Category Archives: navy

So Let’s Let ‘Em Have Nukes!

…what a great idea.

After all, just because they conduct naval maneuvers to practice sinking US warships is no reason to think they are hostile toward the United States.

Just like threatening to wipe Israel off the map is no indicator of any latent dislike of our ally.  More diplomatic success for our anti-American President.

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Suribachi

Four days after the bloody struggle to come ashore on Iwo Jima’s fire-swept black volcanic sand beaches, a patrol from 28th Marines was ordered to the top of the sullen volcanic lump that dominated the six square miles of sulphur and rock.  The seven-man patrol under the Executive Officer of Easy Company, 28th Marines raised a small flag.  The flag, difficult to see from the beach, was replaced by a larger one retrieved from one of the LSTs offshore supporting the landing.  Five Marines and one Navy Corpsman labored under fire to plant the larger colors into the rocky ground. The raising of the second, larger flag was captured by Joe Rosenthal, and became the most iconic and reproduced image in the history of photography.

Iwo

Many commonly believe that the raising of the flag on Mount Suribachi signaled the end of the fight for Iwo Jima.  In reality, twenty-two more days of relentless and ferocious savagery lay ahead.  It was not until 26 March 1945 that Iwo Jima was declared secured.  Of the six men who raised the flag on Suribachi, three, Sgt Mike Strank, Cpl Harlan Block, and PFC Franklin Sousley, would die on the island, along with more than 6,800 others, mostly Marines.  A fourth flag raiser, Second Class Hospital Corpsman John Bradley, was among the more than 19,000 wounded.   The man who took the motion picture footage from the same vantage as Rosenthal, Marine Combat Cameraman Bill Genaust, was later killed in one of Suribachi’s hundreds of caves.

Bradley received a Navy Cross for his actions in combat on 21 February, and Strank a Bronze Star.  Bill Genaust also received a Bronze Star.

The above movie is the approximately 20 minute production called “To the Shores of Iwo Jima”.  Well worth the time, as it is a grim and unvarnished look at the titanic struggle for Iwo.  Seldom have the words of a senior officer been so accurate, or heartfelt, as when Admiral Chester Nimitz described the fight for the island.

Uncommon Valor was a Common Virtue

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The Buck Stops Anywhere But Here

The Washington Free Beacon, via Fox News:

Shame on everyone that voted for this empty-suit charlatan.  Especially the second time, when it was clear what he was.

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Carrier Think Pieces Today

We first saw this looooong piece at USNI from Professor Moore.

Just four days ahead of the 73rd anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor, the U.S. Navy announced its intention to award Huntington Ingalls Industries Inc (HII). approximately $4 billion to construct the USS John F. Kennedy (CVN-79) super carrier, the second vessel of the new Gerald R. Ford-class of carriers. The cost has raised eyebrows, as the Gerald R. Ford (CVN-78) experienced cost overruns of 22 percent.

Additionally, debate is raging over the utility of the aircraft carrier and whether it’s even relevant anymore in the face of China’s new, lethal anti-ship missiles. It’s a debate worth having, but it needs to be rooted in realistic naval principles and war precedents, not politics and hype.

And addressing that piece is none other than Bull Halsey! We suspect that might be a nom de plume.

“The New Strategic Realities of U.S. Carrier Operations.”  As much of the East Coast naval establishment sits at home with their Snuggies and bottles of craft beer (or for some, sitting in a tree stand freezing your keester off), this is sure to be heavily forwarded around the web (thanks, Al Gore).

Moore’s piece touches a particular nerve with me:  the American aircraft carrier and how Americans use her.  It is no longer self-evident and requires a generation of both young and old aviators and ship-drivers to safeguard.

First, our ability to justify the existence of the aircraft carrier beyond the battles of WWII is essential.  It’s great to talk about Coral Sea and Midway, but those events took place more than seven decades ago, and for a force that pegs itself as an innovative one, able to counter the threats of today and tomorrow, it strikes as unimaginative.  There are at least hundreds of examples of CVNs providing critical support or comprising the sole option for offensive or defensive American military operations in the many decades that have followed WWII.  Let’s talk about them candidly.

For the most part, US aircraft carriers have been used as supplemental airfields for power projection in our nation’s wars since World War II. What they haven’t much been called to do is act in the sea control role. Or, if you will, fighting a war at sea. Some, but not much.

The primary reason for that is not that carriers are bad at war at sea. Instead, they’re so good no one has realistically been able to challenge our fleet for many years. The Soviet Union was the only nation to come close to mounting a credible threat of parity, and that was through a sea control fleet that couldn’t realistically project power to our shores, whereas the whole point of the Lehman/Watkins Maritime Strategy was to project power against the Soviet Union itself.

Moore spends a good deal of time discussing the threats to modern carrier operations, and not surprisingly, Halsey adds a rebuttal:

Second, the author paraphrases Robert Haddick’s dire swarm supposition of hundreds of Chinese ASCMs descending upon an unsuspecting aircraft carrier.  The problem with Haddick’s logic–and Moore’s, by association–is that it presupposes a sort of inevitable willingness on the part of the People’s Republic to launch such costly attacks that would result in unquestionable war.  Though we all remember Pearl Harbor, we also remember the children’s tale of the “boogeyman” in the closet.  We must not allow the fear of a missile whose very use would be loaded in incredible geopolitical meaning to be the tail that wags the dog.

Of course, that’s a political consideration, a subject that Halsey spends a fair bit of time on, rightly.

What isn’t sufficiently addressed, to my lights, is the actual difficulty China (or anyone else) would have massing missile attacks on a fleet. Probably no other organization in the world has as robust a maritime ISR capability for targeting a surface fleet than the US Navy, and even we can have trouble finding our own carriers.

Alfred Thayer Mahan would find this debate about the threat of shore based ASCMs and missile armed fast attack craft little different than the Jeffersonian vision of gunboats and coast artillery defending the shores from the line of battle of the Royal Navy. The technology has changed much, and the ranges are greater, but the fundamental concept of a fleet in being able to sail to the enemy shore at the time and place of his choosing to impose his will is very much still the case.

And while our skills seemed to have diminished somewhat from lack of practice, it’s not like we didn’t used to know how to place entire carrier task forces well within the range of an opponent shore without them even knowing it.

Control of the air is a prerequisite for success in battle today, and only the carrier can provide that for substantial naval forces far from our shores. Further, the carrier remains the centerpiece of our ability to execute both sea control and power projection in the maritime space. Carriers alone are not sufficient to successfully challenge the Chinese or any other near peer power at sea, but absent the carrier, the any challenge is simply impossible.

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Vice Admiral Rowden’s Message

bilde

You can read the text of it over at Salamander’s place.  Micromanagement?  Possibly.  Necessary?  Some folks, among which is a guy named Greenert, seem to think so.  From where I sit, it seems there is some serious concern (finally) on the part of Navy leadership from the CNO on down, including SURFPAC, that our numbered Fleet Commanders don’t know how to fight their fleets, that Task Force Commanders do not know how to fight their task forces, nor Battle Group Commanders their Battle Groups, or individual COs and Officers, their warships.   There is, it is suspected, a lack of understanding of warfighting at all levels.  From the Operational Arts, to doctrine and tactics, down to techniques, and procedures, there is an alarming lack of understanding in areas for which we should strive for mastery.  In addition, it is likely that there is serious question about the true state of readiness of our fleet and the ships and aircraft (and Sailors) which comprise it.  Maintenance, training, proficiency, mindset, all these are suspect.

SandF2Oct14

I think SURFPAC’s message is a very good step in the right direction.  It may also shake out the most egregious impediments to training for war, both self-inflicted and externally imposed.  This includes peripheral tasks that take up inordinate time and attention, maintenance and manpower shortcomings that render weapons and engineering systems non-mission capable, and jumping through burdensome administrative hoops required to perform the most basic of combat training.

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I cannot say whether or not VADM Rowden dislikes Mission Command.  I hope that he does not, because the ability of junior commanders to take the initiative and act boldly across widely-flung battlefields in the absence of orders has been the critical element of success for many centuries.  But Mission Command requires junior leaders who are positively imbued in their craft, and senior leaders who understand what must be done and can clearly express their intent (and then have the courage to trust their subordinates).   The entirety of the US Navy, more so perhaps than the other services, must rely on such leadership for its survival in combat with an enemy.  Unfortunately, the Navy may be the service that has become the most over-supervised and zero-defect-laden bastion of micromanagement in all of DoD.

Gunnery training aboard U.S.S. Astoria (CA-34), spring 1942.

Vice Admiral Rowden’s message has an almost desperate tone to it.   As if, to quote Service, Navy leadership realizes that it is later than you think.  One cannot help but be reminded of the myriad comments from US cruiser sailors in 1942.  Following initial and deadly encounters with a skilled and fearsome Japanese Navy in the waters off the Solomons, many deckplate sailors swore they would never again bitch about the seemingly incessant gunnery and damage control drills that interrupted their shipboard lives.    Like 1942, a Naval clash against a near-peer who can muster temporary advantage will be a costly affair where even the winner is badly bloodied.  Unlike 1942, there is no flood of new warships on the slips which can make good such losses.

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Words from an earlier post of USS Hugh W. Hadley, on the picket line off Okinawa, reinforce the importance of what VADM Rowden wants:

LESSONS LEARNED, CONCLUSIONS AND RECOMMENDATIONS:

                      1.  It must be impressed that constant daily drills in damage control using all personnel on the ship and especially those who are not in the regular damage control parties will prove of  value when emergencies occur.  The various emergency pumps which were on board were used effectively to put out fires.  Damage control schools proved their great value and every member of the crew is now praising this training.

                      2.  I was amazed at the performance of the 40 and 20 guns.  Contrary to my expectation, those smaller guns shot down the bulk of the enemy planes. Daily the crews had dinned into their minds the following order “LEAD THAT  PLANE”.  Signs were painted at the gun stations as follows “LEAD THAT PLANE”.  It worked, they led and the planes flew right through our projectiles.

Not the things of (fill in the blank) History Month or of SAPR or “diversity” training….

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Torpedo!

Take a look at these three ships sunk as targets for torpedoes.

None of the ships was actually struck by a torpedo. Rather, the torpedo passes beneath the target, exploding under the keel of the ship. The first blast wave does significant damage. But an effect known as the bubble jet is the true shipkiller.  The explosion causes a bubble in the water. As the bubble collapses, it pushes water upward, in effect shooting a massive water hammer into the hull of the ship. This effect has long been known, since the early days of naval mines.

You’re probably familiar with the troubles US submariners (and to a lesser extent, destroyermen and torpedo bomber pilots) had with torpedoes in the first year and a half of World War II in the Pacific. One of the major problems was that the US torpedoes were designed to operate just like those in the video, that is, explode under the target’s keel. First, the magnetic exploder was tested in unrealistic conditions before being fielded, and turned out to be wholly unreliable. Further, the depth control mechanism of US torpedoes also consistently sent torpedoes about 10 feet deeper than set, further exacerbating the unreliability of the magnetic exploder.

The remedies for those problems were relatively simple; the depth would be set with the inaccuracy in mind, and the magnetic exploder was removed, relying instead on a contact exploder to detonate the warhead along the side of the ship. This method would not produce the same terminal effects, but an explosion alongside was better than no explosion at all.

That, however, turned out not to be the answer after all. It turned out, the contact exploder was itself flawed. Sub skippers would patiently, and with great skill, stalk their targets to achieve the perfect shot into the enemy flank, only to hear a thud, or worse, a series of thuds, as torpedoes slammed into the side of Japanese ships… and failed to explode. The faulty contact exploder relied on a firing striker that was too thin, too flimsy to withstand a solid hit. A glancing blow would usually yield an explosion. It would be late in 1943 before an improved contact exploder would be fielded.

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HMS Caroline

On the cusp of World War I, Great Britain and Germany were engaged in a naval arms race. Battleships and battlecruisers usually receive the bulk of attention when historians look at this. But cruisers were a major component of the fleet. Cruisers were armored warships designed both to serve as the scouts of the fleet and to screen the line of battle from enemy scouts and other light forces.

Just on the eve of World War I, Britain laid down what was to become the first of an eventual 28 “C Class” light cruisers, HMS Caroline.

File:HMS Caroline.jpg

HMS Caroline’s greatest claim to fame is that she participated in the Battle of Jutland, the great clash of the British and German fleets that, while indecisive, would do so much to shape naval theory in the interwar years.

Obsolescent even by the end of the war, HMS Caroline was shunted to the reserves in 1924. Used as a moored training vessel for the Royal Navy Volunteer Reserves, she would function in that role until 2011! During World War II, she served as the headquarters for the Royal Navy in Belfast Harbour before returning to her reservist training duties post-war.

File:HMS Caroline 1914.jpg

Now the HMS Caroline has stepped into her well earned retirement, she’s slated to become a museum ship. For one thing, she’s known to a great number of sailors. Secondly, she’s the only surviving ship that was present at Jutland. Indeed, she’s one of only three British ships dating from World War I.

And so…

A £15 million-plus restoration project plans to turn HMS Caroline into a visitor attraction in time for next year’s centenary commemorations of the 1916 First World War battle off the coast of Denmark.

But before the refit could begin on the derelict vessel, which is docked in Belfast, urgent steps had to be taken to ensure it stays afloat long-term.

We can think of many sailors that would like to see any number of ships kept as museums. Sadly, however, there is only a limited market for such ships. And not only must the ship itself be of historical interest to make a go of it. Much of the success or failure of a museum ship has to do with the accessibility of the ship. The Midway in San Diego and Intrepid in New York are doing well, in large part because those cities are already prime tourist destinations, which greatly increases the traffic they get. Given that, one hopes HMS Caroline manages to stay afloat, both physically, and fiscally.

 

File:HMS 'Caroline', Alexandra Dock Belfast - geograph.org.uk - 660308.jpg

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