Wednesday, October 31, 2018

More If a dragon catches a cold, who gets the flu?

Is China's strength more fragile than we think?

Are we estimating the future of China's growth too much on its recent past?

What if our assumptions are wrong?

A little economic pondering over at USNIBlog.

Come on by and ponder with me.

Tuesday, October 30, 2018

Another Round of the AFG RW Argument

Some days it seems like 2007 all over again when a regular discussion topic at CENTCOM was the variety of rotary wing problems in Afghanistan.

There was the short term crisis of the Aviation Bridging Force that summer; would NATO ever do what it promised it would do – or will Uncle Sam have to once again patch together a last minute fix? (of course, NATO failed to fill what they promised in the CJSOR, so we covered it).

Then there was the long term question; what kind of helicopter force would be best for the re-constituted Afghan Air Force?

In a great short outline of the 2018 challenge over at Small Wars Journal, Abdul Rahman Rahmani, Major Afghanistan Airforce and his co-author Jack McCain, LT USN – the authors put the choice in clear terms; keep trying to make Mi-17 happen, or go Blackhawk.
First, the facts on the ground.
By April 2017, despite money and training from the United States, “The AAF had 46 Mi-17s in total, of which 18 were not flyable either due to scheduled overhauls or major repairs,” noted the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan in its recent report. The report stressed that the Mi-17s are "in a state of steady decline due to higher-than-anticipated utilization rates and accelerating attrition."
Why are there so many problems with the Mi-17?
…Mi-17 parts (are) exceedingly expensive (and) also required more time and negotiations to be made with the Russian government, an unreliable broker, at best. The result placed Mi-17s in the “…state of steady decline,” situation. For example, according to SIGAR, “Out of unavailable Mi-17s, six of them are in overhaul, four are in heavy repair, and six have expired.” If this situation remains, by the middle of 2018, AAF would be out of Mi-17 helicopters. Unlike Mi-17s which steadily ‘decline’ this plan will provide overhaul inspections to the American aircraft quicker than the past because the Afghan government had to send the Russian aircraft to countries like Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, and Slovakia for overhaul inspections, while Blackhawks can be inspected inside Afghanistan, by American and Afghan trained maintenance personnel. Also, a less apparent disadvantage, translating Russian publications to English and then to Dari or Pashtu was time and energy intensive, which negatively affected maintenance efforts, and leads to misunderstanding.
Amazingly, the argument for keeping the Mi_17 is exactly the same one made over a decade ago.
AAF pilots and maintainers are already familiar with and used to the Mi-17, and re-training would require significant time and effort, two limited components in this war. This is a case that can be made, albeit a flimsy and shortsighted one
Time has shown that we should have taken another path to US equipment, training, and maintenance.
Here’s the argument;
From the combat and operational perspectives, when comparing the capabilities of Blackhawks and Mi-17s, among several different factors, three key elements should be considered: speed, maneuver, and lethality. First, Blackhawks are faster than Mi-17s … Second, Blackhawks are lighter and smaller than Mi-17s, and therefore, more maneuverable … Taliban were, in fact, scared of American Blackhawks because they were more maneuverable and acted more aggressively when operating against insurgents. While very few Mi-17 helicopters have been designated gunships, out of 159 Blackhawks 60 would be designated gunships which will bring maneuver, firepower, and enable more and aggressive tactics allowing the AAF to destroy the Taliban elements on the battlefield, limiting their operational and tactical space.

From the maintenance perspective, the US would provide the majority of aircraft parts to the AAF faster from Bagram and Kadahar, as opposed to Mi-17 parts which were not only exceedingly expensive but also required more time and negotiations to be made with the Russian government, an unreliable broker, at best. The result placed Mi-17s in the “…state of steady decline,” situation. For example, according to SIGAR, “Out of unavailable Mi-17s, six of them are in overhaul, four are in heavy repair, and six have expired.” … this plan will provide overhaul inspections to the American aircraft quicker than the past because the Afghan government had to send the Russian aircraft to countries like Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, and Slovakia for overhaul inspections, while Blackhawks can be inspected inside Afghanistan, by American and Afghan trained maintenance personnel.
This is the best selling point from Team-Blackhawk;
the AAF needs a plan that will guarantee sustainability of its rotary-wing fleet and; therefore, it cannot rely on an aging Russian aircraft forever. Moreover, Afghanistan needs a new, elite corps of military officers, divorced from legacy Russian equipment and doctrine, to lead its military in the future, because victory in this war depends on the young generation of Afghans. The US and Afghan government can train this new generation inside Afghanistan, at bases like Shindand, Kandahar, and Kabul International Airport, without having to send them to the US and Europe, where many of them flee or seek asylum, which further delays the training cycle and disrupts the military education system. Training pilots and maintainers on Mi-17s did not previously have the flexibility of using Afghan military bases. Also, future training of Blackhawk crews can be conducted easier than Mi-17s, because most American rotary wing pilots, from the U.S. Navy, Army, and Air Force, are familiar with Blackhawks and do not need to be sent to Ukraine or Czech Republic for specific aircraft familiarization training. Unlike the Mi-17 helicopters translated publications, this plan will facilitate availability of original English publications to the pilots and maintainers without having to rely on third-hand translated versions.
It’s almost 2019, BTW. Let’s do this right this time.

PS: fun side-note to this article;

Monday, October 29, 2018

From Berlin, Beijing, to Brasilia – a New Era is Setting Up

Though human nature and geography are generally constants through history, there are pivot points where the needs, wants, and desires of people and the leaders of the nations they inhabit cause a change in the course of history.

We are clearly in one of those pivot points of how our world works.

Whatever the “Post Cold War Period” was, it’s long over. When did it end? Somewhere between the attacks of 2001 and the election of Barak Obama in 2008.

As I’ll outline below, much of what some called a new-era in the recent past were not quite right, they just saw the ending chapters of the age of their lifetime.

Though the press is obsessed with President Trump defining a change we are seeing, that is a classic case of mal-educated Amerocentrism. The shift started before him. He is just a symptom, not a cause. It isn’t even an American phenomenon. If anything we are lagging the global trend.

What period started to come to an end at the start of this century? The end of the post-Cold War as a period by itself? I don't quite buy it. There is a lot of talk of an end to the post-WWII, “Liberal World Order” (LWO). I think that might be right.

The LWO began at the end of WWII. The period after the fall of the Soviet Union that people call as the Post-Cold War Era wasn't really an era. It was either the final or the penultimate chapter of the long running LWO that the Cold War was just a longer chapter of. Even while the Soviet Union was on its death bed we saw the next chapter, AKA Bush41’s “New World Order” (NWO).

One could argue the NWO was the penultimate chapter, and 2001-2008 the final chapter of the LWO.

Hard to say right now, but if forced, I’d put my chips on that argument.

The NWO lasted less than a decade, if that. It was a period of unchallenged American dominance, but that rode on the back of the “The Liberal World Order” built in the post-WWII period.

What I would call the final chapter, somewhere from the attacks of September 2001 and the newly elected President Obama's apology tour and welcoming of a rising China, I'm not sure - but it marked a shift to something new. The pivot is not yet complete - it is a slow turn that took awhile to get here.

The last two chapters of the LWO saw the falling apart of those structures – the EU, ascendency of Western culture, extra-national international legal bodies, American dominance of the high seas - that defined the success of the old age. The vacuum left behind by them, and the fragility of remaining ones like NATO, is feeding change.

This new era is a movement of returns, reckoning, and realization. Strangely, end of the LWO can probably can be traced back to the Muslim world. They were an the early adopter or canary in the coal mine of the structural culmination of the LWO. There you find the first place where the assumptions of the ruling Western elite began to fail.

Just look at the pictures of Cairo and Kabul in the 1960s and 1970s. Western dress, cultural norms, secularism, and political systems (socialist, capitalist, or a mixture of both) dominated. At the end of the 1970s the wave crested first there when you saw decades of progress for women in the public space begin to retreat from Islamabad to Alexandria.

Those were indications that the West had lost its confidence and its appeal. Once that support goes soft, everything it underpins weakens. Much of the weakening started with the anti-Western efforts in our own universities and popular culture. Jesse Jackson’s “Hey, hey, ho, ho; Western Civ has got to go” was just one of a long series of notes to the outside world that things were well along the way to being not quite right.

If you value Western values of tolerance and progress, how do you expect them to grow and expand abroad when you cannot support them at home? In their absence, something will fill the void.

What will it be? I think too much is in flux, too many assumptions false to really know – but whatever it is, it is forming right in front of us. Some aspects and characteristics of our new era are revealing themselves bit by bit.

Here are three items in the mix.

Berlin - Enough Self-loathing:

It is difficult for Americans to understand the German national mindset. From the end of the Franco-Prussian War to the end of WWII, the national record was a horror show for a people who for centuries contributed so much to Western culture, industry, and advancement.

For obvious reasons, the German establishment's political body remains sensitive to a wide variety of triggers, and they over-compensate. Even though they had already festering crime and internal security problems imported mostly from Asia Minor and North Africa over decades, the former East German Merkel took over from the SDP’s Russian toy Schröder, ruled well, and then decided to take Germany somewhere she didn't want to go.

Though her CDU/CSU was right of center for their politics, Merkel was more in line with center-left American Democrat – but with less patriotism to the point of refusing to wave the national flag.

As a by-product of working out her generation's German's national self-loathing, she invited millions of military age economic migrants from mostly Muslim nations who had little desire or history to assimilate – much less have skills needed in the modern German state. She even accepted the eventual forced change of their national character.

Along with the rest of her internationalist peers, she scoffed at the concerns of the German people – or at best was willfully blind to them. It was bad enough that – being that there was no place for their concerns to be addressed to the left – an ever growing percentage of the German people moved right to the AfD outside established parties, and inside the CDU/CSU moved to undermine Merkel.

As Germany was part of the EU, Merkel’s call for millions of migrants all of a sudden became an EU wide problem. All around Germany, this helped accelerate and already growing populist movement in Poland, Hungary, Italy, France, UK, and elsewhere.

The internationalist elite of Europe’s contempt for their own people and self-loathing of their culture was too much for their own indigenous populations. Merkel, who could have ruled for the rest of her natural life, is now in the process of a long goodbye. She says she will leave in 2021, but I don’t think time will be that patient with her.

The center throughout Europe is under stress. In some nations, established parties are trying to fill the void by moving in the direction of the people, but so much damage has already been done. 

This story is not even close to playing out.

Beijing – those are your rules, not ours:

After centuries of humiliation from near and far abroad, China is returning to her place in the world. Few see how huge this move will be. The scale is hard to grasp for many. You could remove the equivalent of the entire population of the USA, and China would still have almost a billion people.

Unlike her fellow mega-nation India, China is not content with making things best inside her borders.

She wants a global stage, and she is buying as much of it as she wants to.

She was not party to this “Liberal World Order” others keep telling her about, and she is not bound to it. She reserves the right to approach international law cafeteria style; she’ll take what she wants and slide by the rest.

She has scores to settle and strategic depth to secure.
President Xi Jinping has told his military commanders to “concentrate preparations for fighting a war” as tensions continue to grow over the future of the South China Sea and Taiwan.
“We need to take all complex situations into consideration and make emergency plans accordingly,” President Xi told the officers of the Southern Theatre Command.
This is bluster, but it also is Direction and Guidance. We are close to this point already, but by the end of the next decade, American policy leaders need to have a realistic view on what they are or are not willing to go to war over. The Chinese will test where they find weakness first.

When they do, they will pull us in close and then they will make a point. 

If I were Chinese, I would already have three COA to the east for leaders to consider. All I would ask for is a few more POMs and a bit more ripening.

This new China is growing, and not going anywhere.

Brasilia – Forever Tomorrowland:

Remember just a few short years ago when Brazil, again, was to be the vanguard of a new surge of leftist governance? I do.
And so, where does that leave us? After over a decade in experimentation of a new post-Cold War leftist governance in Central and South America, they find themselves where we Chicago School folks warned them they would be.

Of use, the basket cases of full socialism, Venezuela & Nicaragua, are right there for people to point to and say, “Let’s not do that.” Argentina, an nation a century ago that had a per-capita GDP on par with the USA, continues to struggle with decades of bad governance, corruption, and leftist economic policies.

Uruguay and Chile are doing quite well, with the other nations in South America somewhere in between – but the superpower of South America should be Brazil. With a population 2/3 that of the USA and almost the same landmass, she only has a GDP about 1/6th the USA.

The Brazilian people are flooded with crime and corruption. Their leftist governments, the darlings of the internationalist BRIC fetishists, only built on that record of crime and corruption.

The people of Brazil were left with what option then?

All the correct people with all the correct opinions are tut-tut’n the election of Jair Bolsonaro, but what did they expect? The center-right and the center-left, again, failed to properly respond to the demands and concerns of the people who brought them to power. The left did what it always does; what it did not steal, it destroyed. The Brazilian people reacted accordingly after they saw what the left did; personal enrichment, the acquisition of power, and as President Obama once said – reward their friends and punish their enemies.

They wanted the correct friends, the press to write nice things about them, and invitations to the good conferences and ceremonies – with a nice picture next to Bono for the effort. They were willing to sell their nation's future for it.

We see this pattern throughout the West. As I pointed out this weekend over on twitter, the turn to populism is due to the failure of the center-left & center-right to do the basics of governing, and instead choosing either corruption or concern for extra-national internationalism over the concerns of their own people. 

I don't know what it will take for this T-Paw/Walker/Rubio/voted-for-Jeb!-3-times (R) to see a return to the center - but many of the people yelping about the tide of nationalist-populism are responsible for its birth towards the fringes.

Make no mistake, populism is not sustainable. When you hollow out the center, all you will have are wild swings from one extreme to another – and with each swing, a wider gulf develops between the sides – the center cannot hold. Once that happens, violence follows.

If the West is to meet the challenge of this new era we need better leaders, braver leaders, and a people who demand good governance and individual liberty, instead of a call to tribal sectarianism and an ever more powerful state waiting for the next populist.

The correct path is the more difficult path in the short term, but the most rewarding in the long term.

Especially in Europe where so many of their leaders don’t even have children, asking for a long term focus in the West may be too much to ask.

Saturday, October 27, 2018

Patience & Resilience of the Long War at 17, with Craig Whiteside - on Midrats

While off the front page, ISIS is not gone, the Taliban remain a strong force, and throughout the globe, the Long War continues.

A war unique in living memory in the West, it isn't going anywhere.

Returning to the show Sunday from 5-6pm Eastern for a broad ranging discussion of the war - however you want to call it - that we have been waging before we even knew it for sure in September 2001, will be Craig Whiteside.

Craig is an associate professor at the Naval War College Monterey and an associate fellow at the International Centre for Counter-Terrorism (ICCT)-The Hague.

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 26, 2018

Fullbore Friday

Most who have served are familiar with the feeling that, in your youth and at war, you peaked early. Everything after those events seem, well, like an afterthought.

The best you can do from there is to just live the best life you can.

Speaking of doing great things in your youth and then doing the best to live a good life from there, I hand you Joachim Rønneberg;
The plan was audacious, requiring a midnight parachute jump onto a snow-covered mountain plateau, cross-country skiing in subzero temperatures, and an assault on an isolated, heavily guarded power plant in southern Norway.

And the stakes, though no one in the five-man commando team knew it at the time, were spectacular: Destroy the Nazis’ sole source of heavy water, a recently discovered substance that Hitler’s scientists were using to try to develop an atomic bomb, or risk the creation of a superweapon that could secure a German victory in World War II.

“We didn’t think about whether it was dangerous or not,” Joachim Ronneberg, the 23-year-old Norwegian resistance fighter charged with leading the mission, later told Britain’s Telegraph newspaper. “We didn’t think about our retreat. The most important decision you made during the whole war was the day you decided to leave Norway to report for duty. You concentrated on the job and not on the risks.”

Mr. Ronneberg went on to land a crippling blow against Nazi Germany’s atomic ambitions, blowing up much of the plant and destroying its heavy-water stockpile without firing a shot or losing a man. Mr. Ronneberg was 99 and the last of Norway’s celebrated heavy-water saboteurs when he died Oct. 21, according to the state-owned broadcaster NRK, which confirmed the death but did not provide additional details.
Remember, he was 23 at the time and escaped from Norway after the German invasion in a fishing boat.
By the time Mr. Ronneberg was enlisted to lead Operation Gunnerside, the mission to destroy the plant, 41 men had already died in a November 1942 raid dubbed Operation Freshman, in which a pair of gliders crashed in bad weather in Norway. The survivors were executed by the Nazis.

Rather than risk another glider mishap, Mr. Ronneberg and the four commandos he selected for the mission parachuted into Norway in February 1943. They landed in the wrong location but waited out a snowstorm inside a cabin and met up with four local fighters in Hardangervidda, a desolate plateau northwest of the plant.

The group reached Vemork the night of Feb. 27, after scrambling down a steep gorge, crossing a frozen river and climbing up the far side to avoid a bridge guarded by the Nazis. Timing his infiltration of the plant to match a changing of the guard, Mr. Ronneberg said he was able to gain entry undetected, quickly and quietly breaking through a chain on the gate, only with help from a pair of heavy-duty metal cutters. He had purchased them in Britain “entirely by chance,” he said, after walking by a hardware store during a trip to the movies.

Drawing on intelligence from a Norwegian escapee who had worked at the plant, Mr. Ronneberg crawled through a ventilation duct and found his target — a row of pipes — without understanding its significance as a source for a mysterious new weapon in Germany.

The charges, he later said, “fitted like a hand in a glove,” and in a last-minute change he trimmed the fuse, causing the explosion to go off in about 30 seconds, rather than two minutes, so that he and his team could ensure it went off — and, he hoped, escape the facility without being caught in the explosion.

“It was a mackerel sky. It was a marvelous sunrise,” Mr. Ronneberg later told the Telegraph, recalling the moment hours later when he and his team had returned to the mountains, safely out of reach of Nazi guards. “We sat there very tired, very happy. Nobody said anything. That was a very special moment.”

Mr. Ronneberg and his fellow commandos skied 200 miles across southern Norway, escaping into neutral Sweden before returning to Britain.
Yep, I'd call that a peak.

After the war he he went in to broadcasting, being hired NRK Ålesund in 1948. He retired in 1988.

Just a normal dude, doing a normal, ordinary job.


Thursday, October 25, 2018

Keeping an Eye on the Long Game: Part LXXVIII

What is significant about 2033, 15 years from now?

- we will have just exited the "Terrible 20s" that we've warned about for the last decade.
- as Kristina Wong reported this summer, the Chinese Navy may be double its present size at about 550 ships+/-.

I wonder what comforting words the former commander of the U.S. Army in Europe, retired Lt. Gen. Ben Hodges, USA has for us;’s likely the United States will be at war with China in 15 years.

Hodges said: "I think in 15 years — it's not inevitable, but it is a very strong likelihood — that we will be at war with China. The United States does not have the capacity to do everything it has to do in Europe and in the Pacific to deal with the Chinese threat."
That is an unalloyed fact - and one of the top reasons European NATO needs to up its game to 2%+ GDP on defense.

If coming out of the Terrible 20s we find ourselves engaged in WESTPAC, it will require every deployable air and sea asset we have. If we are smart, perhaps not as an exceptional percentage of our land forces ... but they will be shifted west anyway. That would leave Europe pretty much on their own against threats south and east.

Oh, I've wargamed this as have others. It is bad enough in 2025 (you need two separate teams due to different macro-assumptions), 2033 needs at least 3 or 4 team to do right, but I don't think it will be much better.

Unless you're paying my bill, I won't give you the full brief here but, besides praying for peace you better:
- pray for the effectiveness of the Vietnamese Army.
- pray for civil unrest in western China.
- pray for a re-militarized Japan.
- pray for a decade of political and financial stability in the USA to mitigate the Terrible 20s.

So, yeah, we've got that going for us. The four above are low probability assumptions. When you wargame without any of them  against Best/Most Likely/Most Dangerous Red COA - well ... interesting. 

Wednesday, October 24, 2018

US Army on discussing the Iraq War: "Can't this wait until I PCS?"

Do you get the feeling that the US Army does not really want to talk about its performance in Iraq? 

Well, judging by how they've slow rolled their own report - you might be right.

I'm pondering over at USNIBlog.

Come by and help me rend clothes and gnash teeth.

Tuesday, October 23, 2018

Even Lockheed Goes Salamander on LCS

At some point in the last few months, I've shifted from, "I told you so." to simple schadenfreudic joy at the LCS news.

For the better part of a decade and a half, one of the critiques we've had - and proven correct - was the "exquisite" design of the Little Crappy Ship that left little room for anything a warship would need to do in actual combat.

Sure, we've received a lot of pushback - but time and time again we've seen our critiques acknowledged by the pro-LCS camp. You can only fake things so much; even the best spin wears thin with time.

The exquisite nature of the China-doll engineering plant is well documented. As team-LCS is pushing hard to get validation of their years of suffering by winning the FFG(X) program, there are some things even they are willing to throw in the towel on.

Again, turn to David Larter for the good-scoop;
Lockheed Martin is planning to shift from Littoral Combat Ship’s water-jet propulsion to a propulsion system that the U.S. Navy is more familiar with for its future frigate offering, Lockheed’s vice president for small combatants and ship systems told reporters at the 2018 Euronaval show.

As it works through the Navy’s requirements for it’s FFG(X) program, Lockheed is hoping that a more traditional twin-screw design with independent drive trains will entice the service towards its offering.
“We felt the more traditional approach to the suite, going with more of the ... port and starboard side, redundant type of propulsion trains, that familiarity would be well received by the Navy. Going to more of a common system sized for the FFG(X),” said Joe DePietro.
Yes, let the joy of your opponent making your point wash over you.

There is also an admission of one of the tactical shortcomings of the entire CONOPS/design interface.

"Littoral" implies that you are going to take this not-small-ship in close, with very few weapons, and so tightly designed for speed, it lacks the ability to sustain even a couple of rounds from a ZU-23-2 bolted on the back of a Toyota, and keep on fighting.
One of the major hang-ups with the design requirements for all the competitors has been requirement that the engineering spaces be separated by a certain number of meters so that if the ship takes damage in one area, the other space should be online to drive the ship. If the design can’t meet the spacing requirement, an alternative propulsion unit has to be installed.
Only a fool would take the LCS in close - well, no - correction.

Sailors and professionals will follow orders to take the ship their Navy provided them in close regardless of the odds; only a fool would allow such a sub-optimal platform to make up such a large portion of his surface force that he and his Sailors don't have a choice.

What is this magical concept we are talking about? A warship that is designed to fight hurt? Well, good luck with that.

Of course, this means that we will wind up picking these for FFG(X), but oh well.

Pray for peace.

Monday, October 22, 2018

No Nukes! (at least deployed USN tactical nukes)

I'm no spring chicken, yet my cohort was the last group of junior officers to live with tactical nukes. They were on the FF I did my MIDN cruise on, they were part of my first sea duty tour. By the time I was a senior LT, they were gone.


They were an administrative and training nightmare that was only really justified by the M.A.D. Cold War calculus. The OPLANS where they were used were laughable. Their tactical use only marginally better than conventional weapons, and the theory of "limited nuclear war" a pipe dream.

Let's be clear, if nuclear weapons are used again against any peer to near-peer conflict, there will be nothing limited about their use. Everyone will use them or lose them. Any possible use of a nuke in a future war can be well met by ICBM, SLBM and yes - strategic air or lighter strike aircraft.

We do not need them again.

Over at Proceedings, FCCM (SW) Thomas Lohn, USN (Ret.), tries to make the sale, but I'm not buying.
Rearming destroyers, cruisers, and the future frigate with non-strategic nuclear weapons could be accomplished in three phases:

Phase One : Reintroduce the nuclear TLAM-N as part of normal deployment loadout.
Phase Two : Manufacture a nuclear version of the RUM-139 Vertical-Launch ASRoc (VL-ASRoc).
Phase Three : Produce a nuclear capable SM-2/6 Standard Missile.
1. TLAM-N was highly vulnerable and iffy when it was young - it is even more so now. With the fail-to-launch/transition with conventional TLAM in addition to their habit of not making it to their target and winding up on some hill in the middle of some goat herd, no. By the time it got to its target, the war would be over anyway.

2. Nuclear depth bombs are not as useful as some think they are. I would much rather have all that money spent on a LWT that can actually ________ in ______ and not ________ when faced with _______ and at least has a chance to ______ when _____ is _______ than _______. Not to mention ______ can only _____ when ______ it ______ in an estimated ______ of the expected _______ we will most likely ______ the ______. Oh, and buy _____ more than we already have - because I did the math a decade ago and I don't think it is any better now.

3. Just ... no. Invest that money in better terminal defenses, a fleet defense fighter, and more hulls in the water. If we are in the middle of a nuclear war, any base enemy long range strike aircraft are flying from would have been taken care of by our strategic forces anyway.

Saturday, October 20, 2018

Crimes of Command with Michael Junge - on Midrats

Since WWII, how has the Navy's understanding of responsibility, accountability, and culpability changed?

Returning to Midrats for the full hour this Sunday from 5-6pm Eastern will be Michael Junge, author of the book, Crimes of Command, which looks at this question through 14 officers who were removed from command.

Michael Junge is a Captain in the United States Navy and career Surface Warfare Officer who served afloat in destroyers, frigates, and amphibious assault ships before becoming the 14th Commanding Officer of USS Whidbey Island (LSD 41). Ashore he served with Navy Recruiting; Assault Craft Unit 4; Headquarters, Marine Corps; the Chief of Naval Operations staff; and with the Office of the Secretary of Defense. He is a graduate of the United States Naval Academy (B.S., 1990), The George Washington University (M.A., 2002), the United States Naval War College (M.A., 2004), and Salve Regina University (Ph.D., 2015) and is currently a member of the faculty in the College of Leadership and Ethics at the

United States Naval War College. He has written extensively with articles appearing in the United States Naval Institute Proceedings magazine, and on the blogs “Information Dissemination,” "War on the Rocks," and "Commander Salamander."

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 19, 2018

Fullbore Friday

May the Great God, whom I worship, grant to my country and for the benefit of Europe in general, a great and glorious Victory; and may no misconduct in any one tarnish it; and may humanity after Victory be the predominant feature of the British Fleet. For myself, individually, I commit my life to Him who made me, and may His blessing light upon my endeavors for serving my Country faithfully. To Him I resign myself and the just cause which is entrusted to me to defend. Amen. Amen. Amen.

- Horatio, Lord Nelson
This Sunday is Trafalgar Day, and you don't have to be British to celebrate the greatest battle of a great naval leader.

Outnumbered, but bold.

A hidebound enemy.

An opportunity.

Two videos tell the story better than I do.


Thursday, October 18, 2018

Diversity Thursday

I've been holding off on you for months on this topic, but your favorite living SECNAV forced my hand.

On of the most important legal cases this century for civil rights is working its way to a ruling at the Supreme Court. Of course, I am talking about the lawsuit against Harvard for their anti-Asian discrimination policies.

Regular readers on Thursdays here know that we have well documented over almost a decade and a half that our institutions of higher learning are worm-eaten with discrimination based on race, creed, color, and national origin in order to meet desired racial goals. In a zero-sum game that is college admissions, it gets worse the more competitive the institution is, if it wants certain racial goals.

The history is clear, and like Jews early in the previous century, today East Asians are the worst impacted by the bean counters of the diversity industry. When you combine an average culture that emphasizes education and hard work, along with the growing science of DNA and IQ that demonstrates that, after Sephardic Jews, East Asians have the highest mean IQ - it only stands to reason that for highly competitive admissions where objective criteria are used, they will be overly represented.

For fair minded people who wish to judge people by the content of their character and not the color of their skin, this should not be a problem. While individuals can hold bias and should be dealt with as they come up, institutions in 2018 should not discriminate for or against any group.

Who cares if most of your doctors are of South Asian extraction, your fighter pilots Scots-Irish, your farmers of Germanic heritage, your Surface officers of Philippine extraction, and your basketball team mostly of West African extraction? As long as they are there because they want to be and are objectively the best, who cares?

Well, there are some people who do care, and they are willing to discriminate against a child born in 2000 because they remember something bad that happened to someone else born in 1945.

They are obsessed with race and their desire to be liked by the "right people" for all the "right reasons."

Sadly, former SECNAV Mabus has shown his cards.
Questions about the value of diversity will be very visibly on the line this week in a case against Harvard’s admissions policy brought by legal activist Edward Blum, who has frequently challenged civil rights measures and race-conscious admissions. It would be bad for students and the nation if this lawsuit succeeded. It would strip the freedom and flexibility that Harvard — and other universities — need to create the diverse learning environment that benefits all students, and it would leave these students less equipped to make a difference in the world.
In the end, for me, the answer is always the same: More diversity equals greater strength.
He is not interested in geographic diversity, nor diversity of opinion, nor diversity of experience ... because those things have nothing to do with the Harvard case.

Mabus is interested in only one thing; race.

We are a better country than that. We are a better Navy than that. This is 2018, not 1973.

It is time for our nation to move past this divisiveness and to throw this kind of discrimination in to the dustbin of history along with Jim Crow.

Mabus grew up in Mississippi during Jim Crow. He knows what that is like.

When you boil this down it begs the question; if you are not from one of his approved minority groups - during his tenure, were you treated equally?

It is a fair question, because what he is calling for here is to give things and take things away from people simply because of their self-identified race or ethnicity.

We know what that is; and there he is.


Wednesday, October 17, 2018

Targeting Problems and Fleet Defense Challenges? Welcome to Varsity Football.

The Chinese are making WESTPAC more and more interesting day after day.

They are so inside our acquisition loop, it's embarrassing.

Details over at USNIBlog.

Come by and ponder with me.

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.

Wednesday, October 10, 2018

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.