Category Archives: navy

Some Pushback on that Lind article… and some agreement too.

URR posted about an article by William Lind. Lots of people immediately panned the article (and by my lights, rightly so), mostly about the intellectual incuriosity of junior officers.

CDR Salamander, of course, took a poke at the article. But he also gives credit where due on some parts of Lind’s piece. For my money, the biggest structural problem in the officer corps is the stupendously bloated staff sizes. Your mileage may vary.

As with so many posts at CDR Sal’s, the real fun is in the comments. That’s your reading assignment for today.

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The Maces made a video you have to see to believe…

It IS a good video.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JnsxWrPUHN8&feature=youtu.be

Stolen from Bill, who posted it over at The Lexicans.

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William S. Lind’s Grim Assessment of the US Officer Corps

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From The American Conservative.   Bill Lind, one of the authors of Fourth Generation Warfare, is often a bit of a scratchy contrarian who is firmly convinced of his own infallibility when it comes to military theory.   Lind has never served in uniform, and often his condescending pontification and admonitions of “You’re doing it all wrong!” to US military thinkers causes his views to be dismissed out of hand.  But Lind is very smart, and often had nuggets of insight that deserve our consideration.  Here are a few from his TAC article:

Even junior officers inhabit a world where they hear only endless, hyperbolic praise of “the world’s greatest military ever.” They feed this swill to each other and expect it from everyone else. If they don’t get it, they become angry. Senior officers’ bubbles, created by vast, sycophantic staffs, rival Xerxes’s court. Woe betide the ignorant courtier who tells the god-king something he doesn’t want to hear.

And:

What defines a professional—historically there were only three professions, law, medicine, and theology—is that he has read, studied, and knows the literature of his field. The vast majority of our officers read no serious military history or theory.

While my personal experience has been that Marine Officers tend to read and discuss military history, it could be that I gravitate toward those who do.  I will admit that I am chagrined at the numbers of Officers of all services who have seemingly no interest in doing so.

Lind also identifies what he calls “structural failings”:

The first, and possibly the worst, is an officer corps vastly too large for its organization—now augmented by an ant-army of contractors, most of whom are retired officers. A German Panzer division in World War II had about 21 officers in its headquarters. Our division headquarters are cities. Every briefing—and there are many, the American military loves briefings because they convey the illusion of content without offering any—is attended by rank-upon-rank of horse-holders and flower-strewers, all officers.

Command tours are too short to accomplish anything, usually about 18 months, because behind each commander is a long line of fellow officers eagerly awaiting their lick at the ice-cream cone… Decisions are committee-consensus, lowest common denominator, which Boyd warned is usually the worst of all possible alternatives. Nothing can be changed or reformed because of the vast number of players defending their “rice bowls.” The only measurable product is entropy.

The second and third structural failings are related because both work to undermine moral courage and character, which the Prussian army defined as “eagerness to make decisions and take responsibility.” They are the “up or out” promotion system and “all or nothing” vesting for retirement at 20 years. “Up or out” means an officer must constantly curry favor for promotion because if he is not steadily promoted he must leave the service. “All or nothing” says that if “up or out” pushes him out before he has served 20 years, he leaves with no pension. (Most American officers are married with children.)

It is not difficult to see how these… structural failings in the officer corps morally emasculate our officers and all too often turn them, as they rise in rank and near the magic 20 years, into ass-kissing conformists.

I cannot help but notice the truth that rings from much of what Boyd asserts.  I have made some of those very same assertions myself on more than a few occasions.  Give the article a read.  What does the gang here think?  Is Boyd on target?  If so, how do we fix it?  Can it be fixed?

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Filed under Air Force, army, Around the web, Defense, history, marines, navy, recruiting, Uncategorized, veterans, war

The Return of the Flying Dorito? Or “What the heck was that over Texas?

Planespotters in Texas and now Kansas have recently been seeing some very unusual looking aircraft overhead. The shape of these high flying mystery jets is similar too, but NOT the same as, the B-2 Spirit bomber, better known as the Stealth Bomber.

These sightings have, of course, cranked up the rumors and theories.

Today we have new pics that are the clearest yet.

A mysterious flying object was snapped flying over Wichita, Kansas by Jeff Templin. It resembles a similar unidentified aircraft streaking across the skies of Texas last month

The triangular shape certainly calls to mind one of the biggest procurement failures of the latter half of the 20th Century, the Navy’s failed A-12 Avenger II program.

The A-12, planned successor to the fabled A-6 Intruder attack aircraft, was eventually cancelled before the first was ever built due to staggering cost overruns and the massive weight gain of the design.

http://aviationintel.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/01/A-12-Avenger-II-Experimental-Stealth-Bomber-Side-View-Angle.jpg

But you can see from the picture above, the triangular shape of the mystery jet is certainly very, very similar to the A-12.

Who knows if the jet over Texas is manned or a drone, or what?

What say you?

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The Navy Needs a New Anti-Ship Missile- Here’s What They Are Looking At.

The Harpoon family of anti-ship missile has been in US service since the late 1970s. At the time of its introduction, it was cutting edge technology in small sized, sea skimming cruise missiles. But today, it is rapidly becoming obsolete.

http://www.sflorg.com/rockets_missiles_spacecrafts/albums/missiles/missiles_02.jpg

Harpoon missile

It’s range of roughly 100 nautical miles is a good deal less than the 150nm minimum that the Navy needs to stand off from enemy missile armed ships. The Harpoon’s radar seeker was pretty advanced when introduced, but today is increasingly vulnerable to jamming or deception. And while the canister launch system is quite compact, ships such as the Flight IIA DDG-51 Burke class destroyers don’t have space for even such a small mount. Ideally, any next generation anti-ship missile will fit inside the existing Mk41 Vertical Launch System that houses all the other missiles these ships carry.

Also, the Navy would like any future Anti-Ship missile to also be able to be carried and launched by existing strike aircraft like the F/A-18 Hornet family, and ideally the F-35C.

Rather than starting from scratch, the Navy has been looking around at what else is already available.

And coincidentally, the Air Force began a replacement for its air launched cruise missiles a few years ago. And the fruits of that program recently entered service as the AGM-158 JASSM, or Joint Air to Surface Standoff Missile.  A longer ranged variant has even more recently entered service as the JASSM-ER, or Extended Range.

(also counts as Daily Dose of Splodey)

Accordingly, the Navy, via DARPA,  has begun developing a variant of the JASSM-ER as a next generation Anti-Ship Missile. This program is known as LRASM, or Long Range Anti-Ship Missile.

Unlike a cruise missile designed to attack targets ashore, Anti-Ship Missiles need to attack moving targets. That means they need an autonomous seeker capability to detect and track the target. Traditionally, this has meant a radar seeker. The Lockheed Martin, the contractor, advertises the seeker as having a multi-mode capability, which, just guessing here, includes a radar seeker, possibly a passive electronic seeker, and most likely an imaging infra-red and possibly a ultraviolet spectrum seeker.

The LRASM is powered by a small jet engine for cruising to the target. But to get it up to flight speed, it needs a rocket booster. To save development costs, the LRASM is using the Mk114 booster rocket currently used by the Vertical Launch ASROC anti-sub weapon.

Leveraging existing weapons and technologies allows for the relatively low risk development of a weapon system that is cheaper than starting from a fresh sheet of paper, and yet still provides a significant improvement in capability over the currently fielded Harpoon family.

The Navy hasn’t made any announcements, but it is quite possible that the LRASM will also be developed into a land attack variant to replace the existing Tomahawk cruise missiles.

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Today I Learned…

Or, as they say on Twitter, “TIL.”

The Grumman EA-6B Prowler is a four place electronic warfare plane that specializes in jamming enemy radars and communications.

Like virtually all tactical jets, the crew rides on ejection seats.

 

In the video above, you’ll see all four seats fire at intervals of about half a second. If you look carefully, you see that they fire the back seats first, then the front seats. Additionally, the seats fire at a very slight angle outboard from the aircraft to generate separation between the seats. To cause the seats to angle outboard, the rocket motor is very slightly off centerline of the seat. Having the thrust line off centerline causes the angle of flight.

Here’s a picture of a test of the S-3B Viking, with a similar 4 seat ejection.

http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/5/54/S-3A_escape_sys_China_Lake_NAN1-72jpg.jpg

What I learned today was that the firing handles of the various seats in the Prowler were color coded so the seat maintainers could ensure the proper seat was installed in the proper location in the cockpit.

  The GRUEA-7 Ejection Seats are simply superb—all I did was attach brass handles.  On the Prowler, the firing mechanisms on top of the ejection seats are color coded to help the aviators ensure that the correct seat has been installed.  The seats were painted the appropriate colors, (white for the left rear seat; orange for the right rear seat; purple for the right front seat; brown for the left front seat) and installed.

Sadly, in the video above, the pitching motion of the Prowler as it went off the bow caused the pilot’s seat to collide with another seat, killing the pilot. The three Electronic Countermeasures Officers (ECMOs) were recovered.

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LCS First Deployment- Too Pooped To Party

Singapore is renowned through the Navy as one of the best liberty ports in the  world. And the Concept of Operations for the Navy’s new LCS class of ships sees them deploying across the Pacific to operated forward deployed to the city-state for six to nine months at a time, cruising for three or four weeks, with a week or so in port for upkeep and liberty.

But Breaking Defense brings us the news that the extremely small crew size of the LCS means simply running and maintaining the ship wears the crew to the nub, in spite of massive contractor support while in port.

 

WASHINGTON: Some spectacular glitches marred the first overseas deployment of the Navy’s Littoral Combat Ship, including an electrical failure that left the USS Freedom“briefly” dead in the water. Now Breaking Defense has obtained an unpublished Government Accountability Office study of Freedom‘s Singapore deployment that raises more serious questions about a long-standing worry: whether the small and highly automated LCS has enough sailors aboard to do up all the work needed, from routine maintenance to remedial training.

By now, the Navy brass have surely gotten tired of GAO taking shots at LCS. But according to GAO, LCS sailors are getting literally tired of the ship: They averaged about six hours of sleep per day, 25 percent below the Navy’s eight-hour standard, and key personnel such as engineers got even less. That’s in spite of

  • extensive reliance on contractors both aboard and ashore, with a “rigid” schedule of monthly returns to Singapore that restricted how far from port the LCS could sail;
  • the decision to increase Freedom‘s core crew by 25 percent, from 40 to 50 — the maximum the ship can accommodate without a “significant” redesign; and
  • the 19-sailor “mission module” crew, who are supposed to operate LCS’s weapons, helicopters, and small boats, pitching in daily to help the core crew run the ship’s basic systems.

None of this was unforeseen by critics of the program. Comparably sized conventional ships might have a crew of from 150 to almost 200. Of course, one of the major design goals of the LCS was to use automation to reduce crew size drastically, as personnel costs are one of the highest life-cycle costs of a ship. And to be sure, to a certain extent, using automation to reduce the workload is a good idea.

But much as the Army found that increased automation and networking might increase awareness across a battlespace, there still remains a requirement for a certain critical mass of people.  It’s the same thing at sea.

While the engineering failures of the LCS-1 were embarrassing (especially since the ship has been in commission for years before its first deployment), to some extent, that’s typical teething trouble of a new class.

But that mechanical unreliability is also greatly troubling, in that a central part of the Concept of Operations is to have large scale contractor support forward in the theater where LCS will operate. Now, the LCS isn’t designed to operate with the battle fleets of our Navy, but rather to fulfill many of the presence missions that every navy spends a great deal of time performing.  That’s fine when the LCS is patrolling the waters of the Straits of Malacca. Singapore is a modern city, with the infrastructure to support the LCS, and finding qualified contractors willing to spend considerable time there isn’t terribly difficult.

But when LCS class ships begin deploying to less pleasant spots around the globe, the infrastructure to support them will be lacking, and finding contractors willing to support them will be more difficult (and hence, expensive). If for any reason, contractor support is unavailable, either the ship’s crew will have to do required work, or the ship will simply be unavailable to perform its mission.

Again, none of these problems were unforeseen. Critics of the program have, from Day One, bemoaned the extreme measures reducing the crew size drastically. They’ve noted that tying the ship to peirside support means the ships lack strategic mobility, as they will be unable to suddenly shift from one theater to another (say, from the Red Sea to the Levant). And as crews wear themselves out, many will make the decision to leave the service, reducing the numbers of qualified, experienced sailors, and increasing the spiral of overworking crews.

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Filed under logistics, navy

U-T San Diego: Ramadi Remembered

Mideast-Iraq-US-2nd-Batallion-Ramadi

Ramadi remembered

Iraq battle began 10 years ago on April 6, exacting heavy Marine toll

“The Battle of Ramadi was pivotal for coalition operations in the province,” the 1st Marine Division announced. Marines and soldiers killed an estimated 250 rebels from April 6 to April 10, and “the fighting shattered the insurgent offensive.”

U-T San Diego has the story.

One hell of a price was paid by the Marines and Soldiers in that battle and in the subsequent months. Paul Kennedy’s 2nd Bn 4th Marines, the “Magnificent Bastards” were magnificent once again. 1st Bn 16th Infantry was, too. As was every other unit that contributed to the fight and to holding the line until the Awakening turned the tables a couple years later.  The bravery, skill, and determination daily displayed in Ramadi and in Fallujah that April of 2004 is difficult to put into words.

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It was the honor of a lifetime to serve under LtGen Conway, CG I MEF, and MajGen Mattis, CG 1st MarDiv.  The Division ADC was John Kelly, and the Chief of Staff was Joe Dunford.  The MEF SgtMaj was the incomparable Carlton Kent.  Marines could never ask to be led by better.  And, of course the friendships forged in such a place will last the rest of our days.

O, do not wish one more!
Rather proclaim it, Westmoreland, through my host,
That he which hath no stomach to this fight,
Let him depart; his passport shall be made,
And crowns for convoy put into his purse;
We would not die in that man’s company
That fears his fellowship to die with us.
This day is call’d the feast of Crispian.
He that outlives this day, and comes safe home,
Will stand a tip-toe when this day is nam’d,
And rouse him at the name of Crispian.
He that shall live this day, and see old age,
Will yearly on the vigil feast his neighbours,
And say ‘To-morrow is Saint Crispian.’
Then will he strip his sleeve and show his scars,
And say ‘These wounds I had on Crispian’s day.’
Old men forget; yet all shall be forgot,
But he’ll remember, with advantages,
What feats he did that day. Then shall our names,
Familiar in his mouth as household words-
Harry the King, Bedford and Exeter,
Warwick and Talbot, Salisbury and Gloucester-
Be in their flowing cups freshly rememb’red.
This story shall the good man teach his son;
And Crispin Crispian shall ne’er go by,
From this day to the ending of the world,
But we in it shall be remembered-
We few, we happy few, we band of brothers;
For he to-day that sheds his blood with me
Shall be my brother; be he ne’er so vile,
This day shall gentle his condition;
And gentlemen in England now-a-bed
Shall think themselves accurs’d they were not here,
And hold their manhoods cheap whiles any speaks
That fought with us upon Saint Crispin’s day.

Semper Fidelis, Marines.

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Filed under army, history, iraq, marines, navy, Personal, Uncategorized, veterans, war

Maritime Domain Lessons from MH370

17M-Missing plane search MAP.jpg

I’ve been laying low on social media concerning MH370 (in addtion to the personal reasons). Seems like everywhere I go someone is going to ask me “what do you think happened to the aircraft?” or better yet, “how can you lose an airplane”).  I haven’t been able to go out for the past couple of weeks without being asked just once about MH370.

Frankly before we have evidence, I have no idea. The first and foremost point I try to make is that the ocean is a BIG place. To those of you on the coasts this isn’t new but those of us (here in flyover country) without exposure to the maritime domain, I think really don’t concieve just how BIG the ocean really is.

globe3t

All the black area is ocean!

It’s not enough to be told in school that combined the oceans cover 2/3 of the surface of the planet. Below is a picture of the USS Harry S. Truman, a Nimitz Class nuclear powered aircraft carrier. There are amongst the largest movable man-made objects on the planet. According to Wikipedia the Nimitz class ships measure 1,092 feet overall and have flight decks that measure about 4.5 acres.

That's a HUGE ship!

That’s a HUGE ship!

The Truman seems immense when compared to the buildings in the background! But let’s take another look at the Nimitz class seen in the vastness of the ocean:

Or is it? There are 3 Nimitz class aircraft carriers here.

Or is it?

I know quite a few Naval Aviators that tell me the same thing about their first arrested landing and that’s, “it looked so small” and indeed it does.

Let’s go to MH370. MH370 is a Boeing 777-200ER twin turbofan powered aircraft carrying about 250 passengers. The -200ER has a length of 209ft 1in and a wingspan of 199ft 11in.

The 777 less than 1/5th the length of the Nimitz Class aircraft carrier. Keeping that in mind you can see the problem finding the aircraft in the vast ocean, let alone any wreackage (and that’s not even taking ocean currents, weather, etc into account).

That's a big airplane! A Malaysian Airlines 777-200ER.

That’s a big airplane! A Malaysian Airlines 777-200ER.

Hopefully, this will give you an idea about just how easy it is to lose what we perceive as large objects in the vast ocean. It’s the proverbial needle in a haystack.

Look at all that ocean.

Look at all that ocean.

The vast ocean makes MH370 hard to find, also makes it easy to hide a Carrier Strike Group (CSG). That brings me to an interesting article over at the Naval War College Review: “Maritime Deception and Concealment.”

The uninformed reader might think that in the age of global satellite converage it would be diffcult to hide a Carrier Strike Group (CSG) in the ocean but this isn’t the case. CSGs can undertake active and passive measures to deny an enemy the ability to target them.

Passive measures can include EMCON:

The most commonly practiced maritime tactic is emission control (EMCON). Maritime forces typically restrict their radio frequency (RF) emissions and configure shipboard systems to limit acoustic emissions when operatinf in contested areas; platforms tasked with active sensor searches in support of forces in EMCON are positioned so that the former’s emissions do not reveal the latter’s general location. As repeatedly demonstrated by the US Navy against the Soviet Ocean Surveillance System (SOSS) during the Cold War, EMCON measures can severaly constrain if not eliminate the usefulness of wide area passive sonar and RF direction-finding or electronic intelligence (ELINT) sensors for surveillance and reconnaissance. EMCON does not necessarily imply complete silence; highly directional line-of-sight communications and difficult-to-intercept “middleman” relays (satellites or aircraft) can provide critical command and coordination links. Even so, it does represent a deep cut to the force’s normally avaiable bandwidth. Effective EMCON therefore requires decentralized doctrine that embraces unit-level initiative in executing the forces commander’s intentions, as well as preplanned and frequently practiced responses to foreseeable situations.

Even weather can be used to limit the effectiveness of different deployed sensors:

Sufficiently dense haze and cloud cover reduces vulnerability to infrared (IR) and visual-band electro-optical (EO) sensors. Precipitation similarly reduces EO/IR sensor effectiveness and, depending on wavelength and clutter rejection capabilities, sometimes radar as well. Atmospheric layering can cause radar emissions to be so refracted as to render nearby surface units and aircraft undetectable. Highly variable diurnal ionospheric conditions can likewise degrade shore-based over-the-horizon-backscatter (OTH-B) radars. Heavy seas, however unconfortable for crews, increase the background clutter OTH-B radars must sift through, as well as the ambient noise that complicates passive sonar search.

I highly recommend reading the entire article. Learn about how a CSG can sometimes easily delay dectection by an enemy. Think about the different factors and limitations of various sensors and environmental factors effect tactics employed in a wartime search. All these factors are also applicable to a peacetime search and rescue/recovery.

Many of these limitations apply  to the non-combat SAR environment as well and that’s the lesson that I come away with from MH370.

 

 

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China Commissions First Type 052D Destroyer

25 years ago, the Chinese Navy (or more correctly, the People’s Liberation Army Navy) was a joke. Crudely build ships with fire control and armament little more advanced than what we operated in World War II would have been easy pickings for our Navy. But China, leveraging the vast increase in GDP, set out to build a quality navy, and has used both domestic development, and reverse engineering of western systems to field ever increasingly capable warships.

One of the first truly modern warships the Chinese fielded was the
Type 052, a class of two ships entering into service in 1994.

Designed prior to the Tiannamen Square massacre, they were built with western powerplants and electronics, though they used largely Chinese armaments.

Type 052.

File:Chinese destroyer HARIBING (DDG 112).jpg

Next step in development was the confusingly designated Type 051B, which looked nothing like the earlier Type 051 series.

File:Chinese destroyer Shenzhen DDG167.jpg

The Chinese only built one Type 051B, and it was apparently not considered terribly successful. But clearly the clean modern hull lines and general layout can be likened to such western types as the British Type 23 frigates (though the Type 051B was considerably larger). Interestingly, the Type 051B reverted from gas turbines and diesels to a steam plant. Chinese technology wasn’t quite capable of using indigenous marine gas turbines to power a destroyer yet.

That would change with the next series, the Type 052B.

One of the problems with the earlier series was the lack of an effective area anti-air weapon system. Earlier series carried the HY-7 missile, which was in effect a reverse engineered French Croatale short range missile. Roughly equivalent to our RIM-7 Sea Sparrow missile, it was a point defense system, capable primarily of self defense, and not area coverage.

That lack of area air defense effectively restricted Chinese operations to areas that could be covered by friendly land based air-power.

With the Type 052B, the Chinese installed the Russian SA-N-12 Grizzly Surface to Air Missile. Each ship had two single arm launchers, similar to the old US Mk13, with a total capacity of 48 missiles. For the first time, a Chinese destroyer could provide decent area air defense over a battle group or convoy.

File:Type 052B Guangzhou in Leningrad.jpg

While the 052B was a big improvement, it still relied on mechanically rotated radars, and the single arm launcher system for the Grizzly SAM limited its ability to deal with saturation raids. Entering service in 2004, they were a generation behind US (and even Russian) warships which had long switched over to Vertical Launch Systems, or VLS, and phased array radar systems. The two ships of the 052B class were clearly an interim design.

Using the hull and machinery of the 052B, the next series introduced two major changes. The Type 052C introduced an Active Electronically Scanned Phased Array radar, and the HHQ-9 long range surface to air missile in a Vertical Launch System.

File:Luyang II (Type 052C) Class Destroyer.JPG

The US has operated phased array radars at sea for over thirty years, but the SPY-1 radar is a “passive” array, meaning that a handful of transmitter/receiver modules feed the phase shifting elements of the array that steer the radar beams. In an active array, each phase shifting module is its own transmitter/receiver.

48 HHQ-9 SAMs in a unique vertical launch system gives the 052C a potent very long range anti-air capability. The HHQ-9 is derived from the Russian S-300 SAM system.  It’s theoretical range of 200km is overstating its capability, but it is still one of the more formidable sea based anti-aircraft missiles around.

The Chinese were pleased enough with 052C to proceed to series production, with six hulls being laid down. The need for area air defense, especially as escorts for the new Chinese aircraft carrier, meant building a credible blue water escort was important.

But there was still considerable scope for improvement. And so, even while 052C hulls are fitting out, the next iteration has been built and is being commissioned.

The Type 052D is roughly the same size at the 052C. And it too has an actively scanned array. But improvements in the cooling system have changed the appearance of the array. And rather than a VLS that can only launch the HHQ-9 SAM, the 052D has a new VLS that can, much like the US Mk41, accommodate a variety of different missile types. The 100mm gun of earlier classes has been replaced by a new 130mm design.

The 052D is the “objective” design, and is in series production, with one in commission, three others fitting out, and an additional 8 units planned, for a total of 12.

The obvious analog in the US fleet is the Flight IIA Burke class destroyer.

http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/b/bf/Burke_class_destroyer_profile%3Bwpe47485.gif

 

The Burkes are a good deal larger than the 052D, by about 2000 tons. Part of that is likely to the US tendency to build their ships for greater endurance and seakeeping. While China may seek to improve their blue water capabilities, they also are unlikely to routinely undertake the kind of world wide deployments US warships have made for the last 70 years.

While we can count gun mounts and missile cells, and look at antenna arrays, much of the capability of a modern warship is actually resident in the combat data systems, the computers that manage the weapons and sensors. And it is very difficult to draw an accurate conclusion as to their capability from the open source press.  We should avoid imbuing them with a lethality beyond what reason dictates, but we should also beware of discounting the ability of others to field technologically advanced and effective weapons.

The Chinese fleet of my youth, a collection of rustbuckets and antiques, is rapidly becoming a modern blue water, power projection fleet. They may not be our peer yet, but they’re certainly a force to contend with.

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Youthly Puresome

Growing up in a NavAir family, one of the pleasures every quarter was the arrival of The Hook, the magazine of the Tailhook Association. A collection of sea stories, historical monographs, and updates on people, places and goings on in the world of carrier aviation, it had fantastic pictures and interesting news.

And for about 20 years, it also featured the Further Adventures of Youthly Puresome, the humorous tales of derring do of Jack Woodall, as a young carrier pilot. Sadly, in a reshuffle of the Tailhook site, the archives were lost. But Jack finally has a website, and the archives of his fantastic sea stories is available for all.

They’re in .pdf format, but don’t let that stop you from some great writing.

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Filed under navy, planes

Carriers, Mobility, Stealth and Initiative

Think Defence today has a post on the difficulty a potential foe faces in finding a carrier at sea. It is (like virtually all content there) well worth reading the whole thing.

Aircraft carriers are difficult to detect.

Perhaps more importantly, they are difficult to identify. Regarding the difficulty of detection, the seas are very big and, in comparison, even the biggest of aircraft carriers are very small. Modern maritime patrol aircraft (MPA) have radars that have ranges of hundreds of nautical miles (nm) but oceans extend for thousands of nautical miles.

Moreover, radar impulses can be detected by electronic support measures (ESM) systems at significantly greater range than the radar can detect the platform (air or surface or even submarine) carrying the ESM. In wartime, an MPA using its radar gives itself away, opening the way to it either being intercepted and shot down before it can locate the carrier, or to the carrier simply altering course and avoiding the MPA.

Of course, MPAs also have ESM, but this works only if the carrier and its task group (Carrier Battle Group: CBG) are emitting electromagnetically.

But if the CBG has adopted strict electromagnetic silence (and it can do so & this is exercised), then there is nothing to detect. So the MPA is reduced to the Mark 1 eyeball as its only useful sensor.

When I think of most post-World War II significant carrier operations, I generally consider their use in Korea, Vietnam, and of course, operations in the Persian Gulf, where they essentially stayed in fixed positions, and acted like additional airfields. The lack of significant enemy ability to interdict our forces at sea allowed us to sacrifice one of the carrier task forces’ greatest assets, mobility, at little risk.

Prior to World War II, it was widely assumed that operating carrier forces within range of enemy land based airpower was a recipe for disaster, and that shore based airpower would quickly sink or damage any carrier force. The first clue that this wasn’t quite so true came December 7, 1941.

Successful, if not highly fruitful, US attacks against Japanese outposts in early 1942 showed that by choosing the time and place to attack, carriers could operate to impede or suppress shore based airpower, and retire out of range before an effective Japanese counterstroke could be brought to bear.

The Fast Carrier Task Force (TF38/TF58) would often operate in wide ranging support of amphibious landings in the Pacific War. While FCTC would of course raid the target of a landing, it would also strike enemy installations far afield, to deny the enemy the ability to reinforce the defense of our objective, and to a degree, to conceal our objective. The ability of the FCTF to move hundreds of miles each day, to attack in unexpected places, meant the Japanese often struggled to counterattack. It was only at times when the fast carriers were tied to an objective that the Japanese were able to mount large scale raids to attack our fleet. The most obvious example of this is the horrible attrition imposed on the fleet while supporting operations at Okinawa.

After the Vietnam War, the Navy looked at what it might be required to do in a World War III scenario versus the Soviet Union. The primary task was to secure the sea lanes to Europe. The primary Soviet threats to the sea lanes were submarines, and long range land based bombers armed with cruise missiles.  We’ll leave the discussion of the submarine threat to another time, but the Navy realized it would be called upon to stop the long range bomber threat, both as a threat to merchant shipping, and to the carrier forces themselves.  Soviet long range aviation had a much longer strike range than the organic airwing of carriers. To charge in and raid the Soviet bomber bases, the carriers would have to be able to avoid detection. And so they spent a fair portion of the coldest days of the Cold War learning to do just that.

The force transits to its objective area in complete electronic silence. Deceptive formations are used dispersed over a broad area to ensure any detection system does not see the classic “bullseye” formation made famous in countless Public Affairs shots and never used in operations. Broad surveillance systems are known so any detection method is countered either by denying sensor information, misleading, or providing expected results consistent with something else. For example, ESM systems rely on active emissions from radars or communication systems. So nothing is radiated. Overhead systems are in known orbits, are predictable, and their sensing capabilities known. So the track is varied, weather is sought out to hide in when vulnerable, blending into sea lanes (while staying out of visual detection range of ships) and such techniques. Deceptive lighting is used at night so that the obvious “blacked out warship” is instead thought to be a merchant or cruise liner. Surface search radar identical to commercial ones are used. Turn count masking is used by the ships. Aircraft maintenance on the CV and other helo equipped ships is limited to prevent transmissions.

In NORPAC 82 using these and other tactics the CV force operated close enough to support each other, but far enough and randomly dispersed to avoid identification by anyone. One night in bad weather a man went overboard when the ship was within 200nm of a Soviet airfield in the Kuril Island chain. Despite launch of helicopters and active search methods by several ships in the successful SAR, including clear voice UHF transmissions, the force is not detected because no Soviet asset was above the radar horizon. No overhead system was cued. The force continued on.

The Chinese have spent the last 20 years developing anti-access/area-denial tactics, techniques, and procedures. And to be sure, any operations against China would be significantly different than operations in the northern reaches of the Atlantic or Pacific.

But to blithely dismiss the ability of a carrier strike group to avoid detection (or at a minimum, to avoid being recognized as a carrier group) is to overlook the long history of carrier groups successfully approaching enemy shores.

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Hidden Treasure

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It can be found in the most unlikely of places.  This haul of pure naval gold came from the little book library that I found next to the gift shop aboard USS Midway in my sojourn to San Diego for the West Conference.  I saw a sign for “book sale”, which, except for “free ammo”, is most likely to make me stop every time.  I was allowed to go into the spaces that had the books for sale, and found this’n.  I decided to have a little fun with the docent who was running the sale.  When I asked “How much?”, he told me “Ten dollars.”  I worked up my most indignant expression, and said “TEN DOLLARS!  That’s highway robbery!  I won’t pay it!” at the same time I slipped a twenty to his elderly assistant, and gave him a wink.   He was a bit flummoxed, but the old fella gave me a smile.  I asked that they keep the change as a donation, which they were truly grateful for.

Anyway, inside the large, musty-smelling book that had likely not been opened in decades, there is to be found a veritable treasure of naval history.  From the advertisements at the beginning pages from famous firms such as Thornycroft, Hawker-Siddeley, Vickers-Amstrong Ship Repair and Shipbuilding, Bofors, Decca Radars, Edo Sonar, etc, to the line drawings of nearly every class of major combatant in commission in 1964, the book is simply fascinating.

What is first noticeable is that a great percentage of the world’s warships in 1964 still consisted of American and British-built vessels from the Second World War and the years immediately preceding.   Former Royal Navy aircraft carriers were the centerpieces of the navies of India, Canada, France, Holland, Australia (star-crossed Melbourne was a Colossus-class CV) and even Argentina and Brazil.   US-built ships comprise major units of almost every Western Bloc navy in 1964.  The ubiquitous Fletchers, of which nearly one hundred were transferred,  served worldwide, and remained the most powerful units of many Western navies into the 1990s.   But there were other classes, destroyer escorts, patrol frigates, minesweepers, and an untold number of LSTs, LCTs, LCIs, Liberty and Victory ships, tankers, and auxiliaries of all descriptions, under the flags of their new owners.   Half a dozen Brooklyn-class light cruisers went south in the 1950s, to the South American navies of Chile, Argentina, and Brazil.  (General Belgrano, sunk by a British torpedo in the Falklands War, was ex-USS Phoenix CL-46).  A surprising number of the pre-war Benson and Gleaves-class destroyers remained in naval inventories, including that of the United States Navy (35).   A large contingent of Balao and Gato-class diesel fleet subs also remained in service around the world, with images showing streamlined conning towers, and almost always sans the deck guns.

Nowhere is there a ship profile of a battleship.  By 1964, Britain had scrapped the King George Vs, and beautiful HMS Vanguard.   France had decommissioned Jean Bart, and though Richelieu was supposedly not decommissioned until 1967, she is not included.  The United States had disposed of the North Carolinas and the South Dakotas some years before, and only the four Iowas remained.  They are listed in the front of the US Navy section, but not as commissioned warships, and they are also not featured.   Turkey’s ancient Yavuz, the ex-German World War I battlecruiser Goeben, had not yet been scrapped (it would be in 1971), but apparently was awaiting disposal and not in commission.

The 1964-65 edition of Jane’s contains some really interesting pictures and facts. And definitely some oddities.

There is a launching photo for USS America (CV-66), and “artist’s conceptions” of the Brooke and Knox-class frigates, which were then rated as destroyer escorts.  In 1964, the largest warship in the Taiwanese Navy (Republic of China) was an ex-Japanese destroyer that had been re-armed with US 5″/38 open single mounts in the late 1950s.  The People’s Republic of China also had at least one ex-Japanese destroyer in service, along with the half-sisters to the ill-fated USS Panay, formerly USS Guam and USS Tutulia, which had been captured by the Japanese in 1941 and turned over to China at the end of the war.  The PRC also retained at least one river gunboat which had been built at the turn of the century.

Italy’s navy included two wartime-construction (1943) destroyers that had been badly damaged, repaired, and commissioned in the late 1940s.  The eye-catching feature of the photos of the San Giorgios is the Mk 38 5″/38 twin mountings of the type mounted on the US Sumners and Gearings.

A couple other oddities that I never would have known but for this book.  In the 1950s, West Germany salvaged one Type XXI and two Type XXIII U-boats, sunk in the Baltic in 1945, reconditioned them, and commissioned them.  While the Type XXI was an experimentation platform, apparently the two Type XXIII boats (ex-U-2365 and U-2367) became operational boats.    The Israeli frigate Haifa had been a British wartime Hunt-class frigate, sold to the Egyptian Navy, and captured by Israeli forces in Haifa in the 1956 war.

The Indian Navy was made up largely of ex-Royal Navy warships, understandably enough.  But one in 1964 was particularly significant.  The Indian light cruiser Delhi had been HMS Achilles, famous for its role as a unit of Commodore Harwood’s squadron in chasing the German panzerschiff KMS Graf Spee in the Battle of the River Plate in December, 1939.

There is much more contained in the pages of this old and forgotten edition.  This book is an absolute treasure trove of naval history.   And was a most unexpected find.    I have unleashed my inner geek!

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Hey Marines! Roll ‘Em Up!

iron mike

USMC recruiting

One of the very first things our first aviator Commandant did was to change what had been a century-long tradition of rolling sleeves up on the Marine utility uniform.  Summer, winter, Desert or Woodland MARPAT, sleeves would be worn down, IAW the “YEAR ROUND WEAR OF THE MARINE CORPS COMBAT UTILITY UNIFORM” guidance.  The regulation eliminated what had been a distinguishing feature of Marines when wearing utilities, the rolled sleeve.  Supposedly, it was to show “solidarity” with deployed Marines in Iraq and Afghanistan.  If you are waiting at Camp Pendleton or 29 Palms for your next turn over, I doubt rolling your sleeves down is quite the act of “solidarity”.

The measure was met with universal disapproval,  and was the first in a long series of missteps and poor decisions on the part of General Amos.  But, it seems, that decision was undone a couple weeks ago.  Behold, MARADMIN 078/14

R 260149Z FEB 14
UNCLASSIFIED/
MARADMIN 078/14
MSGID/GENADMIN,USMTF,2007/CMC WASHINGTON DC DMCS(UC)/F002//
SUBJ/MARINE CORPS COMBAT UTILITY UNIFORM POLICY CHANGE//
REF/A/MARADMIN/181719ZOCT11//
REF/B/MSGID:DOC/CMC WASHINGTON DC MCUB/31MAR2003//
AMPN/REF A ANNOUNCED YEAR ROUND WEAR OF THE MARINE CORPS COMBAT UTILITY UNIFORM (MCCUU) WITH SLEEVES DOWN.  REF B IS MCO P1020.34G, MARINE CORPS UNIFORM REGULATIONS//
POC/M. BOYT/CIV/UNIT:MCUB/-/TEL:(703) 432-3333/TEL:DSN 378-3333/EMAIL:MARY.BOYT(AT)USMC.MIL//
GENTEXT/REMARKS/1.  THIS MARADMIN ANNOUNCES THE COMMANDANT’S DECISION TO CANCEL REF A AND REVERT TO PREVIOUS POLICY FOR WEAR OF THE MCCUU.
2.  EFFECTIVE 09 MARCH 2014, THE DESERT MCCUU WILL BE WORN DURING THE SUMMER UNIFORM PERIOD WITH THE SLEEVES ROLLED UP.  AT LOCAL COMMANDERS’ DIRECTION (BN/SQDN), SLEEVES WILL CONTINUE TO BE ROLLED DOWN IN COMBAT AND FIELD ENVIRONMENTS.  DURING THE WINTER UNIFORM PERIOD, THE WOODLAND MCCUU WILL CONTINUE TO BE WORN WITH SLEEVES DOWN.
3.  REF B WILL BE UPDATED TO REFLECT THIS CHANGE.
4.  RELEASE AUTHORIZED BY MAJGEN M. R. REGNER, STAFF DIRECTOR, HEADQUARTERS MARINE CORPS.//

So, Marines, get thee to the gym or the pull-up bar and get those biceps and triceps HUGE!  Everybody knows that peace is gained and maintained by upper body strength!

sleeves

You have a chance to look bad-ass once again.  Make the most of it!

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Infographic: Maersk Triple-E Class

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The Maersk Triple-E is the newest class of container ships. First built and delivered in 2013 (the first example being named the Maersk Mc-Kinney Moller) there are 20 total units planned (as of January this year, there are 7 units) with planned complete production in June 2015.

In the hull, there’s some interesting technology (from Wikipedia):

One of the class’s main design features are the dual 32-megawatt (43,000 hp) ultra-long stroke two-stroke diesel engines, driving two propellers at a design speed of 19 knots (35 km/h; 22 mph). Slower than its predecessors, this class uses a strategy known as slow steaming, which is expected to lower fuel consumption by 37% and carbon dioxide emissions per container by 50%

Maersk Triples-Es are designed to be the world’s most efficient container ships by virtue of their hull and how they’re operated:

Unlike conventional single-engined container ships, the new class of ships has a twin-skeg design: It has twin diesel engines, each driving a separate propeller. Usually, a single engine is more efficient;[10] but using two propellers allows a better distribution of pressure, increasing propeller efficiency more than the disadvantage of using two engines.[19]

The engines have waste heat recovery (WHR) systems; these are also used in 20 other Mærsk vessels including the eight E-class ships. The name “Triple E class” highlights three design principles: “Economy of scale, energy efficient and environmentally improved.[20]

The twin-skeg principle also means that the engines can be lower and further back, allowing more room for cargo. Maersk requires ultra-long stroke two-stroke engines running at 80 rpm (versus 90 rpm in the E class);[21] but this requires more propeller area for the same effect, and such a combination is only possible with two propellers due to the shallow water depth of the desired route.[11][11][22]

A slower speed of 19 knots is targeted as the optimum, compared to the 23–26 knots of similar ships.[11] The top speed would be 25 knots, but steaming at 20 knots would reduce fuel consumption by 37%, and at 17.5 knots fuel consumption would be halved.[23] These slower speeds would add 2–6 days to journey times.[24][25]

The various environmental features are expected to cost $30 million per ship, of which the WHR is to cost $10 million.[10]Carbon dioxideemissions, per container, are expected to be 50% lower than emissions by typical ships on the Asia-Europe route[26] and 20% lower than Emma Maersk.[27] These are the most efficient containerships in the world, per TEU. A Cradle-to-cradle design principle was used to improve scrapping when the ships end their life.[28]

As noted in the infographic the transit from the China to Europe takes 20 days. Maersk is hoping the increased fuel efficiency will offset the increased transit times.

You can learn more at Maersk’s Flickr site and at the Triple-E’s website.

It’s going to be interesting to see how these vessels will change the current maritime security environment.

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A US-Japan Littoral Combat Ship Design?

The Diplomat has the story.  The possibility is certainly intriguing.  One can assume rather confidently that Japanese naval engineers are somewhat less enamored of “revolutionary”, “transformational”, and “game-changing” as we seem to be here at NAVSEA.  Japanese ship designs, particularly in smaller units, have always been excellent.  Fast, sturdy, powerful units for their size.

…analysts contend that the trimaran would likely be a lighter variant of the U.S. Navy’s 3,000-tonne littoral combat ship (LCS), a platform designed primarily for missions in shallow coastal waters.

According to reports in Japanese media, the high-speed J-LCS would give the Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force (JMSDF) the ability to quickly intervene during incursions by Chinese vessels near the Senkaku/Diaoyu islets and other contested areas of the East China Sea. Chinese analysts speculate that the J-LCS could be intended as a counter to the PLA Navy’s (PLAN) Type 056 corvettes and Type 022 fast-attack boats, two types of vessels that could be deployed to the region should relations continue to deteriorate. Furthermore, early reports indicate that the slightly enlarged hull of the 1,000-tonne-plus vessels could accommodate SH-60K anti-submarine helicopters and MCH-101 airborne mine countermeasures (AMCM) helicopters.

If Chinese analysts are correct, and I hope they are, it is possible we will see a smaller, better-armed, more lethal, less fragile, and significantly less expensive warship which will be suitable for combat in the littorals.  Our lack of “low-end” capability to handle missions ill-suited for AEGIS cruisers and destroyers, such as mixing it up with ASCM-armed frigates and fast-attack craft, is nothing short of alarming.  It would be of benefit to the US Navy to scrutinize the results of such a design, which at first blush sounds much closer to the “Streetfighter” concept than either current LCS design, and that of the Cyclone-class Patrol Cutters.

It sure as hell would be an improvement over current designs.  Especially if the “joint” US-Japanese LCS actually shipped the weapons systems and capabilities required and didn’t stake success on as-yet undeveloped “modules” whose feasibility has come increasingly into question.

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Ten Years Ago Today

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We flew in to Habbaniyah on a C-130 out of Kuwait, and the pilot juked on the way in, just in case.   Once on the deck, we were dispatched into an Army-Marine Corps convoy headed to Ramadi.  On the way out the gate of the laager, a VBIED detonated next to one of the lead security vehicles, killing two soldiers.  It would be an interesting eight months in Iraq.   The First Marine Division, led by MajGen James N. Mattis, whose ADC was John Kelly and Chief of Staff Colonel Joe Dunford, was one hell of a team (that included the Army’s excellent 1-16th Infantry).

The 1st Marine Division (not including Army casualties) suffered 118 killed and more than 1,400 wounded in those eight months in places like Fallujah and Ramadi, Haditah, and a lot of other dusty villages and towns nobody could find on a map except the men who fought there.   A high price was paid to hold the line in Anbar, to hold elections, and cultivate conditions for the Awakening.   For the Marines and soldiers who did so, recent events with AQ flying flags in Anbar’s cities and towns are particularly maddening.  It was clear that the “cut and run” philosophy of the White House was an exceedingly poor one, and subsequent events show that the so-called “zero option” is as descriptive of the President’s credibility as force levels in Iraq.  And we are set, with the same litany of excuses, to do it again in Afghanistan.

I wondered then what all this would be like, ten years on, should I be fortunate enough to survive.  Some things remain very vivid, the sights and smells, and the faces of comrades.  Others I am sure I would have to be reminded of.  And a few memories, thankfully few, are seared into the memory for the rest of my time on this earth.

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Going Hollow: The Hagel Preview of the FY2015 Defense Budget

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Anthony Cordesman, the Arleigh Burke Chair at CSIS, provides a very cogent summary of the weakness of our Defense Department leadership and its inability or unwillingness to discuss the 2015 DoD budget meaningfully.

At the simplest level of budgetary planning, the Secretary’s budget statements ignore the fact that the Congressional Budget Office projects that the Department’s failure to manage the real-world crises in personnel, modernization, and readiness costs will have as negative an overall budget impact over time as Sequestration will. Ignoring the Department’s long history of undercosting its budget, its cost overruns, and the resulting cuts in forces, modernization, and readiness means one more year of failing to cope with reality.  Presenting an unaffordable plan is as bad as failing to budget enough money.

Cordesman gets to the real meat of our failure of strategic (dare I say “national strategic”?) thinking, as well.

He talks about cuts in personnel, equipment, and force strength in case-specific terms, but does not address readiness and does not address any plan or provide any serious details as to what the United States is seeking in in terms of changes in its alliances and partnerships,  and its specific goals in force levels, deployments, modernization, personnel, and readiness.

He holds nothing back in his contempt for the process of the Quadrennial Defense Review (QDR), either.

Worse, we are going to leave these issues to be addressed in the future by another mindless waste of time like the Quadrennial Defense Review (QDR). All the past QDRs have been set so far in the future to be practical or relevant. Each successive QDR has proved to be one more colostomy bag after another of half-digested concepts and vague strategic priorities filled with noise and futility and signifying nothing.

Cordesman saves his best for last, however.

Like all of his recent predecessors, Secretary Hagel has failed dismally to show the U.S. has any real plans for the future and to provide any meaningful sense of direction and real justification for defense spending. The best that can be said of his speech on the FY2015 defense budget is that U.S. strategy and forces will go hollow in a kinder and gentler manner than simply enforcing sequestration.

We do need to avoid cutting our forces, military capabilities, and defense spending to the levels called for in sequestration. But this is no substitute for the total lack of any clear goals for the future, for showing that the Department of Defense has serious plans to shape a viable mix of alliances and partnerships, force levels, deployments, modernization, personnel, and readiness over the coming Future Year Defense Plan.

I don’t always agree with Cordesman’s assertions, but he is just about always a thoughtful if provocative commenter on Defense and National Security issues, and his analysis of SECDEF Hagel’s remarks are spot-on.  We are headed for a hollow force, despite its smaller size, as many of us have feared all along.  This, despite all the promises and admonitions of this Administration and our Pentagon leadership.  Go have a read.

 

 

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Seduced By Success; An Army Leadership Untrained for True War?

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Our friend at Op-For, the urbane and erudite sophisticate LTCOL P (supplying some cogent comments of his own), points us to a superb article in AFJ by Daniel L. Davis outlining the very real possibility that our immense advantages over our foes in the last two-plus decades has left many of our middle and senior leadership untested and overconfident in our warfighting capabilities.

Imagine one of today’s division commanders finding himself at the line of departure against a capable enemy with combined-arms formation. He spent his time as a lieutenant in Bosnia conducting “presence patrols” and other peacekeeping activities. He may have commanded a company in a peacetime, garrison environment. Then he commanded a battalion in the early years of Afghanistan when little of tactical movement took place. He commanded a brigade in the later stages of Iraq, sending units on patrols, night raids, and cordon-and-search operations; and training Iraq policemen or soldiers.

Not once in his career did an enemy formation threaten his flank. He never, even in training, hunkered in a dugout while enemy artillery destroyed one-quarter of his combat vehicles, and emerged to execute a hasty defense against the enemy assault force pouring over the hill.

Spot-on.  Such sentiment applies to ALL SERVICES.  Even in the midst of some pretty interesting days in Ramadi and Fallujah, I never bought into the idea that was being bandied about so casually that “there is no more complex decision-making paradigm for a combat leader than counterinsurgency operations”.   It was utter nonsense.  The decisions to be made, as the author points out, above the troops-in-contact level, were seldom risking success or failure either in their urgency or content.  We had in Iraq and in AFG the ability to largely intervene with air or ground fires as we desired, to engage and disengage almost at will, against an enemy that could never have the capability of truly seizing tactical initiative.  Defeat, from a standpoint of force survival, was never a possibility.  To borrow Belloc’s observations of Omdurman, “Whatever happens, we have got, close air support, and they have not”.

Having a brigade of BMP-laden infantry rolling up behind the fires of a Divisional Artillery Group, supported by MI-24s and SU-25s, which stand a very real chance of defeating (and destroying) not just your unit but all the adjacent ones, is infinitely more challenging than even our rather intense fights (April and November 2004) for Fallujah.  The speed and tactical acumen of the decision makers will be the difference between holding or breaking, winning and losing, living or dying.   The author points out some significant shortcomings in our current training paradigm, and brings us back to some fundamentals of how we train (or used to, at any rate) decision-makers to operate in the fog and uncertainty of combat.  Training and exercises, designed to stress and challenge:

At some of the Combat Maneuver Training Centers, Army forces do some good training. Some of the products and suggestions from Army Training and Doctrine Command are good on paper. For example, we often tout the “world class” opposing force that fights against U.S. formations, and features a thinking and free-fighting enemy. But I have seen many of these engagements, both in the field and in simulation, where the many good words are belied by the exercise. For example, in 2008 I took part in a simulation exercise in which the opposing forces were claimed to be representative of real world forces, yet the battalion-level forces were commanded by an inexperienced captain, and the computer constraints limited the enemy’s ability to engage.

Many may remember the famed “Millennium Challenge 2002” held just before Operation Iraqi Freedom. Retired Marine general Paul Van Riper, appointed to serve as opposing force commander, quit because the exercise was rigged. ”We were directed…to move air defenses so that the army and marine units could successfully land,” he said. ”We were simply directed to turn [air defense systems] off or move them… So it was scripted to be whatever the control group wanted it to be.” For the U.S. Army to be successful in battle against competent opponents, changes are necessary.

Field training exercises can be designed to replicate capable conventional forces that have the ability to inflict defeats on U.S. elements. Such training should require leaders at all levels to face simulated life and death situations, where traditional solutions don’t work, in much more trying environments than is currently the case. They should periodically be stressed to levels well above what we have actually faced in the past several decades. Scenarios, for example, at company and battalion level where a superior enemy force inflicts a mortal blow on some elements, requiring leaders and soldiers to improvise with whatever is at hand, in the presence of hardship and emotional stress.Simulation training for commanders and staffs up to Corps level should combine computer and physical exercises that subject the leaders to situations where the enemy does the unexpected, where key leaders or capabilities are suddenly lost (owing to enemy fire or efforts), yet they still have to function; where they face the unexpected loss of key communications equipment, yet still be forced to continue the operation.

Such exercises should not all be done in nicely compartmentalized training segments with tidy start and end times, and “reset” to prepare for the next sequence. Instead, some exercises should be held where there is a beginning time “in the box” and no pre-set start or end times until the end of a rotation two weeks or more later. In short, the training rotation should replicate the physical and emotional stress of actual combat operations in which there is no “pause” to rest and think about what happened.

I couldn’t agree more.  However, in a budget-crunch environment where significant funding is going toward advancing political and social agendas even within DoD, I am not at all sanguine about such training occurring.  Worse, rather than having leaders champion the need for it and constantly fight for training dollars, I fear that such a requirement will be dismissed as less than necessary, since we already have “the most professional, the best educated, the most capable force this country has ever sent into battle.”  While our soldiers, sailors, airmen, and Marines are indeed superb, and honed at the small unit level, our senior leadership is much less so.  What’s worse is that leaders who have no experience in battlefield command against a near-peer force have begun to assert that technological innovation makes such training superfluous.  That the nature of war has changed, and we are now in an era of “real-time strategy” and “global awareness”.   To steal a line from The Departed, there is deception, and there is self-deception.

Anyway, the Armed Forces Journal article is a thought-provoking read.

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Edward “Butch” O’Hare

Medal-of-Honor-OHARE-Edward-H.-Butch-Lieutenant-Commander-USN-with-Grumman-F4F-3-Wildcat

Butch O’Hare and his F4F-3 Wildcat. Stud.

Most of you will recognize the namesake of one of Chicago’s international airports. What you probably may not know is that today in 1942, the USS Lexington came under attack by Japanese G4M “Betty” bombers while in the Japanese-held waters north of New Ireland.

USS-Lexington-CV-2-October-1941

A flight of 9 Bettys approached the Lexington from an undefended side, and Lt. Edward H. “Butch” O’Hare and his wingman were the only aircraft available to intercept the formation. At 1700 hours, O’Hare arrived over the 9 incoming bombers and attacks. During the engagement his wingman’s (LT. Marion Dufilho) guns failed, so O’Hare had to fight on alone. He is credited with shooting down five Japanese bombers and damaging a sixth and probably saving lives aboard the Lexington (although she was scuttled at the Battle of Coral Sea in May that year).

VF-3: Front row, second from right: Lt. Edward Butch O'Hare.

VF-3: Front row, second from right: Lt. Edward Butch O’Hare.

As a result of this engagement O’Hare was promoted to LtCDR and received a Medal Of Honor. The citation reads as follows:

LIEUTENANT EDWARD HENRY O’HARE
UNITED STATES NAVY

Medal of Honor – Navy
Rank and organization: Lieutenant, U.S. Navy
Born: 13 March 1914, St. Louis, Mo.
Entered service at: St. Louis, Mo.
Other Navy awards: Navy Cross, Distinguished Flying Cross with 1 gold star.

Citation: For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity in aerial combat, at grave risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty, as section leader and pilot of Fighting Squadron 3 on 20 February 1942. Having lost the assistance of his teammates, Lt. O’Hare interposed his plane between his ship and an advancing enemy formation of 9 attacking twin-engine heavy bombers. Without hesitation, alone and unaided, he repeatedly attacked this enemy formation, at close range in the face of intense combined machinegun and cannon fire. Despite this concentrated opposition, Lt. O’Hare, by his gallant and courageous action, his extremely skillful marksmanship in making the most of every shot of his limited amount of ammunition, shot down 5 enemy bombers and severely damaged a sixth before they reached the bomb release point. As a result of his gallant action–one of the most daring, if not the most daring, single action in the history of combat aviation–he undoubtedly saved his carrier from serious damage.

Medal-of-Honor-OHARE-Edward-H.-Butch-Lieutenant-j.g.-USN-receives-Medal-of-Honor-from-FDR-21-April-1942

Butch O’Hare receives the Medal Of Honor from FDR (with wife Rita at his side)

There’s a bit of fable involved in the tale of Butch’s entry into the US Navy. It makes for a great story but it’s just a fable indeed. Butch’s dad was Edward “Easy Eddie” O’Hare who was a tax accountant for the infamous Al Capone. O’Hare played a key role in Capone’s prosecution for tax evasion and as a result of working with the Feds, the rumor was that Butch received an appointment to the United States Naval Academy in return. A great story indeed.

Easy Eddie was later assassinated (from Wikipedia):

O’Hare was shot and killed on Wednesday, November 8, 1939, while driving in his car. He was 46. That afternoon he reportedly left his office at Sportsman’s Park in Cicero with a cleaned and oiled Spanish-made .32-caliber semi-automatic pistol, something unusual for him. O’Hare got into his black 1939 Lincoln Zephyr coupe, and drove away from the track. As he approached the intersection of Ogden and Rockwell, a dark sedan rolled up beside him and two shotgun-wielding henchmen opened up on him with a volley of big-gameslugs. Edward Joseph O’Hare was killed instantly. As his Lincoln crashed into a post at the side of the roadway, the killers continued east on Ogden, where they soon became lost in other traffic.

Butch himself was later killed-in-action on 26 November 1943 while leading the first-ever night time fighter attack to be launched from a carrier.

If your ever at O’Hare airport and in terminal 2 go see the F4F-3 recovered from Lake Michigan:

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In the finest tradition of the Naval service, Chicago’s very own.

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Cutaway Thursday: Lockheed EP-3E Aries II

EP-3 Cutaway

 Learn more about the Aries II here.

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Cutaway Thursday: E-2D Advanced Hawkeye

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Learn more here.

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Words of Wisdom from Brian McGrath

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Over at Information Dissemination, Bryan McGrath has a post about the possibility that the Navy will be directed to maintain the current level of CVBGs, which means funding of USS George Washington’s (CVN-73) Refueling and Complex Overhaul (RCOH) rather than retirement and disposal of the 22-year old supercarrier.  In that post, McGrath posits what should be the well-ingrained mantra of our Navy leadership:

The debates should start with the proposition that the Navy is too small to accomplish its conventional and strategic missions, that what the Navy does for the country is simply more important that what other aspects of the military do (in a time of relative peace among great powers but tension on the horizon), and that we are making grave and irreversible mistakes as our maritime industrial base hangs in the balance.  No one argued that the Army had to get bigger and more robust to fight the wars we were in…the Navy needs to make a principled argument that now is ITS time for sunlight and growth, that what IT does is uniquely suited to our security and prosperity, and that cutting it increases what are now manageable, but growing dangers.

It is time to go to the mattresses.

Our Navy leadership has in recent past all but refused to discuss end-strength and high-low mix, with consensus of what our Navy should even look like in order to execute the Cooperative Strategy being conspicuously absent.   The current 280-0dd ship Navy is barely able to execute NOW, without anyone to contest us.  To cut further and still claim to Congress and the American people that the Navy is capable of carrying out the roles and missions assigned to it in defense of our nation and its interests is at best a fool’s errand, and at worst, the same ilk of blatant politically-driven dishonesty that has become all too common among those in senior uniformed leadership positions.

I am off to the AFCEA/USNI West conference tomorrow, and I will have an opportunity to see how many of the Navy’s senior leaders embrace Bryan McGrath’s wisdom.

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Cutaway Thursday: Grumman A-6E TRAM Intruder

An airplane I’ve been learning a lot about lately.

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Head on over to the Intruder Association to learn more.

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Surface Anti-Submarine Warfare Weapons- Stand-Off Weapons- 1 of 2

World War II sonars had a maximum effective range of roughly 2000 yards. Given that wartime submarine torpedoes were rarely effective past about  that range, and indeed usually used much closer, that wasn’t a terrible problem. But submarine sonars, and passive hydrophones, being submerged deeper, almost always provided better detection than surface escorts.

The trend in post-war escorts was to use more powerful, larger, lower frequency sonars, which gave better detection ranges. The first in wide use with the US Navy was the SQS-4 series, with a range of 4500-5500 yards. Later the SQS-23 series, a massive sonar housed in a dome at the forefoot of a ship’s bow, could, under ideal circumstances, achieve detection out to as much as 40,000 yards. More typically, the  -23 could reliably detect submerged targets from 10,000 to 20,000 yards.

While the lightweight homing torpedoes discussed in the previous post were quite capable, they had one glaring shortcoming. By the time an escort was in range to use them, they were already well within range of heavier submarine launched homing torpedoes. A means of extending the range of surface ASW weapons, both to protect the escort, and to take advantage of increased detection range, was a high priority.

The first, most obvious idea was to use large diameter torpedo tubes to fire heavy homing torpedoes.  But the challenges of accurate fire control at extreme ranges meant heavy torpedoes were less than optimal. Worse, any heavy torpedo would simply reach a parity with any submarine torpedo. Something better was needed.

The US Navy had the bright idea to use a rocket to lob the Mk44 Lightweight Torpedo onto a sonar contact. Originally the Rocket Assisted Torpedo (RAT) was hoped to be a lightweight, rather simple system. A parallel program also was started to lob a nuclear depth charge. The minimum safe range of about 5 miles (~10,000 yards) mandated a far more substantial rocket. The programs were merged, with resulting ASROC (Anti-Submarine Rocket) becoming the primary US Navy surface ASW weapon from 1961 well into the 1990s.

An 8-cell “pepperbox” launcher would elevate and train for a simple ballistic, unguided rocket to drop either a Mk 46 torpedo or a nuclear depth bomb onto the enemy submarine. The ASROC maximum range of about 19,000 yards, combined with the range of (then) modern sonars gave escorts a good standoff weapon.

ASROC was also used by a great many allied nations, and continues in widespread use with other navies. Ships equipped with certain guided missile launchers could fire ASROC from them, obviating the need for the 8-round launcher. Alternatively, the 8-round launcher could be modified to fire Harpoon Anti-Ship missiles, and even the Standard Missile.

If the above videos are a bit long, here’s a quick video of loading and firing ASROC from a Greek destroyer.

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The nuclear depth bomb variant of ASROC was only live fire tested once.

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With the introduction of the Mk41 Vertical Launch System on Aegis cruisers and destroyers, a new version of ASROC, after a surprisingly difficult development, entered service.

But ASROC wasn’t the only way of launching a lightweight torpedo to a distant contact.

The Australians developed their own approach, with a rocket boosted radio controlled glider used to deploy a homing torpedo. Dubbed Ikara, this weapon had the advantage that the water entry point of the torpedo could be updated during the flight of the rocket. Slaved to the sonar fire control system,  this meant maneuvers by the target during the time of flight could be countered.

Ikara served with the Australians, the New Zealanders, and with the Royal Navy.

The French Malafon system operated on a similar principle.

On the Soviet side, the SS-N-14 operated on a similar principle, but had a much greater range. The terminal guidance could be made by an helicopter operating from the parent ship.

We will address shipboard helicopters in our final post in this series.

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