Monday, October 27, 2008

Launching the Counter Revolution at Sea

Have we been transforming our pants down to our ankles?

In the last year, there has been a slow move toward understanding that there is a huge, systemic problem in our Navy from a warfighting perspective. I think the tipping point was when the new Maritime Strategy came out and the general response was; feh.

In many ways I credit SECNAV Winter in the Chain of Command, but others who have been yelling into the winds for years. One of the best representatives of the breed is Robert D. Kaplan's NOV 07 piece in, of all things, The Atlantic titled Americas Elegant Decline. I am not going to get into that – I’ll let you read it. Instead I am going to do a little single draft string of consciousness on a subject, to be frank, I have almost tired of discussing, but … like hitting a rough spot in a marriage, true love faces problems and works through them. So, let’s see where we wind up.If we are turning my way – i.e. power to the Antitransformationalists – then let’s do a summary review of a few dozen posts her over the last few years as some things just need repeating.

Time to break one taboo - I am going to praise the Army for a bit. For the US Army, it wasn’t supposed to have worked out like this. Though the Army is on the right path in 2008; 2004 to 2007 were very tough times for the Army. Exceptionally tough. A well loved theory was experiencing a slow bloody death. Transformation - Revolution in Military Affairs - Army After Next - etc ...

The facts of war have a habit of ravaging a many precious theory. In 2001-02 as military forces swept up the Kandahar plain in 2001-2002 without the burden of artillery and armor in unarmored HUMVEEs, through the first heady days of “shock and awe,” Transformationalist forces of the Army and the Air Force who were leading champions pointing to a brighter future of quicker, lighter, faster, cheaper all seemed to be heading to a bright shining down of promise. It was all a false dawn, a mirage.

All that wonderful theory came crashing into the wreckage of Iraq to the point that six years later the Army is straining to recapitalize the once thought unnecessary armor, and the rest of its equipment. Even Canada was going to get rid of their BMT are now getting new Leapoard 2s based on the reality of Afghanistan. The helicopters, A-10s, C-130 and all the unsexy stuff that was once thought to be just excess overhead now cannot be found in numbers needed – and are being worn out at an alarming rate.

Seeing what the Army and Air Force has seen – mostly the Army and Marines though – what lessons does it hold for the Navy? We have been lucky – except for our Special Forces, Seabees, Corpsmen and a few specialty areas (like the resurrected RIVRONS I love so much) – we have remain untested by the harsh teacher of war.

Where do we find ourselves in the second half of the first decade of the 21st Century? Far from the light and mobile, everything is getting uparmored, having .50 cals put on the roof, and covered with RPG cages right out of 1970. The MBT has become a critical enabler in the urban and exurban battlefield we find ourselves in. None of this should have been a surprise or a bolt out of the blue. From Vietnam to Somalia and countless of conflicts in between – it was all there to see…if you wanted to. But that wasn’t the peacetime fashion for most.

What happened was senior leadership on balance became seduced by the sexy new theories and ignored the battlefield lessons looking them right in the face. Simple things. There was no need for the unarmored HUMVEE crisis of ’03 and ’04 when that requirement was made obvious a decade earlier in Somalia – and answer was available even earlier with the early version of the MRAP developed in South Africa during the last stages of the Apartheid Struggle.

The RPG cages you see on all the Strykers and like APC should have been standard kit when first deployed. We knew about them in Vietnam. Notice all the protection for the 50 cal gunners you see now? Ditto – but that lesson goes back to WWII even.

The shockingly obvious utility of the MBT, A-10 and even dogs that fell out of fashion all have similar stories. We are relearning these because the battlefield is not going to follow the pet theories and protected projects of people who are not focused beyond the PPT or the spreadsheet. War is not new. Not on land, not at sea.

As a Navy, we need to ask ourselves, “What are we ignoring? What is our unarmored HUMVEE? What is our RPG cage? What is our 50 cal ammo shortage?”

As we push our own Future Think, what lessons of history are we forgetting for reasons of convenience, neglect or ignorance that will come back to haunt us during the next Navy war?

That war is coming. It may be in a month, a year, 10 years or 20 – or 100, but it is coming. When the Congressional Committee asks the questions about our shortfalls – are we sure that we have done our best to take care of the obvious ones? Are we ready?

Though not a comprehensive list by any stretch, here is a quick list of the top 6 Phibian’s Phacts of Naval Warphare of the Last 30 Years:

-- Your anti-submarine weapons will work as well as you thought, and you don't have enough.
-- Mines will show up where you don’t expect them – starting underneath your capital ships.
-- You do not have enough or large caliber enough gunfire available to engage targets at sea and ashore.
-- You will work in crowded waterways closer to shore with less support than you expected. As a result you will be doing one mission set when the other mission set shows up inside your screen when you don't what him to.
-- You will not have enough anti-air capability in number and redundancy.
-- You are not ready for ground-based ASCM.

You will go to war with the Navy you have. Surprised will happen, but there are few excuses for ignoring the lessons of the past. Without going back to WWII even (which would chew up 1,000 words of things valid in 2008), let me give you a few examples of what informs my Phacts from the last 30 years.

-- ASW: Do you have a diversity of weapons? Are they tested where you expect the enemy to be? Are they tested in optimal conditions, or what could be expected by a standard Navy condition and standard Navy crews? Do you have enough warshots available for sistained surege operations with attacks on false targets? What is your backup plan if your primary weapon does not work? Review the Falkland Islands War and the Indo-Pakistanin wars.

-- Mines: DESERT STORM. Iran-Iraq War. Nuff said.

-- NSFS (guns): Falkland Islands War, 5-Inch Friday off Al Faw during OIF, DESERT STORM.

-- Shore anti-ship cruise missiles and close to shore operations: Israel-Hezbollah War, Falkland Islands War, DESERT STORM, OIF. We don't need to worry about anti-ship ballistic missiles - we aren't where we need to be for sustained anti-ship cruise missiles defense - fix ASCM then worry about ASBM.

-- AAW: Falkland Islands War.

Looking around the Fleet, what do I see as the trends?

-- ASW: Red going to Red.
-- MIW: Red going to Red.
-- Gun: Yellow going towards Green – but under threat.
-- AAW: Yellow going to Red.
-- ASCM: Yellow going to Red.

Remember, the enemy gets a vote. We cannot be static in our thoughts. We cannot remove SM-1 from FF (not-so-G) without replacing a like weapon similar to the Australians with a 8-cell VLS – and launch DDG without CIWS and not think that is a poor response to an expanding air threat.

As a VADM asked of me recently – here is an solution option forward. Easy to point out problems – a little more difficult to offer solutions. Cost? Well --- that is a different post --- and you won't like it.

ASW: SSN are doing quite well from what I see – but they aren’t the single stop shopping for ASW. They know it and we know it. Surface and Air must have better Light Weight Torpedoes in a number that gives us time to fight and win. Nuff said on this net. We also need weapons diversity – putting all our ASW hopes in one weapon is asking for defeat. If you only have one way to kill a sub and they can counter it - then you might as well never leave port. Crude but effective weapons from a hydrostatic fuse that will turn any dumb bomb on any aircraft into a depth charge is a start. Everything that flies becomes a sub killer when you need it. It is there – all you need to do is fund it. The Europeans have some outstanding secondary ASW weapons for knife fighting that will go where SSK like to play dead. Also, helos are great – but if their one weapon in the LWT is either Winchester or ineffective – all they are good for is telling you where the torp is coming from. There are no perfect sensors – and war winning technology has never won a war. We know that the MK1 Mod. 0 eyeball and the flaming datum will always be the best submarine finder – once you find it, do you have confidence that you can kill it so it can’t kill again. Do you have the numbers of ships to lose a few and still fight until our learning curve come up to a point we can find them before the flaming datum?

MIW: stop killing it. That simple – the tools are there to rescue our capability to conduct MIW before it all goes away. We rely on our allies’ shrinking assets at our own peril. LCS is not the answer.

Guns: make 155mm the new standard – make sure the load-out is multi-mission - more than one mount is preferable - but a pipe dream I know.

AAW: more and varied. Not every threat is going to be a ASCM or ASBM. Bad things usually come at you in numbers. It is safe to say that what you have now is not enough regardless of what platform you are on. The Brits resorted to having every weapon down to pistols and rifles topside for AAW shooting at jets - all because they thought Sea Dart and 4.5" could handle everything. It can't. We will improvise too if we have to. More than one missile system and more crew served weapons and the crews trained in their use. They are also nice for close ASUW – especially the 50 cal to 30 mm variety.

ASCM: respect and prepare. 10nm from shore is less than 1 minute warning if you are watching. In a day where they can park in a house’s garage – travel 50 meters and shoot at you visually – we need to respect and prepare for that fact. Damage control ready? We will be hit.

War is hard – the enemy will want to make it harder – shouldn’t we want to mitigate the known-knowns?

Vince Lombardi would agree - you have to master the fundamentals.

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