Wednesday, November 15, 2006

The Stalking of the KITTY HAWK

Like Lex, I have held off putting anything down on the Chinese Sub that interrupted the USS KITTY HAWK's games. You see, there are some things you just don't talk about. Bubblehead has some interesting thoughts that I am mostly in line with, but TheSubReport has a percentage of the smart thinking as well. Being that, Admiral Fallon has spoken, I will dip my toe in the water some.
First let me say this; cocky arrogance based on your archaic POV of ASW is a recipe for getting your ship sunk and your Sailors killed. Period. A lot of the "bunch of primitive Chinamen" bravado crap has to stop. Now. That same kink of talk was made about the fighting ability of Iraqis and the cake walk we would have. Not so funny, or true, now - is it? Stowe it.

The Chinese know what they are doing. They are playing the Long Game - an ongoing story here that long time readers are aware of. They are smart, large, and growing stronger by the WalMart shopping day. They have a history and culture that makes our upstart post-colonial melting pot look like the long-legged, klutzy teenager that it is. Sure they have challenges, but I ask you - where is their trend line?

Enough of the Chinese. Let's talk about us. I am not going to talk about what did or did not happen with the Sh1tty Kitty. I am going to talk in more general terms.

1. Sitting in your chair in confidence of Foxtrot Mike technology making everything easy? Nice tools, but you are a fool.

2. How familiar are you with the waters around China?

3. Do you really understand the time-distance challenges of the Pacific? Seriously, get the map out with your circular slide rule.

4. Assume your subs are as perfect as you think. Fine. Can they be everywhere? Of course not. ASW is a numbers game in wartime. Look at the proficiency of our SH-60 series of helos in ASW. Ditto what little is left of our fixed wing ASW. S-3 is long gone, and what few P-3s we have left are trying to stay together long enough to preserve their community's Major Command billets till the P-8A shows up ~ half-way through the next decade. Ship ASW? Harumph. DD's - gone. FF(not so G)'s - might as well be gone. DDG-51s? Nice bit of kit - but those MK-41 cells have employment elsewhere outside ASW. As for the training and tactical sustainability of the above units? Don't BS a BS'r. I know where the money has gone over the last 15 years. ASW sensors and training has not been it.

5. Assume you have found your "Made in China" SS. Ready to kill it? Really? 'Nuff said there.

6. Ready for sustained ASW prosecution? Read what I have about the Falklands War? Magazine and lockers ready to go?

7. Like your LWT? What if they don't quite work like you want, or you run out after a few days attacking ghosts? What then? Have a back-up plan? Have a back-up weapon? Where are all your eggs? It isn't hard to figure out how things can twist in war. It really isn't. Arrogance and wishing your problems away will only get you killed.
It is hard to laugh at that non-nuke submarine that sank that USS ASHLAND 36 hours ago when you only have one SSTT MK-46 left and your helo is down until you can get another engine. To think that crew sailed all the way from Norfolk just to go like that. What was it, around 60 out of 800 or so Sailors and Marines the LASSEN and CARR managed to pluck out of the water?

You know she is out there. 8 hours ago the P-3 flying out of Guam thought she saw her and dropped two MK-54 on a POSSUB contact over a 45 minute timeframe with nothing to show for it; and that was 15NM away from where everyone else thinks the SS is. Well, where the LASSEN attacked her. Thinks she attacked her. At least she still has a helo and 6 LWT left. The nearest US SSN, the HOUSTON, is another 8 hrs or so think... You can't sleep because every 90 minutes or so someone thinks they saw something or there is something interesting on the UYS-1 that they just have to tell you about. You don't know if it is the caffeine or the pain in your stomach that is keeping you awake...but you are bolt awake.

So, here you are. You, the REUBAN JAMES and the HOPPER are limping your way back to Guam at 5 knots with only one mission - get the NEW ORLEANS and her 1,000 plus Sailors and Marines back in one piece while the rest of the STRIKE GROUP keeps heading west. There she is. Still a 10 degree port list.

5 knots. You swear she is going backwards. Lucky ship though. They say that Yuan-class (they think) fired four torps at her. Only one hit. Lucky ship. How many dead? Don't know. Forgot. Missing? They don't know. We aren't looking. Something tells you we left someone behind. You'll worry about that later.

Why can't she go faster. Why? Two up helos that have even a prayer of doing ASW. 4 hours of P-3 time a day, the more reliable P-8s are all going west. Why didn't they give us more to fight with knowing we are on our own?

"Unlikely to follow... possibly sunk... mission kill... better water for ASW..." Is it because you are so tired that you laugh everytime you hear someone say that?

With the ESG running as fast as the slowest Gator Freighter to the waiting arms of the NORTH CAROLINA, and the BUSHSTRIKEGROUP; it is you and the Pacific. Cold, dark, quite Pacific. It doesn't look so peaceful anymore. A cigar on the helo deck no longer helps you relax. Every wave top looks like something it shouldn't be.

There is so much that needs to be done.

5 KTS. Days away. ASCM, even with less than a minute warning, you are comfortable with; but their torpedoes. The impotence. When you put your last MK-46 over the side and listen until its motor runs out of Otto fuel, what do you do then? Throw bug-juice at her? Have another P-3 chase a ghost in the middle of the night keeping your little ambulance service on edge? From what you are reading on message traffic, the odds are they will be out of sonobuoys tomorrow anyway at the rate they are throwing them out to the west. So, you will have that going for you. You'll take the radar though.

You are sick of contact reports that mean nothing. Intel that takes 3 pages to remind you that there are known unknowns out there. This morning you watched a 18-year AD1 break into tears because he couldn't fix your helo's broke-a55 engine and he was convinced that hundreds were going to die because he could make it happen. All he needs is sleep, but he won't. You won't. You can't.

5 KTS. If you could get another 100NM away from the flaming DATUM you would feel better. 20 hours. No way that Chinese Skipper is still stalking our poor wounded girl. You would know. You should know. You don't know, do you? Our active sonar is so good and our tails are the best in the world - buy why did we miss her after the attack a day and a half ago? It isn't supposed to happen this way. You are so tired.

5 KTS. 20 minutes of sleep, that is all you want. 20 minutes of blessed slumber.

No, we don't need to panic now. This Chinese SS thingy isn't a crisis...but it is an opportunity to think. Be humble. Do a little ORM. It is sleeping now while a potential challenger slowly reaches the tipping point that makes me worry.

No comments: