The 1st Battalion, 227 Aviation Regiment has a long proud history. Former member, and long time friend of the blog, Outlaw 13 collaborated with several others, and international film and television star Nick Searcy, to produce a great tribute to the unit. It’s well worth your time.
Tag Archives: war
Information Dissemination: Strength in Numbers: The Remarkable Potential of (really) Small Combatants
I’ll have to go back after finishing today’s taskings, and read this in detail and give it some thought. I’m not convinced that a small craft approach is what we need in the Western Pacific, but I have long believed that such an approach would be fruitful in certain waters, specifically the Persian Gulf, and possibly off the Horn of Africa. And of course, the Caribbean and Mediterranean Seas.
You are a tactical commander tasked with a mission to seek out and destroy one of the enemy’s premier capital ships in his home waters. You have two potential striking forces at your disposal: a world class surface combatant of your own with a 99% probability of mission success (Ps = 0.99) or a squadron of eight independently operating, missile carrying small combatants – each with a chance of successfully completing the mission no better than a coin flip (Ps = 0.5). Do you go with the almost sure thing and choose to send in your large combatant? As it turns out, the squadron of small combatants has an even higher overall Ps. But let’s assume now that you’ve advanced to operational commander. You might have more concerns than just overall Ps. What are the defensive and logistical requirements for each option? How much fleet investment am I risking with each option? What will it cost to replace the asset(s) if it is lost? What capability does the striking force have after successful enemy action (i.e. resilience)? An analysis of these factors, intentionally designed to disadvantage the small combatants, actually comes out overwhelmingly in their favor over the large combatant. The results verify what naval strategists and tacticians have long known: for certain offensive missions, an independently operating group of even marginally capable platforms can outperform a single large combatant at lower cost and less risk to the mission.
Put on your thinking caps, and let me hear your thoughts. You groundpounders might think of it in terms of armor versus light infantry in open versus close terrain.
At least, not when it comes to active duty troop levels.
One of my frustrations when frequenting Milblogs with a naval or air centric theme is that in tough budget times, the authors and commentariat are quick to offer up ground forces on the budget alter. “Oh, put the bulk of ground forces in the reserves!”
Well, here’s the thing. In the almost seven decades since the end of World War II, we’ve found ourselves time and again involved in manpower intensive ground combat.
Recently, retired Admiral Gary Roughead and defense analyst Kori Schake published a paper from the Brookings institution recommending that, in effect, all the looming budget cuts in DoD should come from the Army, and that the Navy and Air Force should see their funding levels maintained.
First, thanks guys, for validating the suspicion many of us harbored that AirSea Battle wasn’t a doctrine, but political maneuvering to preserve Navy/Air Force budgets. One can hardly fault a former Chief of Naval Operations for being a tad proprietary when it comes to his service’s budget.*
But to wave your hands and pronounce that henceforth, wars will be high technology affairs with little or no need for manpower intensive operations is to ignore not just the last seven decades of history, but all of history.
It would be nice if the United States could simply opt out of all messy conflicts, but it cannot. Global connectivity means that conflict in any part of the world has cascading effects. These are most intense in neighboring states or regions as combatants, refugees, money, disorder, crime, and weapons flow back and forth, but in most cases will spread even further. The recent conflict in Libya shows this contagion effect, when there is no sustainable security following the defeat of an enemy regime. In the future, major conflicts anywhere will affect the global and American economies, increasing commodity prices, disrupting the supply of goods and services, and creating uncertainty. U.S. economic growth will depend, in part, on whether the global economy is generally stable or conflict-ridden. This will make it difficult or impossible for the United States to totally avoid major conflicts (although it does not mean the U.S. will intervene militarily in every major conflict). The profusion of global diasporas will also make it politically difficult to ignore major crises or conflicts.
Now, Metz and Lovelace are not unbiased, either. They work for the Army War College at the Strategic Studies Institute. But they’re quite right that in spite of all our efforts to avoid messy operations on the ground, we seem to always end up there.
I’ll grant that one reason we tend to fight land wars is that in recent history, our naval power has been so overwhelming as to effectively preclude a naval war. And I do fully support the nation keeping a strong, forward naval presence throughout those areas of the world that hold our strategic interest. But the Navy has done poorly at managing the relatively strong support it has received. That’s not to say the Army has done much better, but before the Navy and the Air Force raid the Army’s budget, maybe they ought to consider which branch has born the brunt of the nation’s fighting for the past 70 years.
*We’d be a lot more sympathetic if his term as CNO hadn’t been such a goatrope in terms of shipbuilding.
We sometimes forget that for all our 12 years of the Global War on Terror, Russia has been fighting off and on since 1979. And Ivan has never been particularly solicitous about the welfare of his riflemen.
This video is long. 50 minutes long. And it is in Russian. I neither speak nor read Russian, so it’s hard to be sure, but I’d guess that most of the footage is from various campaigns against separatists in Chechnya. Some is obviously captured footage from the rebels, but most of it seems to be simply the same type of footage that American troops would take.
Be advised, there are parts that are very graphic.
(Repost from 2009)
We’ve covered helicopters here before, such as the Huey, the Blackhawk, the OH-58 Kiowa and of course, Cobra and Apache gunships. Let’s talk about the big boy on the block. The Chinook. Or as it became known almost instantly in the Army, the Shithook. The CH-47 is the Army’s largest helicopter, used to transport critical logistical items, troops and artillery around the battlefield.
The Chinook has been around for a long time. It’s first flight was in 1961. But the issues surrounding its development deserve a little attention. In the late 1950s, the Army and helicopter designers began to realize that piston engines would never become a very efficient way of powering helicopters. Gas turbines (jet engines that provided power through a driveshaft, rather than thrust) were finally becoming a practical option for military use. With the advent of these new engines, the Army took a long look at what the next generation of helicopters should look like. Just how big should they be? At the same time, the concept of “air assault” or landing troops directly on the battlefied started to form. What was the best way to move troop unit? Should you use a smaller helicopter that could lift a squad? Or would the better bet be to use somewhat larger helicopters that could lift 15-20 men? Smaller helicopters would cost more in the long run, but losing one helicopter in the assault wouldn’t result in as many casualties. The Army first decided to go with the larger helicopter, of about 20 men. The Vertol Company (later bought by Boeing) provided the Model 107. But the debate in the Army over helicopter size raged on. Some thought that the new UH-1B Huey could be scaled up to carry a full squad. That would handle most air assualt requirements, and still have a relatively cheap helicopter. The Model 107 would be larger than was needed. The other half of the problem was moving artillery and supplies. The Model 107 was just a bit too small for that job. The ideal was to move a 105mm howitzer, its crew, and a load of ammunition all in one lift by one helicopter. Boeing went back to the drawing board. The Model 114 was the result, and was soon bought by the Army as the CH-47 Chinook. And it wasn’t very long before the Chinook found itself in Vietnam, as part of the airmobile 1st Cavalry Division. With Hueys to conduct the initial assualt, and Chinooks bringing in the follow-on elements and moving artillery, the Army’s pattern of air assault missions was set so soundly that it is relatively unchanged 40-odd years later.
But don’t feel bad for the Model 107. Even though it wasn’t selected by the Army, its development continued. Largely because the Marines didn’t have a lot of space on the Navy’s helicopter carriers, they were forced to go with a somewhat larger helicopter. And the Model 107 fit the bill perfectly. They bought it as the CH-46 and operate it to this day.
Early Chinooks had engines of about 2,200 horsepower each. This was very quickly upgraded to about 2,600hp each. And improvements didn’t stop there. The rotor blades, rear pylon design, and transmission were all upgraded through the A, B, and C models to improve performance. In the 1980s, the design was again refreshed, with attention focusing again on more horsepower, but also greatly improved avionics and better reliability, resulting in the CH-47D. Many “D” models were conversions from older models, but there were also quite a few new built airframes. These were delivered up until 2002. And right about the time the last “D” model was delivered, the work on the latest model moved into high gear.
The newest model, the CH-47F is really an old model. While there will be some newbuild airframes, most will be remanufactured CH-47Ds. And since most of the “D” models were remanufactured earlier models, there will be some airframes well over 30 years old that will be expected to soldier on for another 20. Because of this, a large part of the program will be rebuilding them to make them easier to maintain, reducing vibration, making sure the components don’t have any fatigue issues, and making any issues easier to detect. Improvements in the avionics will include updating the instruments to the latest common “glass cockpit” standard, as well as building in the cabapility of operating in the Force XXI digital environment, which is the Army’s version of a battlefield internet. Not surprisingly, the Army is going with more powerful engines as well. The latest version of the Chinook engines put out almost 4,900 hp each. The Chinook has gone from a useful load of 7,000 pounds in its early days, to over 21,000 pounds in the “F” modeland the new models are faster. Think about that. How many of us are faster and stronger now that we’re over 40?
By now, you ought to have figured out that the ‘hook is a pretty capable helicopter. Lots of other folks have reached that conclusion as well. Very few other nations have the same air assault capability that we do, but having a few heavy lift helicopters around is handy for them as well. Several other nations, notable Great Britain, the Dutch, and the Japanese have bought various versions of the Chinook. When Great Britain attacked to recapture the Falklands in 1982, they lost several Chinooks aboard the Atlantic Conveyor. Their one remaining Chinook was put to work, doing the job of several helicopters. In one instance, instead of carrying its normal load of 55 troops, the sole Chinook lifted 105 fully loaded troops. There are several tales of Chinooks in the Vietnam war carrying over 100 people (though usually lightly loaded Vietnamese civilians). I’ve been in a Chinook with about 40 other people- I can’t imagine just how crowded it was with over 100.
It wouldn’t be much of a stretch to say that without the Chinook, the Army in Afghanistan would be crippled. Many of the smaller outposts can only be reached by helicopter. Given the high elevations and hot weather there, Blackhawks, normally very capable birds, struggle to carry a useful load. The Chinook, with its greater power, is able to support these high/hot outposts.
With the new “F’ models just beginning to come into service, we can expect this long serving veteran to serve for as much as 30 more years.
Mind you, we’ve scrimped on discussing the gunship version, or the several special operations versions. But here’s a last look at the bird for you.
China’s PLA “sunk” a U.S. aircraft carrier during a war game in remote China using its DF-21D “Carrier Killer” missile, reports Taiwan paper Want China Times.
The China Times is a 63 year old Taiwanese paper slightly slanted toward unification, but with a solid reputation and accurate reporting.
The Times report originates with a Google Earth image published at SAORBOATS Argentinian internet forum.
The photo shows two big craters on a 600 foot platform deep in China’s Gobi desert that Chinese military testers used to simulate the flight deck of an aircraft carrier.
There has been talk of the DF-21 for years with estimates of its range, threat, and theater changing implications, but this could be the first known test of the rocket.
Maybe they did, maybe they didn’t. Who knows?
The challenges any designer faces making an anti-ship ballistic missile are not trivial. First, you have to find the carrier. That’s not always easy. Eventually, yes, the carrier will likely disclose its position. But the first datum that a carrier is on station is likely to be Tomahawk and SEAD strikes against your homeland. Second, just finding a carrier isn’t localizing to the point of a firing solution. That doesn’t even begin to take into account any active countermeasures the carrier group may use. And oh, yeah, carriers move. Quite a bit. So not only must your ASBM maneuver, it will likely need a mid-course guidance update. Maybe. If not, it has to have a seeker that can detect and discriminate targets from long range so it can begin its terminal maneuvers early.
Then there are the active countermeasures. If the missile uses a radar guidance, sooner or later, we’ll learn to jam that system. If it uses infrared, we can jam that as well.
But the most likely active countermeasure is the accompanying escorts. Today, the Navy already fields a number of Aegis cruisers and destroyers fully capable of detecting, localizing, targeting, engaging and destroying medium range ballistic missiles. In fact, since the missile would be approaching the carrier group, that reduces the crossing angle of the shot, and makes it easier and gives multiple shots at a given target.
Given the already fielded anti-ballistic missile capability of our Navy, we are not terribly concerned with the DF-21D. In fact, one wonders why the Chinese would even pursue such an expensive capability, when there are other approaches far more likely to yield success. The obvious approach is the use of submarines. Our surface based Anti-Submarine Warfare capability and training have been shamefully ignored for years, as the capability of diesel electric subs worldwide has improved. Even more “asymetrical” would be an even more primitive weapon, the humble naval mine. The Chinese could lay defensive minefields in areas around their shores to deny us free use of those waters. And if they were really smart, they could use offensive minefields against the ports and harbors that forward deployed carriers depend on. A carrier may be able to spend months at sea, but it still relies on logistics ships to provide it with jet fuel, ammunition, spare parts, and food. This combat logistics train shuttles from friendly ports to the carrier group and back. Deny the navy its logistics, and you’ve denied the Navy itself. And it would only take a handful of mines in any of a number of important ports to effectively shut down operations in the Western Pacific.
France’s rescue attempt in Somalia was pretty much a goat rope. Rescue missions are risky, and have a high failure rate. Failing is one thing. Leaving a man behind? That’s a real black mark on the record.
And President Obama has notified Congress that US aircraft supported the operation. Eh, I’m not gonna get too excited about that. He complied with the War Powers Act mandate to notify Congress. And flying top cover over Somalia is fairly low risk. And believe it or not, France has been a fairly steadfast ally in a lot of ways. So scratching their back from time to time won’t hurt much.
France is also busy fighting in Mali. France has a long, long history of intervention in brush wars in Africa. When the US intervenes somewhere, there are calls from every corner of the world and from half the US population about having the blessings of the UN. France doesn’t bother with any of that nonsense. If they feel fighting Islamist radicals in Africa is in their best interests, it’s go time. I’m hearing some rumors of US logistical support for the operations, but nothing firm yet.
Some days just suck harder than others.
I think I’ve found my new favorite band.
D’oh. Video didn’t load first time around.
Really? Seriously? Is there not ONE damn thing this administration does that isn’t full of lies and deceit?
Kalashnikov in intensive care. Of course, he’s 93, so it’s not a terrible shock.
To horn in a bit on Roamy’s territory, this clip from SpaceX is pretty cool.
Happy Boxing Day to our friends up north, and across the pond.
Operation Christmas Drop, Via the ONT:
With a little luck, we may even have some content later today, or early tomorrow!
The Army will seek the death penalty in the case of SSG Robert Bales. Not a huge surprise there. If Bales did indeed murder 16 civilians, I can’t see any reason to keep him alive.
Marines set to introduce tough new standard for alcohol on duty. Not that you should be drinking at lunch anyway. And I don’t think a twice a year testing program is overly intrusive. Unlike SecNav’s policy of testing every sailor at the gangplank daily, random tests twice a year seem reasonable.
Over half of all soldier suicides last year were among those with no deployment history, and 85% among those with no direct combat history. Going from civilian life to basic training is a bit of a shock. But at least you’re surrounded by a peer group experiencing the very same thing, in a very carefully structured environment. Going from basic training to a new unit is even worse in many ways. You’re away from your friends and family, your new peer group doesn’t know you, and already has an existing, and very complex, social structure, and there is, outside of working hours, very little in the way of structure. Young men tend to do stupid things when unsupervised. That is a recipe for trouble. How much of the increase in the rate of suicide in the Army is directly related to deployments, and how much is indirectly related is an open question. How much of it is a reflection of the society the Army serves? I don’t know. I rarely write about this topic because I have so little insight or cogent thought to offer.
I’ve added an Amazon search link up top. If you shop via that link, I get a nice little referral fee, and it doesn’t cost you a thing. Help keep bloggers
awash in mad blog money solvent.
April, 1945. The noose is closing upon Nazi Germany’s neck. In the East, the massive front of the Red Army is advancing upon Berlin. In the West, Great Britain, America, and France have breached the Western Wall, and leaped the Rhine. The 21st Army Group, the 12th Army Group, and the 6th Army Group are occupying the industrial heartland of The Reich. The Wehrmacht fights on, but for the first time, scraping together old men and young teens into ad hoc formations. But as fast as they can be formed, the Allied forces grind them up. For the first time, large numbers of troops begin to surrender, particularly in the West. The jig is up, and both sides know it is only a matter of time before the inevitable surrender comes to pass.
But for all the territory conquered , there are still large swaths of Germany that have yet to feel the sting of war. No Allied soldier has trod their cobblestone lanes, nor yet has the mighty 8th Air Force sent its fleets of Fortresses and Liberators against the villages and towns that dot the countryside. To be sure, there are shortages of many items, and virtually every man of military age has been called to service. But otherwise, these places are as bucolic as a picture postcard.
The Army Air Forces, well aware that after World War I, many folks were convinced that the Imperial German Army treacherously quit before defeat, wanted to make the point across the entire German country that the Nazis had been well and truly beaten. The war had to be brought to every hamlet and burg.
The heavies of the 8th Air Force were still occupied plastering war production in cities. And so the task fell to the 9th Air Force. Long occupied with supporting the troops on on the ground, and interdicting transportation behind the lines, medium and light bombers, and fighters of the 9th were tasked in the closing days of the war to redouble their efforts. Every train, truck and barge had long been a target. Now, the Wings and Groups of the 9th would fan out across the countryside. In virtually every village, there was a Bahnhof *and Reichspost. With bomb, rocket and gun, the B-25s and B-26s, the A-26s and A-20s, and most importantly, the P-47s of the 9th would lay waste to the most prominent local symbol of the German government. After this war, there could be no doubt that the German forces had been well and truly defeated. Every citizen would feel at least a little pain.
And of course, every strafing run was caught on gun- camera film. Here’s a remarkable collection of footage from one fighter group, the 362nd, in April 1945. It starts with hand held camera footage of surrendered German troops. While most of the German Army fought until the bitter end, large numbers decided surrender was the wiser course of action. Amazingly, such was their level of unit cohesion that it was usually left to the German formation to move itself to collection points for disarming and internment. That’s why you see German soldiers still under arms.
Grab a cup of coffee, as this runs about 30 minutes.
DAT, Decisive Action Training, is the Army’s new moniker for a non-COIN, full spectrum warfare scenario where our units engage near-peer, professional, well equipped forces, to include mechanized forces. The “full spectrum” part means that even while engaging these capable enemy forces, our friendly forces is concurrently expected to perform the full range of missions such as stability and security operations, and provide training and support to host nation forces.
For the past decade, the needs of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq have dictated that the Army’s Combat Training Centers (CTCs) have focused almost exclusively on training brigade combat teams for COIN operations, usually as a capstone exercise during a training rotation just before deployment. But with the end of operations in Iraq, and with the end of the surge of forces to Afghanistan, the CTCs have begun to shift back toward a more “force on force” regimen.
As Tom Ricks of Foreign Policy’s Best Defense blog tells us, the 2nd Cavalry Regiment * recently went through one of these first DATs. Tom is more than a little concerned that a lot of the basic warfighting skills of brigades have eroded. He links to the following report as evidence of this failure of units to train to a sufficient level:
If you read just Tom’s article, and the above report, you’ll get the impression that 2CR can’t find their asses with both hands and a
map GPS. Personally, without having seen either the complete After Action Review package, nor having actually seen 2CR operate, I can make some fairly educated guesses as to what the ground truth is here.
First, I’m certain 2CR did have any number of major shortcomings in its training rotation at Hoehenfels. That’s kind of the whole point of training. Rotations at CTCs are explicitly designed to stress the entire unit, particularly the command and control elements of a brigade combat team. Some units do well at rotations, and some do poorly, but none do a rotation perfectly. There are always things a unit can do to improve. Secondly, as much as the rotation is for training the brigade in the rotation, it is also a key tool for helping Big Army identify those trends that it needs to focus on across the entire force.
For instance, the report above spends a good deal of time identifying shortcomings in 2CRs approach to Mission Command, the Army’s current doctrine for how leaders command missions. Ideally, through MC, a commander identifies those tasks that he needs his subordinate commanders to accomplish in order to accomplish his own mission. He then tasks his subordinates to do those missions within broad guidelines, leaving the details of exactly how to do it to them. This frees the commander to focus more on the big picture, and spend his time synchronizing operations, and better able to control the overall operation. But sadly, far too often, commanders, while following the party line on MC, fail to actually implement the philosophy. The report claims MC is something of a radical departure from previous command and control doctrine, but this is a tad misleading. In fact, almost since the end of World War II, the Army has touted some form of Mission Command, under various names, as the correct approach. As always, the problem has been that many commanders at all levels are often loathe to truly allow junior leaders the authority and autonomy to plan and conduct their own operations. Proper implementation of MC is a delicate balance of granting autonomy, while still ensuring that subordinate command operations are truly oriented to supporting the overall mission and synchronized in time and space with the higher command. All the networking and battle management tools available don’t magically provide this balance. That’s why today’s doctrine correctly notes that while “control” is a science, “command” is an art.
Ironically, the report identifies units operating in a COIN environment being under closer micromanagement than under a Decisive Action environment. But in truth, given the huge geographical areas a unit might operate in during COIN, sub-units often have far more autonomy. Decisive Action against a near-peer mechanized force calls for a far more concentrated friendly force, and commanders tend to exercise far more close control over the immediate actions of subordinate units. As an example, during Desert Storm, my brigade issued its order, the subordinate battalions issued their own orders, then each company issued its order, just as they are supposed to. But during the actual operation, the entire brigade moved as a single formation, with almost every combat vehicle being within visual range of the commander at all times. The subordinate commanders were, in effect, little more than guides for the rest of the vehicles.
There are some troubling aspects to the report. The basic field skills of the troops surely need some work. On the other hand, that’s a pretty easy skill set to teach, compared to some other tasks ahead of 2CR. Relearning to integrate the full capabilities of supporting fires will take a bit more effort. Without actually going out and shooting a lot of very expensive stuff, on very scarce ranges, it’s hard to truly learn that art.
Finally, while not excusing any shortcomings that 2CR may have, allow me to offer some reasons why they may not have performed as well as might be hoped.
Imagine the Crimson Tide of Alabama. Take the entire defensive roster, one of the better lineups around. Work them hard, all season long, game after game. Then suddenly tell them they’ll be graded, not on how well they perform on game day, but on how well they perform on a practice scrimmage. Against an NFL team. And oh, yeah, instead of playing defense, you’ll be playing the offense. And for good measure, you still have to go out next weekend, and play a real game. As defense.
You see, 2CR has been focused on COIN for a long time. As was right and proper. And not only that, they have a deployment to Afghanistan scheduled, in which they will be, again, performing COIN operations. Just how focused were they on performing DAT? I’d wager there were some folks in the chain of command that felt DAT was a distraction rather than a real training opportunity.
After a decade in which virtually every Brigade Combat Team in the Army has deployed and fought in a COIN environment, a decade where the Army had to relearn small war operations often at great pain, it is time for the Army to return its focus to more traditional warfighting capabilities. But to think that is a skillset units will instantly master is unrealistic. It’s going to take time, effort, sweat and more than a few hurt feelings to return to the level of competency that units need to establish.
*In spite of its name and having squadrons and troops rather than battalions and companies, 2nd Cavalry Regiment is in fact just another Stryker Brigade Combat Team.
A mission to grab top lieutenants of the leading warlord opposing US efforts in Somalia led to two Blackhawks being shot down by RPG fire. A three hour mission turned into a day and a half trial by fire.
Super 64 over the Somali coast
Two soldiers would posthumously earn their nation’s highest honor.
The Middle East, that is, all of Arabia and Persia, has been a basket case since before I was born. Deeply dysfunctional societies that rival sub Sahara Africa for poverty and violence.
The Bush administration’s operations in Afghanistan and invasion of Iraq were an attempt to achieve a strategic realignment of the political landscape of the region. To some extent, it did do that. Of course, a decade of US intervention is hardly enough to change a thousand years of culture. So what’s next? The Arab Spring is bearing bitter fruit. Iran is striving to become the hegemon of the Gulf. Israel faces (as always) an existential crisis, and Turkey is no longer the sick man of Europe, but becoming the sick man of the Levant.
What should the US do?
Spengler, writing at the Asia Times, says our best course of action may be to let things get worse. His hinge of history, as it were, is to support, either tacitly or explicitly, an Israeli strike on Iran’s nuclear facilities. The response in the short term would be bad, and make the region more volatile. But doing nothing has a price as well:
Absent an Israeli strike, America faces:
A nuclear-armed Iran; Iraq’s continued drift towards alliance with Iran; An overtly hostile regime in Egypt, where the Muslim Brotherhood government will lean on jihadist elements to divert attention from the country’s economic collapse; An Egyptian war with Libya for oil and with Sudan for water; A radical Sunni regime controlling most of Syria, facing off an Iran-allied Alawistan ensconced in the coastal mountains; A de facto or de jure Muslim Brotherhood takeover of the Kingdom of Jordan; A campaign of subversion against the Saudi monarchy by Iran through Shi’ites in Eastern Province and by the Muslim Brotherhood internally; A weakened and perhaps imploding Turkey struggling with its Kurdish population and the emergence of Syrian Kurds as a wild card; A Taliban-dominated Afghanistan; and Radicalized Islamic regimes in Libya and Tunisia.
Read the whole thing, as they say.
I’m not ready to sign off on all his conclusions, but it clear that our present course of action is deeply flawed and leaves us at risk, both in the short term and in the long term.
Roamy expressed some frustration that she couldn’t find a lot of articles on the attack on Camp Bastion. Well, the papers have started to catch up. I can’t think of a time since Vietnam when the US lost 6 planes on the ramp. Here’s a little more detail on the attack:
Click to embiggen. It’s a big graphic.
The Marines have a long history of fighting to defend the perimeter of an airfield. In fact, exactly 70 years ago, the 1st Marine Division was ashore on Guadalcanal, fighting to hold onto Henderson field. And more than just small infiltration teams faced them. As of September 1942, the forces on the island were roughly equal. And the IJN would send heavy cruisers and battleships to blast Henderson Field repeatedly in the course of one of the closest run campaigns of the war. So while the loss of two Marines, and 6 jets hurts, it’s not going to mean the end of operations there.
China unviels yet another stealthy fighter.
Mind you, building one prototype doesn’t a fleet of fighters make. The prototype of the F-22 flew on 29 September, 1990. It would be another 15 years before it became operational. Still, Mitt Romney’s plan to reopen F-22 production sounds pretty good to me, even with an estimated $1bn in startup costs.
The WaPo has an interesting article on the B61 bomb and the costs of maintaining the nuclear inventory. Of course, since there is zero political support for developing new weapons, the old ones will have to soldier on, and that means increasingly expensive support.
The B61 is the backbone of “bombs” (as opposed to missile warheads) in our arsenal. The primary delivery platform is the B-2 bomber. There was a time not too long ago, however, that if you flew fast jets, you qualified for and trained for a nuclear delivery mission. Today? I doubt more than a handful of tactical air pilots in any service have ever flown a nuclear strike profile. Maybe a few guys in the F-15E community. Dunno. It’s not something the Air Force spends a lot of time talking about these days.
On this day in 1945, on the teak deck of the USS Missouri, representatives of the Empire of Japan unconditionally surrendered to the United States, Great Britain, and allied forces.
The cataclysm of World War II had ended. Millions of lives lost, untold treasure squandered. While two political regimes were utterly repudiated, the post-war world would see two others struggle for supremacy.
Oddly, our two bitterest foes would become strong allies in that post-war environment, and our putative ally in the war would be our greatest opponent.
America turned to beating her swords into plowshares, not knowing in that less than five years, she would again have to take up arms in defense of others. GEN MacArthur, already well overage at the end of the war, would do perhaps his best work in the reconstruction of Japan. His tenure in Korea would be less successful.
Millions of soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines, spared the invasion of Japan by the atomic bombs, were suddenly confronted with something they had dared not hope for just two weeks before- a future. They had donned khaki in the service of their nation, and quickly learned discipline and dedication, not the parade ground variety, but that kind that wins on the battlefield. They would now flee the ranks in droves. But they would not soon forget the lessons they had learned. Raised in the hardship of the Depression, battle tested by war, exposed to the world, they would return home knowing how not to run a country, and have strong ideas how one should be run. They would educate themselves, and work hard and strive to build lives with the second chance they were given. They would lead the US economy in an economic boom that was unprecedented. If they later were perhaps too soft on their children, can we blame them for not wanting them to suffer as they did?
The USS Missouri would continue to serve her country for another 50 years. She rests peacefully just a short distance from the USS Arizona. One marks the American entry into World War II. The other, the end. Fitting, I think.
We wrote about Constant Peg a while back, and mentioned Have Donut/Have Drill in that post.
Both programs were pretty much classified up the wazoo, but knowing about the capabilities of enemy airplanes is only really useful if it gets down to the warfighter’s level. Accordingly, classified training films of the evaluations were made and shown to select crews.
Oddly, the MiG-21 was flown under the cover name of “YF-110” which was the Air Force designation for the F-4 Phantom before the 1962 tri-service designation revamp. The Phantom, of course, would be the MiG-21’s primary opponent in the skies above North Vietnam.
You may also recall I posted a video a couple weeks ago about the operational evaluation of the Phantom in the hands of Tactical Air Command. One thing that very plainly struck me was that the entire film focused on the air-to-ground capabilities of the Phantom. TAC saw itself almost entirely devoted to air-to-ground missions. In spite of all their fighter pilot swagger, TAC left the business of serious thought regarding air-to-air combat to the Air Defense Command folks. But ADC faced an very different challenge than the TAC folks. It’s one thing to intercept a TU-95 Bear hundreds of miles away. Swirling around with nimble MiGs over their own territory while you’re trying to bomb the suburbs of Hanoi is an entirely different kettle of fish. And given the emphasis on using the missile armament of Sparrows and Sidewinders, neither of which liked to be fired from a wildly maneuvering jet, the air-to-air skills of the TAC had atrophied to a disastrous state. Where the US shot down about 10 MiGs in Korea for every Sabre they lost, the USAF in the early years of Vietnam saw Phantoms with only a 2-1 kill ratio, and at times, losses among all jets were as bad as 1 to 1.
Restrictive Rules of Engagement also squandered much of the Phantom’s advantages over Vietnamese MiGs.* The best way to shoot down a MiG is to bomb it on the ground. But fears of killing Russian advisors in bombing raids kept North Vietnamese MiG airfields off the target list for long stretches of time, and even when strikes were permitted, they were only allowed in fits and starts, not sufficient to keep the fields closed for more than brief periods.
The dismal performance of the Phantom in the air-to-air regime led the Navy and the Air Force to do a lot of soul searching. AIMVAL/ACEVAL, The Ault Report, Navy Fighter Weapons School (TOPGUN) and later Red Flag were all results the the services tackling head on their earlier failures. Technical improvements to both the Sparrow and Sidewinder greatly improved their performance. More importantly, tough realistic training greatly improved the aircrews ability to fight MiGs and win.
The MiG-21 was designed as a point defense interceptor, optimized for shooting down bomb-laden strike aircraft. It was fast as a thief. It could also turn on a dime… for a little while**. While its delta-wing planform gave it great initial turning capability, it also had enormous induced drag, causing it to bleed airspeed in a turn like a hemophiliac. And in air combat, speed is life. The Phantom wasn’t nearly as nimble a turning jet. What it did have, however, was two great big thundering J79 engines that gave it a very good ability to sustain its energy levels through a fight. A ham fisted pilot would find himself out of airspeed, altitude and ideas very quickly, but a well trained stick-shaker could manage his energy level to outfly almost any opponent.
The whole point of maneuvering in air combat was to place your jet in optimum firing position, which in those days was very roughly a cone of about 30 degrees from the enemy fighter’s tail, and a range of about half a mile to 1-1/2 miles. Woe betide the Phantom pilot who tried to yank the stick hard enough to turn with the MiG. He’d find that very likely, the MiG would turn the tables, and find the gomer riding in his “saddle.” Instead, US pilots were taught to abandon this “angles” fight, and instead fight an “energy” fight. If you can’t out turn an MiG, how do you do this? By exploiting the vertical. Humans are essentially two-dimensional thinkers. Most pilots, wanting to turn, instinctively turn in a level turn, parallel to the surface of the earth. As noted, this bleeds airspeed in a MiG. But a well trained Phantom pilot would make turns “out of plane1” A Phantom pilot that wants to execute a tight turn without bleeding a lot of energy would pull into the vertical. This would bleed airspeed, sure. But it would also quickly gain altitude. At the apex of the zoom climb, the Phantom at low speed could quickly tip its nose back earthward, execute a roll (with the practical effect of very rapidly changing its compass heading) and begin pulling out of the dive. And all that altitude is quickly converted back into a high airspeed, leaving the Phantom with reserves of energy to either kill the MiG, escape combat, or make further maneuvers.
Various other maneuvers, such as the “barrel roll attack” or the “lag displacement roll2” capitalized on the Phantom’s strengths, and minimized its weaknesses. The “high yo-yo” allowed Phantoms to exploit energy for angles, and the “low yo-yo” allowed Phantoms to generate energy or range/angle offsets as appropriate.
With improvement in weapons, and the vastly improved training of aircrews, by the time of Linebacker I in 1972, the US Air Force and US Navy increased their kill ratio to an impressive 12-1. Through the lean years of the 1970s, and on through the early 1990s, both services placed great emphasis on supporting the training in air combat needed to ensure success. Today, while there is still strong support, the emphasis has shifted somewhat to integrating air combat into the strike warfare arena, and using new weapons and sensors to make traditional dogfighting less likely. Many traditionalists decry this, but the fact is, since Desert Storm, most US air-to-air kills have been Beyond Visual Range engagements with little or no dogfighting involved.
*On the other hand, there were some very good reasons for some of the ROE restrictions. The big restriction was that pilots had to make a positive visual identification of their potential targets. That took away the range advantage of the Sparrow missile. But given the large numbers of US aircraft operating over North Vietnam, and the relative paucity of MiGs, without that restriction, the was a very great possibility of fratricide. There’s a good chance this rule saved more jets than it lost.
** The preferred MiG-21 tactic was to attack flights of F-105 bombers by coming up from behind and slightly below. Quickly accelerating to supersonic speeds, the MiG would dash in, fire off its Atoll heatseeking missiles, and dive away for safety. The Atoll was a virtual clone of the early Sidewinder missile.
1. The “plane” here isn’t the Phantom or the MiG, but rather the geometric concept of a plane, this one being the surface of the earth, which, yes, we know the surface is rounded, but for the purposes of aerial combat can be considered as a flat plane.
2. The Lag Displacement Roll lets a Phantom that is overshooting the MiG go outside the turn of the MiG, denying the MiG the opportunity to reverse its turn and attack. Instead of instinctively turning in the direction of the MiG, the Phantom barrel rolls away from the MiG and outside the track of the MiG’s turn. Once outside the MiG’s turn, the Phantom continues an in-plane turn with the MiG. It’s turn radius is larger than that of the MiG, but it’s turn rate matches well enough. Essentially, the turn comes to resemble two well matched runners on a track, with one on the inside lane, and one on the outside lane. So while the Phantom may not have a shot, he’s not at risk of becoming defensive either. Eventually, the MiG will bleed away so much energy that it can’t sustain the turn, allowing the Phantom to gain an angular advantage as well, and set up a shot.
NSFW language, so you may wanna turn down the speakers.
Congratulations to the US ladies gymnastics team. Magnificent!
Syria. I’m unwilling to root for either side. Obviously, the Assad regime is odious. And while a fair portion of the insurgency is secular, how many of you think it can form an effective governing coalition, without being coopted by Al Qaeda or other Islamist elements? I do find it interesting that, unlike the fall of other Arab governments in the recent past, this is a case of a classic armed insurgency, rather than a populist uprising. At any event, I’m pretty OK with the US sitting this one out.
Works for me…
Upon successful completion of the Army’s Command and General Staff School, a small percentage of students are retained to attend the School of Advanced Military Studies, or SAMS. SAMS graduates are prized staff members of key commands, and form the intellectual backbone of those staffs. They are the subject matter experts on operational planning at the division, corps, and theater level of warfare. They are also informally known as “Jedi Knights.”
Not only did the clone troopers literally wade slowly forward into battle without using any cover while firing their weapons from the hip, there was no sign whatsoever of any coordination among them. It was a vastly scaled up brawl of millions of individual fights rather than a cohesive battle. They continually inserted fresh troops directly into the middle of the battle rather than in a safe landing zone or better yet, to maneuver for the enemy flank. Even when Yoda or others give commands, they are directing individual weapons systems to fire on a particular target, not to establish the synergy of combined arms and maneuvering units. A special team of commandos linked up with Mace Windu and he led them on a charge directly into the center of the battle! Countless clone troopers marched into a the machine onslaught. Every droid they destroyed could be easily replaced on an assembly line at a comparable rate. The only attempt to break with attrition style warfare was led by Obi-Wan Kenobi by pursuing the escaping leaders, but again is attributable to the Jedi’s preferred individual role and not an attempt to guide the army.
Be sure to also see his take on the underlying flaws with the choice of the Jedi to lead the Clone Army and why the campaign was doomed to failure.
I think you’ve seen most of these. Consider this a “best of” compilation. Some NSFW language.
Information Dissemination continues its symposium today with an interesting post from CAPT Wayne P. Hughes, USN (Ret.), a professor at the Naval Postgraduate School, regarding options for a confrontation with China. A well respected naval tactician, CAPT Hughes argues, among other things, that the US Navy should field a flotilla of small, missile armed, surface combatant vessels in the area, based out of a friendly foreign port.
To this existing undersea capability I want to add a new flotilla of small missile combatants that would operate on the surface in the China Seas. The Navy should draw from foreign designs and also those tested in campaign studies and war games at NPS and the Naval War College. Our workshops suggest three prominent employments:
- Conduct hit and run raids on illegitimate Chinese seabed exploitations that are contrary to international law.
- Escort vital shipping into friendly ports, especially in the South China Sea.
- Augment Japanese patrol vessels to constrain illegal interference by China near the Senkaku Islands.
During peacetime, their presence serves as a signal of American commitment, helping to motivate peaceful resolution of disputes over economic exclusion zones, while conducting many small-ship exercises and port visits with the Philippines, Malaysia, Brunei, Vietnam, and Singapore.
What would the flotilla look like? In rough terms we envision individual small combatants of about 600 tons that carry about eight surface-to-surface missiles, depend on deception, soft kill, numbers, and point defense for survival, and are supported by off-board manned or unmanned aerial vehicles for surveillance and tactical scouting. To paint a picture of possible tactical configurations, I contemplate the smallest element to be a mutually supporting pair, a squadron to comprise eight vessels, and a deployed force of four squadrons. The entire flotilla would comprise about eight squadrons. Costing less than $100 million each, the entire force would take only a small fraction—around 4%–of the shipbuilding budget and be inexpensive to operate.
I’m generally in favor of the Navy fielding a small surface combatant. Quantity has a quality all its own. And a survey of the fleet of 1945 shows that enormous numbers of our stupendous fleet was actually composed of very modest craft, such as the 173’ PC class subchaser. They weren’t the most potent ships, but their presence allowed them to perform secondary missions, freeing up the main body of the fleet for offensive operations.
Further, in certain restricted waters, many of the shortcomings of smaller vessels compared to large blue water combatants are less important. CAPT Hughes first portion of the post addresses the impact of losses on a flotilla composed of multiple small platforms versus a task force centered around a handful of high value platforms. In engineering terms, the loss of some low end vessels from a numerous flotilla might be termed “graceful degradation.” That is, if you have a force of 8 or 16 small combatants, and lose two or four, the fundamental capabilities of the force remain, even if their total capacity has been substantially reduced. On the contrary, if you lose, say a Tico class cruiser from a task group, the fundamental capabilities of the group in terms of command and control and offensive and defensive power may be fundamentally changed.
One of the temptations when thinking of ship design and procurement is to pose the question of what to buy in terms of a ship class is to consider “force on force.” For instance, if you look to buy a small missile armed combatant, the great temptation is to look at the adversary missile boats, and build one to counter it. CAPT Hughes is wise enough to note that this is the incorrect approach. Mining the ports enemy boats operate from, and leveraging other weapons platforms such as tactical air make more sense.
China will likely use its small combatants to deny swaths of the South China Sea to major US surface combatants, constricting their freedom of maneuver that is one of the key advantages of a naval force. Still, they’ll suffer from the fact that a blue water naval force can exploit its mobility to concentrate and strike at the time and place of its choosing. The defender, on the other hand, has to defend all places at all times, diluting the effect of its large numbers of smaller combatants. Further, massing the fires of a number of small combatants is a real challenge. One or two missile boats attacking a carrier task force with anti-ship missiles is a manageable threat. Fifteen or twenty boats launching 8 missiles each becomes a much more problematic threat. The challenge for the Chinese would be to detect and localize any US force, and then mass the missile boats within range without them being destroyed, and then coordinating the actual attack in time and space. That’s not nearly as easy as it sounds.
So what roles might a small US missile combatant perform in this scenario if not as a direct counter to Chinese missile craft? First, they could perform close escort for friendly shipping, either merchant traffic, or ships from the logistical force. Second, they can block key chokepoints denying mobility to Chinese forces. Just as the Chinese might wish to constrain our maneuver, we would seek to channelize theirs. Third, our small combatant could attack Chinese merchant shipping (or alternatively, blockade them from free passage in international waters). Fourth, distributed vessels serve as distributed sensor nodes in the information domination campaign. Finally, just upping the number of combatant vessels in the theater of operations complicates an opponent’s operations, forcing them to devote resources to ISR and sea control that they otherwise would be able to apply against the main body of a US fleet. A study of US PT boat operations throughout World War II would likely show other useful roles and missions, as well as the limitations, of such a force.
I’m not entirely sold on CAPT Hughes reasoning here, or even his proposal for a flotilla of small combatants in this scenario (and be sure to read his thoughts on an Iranian scenario as well). But it strikes me as quite depressing that CAPT Hughes and many others in private forums and quasi military forums such as the USNI blog are able to cogently explain a tactical or operational scenario, propose the platforms and tactics to support them, and spark an open, frank discussion of the role of seapower and US power in the world. Contrast that with the current Navy and DoD leadership inability to give a rational explanation of what the LCS should be and how it should be used (or the F-35 or any other number of programs).
It is to weep.
On June 14th, 1775, the Continental Congress authorized a force of 10 companies of riflemen. From those humble beginnings has risen a force that for 237 years has, almost uniquely among armies of the world, stood for the protection of the rights of the population it serves, rather protecting the government that established it.
It has been among the largest armies in the world, and among the smallest. It has at times enjoyed great public support, and times of disdain and apathy. It has been home to the most humble citizens, and some of the greatest men our nation has ever produced.
It has served, fought, built, in virtually every corner of the world. Millions of Americans have served with gallantry and distinction, from the American Revolution to this very day.
It is fitting that this day, this birthday of the Army, is shared with today’s other celebration, Flag Day. Make no mistake, it is no coincidence, given that the Army motto is, “This We’ll Defend.”
70 years ago. It’s hard to grasp just how badly the US was being beaten in the first six months of the War in the Pacific. The Japanese juggernaut seemed almost invincible. In six months of war, the US and its allies had lost almost every key outpost, suffered humiliating defeats, crippling losses, and saw their pre-war plans rendered completely irrelevant.
But on this day 70 years ago, the US Navy turned the tide. Its own losses in the battle, in terms of aircrew and airplanes, and even ships, were enough to leave the fleet almost exhausted. And it took a while for our sailors to realize that they had indeed broken the back of the Japanese fleet. But the sacrifice and courage of what in later years of the war would be considered just a small task force completely shifted the strategic momentum in the Pacific. No longer would the Japanese advance. There remained more than three grueling, bloody years of war, and indeed the costs in ships and men would only go up from there. But the first toll-gate on the road to victory had been passed.
SteelJawScribe has a fantastic series of posts on this key battle in the Pacific. Here’s today’s link. Be sure to go read the entire series, and especially enjoy some of the terrific illustrations and pictures.
Fort Belvoir’s incoming garrison commander is a highly decorated war hero, West Point graduate, and arguably the New York Giants number one fan.
And, Col. Greg Gadson, who currently directs the Army’s Wounded Warrior Program, can now add movie star to his impressive resume, thanks to his role as Lt. Col. Mick Canales in the recently released “Battleship.”
Gadson said movie director Peter Berg called him at home one day and told him about the project.
“I said I’d give it a shot,” he said. “He really believed in the project and is a very patriotic man and stayed after me. Here we are two years later, almost.”
Gadson did his own stunts in the movie and won’t rule out future appearances on the big screen.
You have to read a bit further to learn he’s also a double amputee. LTC Gadson is a tough hombre.