Implications for maritime trade – a NZ perspective

This paper was delivered by Commander Steve Lenik, RNZN, at the ANI’s 2019 Goldrick Seminar

In order to conflate security implications with maritime trade there are three main points to consider from the New Zealand perspective. First, due to our geographical remoteness we are utterly dependent on maritime trade for the nation’s prosperity and wellbeing. Second, the New Zealand public is largely ‘sea-blind’ to the importance of maritime areas beyond our Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ). Beyond this horizon in New Zealand’s ‘maritime periphery’ lie important geopolitical reference points crucial in developing security measures in support of trade; and third, Defence is an important tool but, due to the potential for a revisionist form of maritime trade warfare, characterised by ‘Grey Zone’ activities, there are other levers of national power that are required as part of a global effort to safeguard the free and unencumbered trading routes that are so pivotal to New Zealand’s prosperity.      

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Modern Chinese Warplanes

Modern Chinese Warplanes: Chinese Naval Aviation, Aircraft and Units by Andreas Rupprecht, Harpia Publishing (, 2018, 96 pp, softbound, ISBN 9780997309256,

Reviewed by Mark R Condeno

The former Soviet/Ukrainian aircraft carrier ‘Admiral Gorshkov’, refitted and renamed ‘Liaoning’, was commissioned into People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) service in 2012. This marked a milestone in Chinese Naval Aviation history as the PLAN is now within reach of becoming a blue-water navy. A second aircraft carrier, Shandong, will soon hit the water with four more on the drawing boards, thereby challenging the US Navy in the Pacific.

Also, in 2012, notable aviation authors Andreas Rupprecht and Tom Cooper published Modern Chinese Warplanes – the definitive tome on the People’s Liberation Army Air Force and the People’s Liberation Army Naval Air Force. Following publication of this book several developments in Chinese aviation and naval programs happened rapidly, paired with the rising tensions in the South China Sea. These events, and regional security issues, led one of the authors to publish an update on the book, this time with a focus on the aircraft and units of Chinese Naval Aviation. Its 96 pages are full of information not readily available elsewhere.

In the introduction, the author highlights the extent of changes in the Chinese military structure. Because of the pace of the changes, he decided to focus and separate the naval air force for a more thorough assessment. Mr Rupprecht is to be commended for this feat as securing information on this subject is complex.

The book is divided into nine chapters commencing with an introductory history of the past and future of Chinese Naval Aviation. Here, some surprising vignettes caught this reviewer’s attention in that Chinese Naval Aviation began in 1927 to 1938. This discussion serves as the prequel on this historical section as the author has divided it into six periods from its activation to future predictions.

The subsequent segment examines national markings and aircraft serials and provides historians, scale modelers and intelligence officers a backgrounder on the Chinese secretive numbering system.  The third chapter is one of the book’s foundations, as the author delves into the aircraft, helicopters and unmanned aerial vehicles, specifically those in the present order of battle. This part covers fighters, fighter- bombers and bombers, trainers, transport and liaison, special mission aircraft and unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV) and unmanned combat aerial vehicles. Interestingly, the oldest fighter in service – the J-8 – is used in two interceptor variants. The author essentially covers the prospects of each type specifically on airborne early warning platforms, helicopters and UAVs, seven types of which are currently in service.

Emphasis is also given to naval aviation ordnance and stores, having a chapter dedicated to air-to-air and air-to-surface missiles, guided bombs, electronic counter measures pods and specialized air- launched weapons from fuel air explosives to aerial mines. Included are weapons upgrades and future developments. One new feature in this volume is details of pilot training, which is sometimes neglected or briefly given coverage in similar publications, but a must-have especially given the secrecy of the Chinese aviation community. 

The succeeding part looks at current and future Chinese aircraft carrier plans and related aspects such as fleet and operational concerns once the new carriers are commissioned. Another of the book’s gems is the coverage of the Naval Aviation’s Order of Battle dating to March 2018 (the book was published June 2018) covering the PLAN headquarters, Eastern, Southern and Northern Commands. 

The final two chapters discuss present and future Chinese operations with reference to Japan, Taiwan, the Scarborough Shoals and Spratly Islands. With the current tempo of expansion and changes both the People’s Liberation Army Navy Marine Corps and the Chinese para-naval forces, comprising the Chinese Coast Guard and China Marine Surveillance, would need separate books in the near future as these expanding maritime organisations will increasingly utilise aviation to support their operations.

Each chapter is lavishly supported with photographs, tables and maps which add to the book’s strengths. It is well presented with 89 colored photographs, 19 tables, one artwork,  six maps, a two-page bibliography and abbreviations guide. Harpia Publishing affixes another laurel in its list of accolades with the publication of this book in its Aviation History series.

Carrier Aviation in the 21st Century

Carrier Aviation in the 21st century – Aircraft Carriers and their Units in detail. Editor – Thomas Newdick. Paperback.  Harpia Publishing, Houston USA, 2017.

Reviewed by David Hobbs

This book was only recently brought to ANI’s attention and it is a pity it was not spotted when it was published in 2017.  It contains 9 chapters, each covering a different aircraft carrier operating nation and written by different, specialist authors.  

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Treaty Cruisers

Treaty Cruisers: the first International Warship Building Competition. By Leo Marriott. Pen and Sword Books Ltd. First Published 2005, Republished 2019

Reviewed by Greg Swinden

The Washington Naval Treaty of 1921 was meant to limit the size (both tonnage and warship numbers) of the navies operated by Great Britain, France, Italy, Germany, Japan and the United States.  It was envisaged the subsequent treaty would prevent a repeat of the accelerated warship construction that had helped push the European nations to war in 1914;  however the treaty was doomed to fail and in some respects created its own new naval arms race that partly led to another war in 1939.

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After the Lost Franklin Expedition

After the Lost Franklin Expedition; Lady Franklin and John Rae. By Peter Baxter. Pen and Sword History, Barnsley, 2019.

Reviewed by Tim Coyle

In 1845 Britain was at the pinnacle of empire. Britons had conquered and colonised vast tracts of territory across the world. The peerless Royal Navy ruled the seas, basking in the glory of Trafalgar 40 years previously. But that victory ironically denied many courageous and capable officers of career-enhancing employment and these languished on half pay for years as the drawdown of the RN order of battle beached many of them.  Consequently, competition for commissions was intense and no more so than in the prestigious and potentially enriching field of polar exploration; most particularly in discovering the mythical North West Passage.

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The U-Boat Commanders

The U-Boat Commanders: Knight’s Cross Holders 1934-1945. By Jeremy Dixon. Pen and Sword Books, Barnsley, 2019

Reviewed by Darren Puttock

Of all the aspects of the German war machine, in his WWII memoirs Winston Churchill admitted “the only thing that ever really frightened me during the war was the U-boat peril.” The Battle of the Atlantic was the only active theatre that lasted the entirety of the war, and the German Unterseebootwaffe scored incredible victories over Allied shipping.

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The Admiralty and the Helicopter

The Admiralty and the Helicopter: Royal Navy Helicopter Projects. By James Jackson. Blue Envoy Press, 2018, Paperback, ISBN 978-0-9561951-4-2

Reviewed by CDR Mark R Condeno, Philippines Coast Guard Auxiliary

This year marked the 75th anniversary of the introduction of the helicopter to the Royal Navy Fleet Air Arm in 1944 when a select group of pilots went to the United States to train on one of Sikorsky’s earliest rotary winged craft. The use of helicopters at sea developed substantially during the Cold War for anti-submarine warfare.

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All the Factors of Victory

All the Factors of Victory. Admiral Joseph Mason Reeves and the Origins of Carrier Airpower. By Thomas Wildenberg. Paperback. Naval Institute Press, Annapolis, 2018.

Reviewed by David Hobbs

Thomas Wildenberg is an independent historian who has specialised in the development of naval aviation in the US Navy, especially in the period between 1924 and 1945.  He has written five books on the subject and this paperback is a reprint of a book first published in 2003.

Reeves is widely recognised as the man who, more than any other, made the operation of large numbers of aircraft from carrier decks a viable operational proposition in the 1920s.  

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Putting Cargoes Through

Putting Cargoes Through. The U.S. Navy at Gibraltar during the First World War 1917-19. By Vice Admiral Albert P. Niblack. Edited with an introduction by John B. Hattendorf. Calpe Press, Gibraltar 2018. 168 Pages, Illustrated. Available from Calpe Press. 7 Fountain Ramp, Gibraltar.

Reviewed by Greg Swinden

In April 1917 the United States entered World War I and quickly committed her sea, land and air forces to the fight.   Amongst some of the first US forces to arrive in the European theatre were naval forces that commenced operations from Gibraltar in August 1917.  In late November of that year those forces came under the command of Rear Admiral Albert Niblack, USN.

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Operation STABILISE in Timor revisited

Strength Through Diversity: The Combined Naval Role in Operation STABILISE. By David Stevens. RAN Sea Power Centre, Working Paper No. 20, Canberra, 2007.

Reviewed by Dr Gregory P. Gilbert

‘The management of the Coalition is the biggest issue.’ – Commodore J.R. Stapleton, RAN, p. 3.

SOMETIMES our thoughts go back to what feels like simpler times. In fact, however, when we re-examine the past we discover that it was often just as much complex and challenging as events today. After twenty years it is worth looking at the events surrounding the International Force East Timor (INTERFET) deployment from September 1999 to February 2000 – known at the time as Operation STABILISE. I had hoped to be able to review the Official History of INTERFET by this time but as with most histories of recent Australian conflicts the facts and figures have been difficult to gather together let alone assess. That said I am assured that the INTERFET volumes of the Official History are well on their way.

In the meantime the Australian Naval Institute community should view the relatively short but highly readable work released by David Stevens in 2007. 

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