Friday, March 23, 2018

Fullbore Friday

One of the enduring characteristics of WWI was the amount of blood that was shed over and over and over for such small bits of land.

So it was again in March of 2015;
French Commander-in-Chief General Joffre considered it vital that the Allied forces should take every advantage of their growing numbers and strength on the Western Front, both to relieve German pressure on Russia and if possible break through in France. British commander Sir John French agreed and pressed the BEF to adopt an offensive posture after the months of defence in sodden trenches. Joffre planned to reduce the great bulge into France punched by the German advance in 1914, by attacking at the extreme points in Artois and the Champagne. In particular, if the lateral railways in the plain of Douai could be recaptured, the Germans would be forced to evacuate large areas of the ground they had gained. This belief formed the plan that created most of the 1915 actions in the British sector. The attack at Neuve Chapelle was an entirely British affair – the French saying that until extra British divisions could relieve them at Ypres, they had insufficient troops in the area to either extend of support the action.
It is one thing to see the map of a battle as you see in the upper right hand part of the page - but here is a bird's eye view of the battlefield today. Driving through this now, it is an incredibly beautiful part of Europe - not the hellscape it was.

Neuve Chapelle village lies on the road between Bethune, Fleurbaix and Armentieres, near its junction with the Estaires – La Bassee road. The front lines ran parallel with the Bethune-Armentieres road, a little way to the east of the village. Behind the German line is the Bois de Biez. The ground here is flat and cut by many small drainage ditches. A mile ahead of the British was a long ridge – Aubers Ridge – barely 20 feet higher than the surrounding area but giving an observation advantage.
The attack was undertaken by Sir Douglas Haig’s First Army, with Rawlinson’s IV Corps on the left and Willcock’s Indian Corps on the right, squeezing out a German salient that included the village itself. The battle opened with a 35 minute bombardment of the front line, then 30 minutes on the village and reserve positions. The bombardment, for weight of shell fired per yard of enemy front, was the heaviest that would be fired until 1917.
Three infantry brigades were ordered to advance quickly as soon as the barrage lifted from the front line at 8.05am. The Gharwal Brigade of the Indian Corps advanced successfully, with the exception of the 1/39th Gharwal Rifles on the extreme right that went astray and plunged into defences untouched by the bombardment, suffering large losses. The 25th and 23rd Brigades of the 8th Division made good progress against the village. There were delays in sending further orders and reinforcements forward, but by nightfall the village had been captured, and the advanced units were in places as far forward as the Layes brook.
As was often the case in WWI - this 1915 battle was an experiment that hopefully informed future tactics. The price for this little wedge of land?

The British losses in the four attacking Divisions were 544 officers and 11108 other ranks killed, wounded and missing. German losses are estimated at a similar figure of 12000, which included 1687 prisoners.
...and the lessons?
It demonstrated that it was quite possible to break into the enemy positions – but also showed that this kind of success was not easily turned into breaking through them. The main lessons of Neuve Chapelle were that the artillery bombardment was too light to suppress the enemy defences; there were too few good artillery observation points; the reserves were too few to follow up success quickly; command communications took too long and the means of communicating were too vulnerable. One important lesson was perhaps not fully understood: the sheer weight of bombardment was a telling factor. Similar efforts in 1915 and 1916 would fall far short of its destructive power.

History tells us that we will again see larger-scale, heavy-casualty, nation-exhausting wars again. We are actually overdue for one. Like the decades of relative peace that followed Napoleon, so we too have enjoyed a long peace after the Cold War.

Human nature and habits are unchanged. This will come again, but when? Next week, next year, next decade? Where?

No one really knows, but what we can know is that it will most likely be a surprise. It will not be a short war. It will not be an easy war, and the world that comes after will be a foreign world than that existed before some nation's best and brightest thought they could control events.

Oh, and speaking of lessons, LongLongTrail forgot this one that History got. We'll see this again too;
The slowness and inaccuracy of communication between the front lines and the corps headquarters—the army had no wireless technology, and telephone lines at the front were usually cut or destroyed by enemy fire during battle—caused Lieutenant-General Sir Henry Rawlinson, the corps commander, to order a fresh advance when support troops were unprepared. In the confusion, some artillery even opened fire on friendly infantry. By the late afternoon, forward units were attacking without adequate artillery support or effective coordination, in failing light, against a hardening German defense.
... it (was) incredibly difficult for commanders on both sides to know where and when to effectively deploy their reserve troops. General John Charteris, director of military intelligence under British commander Alexander Haig, took another sobering lesson from the battle, writing that “England will have to accustom herself to far greater losses than those of Neuve Chapelle before we finally crush the German army.”

Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Penny Wise? Pound Sand.

Yes, you want ALL the hospital ships ... and if you're smart, you want more.

Come on over to USNIBlog and read up.

Tuesday, March 20, 2018

You had me at ASWOC Kathlene ... You had me at ASWOC

Kathlene Hicks and Andrew Metrick The Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) have a report out you should put on your reading list, Contested Seas: Maritime Domain Awareness in Northern Europe.

They cover a broad spectrum of the challenges a rising Russia, but this is what got my attention;
A key implication of the heightened maritime threat environment is the need to improve the integration of and attention to undersea aspects of MDA. Antisubmarine warfare (ASW), a traditional strength of Western naval intelligence and operations, has atrophied since the end of the Cold War. Today, Russian submarines with conventional long-range missiles pose a threat to NATO. ASW must be integrated with MDA to address these concerns. Comprehensive understanding of the undersea realm should extend beyond ASW. Russia’s amphibious special forces and combat swimmers threaten more than just military targets, including civilian vessels and undersea cables, which are an integral part of MDA. ASW technology can be useful in countering these and other threats.

In the Norwegian Sea, the biggest challenge for NATO is detecting advanced ultra-quiet submarines. This issue is sharpened by dramatically depleted stockpiles of sonobuoys, a constant need for increasingly advanced sonobuoy technology, and an American unwillingness to share highly classified information about the undersea domain. NATO would benefit from an apparatus like the ASW Operations Centers (ASWOC), used most prominently during the Cold War to streamline ASW operations.
Read it all.

It builds off Jerry Hendrix's work on the GIUK Gap last year. There is a reason a lot of smart people are banging this gong ... pay attention.

Monday, March 19, 2018

The USAF Already Shifted to a Drone Future?

In an interesting article about the differences between Navy and USAF fighter pilots in Business Insider, I came across this nugget;
It must also be noted that starting a few years ago, the Air Force has made more drone pilots than fighter pilots annually - something those with long-term career aspirations should keep in mind.
Wait, what?

Well, did a little digging and it looks like the singularity took place last year;
The U.S. Air Force now has more jobs for MQ-1 Predator and MQ-9 Reaper drones than any other type of pilot position, the head of Air Education and Training Command said last week.
MQ-1 Predator and MQ-9 Reaper family of remotely piloted aircraft are slated to have more than 1,000 pilot operators, according to fiscal 2017 statistics provided to on Tuesday. By comparison, the highest numbers in any other aircraft are 889 airmen piloting the C-17 Globemaster III and 803 flying the F-16 Fighting Falcon, said Lt. Col. Tracy Bunko, spokeswoman for AETC.

Not sure where to take this datapoint from here - but I don't see this trend moving anytime soon.

Sunday, March 18, 2018

Battleflags, Korean Battles, and the Joys of Unexpected Archeology - on Midrats

Put yourself in the shoes of a museum curator. You have the funds to conduct some much needed preservation on battleflags captured by the US Navy from the War of 1812. To do that, you have to remove them from their home for almost a century.

What happens when you all of a sudden find they are not alone? They are covering something else?

No, this isn't another "National Treasure" sequel, but things that actually unfolded last year at the US Naval Academy. For naval history buffs, this was an exciting time and an opportunity to explore some relatively unknown chapters from our history.

For almost all Americans, when you mention American forces coming ashore to do battle on the Korean peninsula, they think of Inchon and 1950.

Well, we came ashore earlier and fought another battle, in 1871.

When you hear about the American navy vs. pirates, you think about the waters off the Horn of Africa in this century. What about off China in the 1850s?

Join us Sunday from 5-6pm Eastern to discuss the history and the battleflags of pirates and forgotten kingdoms with returning guests, BJ Armstrong, CDR USN and Claude Berube, LCDR USNR.

BJ Armstrong, PhD is an Assistant Professor of War Studies and Naval History with the History Department of the U.S. Naval Academy. He holds a PhD in War Studies from King's College, London.

Claude Berube is the director of the Naval Academy Museum and recently completed his doctoral dissertation through the University of Leeds on Andrew Jackson’s Navy.

Join us live if you can, but if you miss the show you can always listen to the archive at blogtalkradio or Stitcher

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.

Friday, March 16, 2018

Fullbore Friday


No one likes piracy.

Like the pirates off Africa helped encourage the Chinese to flex their maritime muscles, throughout history this threat to trade has moved fleets ... and brought war;
In the early 1650s the damage caused by French and Barbary Coast pirates to Dutch Levant trade forced the Republic of Seven United Provinces to send an expedition commanded by Admiral Johan van Galen to the Mediterranean. With the start of the First Anglo-Dutch War the Dutch squadron had to face yet another enemy – the English ships under Captain Henry Appleton and Captain Richard Badiley.
A series of actions resulted in a capture of an English frigate Phoenix by the Dutch.
In March 1653 the Dutch have finally succeeded in trapping Captain Appleton and his 6 ships in the port of Livorno (Leghorn) in Italy. Livorno was a neutral territory under the Grand Duke of Tuscany. On one night the English undertook a successful sortie and recaptured the Phoenix.
This action meant a violation of the port’s neutrality by the English. Van Galen issued a demand for the English ships to leave. By this point an English squadron commanded by Richard Badiley has arrived to join forces with the trapped ships. The Dutch sailed out to face the new threat on a favorable wind. The blockaded squadron attempted to use the chance to escape and left the port. The Dutch however abandoned their previous target and instead attacked the escaping ships. All but one of Appleton's ships were either destroyed or captured and only Mary could outrun the Dutch and rejoin Badiley. The wind prevented the latter from coming to Appleton's rescue. At the end Badiley found himself outnumbered (8 + Mary vs. 16 Dutch) and was forced to retreat. Admiral Van Galen was mortally wounded in the action and died on March 23.
The Dutch are scrappy. They lost the First Anglo-Dutch war ... but at least here, they gave better than they got.

As a side note, the paintings of the battle in the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam are awesome in person.

Thursday, March 15, 2018

Continental NATO: the Welfare Mentality

Remember, our NATO allies in Europe have a greater population than we do. They also have a GDP about the same as ours. And yet, they will not make a full effort to defend themselves.

As if it was last century, they still think that the USA has to do the primary lifting. Heck, we keep having the same instinct.
The United States needs more forces in Europe, Supreme Allied Commander Europe Gen. Curis Scaparrotti said during a hearing at the US House of Representatives Armed Services Committee on Thursday.

"In terms of rotational versus permanent, I do believe we need more forces in Europe, I don’t think we are at the posture that I believe appropriate or required yet," Scaparrotti said. "And because of that, I think that there are some permanent forces that I would like to have."
No, that is not the answer.

The rest of NATO has to continue to strive to get better. Especially when most economies are strong and the Russians are expanding capabilities, there is no excuse. 

There is a lot on this topic NATO's Secretary General report for 2017.

First, to be fair - things are getting better on the margins - but faster please.
Allies have made significant progress in meeting these goals. After years of defence cuts, the trend over the last three years has been one of increased defence spending.

In 2017, the trend continued, with European Allies and Canada increasing their defence expenditure by almost 5%. Many Allies have put in place national plans to reach 2% by 2024 and are making progress towards that goal. In real terms, defence spending among European Allies and Canada increased by 4.87% from 2016 to 2017, with an additional cumulative spending increase of USD 46 billion for the period from 2015 to 2017, above the 2014 level.

In 2017, the United States accounted for 51.1% of the Allies’ combined GDP and 71.7% of combined defence expenditure. At the same time, European Allies and Canada increased their spending, helping to redress the balance.

In this report is another metric that brings you a level deeper. For old NATO hands, another of the problems is with how our allies spend their money. For some nations, their military is little more than a parade and garrison force. Sure, they have some numbers, but they have little to no functioning kit.

We saw this in spades in AFG where planes of allied forces would arrive, but would go hat in hand for equipment.

I like this chart a lot.

Look at it close, it tells a great tale. The further you get from the center, the more you fit the following assumptions;

If you are in the top-right grid - you are doing your share or more, and have something to fight with.

If you are in the upper-left - you have something to bring to the fight, but you are not spending your fair share.

If you are in the lower-right, you are spending a lot, but it is mostly on bodies.

If you are in the lower-left, not only are you a welfare queen, you are sitting in a hammock wearing nothing but shorts, a t-shirt, and flip flops while your neighbors are working to keep the wolf at bay.

The American tax payer does not need to spend money borrowed from its grandchildren to subsidize Europe's defense more than it already is. Keep spending until you reach 2% or more, then you can afford your own maneuver forces. No need to send more American brigades over there.

If you need us for a fight, we'll be there - but you need to do your fair share now - in peace. Do that, and we probably won't have to come over by the hundreds of thousands ... again.

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Should Midshipmen Actively Become Political? student politics when the wolf is at your institutional throat?

Hell yes, and take the Air Force with you for support.

Story over at USNIBlog.

There will be hippies, commies, and paleo-soyboys crying, so come for the fun.

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

USCG's Quiet Upgrade

While the Navy is grumping a lot over upgrading its force, something has happened over on the USCG side of the house. Digging around for change in the sofa, picking up a few items their neighbors left on the curb, dropping a few things off at the neighborhood mechanic & body shop, and a little good luck - the USCG has some nice new kit, especially in the air.

It is a good time to be a USCG aviator;

Craig Collins has a nice summary.
Much public attention has been paid to the Coast Guard’s new generation of surface assets – the Legend-class national security cutters (NSCs), the Sentinel-class fast response cutters (FRCs), and the Heritage-class offshore patrol cutters (OPCs) – but perhaps less so their counterparts in the air.
The new generation of the Coast Guard’s long-range surveillance and transport aircraft, for example, the HC-130J Super Hercules, is a nose-to-tail overhaul of the previous generation of HC-130Hs, with new Rolls-Royce turboprop engines, composite scimitar propellers, and digital avionics. These upgrades have increased the range of the aircraft by 40 percent and its top speed by 15 percent, while decreasing its takeoff distance by 15 percent. But the aircraft’s most important enhancement may be its suite of command, control, communications, computers, intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (C4ISR) components, which combine radio and digital transmission of voice and data.
Over the past decade, the Coast Guard has been phasing out its older HU-25 Guardian, a high-speed medium-range aircraft that was finally retired from service in 2014. Its replacement, the HC-144 Ocean Sentry, was phased in at Coast Guard air stations beginning in 2009. The Ocean Sentry was a marked improvement, offering the Coast Guard the ability to remain on scene and track targets for longer periods of time – up to 10 hours – with improved sensor capability and room for more passengers. ...
The Coast Guard fleet of 102 Dolphin helicopters, meanwhile, is in the final segment of a similar incremental upgrade, a transformation into MH-65E short-range recovery helicopters. The -E series features new radar, EO/IR sensors, and a CAAS cockpit similar to the Jayhawk’s.By 2014, the service had acquired 18 Ocean Sentries, and the HC-144 was logging more flight hours annually than any other Coast Guard aircraft.

The Coast Guard’s original plan called for a fleet of 36 Ocean Sentries – but this plan was altered when Congress, in the National Defense Authorization Act of 2014, directed the service to cease its HC-144 program and instead acquire and missionize 14 C-27J Spartan aircraft, to be transferred from the U.S. Air Force. The Ocean Sentry and the Spartan are twin-engine turboprops, similar in configuration – according to Kimball, the Spartan is faster, with greater range, endurance, and lift capability – and will play similar roles in medium-range surveillance.
...beginning in 2007, the Coast Guard began an overhaul of its 42 Jayhawk helicopters, converting them from HH-60Js into multimission MH-60Ts. This upgrade, which was completed in 2014, ...

Monday, March 12, 2018

Slovene Psychoanalytic Philosophy vs. the Chinese Porcupine's Quills


In training, equipping and manning your Navy for the next war, the further you get from the last time you fought the kind of war you will fight next, the more uncertainty there is on how it will be fought.

You can guess, you can surmise, you can do your best to wargame and benchmark similar wars – or vignettes of war – to help guide you on the path towards making sure the young men and women you will call on in the future to perform violence on your behalf will be given what they need to win.

War is always a dark room. Regardless of how much you prepare, you will quickly find that you have things you don’t need, things you have some but not enough of, other things you need now that you had no idea would be that important, or the most infuriatingly those things you need but foolishly (in hindsight) left behind.

For the entirety of human history, this has been true. The only thing that is certain at the outbreak of war is uncertainty.

That is why in peace you need an open and aggressive exchange of ideas. You need brutal honesty. You need rigorous testing with an eye to victory at war. When you become focused on other things, you only amplify the error differential that grows each year between what you think you will need and what you will really need.

As a natural part of this process, in peace you are always looking for that bit you don’t know you need – that “known unknown.”

That search puts some people over their skis when it comes to technology. DDG-1000 and LCS along with other legacies of the Age of Transformationalism that peaked 15-yrs ago are perfect examples of this.

Sadly, the recognition of this excessive dismissal of technology risk seems to have spawned a few unnecessary reactions, reactions that are encouraged by some who see such reaction as a benefit towards the defense of the empires they have built to protect their legacy ricebowls.

This dynamic is best seen in the very clunky progress – or lack of it – in the Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) area.

UAS are not new; they date back well over half a century. Advances in materials, communications, computing, and the promise of AI in the last decade have been an accelerant enabling UAS to perform missions not previously realistic UAS mission sets.

There is a broad spectrum of opinion of UAS, from the “must have a man in the loop at all times” school to the “let loose the AI gods of war” school.

At least today, I am somewhere in the middle. Using the template of UAS in the strike role as a reusable TLAM, I think we should be aggressively moving towards strike options. UAS as a tanker? A good first step so we can work out the kinks of having these in the airwing.

Over the last six months I’ve detected a drift. If anything, a bit of a retreat. If nothing, we seem to be intentionally backing away from experimentation – forward leaning but clear-eyed experimentation that can help us mitigate that error that comes from the “known unknowns.”

Now that we’ve wandered in to Rumsfeldland with knowns and unknowns, I’d like to bring up a follow-on to that famous press conference from a decade and a half ago – the concept of “unknown knowns.”

From Errol Morris’s 2014 documentary, “The Unknown Knowns

Confused? It’s ok, - most people are. Here are Rumsfeld’s two definitions not quite in alignment with each other - but they work;
“Things that you possibly may know, that you don’t know you know.”

“Things that you think you know, that it turns out that you did not.”

-Donald Rumsfeld
Either way, the whole concept is illuminating. Here’s another take on it from Slovenian Psychoanalytic philosopher Slavoj Žižek;
…the things we don't know that we know-which is precisely, the Freudian unconscious, the "knowledge which doesn't know itself," as Lacan used to say.
There is a lot more than engineering, science, money, and politics in getting UAS right. No one has the right answer. There are some – usually on the extremes – who have the wrong answer, but the right answer is out there.

The only way to get to the right answer is that creative friction that comes from open, direct, and aggressive discussion about needs, wants, strengths, and weaknesses. Priorities and prejudices. Motivations and desires.

When it comes to UAS, Jerry Hendrix stepped up to the plate today in National Review to bring this discussion back above the natsec ambient noise.

In a surprise visit towards the end of yesterday’s Midrats, Jerry gave us a heads up about the article coming out, and I’ve been pondering it through the day and decided to push out the post I was going to do today to the right and instead fold it in to some broader broodings I was having over the weekend outlined above.

Jerry goes a bit further and faster than my preferences with UAS, but his points are solid and well deserve a full reading and considerations.

Here’s a few pull quotes for you to ponder; fight and win within the emerging great-power competition. This new environment, at last recognized in President Trump’s National Security Strategy and the Secretary of Defense’s National Defense Strategy, requires the Navy to strike enemy capitals and other vital centers of gravity from range, but the Navy’s decision to bypass a carrier-based strike asset, and now even to push off its acquisition of an unmanned mission tanker, suggest that it is not taking A2AD great-power competition seriously. Its decisions place the future relevance of the entire maritime service, at least as it is presently composed, at risk.
Green eye-shade decisions drift from complacency spiced up with a lot of arrogance and an environment where professional excellence was seen as victory over "competing" community platforms are the primary cause of our retreat from not just defense in depth, but attack from a distance.

These were all deliberate decisions. Professionals who should know better gleefully danced on the grave of the VA community and then the F-14 community. There is a lot of Beltway squid ink to explain why, but the best explanations are best explained by marriage counselors, psychologists, and high school Vice Principals.

The short picked-on kid wound up on top of a mountain made on the bodies of those who used to tease him - and others who were easy pickings. We went from the slightly insecure, "No slack in light attack," to "All we have is light attack because we killed and ate the rest."

And so, on our Hornet and Super Hornet filled, monoculture airwings, we have this;
The average unrefueled range of the aircraft embarked on super carriers during the 1950s was over 1,200 miles, allowing those aircraft to conduct missions deep into the Soviet Union, but somehow in the post–Cold War generation the Navy forgot the lessons of World War II and, by retiring long-range aircraft such as the F-14 Tomcat, A-6 Intruder, and A-3 Skywarrior without analogous replacements, allowed the average strike range of the aircraft embarked on the super carriers to decline to less than 500 miles, pulling the super carriers back into the threat range of those who would make themselves enemies of the United States.
Like the decision to abandon the heavy fighter/strike "Super Tomcat" and organic tanking, we once again find ourselves willfully blinding ourselves to our weakness.

We are setting ourselves up to repeat the fears during the Guadalcanal campaign of the safety of our only viable carrier in the area, USS Saratoga (CV-3). We will save her by making her combat ineffective, damaged, or exhausted for much of the early campaign - letting the battle be fought by the rest of the fleet at a freighting cost in men and ships.
For some reason, despite the obvious statement of importance assigned to great-power competition and balancing capabilities and capacity in the face of A2AD challenges in recent strategic documents, the Navy has assigned little priority to the development and production of the MQ-25 aircraft, which is placed at the far end of the current five-year budget and not expected to reach initi,al operational capability until 2026. Perhaps this is because the original impetus for the mission-tanker program, the need to relieve pressure on the Super Hornet inventory, has been relieved by congressional decisions to restart the FA-18E/F production line. In fact, the Navy seems so comfortable with its fighter-attack-aircraft inventory that it has made the decision to retire or “strike” 140 older aircraft ahead of schedule to avoid the higher costs associated with maintaining them. Perhaps the Navy is unsure of whether it needs an unmanned tanker at all, or perhaps it wishes to forestall its final commitment to the program until it has come to a better understanding of its future requirements.
Carriers are what they have always been - your most effective offensive platform and your hardest platform to defend. Time-distance can amplify what is good or bad depending on what you put on that carrier.
The real strategic challenge facing the Navy is a requirement for penetrating deep strike from the carrier deck. The Navy needs a new aircraft to perform this mission. Given the mission profile, a range of 1,000 to 1,500 miles out and then back, the density of A2AD surface-to-air defenses, and the ten-hour-plus flight duration, the aircraft should probably be unmanned. The Navy should not forget the lessons of World War II that Admirals Mitscher and McCain wrote down after they lost multiple carriers while operating well inside Japan’s then-advanced A2AD environment. At $12.9 billion apiece, our modern carriers are too dear to the force fiscally and strategically to risk against the current threat.

The Navy would be well served if it were directed to return and review the requirements associated with the UCAS-D program ten years ago and refocus its efforts on creating a new unmanned, all-aspect stealth aircraft that is capable of operating from the carrier deck and hitting targets deep inside enemy territory. If the Navy does not take these steps, it will risk allowing its carrier force and, in fact, its entire accompanying surface fleet, to lapse into strategic irrelevance.
"...ten years ago."

To use a measurement of time I coined three years ago, what is that, something like 2.5 worldwars ago?

Sunday, March 11, 2018

Midrats March Madness ... well, mostly Navy talk

Now that we're near the end of 2QFY18, it's time for another Midrats Free-For-All!

This Sunday from 5-6pm Eastern join us as we cover the latest developments on the maritime and national security front.

If you have topics you would like us to address, send them to us on twitter at @cdrsalamder or @lawofsea, join the chatroom while the show is live ... or even call in.

Join us live if you can, but if you miss the show you can always listen to the archive at blogtalkradio or Stitcher

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.

Saturday, March 10, 2018

Saturday Movie Stop: Operation Red Sea

Chris Cavas mentioned this to us last Midrats.

I think it pretty much speaks for itself.

This in not your father's China ... as we've been warning people here for years.

Friday, March 09, 2018

Fullbore Friday

Remember: nothing is routine. No watch is standard. Combat will not wait for you to be ready.

Place yourself on watch on the HMS Glowworm. You still are not happy going on liberty with "Glowworm" on your cover, but your nation is at war - and you suck it up. You have been detached from the main formation to look for a man overboard that in this water you know must be dead by now. After longer than you should, you give up the search and turn to return to your Task Force. You just received your second cup of tea for this watch....
...the Glowworm sighted a destroyer who when challenged, identified itself as Swedish. It was in fact the German von Röder class destroyer, Bernd Von Arnim, which very quickly opened fire, to which Glowworm responded. Unfortunately another German destroyer, the Paul Jakobi soon appeared. However, the Von Arnim was packed with invasion troops and soon both it and the Paul Jakobi turned and fled into a rainsquall. Lt Cdr Roope gave chase despite guessing that they were trying lead him onto their main force in an attempt to discover there whereabouts and inform the Admiralty.
Hiding in the showers, eh? Well, good Skipper, you head in as well - not to let Jerry get away from a proper battle. Then...
As the Glowworm emerged from the squall she came face-to-face with 14,000 ton the German Heavy Cruiser, Admiral Von Hipper armed with eight 8 inch and twelve 4 inch guns. The Glowworm laid smoke and conducted torpedo attacks from the cover of the smoke screen but failed to hit the Hipper. Glowworm had sustained substantial damage by this time and Lt Cdr Roope gave the order 'Stand by to ram'. The Hipper, realizing what was happening tried to turn and ram the Glowworm but was too slow. The Glowworm tore into the starboard side of the Hipper amidships and tore 100 feet of armour plating away, damaged her starboard torpedo tubes and punctured two fresh water tanks. After ramming the Hipper, Glowworm drew clear, but received another close range salvo from the Hipper to which the single gun, commanded by Petty Officer Walter Scott responded. Glowworm by this time had sustained massive damaged and started to sink and Lt Cdr Roope gave the order to abandon ship. He went down to open the sea cocks himself and the ship started to sink, forcing men into the freezing water or onto her bow.
In the very Navy way the Germans fought at sea in WWII for the most part,
The Captain of the Hipper, Helmuth Heye, gallantly stayed for over an hour picking up survivors. He positioned Hipper so that the tidal currents would carry the survivors too them. All the personnel on deck helped with hauling survivors aboard but many were too exhausted to make the final effort of climbing up the ropes and ladders and slipped away, including Lt Cdr Roope who helped many of his men to get life jackets on and to get to ladders. Out of a crew of 149, only 31 survived, the only officer being Lt Robert Ramsey. The prisoners were treated well by the Germans who congratulated them on a good fight, and Captain Heye told the men that their Captain was a brave man.
You want class? Need 'professionalism' defined? I present to you two men, LCDR Roope and CAPT Heye (later VADM).
Later, Heye sent a message through the International Red Cross recommending Lt Cdr Roope for the Victoria Cross, the only time in British history that a VC has been recommended by the enemy. The survivors spent the rest of the war as PoWs and afterwards, Lt Ramsey was able to return home and tell the whole story. The story was published on the 10th July 1945, in the Fourth Supplement to the London Gazette for Friday, 6th July 1945. As a result, Lt Cdr Roope was awarded the Victoria Cross, Lt Ramsey the Distinguished Service Order and three other ratings received the Conspicuous Gallantry Medal.


Encore edition from 29DEC06.

UPDATE: This painting is better - and here and here are actual pictures taken from the HIPPER during the attack.

First posted DEC10.

Thursday, March 08, 2018

Oh, it's International Women's Day?

In the name of all that his holy, instead of focusing on the brave women in Iran or the huge advancements in a little under a century since giving women the vote, I find myself surrounded by comments banal, virtue signaling, posturing, or just a dog's breakfast of transparent silliness that one usually finds on these patronizing "days." 

I've been left a bit cold.

So, in honor of the 20th anniversary of one of the greatest achievements in cinema, I give you a good representation of me watching International Women's Day.

Tuesday, March 06, 2018

History May Not Be Bending the Way You Want it to

If this is the century of China's resurrection, I'm not sure fans of liberty are going to like the direction it is heading in.

Plot lines that start this way do no usually end well;
News reports indicate that the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) stands poised to amend China’s constitution to cancel term limits for the presidency. Presumably the related custom that the CCP general secretary must surrender power at a given age will give way as well. If so, abrogating term limits will let Xi Jinping remain the party supremo and China’s president so long as he deems fit. “Essentially,” contends Professor Willy Lam of the Chinese University of Hong Kong, Xi has “become emperor for life.”
This next move is just bizarre;
The China Digital Times, a California-based site covering China, reports a list of terms excised from Chinese websites by government censors includes the letter 'N', Orwell's novels Animal Farm and 1984, and the phrase 'Xi Zedong'.

The latter is a combination of President Xi and former chairman Mao Zedong's names.
The letter "N?" How do you ban a letter?

It gets worse;
Search terms blocked on Sino Weibo, a microblogging site which is China’s equivalent of Twitter, include “disagree”, “personality cult”, “lifelong”, “immortality”, “emigrate”, and “shameless”.

It was not immediately obvious why the ostensibly harmless letter ‘N’ had been banned, but some speculated it may either be being used or interpreted as a sign of dissent. ...,
Facebook, Twitter and YouTube have long been blocked in the country and even Winnie the Pooh recently found himself subject to China’s latest internet crackdown.

In July, references to the cartoon bear on Sina Weibo were removed after his image was compared to President Xi.
Well, I guess we need to start using that letter a lot more.

Monday, March 05, 2018

Even NYT's Can't Ignore Europe's Suicide

The results from the Italian election are in, and the results should not be a surprise;
A right-wing alliance led by former Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi's Forza Italia took the lead in Italy's general election, according to preliminary results published Monday morning, but the country now faces a hung parliament and a struggle for power.

Forza Italia, the far-right Northern League and Brothers of Italy together took about 37 percent of the vote, followed by the euroskeptic 5-Star Movement (M5S) with about 32 percent.
Immigration, again, is the driving force of elections. The temperature is continuing to rise, and as the political establishment in Europe refuses to act, expect more "fringe" parties to move to the front.

Italy is just the latest example, more will follow. Until the source of this instability is addressed, this will continue to be the driving force pulling Europe and Europeans apart.

That is what is happening in southern Europe, what about in the north? Well, let's pick another country whose problems are starting to get play in traditional media.

Regular readers know that from the start if this blog, one of the regular beats here was the growing problem caused by the masses of unassimilated immigrants from majority Muslim nations in to Europe's boutique ethnostates. 

These small nations have neither the size, temperament, nor political capital to assimilate the numbers coming in - especially when many have no desire to assimilate. These nations do not have the abilities of a large "nation of immigrants" like the USA to make such things work - they are small almost tribal states who have a history of going to war with other neighboring ethnic groups. They can take small numbers of closely related people (i.e. ethnic Danes in Sweden) but do not do well with huge cohorts of people with little in common ethnically, culturally, or religious.

Of course, this is a topic that is fraught with political fire - but they have to be addressed in a calm, fact based manner or they will get worse. The latest waves of settled migrants were invited by well meaning but historically inept liberals, but then weaponized by leftists as a political tool.

When the great center became worried about the resulting crime, social cohesion, and other related issues, the response was to insult them, and then outlaw their speech. When more and more people from the center could not find reasonable political parties to address their concerns, they turned to fringe parties. Those parties grow, the leftists apply more pressure. The fringe becomes mainstream ... and these nations begin to morph in to something they never wanted to be. All to satisfy the virtue signaling needs of liberals, and the metastasized self-loathing of leftists - these nations are becoming a warped opposite of what they were just a generation ago.

We've been covering this over a dozen years. For those new here and for review for the rest, let's look at some of the quotes from this blog over the years concerning one of the nations who let weaponized leftist self-loathing warp what was once one of the most highly civilized civic cultures in the world; Sweden.

It is as if they hated themselves for their own good, hard work in building a successful state on the fringes of the Arctic. Leftists have so much self-loathing that they cannot contain it internally - they have to force it on their host nation.

I'll just pick three of my posts in order to keep it simple.

First, February 2006;
Sweden is shutting down websites.
The Swedish government has moved to shut down the website of a far-right political party's newspaper over cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad.

The site's host, Levonline, pulled the plug on the website of the Swedish Democrats' SD-Kuriren newspaper after consulting with the government.

It is believed to be the first time a Western government has intervened to block a publication in the growing row.
His website briefly posted a picture showing Muhammad from the rear, looking into a mirror, with his eyes blacked out - an image he said was about self-censorship.
Swedish Foreign Minister Laila Freivalds described Kuriren's move as "a provocation" by "a small group of extremists".

"I will defend freedom of the press no matter what the circumstances, but I strongly condemn the provocation by SD-Kuriren. It displays a complete lack of respect," she said in a statement.
Don't worry Laila, they will cut off you head last. Just try to find their site.

Europe has a long history of giving in to aggressive, angry cultures and armies. They also have a history of the people being sold out by their rulers. This time, though, something tells me that the people won't let them. I hope so. America can only absorb so many refugees, you know.
Yes, I know - the SD. In 2010 they entered the Swedish Parliament for the first time with 5.7% of the vote. The last election?  12.9%. The #1 party 31%, the #2 23%. SD is a fringe party no longer. Since the last election, they have even polled on top.

Their popularity is growing in the run-up to the September 2018 election. They should not be the #3 party in Sweden, but they are because the people feel they have no other place to go.

September 2007;
3.3 mil. Iraqi settle in the US - more on the way...and imagine that most of them want to settle in Washington D.C. and LA. Chew on that for awhile - because proportionally, that is where Sweden is right now.
Sweden has a huge problem on its hands - and it has no one to blame but themselves.
That was written well before the latest wave of migrants brought in to Europe by the irresponsible Chancellor of Germany.

May 2010:
It is a war where we must have the courage to stand up for the basics of freedom. That is where the cancer of Diversity and PC thought hurts so much. It promotes self-doubt and self-loathing. Self-doubt and self-loathing is where cultural bullies with a political mindset - Fascists and Communists are/were best at this kind of stuff - flourish.

What happened to Swedish cartoonist Lars Vilks is a perfect example.
If the West's weak-willed, self-loathing Left and Center-Left does not start standing up - the Islamists will push harder and harder. Over time, more of the indigenous center of the countries under pressure will look for other places to defend their freedom. They will start to make our buddy Outlaw Mike look like a Social Democrat.

The West's options are simple. Defend yourself now and those like Lars Vilks and the late Theo Van Gogh, submit to Sharia, or wait for open social conflict where blood will blow and bodies will lie rotting in the open.
The left continues to try to squelch free speech not just in Europe anymore, but here as well. This will only strengthen the fringe. Where do you think Trump came from?

So, we come to 2018 ... and it seems that at last things are so bad that even the NYT has to cover what we have been discussing here for a dozen years; Sweden invited in the destruction of its own culture.

The NYT isn't totally onboard, so don't get too excited. They use the tragic story of an immigrant from Chile who was killed by a hand grenade and left behind his fellow-immigrant wife from Thailand.

They don't really address the rape epidemic running in parallel to the rise in murder - and avoid all together the source nations where this problem is coming from - but this is a step towards truth.
Sweden’s gang violence, long contained within low-income suburbs, has begun to spill out. In large cities, hospitals report armed confrontations in emergency rooms, and school administrators say threats and weapons have become commonplace. Last week two men from Uppsala, both in their 20s, were arrested on charges of throwing grenades at the home of a bank employee who investigates fraud cases.

An earlier jolt came with the death of Mr. Zuniga, who on Jan. 7 picked up the grenade, which the police believe had been thrown by members of a local gang targeting a rival gang or police officers.
Like many of his neighbors in Varby Gard, Mr. Borisho had sought asylum in Sweden to escape a war. He knew what a grenade sounded like. As a commando in a Lebanese militia, he had handled grenades, and remembered the strict protocols he complied with, locking up the weapons for safe keeping the minute he returned to camp.

That a grenade should be found on the sidewalk outside a kebab shop, a few steps from an elementary school, was difficult for him to take in.

“Now, when I think of the future, I am afraid,” he said. “I am afraid for Europe.”
The police are struggling to gather information in immigrant neighborhoods, and clearance rates for gun homicide cases have fallen steadily since the 1990s.

“We have lost the trust from the people who lived and worked in this area,” said Gunnar Appelgren, a police superintendent and specialist in gang violence.

Sweden’s far right-wing party blames the government’s liberal immigration policy for the rising crime, and will thrust the issue to the fore in the fall campaign.

Last year, Peter Springare, 61, a veteran police officer in Orebro, published a furious Facebook post saying violent crimes he was investigating were committed by immigrants from “Iraq, Iraq, Turkey, Syria, Afghanistan, Somalia, Somalia, Syria again, Somalia, unknown country, unknown country, Sweden.” It was shared more than 20,000 times; Mr. Springare has since been investigated twice by state prosecutors, once for inciting racial hatred, though neither resulted in charges.
That is significant for NYT.

Read the whole thing. Zuniga - the secular leftist from Chile - lost so much faith in Sweden, that he wanted his wife to return to Thailand upon his death.

The truth is uncomfortable, but it is right there. Sweden and much of Europe have made a huge mistake that generations will have to deal with. What they cannot do is continue to ignore the problem. 

This story is not going anywhere. It will be interesting to see how much deeper NYT will go in looking at it.

If they need a few hints, they are free to get in touch with me.

Sunday, March 04, 2018

An Eye on the Fleet with Chris Cavas, on Midrats

With a new administration well over a year in and a clearer view of the direction our Navy is headed, now is a great opportunity to check in with one of the most knowledgeable observers on the maritime scene, Chris Cavas.

Join us this Sunday from 5-6pm Eastern for an hour-long broad-ranged discussion of national and international naval issues.

Chris was the naval warfare correspondent for Defense News from 2004 to 2017 and is a former managing editor of Navy Times . He has reported on Navy issues across the globe, including aboard USSPonce in the Fifth Fleet and aboard National Security Cutters.

Join us live if you can, but if you miss the show you can always listen to the archive at blogtalkradio or Stitcher

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.

Friday, March 02, 2018

Fullbore Friday

Young leaders, properly motivated a few decades in to a war, can accomplish remarkable things;
In March 1804 two of the ships tasked with watching the Vlie to prevent Netherlands privateers slipping out into the North Sea, were the sloops-of-war HMS Scorpion and HMS Beaver. The Scorpion was under the command of Commander George Nicholas Hardinge (1781 – 1808) who, though only twenty-three, had already accumulated a notable service record and promised to merit high command. The recently constructed Scorpion was one of the first of the Cruizer class of brig-rigged sloops, 106 of which would enter service by the war’s end. Of only 100-ft length and 382-tons, these proved enormously successful. With a crew of only a hundred men, these vessels were so heavily armed – typically with two 6-pounder long-gun bowchasers and no less than sixteen 32-pounder carronades – that they could deliver a broadside-weight comparable to that of a frigate, but with a third of the manpower. Command of such a vessel – which Hardinge had succeeded to two years before (at the age of twenty-one!) – was a prize that all young officers would aspire to.

On 28th March, patrolling north of the Vlie, Hardinge spotted two Dutch corvettes – heavily armed brigs – at anchor deep inside the waterway. Lacking detailed knowledge of the shoals flanking the approach, he realised that direct attack by the Scorpion must be ruled out. With sufficient men available, a cutting-out operation might be feasible, but Scorpion’s crew alone would be insufficient to provide the necessary numbers. Three days later however, on March 31st, the Scorpion was joined by the Beaver, the commander of which, Charles Pelly, was as enthusiastic as Hardinge about a cutting-out operation, for which there were now sufficient men.
Five pulling boats, carrying some sixty men between them, left the British ships in darkness at nine-thirty in the evening, rowing with the flooding tide. These men would have been mainly armed with cutlasses, pikes and boarding axes while officers and petty officers would have carried pistols in addition to their own swords or cutlasses. Describing himself to his father as “your humble servant”, Hardinge was in the leading boat. Undetected, the boats reached the nearer of the enemy vessels, which proved to be the Atalanta, a vessel generally similar to the Scorpion herself. Hardinge was to write that “I had the good fortune, or, as by some it would be considered an honour, to be the first man who boarded her. She was prepared for us, with boarding nettings up, and with all the customary implements of defence; but the noise, and the alarm etc., so intimidated the crew, that many of them rushed below, leaving to us the painful duty of combatting those whom we most respected.”

The scene must have been a nightmarish one, all the more so in view of the darkness and the narrow confines of the deck on which hand-to-hand combat took place. Hardinge wrote that “the decks were slippery, in consequence of rain, so that, grappling with my first opponent, a mate of the watch, I almost fell, but recovered my position, fought him on equal terms, and killed him.” He was now confronted by the Atalante’s captain, regrettable unidentified in the letter, whom he described as being “as brave a man as any service ever boasted; he had almost killed one of my seaman; to my shame be it spoken, he disarmed me, and was on the point of killing me. When a seaman of mine came up, rescued me at the peril of his own life, and enabled me to recover my sword.”

By this stage the boarders were largely in control of the deck and two of them now attacked the Dutch captain. Hardinge however “ran up, held them back, and then adjured him to accept quarter.” Heroically, though unwisely, the captain refused. “With inflexible heroism he disdained the gift, kept us at bay, and compelled us to kill him: he fell with honourable wounds.”
Hardinge now has possession of the Atalanta. “The vessel was ours, and we secured the hatches, which, headed by a lieutenant wo had received a desperate wound, they (i.e. the captured crew below) attempted repeatedly to force. Thus far we had been fortunate; but we now had anther enemy to fight, it was the element. A sudden gale, in which the wind shifted against us, and impeded all the efforts we could make.” Hardinge was undeterred however. “As we had made the capture, we determined at all events to sustain it, or to perish. We made the Dutch below to surrender, put forty of them in irons, stationed our own men to their guns, brought the powder up, and made all necessary arrangements to attack the other brig. But as the day broke, and without abatement of the wind, she was at such a distance, and in such a position that we had no chance to reach her.”

Forty-eight hours passed. “Two of the boats had broken adrift from us, two had swapped alongside. The wind shifted again, and we made a push to extricate ourselves, but found the navigation so difficult that it required the intense labour of three days to accomplish it. We carried the point at last, and were commended by the Admiral for our perseverance. You will see in the Gazette my letter to him.” The Atalante had suffered five killed, including the captain, and eleven wounded.
Hardinge’s success was rewarded with immediate (ten days after the attack) promotion to coveted post-captain rank, one of the few who attained this at such a young age. For all his courage, chivalry and promise, his subsequent career was to be tragically short. While in command of the old frigate HMS St Fiorenzo in the Indian Ocean in 1808, he was killed in the course of an epic three-day battle with the French frigate Piémontaise.

Thursday, March 01, 2018

The US-Russian Interaction That You Should Really Care About

David French over at National Review gives a good summary of an event I am surprised is not getting more coverage. Of course, a large fault lies with our media who is more interested in being players in domestic politics than doing their frack'n job of keeping the American people informed - but even in the natsec world, this story only received superficial coverage.

Then again, many of them are too stuck on domestic politics as well because, TDS and reasons.

Back to David's summary;
Did American and Russian forces just engage in a deadly clash in Syria, and was that clash the direct result of a Putin-approved effort to test American defenses? While Americans were arguing over Russian Facebook posts, did American air power and artillery leave up to 300 Russians dead on a Syrian battlefield?

Here’s the basic chronology.

On the night of February 7, “pro-regime” Syrian forces reportedly launched an assault on a “known” American base. American forces defended themselves with attack helicopters, jets, and AC-130 gunships, and the attackers withdrew after taking significant casualties.

That next week, on February 12, Reuters reported that at least two Russians died in the fighting, according to their associates. The Russian casualties were apparently contractors accompanying regime forces. By February 13, both the Washington Post and New York Times had picked up the story, and the number of rumored Russian dead swelled to “large numbers” or “dozens,” but — we were assured — there was no direct confrontation between Americans and members of the Russian military.

As rumors swirled online that the true number of Russian dead numbered in the hundreds, the Washington Post published a report suggesting that the attack on U.S. forces may have had official Russian backing:
Monday, Business Insider published unverified transcripts of “leaked audio recordings” from Russian mercenaries on the scene. The mercenaries describe a violent hellscape, where they were sitting ducks as American artillery and aircraft killed more than 200 of their comrades.

The alleged transcripts certainly make for vivid reading. Here’s a taste:
The reports that are on TV about … well, you know, about Syria and the 25 people that are wounded there from the Syrian f*** army and — well . . . to make it short, we’ve had our asses f*** kicked. So one squadron f*** lost 200 people … right away, another one lost 10 people . . . and I don’t know about the third squadron, but it got torn up pretty badly, too. . . . So three squadrons took a beating. . . . The Yankees attacked . . . first they blasted the f*** out of us by artillery, and then they took four helicopters up and pushed us in a f*** merry-go-round with heavy caliber machine guns … They were all shelling the holy f*** out of it, and our guys didn’t have anything besides the assault rifles . . . nothing at all, not even mentioning shoulder-fired SAMs or anything like that . . . So they tore us to pieces for sure, put us through hell, and the Yankees knew for sure that the Russians were coming, that it was us, f*** Russians . . . Our guys were going to commandeer an oil refinery, and the Yankees were holding it. . . . We got our f*** asses beat rough, my men called me . . . They’re there drinking now. . . many have gone missing . . . it’s a total f*** up
There are a lot of good reasons for both parties to downplay this lopsided battle.

First of all, neither nation wants its people to get in even more of a froth over the other than they already are. Second, neither Russia or the USA wants the Syrian conflict to spiral out of control. It is really in neither nations' interests, but stupid wars have started for even stupider accidents.
...both Russia and the United States are downplaying the incident. If the Russians were testing American will, they got their answer, but there appears to be no American desire to retaliate or to escalate the confrontation into a full force-on-force encounter. This is encouraging, but not entirely comforting. When blood is spilled, the consequences are not always predictable or controllable.

Second, the situation in Syria is extraordinarily dangerous. It’s understandable that international eyes are focused on North Korea, but consider this: If reports of hundreds of Russian dead are correct, the American military just killed more Russians than it did in any single encounter throughout the entirety of the Cold War. That’s stunning. At present, a few thousand American troops are in the midst of the world’s most vicious war, rubbing up against hostile Russians, Syrians, Turks, Iranians, and Lebanese. Confrontations are inevitable. Proper management of those confrontations is not.
We need to start disengaging from Syria. Our point with the Russians and others has been made. If everyone can keep things in the bottle for now, we can happily leave with honor. 

"Don't mess with us while we are here. We're leaving." Once we leave, everyone can fight over the scraps and we will no longer have a reasons to make the point we made to the Russian mercs.

As I mentioned over at twitter earlier today, the USA only has two interests in Syria;
1. The physical destruction of the Islamic State's caliphate and the killing of as many of its cadre as reasonably possible on the battlefield.
2. Make sure our allies that helped us with #1 are treated fairly in a post-war settlement.

That is about it.