Regional defense news: US sub re-homed to West Pacific, missile launch site development near Taiwan

In moves resembling a game of geostrategic chess, the US has forward-deployed a nuclear submarine to “the tip of the spear” in Guam, Japan’s development of a missile launch site on Ishigaki Island, near Taiwan, is advancing, China’s Liaoning aircraft carrier has sailed through the Miyaki Strait into the West Pacific, and a German naval vessel is in the South China Sea for the first time in 20 years.

USS Jefferson City forward-deployed to new home base Guam

USS Jefferson City docking in Guam. Picture: USPACOM.

The Los Angeles class nuclear-powered fast attack submarine, USS Jefferson City arrived at Naval Base Guam, which will be its new home base, the US Navy announced, December 16.

“The officers and crew of Jefferson City are excited for the opportunity to join the Forward Deployed Naval Force at the tip of the spear in Guam,” said Cmdr. Robert McDowell, commanding officer, Jefferson City.

Jefferson City had previously been home-based in Hawaii since redeployment from Point Loma, California, in 2014.

“This homeport change continues our focus to bring our most capable submarines to theater with the greatest amount of striking power and operational capability to bear in the timeliest manner,” said Captain Bret Grabbe, commodore, Submarine Squadron 15.

“The security environment in the Indo-Pacific requires that the U.S. Navy station the most capable ships forward,” the US Navy press report noted.

Japan’s missile launch site on Ishigaki Island advancing

The New York Times published an article with a very nice picture of the construction of Japan’s missile launch site on Ishigaki Island, 322 kilometers from Taiwan. In the article “Worried about conflicts in the Taiwan Strait, Japan deploys missile launchers on islands near Taiwan,” published in the Chinese version of NYT, authors Ben Dooley and Hisako Ueno note that “The deployment of missiles in Ishigaki is to protect Japan. But if Beijing invades Taiwan, the anti-ship system and air defense system here can theoretically be used against Chinese warships.”

Japan announced, August 2021, that it would deploy self-defence missile units manned with 500-600 personnel in Ishigaki Island by the end of fiscal year 2022; bringing the total number of missile deployment sites in the Nansei island Chain to four.

According to Japan News-Yomiuri the new units will operate surface-to-ship and ground-to-air missiles.

The missile launch site development is part of an ongoing strengthening of defense forces in the island chain closest to Taiwan. Japan’s closest military outpost is on Yonaguni Island, just 100 kilometers from the coast of Yilan County.

map showing first island chain of defense between Japan and Taiwan
Picture: Japan News-Yomiuri

Chinese aircraft carrier fleet transits Miyako Strait

China’s People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) aircraft carrier Liaoning sailed through the Miyako Strait into the Pacific Ocean escorted by the type 055 destroyer Nanchang, the type 054 frigate Rizhao, and a type 901 integrated supply ship Wednesday, according to Japan’s Ministry of Defense.

The Japan MOD reported that helicopters were taking off and landing while the Liaoning sailed in the East China Sea, and carrier-based fighter aircraft were taking off and landing while sailing in the Pacific Ocean.

Japan dispatched two naval ships and two maritime patrol planes to monitor and gather intelligence from the Chinese warships.

Liaoning aircraft carrier and escorts
The Liaoning aircraft carrier and escorts sailing the Miyako Strait, Japan, December 16, 2021. Picture: Ministry of Defense, Japan.

German Navy ship enters the South China Sea for first time in 20 years

The German Navy ship Bayern entered the South China Sea, Tuesday, December 15, marking the first visit by a German naval vessel since 2002.

The Brandenburg-class frigate sailed into the South China Sea “to promote free navigation and to uphold the international order in the Indo-Pacific region, the German Ministry of Foreign Affairs said in a written statement.

Bayern will visit Singapore, Vietnam, Japan, South Korea, Guam, Australia, Singapore, Sri Lanka, and India on its 7-month-long voyage of the Indo-Pacific.

Plans to visit Qingdao and Shanghai were quashed when China declined to consent to the visits, according to a report by Deutsche Welle.

Officials in Berlin said that the Bayern will travel via common trade routes, and is not expected to make a transit of the Taiwan Strait.

German naval ship Bayern
German ship Bayern. Picture BUNDESWEHR.

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