Tuesday, April 07, 2020

Frigates, Now More Than Ever

There are some arguments that are so sound they become timeless.

In the lexicon of USN "Gods of the Copybook Headings" there is a, "We Need Frigates."

The call remains constant because the reasoning is sound and survives the test of time.

The standing requirement for the US Navy to have a ready percentage of its fleet in "smaller" multi-mission warships, AKA frigates and corvettes really can no longer be credibly argued against. LCS does not count, because they simply don't count for much. 

We have been on this message here for over a decade and a half. We have not been alone - another person engaged in our long-term insurgency to do what we can to get our Navy to do what it needs to do is Jerry Hendrix.

Detecting some quiet, he has set back up his drums to remind everyone the what and why.

Read the whole thing over at NRO, but here's the meaty bits;
So why are high-end ships being used so consistently to do low-end missions, of which counter-drug operations in the Caribbean and Pacific are yet another example? The answer is that the Navy doesn’t have the low-end ships to match with those missions.

“Low-end” refers traditionally to frigates and corvettes that are smaller than destroyers or cruisers, have smaller crews, lower sensor-system and weapons complexity, and lower costs so that navies can purchase them in larger numbers to perform day-to-day presence, escort, surveillance, and interdiction missions. British admiral Horatio Nelson referred to frigates as the “eyes” of the fleet, and historically corvettes were designed to be small enough to operate in an enemy’s close-to-shore littoral regions. By this standard the U.S. Navy’s littoral-combat ships would normally be considered corvettes. Although the Navy has purchased 30 of them, these ships have not been as effective as the Navy had hoped, with nearly all of them presenting difficulties with their combat systems. To fulfill the counter-drug mission described by the president and his team, what the Navy and the Southern Command really need is frigates, and fortunately, they should be coming soon.
To meet persistent requests and requirements, the Navy keeps about 110 ships deployed at any given moment — out of a total of only 296 ships. Normally a ship should spend about six months in maintenance and then six months in training before deploying for six months; it then returns home to spend another six months in a ready-surge status before beginning the cycle again. The Navy’s current 110-to-296 ratio means that compromises have been made throughout the cycle — truncated training or maintenance, or extended deployments, or ships unready for crisis surges. As the Navy charts its course to 355 ships, new frigates will offer a solution to the problem. For now, however, it must assign the high-end, and highly expensive, destroyers to perform counter-drug patrols off the shores of Central and South America, as well as to put additional pressures on Maduro.
For our FFG(X), I continue to ask that you light a candle for FREMM, and hopefully we'll see.

If you want to see what a challenger is building, check out the latest Russian offering.


Monday, April 06, 2020

Africa and COVID-19

As we like to do here, as others look away - we like to keep an eye on sub-Saharan Africa. In economic, demographic, radicalism, migration and other areas - Africa will produce more friction by mid-century than it can consume locally.

From the expansion of ISIS in the north, to the crippling secondary effects of HIV/AIDS in the south - anything that further keeps back the continent's progress will make an already challenging present and future more difficult.

COVID-19 is pulling every corner of the world down, Africa will be no exception. As they are already so far down the development ladder, this shock holds the potential to drive negative effects in all directions.

Adding to this already grim prospect is an assumption that COVID-19 will act in a similar way through different populations - with different outcomes relative to the access to and quality of available health care. Africa, even on a good day does not look good with that variable.

Could it be worse? Things can always be worse. 

History shows that some diseases have a predilection to be deadlier to some populations more than other based on shared DNA. Though more research is needed, in the first nation with a significant population of sub-Saharan African extraction, the USA, is fighting through a COVID-19 infection, we are seeing signs that the disease is deadlier to those of sub-Saharan African extraction.

If COVID-19's deadliness can vary among population groups relative to DNA commonality ... what does that hold for Africa?
Some of Uganda’s poorest people used to work here, on the streets of Kampala, as fruit sellers sitting on the pavement or as peddlers of everything from handkerchiefs to roasted peanuts.

Now they’re gone and no one knows when they will return, victims of a global economic crisis linked to the coronavirus that could wipe out jobs for millions across the African continent, many who live hand-to-mouth with zero savings.

“We’ve been through a lot on the continent. Ebola, yes, African governments took a hit, but we have not seen anything like this before,” Ahunna Eziakonwa, the United Nations Development Program regional director for Africa, told The Associated Press. “The African labor market is driven by imports and exports and with the lockdown everywhere in the world, it means basically that the economy is frozen in place.
There is so little flex in Africa, you can assume where this is going. Economic dislocation brings conflict and migration.

Keep an eye here, especially if you live in Europe.

Sunday, April 05, 2020

Jones Act: National Security Asset or Liability? - on Midrats

The Jones Act is hailed by many in the maritime community as an essential lifeline to keep the domestic merchant marine viable. There is an equally vocal argument that it is not just unnecessary, but counterproductive.

Are the assumptions being make by the pro-Jones Act faction wrong?

To discuss the Jones Act from the skeptical school this Sunday from 5-6pm Eastern will be Colin Grabow, a policy analyst at the Cato Institute’s Herbert A. Stiefel Center for Trade Policy Studies.

You can listen to the show at this link or below, but remember, if you don't already, subscribe to the podcast at Spreaker or any of the other podcast aggregators.

If you use iTunes, you can add Midrats to your podcast list simply by clicking the iTunes button at the main showpage - or you can just click here.

Thursday, April 02, 2020

The Law of Gross Tonnage Applies

Am I a bad navalist if I can't stop laughing at this ... and cannot wait for the video?

Via Joseph Trevithick at The Drive;
The incident occurred in the early hours of Mar. 30, 2020, but Columbia Cruise Services only released an official statement on Apr. 1. The company, which is headquartered in Germany, said the RCGS Resolute was drifting just over 13 miles off the coast of Isla La Tortuga, a Venezuelan island situated some 60 miles off the country's northern coast, when ANBV Naiguatá, also known by its hull number GC-23, approached it. The Venezuelan Navy ship ordered the cruise ship to follow it to Puerto Moreno on Isla De Margarita, located to the east, accusing it of violating the country's territorial waters.
Engineering matters, math is hard, and the law of gross tonnage always applies.
The 403-foot-long Resolute, which is flagged in Portugal, reportedly had a gross tonnage of around 8,445 tons at the time. The ship was laid down in September 1990 and completed in June 1991. Intended for Antarctic cruises, it has a reinforced ice-capable hull.
The Naiguatá, which is just over 262 feet long, is a Guaicamacuto class offshore patrol vessel and displaces around 1,720 tons with a full load.
Good seamanship can be harder.
"While the Master was in contact with the head office [in Germany], gun shots were fired and, shortly thereafter, the navy vessel approached the starboard side at speed with an angle of 135° and purposely collided with the RCGS Resolute," the statement continued. "The navy vessel continued to ram the starboard bow in an apparent attempt to turn the ship’s head towards Venezuelan territorial waters."

Columbia Cruise Services does not say what kind of gun was fired or if it did any damage to the Resolute. The Naiguatá has a 76mm main gun in a turret forward of the main superstructure, as well as a pair of 20mm cannons and two .50 caliber machine guns. The crew would also have access to various small arms.

Whatever the case, the steel-hulled patrol ship suffered severe damage from repeatedly ramming the cruise ship, began to take on water, and ultimately sank. Columbia Cruise Services says Resolute remained in the area until it was clear its services were not required to help in the rescue of the 44 crew members. It then continued on, as planned, to the Port of Willemstad in Curaçao.
BZ to the crew of the Resolute ... she's earned her name ... and seems no worse for the wear.

Wednesday, April 01, 2020

CO of CVN-71 Makes the Call & Goes Public

Simply one of the more remarkable moments for a contemporary navy leader I have seen in awhile.

Captain Brett Crozier, USN, Commanding Officer of the USS Theodore Roosevelt (CVN 71), is doing exactly what we have wanted our leaders to do since we started this blog.

Read his full 4-page letter with a few of my thoughts sprinkled here and there over at USNIBlog and tell me what you think.

Tuesday, March 31, 2020

April: Mensis Horriblis

If you are at a high level of anxiety right now because of COVID-19, you probably need to look at different coping mechanisms. We are weeks from the peak.

There are a lot of places out there that have just plain bad information coming from either bad players, ignorance, malice, or what could be the worst - those on either side trying to find political gain from a pandemic.

Others can Monday morning quarterback or time travel if they wish, but we are where we are & plus or minus a few days, I doubt within a half-standard deviation anyone would have done anything different to bring us to a different place.

The more we know about the virus and the more we have solid metrics coming in from Europe, the better our modeling will be.

I think the best place to go is the CDC. Check on a regular basis as they are updating modeling as more information reveals itself from the data, but the critical takeaway is that we are heading in to the most difficult month.

Mid-April will be rough.

Don't be surprised, unprepared, or paralyzed by panic. Be informed.

These graphs should tell you what you need to know.

Monday, March 30, 2020

The French Navy Sorties Against COVID-19

There are different responses a navy can take in respond to COVID-19.

You can:

1. Assume readiness risk by pulling ships in, decrease manning/training/etc for a few weeks or months to enable social distancing and stop COVID-19 was spreading crud-like through your battleforce ships.

2. Continue as before because those readiness reports and stop light PPT won't wright themselves.

3. Deploy what you must for critical presence missions, hard operational necessity, or to help the fight against COVID-19.

With our hospital ships MERCY and COMFORT, we have done a bit domestically with #3.

The French don't have hospital ships ... but they are doing something very interesting with their big-deck amphibs in line with #3, via David Axe:
The French navy has mobilized all three of its Mistral-class amphibious assault ships and is deploying them across Europe, Asia and the Americas in response to the coronavirus pandemic.

The mobilization of the assault ships Mistral and Dixmude on March 25, 2020 came just five days after the French fleet sent sister vessel Tonnerre to Corsica to transport coronavirus patients to hospitals in mainland France.
French President Emmanuel Macron described (Operation) Resilience as an “unprecedented military operation dedicated to supporting public services and the French people in the fields of health, logistics and protection.”

Mistral will support the French territory of Reunion in the Indian Ocean. The ship already was in the region for training when the government announced the pandemic-relief operation. Dixmude at the time of the announcement was in the Mediterranean Sea but will sail west to aid France’s Carribean territories.