Thursday, February 13, 2020

Japan Moves Out in Counter Air

I'm not really quite sure who is running the USAF, but this has been a hell of a year so far. 

Buy them a beer.

Because they decided to take a hit off the USN's transformationalist bong and overcomplicated tanking, they still don't have a tanker to replace Eisenhower era KC-135s.

In a world-class example of slow-rolling, they cancelled the light-attack platform we started asking for about 19-years ago.

...but that isn't all.

One thing we always counted on was being unquestioned in the air-superiority arena. We got so cocky, we stopped production of the F-22 for ... well ... stupid Beltway reasons.

History returned and we found ourselves relying on relic F-15 with nothing to follow. As such, the USAF announced that they will at last do what man of us knew they would have to do, buy new build F-15 to replace the F-15C.

Our friends cannot be looking at us with much confidence, and some are starting to hedge.

Japan is moving smartly with their own domestic modern air superiority fighter.
Japan’s Ministry of Defense has revealed that progress was gathering pace on the nation’s next-generation air dominance fighter program as Asia’s rising superpower, China, continues to enhance its own next-generation air dominance capabilities.
It is envisaged that Japan’s next-generation fighter, now named the F-X, will fill the role of the retiring F-15J air superiority fighter aircraft currently operated by the Japanese Air-Self Defense Force (JASDF), with the F-35A and B variants providing the low-end air-combat capabilities currently assigned to the F-16-based F-2 aircraft.
If you think that looks like the YF-23, you're on to something.
...recent changes within the US political establishment, notably the election of President Donald Trump, has triggered a major rethink in the policies that govern America’s arms exports, opening the door for Japan to engage with major US defence contractors like Lockheed Martin and Northrop Grumman.

Both companies have a history of developing highly capable fighter systems; Lockheed’s F-22 Raptor is the world’s premier air superiority and air dominance fighter aircraft, Northrop Grumman, largely famous for its UFO-like B-2 Spirit stealth bomber and the new B-21 Raider bomber, competed with the Raptor design during the competition to replace the F-15 Eagle in the early ’90s with the YF-23 Black Widow.

The Black Widow, although unsuccessful in the competition, presented the US Air Force and now Japan with an incredibly stealthy, fast and manoeuvrable air frame.

Wednesday, February 12, 2020

Chinese Box

I don't know about you, but there is no way I would want to suffer under the Chinese navalist's set or woes compared to the American navalist's set of woes.


SLOCs matter.

I'm pondering over at USNIBlog.

Come on by and give it a read.

Tuesday, February 11, 2020

LCS: As We Always Have Known Her

As we stumble in to the Terrible 20s, with each passing quarter, the damage becomes clearer and clearer from the star-crossed poster child of the Age of Transformationalism, LCS.

The opportunity cost in reputations, institutional political capital, money, and combat capability is still not fully understood - we just know it is more than it appears.

Especially in the last five years, some smart, focused, well meaning professionals have invested their time, seabags full of cash, and barges full of Sailor sweat to attempt to salvage something of use from this exquisite Tiffany White Elephant.

By the end of this FY, we will have some good data on what their hard work yielded following deployments of the INDEPENDENCE Class to WESTPAC and FREEDOM Class to the Caribbean.

There are a lot of secondary indications that the operational side of the Navy has finally freed itself from having to defend the concept of LCS, and will just focus on doing what it can with what the Potomac Flotilla bought for them.

To underline this fact was the overdue announcement that the juice just wasn't worth the squeeze for the first four ships;
The Navy also plans to send several "less-capable" platforms into early retirement. That includes the first four littoral combat ships, which the Navy turned into non-deploying test ships in 2016, according to a Navy official familiar with the plan.
The first four ships are just too sub-optimal and different from follow on units to justify spending money and Sailors on.

Nice to see, and a smart move as the money starts to tighten.

While we are on the topic, over a decade ago I offered up "PLAN SALAMANDER" as the last-minute reprieve from making the mistake of going in to full production of LCS. It was, in essence, to license build a couple of dozen multi-mission Eurofrigates until we could come up with a US design. Of course, it took a decade or so until Big Navy came to the same conclusion, roughly, and we got FFG(X).

Over at twitter, a reader asked for an update, and there really isn't one - but there is this reminder in the last 24-hrs by the irreplaceable David Larter;
The Navy is expected to buy its first next-generation frigate this year, so here’s what the next few years are going to look like in FFG(X)-land, according to budget documents released Monday.

The Navy plans to award the frigate design and construction award to one of the competitors in July, the documents say.
July is close. We'll know soon.

Here is my take again on the four options, in order of preference.

Fincantieri’s FREMM design
: A proven, scaleable, multi-mission frigate that the French and Italians have enjoyed much success with. Lowest risk and most capable (though I'm still pissed we're putting a 57mm on a design that can take a 5" main gun).

Huntington Ingalls Industries Upgunned NSC: This has moved up my list because it is a relatively low risk design and has a good price point. Yes, there are many limitations, but this will answer the call for the next decade.

GD/BIW/Navantia’s F-100 variant: this pocket BURKE used to be my #2, but reading the tea leaves about numbers and cost desires from OSD and The Hill, I think this may be a bit too much for what we want from FFG(X). Great design though. Like FREMM, proven and multi-mission.

Austal USA’s INDEPENDENCE-class LCS based FFG: No. Are you kidding me? Are you serious? Just no. We've had enough of this vanity project and every time this stained class of ship pulls in to a foreign port our nation loses reputation. If this wins, everyone in OPNAV needs to be simply fired and replaced. Buddha knows we have enough people who can do the job better.

Monday, February 10, 2020

OSD's Budget: off phase, off course, off freq - off mission

The only consolation for navalists this Monday is knowing that one of the great bi-partisan traditions of Congress is to ignore budget proposals coming from the executive branch. Besides that, I don’t care how hard you try to spin it, this is horrible news.
Despite expected cuts to shipbuilding programs in the fiscal year 2021 budget request, Secretary of Defense Mark Esper is committed to a bigger, but much lighter, naval force, he said in an exclusive interview with Defense News.

In the wake of reports that the Navy may cut shipbuilding in its upcoming budget request, Esper said he is “fully committed” to building a fleet of 355 ships or larger.
In addition to the reported cut of a Virginia-class submarine out of the FY21 budget, it is expected that other cuts may be coming in the short term for the Navy.
No. Not buying it. There isn't enough time to create more from less. This is about something, but building a fleet prepared to fight across the Pacific and stay in the fight once in WESTPAC? No, it isn't about that.

If you ever wanted a “breaking news” Midrats, yesterday we opened our show – and did most of it on – the early reports from Aaron & David from Defense News quoting the broad outlines of SECDEF Esper’s budget proposals. In spite of Congress doing what Congress wants to do anyway, these proposals have an impact and cannot be wished away.

After sleeping on it overnight, my take has changed a bit from yesterday’s Midrats and grown darker. Let me set things up a bit. This is rather simple, as is the solution.

Candidate Trump was a supporter of a larger Navy, a 355 (nee 350) ship Navy. To almost everyone’s surprise, mine included, he won in November 2016.

By December 2016, the Navy responded with a plan for 355 ships.

It is February 2020 and Trump’s SECDEF put forth a proposal to decrease the shipbuilding budget with a promise to have, inside a decade, a fleet of unicorn powered ships produced by Shangri-La shipyards to get to 355 by 2030.

I am willing to be sold otherwise, but what we appear to have is a SECDEF that is not aligned with the CINC’s priorites. Indeed, he is headed in the opposite direction.

The cynical might say that this is about what you would expect from a West Point graduate as SECDEF paired with an Army General as CJCS, backed up by OSD staff that has grown intellectually hidebound and entitled after two decades of ground wars in Asia, but there must be a more charitable explanation out there, I am sure.

As CINC, Trump has just a few options.

1. He can do and say nothing. By doing so, he signals that a desire for a larger Navy was simply election year babble – fried air for the rubes. It really isn’t a priority and he doesn’t really care.

2. He was serious, and thought he had a loyal team supporting his priorities. It appears, again, that perhaps he does not have his people where he needs them, still, in DOD. As such, he should simply go to an area of expertise he had prior to becoming CINC; fire people.

If he takes #1, then he deserves any election year blowback he may get.

If he takes #2, then he sends a clear signal that when you join Team Trump, then you support the President’s campaign promises and agenda.

Yes, this administration is full of unfilled and “acting” senior positions – and from Spencer to Bolton and others – when people not on your team leave they have a habit of shooting back at you over their shoulder, but if you are serious about growing the Navy, then this budget proposal should be taken for what it is; a rebuke from the standing OSD bureaucracy enabled by leaders who don’t support your priorities and/or are not in control of the bureaucracy they lead … in an election year.

This is a people, more than a process problem.

Regardless of where he goes, this is an unforced error, but it can be mitigated.

Where in the senior civilian leadership at DOD can Trump find someone who has a consistent record of trying to find a way to 355 and would clearly be receptive to the mandate to honestly work towards that goal – budget habits of the past be damned?

Acting SECNAV Modly.

He would be a bold choice for SECDEF – and more importantly – a clear choice that tells everyone that Trump is not frack’n around. He said 355, he meant 355, and he wants a budget to get us there.

I’m open to other options, but in such a short time frame and in an election year, I see no other choice in the ready locker.

For the record, I am rather saddened by this whole thing. I was and am impressed with Esper, and this was an opportunity for him to support his boss’s agenda and meet the WESTPAC challenge, but he failed on both counts.

Like “only Nixon could go to China,” in a way, only a West Point grad could tell Army it needed to adjust to future budget expectations.

A missed opportunity, but one that created a new opportunity if Trump wants to take it.

Sunday, February 09, 2020

A Midrats Pre-Valentine's Day Melee

Come join EagleOne and CDR Salamander for an hour this Sunday from 5-6pm Eastern for all the things maritime and national security that broke above the ambient noise the last couple of weeks.

From the national security implications of the latest disease out break in China to our Navy's ongoing challenge of finding out what she wants to be, and how she wants to get there.

Open topic, open phones - so if there is a topic you would like us to address, join the chatroom, give us a call, or drop us an email or DM on twitter.

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.

UPDATE: Here is the article we referenced on the show.

Friday, February 07, 2020

Fullbore Friday

Funny how things fold in to each other.

I was pondering one of the pivotal scenes of Hemingway's A Farewell To Arms, where in a general retreat, he is pulled to the side by the Carabinieri, as all officers were. They were being briefly interviewed - and then shot. Shot by the very Army that ordered them to retreat in the face of the advancing Germans and Austo-Hungarians.

I decided to dig a bit into the background of the real battle that was the backdrop, and came across this piece of work; Field Marshall Luigi Cadorna.

Historians describe Cadorna as a martinet, excessively ruthless with his troops and dismissive of his country's political authorities. During the course of war he fired 217 officers; during the Battle of Caporetto he would order the summary execution of officers whose units retreated. His harsh approach to discipline has been described as follows by one historian:
One in every seventeen Italian soldiers faced a disciplinary charge in the war, and 61 per cent were found guilty. About 750 were executed, the highest number of any army in the war, and Cadorna reintroduced the Roman practice of decimation - the killing of every tenth man - for units which failed to perform in battle.
Battle Caporetto. That rang a bell. Part of that campaign was the Battle of Longarone.

Why is that of significance? Well ... one of my favorite military minds is Field Marshall Rommel. I got along real well with a German Army 1-star who, much to my shock, had a portrait of him in his office. From him I learned that there are very few WWII officers who are acceptable to have pictures of in your office in the 21st Century German Army - in uniform nontheless. Rommel was one.

One thing that broke Rommel apart from many of his peers was that in WWI he won the "Pour le Merite" - the Blue Max. It is hard to find out how though. Such an award should not be an afterthought.

Well - let's give the good JO his moment. Above you have a horrible battlefield leader - and below let's review the moment that helped bring one of the best battlefield leaders, of any army.

Let's spend a moment to review Rommel at the Tactical level as a JO.

David Irving, in his paper The Trail of the Fox, gives the best account.

General von Below’s aim was to penetrate the main defense line south of the Isonzo River. The high points of the line were the towering Monte Mataiur, Monte Kuk, Kolovrat Ridge and Hill1114. Tens of thousands of Italian troops and well-constructed gun sites commanded each of these high points, and the German unit commanders scrambled to take them, knowing that honors would be the reward. The rivalry among these young officers leading proud units from the German provinces of Bavaria, Silesia and Rommel’s Swabia was ferocious.

Lieutenant Ferdinand Schoerner, a Bavarian commander, set the pace, driving his coughing, staggering volunteers so ruthlessly forward despite their heavy loads of machine guns and ammunition that one of his men dropped dead from exhaustion before the unit reached the objective: Hill 1114, key to the whole Kolovrat Ridge. For taking Hill 1114, Schoerner was awarded Prussia’s highest medal, the Pour le Mérite. That out- raged Rommel. He considered that the credit was due him.

Rommel’s part in breaching the Kolovrat position was in- deed great. As night fell on that first day of the offensive, Scho- erner’s promising position had seemed thwarted by Italian fortifi- cations. Rommel’s superior, Major Theodor Sproesser, commander of the Swabians, wrote a battle report, a faded copy of which still survives, which describes the emplacements. “Like fortresses,” he wrote, “the strongly built concrete gun positions . . . look out over us. They are manned by hard-bitten machine gunners, and bar our further advance to south and west.” During the night Rommel reconnoitered the enemy defenses and found a gap, and shortly after dawn his Abteilung penetrated the Italian lines. Three hours later he stormed Monte Kuk itself. Finding Rommel in their rear, the Italians panicked, their line began to crumble and German infantry poured through the breach.

But Schoerner, the Bavarian, got the Pour le Mérite! Rommel was stung by this injustice, and after the war he asked the official army historian to make petty corrections to the re- cord; he even arranged for future editions to read “Leutnant,” not “Oberleutnant,” in referring to Schoerner, and he persuaded the Reich government to print a fourteen-page supplement which in part set out his own role in more vivid detail describing how forty Italian officers and 1,500 men had surrendered to Oberleutnant Rommel, how he had pressed on ahead of his unit with only two officers and a few riflemen, how the Italians had surrounded and embraced him and chaired him on their shoulders and rejoiced that the war was over for them. This sort of prideful revisionism would become part of the Rommel style.

But Rommel still had a chance for a Pour le Mérite. General von Below had specifically promised one to the first officer to stand atop the loftiest Italian high point, the 5,400-foot Monte Mataiur. Rommel intended to be that officer. His own fourteen- page supplement to the official army history tells the story: “Before the prisoners from the Hill 1114 engagement were removed, some German-speaking Italians betrayed to Lieutenant Rommel that there was another regiment of the Salerno brigade on Monte Mataiur that definitely would put up a fight. . . . Heavy machine gun fire did indeed open up as the [Swabians] reached the western slopes.” By nightfall, after hours of hard fighting, Rommel was at the base of the last rise of Mataiur. He and his men were dog-tired, but he drove them on. The report of his superior, Major Sproesser, takes up the account: “There is an Italian with a machine gun sitting behind virtually every rock, and all the appearances are that the enemy has no intention of giving up Monte Mataiur so easily. Although their strength is almost at an end after fifty-three hours of continual full-pack march and battle, Rommel’s Abteilung crawls in to close quarters. After a hail of machine gun fire, which has a murderous splinter effect among the rocks, the enemy tries to escape into a ravine.”

Hesitantly, one Italian after another came out into the open and surrendered. At 11:30am. the last 120 men on the actual summit surrendered to Rommel. Ten minutes later he stood there himself. He ordered one white and three green flares fired to announce his triumph. Rommel had reached the top first and victory was his all the sweeter, too, for having cost the life of only one of his men.
The victory soon turned sour. Next day General Erich von Ludendorff, chief of the General Staff, announced the capture of Monte Mataiur by the gallant Lieutenant Walther Schnieber, a Silesian company commander. Schnieber accordingly carried off the prize promised by General von Below for the feat, the coveted Pour le Mérite.
It was obvious to Rommel that Schnieber had captured the wrong summit. Choking with anger, he complained to his battal- ion commander, Major Sproesser. Sproesser advised him to forget the matter, but Sproesser did mention in his dispatch of November that during the hour that Rommel’s Abteilung had rested on the Mataiur’s summit they never saw any signs of the Silesian regiment. Rommel was not satisfied, and according to his own account many years later he sent a formal complaint all the way up to the commander of the Alpine Corps, claiming that the medal belonged by rights to him. Silence was the only reply.

This disappointment did not affect Rommel’s fighting zeal. He stayed hard on the heels of the retreating Italians. His Abteilung was at the head of Sproesser’s battalion of Swabians, and that battalion was the spearhead of the whole Fourteenth Army. On November the river Tagliamento was reached. Now Rommel began a relentless pursuit of the demoralized Italians, using the same tactics of bluff, bravado, surprise attack and rapid pursuit that were to distinguish him later as a tank commander.
He had found his métier. He had learned how to exploit sudden situations even when it meant disobeying orders from superiors. He led his troops to the limits of human endurance so as to take the enemy by surprise climbing through fresh snowfalls that were murder to the heavily laden men, scaling sheer rock faces that would give pause even to skilled mountaineers, risking everything to work his handful of intrepid riflemen and machine gunners around behind the unsuspecting Italian defenders. He suddenly attacked the enemy however greatly he was himself outnumbered from the rear with devastating ma- chine gun fire on the assumption that this was bound to shatter the morale of even the finest troops.

His little force’s victories were remarkable. On November 7, Rommel’s companies stormed a 4,700-foot mountain and captured a pass. Two days later he launched a frontal attack on some seemingly invincible Italian defenses and captured another pass.

Then followed an action of the purest Wild West, one that wonderfully illustrates Rommel’s physical courage and endurance.
He was following an extremely narrow and deep ravine to- ward the town of Longarone the kingpin of the entire Italian mountain defensive system. What Rommel found ahead of him was a road blasted into the vertical rock face soaring 600 feet above. The road first clung to one side of the ravine, then crossed to the other side by a long bridge precariously suspended some 500 feet above the ravine floor.

“Relentlessly the pursuit goes on toward Longarone,” Major Sproesser wrote. “Now the big bridge spanning the Vajont ravine lies ahead. Not a moment to lose! . . . Lieutenant Rommel and his men dash across, tearing out every demolition fuse they can see.”
The Swabians took the next stretch of road at a trot. But when they emerged from the valley, they came under heavy rifle and machine gun fire from the direction of Longarone, about a half mile away. Between them and the town lay the river Piave. Almost at once a loud explosion signaled the demolition of the only bridge across the river. Through field glasses Rommel could see endless columns of Italians fleeing south on the far side of the river. The town itself was jam-packed with troops and war paraphernalia. He ordered one of his companies and a machine gun platoon to advance downstream. He himself went with them, then watched as eighteen of his men successfully braved the Piave’s fast-flowing waters under violent enemy machine gun fire. More men followed, and by 4:00 pm they had established a posi- tion on the other shore, a short distance south of Longarone. From there they could block the road and railway line leading out of town. Over the next two hours this small force disarmed 800 Italian soldiers who ran into their trap.

As dusk fell, Rommel himself forded the river, followed by five companies of troops. Taking a small party, he began to advance on Longarone. Stumbling into a street barricade manned by Italian machine gunners, Rommel ordered a temporary retreat, and now the Italians began running after him. It was a tricky situation: there were some 10,000 Italian troops in Longarone, so Rommel was vastly outnumbered. In fact, he had only twenty-five men with him at that moment, and when the Italian officers saw how puny Rommel’s force was, they confidently or- dered their men to open fire. All Rommel’s force here was wounded or captured, but he himself managed to slip away into the shadows.

He reassembled his Abteilung just south of Longarone in the darkness. Six more times the Italian mob tried to overrun him, but six times Rommel’s machine gunners sent them running for cover back into the town. To prevent the enemy from outflanking him in the darkness, Rommel set fire to the houses along the road, illuminating the battlefield. By midnight, reinforcements began arriving from Major Sproesser and from an Austrian division.

Rommel decided to renew the attack at dawn. His official account concludes: “There is, however, no more fighting to be done. South of Rivalta, Rommel’s Abteilung meets Lieutenant Schoeffel, who was taken prisoner during the night’s skirmish, coming toward them. Behind him follow hundreds of Italians, waving all manner of flags. Lieutenant Schoeffel brings the glad tidings of the surrender of all enemy forces around Longarone, written by the Italian commander. An entire enemy division has been captured! . . . Exhausted and soaking wet, the warriors . . . fall into well-earned beds in fine billets and sleep the sleep of dead men.”

In his later published account of the battle of Longarone, Rommel romanticized. There he described how he himself had swum the icy Piave at the head of his Abteilung. Yet there can be no doubt of his own physical courage in battle, even if these 1917 victories over the Italians were purchased relatively cheaply. In the ten-day battle ending in the Italians’ humiliating defeat at Longarone, Sproesser’s entire battalion lost only thirteen enlisted men and one officer (he fell off a mountain). At Longarone, Rommel captured 8,000 Italians in one day. Not for another quarter century would Rommel really meet his match.

One month later, the Kaiser gave him the tribute he ached for, the matchless Pour le Mérite. The citation said it was for breaching the Kolovrat line, storming Mataiur and capturing Longarone. Rommel preferred to attribute it to Mataiur alone unless he was in Italian company; then he took a certain sly pleas- ure in saying he won it at Longarone. Rommel was never diplomatic.
Fame never found anyone who was waiting to be found.

First posted September 2011.

Thursday, February 06, 2020

Even in the Most Autocratic Nations, You Can Find Heroes

Just amazing;
One of the first Chinese doctors who tried to warn the world about a new coronavirus died on Friday from the illness, prompting an outpouring of sorrow on Chinese social media, as Beijing declared a “people’s war” on the fast-spreading outbreak.

Li Wenliang, 34, was an ophthalmologist at a hospital in Wuhan, the city hardest hit by the outbreak.

He and seven others were reprimanded by Wuhan police last month for spreading “illegal and false” information about the coronavirus after he warned doctors on social media about seven cases of a mysterious new virus to try to help other physicians.

Many ordinary Chinese people on social media described Li as a hero and a tragic figure, reflecting the incompetence of local authorities to tackle the emergence of the virus early in the outbreak.

Wednesday, February 05, 2020

Just a Retired 2xFOS'd LCDR, eh?

Perhaps this should have been a FbF ... but sometimes you have to wonder - what are the universal constants of our Navy culture?

Who can make the best use of it?

When it too late to make any meaningful use of it?

Who defines a failed officer or a successful career?

Not who ... but what?

Pondering over at USNIBlog ... just make sure and bring your facemask and grass skirt.

Tuesday, February 04, 2020

Is Lucy, tee'n up the Ball for Charlie Brown Again?

Beware of the Good Idea Fairy riding in to save you on the back of a unicorn.

How many times will we have to go through this cycle? 

Have we learned anything? I hope so. 

We have a new Fleet Structure Assessment on the way that is going to try to describe how we get to 355 by 2030.

This is great ... this is welcome ... but this is worrisome as I am hearing things that are giving me an eye twitch.

I think Meghan is trying to trigger me, but here we go;
“We haven’t done a really comprehensive force structure assessment in a couple of years; 2016 was the last one. So we started on a new path for that last fall, and what we’re finding in that force structure assessment is that the number of ships we need are going to be more than 355. And when you add in some of the unmanned vessels and things like that that we’re going through experimental phases on, it’s probably going to be significantly more than [355],” he said.

“There are certain ship classes that don’t even exist right now that we’re looking at that will be added into that mix, but the broad message is, it’s going to be a bigger fleet, it’s going to be a more distributed fleet, it’s going to be a more agile fleet. And we need to figure out what that path is and also understand our topline limitations, because no one wants a 355-plus fleet that’s hollow, that we can’t maintain. So we’re looking at balancing all those things.”
Wait ... we need to define "new" here. "New to the USN" or "new" as in PPT thick? I'm sorry, I'm not sure how we get anything in numbers by 2030 that can come from a fresh design;
Marine Corps and Navy officials at various conferences have suggested that the services are narrowing in on the Offshore Support Vessel as a model for what they want. Having several OSVs instead of one dock landing ship (LSD), for example, might be able to carry the same number of Marines but distribute them across the littorals instead of concentrating them on one hull – which defensively makes them harder to target and offensively allows them to be more agile under the Distributed Maritime Operations and Expeditionary Advance Base Operations concepts.
This has promise. There are some solid designs already out there.

If you are looking for numbers fast that have limitations, but are built here and have bite, we can look at the Ambassador MK III, I guess.

We are a a decade-and-a-half away from my call for PLAN SALAMANDER to license build an already building ship until we can get our act together for a domestically designed platform - but that is the only way to get there.

Tons of FREMM? I assume we will find out sooner more than later what magical class of ships this is going to be, but it can't be a clean sheet design. It can't be fully of "cutting edge" technology that as of the second month of 2020 is only PPT thick....can it?

No, really - it can't be. We've seen this movie before.

Like April 2012?

...where do we find ourselves with LCS. They are coming to the Fleet - in mass. More show up every few months. No mission modules. No actual proof of concept. Still slathered with technology risk and some things we do know; only 4-months deployable in an 8-11 month new normal .......... all disjointed and still not getting me closer to where I want to be - I want to be proven wrong, but so far I am only being proved right with each passing fiscal quarter. Each fiscal quarter I also see those who careers, reputations and ego are wrapped up in LCS act like the below when they have to explain away hard facts - and rely on hope.

We are a few years past the point of stopping all the damage LCS will cause in opportunity cost ... but not too late to mitigate its full impact. We won't be able to stop at 24, but not too late for 36. If we get all 55, it will be too late. We will have paid Bentley prices for a Yugo.
Heck ... Jan 2010 when we were looking at the NNFM and Reforming the Confederate Navy?
- Build DDGs at a limited rate, sufficient to keep one shipbuilder’s line open, and to keep technology current, but with the intent of reducing the Aegis force to 30 warships within 25 years. The steady state force of 30 ships costs $60B, so the SCN per year for a 30-year combat life is $2.0B.
- Introduce several affordable frigate designs of 2,500 to 3,000 tons and about 25 knots, with the goal of creating a force of 90 ships at a unit cost of $400M. Essential features are at least eight upgraded TASMs (tactical Antiship Missiles), strong close-in defense, and a modern ASW suite. The ships will emphasize sea strikes and ASW. Each must carry a helicopter or pair of UAVs.
- Design and build simple corvettes carrying about 50 land-attack missiles—upgraded TLAMs as it were. They are not fast, but 25 knots is desirable. They operate in silence, with any radiating platform being in the air or scores of miles away. Because of their simplicity and American shipbuilder design experience with stealth properties, the first design will probably be very much like the final one.

Merely for completeness we include here a component of 20 auxiliaries. The numbers and costs are unchanged from the 313-ship Navy plan.
Good googly moogly we have lost a decade spinning our wheels.

I will keep an open mind here - but there are firm constraints and restraints to get to 355 by 2030 ... with new platforms.

Words mean things ... and I will hold further critique in abeyance until I see how we are defining "new." 

Monday, February 03, 2020

How a Nation Uses Her Power in the Face of a Pandemic

Power is a funny thing. You can tell a lot about both a person and a nation by how they use that power.

There is the primary indicator, how they act, and there is the secondary indicators – often the most telling – of how others who are under their power or feel threatened by it, act.

A nice clarifying thing about pathogens, they don’t care about politics. They cannot be spun, negotiated with, bluffed, or co-opted. They just are. They are existence personified; they just will to exist.

Human DNA is full of the effects of our existence with pathogens. Though really bad ones may only happen every few generations or centuries, they are a regular occurrence on the planet’s timescale.

All this is known, but another thing that is known is that human ego, ignorance, greed, and the desire not to have their picayune plans interfered with by external forces has an equally long record of making the inevitable become even worse.

All of that is coming together in the response to the latest pathogen coming out of China; the coronavirus.

In the natsec world, we are aware of how China is using graft, greed, and a bit of bluff to build bases and influence through the world. It has also been clear, the Islamic world’s reaction to the Uighur suppression a point on this trend, that the Chinese have made it clear in back-channels that they will not take anything that makes China or the CCP look bad in a positive light WRT future support. They are exporting Chinese control of press and message to other countries.

Hannah Beach at the NYT
has a nice view of this phenomenon. Some examples:

In Myanmar, loudspeakers broadcast advice from Buddhist monks: Seven ground peppercorns, exactly seven, placed on the tongue will ward off the coronavirus spreading across Asia and the world.
In Indonesia, Terawan Agus Putranto, the health minister, advised citizens to relax and eschew overtime work to avoid the disease, which has killed more than 360 people and infected more than 17,000 others, mostly in China.

And in Cambodia, Prime Minister Hun Sen told a packed news conference on Thursday that he would kick out anyone who was wearing a surgical mask because such measures were creating an unwarranted climate of fear.

“Our greatest concern is the potential for the virus to spread to countries with weaker health systems,” said Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, the W.H.O.’s director general
Bingo. If this gets loose in the mega-cities of the Indian subcontinent or Africa, there will be no holding it back. Their governments and civil society simply are not as strong as they are in China.

The best hope is that the concern about this virus is overblown. That is only hope, and by the time we know one way or the other, it will be too late.

We will see.

Pray for hype - as corrupt nations cannot contain anything.

The economic and societal impact of a 1919 Flu like pandemic is unquestionably a national security concern.

Friday, January 31, 2020

Fullbore Friday

A nation deep in war. A nation at crisis. A nation on the edge of starvation. A nation drained of its military aged men.

A retired naval officer of middling grade and no significant record, brought out of retirement who liked games.

A bunch of young women with nothing but smarts, an ill-fitting uniform and a desire to serve.

An empty room.

Together, they would save the lives of thousands ... and perhaps their nation's freedom.

On the first day of 1942, Gilbert Roberts, a 41-year-old retired British naval officer turned game designer, arrived at Derby House, in Liverpool, for his inaugural meeting with his new boss, Sir Percy Noble.

The admiral was greying but still youthful, and wore his authority with, as one observer put it, “naturalness.” That day, however, Noble was in a hostile mood.

“I thought the Admiralty were sending me a captain,” he said, woundingly. Noble explained that he had been instructed to give Roberts the entire top floor of Derby House, comprising eight rooms. There, using wargames, Roberts and his team of Wrens, young members of the Women’s Royal Naval Service, were to get to work on the problem of the U-boats which had, for the past three years, sunk millions of tons of essential food and fuel making its way from the east coast of America via merchant ships.
His plan was simple. Using the floor as a giant board, the Western Approaches Tactical Unit, or WATU, would design a game that approximated a wolfpack attack on a convoy in the Atlantic. One team would play as the escort commanders, the other as the U-boat captains.
Seeing the battle from a crow’s-nest perspective above the board, a question formed in his mind. If the U-boats were firing from outside the perimeter of the convoy, as was widely believed, how had HMS Annavore, which was in the center of the convoy, been sunk? Might it be possible, he wondered, that the U-boat had attacked the ship from inside the columns of the convoy?

There was, he reasoned, a simple way to prove his theory.

“Hold everything,” Roberts told his staff, as he rushed into his office to make a phone call.

Roberts picked up the receiver and asked the operator to put him through to the Flag Officer Submarines in London, hoping to speak to its chief of staff, an old friend, Captain Ian Macintyre.

To Roberts’ astonishment, the flag officer himself, Admiral Sir Max Horton, picked up.

Roberts explained who he was and asked Horton if he might be permitted to ask a question. During the last war, Roberts asked, would you ever have crept among the ships of a convoy to fire a torpedo?

“Of course,” replied Horton. “It is the only way of pressing home an attack.”

“Thank you, sir,” said Roberts, then hung up.

Step Into History: Learn how to experience the 1963 March on Washington in virtual reality

It was late, but Roberts asked Jean Laidlaw, a 21-year-old woman responsible for statistical analysis, and one of the younger Wrens, Janet Okell, to stay behind with him to reset the plot and run a new game on the giant board. They hurriedly reset the game.
Read it all.


Hat tip SAP.

Thursday, January 30, 2020

Europeans Need to Grow Up

If you want to understand the world, you need to read widely ... and for an American, that means to actively seek out non-Anglosphere writers, perspectives, and opinions.

It makes things so much clearer.

One of the fun parts of the Trump administration is that it teased out already existing European - and especially German - antipathy towards the USA, especially in their political/media class, that we had not seen since Bush43 was in office. Yes, there are great friends of the USA in Germany ... but as I learned living amongst them, just below the surface with a plurality of them - they have "issues."

They hate us, but they are dependent on us. The two are in a way probably connected, but enough of that.

In a great article over at EstonianWorld by Sigmar Gabriel, a former German foreign minister, and Michael Hüther, the director of the German Economic Institute, you have a nice sample of the present mindset of the Boomer leadership of Germany;
The European Union, and particularly Germany, have yet to rise to the challenge posed by the United States’ retreat from global leadership. But, given the new competition from China, together with Russia’s renewed great-power aspirations, the Western countries must find a way to cooperate more closely.
Just because they keep saying that, does not mean it is true.

Retreat? No ... just tired of doing other people's job for them.

Perhaps we are investing less time in areas of the world where we simply don't see the juice worth the squeeze. If we were really retreating, then why would the authors write this later on in the article;
If Europe does not wake up to the realities of the new Sino-American rivalry, it could find itself in a position of geopolitical irrelevance. In fact, there are already signs of Europe’s declining global significance. Wars and conflicts along the European periphery are increasingly being decided by other powers, with Europe playing no discernible role in their resolution.
Bingo. Europe is not the world.

We are still engaged in the world, we have just moved our attentions towards areas of greater importance. I don't think the Continental Europeans have fully hoisted on board that a critical mass in the USA have realized that Europeans have grown rich and lazy under our umbrella only to provide sloth and distain in return ... so we will let them take more responsibility for their own business.

Along those lines, the authors are sniffing at action items they can do to help the collective Western effort on our little planet;
...five issues seem vital. The first is Germany’s relationship with the US, which is now under severe stress. The elephant in the room is Germany’s failure to increase its annual defence spending to 2% of GDP, as agreed at the 2014 NATO summit in Wales. For obvious historical reasons, Germany is hesitant to become Europe’s de facto military power. Were it to meet its spending commitment, it would be allocating €80 billion ($89 billion) per year to the Bundeswehr, which is €46 billion more than what France spends.
For well over a decade on this blog we have been asking Germany to grow up and join the family of nations as a full partner. Trust us, we fully believe that today's Germany has regained her position as a respected and valuable member - indeed a critical member - of Western Civilization. WWII is almost out of living memory. We're all friends now. Your neighbors and friends are not afraid of a democratic Germany pulling her weight. We actually want her to. Heck, the Balts would love to host at least a division of German infantry and armor ... again.

Step up.
The second big issue is US-EU relations. The immediate challenges facing America and Europe have changed over the past seven decades. Most recently, Russia has expanded its sphere of influence into Crimea, eastern Ukraine, and the Sea of Azov, and China has begun to assert economic and technological dominance in Eurasia.
The USA has no issues with the EU. The EU though, keeps trying to make drama. Let's trade and work together on those things that benefit us both. We are more than happy for the EU to take the lead contra-Russia. The bear is your neighbor after all. Again, we're cool with that. 

As for China, it is clear what she wants to do. Don't let yourself fall for her ham-fisted efforts. You have agency, national interests and free will. As demonstrated by your politicians ear-deep in Russian corruption in the energy sector, you do have some easily purchased power centers, but again - that is within your control if you so wish.

Step up.
Amid deteriorating economic security and social cohesion, populist and nationalist movements have exploited voters’ anxieties by promising to defend the homeland against cosmopolitan elites and the multilateral institutions that have underpinned politics and economics since World War II.

Notwithstanding populist rhetoric, economic globalisation has, in fact, created prosperity and reduced poverty and opened up new development opportunities around the world. But without the West’s support, this system cannot be sustained.

What we need now to open up new possibilities for the world order is a globalisation of civil society, and to remind people and communities that the state is still capable of acting effectively. That starts with investing more in education, research and infrastructure, while striking a balance between cross-border cooperation and respect for cultural idiosyncrasies.
No, what you need to do is listen less at Davos, and more to your own people.

The center-left and center-right have failed the people in the center, so they are looking elsewhere. Protect your borders. Don't import an underclass. Show pride in your national character and history. That is all the "populists" are doing, answering the call that your establishment thinks is too "icky" to address. You don't even need to go in full throttle, just meet them halfway. Do that, and the fringes on both sides will go back to being single-digit parties.
...the third issue: Russia. Here, the EU’s pursuit of a balanced policy has created friction within the transatlantic alliance, as exemplified by the tensions over Nord Stream 2, a joint Russian-German pipeline project. In the German government’s view, Nord Stream 2 is fundamentally an economic issue. After all, German, French and other European companies have invested heavily in the project; in any case, it would be a grave political mistake to intervene in the private European gas market.
Still strange how they see that. When you see "transatlantic" they mean USA. The USA cannot be more concerned about European security more than the Europeans are ... oh, wait ... sure we can. That is part of the problem.

The core issue is that we know that if the Europeans hand the Russians a sword - the Russians will use it against the Europeans. It is amazingly obvious ... but the German leadership - as we've blogged about here - have been bought by the Russians - and the German elite in politics and the media defend each other. Some people in power need to be willing to lose some friends.

The last part of the quote above is almost beyond parody - just look at who is running the NORD STREAM project ... it is soaked in politics and politicians - from former Chancellors to former GDR Stasi leadership.

Private my ass.

I think the authors know this all too well, but are either too scared or polite to say so. Once again, they contradict themselves;
...a better way to secure Europe’s energy supply would be to expand and further integrate Europe’s natural-gas infrastructure, while building more terminals for liquefied natural gas. That way, no country – be it a member state or close partner – could be held hostage as a result of its dependence on Russian energy.
Yes, but what is being done to do that?

Things get better in the article the further you go;
... the fourth issue is China, which has made clear that it seeks a revision of the international balance of power. For its part, the Trump administration rightly challenged China on trade. There can be no “fair trade” when a country that does not play by the same rules as everyone else organises two-fifths of the global economy.

China lavishes subsidies on its industries, limits access to its markets and routinely violates intellectual-property rights. Moreover, China’s model of authoritarian state capitalism poses a double challenge, because it represents both economic competition and an alternative political model. As such, the EU and America urgently need to devise clear, mutually agreed rules for dealing with China.
We cannot wait for the EU and America to create the perfect together. Both can move faster alone. Let the EU and the USA get a "good" on the books now individually, and then work towards a "perfect" together. China is already 2-moves ahead of both of us. We need to move now. In the interim, keep China out of your 5G.

This should have been a realization at the top - but this isn't an issue as much as a statement of reality;
The fifth major issue is Europe’s role in the wider world. If Europe does not wake up to the realities of the new Sino-American rivalry, it could find itself in a position of geopolitical irrelevance. In fact, there are already signs of Europe’s declining global significance.
Relative decline.

Europe has a static to shrinking population with stagnant economies, importing net drains on economic growth from Africa and the Middle East. East Asia on the other hand, while having demographic problems on their own, have growing economies and per-capita GDP not overburdened by welfare state underclasses.

They are larger populations climbing out of poverty - not importing it. They are just growing stronger in relative terms ... which builds mass in real terms.

The article ends, surprisingly, in Salamanderland;
For good reasons, the EU has long resided beneath the US security umbrella, with the union effectively remaining on the sidelines. But that geopolitical conception of Europe is an American artefact, based on the Marshall Plan. As NATO’s first secretary-general, Hastings Ismay, famously put it, the purpose of NATO was “to keep the Russians out, the Americans in, and the Germans down.”

Much has changed since the 1950s. Today, we Europeans are only gradually beginning to understand that we must adapt to the geopolitical realities of the twenty-first century. The Atlantic era is giving way to the Pacific era. Europeans must harbour no illusions that all will turn out well on its own. Now is the time to muster the courage and the will to take responsibility for our strategic interests.
Yes. Good. Nice.

European NATO, starting with Germany, needs to invest its fair share. 

Europeans need to focus on the legitimate concerns of their citizens, not what the strap-hangers in Davos and Brussels feel would make them feel better. 

Europeans need to give their people security, not let their governing elites line their pockets with Russian and Chinese graft.

If Europe can stop from importing its own destruction, it will be fine. If its politicians will stop focusing on each other's virtue signaling, and instead focus on the standard of living and quality of life of its working citizens, they will be even better.

That would be pretty good advice for the USA as well.

Wednesday, January 29, 2020

The Lessons from Germany's Hollow Force

When you have a military overbuilt for the money you spend to man, train, and equip it properly ... and roll in a bit of mismanagement and overconfidence by industry ... you have ... the German experience.

Does that parallel or perhaps give a benchmark to our performance?

I'm pondering over at USNIBlog. 

Come on by and ponder with me.

Tuesday, January 28, 2020

Playing the India Card in AFG

Regardless of the topic at hand, within 5-minutes of any conversation with a Pakistani military type, India will come up.

Paranoia does not quite describe it.

If you really want to get them a bit off their stride, just toss out the idea of Indian troops in Afghanistan.

In this light, as the Afghan government starts to look for someone to help then against what they know is coming ... this is an epic troll.
Early this month, Afghanistan’s National Security Advisor, Hamdullah Mohib, used a visit to New Delhi to privately press a request for at least a Brigade — perhaps even a Division —of Indian troops to be deployed in a peacekeeping role, ahead of a peace deal with the Taliban which is expected to lead to the final withdrawal of United States forces. Kabul, diplomatic sources said, hopes to put together a multinational framework, perhaps United Nations-led, for this troop deployment.
To understand why Afghanistan’s calls for Indian troops are becoming louder, one has to turn to the agreement now being hammered out between Taliban negotiators and United States diplomats in Doha. The deal is expected to include guarantees the Islamist insurgents will scale down violence — but bitter experience has taught Afghans to suspect the Taliban will resile on their word the minute the United States vacates its military bases.

New Delhi’s long-standing allies in Afghanistan’s north — who India, along with Iran and Russia funded and armed through their long, bitter battle against the Taliban until 9/11 — see an Indian Army as insurance against their cities being overrun by proxies for the Pakistan Army.
Does this upset Pakistan?

Fine. It's their neighborhood. They'll figure it out.

Monday, January 27, 2020

Vietnam's Sound Foreign Policy Stance

There is an echo of our republic's founding foreign policy to be found in Vietnam's "Four No's" national defense policy.

There is a lot of wisdom here to ponder for a nation who wants to focus on the well being of her people.
The publication of the 2019 National Defense White Paper ... enunciates “Four No’s” principle for the development of the Viet Nam People’s Army (VPA).

Accordingly, Viet Nam consistently advocates neither joining any military alliances, siding with one country against another, giving any other countries permission to set up military bases or use its territory to carry out military activities against other countries, nor using force or threatening to use force in international relations, Lich affirmed.
I'm not sure I'm counting the four correctly, but I think they are:

1. Avoid foreign entanglements.
2. Strict neutrality.
3. No foreign military bases on sovereign soil.
4. Will not conduct military activity against other nations.

You can read the white paper here.

Sunday, January 26, 2020

Watching the Surface Force with David Larter - on Midrats

Put on your black leather jacket, get your SM-6 plush toy, pour a glass of your finest Chianti in honor of the epic Fincantieri after party, and join us this Sunday from 5-6pm Eastern to discuss the latest news about the USN surface force.

Using his reporting earlier this month from the Surface Navy Association Symposium as a starting off point, our guest for the full hour will be David Larter, Naval Warfare Reporter for Defense News. He's a graduate of the University of Richmond and a former Operations Specialist Second Class, still DNQ in his ESWS qual.

From new uniform items to future unmanned system, we will be talking about.

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.

Friday, January 24, 2020

Fullbore Friday

In some cohorts, heroic men are so many in number, you simply miss a few.

A giant passed in 2013 - and I feel like a lessor man for not knowing his story earlier.

James Robinson "Robbie" Risner, Colonel, USAF (Ret.)

Read it all, but this should get you started;
“Robbie” Risner was a rising star in the Air Force when he was shot down and captured Sept. 16, 1965. In the previous decade’s war, he had been a hero, downing eight enemy planes over Korea. In Vietnam, he was such a standout that his tanned, chiseled face made the cover of Time magazine with a fighter jet streaking into the sky behind him.

Unfortunately, the April 23, 1965 piece, which profiled a dozen U.S. military members in Vietnam, made its way to Risner’s captors.

It “made him their ‘prized prisoner,’ which meant more abuse,” Gen. Mark A. Welsh III, the Air Force chief of staff, wrote in a remembrance last week. Risner also came in for harsher treatment because, as a lieutenant colonel and then a full colonel, he was the top-ranking officer for most of his imprisonment, including the three years he spent in solitary confinement.

He showed up a lot in his career ... in war and peace.

Here he is as a Major in 1957;

Hat tip SAP.

Wednesday, January 22, 2020

Losing Sleep Over Hypersonics

You are worrying about the wrong thing ... at least for now and the next decade.

Thoughts over at USNIBlog.

Come on by and tell me why I'm all wet.

Tuesday, January 21, 2020

Japan on Tanker Patrol

It is always interesting to watch as Japan continues a growing habit of re-establishing her military on the world stage;
Japan will send a destroyer that can carry one or two patrol helicopters in early February, with hopes that the vessel can start operations by the end of the same month in the Gulf of Oman, the northern part of the Arabian Sea and the eastern side of the Bab el-Mande Strait.

The Defense Ministry is preparing to send Takanami, a 4,650-ton destroyer that can carry one anti-submarine patrol helicopter.

Tokyo also plans to mobilize two P-3C anti-submarine patrol airplanes that are currently engaging in anti-piracy patrol missions off Somalia for the planned intelligence activities.

About 200 crew members will be aboard the destroyer and about 60 staffers will be mobilized for the P-3C unit. The government plans to spend ¥4.68 billion on the dispatch in fiscal 2020, government officials said.
Exceptionally professional and capable ... but still hesitant for all the reasons we would expect, by habit.

We should encourage the Japanese as much as possible to keep stretching and gaining institutional experience. It is good for Japanese defense capabilities, American alliance heft, and the international effort to keep the seas safe for commerce.
Under the plan, the SDF unit won’t be authorized to use any weapons to defend other ships.

But in the event of an emergency, Tokyo could invoke an SDF law and put the unit on maritime policing operations, which would allow the destroyer and aircraft to use weapons to defend Japanese-flagged ships, officials said.

However, under international law, the SDF unit engaging in maritime policing activities would not be allowed to use weapons to defend foreign-flag ships. Most oil tankers operated by Japanese firms are registered in foreign countries due to low operating costs there.

During a news conference later the day, Defense Minister Taro Kono did not elaborate when asked whether and how the SDF unit could defend such a foreign-flagged ship operated by a Japanese firm.

Kono just said the SDF will “make a decision based on individual situations” and possible defense tactics would include giving a verbal warning to a party assaulting a foreign-flagged ship and deploying a destroyer close to the situation.
More of this. Much more.