Friday, July 19, 2019

Fullbore Friday

As interest in our 24-min newscycle for the ongoing, now almost generational-length, conflicts against Islamic-inspired extremism in Central Asia and the Middle East approaches another decade of conflict, a lot of exceptional heroism is almost going unnoticed by everyone - even the natsec community.

Today, let's take a moment to recognize one who represents well all those great American servicemembers who came before him; Tech. Sgt. Michael Perolio, USAF.

Via Oriana Pawlyk at Military Times;
On Jan. 11, 2018, Perolio was operating alongside Special Forces Operational Detachment Alpha 0221, partnered with the Afghan 8th Special Operations Kandak Commandos as part of Operation Freedom's Sentinel. He was assigned to Strike Team 3, 22 Special Tactics Squadron...

On the day of the attack, the five men were sent out in an all-terrain vehicle to conduct "a key leader engagement" with local militia as part of a larger mission to clear Islamic State Khorasan, or ISIS-K, fighters in the valley.

After the meeting, their unarmored truck was struck by bullets.

"Ripping through the vehicle, the initial volley of fire critically injured three members of the element, including the ground force commander," according to Perolio's award citation.

"Faced with intense enemy fire, Sergeant Perolio immediately took charge of the element by rendering aid, arming his wounded comrades, and establishing fields of fire," it states.

Perolio stepped out from cover in an attempt to find a way out, especially for the wounded, the citation continues. A barrage of bullets streamed past just 50 meters away from where the team was hunkered down.

He then made contact for backup, including aerial cover.

"Making contact with the responding Quick Reaction Force, Sergeant Perolio directed a series of precise airstrikes, killing 12 enemy combatants and destroying the machine-gun emplacement," the citation states.
You never know when the call to greatness will come, if ever. When it does call, it isn't patient.


Wednesday, July 17, 2019

Tuesday, July 16, 2019

Yemen - a Long Way to Go

ACLED continues to be an exceptional source for data-nuts when it comes to areas of conflict in the world.

Their recent Yemen numbers - combined with the ongoing talk about what is very much a nasty civil war - needs to be put in some context.

Civil Wars are a nasty bit of business and I don't want to diminish 90,000 lost souls, but there needs to be a note of caution for those who think - or hope - that this is close to burning itself out.

In 2016, Yemen had a population of ~28 million. 90,000 is 0.3% of the population.

In 1860, the USA had a population of 31.4 million. 0.3% would be 94,200.

Estimates vary, but sources say between 600,000 and 1-million total deaths North and South in the war. Let's use a nice round compromise of 750,000 dead.

750,000 would be 2.4%.

For Yemen to exhaust itself to the same degree as the USA did in its civil war, 672,000 will need to die.

No, odds are, the killing is a long way from being over.

Another datapoint. By 2016, the UN estimated that 400,000 were killed in the Syrian Civil War. That is about 1.7% of the 2012 population of 22,500,000.

As I said - in Yemen, there is a lot more killing to be done.

Monday, July 15, 2019

What Use is a Frigate?

Practical experience is a tough teacher.

For well over two decades, we have been told that escorting merchants was "old think" - that it simply is no longer needed.

We have been told that general use frigates were jack of all trades, master of none. Not a useful tool.

We have been told that the tanker wars and the confines of the Persian/Arabian Gulf, Strait of Hormuz and Gulf of Oman told us that we needed a LCS type ship. Everyone will need a LCS type ship.

Behold what reality lay-bare in the last week! Behold the experience that puts the lie to all the pet theories of the Potomac Flotilla and their cadre of rent seekers!
A Royal Navy frigate trained its guns on three Iranian boats seeking to force an oil tanker off its route through the Strait of Hormuz, it emerged today.

The military clash took place late evening, local time, yesterday when three Iranian vessels, believed to be manned by forces from Iran’s Islamic Revolution Guard Corps, were spotted speeding towards the BP-operated British Heritage tanker.

They are reported to have ordered it to change course to make it stray out of international waters near the island of Abu Musa as it was heading out of The Gulf....
A Ministry of Defence spokesman said: “Contrary to international law, three Iranian vessels attempted to impede the passage of a commercial vessel, British Heritage, through the Strait of Hormuz.

HMS Montrose was forced to position herself between the Iranian vessels and British Heritage and issue verbal warnings to the Iranian vessels, which then turned away.

“We are concerned by this action and continue to urge the Iranian authorities to deescalate the situation in the region.”
As we've discussed on Midrats, though the USN has foolishly abandoned merchant escort as a duty, it will and must be done. Not just in soft-posturing quasi-confrontations like this, but in a peer fight as well.

Though I don't want to turn this in to a LCS bash, the facts bash LCS just fine themselves, I note that LCS cannot do this mission as well as a frigate, she wasn't designed for it, and would be sub-optimal if asked. Better than nothing, but still. Ironic, being that this is the body of water that helped promote the entire LCS concept at the start, whatever frankenship it later became.

Enough of rehashing that failure of vision, but instead we should ponder which of the FFG(X) fills this requirement.

A quick note about the Type-23 frigate. It is a solid design greatly influenced by the Royal Navy's experience in the Falkland Islands War. HMS MONTROSE (F236) is the 7th of her class of 16. Though only 4,900 tons and a compliment of 185, she is not playing around.
Anti-air missiles:
- 1 × 32-cell Sea Wolf GWS.26 VLS canisters for 32: Sea Wolf (range 1–10 km) or Sea Ceptor missiles (1-25+ km)

Anti-ship missiles:
- 2 × quad Harpoon launchers

Anti-submarine torpedoes:
- 2 × twin 12.75 in (324 mm) Sting Ray torpedo tubes

- 1 × BAE 4.5 inch Mk 8 naval gun
- 2 × 30 mm DS30M Mk2 guns, or, 2 × 30 mm DS30B guns
- 2 × Miniguns
- 4 × General-purpose machine guns
Her big sister is coming over to help out - the RN is a bit thin on numbers (numbers matter) as the international community (read USA) tries to cobble together an international solution to the escort challenge.

UPDATE: Bringing up to the post a great video from the comments section.

Saturday, July 13, 2019

The Once, Past, and Future Strait of Hormuz & Gulf of Oman - on Midrats

From limpet mines on tankers, drone shootdowns, and the HMS Montrose just short of loading grape - the decades long story of Iranian posturing in their near seas continues.

A lot sounds familiar, but the economic and security environment has changed a lot in the four decades.

What is a constant, what has changed, and what should we expect to evolved in one of the most globally important areas of water?

Our guest this Sunday from 5-6pm Eastern to discuss this and more will be returning guest John Keuhn.

Dr. John T. Kuehn is the General William Stofft Chair for Historical Research at the U.S. Army Command and General Staff College. He retired from the U.S. Navy 2004 at the rank of commander after 23 years of service as a naval flight officer in EP-3s and ES-3s. He authored Agents of Innovation (2008) and co-authored Eyewitness Pacific Theater (2008) with D.M. Giangreco, as well as numerous articles and editorials and was awarded a Moncado Prize from the Society for Military History in 2011.

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, July 12, 2019

Fullbore Friday

This week, a guest post FbF. With permission of the author, I've modified a bit to protect his identity.

A little reminder that legends walk amongst us. No battle is small to those who fight it - and in forgotten places in nearly forgotten times, people give their youth, their life, and their friends so we can live the life we have today.

The least we can do is remember their deeds, and speak their names..

On a small island called Sasevale off New Georgia close to the port and airfield of Munda, the tribal chief informed me there was a US monument on the rather tiny island. I was led to a massive anchor next to a flagpole and plaque (pictured below).

Unfortunately, jungle had overgrown the monument, so it was rather unimpressive, but I was happy to note that its patron, Joe Gunterman was from Waterbury, CT, within driving distance where I lived stateside. Small world indeed.

Upon my return, I googled Joe and found he was still alive and kicking. One cold call later and I had an invitation to his house. As I pulled up, I found him at 93 bounding up the stairs to meet a shipmate and filled with unbridled excitement to describe his ship's small role in the glorious Battle of Munda.

Joe had made a lifelong pursuit of finding the anchor he had ceremoniously set on Sasevale and was well prepared for me, and my wife who joined me for the visit, with maps, charts, ship's logs, books and photographs. I had brought, with a minimum of foresight, a digital tape recorder and my attention...also my wife who was understandably a bigger hit than I.

The USS ZANE (DMS 14), was serving as a destroyer minesweep during the war and in the prelude to Munda had received orders to drop an Army company on Sasavele. The orders were delivered by a young officer named John F Kennedy to a ship who named Herman Wouk amongst its wardroom. I was blown away by the fact that these two towering figures could have possibly passed so close. Joe, of course, showed me the ships log entry noting JFKs role in delivering the ZANE's secret orders. After delivering the orders, JFK and PT109 departed to destiny while the ZANE concentrated upon her covert mission.

The ZANE moved out, pulling in close to Sasevalle during the dead of night, unsupported and as covert as possible. As they dropped the fires company ashore, they hit reef and ran aground. Luckily, the ZANE remained undetected and as the company moved ashore, they hatched a plan to get off the reef. First, the ZANE jettisoned her depth charges and they were able to reverse off the reef only to hit the aft end on yet more reef less than 100 meters aft of their position and uncharted. Finally, they dropped the anchor I would see years later to escape the reef and remove themselves to a safer position. This maneuver was captured brilliantly by a local islander in the 70s based upon only his knowledge of the island and the prevailing winds. I, and Joe, found it to be quite accurate. I still have the drawing.

Joe and the ZANE remained on station for the duration of the Battle of Munda, which was so extraordinary that multiple men won the Medal of Honor. It was my pleasure to allow Joe one last chance to relive the experience with me. A true hero. I had arrived arrogant of my own role in our recent war and left humbled by a greater man.

Joe passed away a little over a year later:
WATERBURY - Joseph E. Gunterman, 91, of Waterbury, died Thursday, November 27, 2014 at the Vitas Inpatient Unit at St. Mary's Hospital. He was the husband of the late Joyce (Becker) Gunterman to whom he was married to from 1947 until her death in 2009. 
Mr. Gunterman was born in Waterbury May 11, 1923 and was a U.S. Navy Veteran having serving in the South Pacific during World War II. He was stationed on the USS Zane, which was the model for the stories of the novel The Caine Mutiny.

After his military service Mr. Gunterman worked for SNET for forty years. He was also a builder and general contractor building many homes and condominiums in the area. He stayed active buying and selling properties up until his last illness.
Mr. Gunterman is survived by his daughter, Nancy Manoni and her husband Lee of Southington, a granddaughter, Julie Modeen and her husband Andrew of Middlebury, a great grandson, Benjamin, and a sister, Barbara Capozzi of NJ.
Friends are welcome at the Murphy Funeral Home, 115 Willow St. on Monday December 1, 2014 from 10:00 a.m. until 11 a.m. Entombment will follow in Calvary Queen of Peace Mausoleum.

Thursday, July 11, 2019

NATO in Three Graphs

For those like me who deeply care about the NATO alliance, take some time to read last July's Pew Report if you have not already.

There are three graphs from their data that illustrate well some of the common points we've discussed here through the years.

If you want a good idea who would likely step if the call came, this is a good benchmark. 

This next graph is a good measure of entitlement and inherent free-ridership.

Poland and my people in The Netherlands are both outliers here. Good for them.

...and here is the "put your money where your mouth is" graph. Sadly, the Dutch are failing to do so - but look at Poland.

Poland deserves more of our support and encouragement. 

Much more.