Category Archives: navy

Underway, Undersea, Under the Russian Flag

CDR Salamander has a neat post about an encounter with a Russian submarine. As an added bonus, it has this fascinating “home video” about life aboard the Russian sub in question, the Orenburg.

Roughly the first half is exterior shots. You can skip forward to the interior stuff.

As others have noted, there’s a very different feel, atmosphere, to the Russian sub. It looks lived in and comfortably inhabited, as opposed to the almost sterile aesthetics of a US submarine.

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Hornet Ball 2014

The various “communities” of Naval Aviation, the Hornets, the Hawkeyes, the helo bubbas, have a long-standing tradition that each community will annually have a week of semi-professional symposia and at least one fancy dress ball at their home station. Awards from industry and various professional associations would be presented. Music would play, and the officers and sailors would show off their ladies and dance and socialize.

Back when there was a larger number of communities, and most were split between the east and west coast, that meant there were a great number of these to attend. For instance, Whidbey Island would annually host the west coast Intruder Ball, as well as the Prowler Ball, and usually send a representative or two to the east coast Intruder Ball at NAS Oceana.

There are fewer communities now, and some are amalgamated on one coast or the other, but the tradition of the ball continues. A trend over the last decade or so has for the component squadrons of a given community to share video taken over the past year for a highlight reel video. This year’s west coast Hornet Ball video is a winner.

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Thoughts on US Navy Anti-Aircraft Gunfire in World War II

@GuadaBattle remarked last night on the incredible losses of the Japanese air fleet during the Battle of Santa Cruz. I offered him a few thoughts on the subject off the top of my head, and since I’m lazy, I thought I’d share them with you here.

First, the obvious- radar. The early warning radar provided cut down on the numbers of surprise attacks. If incoming raids were atrited by the CAP, even better, as it tended to break up attacks, reducing the chance of saturation.

Second, fire control, both as methodology and as a technical matter. The Navy quickly devised doctrine with regard to which ships covered which sectors of a task force or group, and had officers specifically tasked to this control measure, not just gunnery officers doubling duty.

On the technical side, the Japanese had good fire control, but the US Mk37 fire control system (and variants of it) was the outstanding anti-air gunfire director system of the war. 5″/38 operating in total director control was quite deadly. Couple this with the Mk51 director control of the 40mm batteries. A separate pedestal director control station, away from the blast of the guns, featuring a gyrostabilized optical fire director controlled each 40mm mount.

Japanese ships had director controlled 5″ guns, but they never seemed to be nearly as effective as ours. They lacked a weapon in the 40mm range, using instead triple, twin, and single 25mm cannon, all of which lacked director control.

Add in the scads of relatively ineffective, but quite visible 20mm Oerlikons all over US ships, and there were a lot of tracers flying around!

Typically, a Fletcher class DD of the Guada period would mount two twin 40mm forward of the bridge, and a twin mount aft. By the end of the war, they would often have the twins forward, a quad replacing one set of torpedo tubes, two twins in the waist.

One of @GuadaBattle’s twitter respondents also mentioned another fairly obvious point- Japanese aircraft were lightly built, in a structural sense, and lacked armor and self sealing fuel tanks. That was a tradeoff that boosted their range and performance, but made them much more vulnerable to weapons effects.

The battle of Santa Cruz was where the VT proximity fuze made its Pacific debut. We’ll discuss the history of that a bit more later, but I wanted to share a picture a reader sent a couple months ago. During the Okinawa campaign, the seaplane tender USS St. George came under kamikaze attack, and engaged with VT fuzed 5”/38.

St George crop

Here’s a cropped version:

St George fuze

With an effective kill radius of about 50 feet, that’s a deadly shot and a prime example of the effectiveness of the VT proximity fuze.

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26 October 1942; The Battle of Santa Cruz

hornet santa cruz

In the far-flung Pacific Theater of the Second World War, there are some battles and events so momentous that it is immediately clear to the antagonists that their aftermath portends major shifts in the status quo; that conditions following will be forever different from what came before.  Midway is such an event.  With others, their true significance is often realized only in retrospect, as study of the results and decisions in the aftermath of those events is required to reveal how pivotal they truly were.  The Battle of Santa Cruz, which occurred seventy-two years ago today, is one of those largely hidden events.   A tactical and operational success for the Japanese, the battle was a pyrrhic victory for the Imperial Japanese Navy.

Powerful Japanese naval forces under Vice Admiral Nobutake Kondo had been tasked with supporting the efforts of the Japanese 17th Army in what was finally a major attempt to capture Guadalcanal’s Henderson Field and unhinge the position of the First Marine Division on that island.   The glacially slow and piecemeal reaction of General Hyukatake, commanding 17th Army, had allowed the Americans to build a force of more than 20,000, replete with a fully operational airfield and complete complement of supporting arms, by the time of the October counteroffensive. Even in October, Hyukatake badly underestimated US ground strength and fighting qualities, believing only some 7,500 garrisoned Guadalcanal.  The Japanese ground effort, including a combined tank-infantry attack, was once again poorly coordinated, and it came to grief against the lines of the First Marines and under the howitzers of the Eleventh Marines along the Matanikau River before either fleet engaged each other at Santa Cruz.  (Inexplicably, the Japanese Army units reported erroneously that they had captured Henderson Field when in reality they had nowhere threatened breakthrough of the Marine lines.)

At sea, Admiral Kondo’s force greatly outnumbered the Americans under Thomas Kinkaid. For the IJN, two large and two small carriers, six battleships, and ten heavy and light cruisers, with almost 250 aircraft significantly outweighed the two American fleet carriers (Enterprise and Hornet), the lone battleship (South Dakota), a half dozen cruisers, and around 170 aircraft.

Each fleet’s scout aircraft found the other almost simultaneously, and launched strikes simultaneously. In fact, the strike forces passed each other on their respective headings, with fighters from each side briefly and inconclusively engaging the enemy’s formations.   The Japanese air strikes exacted a heavy toll from the US ships.  Enterprise was struck with at least two bombs, jamming a flight deck elevator and causing extensive splinter and blast damage in the hangar decks, while near-misses stoved in her side plates.  Enterprise was seriously hurt, but somehow maintained flight operations.  Hornet was struck by three bombs and at least two torpedoes, wrecking her engine rooms and bringing the carrier to a halt.

hornettow.SantaCruz

Despite the heroic efforts to save Hornet, a well-placed torpedo from a Japanese submarine put paid to the effort.  The incident was eerily similar to the fate of Yorktown at Midway 4 1/2 months earlier.  Like her sister, Hornet stayed stubbornly afloat despite shells and torpedoes expended to scuttle her.   Eventually, the Japanese sank Hornet with two Long Lance torpedoes.  Battleship South Dakota was credited with shooting down 26 Japanese aircraft, but was struck on B Turret with a 550-pound bomb.  Additionally, two US destroyers were damaged.

In turn, the US Navy strikes crippled the light carrier Zuiho, wrecked the flight deck of Shokaku, and inflicted heavy damage with a bomb strike on heavy cruiser Chikuma.  The most consequential losses for the Japanese had been among the superbly trained veteran aircrews that had been the scourge of Allied pilots and surface vessels since Pearl Harbor.   Despite the fact that Kondo’s task force had inflicted considerably more damage to the American ships than Kinkaid’s flyers had managed, and despite the relatively even losses of aircraft (each side lost roughly the same percentage of aircraft to all causes), the loss of pilots and trained air crewmen was disproportionately heavy for the IJN.  US losses amounted to fewer than thirty aircrew, while the Japanese lost almost one hundred and fifty pilots and aircrew.   This represents a significantly greater loss than that suffered at Midway.   With a training pipeline that could not begin to replace such losses, the most fearsome weapon of the Kido Butai, its deadly naval air power, was blunted permanently.  Japanese carrier aviation was all but eliminated from the rest of the fight for the Solomons, and began a steady decline into oblivion that would culminate in the frightful massacre at the Philippine Sea twenty months later.

For Admiral Halsey at SOPAC, Santa Cruz could not have appeared to have been anything except another costly reverse.  In the preceding six months, the US Navy had lost Lexington at Coral Sea, Yorktown at Midway, Wasp off Guadalcanal in September, and now Hornet at Santa Cruz.  Not only that, but Saratoga had taken a torpedo in August and was stateside for repairs, and Enterprise was more heavily damaged in this battle than could be repaired at forward bases.   The IJN still outnumbered the US Navy in the Pacific in numbers of carriers and aircraft, and in surface combatants.  Additionally, after Santa Cruz, Kinkaid had retired with Nagumo on his heels.

Yet, despite the Japanese tactical victory, Santa Cruz represented the beginning of the end of the fearsome striking power which had wrecked the US Pacific Fleet at Pearl Harbor and had run amok for the six months that Yamamoto had predicted before December of 1941.  If the Americans did not realize it, at least Nagumo did.  He informed Naval Headquarters that without decisive victories, the industrial might of the United States would render the Japanese defeat in the Pacific inevitable.

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Filed under army, guns, history, marines, navy, planes, veterans, war, weapons

Biden’s Son “Embarrassed” to be Kicked Out of Navy for Cocaine Use

Town & Country Kicks-Off T&C Philanthropy Summit With Screening Of "Generosity Of Eye" At Lincoln Center

It seems that Vice President Joe Biden’s son Hunter Biden, aged 44, has been booted out of the Navy for being a cocaine user.  The NY Post has the story.    The younger(-ish) Biden is reportedly “embarrassed” by taking the oath of a Commissioned Officer in the US Armed Forces under knowingly false pretenses, violating Article 92 and Article 112a of the UCMJ on what I suspect strongly was a regular basis by seeking out drug dealers, buying the coke, and either smoking, snorting, or ingesting the psychostimulant narcotic.  And please, spare the nonsensical bullshit about how this might have been his first time and how he deserves the benefit of the doubt.

One has to wonder how many strings were pulled, and how many waivers signed, to get Biden, aged 43 at the time, into the United States Navy Reserve as a Public Affairs Officer.   One also has to wonder how many lies he told during his recruiting interviews, if he had any at all.  And what aspiring and honorable person was bumped out of serving in this time where the Navy and the rest of the services are shrinking like a puddle in the sunshine.

But, of course, young Hunter there is “embarrassed” to have popped for coke as Navy Officer.   Most people are “embarrassed” by getting a parking ticket or having an overdue water bill.  What he really deserves is to be recalled to active duty and disciplined.  A Summary Court Martial would do nicely.   Sixty days’ restriction has a nice ring to it.  At least he has a good civilian job to go to, and Dad can always send him some taxpayer-provided spending money, once Burisma gets its cut, at least.

Ahh, the US Navy.  A Global Force for Padding Your Resume for when you seek office.   Perhaps the coke pop hurts poor Hunter in that quest, perhaps not.  It isn’t as if he would be the first elected official to openly admit to using illegal drugs routinely.   If elected, he might go ahead and tell us that coke is less harmful than cigarettes.

And if he doesn’t win, we can always commission a USS Hunter Biden.

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Know what?  I was wrong in my above assertion about what Hunter Biden deserves.  I am not afraid to admit my error.  For a first offense, I think Ensign Biden should be retained.  In fact, he should be activated on an individual call-up.  And sent to Liberia to have direct contact with ebola patients.

 

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Filed under Around the web, Defense, navy, obama, Politics, stolen valor, stupid, Uncategorized

SPADs, Scooters, Tigers and Whales

Heavy seas mean a pitching deck.

The Skyraiders are all the  EA-1F (or rather AD-5Q) variant. The F11F Tiger was the US Navy’s first supersonic fighter, but wasn’t in fleet service very long. It did spent quite some time as an advanced trainer, and of course, was a long-time mount of the Blue Angels.

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Jerry Hendrix Discusses Rep. Randy Forbes’ Assertion That the US Navy Has No Strategy

Jerry Hendrix, late of the Naval Historical Center and now a fellow at CNAS, addresses a letter from Randy Forbes (R-VA) to CNO Admiral Greenert.  Read it all on DefenseOne.com.

A response, but certainly not a rebuttal.  I think the good Captain (Retired) is spot on with his assertions of the victory of the “Technical Rickovers” over the “Humanities Mahans”.   And that the very lack of being able to verbalize the importance of seapower is a major factor in the dearth of strategic eloquence from our Navy leadership.

When senior admirals speak strategically, their message can be summarized as “we do what we do because we have always done what we have done. The oceans are peaceful, we created that environment, and there is no need to change the formula.”

Indeed.  We are saddled with senior Navy leadership that assiduously avoids meaningful discussion about why the US Navy is building a fleet so entirely contrary to the requirements of the Cooperative Strategy.  Inherent in that avoidance is the unwillingness to discuss true ship numbers, or anything approaching a proposition for a high-low mix.  We have ever-smaller numbers of very large and very expensive warships which bodes poorly for forward presence.  The result is an increasing tally of unmet requirements, and of capital ships being employed in very low-end missions, to the detriment of other missions more appropriate and important.

That shipbuilding is a colossal mess, with LCS being the poster-child, should be no surprise.  This is the Navy, after all, that has its senior leadership in critical c0mmand positions offering up such gems as the Navy’s mission not being war at sea, and the most dangerous threat to US interests in the Pacific is not China or North Korea, but global warming.  And, though less openly now, the rather curious assertion that forcible entry is no longer possible or required, that somehow the sea as strategic or operational maneuver space is an outmoded idea.

Have a read, folks, and let me know what YOU think of Hendrix’s assertion.

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Filed under Around the web, budget, China, Coast Guard, Defense, history, Iran, iraq, logistics, marines, navy, Politics, Uncategorized, war