Saturday, May 18, 2019

US Merchant Marine - Not Ready for War, with gCaptain's John Konrad - on Midrats

What if they gave a war in WESTPAC and we couldn't come?

It is easy to talk tactics, weapons, and warship numbers - but on balance, that is not what ensures victory in any major war.

For a maritime nation, nothing can last very long without a large, sustained, scalable, and resilient merchant marine.

When you look at our numbers, we are not ready.

Our guest for the full hour Sunday from 5-6pm Eastern will be John Konrad, using his recent editorial at gCaptain, Admiral, I'm not Ready for War, as a starting point for our talk.

Captain John Konrad is the founder and CEO of gCaptain and author of the book Fire On The Horizon. John is a USCG licensed Master of Unlimited Tonnage, has sailed a variety of ships from ports around the world and is a distinguished alumnus of SUNY Maritime College.

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

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, May 17, 2019

Fullbore Friday

This man helped influence untold numbers of men and women towards service in our Navy, and through informed fiction, generations to partially understand such a pivotal era of our nation's history.

Such a long, full and influential life. Herman Wouk - BZ and thank you.
Herman Wouk, the prolific and immensely popular writer who explored the moral fallout of World War II in the Pulitzer Prize-winning “The Caine Mutiny” and other widely read books that gave Americans a raw look at the horrors and consequences of war, has died at his Palm Springs home, where he wrote many of his acclaimed novels.

Wouk, who was honored by the Library of Congress in September 2008 with its first lifetime achievement award for fiction writing, died in his sleep Friday at the age of 103, his literary agent Amy Rennert told the Associated Press. Wouk was working on a book at the time of his death, Rennert said.

As a writer, Wouk considered his most “vaultingly ambitious” work the twin novels “The Winds of War” and “War and Remembrance,” about “the great catastrophe of our time,” World War II. Critics, however, considered “The Caine Mutiny” to be his finest work.
The books are always better than the movies, but here are some highlights;

H/t Scoobs

Thursday, May 16, 2019

Diversity Thursday

OK folks, I want you to take a deep breath and ponder how much admin-overhead this costs the Navy every year.



Most of these awards are of the worst kind of a patronizing, sectarian and racialist mindset. There is no reason a fair, equal, and bias free organization should have anything to do with these organizations or their self-licking ice cream cone awards.

Our Sailors deserve better from their leaders than to tell them their value is based on things they have no control of, such as their ethnic background. We are better than this. Our Navy is better than this.
From: [redacted]
Date: [redacted], May [redacted], 2019 [redacted]
Subject: Inclusion & Diversity Awards[redacted]
To: [redacted]

Good afternoon,

The Office of Inclusion, Diversity and Equal Opportunity (OIDEO) is requesting nominations for the following awards:

American Indian Science and Engineering Society - Due to Organization 24 May 2019
For information go here

National Blacks in Government (BIG) Military Meritorious Service Award - Due to OIDEO 20 May 2019
For information go here

Hispanic Engineer National Achievement Awards Corporation (HENAC) - Due to OIDEO 29 May 2019
Nomination award brochure attached

National Image, Inc. Military Uniformed Services and Civilian Meritorious Service Awards - Due to Organization TBD June 2019

LATINA Style Distinguished Military/Civilian Service Award - Due to OIDEO 10 July 2019
Last year's award template attached - use for now


Jewish Institute for National Security Affairs (JINSA) Grateful Nation Award - Due to OIDEO 22 August 2019
2019 award template attached

I'll do my best to assist you throughout the process. Thank you in advance for taking the time out of your busy schedule to nominate those that deserve any one of the awards listed above!

For an all-inclusive list of awards that the DON supports visit [redacted]. I will update pertinent information like when nomination packages are due as specific due dates become available from each of the respective organizations that sponsor the various awards. Awards are broken down by many categories and are usually open to both military and civilians. If you have any questions please feel free to contact either me or [redacted].

Very Respectfully,

[redacted] Office of Inclusion, Diversity & Equal Opportunity (OIDEO)

Wednesday, May 15, 2019

Gibbeting Mike Mullen's Almost Dead Theory

Though we think the "1,000 Ship Navy" is dead, it isn't. People still think, here and with our allies, that you can rely on allies as if they are your own.

You can't. They aren't.

I have more details over at USNIBlog.

Come on by!

Tuesday, May 14, 2019

Tomorrow's Airwing Needs to be my Father's Airwing

This will do well as a companion piece to Bryan's guest-post yesterday. Take some time and read all of David Larter's Page-1 story in the May 6th Defense News, What's Killing the US Navy's Air Wing.

First, look at these glorious flight decks full of tools for all sorts of jobs - just 14-years apart from 1967 to 1981;

Now, today's deck full of lawn-darts and auxiliaries;

... and then ponder this pull-quote;
The carrier air wing of the future will also need to be able to hunt submarines (serving as a replacement for the S-3 Viking aircraft), provide surveillance and targeting, and destroy ships and land targets with standoff weapons, all while fighting at nearly double the range of today’s air wing, according to the study, which was led by retired submarine officer and analyst Bryan Clark.

If the Navy wants to counter China’s anti-ship cruise missiles and increasing naval capabilities, it must resurrect the Cold War-era “outer-air battle” concept, which focused on longer-range aircraft to counter Russia’s bombers. However, instead of fighting at 200-plus nautical miles, the air wing will have to fight at 1,000 nautical miles, the study found.

“The air wing of the future is going to have to be focused less on attacking terrorist training camps and huts in Syria, and more focused on killing ships and submarines at sea — dealing with naval capabilities and island-based littoral capabilities,” Clark said in a telephone interview. “Those are the challenges: Range and the mission set is changing.”
You don't know what you once had until you lose it, eh? We did it by choice.

It has always been about range, something we discussed here for well over a decade - but that lost the argument for ... still trying to figure that out, though I have ideas.

We have wasted so much time with people who have other priories ... still trying to figure out what they are, though I have ideas ... than investing decision making power with those focused on making sure we can project power ashore without being inshore.

Some smart initial steps are looking right;
In other words, the entire air wing, both the range at which it can fight and the missions it is set up to execute, must be completely overhauled. That’s a big ask that can’t be answered overnight. It starts with committing to the MQ-25 Stingray, Clark said, referring to the unmanned tanker aircraft under development by Boeing following an $805 million contract award last year for the first four aircraft.
Build it. Get it to the fleet. Let our Navy work with it ... they'll help you find out how to make it better ... but let's get it to the fleet and start. Would be nice to ditch the "MQ" and get some answers on the "AQ" and "RQ" once we get the KQ working correctly.

We've also addressed over the years the much delayed F/A-XX and how important it needs to be. Range needs to be top of the spectrum. In my alternative universe we would have two programs going - one on the "F" side and one on the "A" side - other generations have done it - but we don't seem to have that luxury. At least the arc is bending my way;
“So now the focus should be on the F/A-XX. If you really want range, that has to be the platform you are shooting for,” Work said. “Because with the Navy buying the F-35Cs, and the Marine [Corps] buying the F-35Bs, and the Navy buying the Block III Super Hornet, you are not going to be able to afford two or three programs. So the F/A-XX is the one you need to focus on. And if the analysis shows you need range, that points to unmanned.”
The next statement of the obvious is most welcome. When the peer battle comes, we will not own the EW spectrum. We won't have unchallenged access to satellite or terrestrial bandwidth. We will need to be in the fight anyway;
But the study also called for retaining a manned fighter for command-and-control capabilities in environments where communications are jammed or nonexistent, Clark said.

“There is still going to be a need for manned fighters to do close-air support, but mostly to do command and control of other platforms that are perhaps unmanned inside a comms-denied environment,” Clark said. “So you send some loitering missiles or you send UCAVs up forward, you would expect them to be managed by someone who is able to maintain comms with them. That would be a human in a fighter that is able to remain close enough to them to stay in comms.”
...and here is where things go off the rails a bit;
For that, Clark points to a retooled F-35 fighter jet, one that switches out internal payload space for fuel.

“The F-35 folks, when you talk to them about what it would take to make it a longer-range command-and-control aircraft, they’re pretty optimistic because most of the challenge in doing these kinds of changes is in the software,” Clark said. “And the software isn’t dramatically different because it’s really just changing how it manages the fuel, not any of the other functions.”
The F-35 is a single seat aircraft. To do the above you need at least a 2-seater - the human mind can only do so much and fly at the same time. We need to look hard at F/A-XX's scalability.
“The near-term fix is to get more tankers,” he added. “The mid-term fix is to start investing in a longer-range aircraft. Because the idea of having to have 12 or so tankers just so your fighters can get to 1,000 miles means you have to have a lot of your deck and hanger space being taken up by tankers and not strike aircraft. This way you can use the tankers you’ve developed for other missions — either strike or [intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance] on their own — or free up that deck space for other aircraft.”
Welcome to the party everyone. 

Heavy fighters, they're a thing. We are a couple of decades from needing our own SU-34-like capability. 

Get to work.

Monday, May 13, 2019

Three Cheers for Forward Presence and Aircraft Carriers

We will start out this week with a guest post from our friend Bryan McGrath - focused on what could arguably be the marquee mission our nation asks of its Navy.

Bryan, over to you.

So last week, we were told that the USS Abraham Lincoln (CVN 72) (and other Joint forces) was being re-routed from its activities in the Mediterranean Sea to proceed to the North Arabian Sea in response to “…heightened Iranian readiness to conduct offensive operations.” I have no insight into what that heightened readiness amounts to, but presumably, senior national security decision-makers at the White House, the Department of Defense, and the Central Command determined that there would be utility in moving the carrier and its air wing several thousand miles closer to Iran. In so doing, two virtues of American Seapower much under scrutiny these days are placed front and center for renewed appreciation—forward presence and the large, nuclear-powered aircraft carrier. Let us begin with forward presence.

First, let us dispense with the notion that the re-deployment of the Abraham Lincoln is an example of “Dynamic Fleet Employment”, unless we wish for this important new concept to come to mean “the way we’ve always done it”. Dynamic Fleet Employment—perhaps the biggest and most useful idea to come out of the 2018 National Defense Strategy—suggests innovative and unpredictable force employment, such as was on display last autumn when the Harry S. Truman came back to Norfolk in mid-deployment (or at least what was the predictable deployment pattern) and then re-deployed (without notice) to proceed to the North Atlantic and operate where U.S. naval forces had not routinely sailed in decades.

The redeployment of Abraham Lincoln from the Mediterranean to the North Arabian Sea is neither innovative nor unpredictable. That so many have dipped into the “where are the carriers?” meme in response to these events is proof enough that what we are seeing is not only predictable, but routine. And what is it that has caused this question to be asked and answered over time with such repetition? Is it Dynamic Fleet Employment? No. It is forward presence.

Forward presence means that irrespective of where this country’s national security interests lie, a powerful, integrated, naval response is close at hand. Are there elements of American military power that can arrive on scene more quickly? Absolutely. Are there elements of American military power that can arrive on scene in short order and conduct persistent, combat operations from existing logistics networks? Other than American Seapower, no, there aren’t.

Forward presence provides this country with a repeatable, predictable posture upon which both routine diplomacy and crisis response can rely. The very nature of this predictability contributes to both assurance of allies and deterrence of adversaries. This is not an argument against Dynamic Fleet Employment. Quite the contrary. It is, however, an argument against de-weighting routine forward presence while we chase a shinier operational penny hoping to offset insufficient resources applied to American Seapower. At some point, the virtue of already being there, or much of the way there, cannot be overstated. Can and should we make that presence more effective? Absolutely. But if this nation hopes to achieve the much talked about shift (in the National Security Strategy) from a conventional deterrence posture of punishment to one of denial, it is going to ride on the back of lethal, forward postured naval forces.

As for the large, nuclear-powered aircraft carrier, I find myself imagining its critics shaking their fists at the heavens over the newsworthiness of the (once again, routine) redeployment of CVN-72 from one theater to another. After all, if Presidents and Defense Secretaries and National Security Advisers keep reaching for this tool, the Valhalla of “cheaper and more numerous” (funded of course, from savings reaped from killing the CVN) remains outside our grasp. If only the President did not have the capability of a large, nuclear-powered aircraft carrier and its air wing to call upon, he or she would have to choose from a menu of other capabilities to signal his intent. Assuredly, these alternative measures would suffice.

Or would they? By way of comparison, let’s start with the other elements of the Joint Force that are currently being applied to this problem, forward basing an Army air defense battery and an Air Force bomber task force. Presumably in the absence of a carrier, these tools would be considered. Which of them falls in on an existing logistics network? Which of them is not subject to host-nation veto? Which of them can redeploy to a new location 800 miles away in 24 hours, every day if need be? You know the answers, of course.

Now, let’s move onto future naval capabilities that carrier critics claim are stymied by the Navy’s Neolithic clinging to the obviously past-its-prime and oh-so-vulnerable carrier. Mostly, we hear about longer range and more energetic missiles, many of which advocates wish to employ from our submarine force. Putting aside the inconvenient point that in the ISR environment of the future, EVERYTHING is vulnerable, there is the whole notion of conventional deterrence to answer to. A potential ne’er-do-well, when considering an act of aggression, attempts to determine U.S. capability AND WILL prior to its act. If it believes its aggression would be successful and the reward would be worth whatever response it faces, it may move forward.

How would the Navy contribute to the demonstration of will, if the methods of doing so rely on either the most difficult to detect platforms in the nation’s military arsenal (submarines) or platforms so small that they cannot self-deploy into the theater? If any part of the answer to the second part involves land basing, then the whole question of vulnerability rises again. And if we wish to submerge our conventional deterrent (to go along with our strategic), we will have to deal with the consequences of injecting uncertainty into the mind of the adversary and the loss of certainty. Not that injecting uncertainty (in the form of not knowing where the deterrent is or whether it is in range to accomplish its mission) is in and of itself, a bad thing. It becomes a bad thing when the cost is the greater sense of certainty that being there with visible power provides. An effective conventional deterrent combines both.

If our Navy’s only role were combat operations, and all we wished for it to do was to punish aggressors, a Navy of 150 attack submarines and long-range energetic missiles lobbed from sanctuary would be a reasonable option. But that’s not what navies do, and it is certainly not what the U.S. Navy should do. We must be able to walk and chew gum, and that means that we understand that when the shooting starts, low-signature platforms and high energy missiles will be of great importance. We must further understand that when the shooting starts, the aircraft carrier will likely be the primary method of delivering tactical aviation for such pursuits as strike, ISR, and sea control, and if we believe these missions to be important in future warfare, we need to recognize that doing them from land will be problematic.

Finally, we must realize that unlike any other aspect of American military power, Seapower plays an outsized role in both peace and war, and both forward naval presence and the large, nuclear-powered aircraft carrier are essential to this role. Walking away from either in the unwise pursuit of capability or capacity that only is brought to bear after the shooting starts is a sure-fire path to the start of shooting.

Bryan McGrath is the Managing Director of The FerryBridge Group LLC and the Deputy Director of the Hudson Institute Center for American Seapower.

Friday, May 10, 2019

Fullbore Friday

A reminder that, especially in Africa, the French are at the front - and will remind you that more often than not, they more than earn the title,"Our oldest ally."
An American citizen is among a group of four hostages who have been freed in western Africa following a French special forces military operation that resulted in the deaths of two of their own soldiers, the Elysee announced Friday.

France said the hostages were rescued Thursday night following a battle in Burkina Faso.
They were identified as petty officers Cédric de Pierrepont and Alain Bertoncello. A Facebook post by the French Navy added that both men received numerous awards and recognitions throughout their military careers, such as the Gold Level of the National Defense Medal.
As we've discussed here on a regular basis, the bleeding edges of Islam is a growing issue in Africa.
Islamic extremists have become increasingly active in Burkina Faso, raising worries the militants could be infiltrating northern Benin and neighboring Togo as well. While it is not yet clear who abducted the group and why, neighboring Burkina Faso – once considered a beacon of calm in the otherwise terror-teeming region – has been a growing hotbed for some time.
The U.S. State Department, in a travel advisory issued in early April, warned Americans to "reconsider travel" to Burkina Faso as "terrorist groups continue plotting attacks and kidnappings... and may conduct attacks anywhere."

Thank you Shipmates.