Sunday, September 30, 2018

European Naval Power, with Jeremy Stöhs - on Midrats

What is the status of European naval power? With growing challenges from the Arctic Sea to the Mediterranean and a growing call for presence operations from the Gulf of Guinea to the South China Sea, how are the European nations building and maintaining fleets to remain effective and relevant regionally and on the high seas?

Our guest to discuss this and more for the full hour this Sunday at 3pm Eastern will be Jeremy Stöhs.

Jeremy is an Austrian-American defense analyst at the Institute for Security Policy at Kiel University (ISPK) and its adjunct Center for Maritime Strategy & Security. He is also a non-resident fellow of the Austrian Center for Intelligence, Propaganda & Security Studies (ACIPSS) and author of The Decline of European Naval Forces: Challenges to Sea Power in an Age of Fiscal Austerity and Political Uncertainty. You can follow him on twitter at @JeremyStohs.

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

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, September 28, 2018

Fullbore Friday

On October 17th we will see the upgrading of a Navy Cross to Medal of Honor for Sergeant Major John L. Canley, USMC (Ret).

His Navy Cross citation:
The President of the United States of America takes pleasure in presenting the Navy Cross to Gunnery Sergeant John L. Canley (MCSN: 1455946), United States Marine Corps, for extraordinary heroism while serving as Company Gunnery Sergeant of Company A, First Battalion, First Marines, FIRST Marine Division (Reinforced), Fleet Marine Force, during operations against the enemy in the Republic of Vietnam from 31 January to 6 February 1968. On 31 January, when his company came under a heavy volume of enemy fire near the city of Hue, Gunnery Sergeant Canley rushed across the fire-swept terrain and carried several wounded Marines to safety. Later, with the company commander seriously wounded, Gunnery Sergeant Canley assumed command and immediately reorganized his scattered Marines, moving from one group to another to advise and encourage his men. Although sustaining shrapnel wounds during this period, he nonetheless established a base of fire which subsequently allowed the company to break through the enemy strongpoint. Retaining command of the company for the following three days, Gunnery Sergeant Canley on 4 February led his men into an enemy-occupied building in Hue. Despite fierce enemy resistance, he succeeded in gaining a position immediately above the enemy strongpoint and dropped a large satchel charge into the position, personally accounting for numerous enemy killed, and forcing the others to vacate the building. On 6 February, when his unit sustained numerous casualties while attempting to capture a government building, Gunnery Sergeant Canley lent words of encouragement to his men and exhorted them to greater efforts as they drove the enemy from its fortified emplacement. Although wounded once again during this action, on two occasions he leaped a wall in full view of the enemy, picked up casualties, and carried them to covered positions. By his dynamic leadership, courage, and selfless dedication, Gunnery Sergeant Canley contributed greatly to the accomplishment of his company's mission and upheld the highest traditions of the Marine Corps and of the United States Naval Service.
I'll let the Marines who served with him speak for me.

I look forward to this.

Thursday, September 27, 2018

Absence Makes the Need Grow Fonder

Usually, things go from here to twitter - but today we're going to reverse the flow.

What got my blood up this AM? A good 24-hrs of people commenting on Sam LaGrone's great article on our CVN deployment gap.
Aircraft carriers – the most visible tools of U.S. military power – are spending more time in maintenance and at home even as the Pentagon has declared it’s entered a new era of competition with China and Russia.

According to a USNI News analysis of more than 50 years of carrier air wing deployments over the last 15 months, the Navy has seen the lowest number of carrier strike groups underway since 1992, the year following the dissolution of the Soviet Union.
It is nicely summarized with this pic;

Well, a few things. This is,
1) Good news. We’ve been shooting up the horse for way too long.
2) Get used to it. There is neither the political will or the budgetary heft to build enough CVN to meet what we think we need. Our friend Bryan McGrath is correct, 13 is the minimum, but Congress will never fund that nor the airwings to put on them - not to mention proper escort numbers.

We need to accept this as we are about to enter the Terrible 20s. Political disruption has only begun, we will have a recession NLT 1QFY21, we will spend more on interest on the debt than DOD by 2023.

Medicare goes insolvent in 2026, Social Security 2034.

We need to learn to do what we can with what we will get, than think about doing more with what we will never have budgeted.

This isn’t the future I want, but it is the one the last 2-decades of politicians gave us.

The Terrible 20s are neigh. Don't avert your eyes, focus.

H/t Cavas.

Wednesday, September 26, 2018

Buy Italian, All the Cool Kids Are

FFG(X) ... the lines keep pointing to the right solution.

I go there again over at USNIBlog.

Come on by and give it a read.

Tuesday, September 25, 2018

How long do we want our ships in service again?

Last week we looked at aircraft maintenance a bit. Let's take some time to look again at ship maintenance.

All the talk the last 18-months about a 355-ship Navy has left me cold for a couple of reasons beyond the budget hole;

1. We have a huge backlog of deferred maintenance and gundecked maintenance needing correction that needs funds.
2. We are not properly budgeting (though indications are improvements are being made here in the last year+), in time or money how much it is going to take to make sure our ships last as long as some want them too.

I have two things for you to consider in line with the above;

First let's check in with Ike;
Aircraft carrier USS Dwight D. Eisenhower (CVN-69) will remain tied up in maintenance at Norfolk Naval Shipyard until early 2019, resulting in a maintenance availability about triple the expected six-month length.

Eisenhower is no stranger to overrun availabilities, after its last 14-month docked availability ran about 24 months. The carrier is the second oldest in the fleet at 41 years old – only outdone by lead ship USS Nimitz (CVN-68) at 43 years old – and has been among the hardest-run carriers in the fleet, contributing to its maintenance difficulties.
This is a sober and correct response. We should use this experience to re-calibrate the benchmarks we use to estimate yard time;
“The U.S. Navy is committed to sending to sea ships that are at a peak level of readiness in terms of manning, training and equipment. Anything less is unacceptable,” U.S. Naval Air Force Atlantic spokesman Cmdr. Dave Hecht told USNI News on Friday.

“In terms of maintenance of a nuclear-powered aircraft carrier, that is an extremely complex process, especially when it comes to vessels that have been in service for as long as USS Dwight D. Eisenhower. IKE’s maintenance is pressing forward with all expediency, and while delayed, we expect the ship and her crew to return to sea in the near future, fully capable to execute any mission handed to them.”
Next, a picture.

Just look at this PAO pic from the USS WASP (LHD 1). What concerns me more, I don't know; that the ship is in such a condition or that our Navy decided that it was OK to put out a photo demonstrating such as a good-news story.

What message does this send to our friends and potential adversaries? Does this give the impression of a navy on the rise or decline? Of a serious sea power (yes, two words this time), or one that is coasting on reputation and inertia?

Monday, September 24, 2018

The Niger Delta Pirates Strike Again

Where there is lawlessness and the cost/benefit ratio is good, there will be pirates.

This time, the Niger Delta in the Gulf of Guinea;
Pirates have kidnapped 12 crew members from a Swiss cargo vessel in Nigerian waters.

Massoel Shipping said its vessel, MV Glarus, was carrying wheat from Lniagos to Port Harcourt when it was attacked on Saturday.

"The pirate gang boarded the Glarus by means of long ladders and cut the razor wire on deck," the firm told AFP.

The intruders struck 45 nautical miles from Bonny Island in the Niger Delta, taking 12 of the 19 crew hostage.

A spokesman for Geneva-based Massoel said the pirates had "destroyed much of the vessel's communications equipment".

Seven of the crew members are from the Philippines, with a national from each of Slovenia, Ukraine, Romania, Croatia and Bosnia, Reuters reports, quoting Nigeria's maritime agency.
This is a known area for pirates. The area the ship was taken is about 2/3 of the way south of Bonny Island in the map below.

As regular readers know, I am at the far end of the spectrum when it comes to pirates. I don't care what your economic conditions are; if you go to sea to steal merchandise, ships, or people - your life is forfeit.

The oceans are too large, the margins for commerce too narrow, to allow there to be any incentive to raid commerce at sea. This ship was carrying wheat for goodness sake.

Well, here's Sal's advice. Throw it away if you wish, but it is the best.

The Swiss do not have a navy. They do not have an expeditionary military. They do not have allies. What they do have is their reputation.

Another thing they have is a lot of gold and a freedom guaranteed by the knowledge that the Swiss are neutral, but are armed to the teeth.

The Swiss need to play to their reputation - mostly untested in the last couple hundred years, but coasting off the blood of centuries well earned. They need to find the best mercenaries money can buy. Pay for them to get their ship back as soon as possible and with as few of the crew killed as possible. Then they need to find out where these pirates came from and who bankrolled them. They then need to hunt the principals/leaders down and have them killed one by one. No need to advertise what they are doing. They should actually try to keep it officially quiet.

The pirates will know though, and in the future, Swiss flagged ships will be allowed to go unmolested.

Also, it might be helpful to have small armed guards on your ships when sailing in pirate infested waters. Yes, I known, margins ...

Friday, September 21, 2018

Fullbore Friday

HMS Nelson. One of the more curious, no, the most curious Battleship classes (2) ever built. 

The first thing that comes to mind is "Shipmate, where is your stern?" If it looks like a ship built by committee, well that is because it is. 

A product of The Washington Treaty, "compromises" were made. Though it was the only RN ship with 16" guns, the ship herself was a tad slow, and once the war was done - like the rest of the RN Battleships - off to the breakers she went.

Best pictures here. Other sites here and here.

Orig. posted 16JUN06.

Thursday, September 20, 2018

Diversity Thursday

There are few things that will upset the diversity bullies more than people spending their days treating each other as individuals. Worse than that for them are people who happily accept the glorious mixture of their DNA sources as opposed to self-classifying themselves in to some other's narrow racist sectarian wedge more in like with AKC dog breeder or early 19th century eugenicists view of things.

When they run in to an organization that is fully mature and equal in how it treats everyone, they get especially upset as, if there is no racial, ethnic, and gender based discrimination, how on Earth will they justify their paycheck?

Half a century after legally sanctioned discrimination went to the dustbin of history (at least in the USA) and at the end of the second decade of the 21st Century, 99.9% of Americans just go about their daily business (if allowed) without fretting on things as meaningless as the race, creed, color or national origin of the person next to them. In such a world, how are the legions of mal-educated cadres in the diversity commissariat going to find employment?

Make business, of course! Like themselves, they know that in any population there are a few individuals who define themselves by their victim-hood status - as that is how they excuse all the problems they run in to as they drift through life. Everything is not perfect, you see, because they are being victimized.

Problem is, what if there is no evidence of their victim-hood? Just the opposite - what if they like everyone else they are treated by objective standards? Well ... one must feed a grievance.

Like the alien in the dog kennel from The Thing - so too the diversity industry is throwing out another tentacle in search of a productive hold.

Years before they were thrown in your face, we warned you about the rise of "micro-aggressions" as the new unprovable addition to the miasma of division. Now, thanks to the diversity bullies over at CNRF, we have something else for you to look forward to being preached to from the rent-seeking Orwellian cadres ... "micro-inequalities."

Don't laugh too hard. There are people who are going to use this to make your life a Kafkaesque hell if you don't push back before they get you.
All of us communicate daily in the workplace by sending unconscious signals defined as “micro-inequities.” Micro-inequities are the subtle slights we send to other people, through our social signals. Our social signals are sent to one another through our behavior. They are called “micro” because the behaviors are small; however, their impact can be enormous in the workplace.

Micro-inequities are usually unconscious thoughts that may cause one to feel devalued, slighted, discouraged and excluded. Discrimination occurs in many forms; often people just shake it off until they can no longer take it. One can be singled out as a minority because of race, color, age, disability, religion, gender, national origin, disability, marital status, weight, and economic status. So, what types of signals are you sending in the workplace? Here are a few examples:

1. Being left out of a discussion or project, constantly being interrupted while you are talking.

2. Trying to speak with someone who is reading/sending emails during conversation.

3. Talking with someone who keeps looking at their watch.

4. Not being introduced in a meeting and then being ignored.

5. Avoidance of eye contact, rolling of the eyes, cutting down ideas before they can be entertained, staying on the cell phone with no explanation, mispronouncing your name or misspelling your name or change in voice pitch, volume or rate.

6. Change in body posture, change in hand movements and gestures, fake or masked forced smile.

These subtle slights may impact the workplace by causing employees to quit or leave their job because of “unfair treatment.” This damages the command’s recruitment and retention efforts, and lowers employee morale and productivity levels. We can change our behaviors by first becoming aware of them and then changing the behavior. We want to make sure we are sending microaffirmations, which are signals that cause people to feel valued, included, and encouraged. Here are a few positive micro-affirmations: giving positive feedback on a job well done, congratulating someone on their promotion or contribution, and recognition of a coworkers importance to the team. Let’s all make sure we are sending those positive affirmations in the workplace.
Read it all and bask in the glory.

Hat tip W.

Wednesday, September 19, 2018

End the Syrian Civil War Before Mistakes are Made

It is time to let the Syrians and Russians clean things up west of the Euphrates.

More reasons why over at USNIBlog.

hat tip Sid. Map graphic scwm.

Tuesday, September 18, 2018

Large Surface Combatant Act 1: What Happened to CG(X)

With the news out that we are restarting the process (again) to replace our effective but aged TICONDEROGA Class CG, it would be helpful to look back at the first attempt to deliver a concept, last decade's aborted CG(X) study.

A friend known to me IRL was involved in that process first hand, and he agreed to put together a guest post, anonymously, on what he saw as the most important things for the new team to consider.

Over to him.

It was encouraging to read that the Navy is pressing forward with a “large surface combatant requirements evaluation team” to address replacement of the Ticonderoga-class Aegis cruisers. Early in the last decade, I was involved in the $20 million CG(X) Study that burped out a $7 billion nuclear cruiser and was, understandably, discarded. We did things the usual way and we got the usual results—an unaffordable platform. In this case, unlike other notable shipbuilding programs, somebody had the courage to reject it out of hand.

Our CG(X) study was a multi-year effort which involved every organ of the defense industry: OPNAV, NAVSEA, Naval Reactor Navy Labs, FFRDC’s (Federally Funded Research and Development Centers), AEGIS-BMD and, importantly, industry.

The study was led by an intrepid young officer, who worked for a rotating pool of Captains, and a rotating pool of Admirals, all of whom were in DC to make their mark and go onto the next career milestone. It was from this blur of leadership that the requirements for the new cruiser emerged. At that time, it concerned the Chinese DF-21D missile.

Requirements for power also emerged. Even then we could see that the new direction was directed energy or other high energy systems (e.g., railgun). Sustainability (the ability to operate independently for sustained periods) was recognized as a priority.

During the processes of analyzing alternatives, we looked at several hull forms. One suggestion was the LPD-17 LPD. It was the “knee in the curve” cost- and capability-wise. But it wasn’t fast. And it wasn’t CRUDES. And it couldn’t operate without support.

Superimposed upon all this was a lingering imperative from then-Defense Secretary Rumsfeld that if a platform didn’t have “transformational” technology (new stuff) it was subject to divestment. So, the result of the CG(X) study—now incomprehensible--is completely understandable if you understand the politics and the less austere budget at the time.

If I were to offer those undertaking this new study some advice, it would be this:

1. Requirements Evaluation Team. Require they produce a written letter (not a PowerPoint brief) at the end of their study and have each of them sign it. All the members. That way, years from now, we will know who to thank or blame. This is part of the problem.

2. Billet permanence in requirements generation. Imbed senior Program office people into OPNAV N96 (Surface Warfare). Let the people who actually have to execute this stuff at least be in the room when these requirements are generated. Make the tour lengths five years.

3. Surface warfare really needs to rethink its love affair with BMD. Once seen as a cash cow for building Aegis ships, what has actually happened is the Navy is paying for much of this mission out of hide. Specifically out of surface warfare readiness. BMD ships are tethered to a spot in the ocean to provide missile protection, are often denied opportunity for in port maintenance. The ships I saw in worse shape were those doing BMD.

4. Resurrect the “one technology innovation per platform” rule that guided us from post-WWII through the cold war.

We used to limit the introduction of new technologies to one per platform, so as not to risk the efficacy of a platform because of the failure of a single new system.

My sense in reading RADM Route’s comments is that this is the direction they are heading in (using an existing platform). But I wanted to say it just in case.

Photo credit sabotage181.

Monday, September 17, 2018

Mali and Africa's Past, Now, and Next

The forever war has many fronts - the one in Mali, once OPERATION SERVAL now BARKHANE has France in the lead.

Mali has a historic ties to France, its former colonial ruler. Mali experienced the usual socialist led dysfunction following independence in the later-middle part of the 20th Century, but in the last decade or so has tried, in fits and starts, to become a modern, more-free nation. Sadly, they are right on the bleeding edge of Dar al Islam and all that comes with that. Combined with nightmarish demographics unimaginable to the Western mind - this will not be an easy fix even if they were not facing an aggressive internal threat.

Stability is the key, but due to the above and more factors, instability will be the expected norm for Mali for awhile. All France and her allies can do is to try to mitigate the negative effects, and nurture the positive developments in the country. The more they succeed there, not just in the Long War, the better for everyone from Cape Town in the south, to Bear Island in the north.

As old as human history, as it is now;
His door and iron-sheet roof were missing; his granary was a mound of rubble on the floor. In his hands, the 59-year-old held out a pile of charred groundnuts he had cultivated, before crumbling them into dust.

“It is painful to look at,” he said.

Besides one stoic village chief who sat sharpening his knife on a rock under the baking sun, there is nobody left in Kara. Everybody else fled the ethnic Dogon village one morning in May when armed men from the neighbouring village – populated by Fulani herdsman – climbed over a sand dune shooting wildly in the air.

Everything of value was stolen; the rest was burnt.

Kara is just one among dozens of villages looted and torched in the past few months as a conflict between armed members of Mali’s Dogon and Fulani communities ripples through the heart of the country, claiming hundreds of lives and displacing thousands of people.

Analysts say the conflict has been triggered by the increasing presence of jihadists linked to al-Qaeda in central Mali. They have recruited heavily among Fulani herders, fuelling distrust with other ethnic groups, including the Dogon, some of whom have organised into abusive new self-defence militias.

“Both sides are killing each other,” said Fatou Thiam, head of the Mopti office of the UN peacekeeping mission in Mali, known as MINUSMA.

The conflict underscores Mali’s struggle to restore order three years after a peace deal was signed between the government and armed groups in the north, including separatist Tuareg rebels, who seized large parts of the country following a 2012 military coup in the capital, Bamako.

Islamist militants, who joined forces with the separatists before a French-led intervention pushed them back, have gradually expanded their sphere of influence from the desert north into Mali’s previously peaceful centre.

This year 5.2 million Malians are in need of humanitarian assistance, compared to 3.8 million in 2017. The number of internally displaced people has also doubled since January to 75,000, according to the UN’s emergency aid coordination office, OCHA, the majority in the central Mali.
I know, I know. I am the one who pushes back against getting involved in foreign adventures, but this is not quite like a full-on invasion of a nation with sketchy impact on USA or allied national security.

This is helping our oldest ally who is helping another nation fight our common enemy - radical Islam. Mali itself is a Muslim country, 90% Muslim - but Islam is not the enemy. Radical Islam is.

Africa will never join the rest of the world in a future of promise if its northern half is under the black flag of radical Islam.

Worse, the conflict and death that a Western defeat in Mali would bring would further drive the exodus of millions to Europe - further destabilizing European nations' hard-won democratic systems and social norms.

This is something we should help our French allies with. Not lead; not dominate - this is their backyard. There are things we can do to help.

One example; you know what the US Navy could do to help the French? They have a riverine challenge;
French desert troops recently took to boats to patrol the Niger River in Mali, the first time that the crafts have been used in the Barkhane counter-terrorism operation in the Sahel, the French armed forces said.

Anticipating the rainy season and river flooding, soldiers attached to the French army’s Desert Battle Group – Infantry (GTDI) deployed the boats which enable them to get to areas difficult to reach by land.
Just look at what they are trying to patrol the Niger with.

Remember my post from FEB 2005? France looks to be in a place we were at then.

We have units that would be perfect for this. Additionally, we should call our friends in Colombia who have exceptionally good kit and the best operational riverine experience in the West. Have them join us in an ongoing rotational deployment. This would be a good way to contribute to the good work France is doing in support of the Mali government.

Friday, September 14, 2018

Fullbore Friday

A return to a topic we've covered before on FbF, but I think we should be thinking about the Battle of Tsushima more, and not less - so we're bringing it back.

A couple of great videos to review while you keep a couple of things in mind; an established power with maintenance issues and long lines of communication to get to the fight; a rising power with well run and maintained ships fighting in their backyard.

If you want to see more of the MIKASA (and you know you do);

If you'd rather just see warships belching coal and belting out broadsides ...

Never underestimate your enemy. Never underestimate the Japanese. Always, fullbore.

Thursday, September 13, 2018

The Depot Dearth

Why do we seem to have such a problem keeping an eye on the unsexy but important? Isn't one of the cornerstones of a mature professional to know the importance of keeping a long view on the hard work needed in the background to keep the marquee shiny-sexy objects functioning?

Especially when money gets tight or the pressures of the now ratchet up, there is a temptation for the short-sighted to sacrifice long-term viability for today's green bubble on the PPT. We saw this in spades during the "Peace Dividend" era of the 1990s and again in a slower way once the Long War kicked off.

There is a lot of ruin in a navy, and deep decay can take root for a long time until it finally undermines the structural strength of its host. So it is, it seems, with depot level maintenance.

On the Surface side of the house, one of the big takeaways on the latent causes of the WESTPAC incidents of 2017 was that our ships were not getting the depot level support they needed. As a result, ship's company was doing depot level work - in addition to the work they already had to do. As humans only have 24-hrs a day, you can figure out the rest.

As we are reading more and more, we have a long-standing readiness problem on the aviation side of the house as well. Is it part of the same myopia?

The GAO is on the hunt. See if you can spot a pattern.

How bad is it?
This report is a public version of a sensitive report that we issued on April 25, 2018.7 The sensitive report included an objective related to the trends in aircraft availability. DOD deemed some of the information, such as aircraft availability, not mission capable status, number of aircraft in depots, and budgeted and executed flight hours, to be sensitive (i.e., For Official Use Only), which must be protected from public disclosure. This public report omits the information that DOD deemed to be sensitive. Although the information provided in this report is more limited, it addresses the same objectives and uses the same methodology as the sensitive report.

Why is depot level maintenance so important?
Depot-level maintenance occurs less frequently but requires greater skills. Specifically, depot maintenance is an action performed on materiel or software in the conduct of inspection, repair, overhaul, or modification or rebuild of end items, assemblies, subassemblies, and parts that, among other things, requires extensive industrial facilities, specialized tools and equipment, or uniquely experienced and trained personnel that are not available in other maintenance activities. Depot maintenance is independent of any location or funding source and may be performed in the public or private sectors.
Legacy systems are needed now and in the near future for when a war does or does not show up. Why are these problems so bad, and can more resources to depot level maintenance help?

Sadly, it appears no one knows.
Without clarity about whether the DOD instruction and the Navy guidance apply to legacy systems, program officials will not know whether they are required to have a sustainment strategy or are required to update the plan for their respective fixed-wing aircraft. Furthermore, the program offices, the services, and DOD may not have full visibility of necessary requirements to document program objectives, related risks, and the effectiveness of the program, ultimately jeopardizing the sustainability and affordability of each of the programs.
In absence of metrics, this is when you have to rely on experience and factual judgement.

While the bean counters work to get the right number, can a reasonable person assume that more support for depots now would result in better availability?


So, let's do that and then adjust later if needed. History is losing patience with us.

Wednesday, September 12, 2018

Aviation degradation does not happen by accident

We need to be more open and transparent about our bad decision making processes, otherwise we will just do it again.

Come on over to USNIBlog to see the details.

Monday, September 10, 2018

Hospital Ships: Open Your Intellectual Aperture

One of the more frustrating parts of blogging occasionally on hospital ships is having the usual suspects chime in somewhere in the middle of the comments section telling us how "These are of little use in how we practice modern medicine. They take ..."

Bla, bla, bla, bla.

They are both correct and 100% wrong at the same time.

One of the many assumptions we make out there has to do with our ready access to cargo aircraft and efficient, open, and safe airways to use them. We also think in narrow little lines.

In war, there is more unknown than known. You can mitigate risk - and in a small way, hospital ships do that. That is only a secondary mission.

They have a primary mission (in Salamanderland at least) and others seem to see it more than we do;
As a statement of soft power, a floating hospital packs a punch with a helping hand to poorer nations in need.

So much so that in the Pacific region major powers are increasingly flexing their humanitarian muscles by sending hospital ships and similar aid missions to the region.

China's 10,000-ton medical ship, the Peace Ark, has cut a broad arc through the Pacific, stopping off in Papua New Guinea, Vanuatu and Fiji and Tonga.

The raw numbers alone are impressive. According to Chinese state media, the ship has 300 beds, eight operating theatres, and can conduct 60 surgeries in a day.

The Peace Ark said it has so far provided free medical treatment to more than 4,000 people in PNG's capital Port Moresby, 4,500 people in Vanuatu, 6,000 in Fiji and more than 5,500 patients in Tonga.
Our hospital ships are larger and better, but MERCY and COMFORT are only two, and they are a bit aged.

We should have at least 4 - and they should be at the yards being built now. They are, alas, unsexy but important.

Shame this isn't getting more play, but here is an example;
The U.S. is sending a Navy hospital ship off the shores of Colombia this fall to provide urgent medical care for Venezuelan refugees.

An estimated 2.3 million Venezuelans have fled their country in the wake of a devastating economic crisis that has caused shortages of food and medical supplies. Over one million of those refugees have crossed the border into Colombia, creating what Mattis called a "destabilizing impact" on the country.

"It is an absolutely a humanitarian mission, we’re not sending soldiers, we’re sending doctors," Mattis told reporters. "And it’s an effort to deal with the human cost of [Maduro and his increasingly isolated regimes."

Pentagon spokesperson Col. Rob Manning said on Monday that the ship will be the 894-foot long USNS Comfort, one of two U.S. Navy hospital ships and one of the largest trauma centers anywhere in the United States.

In a press release on Wednesday, U.S. Southern Command announced that the Comfort would deploy for the two-month-long humanitarian mission in late September with stops in Colombia and the region.

Friday, September 07, 2018

Fullbore Friday

So, what did you do before age 21?
Tributes have poured in for the Second World War's youngest Spitfire pilot who joined the RAF at just 18 and has died just two weeks before his 97th birthday.

Geoffrey Wellum, who was given the nickname 'Boy' as he signed up in August 1939, famously said his life 'peaked' at 21 after helping the RAF saw off Hitler's Luftwaffe in 1940.

The Battle of Britain Memorial Trust today revealed Mr Wellum, one of just eight surviving members, died at his home in Cornwall on Wednesday evening.
Things go quickly when a nation is at war.
Showing no fear despite the average four-week life expectancy of war pilots, he was sent up to fight the Nazis in his teens and described how ahead of his first air battle he was told to jump in his Spitfire and warned: 'Break it there will be bloody hell to pay'.

He would later become a squadron leader and served on the front line including the Battle of Britain 'dogfights' above London and the Home Counties before taking the fight into Europe where he led the air battle to free Malta.

But on the way to victory he lost many of his closest comrades from the RAF and said recently: 'You just had to accept it, get on with living and remember absent friends'.

He went on to be awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross and was promoted to Flight Commander with 65 Squadron and later led eight Spitfires from HMS Furious to relieve Malta.
Read the whole thing.

What a life, and a meaningful life well lived.


Hat tip M.R.

Thursday, September 06, 2018

Fat Leonard a Big Scandal? No, I Think We've Topped It.

I had to read this twice for it to sink in; this could be worse than Fat Leonard in a variety of deep and meaningful ways. 

Read all of this from Carl Prine over at NavyTimes;
In a landmark decision Wednesday, the military’s highest court ruled that the Navy’s top lawyer, Vice Adm. James W. Crawford III, illegally meddled in the case of a SEAL accused of rape.

The split 3-2 decision by the United States Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces tosses out the highly decorated commando’s 2014 court-martial conviction and bars the armed forces from ever trying him again.

The legal victory of Senior Chief Special Warfare Operator Keith E. Barry — who never quit proclaiming his innocence — will ripple across the entire military.

Writing for the majority, Chief Judge Scott W. Stucky, a retired Air Force colonel, determined that not only can the military’s most senior attorneys be held responsible for bogus advice that helps to unlawfully coerce a prosecution but that Crawford “actually did so in this case."
There is corruption for booze and chicks ... it is another thing pressuring one person to take away another's freedom for political reasons.
To Brennan, the ruling also threatens to leave the reputation of Crawford “in tatters," a belief shared by Barry’s appellate attorney, David Sheldon.

“This is a vindication not only for Senior Chief Barry, but it stands as the first step in righting what is the pervasive unlawful command influence in military justice,” Sheldon told Navy Times. "In this case, the Judge Advocate General of the Navy, Vice Adm. James Crawford, caused a decorated Navy SEAL to be wrongfully convicted. "
You really need to read it all, I mean ...
Barry’s case came to light only because a retired Navy rear admiral admitted that he helped pervert justice.

Barry was tried and convicted at court-martial by a military judge in San Diego in 2014 for allegedly forcing a girlfriend to engage in nonconsensual sexual intercourse, but doubts about his guilt dogged the case.

The flag officer who convened the SEAL’s trial, Navy Region Southwest commander Rear Adm. Patrick J. Lorge, considered vacating the verdict or granting clemency to Barry, but instead let stand a sentence of three years confinement and a dishonorable discharge, a decision he came to regret.

In both sworn affidavits and testimony during a special hearing convened 11 months ago, Lorge said that he felt political pressure on “many fronts” from civilian and military leaders to convict Barry.

To Lorge, the advice he got from Jones appeared to be echoed during an April 30, 2015 visit by Crawford to his San Diego office. At the time, Crawford was a two-star admiral and the Deputy Judge Advocate General of the Navy.

During the powwow, Crawford gave Lorge “the impression that failing to approve the findings and sentence would place a target on his back,” a sentiment apparently repeated during a later telephone call between the flag officers, according to the appellate decision.

Crawford was later promoted to vice admiral and put in charge of the Navy’s criminal justice system.
BZ to Carl for putting this out. This whole episode needs close attention to see exactly what, if anything, Crawford should be held to account for.

Time is short.
Crawford is slated to be relieved by Vice Adm. John G. Hannink and retire at noon on Sept. 12 during a change of command ceremony at the Washington Navy Yard, according to invitations leaked to Navy Times.
How does Senior Chief Barry get his good name back and four years of his life in limbo?

Wednesday, September 05, 2018

Follow the Money

What defense companies from which nations do you think had the greatest year-or-year increase?

It's all out there at USNIBlog. Come on by and give it a look.

Tuesday, September 04, 2018

The Hard History of the Baltic Republics: Latvia Wakes Up

Scale. Always important to keep in mind scale.

The Latvians just completed a very big exercise, Namejs 2018. This isn't just any exercise - no, this is an informed exercise based on modern, real-world threats. You really don't have to read between the lines.
"There will be a lot of movement throughout Latvia... there will be tasks too for both the navy and the air force and, of course, the State Police will carry out their tasks that are necessary for their training. There will be loud noises. We apologize and alert the public to this fact," said Chief of Defense Leonīds Kalniņš at a pre-drill media briefing August 2.

Live ammunition will not be used outside established military zones, but the training will be very realistic, Kalniņš said, acknowledging that Russia's hybrid operations in eastern Ukraine had been taken into account when devising the scenarios.

However, he also stressed that the drills are defensive in nature and not directed against any outside country.
25% of the Latvian population is ethnically Russian.
One of the several scenarios that will be played out during Namejs 2018 provides for suppressing spontaneous riots in Jekabpils and Valmiera. The unrest would be fomented by armed people without military insignia. Law enforcement authorities would be the first to respond to these events, with the armed forces expected to rush to help quell the riots.

“During the exercise we will be training to defend our state using obstruction and defense operations. All brigades will be involved in relocation and ensuring the local defense of particular cities. The national defense structure will be tested one hundred percent. We will not be devising a scenario against a particular country as we are preparing the National Armed Forces to defend Latvia against any threat,” Lt. Gen. Kalnins said.
- Population of Latvia: 1.9 million.
- Exercise Namejs 2018: 10,000 participants from Latvia, Lithuania, Estonia, Poland, USA, Canada, Albania, Czech Republic, Italy, Slovenia, Slovakia, and Spain.

How big was the exercise presence for the Latvian population? Well, let's upscale that for 'ya.
- Population of USA: 320 million
- Upscaled Nanejs 2018: 1,684,210

Imagine if we held a military exercise that mobilized 1,684,210 military personnel from a dozen nations from Maine to Hawaii, Florida to Alaska. One military person in an active exercise per 190 citizens from infant to petitioner.

Latvia is serious. They are moving as aggressively as possible to match their Estonian neighbors with 2%+ GDP in military spending.

Speaking of which, though this is about the Estonian War of Independence after WWI, this covers some of the Latvian play as well. Solid video worth your time.

PS: If we meet IRL, ask me about the Latvian Air Force guy I served with in AFG. Good story.

Monday, September 03, 2018

Well, that sets a marker down

I've spent no small bit of my time around Marines.

I am, in a word, shocked, that we have any to deploy after the latest from Shawn Snow;
An infantry battalion commander sacked in the middle of a deployment with the 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit, or MEU, was at least partially fired for allegedly using a term that could be disparaging to members of the LGBTQ community, Marine Corps Times has learned.

Following a vandalism incident during a port call visit by the San Antonio-class amphibious transport dock New York in Gaeta, Italy, Lt. Col. Marcus J. Mainz, the commander of 2nd Battalion, 6th Marine Regiment, allegedly used the term “faggot" or “faggoty” during a meeting with the 2/6 Battalion Landing Team leaders, multiple sources have told Marine Corps Times.

Corps officials have said Lt. Col. Marcus J. Mainz was fired May 19 over a loss of trust and confidence in his ability to lead.