Maritime Choke Points

A new study from the American Geophysical Union has shown a dramatic increase in shipping traffic since 1992 and it is not hard to visualise where this traffic may come under greater risk, a picture paints a thousand words though, so here it is.

Shipping Routes (Image Credit: Grolltech)
Shipping Routes (Image Credit: Grolltech)

The report…

[browser-shot width=”700″ url=”http://news.agu.org/press-release/worldwide-ship-traffic-up-300-percent-since-1992/”]
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John Hartley
John Hartley
December 7, 2014 11:42 am

A good reason for loading up Gibraltar with SAMs, AShMs & ASW. Perhaps SeaCeptor,SeaVenom & Spearfish?

Phil
December 7, 2014 12:03 pm

Funnily enough the vast majority of traffic goes through areas we have a permanent naval presence in – indeed we have a permanent joint NATO presence in.

Topman
Topman
December 7, 2014 12:40 pm

Surprising how much traffic there is through the Caribbean Sea.

ArmChairCivvy
ArmChairCivvy
December 7, 2014 12:50 pm

Topman, it is,especially if you “erase” from the picture the Panama Canaal traffic.

Topman
Topman
December 7, 2014 12:53 pm

I wonder if alot of the traffic are cruise ships?

P2000
P2000
December 7, 2014 1:56 pm

Some of that Caribbean traffic (and a lot of its increase) will be he physical impact of shale has exploitation in the US – now a net oil and has exporter.

Mark
Mark
December 7, 2014 1:59 pm

Surprised by how red the tracks look going round the top of norway. Just out of interest when leaving from gb how far to the east does your destination need to be before it’s quicker to go west thru the Panama canal.

monkey
monkey
December 7, 2014 4:12 pm

The scientist was originally using the satellites via radar altimetry to plot the movement of icebergs and discovered it could be used to plot the passage of merchant ships. It has been mentioned before on this site how difficult it is to find a carrier task force due to the oceans size, not so now I think.

All Politicians are the Same
All Politicians are the Same
December 7, 2014 4:42 pm

@ Monkey

Nope it makes zero difference. It has never been about being invisible to satellites it is about knowing where to point the satellite and also keeping the satellite safe. in this instance they have simply illustrated what anyone who has ever read “NP 136 ocean passages of the world” has known for decades and where to point the satellites was very obvious. It also does not differentiate between ships.

P2000
P2000
December 7, 2014 7:30 pm

“Five keys lock up the World – Singapore, the Cape, Alexandria, Gibraltar and Dover.”

– Jackie Fisher.

monkey
monkey
December 7, 2014 8:07 pm

The satellites the scientists are using are purely scientific systems not the militaries specialised spy systems. They are not targeted as such but just maintain their orbits, gather data and transmit it to civilian ground stations.
They gather more than height data they also sense ocean temperatures , cloud formations whatever sensors can be crammed on board for the given payload they can afford. In terms of detecting a fleet I would assume it moves together in a particular formation quite often not on the normal shipping lanes and it stays together giving a consistent set of responses indicating the size of vessels unlike merchant ships which don’t travel together but move at their own optimal speed which would eventually separate a group of merchant men even if they set off together? Most merchant ships are much bigger than warships , an Arleigh Burke at 9000t or so is small compared to most merchant ships is it not. A large single response and several much smaller ones moving together over long distances shouldn’t task a programmer too hard to separate the wheat from the chaff so that more dedicated surveillance knows at least which 1000sq miles to look in. The link is a list of the satellites and the data they hold and if you want any member of the public, a school or university can sign up for a password with the data being as current as todays.
http://rads.tudelft.nl/rads/status.shtml

All Politicians are the Same
All Politicians are the Same
December 7, 2014 8:16 pm

@ Monkey

“The satellites the scientists are using are purely scientific systems not the militaries specialised spy systems. They are not targeted as such but just maintain their orbits, gather data and transmit it to civilian ground stations.”

Precisely and that is just one of the reasons why they make zero difference. Believe it or not, even before Tds post the utility of various satellite platforms has been examined.

monkey
monkey
December 7, 2014 8:24 pm

@APATS
Thanks for the heads up.

All Politicians are the Same
All Politicians are the Same
December 7, 2014 8:30 pm

@Monkey

The issues with satellites remain the same. In order to go geosynchronous you have them at such a height that resolution is a massive issue. Once they are in orbit they are predictable and changing the orbit costs precious fuel. They also have an issue with resolution vs area and are vulnerable to ANTISAT measures.
they are bloody useful but still require a lot of planning and intel to fully utilise.

Anixtu
Anixtu
December 7, 2014 9:05 pm

monkey,

“In terms of detecting a fleet I would assume it moves together in a particular formation quite often not on the normal shipping lanes and it stays together giving a consistent set of responses indicating the size of vessels unlike merchant ships which don’t travel together but move at their own optimal speed which would eventually separate a group of merchant men even if they set off together?”

To counter this I send my task group off at intervals, from different starting locations, by different routes, to rendezvous at the point of action. A fairly simple solution if that was your detection method.

monkey
monkey
December 7, 2014 10:37 pm

@Anixtu
It was indeed my point , do carrier battle groups deploy like this ,not to say they couldn’t but I would of thought in a time of potential conflict a certain minimum number of vessels would be needed to protect the carrier/amphibious ship. The US having the Arleigh Burke which can provide both ASW and AAW as well as anti ship strike are very capable but how few can you get away with? The auxiliaries can rendezvous as required but would be exposed if operating alone. What I was envisaging was that using the data from these civilian satellites (the CRYOSAT 2 can detect down to 1/2″ of height difference) there is something in the public domain that prior to hostilities being formally announced, hopefully afterwards the data stream is cut off to be used only by us :-) , there is a way of possibly predicting exactly where the enemies vessels are.
P.S. on the ‘Sultan’ of Bahrain on consultation of my fathers recollection it is what he used to explain his whereabouts for the last year to a 5 year old 40+ years ago , poetic licence as he now put it, but there a good few Dhows on the bottom of the Gulf based on what the Bahrainian official ordered them to do.

Observer
Observer
December 7, 2014 11:14 pm

Re: Satellites, there was a spike in interest here in the media when one of our experiments blew up with the most recent US Antares explosion. From media interviews, apparently it was an attempt to see if a lower orbit satellite could reliably transmit to one that is geosynced in higher orbit to bypass the ground station delay. The explanation was that the earth blocks transmission if the unit happens to be on the wrong side of the planet from the ground station, so it would take half an orbit before they can download information from the satellite. Something like a satellite watching China for example needing to transmit data to the US which is exactly on the opposite side of the planet. Punting a signal up to a geosync satellite lets them use the higher orbit to “pass the message” through a chain of satellites to the ground station on the opposite side. Problem lies in that as the satellite orbits, it needs to keep changing targets to provide partial real time information. Apparently it is this constant switching that is a problem.

mike wheatley
mike wheatley
December 8, 2014 1:17 am

@ monkey & others:
The art of stage magic is to describe a set of rules to the audience, that you have no intention of following.
This is very relevant to questions about tracking military behaviour during wartime. Especially all the things you have just thought “but…” about.

ArmChairCivvy
ArmChairCivvy
December 8, 2014 2:14 am

APATS, re yours @8:30,

Going geostationary is not the only trick if you are interested in a certain geography (that would be the low passes of what is known as an M-orbit):

“On May 6, 2014 at 17:49 MSK (13:49 UTC) the Space Forces successfully launched a Soyuz-2.1a rocket from launch pad No. 4 of the launch complex No. 43 of the Plesetsk launch site. The satellite that was successfully delivered to orbit was reportedly designated Cosmos-2495. It is believed to be an optical reconnaissance satellite of the Kobalt-M type.

The satellite received international designation 2014-025A and was registered by NORAD as object 39732. It was deployed on an orbit with perigee of 176 km, apogee 285 km and orbital period of 89.11 minutes. Inclination of the orbit is 81.41 degrees”
http://russianforces.org/blog/2014/05/cosmos-2492_-_new_kobalt-m_rec.shtml

ArmChairCivvy
ArmChairCivvy
December 8, 2014 2:27 am

@Observer,
I would put that effort down to building redundancy for resilience.

There is no shortage of ground station for the comms (they also capture what other people’s satellites are transmitting):
http://world-information.org/wio/infostructure/100437611746/100438659207/?ic=100446325884

Observer
Observer
December 8, 2014 1:52 pm

True ACC. If Country X trusts the receiving country enough to use it as a pipeline that is. Feeding all your intel through a 3rd country is an open invitation for a peek at your capabilities after all.

Brian Black
Brian Black
December 9, 2014 10:42 am

When you see visualizations like that, it’s a wonder how we manage with such a piffling little coastguard of border agency and fishy protection vessels. Especially now that we’re never more than six feet away from an al Qaida terrorist.

Considering all the political fuss about immigration lately, it’s arguable that the UK should have a permanent coastguard presence in the Mediterranean to help with EU border controls.

a
a
December 9, 2014 5:09 pm

“Going geostationary is not the only trick if you are interested in a certain geography (that would be the low passes of what is known as an M-orbit):”

Also known as a Molniya orbit. High eccentricity. But actually the bit of the world you are interested in should be the bit under the high passes, because that’s the bit you’ll spend most time over; the lower the satellite is, the faster it goes.

ArmChairCivvy
ArmChairCivvy
December 9, 2014 5:32 pm

@a, true,but:

I referenced APATS post about resolution challenges when you are as far away as you would be when geostationary. So from that point of view Molniya provides the answer…

Now, looking at the orbits of those satellites so placed, you could also think that the interest (them being military) is focussed on the areas under the low part of the orbit.

The Other Nick
The Other Nick
December 11, 2014 11:25 am

What is the thinking of (communication, reconnaissance, gps etc) satellites use in a ‘real’ war as it’s relatively easy to destroy them.

Anti Satellite Weapons (ASAT’s) date back to the 50’s with the US, Soviets, China, India and Israel developing and producing them. The test by China in 2007 with an anti-satellite missile destroying one of their own 750 kg weather satellites at a an altitude of 537 miles, received flack for the amount of the debris created. The most recent test was in May 2013 of the Chinese anti-satellite missile.

http://www.reuters.com/article/2013/05/15/us-china-launch-idUSBRE94E07D20130515

Random
Random
December 11, 2014 11:57 am

I believe that GPS satellites are possible to jam, which may be a better option as they are geostationary and therefore further out. My guess is that ASATs would be a cost effective weapon due to the fact that they are delivering a smaller payload than the rockets delivering the spy sats, although I guess At some point it will be possible to launch many very small spy sats from one big rocket, which might make shooting them down as well as tracking them, much more expensive?

MSR
MSR
December 12, 2014 3:42 pm

Change of tack with reference to the topic starter and to recent discussion here on the possibly efficacy of RN SSKs, and the recent announcement of the new facilities to be constructed in Bahrain (link http://www.royalnavy.mod.uk/news-and-latest-activity/news/2014/april/28/140428-hq-in-bahrain) …

Does the expansion of RN facilities in Bahrain with a stated view to hosting, in Michael Fallon’s words, “… more and larger ships” in the future add anything to the hypothetical case for re-introducing SSKs into the RN? Lots of shallows, lots of littoral and lots of things within short distances of each other in that part of the world, and now that there are to be improved basing facilities available, perhaps more scope for cost-effective use of an asset which, if procured sensibly*, could be procured in the ratio of 3 to 4 for the price of a single SSN.

*big caveat

monkey
monkey
December 12, 2014 3:49 pm

@MSR
You could if you choose the proposed type 216 AIP SSK use the same number of crew as in one Astute in three type 216 .

MSR
MSR
December 12, 2014 3:58 pm

And people are the most expensive thing… good point to add to the argument, above and beyond material costs.

The Other Chris
December 12, 2014 4:09 pm

Which is the true drive behind RPA development.

A handful of crews rotating 24/7 in shifts but operating a dozen (or more) aircraft simultaneously globally.

Soon to be rolled out on the ground and underwater.

monkey
monkey
December 12, 2014 4:29 pm

@ToC
Indeed things like Global Hawk have multiple crews monitoring them due to their endurance and if drones can be built to refuel each other in flight how often would they even land for servicing or re-arming if so equipped. The strain on an aircraft is mostly on take off and landing not cruising at altitude on a reduced throttle (assuming no violent air disturbances). Similar sea based ,surface or sub-surface units the same as well as land based vehicles. Over reliance on such though exposes you massively if your communications to said assets are disrupted or over-taxed take for instance the air-traffic control over London issue right now ( can someone in the know explain how a single(?) server failing stops flight in the busiest air corridor in the world., don’t they have back up upon back ups and then some more.)

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Deja Vu
Deja Vu
January 2, 2015 10:27 am

@TOC

Remotely controlled vehicles are here already in the form of TERRIER http://tinyurl.com/ounok3a.

I have wondered at the limited range for controlling TERRIER remotely. Is it a requirement that the controller have line of sight like a civil drone. Or is it as far as a POM can run to fix a leaking hydraulic line. :-).