Tuesday, October 16, 2018

The Dark and Costly Underside of Unmanned Systems

Don't buy all the hype about drones that you hear. Yes, they are good and useful, but they are not the secret sauce many are selling.

They have downsides. One is that they are actually very expensive to maintain and operate - especially for extended periods.

I know, you hear they save money in manning ... but for the set of missions they do, you have to look at the overall costs. They Germans have, and are throwing in the towel;
Germany is looking to sell a secondhand surveillance drone that has cost the country more than 700 million euros ($823 million) to Canada — without many core components it needs to fly.

A defense ministry reply to lawmakers from the opposition Left Party states that Germany has decided to "begin concrete negotiations with Canada for the sale of the Euro Hawk aircraft, two ground stations and possibly certain spare parts."
Germany ordered the Northrop Grumman Global Hawk variant in 2000 to use for long-distance reconnaissance, but later canceled the order because of skyrocketing costs and revelations that the prototype wouldn't be certified to fly in Europe. Then-Defense Minister Thomas de Maiziere acknowledged in 2013 that the drone was a write-off, telling lawmakers it was better to have a "horrible end than a horror without end."
Hey ... we could have used that attitude early on in the LCS program, we might have a useful frigate in production by now ... but I digress;
"The question is what a buyer would do with such a gutted aircraft," said Thomas Wiegold, a German journalist who runs the defense website Augen Geradeaus . "Without GPS navigation and in particular without flight control systems, the drone would hardly be able to fly."

Andrej Hunko, one of the Left Party lawmakers who submitted questions to the government, said the drone now only has "scrap value."

"The sale will therefore recoup at best a small portion of the tax money spent," he said. "I expect the loss will amount to several hundred million euros (dollars)."
At least the Germans understand the concept of sunk cost - they now know that not all trendy fashions are actually useful for what you really need to invest your funds in.

Of note, the Euro Hawk is just a variant of the Global Hawk which is what the Navy's BAMS is based off of.

So ...

Monday, October 15, 2018

Shock Early ... but not Often

This was a bit of a surprise, and a welcome one.

Let's do it now and get it out of the was as others in the Class are being built;
It was reported earlier this year that the Navy requested to delay shock trials by up to 6 years. The request sought to designate the next ship in the new class, the USS John F. Kennedy, to go through shock trials. The test was previously scheduled for the Ford for late 2019, but officials requested a delay to make sure that the program was ready for the testing. This request comes with the Navy’s stated intention to get the Ford ready for deployment as soon as possible.
This falls in line with a change we've seen in the last year. There is a new focus on readiness and the long term vice the now.

Very welcome. The world today will be OK with a little less presence of the USN. The war tomorrow will demand combat ready and effective forces.

Sunday, October 14, 2018

Maritime Insurgency and Counterinsurgency with Hunter Stires - on Midrats

The outlaw and lawless ocean, non-state actors, intimidation, and hostile acts short of war - security on the high seas involves a lot more than fleet actions.

From the South China Sea as government policy, to land conflicts and economic stress moving to adjacent seas - what exactly is the concept of insurgency and counterinsurgency at sea?

Returning to Midrats to discuss this and more Sunday from 5-6pm Eastern will be Hunter Stires.

Hunter is a Fellow with the John B. Hattendorf Center for Maritime Historical Research at the U.S. Naval War College and works in a non-resident capacity with the Center for a New American Security. His work focuses on maritime strategy and logistics for forward deployed naval forces in the Western Pacific in history and today. He is a freelance contributor to The National Interest and is recently the co-author with Dr. Patrick Cronin of "China is Waging a Maritime Insurgency in the South China Sea. It's Time for the United States to Counter It."

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, October 12, 2018

Fullbore Friday

Time to revisit the Battle of Westerplatte - as a final chapter has closed.

For a heroes obit, I hope they don't mind if I steal 90% - it is too good to chop up.

At the end of August 1939, trouble entered the harbour in the form of the 14,000-ton German battleship the Schleswig-Holstein (a ship predating the First World War). Although sailing under the pretext of a courtesy visit, she contained a company of marines. In the early hours of September 1, Skowron was looking through his telescope and saw a flash emanating from the ship. Within seconds, a shell had landed on a gate near the railway, and a whole wall collapsed. What Skowron had witnessed was, in all possibility, the first shot fired during the Second World War.

After the salvo had ended, the peninsula was stormed by the German marines. Taking one of only two machineguns, Skowron ran down to a guardhouse and helped to repulse the first German assault on the main gate. The attackers were expecting an easy victory, but the Poles fought back ferociously, and managed to catch the Germans in a murderous crossfire. In addition, well-placed mortar rounds also fell on the attackers, and by around 10 o’clock that morning they retreated, having suffered 50 casualties to the eight of the Poles. The German losses would have been far higher had the Polish commander not wished to conserve mortar rounds.

On the following day, the Germans stepped up their attack. “There were three attacks in the morning,” Skowron recalled, “which got worse and worse. Aircraft, reportedly 50 of them, dropped nearly 200 bombs.” The air raid not only destroyed a guardhouse, but also the Polish mortars. Supplemented by a naval barrage, those aboard theSchleswig-Holstein reckoned — with good reason — that nobody could have survived the bombardment. Despite the intensity, the Poles sat firm. “Our men were calm,” said Skowron, “nearly indifferent, because the cycle was so repetitive — aircraft, bombs, missiles, again and again.” The entire peninsula soon resembled a First World War battlefield, with huge craters, bombed-out buildings and raging fires.

Nevertheless, the Poles would not be moved. Their morale was boosted by an announcement made by the Polish Commander-in-Chief, Edward Rydz-Smigly, that all the defenders of Westerplatte would be promoted to officer rank, and would be awarded the Virtuti Militari, Poland’s highest military decoration.

With the battle for the peninsula now becoming more symbolic than tactical, the Germans threw everything they had at the defenders. Burning trains were rammed into fortifications, and a torpedo boat even launched an attack. Although the Poles stood firm, the attacks certainly took their toll. “The worst part was the lack of sleep,” said Skowron, “because we couldn’t change troops, and we had to keep watch non-stop. The Germans could change their attackers, we could not.”

Eventually, on the morning of September 7, the Poles knew that any further resistance was fruitless. With a lack of food and medical supplies, the Polish commander decided to surrender. Skowron and his fellow survivors, of whom there were some 180, were ordered to cross the canal and throw down their tunics and caps. A German motorboat appeared, and the Poles were taken prisoner. The Germans were impressed by the Polish defence, not least because it had cost them an estimated 200 to 300 casualties, and had tied up more than 3,000 troops.

Skowron was imprisoned at Stalag IA near Königsberg, after which he was made to work on a German estate. “The Germans treated us decently,” Skowron recalled, “because they knew we were from Westerplatte. They said with admiration, ‘Polish soldiers good’.” The working conditions were nonetheless tough, and Skowron ended up in hospital, and was then discharged back home in February 1941.

He soon found work as a labourer on the railways, but he continued his own war against the occupiers. He joined the underground ZWZ — the Union of Armed Struggle — for whom he reported on German troop movements and shipments.

After the war Skowron worked on the railways until his retirement in 1975.

A modest man, he did not speak much of his participation at Westerplatte, but he soon found himself being lionised by a country that was keen to show the world that Poland had not rolled over for its aggressors. Skowron took part in many anniversary celebrations of Westerplatte, and was the recipient of numerous orders, medals and decorations, as well as being promoted to major.

Skowron was married to Anna Lisek in 1937. The couple had six children. Anna died in 2000. Skowron is survived by his children.

Major Ignacy Skowron, soldier and railway worker, was born on July 24, 1915. He died on August 5, 2012, aged 97
Hat tip AB.

First posted SEP2012.

Tuesday, October 09, 2018

American aircraft on Royal Navy carriers, it's a thing

If you think that having American aircraft and aircrew fly off of a Royal Navy aircraft carrier is something new with today's F-35B and the HMS QUEEN ELIZABETH (R08), then let me introduce you to the HMS VICTORIOUS when the US Navy ebb tide in the fall of 1942.

Via Carsten Fries at NHHC;
In autumn 1942, Adm. Ernest J. King, the Chief of Naval Operations, faced a dilemma: The battles of the Coral Sea and Midway, and the still-ongoing Guadalcanal campaign had severely weakened the U.S. Navy’s fleet carrier presence in the Pacific. USS Lexington (CV 2) had been lost at Coral Sea, USS Yorktown (CV 5) at Midway, and Hornet (CV 8) during the Battle of Santa Cruz Islands. USS Wasp (CV 7) had been torpedoed and sunk south of the Solomons in September. Although she remained operational, USS Enterprise (CV 6) had been repeatedly damaged during the naval engagements around Guadalcanal and would eventually require repairs at a U.S. shipyard. USS Saratoga (CV 3), which had also been damaged in the Solomons, was undergoing repairs at Pearl Harbor. USS Ranger (CV 4), despite taking part in the Allied landings in North Africa in November (Operation Torch), was not deemed suitable for combat in the Pacific. The first new Essex-class carriers were not expected to join the fleet until late 1943.
Immediately following the Battle of Midway, King had requested assistance from the British Admiralty for the U.S. Pacific Fleet, but the Royal Navy’s flattops were heavily engaged against the Germans in the North Atlantic and Mediterranean at the time. Now, he again approached the British with a similar request, one that quickly made its way into communications between President Franklin D. Roosevelt and Prime Minister Winston Churchill. Despite its continuing heavy operational commitments, the Royal Navy detached the carrier HMS Victorious from the Home Fleet for service with the U.S. Navy. After a hasty replenishment at Greenoch, Scotland, Victorious departed British waters on Dec. 20, making a brief stop in Bermuda, and arriving in port at Norfolk, Va., on the last day of 1942.
At Norfolk, Victorious was dry-docked from Jan. 1-31, 1943.
Victorious departed Norfolk on Feb. 3 en route to the Panama Canal—and assigned the U.S. Navy two-syllable call sign “Robin.” Intensive flight operations utilizing U.S. Navy procedures, both with Martlet IV (Wildcat F4F-4) fighters and the still-unfamiliar TBMs,
On May 17, Victorious reached Noumea, New Caledonia, and joined Saratoga in Rear Adm. DeWitt Ramsey’s Carrier Division 1.
As part of Rear Adm. Forrest P. Sherman’s Task Group 36.3, the carriers left Noumea on June 27 to take part in Operation Toenails, the invasion of New Georgia. The Task Group was not involved in the amphibious landings themselves, but instead remained on station for 28 days to provide air cover for the transports and landing force. Victorious’s crew’s extensive training in U.S. procedures and the mutual exchange of practical experience paid off as U.S. and British sailors kept patrol aircraft in the air for nearly 12 hours per day.
On July 31, “Robin” detached to rejoin the British Home Fleet by way of Pearl Harbor and Norfolk, where her U.S. Navy communications, radar, and flight operations gear were removed.
She returned, with style.
Victorious returned to the Pacific in early 1945. As a component of the British Pacific Fleet, she took part in Operation Iceberg, the invasion of Okinawa, where, on May 9, she was struck by two kamikaze aircraft. Her armored flight deck absorbed the blows and, despite fire damage, she resumed flight operations within hours of the strikes. In contrast, the unarmored Essex-class carriers USS Franklin (CV 13), severely damaged by a kamikaze in March 1945, and USS Hancock (CV 19), hit by a kamikaze during Iceberg, had to withdraw completely from combat operations.
Of note: All U.S. Navy carriers in use since World War II have had armored flight decks.

Monday, October 08, 2018

Zumwalt: the Stillborn Transformation

At last, an article about the DDG-1000 I've been waiting for.

In the latest edition of Proceedings, LT Joe Lillie, USN put together a well done summary of what this unusual byproduct of the Age of Transformationalism is like from the bridge.

For those critical of the ship from the start, there are a few "of course" items out there, and a few other items that are more, "Hey, that's nice. It has some good aspects."

Let's put aside her utility at war, but what it will be like to operated on a daily basis at sea. She is a unique ship with unique handling requirements.

Here are a few of the highlights, or lowlights, depending on your POV.
extremely large seas taken on the bow could submerge the forecastle, resulting in damage to equipment or the bow. Also, the ship’s righting arm is several times larger than an Arleigh Burke ’s. Generally this results in exceptional stability with minimal ( (less than) 5 degrees) pitch and roll. However, if the ship were taking extremely large seas on the stern quarter or beam, with rolls greater than 15 degrees, the large righting arm would force the ship back to centerline much faster than on other ships—causing significant G-forces that could damage equipment or injure personnel.
Given the small crew and events in WESTPAC in 2017, this especially caught my eye.
The radar cross-section is significantly less than that of an Arleigh Burke. Merchant ships, which frequently use a small bridge watch team and rely on radar alarms to alert them to approaching vessels, are especially susceptible to dismissing the Zumwalt’s radar return. This means bridge watchstanders must be trained differently. They still adhere to the various rules of the road governing ship interactions, but they must assume that other vessels may not give way or act in accordance with their expectations.
Other points worth consideration;
The combination of the Zumwalt ’s size and inability to switch quickly from ahead to astern propulsion or vice versa (because of fixed pitch propellers) creates substantially more inertia than on a smaller vessel, a characteristic magnified by the large sail area.
...The outward-sloping tumblehome design creates the illusion that the ship is farther away from the pier than it is.
...All the mooring stations are internal. (it) makes it impossible for the bridge to see progress in the mooring stations.
...A relatively low height of eye of 35 feet, along with large gun mounts on the forecastle, result in a substantial shadow zone of 469.2 feet dead ahead.
Before we end things up, let's talk about the pic above as it give me a chance to tilt again towards one of my favorite windmills - the lies we tell each other and the distortions to our professionalism we take with a shrug.

When we do it in some places as benign as shipnaming, that attitude can bleed over to other things of more importance. 

Yes, small things matter.

As we've reminded everyone for over a decade, the ZUMWALT Class is the size of a WWII German Pocket Battleship. She is no more a destroyer than I am an Army Colonel. 

I know the author made a nice send-off of the ZUMWALT being a good addition to the line of, "Greyhounds of the Sea" - but I'm sorry; she's a light cruiser. She's no destroyer.

Saturday, October 06, 2018

Russia's Red Banner Year, with Dr. Dmirty Gorenburg - on Midrats

From is largest exercise since the end of the Cold War, to Syria, to a revival of covert direct action and intermediated nuclear weapons as an issue - Russia continues to claw back her place on the international stage.

As we approach the last quarter of the 2018 calendar year, what message is Russia trying to give the rest of the world and what should we expect through the end of the decade?

Our guest for the full hour this Sunday at 5pm Eastern to discuss is a regular here on Midrats, Dr. Dmirty Gorenburg, Senior Research Scientist at CNA, researching security issues in the former Soviet Union, Russian military reform, Russian foreign policy, ethnic politics and identity, and Russian regional politics.

He is the editor of the journal Problems of Post-Communism and a Fellow of the Truman National Security Project. From 2005 through 2010, he previously held positions as the Executive Director of the American Association for the Advancement of Slavic Studies and editor of the journal Russian Politics and Law.

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, October 05, 2018

Fullbore Friday

So, what kind of adversity have you overcome in your life? What have you done the life you were given at the other end?

A benchmark almost impossible to fathom. A life well lived; Sidney Shachnow, MG USA (Ret.)
Maj. Gen. Sidney Shachnow survived three years in a Nazi concentration camp, he deployed twice to the jungles of Vietnam and he was the top U.S. Army officer in Berlin at the end of the Cold War.

Along the way, the general became a legendary Special Forces officer, revered by many in the close-knit community of Green Berets.

Maj. Gen. Shachnow, 83, who lived in Southern Pines with his wife, Arlene, died Friday. But his legacy, officials said, will live on.
Read it all.


Thursday, October 04, 2018

Diversity Thursday

Huh. Imagine that.

Now, think about all the money we are paying in the Navy alone for all these rent-seeking, grievance mongering diversity cadres.

And for what?

Hat tip Amir.

Diversity Thursday

Nail your colors to the mast.

Wednesday, October 03, 2018

The Russians Know Our Critical Vulnerabilities - Do We?

When you look up in the sky, do you find yourself suddenly feeling a growing feeling of foreboding?

Well, you should.

I'm explaining why over at USNIBlog.

Come by and give it a read.

Tuesday, October 02, 2018

Royal Navy Media Own Goal

First of all, everyone should be reading Sir Humphrey's ThinPinstripedLine blog, and here is a perfect example why.

I know most of you saw bits and pieces of the HMS QUEEN ELIZABETH (R08) operating with the F-35B for the first time last week. Some of you might not know the maddeningly short sighted and archaic media policy around it.

What a huge lost opportunity to tell a great Anglo-American naval story.

Over to Sir H.;
The MOD chose to send a group of correspondents to the ship to witness the flying trials and spend time embarked onboard. The deal appears to have been that the media party would self fund their travel to the USA, and in turn get a period of grace to prepare proper reports and coverage of the trials. A media embargo (essentially an agreed time when people privy to the story agree not to report it) was agreed for 2200 on Friday 28 September. In practical terms this meant that all the participants would have had images and stories good to go, but none of them would be released prior to 2200.

The plan appears to have hit problems when earlier in the week a story covering the event was briefly published on a reputable site, by accident and not intentionally, considerably before the embargo was due to be lifted. The article, including details and pictures was quickly pulled, but not before keen observers in the wider internet space took copies of the images and disseminated them.

By Friday morning, several images of the trials were already widely available on Facebook and other sites and being reposted. Humphrey saw the image he retweeted via social media at a point when it had already had well over 100 likes or comments. Very quickly on Friday morning word began to spread across interested parts of the internet that the images were out, that people were delighted to see them and they quickly got retweeted and gained traction across a wide community.

The response by the MOD was not to lift the ban, but to put pressure on social media users to not repost the images. Humphrey was directly contacted by the MOD Press Office (who he has no relationship or prior contact with) asking him to adhere to the 2200 embargo in order to be fair to his ‘journalist colleagues’ (!) who had paid to get to the event and give them their exclusive.
Read it all, as it should be a PAO test case on how not to roll out a once in a career story.

So much good could have come from this, but sadly, the control freaks sub-optimized the whole thing.

Monday, October 01, 2018

Keep your eye on the sky and move indoors

The socialist president of Venezuela almost became Victim-0 this summer, and I am not sure we really know how to deal with what is not just coming, but already here.

What started in Iraq with quad-copter dropping small explosives with badminton shuttlecocks glued to the end are long gone.

This has been a long time coming. There was some silly British movie in the late-70s that had people using RC aircraft to not just smuggle something I don't recall, but also countering those RC aircraft with other RC aircraft. It's been almost 4-decades, but I still remember it.

It is helpful to remember that "RC aircraft" is just a less sexy way of saying "drone" which is what a quad-copter is which is just an entry level UAS. 

Though their Achilles heal is their vulnerable control links - that can be fixed even for recreational COTS. This event will ensure it will be fixed next time someone goes for the king.

As Jeremy Kryt at The Daily Beast tells us, the day of the drone assassin has arrived;
In November of 2017, The Daily Beast broke the story of the first illegally weaponized drone found in Mexico. It was a relatively primitive version that sported a homemade shrapnel bomb and was found in the back of a vehicle belonging to the Jalisco New Generation Cartel (CJNG), in the state of Guanajuato.

Then, about a month ago, evidence surfaced that CJNG had already advanced their drone designs considerably.

On July 10, the house of a Mexican public safety officer was targeted in a drone attack in Tecate, Baja California—a border city in the larger Tijuana-San Diego municipality that falls within CJNG’s established territory.

According to a new report co-authored by Dr. Robert Bunker, of the U.S. Army War College, the Tecate drone managed to drop its payload ISIS-style on the officer’s residence. Although the attack was apparently meant as a warning—since the grenades still had their safety pins intact—it also showed a clear step up in cartel-drone enhancement, including a second unmanned aircraft that conducted reconnaissance on site.

“Of the two drones, the Tecate one has far better lethality than the one in Guanajuato—we are comparing military grade grenades versus an IED,” Bunker told The Daily Beast.

“This is still an evolving global threat,” Bunker said. “The next firebreak, now that earlier ones have recently been broken in Mexico and Venezuela... would be weaponized drone incidents taking place in either Western Europe or in the United States. You can’t get much closer to the U.S. than Tecate, Mexico for an incident like this.”

Michel agreed with Bunker about the international risk posed by evolving drone technology.

“We're definitely going to see more attacks of this kind, be they assassination attempts against a specific leader or indiscriminate terrorist attacks,” Michel said. “Part of the appeal of drones for terrorists groups is that they make great cable news fodder. Showing that you have weaponized drones is an excellent way to draw attention to your organization and to incite fear.”

Unfortunately, anti-drone jamming devices lag far behind UAV offensive capabilities, Michel explained.

“In a nutshell, no single counter-drone technology is one hundred-percent effective against one hundred percent of drones in one hundred percent of cases,” he said. “And that’s before you even get to the countermeasures to the countermeasures. There are already drones in development that would be entirely resistant to the kinds of jamming systems reportedly used to protect Maduro.”
While everyone has the quad-copter top of mind as a delivery platform (a delivery platform BTW that is slow & fragile enough to be defeated close in via hard kill with any 3.5" 12-ga loaded with B to T sized shot), it is not the platform that concerns me.

No, there are much more frightening delivery devices out there you can buy off the shelf with little care. With a few modifications, if any - here is your threat. Old school RC aircraft, upgraded and reinforced.

You don't need a huge payload, just enough. Here is your entering argument to ponder. MotionRC's F-86 with a 80mm 12-blade EDF engine. Electric, so a lot more quiet and quicker to get in the air compared to wet-fuel mini-jets. There are larger and faster ones than this example. Just an entering argument here.


Now ponder that power plant(s) in a bespoke design to carry ordnance on a one-way flight.