relatively short ranged. These systems are fine for warships which in the main look after themselves and a relitively small area around them selves either actively or passively, but a convoy of merchant ships covering many square Kms (some ww2 convoys were over 250 square Kms) presents a vast area to defend against long range attack from missiles and modern torpedo's Some modern torpedo's have ranges reportly of over 80 Kms. The modern warship can deceive these, but a merchant ship for which there has been no attempt to quieten its propeller or engine noise during construction has a real problem.
I think that before you talk capability, you have to talk the strategy behind it. Try as I might I simply can’t think of any plausible scenario that would see a power try to destroy merchant ships wholesale on the high seas.

When we discuss this of course, we are really discussing China. While Russia has the ability to cause a nuisance in places like the middle east that will disrupt trade (and drive up oil prices to their own benefit) they certainly don’t have the moxy to destroy trade anywhere relevant to Australia. So that leaves China.

But how does China making a concerted effort to destroy international trade, like Germany in the world wars, possibly align with their national interest? They want to control the world trade, not destroy it. International trade, and the prosperity it brings to China, is the only thing keeping the domestic population happy and content (and stopping them getting all finger-pointy at the government). Take away that prosperity and China’s own population would become a much bigger problem than any external aggressor (hence why China are trying to develop their domestic consumer appetite, and reduce reliance on exports for their growth).

I can certainly see China deliberately disrupting trade, in an un-attributable way, as a cassius bellito stick their nose where is doesn’t belong (‘the continued disruption of international trade has forced us to deploy a naval task group to the Malacca Straights to secure trade in the region…’), but wholesale destruction of the world’s merchant ships can’t possibly be in their national interest.

Comparisons to the world wars aren’t very helpful, in my opinion. Germany used submarine warfare as an exhaustion strategy against the UK, because there was no other option available. Due to the allied blockade they had very little stake in international trade, so seemingly little to lose (although it did guarantee the eventual entrance of the USA and other neutral powers into both world wars, which is hardly an advertisement for its use by China).

I think a far better analogy is the Soviets attempting to close the Atlantic during a cold war gone hot. They would have attempted to interdict Atlantic trade not to force the European nations to capitulate, but simply to isolate the European theatre until the Red Armies had done the business on the North German Plain. The comparison with China are pretty obvious – China would attempt to interdict allied naval and supporting merchant marine movements to prevent interference in some sort of decisive action – seizing Taiwan, for example. The purpose of the A2AD system is obvious here. Extending this further, I think the problem for Australia is not having to escort merchant ships to Australia, but to escort Naval task groups away from Australia. A significant challenge, obviously, but very different to escorting international trade ships around the globe.

I think we can all agree that the biggest threat to Australia is not a great power (*cough* China *cough*) attempting to strangle Australia into submission, but simply instability somewhere around the globe disrupting the international trade system enough to undermine the just-in-time economy of Australia. Trump doing something stupid to force the Iranians to close the Straight of Hormuz; a miscalculation in the South China Sea that Sea that stops ships transiting the Malacca Straights for a week etc. This would certainly be enough to significantly disrupt the economy, and may be enough to prevent us intervening militarily in whatever is going on, but it’s certainly not going to bring us to our knees as a nation.
 

ASSAIL

The Bunker Group
Verified Defense Pro
Minor detail. Much of the freight network carrying coal in Queensland is electric. Electricity which is coal generated. It *would* be all of it, but stage four of the coal electrification was abandoned to use the funds for a more politically useful extension of the passenger service from Caboolture to Gladstone

Clearly this is not universal within Australia (Qld has over 3 times as much electrified rail as NSW , the next largest user) and current moves to shut down coal mining and power generation have driven up the cost of electric rail haulage to comparable with diesel. This will not help strategically to say the least.

oldsig
Technical question?
I understand power stations can be converted to LNG but can Diesel engines be converted to use it?
With reference to the post off course.
 

Takao

The Bunker Group
I reckon you're correct Takao, ships will be in very short supply, (offensive tasking a luxury?),
and sonar bouys will need to be belt fed! Can you imagine how many of those they'd go thru!!
Ha! There'd be enough sonar bouys scattered that Army could get involved. We'd be able to run foot and mounted patrols around the perimeter, one bouy to the next. 75% of the missions wouldn't even get boots damp!

Hope we can produce them domestically....
 

John Fedup

The Bunker Group
Technical question?
I understand power stations can be converted to LNG but can Diesel engines be converted to use it?
With reference to the post off course.
Technical question?
I understand power stations can be converted to LNG but can Diesel engines be converted to use it?
With reference to the post off course.
Diesel engines can be adapted to run on compressed NG.
 

John Fedup

The Bunker Group
NG is a solution but there would be some significant conversion costs and likely some infrastructure costs (refueling stations).
 

Wombat000

Active Member
NG is a solution but there would be some significant conversion costs and likely some infrastructure costs (refueling stations).
Can you imagine the logistics involved in this?
How many vehicles do you reckon a local workshop could convert, if they had the parts and know-how?
Meanwhile, everyone still has to get to work.
Produce has to get to market, and then you have to walk to the collection point to pick it up and carry it home.

How much do you think 1 Ltr of fuel (any type) will cost, if you are lucky enough to find any?

Of course there would be a fuel problem, cos there would be almost none available,
What was there would cost a fortune,
You would be 2500th in the queue for a vehicle conversion, whenever that was available?
 

John Fedup

The Bunker Group
In a wartime situation a country will do whatever is needed to carry on whatever the cost. A total fuel blockade of Australia would be difficult IMO. For much of the latter stages of WW2 Nazi Germany relied on synthetic fuel derived from coal. Australia has both coal and NG. Synthetic fuel would be rationed but there is no need for Australia to run dry and some fuel will get past a blockade as well. Agree it won’t be easy so planning now would seem prudent.
 

Wombat000

Active Member
I genuinely am not trying harp on the point, but:
NG, is transported by truck, correct? A diesel truck. Find another way cos there's very little diesel available.
Coal. Coal *NEEDS* fuel at every single stage of its use. EVERY STAGE. It exacerbates the shortage IF it runs at all??

Synthetic fuels, how long will that take to dream up? How many vehicles can they convert?
The notion of 'synthetic fuels' is theoretical and a mystery in practice roll-out.

All the time, the REQUIREMENT for fuel is unrelenting.
Everyone needs it TODAY to facilitate everything.

If some actually gets thru, how much will actually filter thru & how long will that last?

It's a grim prospect.
It's easier just to pretend it can't happen and think a solution will be swift.

How big is the Navy, again?
 

John Fedup

The Bunker Group
I am surprised your Greenies in Oz haven’t been demanding NG buses to replace diesel or is most of your public transport electric? Many diesel backup generators run on NG. Synthetic fuels derived from NG is an easier process than from coal. In any event, NG conversion is better than nothing.
 

swerve

Super Moderator
I genuinely am not trying harp on the point, but:
NG, is transported by truck, correct? A diesel truck. Find another way cos there's very little diesel available.
Coal. Coal *NEEDS* fuel at every single stage of its use. EVERY STAGE. It exacerbates the shortage IF it runs at all??

Synthetic fuels, how long will that take to dream up? How many vehicles can they convert?
The notion of 'synthetic fuels' is theoretical and a mystery in practice roll-out....
Synthetic fuels aren't theoretical. They've been around for over 100 years. They were produced from coal in bulk by Germany during WW2, & South Africa from the 1950s. The process can be powered by coal (& some of the products created in the process can be fed back into it to power it), & one of the processes used in WW2 produces a lot of diesel. LNG to liquid fuel is also a well-established process.

So there wouldn't be any shortage of diesel to transport synthetic fuels. Set up plants beside coal mines. It's not done much nowadays because it's more expensive than producing fuels from crude oil.
 

Rob c

Well-Known Member
The ocean is still a very big place and ships are, relatively, very small objects. Even SSNs have maximum transit speeds and all weapons have maximum ranges; even those with a couple of hundred kilometres range don't cover a great deal of an ocean. And, or course, they are in limited numbers and require real time targetting. Focal points become issues but in general there are alternative routings, which admittedly will take much longer. So while the problem is a difficult one it is not an impossible one - and there would be massive damage to the world economy, not just Australia's if there was a major war; but in that situation, which is probably the only one where anybody would seriously be able to threaten Australia's communications, the significant combatants would probably be directing their major efforts elsewhere.

On convoys, they still require the enemy to come to you at a point where you can concentrate your strength. The alternative is, in most situations, probably worse.
Don't forget satellite surveillance,which tends to mean that something the size of a convoy can be found within a matter of an hour or two and the huge area that modern surveillance aircraft can cover in just one flight. The convoy in today's technology still means you will wind up fighting the weapons (torpedo or missile ) and not the delivery system as was the case in the past. It was the ability of past convoy escorts to fight the delivery system that in the end made the system successful. If you cannot destroy the delivery system then it can continue to deliver weapons at you. What the answer is I don't know, but I am sure that military minds fare better than mind have something up their sleeves. However it seems to me that you would need your escorts or at least some of them well out from the convoy so their weapon systems can destroy the attacking weapon system before it gets to its weapon launch range of the convoy. This would require a significant number of escorts to achieve this and is probably impractical. I seem to have more questions than answers on this matter.

Edited by Mod to fix formatting. Rob C owes said Mod a cold Speights :D
 
Last edited by a moderator:

Volkodav

The Bunker Group
Verified Defense Pro
Technical question?
I understand power stations can be converted to LNG but can Diesel engines be converted to use it?
With reference to the post off course.
Yes.
Years ago diesel generators were set up in remote locations around the Territory and progressively converted to gas as it became available. Its even a viable alternative on high speed matinee diesels.
 

FormerDirtDart

Active Member
Yes.
Years ago diesel generators were set up in remote locations around the Territory and progressively converted to gas as it became available. Its even a viable alternative on high speed matinee diesels.
What is it? You need to replace the fuel injection system and add a sparking system, to ignite the gas. And, some seals need to be replaced due to increased pressure from NG burn. Something like that.
Or, isn't there a combined/blended technique, diesel & NG, which won't require the addition of a sparking system, as the regular compression will still start the diesel combustion in the mix.
 

Volkodav

The Bunker Group
Verified Defense Pro
What is it? You need to replace the fuel injection system and add a sparking system, to ignite the gas. And, some seals need to be replaced due to increased pressure from NG burn. Something like that.
Or, isn't there a combined/blended technique, diesel & NG, which won't require the addition of a sparking system, as the regular compression will still start the diesel combustion in the mix.
There is also a conversion that mixes LPG with diesel on passenger vehicles.
 

Todjaeger

Potstirrer
I think that before you talk capability, you have to talk the strategy behind it. Try as I might I simply can’t think of any plausible scenario that would see a power try to destroy merchant ships wholesale on the high seas.

When we discuss this of course, we are really discussing China. While Russia has the ability to cause a nuisance in places like the middle east that will disrupt trade (and drive up oil prices to their own benefit) they certainly don’t have the moxy to destroy trade anywhere relevant to Australia. So that leaves China.

But how does China making a concerted effort to destroy international trade, like Germany in the world wars, possibly align with their national interest? They want to control the world trade, not destroy it. International trade, and the prosperity it brings to China, is the only thing keeping the domestic population happy and content (and stopping them getting all finger-pointy at the government). Take away that prosperity and China’s own population would become a much bigger problem than any external aggressor (hence why China are trying to develop their domestic consumer appetite, and reduce reliance on exports for their growth).

I can certainly see China deliberately disrupting trade, in an un-attributable way, as a cassius bellito stick their nose where is doesn’t belong (‘the continued disruption of international trade has forced us to deploy a naval task group to the Malacca Straights to secure trade in the region…’), but wholesale destruction of the world’s merchant ships can’t possibly be in their national interest.

Comparisons to the world wars aren’t very helpful, in my opinion. Germany used submarine warfare as an exhaustion strategy against the UK, because there was no other option available. Due to the allied blockade they had very little stake in international trade, so seemingly little to lose (although it did guarantee the eventual entrance of the USA and other neutral powers into both world wars, which is hardly an advertisement for its use by China).

I think a far better analogy is the Soviets attempting to close the Atlantic during a cold war gone hot. They would have attempted to interdict Atlantic trade not to force the European nations to capitulate, but simply to isolate the European theatre until the Red Armies had done the business on the North German Plain. The comparison with China are pretty obvious – China would attempt to interdict allied naval and supporting merchant marine movements to prevent interference in some sort of decisive action – seizing Taiwan, for example. The purpose of the A2AD system is obvious here. Extending this further, I think the problem for Australia is not having to escort merchant ships to Australia, but to escort Naval task groups away from Australia. A significant challenge, obviously, but very different to escorting international trade ships around the globe.

I think we can all agree that the biggest threat to Australia is not a great power (*cough* China *cough*) attempting to strangle Australia into submission, but simply instability somewhere around the globe disrupting the international trade system enough to undermine the just-in-time economy of Australia. Trump doing something stupid to force the Iranians to close the Straight of Hormuz; a miscalculation in the South China Sea that Sea that stops ships transiting the Malacca Straights for a week etc. This would certainly be enough to significantly disrupt the economy, and may be enough to prevent us intervening militarily in whatever is going on, but it’s certainly not going to bring us to our knees as a nation.
I would not imagine that merchant shipping would be targeted "wholesale" but it would certainly be possible for some of the larger armed forces to target particular types of shipping, and/or shipping bounce for certain ports or owned by certain nations. With the use of intelligence resources, special forces, and/or submarines, it could even be possible for small numbers of merchant shipping to be lost in ways that would be difficult to attribute to a specific nation.

I do not wish to expound on this, since I do not wish to give anyone ideas, but it would certainly be possible to harm the economy if a specific nation's shipping was targeted, as well as portions of the international economy if certain types of shipping were targeted.
 

40 deg south

Well-Known Member
Synthetic fuels aren't theoretical. They've been around for over 100 years. They were produced from coal in bulk by Germany during WW2, & South Africa from the 1950s. The process can be powered by coal (& some of the products created in the process can be fed back into it to power it), & one of the processes used in WW2 produces a lot of diesel. LNG to liquid fuel is also a well-established process.

So there wouldn't be any shortage of diesel to transport synthetic fuels. Set up plants beside coal mines. It's not done much nowadays because it's more expensive than producing fuels from crude oil.
Motunui Methanol Plant, Taranaki, New Zealand - Chemical Technology

In response to the oil crisis of the early '70s, the NZ government established a plant to produce petrol from the recently-discovered natural gas fields off the Taranaki coast. It was technically successful but finacially ruinous, as by the time it was built world oil prices were on the way down.

As the Kiwis here will all know, it was part of a government-led effort to industrialise the NZ economy that became known as 'Think Big'. Sadly, big debts were the major output.
 

StingrayOZ

Super Moderator
Staff member
I think electrification of transport will take over most of those energy sources before anything else. We could certainly convert coal/gas to fuel, LPG/natural gas conversions on vehicles and stationary engines, ethanol, biodiesels work in aviation engines, even on commercial passenger flights. As that happens the Australian economy will be less dependant on oil and any storage we have will be fine for the military or emergency use. We still have 1 petrochemical refinery and we I believe are still drawing crude oil for that locally.

I think Australia is more concerned about other powers abilities to apply pressure, rather than a direct confrontation. China sending fishing vessels out and ignoring other nations claimed EEZ and the issues Vietnam and China have had about resources is clear and concerning. It is making smaller nations nervous.

China doesn't have to sink ships to pressure an economy. They just stop buying from them, and then start the process of applying harder power very slowly. Or arrests citizens of other nations. Or conduct a cyber raid.

Without suitable credibility and presence, any input or assertions from Australia look feeble.

I think there is a real chance of China moving on Taiwan in the next 5 years. With that we could have a controlled shipping in the South China Sea. The obvious place to manage than is Malacca.

I think there is an even greater chance of something closing the Persian gulf in the next 3 years. It is effectively already a war zone. Iran and the Saudis have a number of internal and external problems. That would have a huge impact on the worlds oil and gas supply, which would dramatically rise prices and affect the supply of oil at least in the short term.
 

MrConservative

Super Moderator
Staff member
I would not imagine that merchant shipping would be targeted "wholesale" but it would certainly be possible for some of the larger armed forces to target particular types of shipping, and/or shipping bounce for certain ports or owned by certain nations. With the use of intelligence resources, special forces, and/or submarines, it could even be possible for small numbers of merchant shipping to be lost in ways that would be difficult to attribute to a specific nation.

I do not wish to expound on this, since I do not wish to give anyone ideas, but it would certainly be possible to harm the economy if a specific nation's shipping was targeted, as well as portions of the international economy if certain types of shipping were targeted.
And to give a historical example. The Kreigsmarine in the early days of WW2 targeted amongst a number of vessels of opportunity and mining the northern apporaches to Auckland harbour and Devonport - the phosphate vessels that used to ply their trade between Nauru and NZ. No doubt Australia as well. Reason - NZ was know to be a major food supply to the UK but in those days required large amounts of phosphate and cobolt on its pastures to create the conditions to achieve grass growth. Deny phosphate to the pasture and the production yield dramatically falls.
 
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