Friday, November 30, 2018

Fullbore Friday

When does a leader quit?


Make sure and read the full story from Nikola Budanovic, but I love this story;
In spring 1921, USS Conestoga, a tugboat assigned to the United States Submarine Force, went missing somewhere in the Pacific, while on its way to American Samoa. The tugboat steamed out from Mare Island, California, together with a coal-transporting barge on March 25th. It was to stop at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, for refueling, but something happened along the way.

As it became clear that the had ship broken contact and that it must have encountered a problem during its voyage, a search party was dispatched from the Pearl Harbor military base in early May. Experts have estimated that Conestoga must have been somewhere around 100 nautical miles southeast of the coast of Hawaii.

A submarine designated USS R-14 (SS-91) under the command of Lieutenant Alexander Dean Douglas was sent out in order to conduct a surface search, in hopes of rescuing the tugboat and its crew.
They didn't find it ... but not for lack of trying;
Having incorrectly estimated the amount of fuel needed for the mission, when they arrived at the spot where Conestoga was presumed to be, the submarine had run out of usable fuel.

Since its electric motors lacked enough battery power to transport them back to base, they were stranded some 100 nautical miles from Hawaii, caught in a desperate situation.
Where's that OPREP binder again?
To make matters worse, their radio had malfunctioned and all communication went silent.
Oh, well ... nevermind.

What else could go wrong?
...the limited food supply wasn’t going to hold out for more than five days.
Sailors love being hungry.

But wait ...
The ship’s engineer came up with an idea to use the wind to power the submarine.

On. A. Submarine.

Well, you have to do something to keep the crew occupied;
All hands were soon employed in making a foresail out of the crew’s hammocks. Eight hammocks were stitched together, forming a sail, held by a frame made from dismantled bunks. The entire structure was then tied to the vertical kingpost of the torpedo loading crane, located forward of the submarine’s superstructure.

However, a submarine was much heavier and had a much lower silhouette than let’s say a 16th-century Spanish galleon. With the foresail, it achieved a speed of no more than one knot (1.2 mph; 1.9 km/h).
They built a mainsail out of six blankets and attached it to the radio mast, which added another half a knot to the total speed of the ship. In addition to this, another half a knot was achieved by stitching up another eight blankets and assembling yet another frame out of bunk beds.
After 69 hours of sailing, they finally reached the easternmost tip of the Hawaii islands and entered Hilo Harbor on the morning of May 15, 1921.
So, what do you do to a submarine CO who didn't bring enough fuel for the mission?
For the achievement and spirit of innovation, Lieutenant Douglas received a letter of commendation from his Submarine Division Commander, CDR Chester W. Nimitz.
How did things work out for the good LT who ran out of gas?

A different Navy. Via the superb;
Commanded two submarines in following years had assorted other duties, including the China Station and American Samoa, always with family. As a Comdr. 1941, was first C.O. of the USS Fulton, first ship built from the keel up as a submarine tender. 1942 Convoy Commodore of the second convoy of U.S. troops sent to Africa. Retired physically 1947,
As for the ship and crew they were looking for, the USS Conestoga? Not such good news;
The tugboat was officially declared missing on June 30, 1921, but it was not until 2009 that a shipwreck was discovered a few miles from Farallon Island, just off the coast of California.
Hat tip, USNI.

Thursday, November 29, 2018

Diversity Thursday

The shooter was allowed to go unmolested in order to keep incident numbers down in school, and now ... of course.

While I would encourage you to google things yourself, if you want to know more about Jordan, you can just click here or here.

Real leadership has nothing to do with the color of your skin, where your DNA comes from, XX or XY, or who you sleep with. When people in power put those things above the ability to lead in their selection of leaders, they fail themselves and the people they are supposed to serve.

Virtue signaling soaked in the blood of children. It's a thing.

Wednesday, November 28, 2018

Yes, Mexico Just Commissioned a Ship That Can Outfight Her American Counterpart

Did you miss what Mexico is building with the Dutch?

You'll want some, I'll guarantee it.

I outline why over at USNIBlog. 

Come on by!

Tuesday, November 27, 2018

Eastern European NATO vs. Russia - the Numbers

As we saw with the rapid fall of the Soviet Union and the end of the Cold War, history can change on a dime with little warning.

Russia's latest row with Ukraine is a good reason to tilt the prism we look at thing through and ponder a few items.

No one knows the Russians better than the Eastern Europeans who were once part of the Soviet Block.

When they rapidly moved away from Communism and joined NATO, they rightfully had a unique challenge in building sustainable economies and representative governments in line with the Western European standard +/-.

They all minimized what, under the protection of NATO and the supine wreckage of Russia to the east, was a lower priority - military spending.

The end of the 2nd decade of the 21st Century is not the 1990s and the last few years have seen a return to historical norms - the Russian bear looming to the east.

Of note, to a nation, all the former Warsaw Pact and Soviet Republics now in NATO have significantly increased military spending since 2014 when it was at its lowest. They skimped too much in the face of a growing Russia and are playing catch-up as best they can. Is it fast enough? TBD.

Hopefully, apart from internal realization of their shortcomings and pressure from the alliance partners, investment in defense in Eastern Europe will continue. Russians respect power more than anything, and a strong Eastern Front of NATO is best for all. 

I also hope there is something else driving this; a realization that NATO is not a guarantee. Many are now taking seriously what I have been warning my European friends for two decades; the USA is one election away from leaving Europe to its own devices (see the Norwegian series, Occupied - it ain't just me who sees this, and it pre-dates Trump).

What are those nations on the front lines against Russia doing for their own security? What alone, or in some collective, what can they put against the power of Russia?  

People and nations will show you what they think is important based on what they spend their money one. 

Last night I put a few numbers together.

There is so much potential here even without any help further west. Their population is not quite Russia, but it is their economic power that is the key.

Of course the weakest part of this is their lack of unified command - something they have in NATO - but with perhaps the Visegrad as the anchor - why not have some military structure in place like most of Western European NATO have with the EU military structure? Not a counter to NATO, but a backup - just like in hushed voices, some on the EU military staff will tell you. 

It would be a staff in being, waiting for a reason to scale up.

First things first though. The great advantage Eastern European NATO has against the Russians - especially Poland and the Czech Republic, is the strength of their GDP/person. They have strong economies. If they are smart, even small increases in military spending can buy quality kit and training - quickly closing the gap with Russia.

A strong Eastern Europe, economically, militarily and rule of law, would be the best guarantor of containing Russia. A promising side effect, by example and close ties, a rising Eastern Europe will help their neighbors, Ukraine and Moldova, start to improve as well. 

Eastern Europe does not have to think that Germany, France, Britain, or the USA are the only things keeping Russia away - if they invest and think - they can do most of it all themselves.

With strong backing to the west, even more. Remember, Eastern Europe has no threat from the west while Russia has much to concern her to her east. If Russia wanted to move west, she could not bring her full force to that effort.

Eastern Europe however can put their full force facing east.

Ponder 3-4 moves ahead of where we are at the close of 2018. 

Monday, November 26, 2018

Some Damn Fool Thing on the Azov

By design, or more likely just the result of a compound set of events, the not-unexpected happened between Ukraine and Russia in the Kerch Strait;
Russia has opened fire on Ukrainian ships and captured three vessels in a major escalation of tensions off the coast of Crimea.

Three sailors have been wounded after the Ukrainian navy said two artillery boats were hit by the strikes in the Black Sea.

Ukraine's President Petro Poroshenko called an emergency session of his war cabinet and said he will propose that parliament declare martial law.

Russia's Federal Security Service (FSB) said it used weapons after the Ukrainian ships ignored demands to stop and that it impounded three vessels which had illegally crossed the border.

The three injured sailors are receiving medical treatment and their lives are not in danger, the FSB said.

Ukraine's ambassador to the UK said Russian special forces had captured two armoured artillery boats and a tugboat in an "act of aggression".
If you missed them the first time around, in the last six months I’ve written about the set-up waiting for events to reveal themselves in the Sea of Azov. From June here, and August at USNIBlog. Give them a quick read and then come back if you have time, that way I won't have to repeat myself.

As reported by Arsen Avakov, this video is instructive. Look at the bow of the Russian ship relative to where the clouds meet the clear sky on the horizon. The tug went DIW to block, (possible backing bell right prior to collision) but the Russian ship clearly turns in to the tug.
It appears the ships taken by the Russians were the Gyurza-M Class ships BK-02 Berdiansk BERDIANSK and BK-03 NICOPOL, along with the tug YANI KAPU.

The Ukrainians, for now, are not being passive;
Poroshenko convened a military cabinet emergency meeting and later tweeted he would appeal to Parliament to declare martial law. "There are no red lines" for Russia, he said. "We consider such actions categorically unacceptable. And this aggression has already led to consequences."

The Azov Sea is an important economic lifeline for Ukraine, as it links the port city of Mariupol with the Black Sea. Both Ukraine and Russia share the Azov Sea: According to TASS, a 2003 treaty confirms the Azov Sea and the Kerch Strait as domestic waters of Russia and Ukraine.

In a statement to CNN, NATO spokesperson Oana Lungescu said NATO "fully supports Ukraine's sovereignty and its territorial integrity" and is calling on Russia "to ensure unhindered access to Ukrainian ports in the Azov Sea." The European Union echoed the latter sentiment.

"NATO is closely monitoring developments in the Azov Sea and the Kerch Strait, and we are in contact with the Ukrainian authorities. We call for restraint and de-escalation," the statement said.
The next play of a hand will come at 11:00 Eastern with a meeting of the UN Security Counsel.

So far, the best reaction I’ve seen is from the Polish Ministry of Foreign Affairs and about catches it right;

Though some will try to make this some kind of planned event, I don’t think so. The last time the Russians (nee Soviets) initiated a conflict in November was the Winter War with Finland, and that did not go all that well for them - but only a fool would try to predict what Russia would do.

The right questions is what they could do.

What this is, is an opportunity. Ukrainian elections are in less than five months. Russia’s traditional European rivals are in tatters. The British are weak and obsessed with Brexit. France has an unpopular and ineffective President and a people more inclined to internal conflict to external, and Germany is impotent, distracted, and incapable.

The United States has no treaty obligations and though sympathetic to the Ukrainians, no leader of political movement has any desire to put boots the ground - and nor should we.

This is an opportunity to further destabilize the European Union. Poland is strong. The Baltic Republics are waking up. Much of the old Warsaw Pact are worried, but weak - relying on EU and NATO to give them cover.

Is this an opportunity for a weak Putin to go for the cheap patriotic war to settle some outstanding border issues?

Wars have started for worse reasons with less favorable circumstances.

Ukraine has friends, but none who will fight for her.

Most likely COA from Russia? Squeeze every little bit of chaos and disruption they can out of this event short of war. 

What worries me most about this COA is that the Russians think they can control events this close to the edge.

Thursday, November 22, 2018

Happy Thanksgiving

In the great scheme of things, all Americans should take a step back and realize how much we 320 million have to be thankful for.

Generations before us, in imperfect steps as all human efforts are, built a nation that provided an unheard of record of stability, liberty and prosperity to a people not united by blood, region, religion, or at the start - even language.

Many in the world may hate us, but most all of that is bound by envy, bitterness, and a frustration that their society has yet to provide the same.

Where Americans find themselves did not get there by accident. Prior generations worked, invested, and sacrificed to keep it going, improving, and setting the table for the next generation.

Are we doing the same?

Remember, our national anthem ends with a question - so should our thanks.

A final note, thanks to all the Mess Specialists now Culinary Specialists and everyone else on the mess decks who tried so hard to produce a Thanksgiving feast for me when deployed through the years - and are doing the same for those who took my watch.

Wednesday, November 21, 2018

Front Line Nations Cannot Take a Back Seat Against Russian Submarines

While the math isn't horrible, if NATO needed to face Russia without USN SSN - it ain't pretty.

I'm doing some back of the cocktail napkin work over at USNIBlog.

Come on by.

Tuesday, November 20, 2018

Next They Came for the Submarines ...

Last week we covered over at USNIBlog, again, an issue that must be dragged out in to the light at every opportunity; our basic failure to be responsible stewards of the taxpayers' investment.

We have been shooting-up-the-horse so long we have lost the bubble on what it takes to properly maintain and support the fleet we have, much less one any larger. 

Maintenance and support are not sexy, but are absolutely critical to making sure we get the useful and effective life out of what we have, and your fleet is ready for war when it comes.

It takes a long view and a mature, professional mindset. It takes leaders to properly prioritize programs, and those who have the purse strings, the maturity to fund at appropriate levels.

Though the foundation of this problem goes back further, the last decade and a half have been specially horrible. Look at what happened to our shipyards, depots, and older ships (SPRUANCE & OHP) in their dotage. While we demand a longer life from ships in the outyears, we are not investing in their material condition today to make that a realistic option for an effective fleet. We want them deployed now, but do not respect the requirements for refit.

The latest example is from an area that information does not usually make it in to open source often; the submarine community;
From 2008 to 2018, most of the planned repairs for the Navy’s fleet of about 50 nuclear attack submarines have started late and run long resulting in a combined 10,363 days of maintenance delays and idle time.
“The Navy expects the maintenance backlogs at the public shipyards to continue. We estimate that, as a result of these backlogs, the Navy will incur approximately $266 million in operating and support costs in Fiscal year 2018 constant dollars for idle submarines from Fiscal year 2018 through Fiscal year 2023, as well as additional depot maintenance delays.”
Rep. Joe Courtney (D-Conn.), the ranking member on the House Armed Services seapower and projection forces subcommittee,...“While demand for our undersea fleet and its unique capabilities continues to rise as reflected in the 2016 Force Structure Assessment, delays in maintaining our existing fleet are exacerbating the growing shortfall in our submarine force structure,”
“Although the Navy has shifted about 8 million man-hours in attack submarine maintenance to private shipyards over the past five years, it has done so sporadically, having decided to do so in some cases only after experiencing lengthy periods of idle time,” read the report. “According to private shipyard officials, the sporadic shifts in workload have resulted in repair workload gaps that have disrupted private shipyard workforce, performance, and capital investment—creating costs that are ultimately borne in part by the Navy.”
I know it is not a fun or sexy topic that will create a lot of clicks or panel invitations, but we need to accept a few things:

1. No one is going to fund our 355 ship navy unless you want to adopt PLAN SALAMANDER for our ground forces and NATO posture so that funding and be diverted to sea.
2. We need to be willing to not build X number of warships so we can properly re-capitalize our shipyard, drydock, and depot level support commands.

A smaller, better maintained and ready navy will defeat a larger gaggle of poorly trained and equipped rust buckets any day.

I know this is not a surprise to many, but at the end of the day it always ends up on the cutting room floor. For a long time, this problem has been pointed out ... yet pushed to the back of the room.


Simple; the fetish for short term PPT fodder supporting personal gain now, vice longer term best practices for proper stewardship of the fleet of the future benefit of others.

Monday, November 19, 2018

A Hospital Ship's Soft Powers Sharp Elbow

As we've discussed here through the years, hospital ships are one of the best "soft power" assets we have. The green eye-shade types, warheads-on-forehead silo-dwellers, and the medical OCD narrow-casters will throw spitballs, but in my book look at two things:

1. Are your competitors building them too? Yes, look at the Chinese catch-up efforts.

2. Do they upset the right people? Well ... lookie here;
A U.S. Navy hospital ship moored off Colombia has started giving free medical care to Venezuelan refugees, in a move likely to rile officials in Caracas who deny the existence of a humanitarian crisis in their own countr
The USNS Comfort, which is on a three-month mission that has already taken in Ecuador and Peru and will end next month in Honduras, arrived at Colombia’s northwestern port city Turbo on Wednesday.

Patients in Turbo and Riohacha, where the ship will dock next week, will receive medical assistance from the crew of more than 900 doctors, nurses, military technicians and volunteers, with medical facilities on board the hospital ship as well as on shore.
China -- one of Venezuela’s few allies -- hastily dispatching its own hospital ship to Venezuela in September ahead of the U.S. mission.

“This is how you undertake diplomacy in the world,” Venezuelan defense minister Vladimir Padrino said at the time. “With concrete actions of co-operation and not stoking the false voices of those who beat the drum of war.”
Even here in the USA, the deployment is making all the right kind of enemies;
“It’s pretty brilliant PR, isn’t it?” Adam Isacson, a security analyst at the Washington Office on Latin America, a think tank, said in response to the deployment. “We could just as easily, at similar cost, send a huge contingent of civilian doctors, working on land where the people are, to help tend to the Venezuelan population. But sending a military ship -- even though it’s white with a big red cross on it -- sends more of a message about projecting U.S. power.”

Those useful idiots of the anti-American left/socialists/communists dating all the way back to the 1970s? GMAFB.

Boo on the author slumming for that quote ... but he is with The Guardian, so go figure.

Judge something by the enemies they make.

Conclusion: we need 4 new, modern hospital ships. Get cracking.

Sunday, November 18, 2018

Audience, Approach, and Obstacles in Military Communications with Chris Servello - on Midrats

How can our navy and its leadership better communicate internally and externally? What are the ways an organization can effectively inform influencers and the public in a way that is accurate, transparent, and effective?

Our guest for the full hour this Sunday from 5-6pm Eastern to discuss this and more will be Commander Chris Servello, USN.

Chris has more more than 20 years of global experience in strategic communication, messaging, branding, digital strategy, government affairs, and senior leader coaching.

In preparing for his upcoming terminal leave and transition to the civilian sector, Chris is founding member of Provision Advisors that focuses on building relationships with media, key influencer agents and dynamic communication.

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, November 16, 2018

Fullbore Friday

Last week was the story of the HMS JERVIS BAY and her crew during the Battle of Convoy HX84.

When we finished last week, HMS JERVIS BAY was out of the fight and the convoy was scattered - but she did her job.
By the time they realized that the Jervis Bay had been terribly alone, an hour had been lost. The convoy had been given time enough to break up and begin to flee.
...and so the pocket battleship ADMIRAL SCHEER, unopposed now, closed in.

However, there was a Canadian ship, the SS BEAVERFORD, armed with one 4 inch & one 3 inch gun who turned towards the SHEER and her six 11 inch, eight 5.9 inch guns and eight 21 inch torpedo tubes. What was the BEAVERFORD?
Beaverford was the first of five Beaver class cargo liners in service with the Canadian Pacific Railway’s fleet. The 10,042 ton twin screw, steam turbine merchant ship had her maiden voyage in 1928 ... designed to carry 10,000 tons of cargo and twelve passengers at 15 knots.
Although a Canadian Pacific ship, the company chose to register her in the UK, as was the practice at the time. She carried a crew of seventy-seven sailors and ably mastered by 60-year-old Captain Hugh Pettigrew from Coatbridge, Glasgow. He had been sailing with CP since 1910. Most of her crew came from the UK, except for two Canadians.
She was one of 18 ships that sailed in HX-1, the first convoy of the war from Halifax to the UK on 16 September 1939; just six days after Canada declared war on Germany. In early 1940, Beaverford had a 4 inch gun installed on her stern and a three inch gun on her bow, for defense against surfaced U-boats.

By the time HX-84 left Halifax on 28 October 1940, Beaverford had already crossed the Atlantic sixteen times in convoy.
JERVIS BAY was lost, and here is where we pick up the story, wonderfully told by Roger Litwiller;
SCHEER then steamed past the sinking JERVIS BAY, now free to engage the merchant ships of the convoy. With only 22 minutes the convoy was still a smorgasbord of targets for the pocket battleships 11 inch guns with a range of over 19 miles; she could pick and choose her targets unimpeded.

In quick succession she sank the freighter Maiden carrying a mixed cargo and military vehicles, all ninety-one sailors killed, then damaged and set on fire the tanker San Demetrio, followed by sinking the freighters Trewellard, carrying steel and 12 aircraft, killing 16 sailors and Kenbane Head, general cargo, with 23 killed.

Captain Pettigrew had heeded the order to disperse, bringing Beaverford to full speed and turning away from the mighty German warship, as he and his crew watched JERVIS BAY engage ADMIRAL SCHEER. Beaverford’s radio operator sent out a continuous update of the action on the ships wireless.

They watched as the ship closest to them, Kenbane Head, suddenly exploded and sink as the massive German rounds found their mark. Pittigrew gave the order to turn Beaverford about and he raced his ship through the smoke towards the mighty ADMIRAL SHEER.

Beaverford’s radio operator sent one last message on the wireless, “It is our turn now. So long. The captain and crew of SS Beaverford.”

Pettigrew ordered the stokers, manning the boilers to make smoke, laying a dense smoke screen to hide the fleeing ships of the convoy.

At 15 knots the Canadian Pacific ship suddenly broke through the smoke close enough for her 4 and 3 inch guns to register a near miss on SCHEER. The pocket battleship checked her fire and concentrated on the new threat, turning her full might on Beaverford.

With the skill of a master mariner and the courage of his crew, Captain Pittigrew battled ADMIRAL SCHEER, playing a deadly game of “cat and mouse” as she ducked in and out of the smoke screen, harassing the enemy warship.

Beaverford’s superior steam turbines allowed the merchant ship to utilize a burst of speed and with Pettigrew’s skill and exceptional seamanship he would wait for SCHEER’s 11 inch guns to fire and then order an increase in speed and change of course, making his ship a difficult target to hit.

Beaverford’s delaying action allowed the Swedish freighter Stureholm to return and pick up the sixty-five survivors from HMS JERVIS BAY.

The battle between Beaverford and ADMIRAL SCHEER continued into the dead of night. The fleeing ships of HX-84 could see the star shells and illumination rockets lighting the night sky, as SCHEER attempted to find her antagonizer. The merchant ship had many opportunities to turn away and escape in the darkness and the smoke, but she continued on with the fight.

Whenever SCHEER would turn towards the direction of the fleeing merchant ships, Beaverford would break through the smoke and darkness and engage the pocket battleship, then disappear again. Beaverford suffered for her actions, SCHEER fired 83 rounds from her 11 inch guns and 71 rounds from her 5.9 inch guns at the Canadian Pacific ship.

The battle had now lasted over five incredible hours, Beaverford was in trouble, and fires were raging in the ship, making her an easier target for the German gunners. She had by now been struck with twelve 11 inch shells and sixteen 5.9 inch shells. We can only imagine the hardship, destruction and carnage faced by her sailors as they attempted to continue the fight.

With her speed slowing as the steam turbines were damaged, SCHEER fired a torpedo. It found its target in Beaverford’s bow at 2245. With a sudden, fierce explosion, Beaverford disappeared in a mass of flames as the ammunition stowed in her bow detonated.

We do not know how many of Beaverford’s brave crew died during the battle or if anyone survived that final devastating moment as their ship erupted into a massive ball of fire. By the time Beaverford was lost, there were no allied ships in the area to search for survivors. All seventy-seven sailors sacrificed their lives so convoy HX-84 could escape.
What can you say of such men? Such leaders? Such Sailors?


Thursday, November 15, 2018

Tuesday, November 13, 2018

Revenge as a COA: Approved

Nice bit from France24 in an interview with French journalist and writer Matthieu Suc. It it, the author and interviewer discuss the elimination of the Islamic States terror organizing braintrust in Raqqa responsible for the bloody 2015 attacks in Paris and others.

France was not alone in the fight. This hints at the very international nature of the Long War we don't hear enough about.
The US understood that with the September 11, 2001, attacks, where there were engineers among the terrorists. The 2015 attacks made it clear to French intelligence that the enemy was in fact talented operationally.
The shock of the attacks of November 13, 2015, and July 14, 2016, [the Nice truck attack, which killed 86 people] sparked a collective awareness within the services of the need to work together.
The intelligence services of the different Western countries have overcome the culture of mistrust that prevailed before, and everyone has cooperated in the common mission against the IS group. The hunt for the jihadists was conducted both to avenge the November 2015 attacks as well as to get to the roots of the problem. From 2015, the paradigm shifted, the international community understood that the Islamic State could strike anywhere in the world. Even the Russians and the Chinese cooperated. The British have been very good at infiltrating the terrorist group and [Israel's] Mossad have been too.
Note the Russian play. As I am wont to say - stupid actions by the Russians aside and silly petty politics on our end in response - we have more reasons to work with the Russians than against them in many areas. This is one.
The United States is much less modest than France in speaking openly about the targeted killings of IS leaders. No official French news release announced the death of Oussama Atar on November 17, 2017. That would have meant acknowledging that there are assassinations outside the legal framework. Paris prefers to talk about strikes on geographic locations.

For example, on August 30, 2016, Sheikh Abu Mohammed al-Adnani, the IS No. 2 and spokesman for the terrorist organisation, was killed by a US missile. The death notice released by the DGSI, the French spy agency, soberly declared that the death of Adnani marked the end of the terrorist who supervised the attacks of Paris and Brussels [in March 2016, which killed 32 civilians].

But Paris has regularly given detailed information to the Americans on the presence of high-ranking IS figures in the Syria-Iraq zone to be tracked and eliminated. Cooperation between France and the United States has been successful, to the point that France did not target the planners of the November 13, 2015, attacks – they were eliminated by American bombs. Washington sees France as its "external border" – if the attacks were not happening in France, it would probably be in the United States.
Mossad believes that with the 2017 elimination of the head of the caliphate’s "CIA", Oussama Atar, the branch within IS responsible for the Europe attacks has been beheaded. But the Islamic State group is not defeated – it has been pushed back geographically. The amniyat may no longer exist – the means of a state apparatus are no longer available to their terrorist projects – but one shouldn't underestimate its heritage.
This is good as it buys time for the West between attacks as IS rebuilds their ability and has to re-capitalize ... but as we have learned the hard way, they will not be deterred. They will find new people. They will attack again.

Yes, I know, we never seem to "finish" the job - but let's be adults here. The American public would not allow us to "finish" the job, much less the international community, so we do what we can when and where we can.

Mowing the grass? Perhaps, but life is better with a well tended lawn than an overgrown mess.

Hat tip Craig Whiteside.

Monday, November 12, 2018

The Arab Lessons of the Arab Spring

I wish it were different, but I think this is the only smart take right now, and the one most in-line with American interests.

Until education, secularism, demographics, and culture in the Arab world return to a sustainable path, I don't think the world wants anything to do with a fully democratic Arab world.

Hasan Hasan has a great read over at The Atlantic;
If the autocrats lost control over the masses in 2011, the thinking goes, that was because they did not go far enough in their repression. Former Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak gave some space to the Muslim Brotherhood, political activists, and critical media. Look what happened to him.

As unrest generated by the Arab Spring shifted power away from Arab republics to richer, more stable Gulf monarchies, leaders throughout the region dropped the pretense that they would ever bow, or bend, to the popular will—whether in the direction of more democracy or more extreme religiosity.

Saudi Crown Prince, Mohammed bin Salman, for example, declared in 2017: “We will not waste 30 years trying to deal with extremist ideas; we will eradicate them here and now.” In defense of moderation, he proposed simply stomping out religious radicals. (In American terms: Shock and awe rather than hearts and minds.) And MbS was probably using the term “extremist” conveniently; the Saudis have since designated as terrorist organizations certain religious groups, such as the International Union of Muslim Scholars, broadly perceived as mainstream.

Generally speaking, authoritarian countries seem more willing than ever before to disregard the desires of the Arab street. It is now an open secret that Gulf states have developed ties with Israel, in the absence of formal relations, including trade partnerships and security deals. Just last week, an Israeli minister toured Abu Dhabi, the national Israeli anthem was reportedly sung in Doha, and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu made a historic visit to Muscat. Such reports along with continued support for President Trump’s “deal of the century,” despite his administration’s decision to move the American embassy to Jerusalem, have enraged Arab populations.
"Enraged Arab populations." We know what that is, we see what that will do.

Would you rather deal with those gaggles, or these?
Of course there is a constituency for such high-handedness. Elites, secular nationalists, and ordinary people exhausted by or fearful of wars were euphoric following the rise of leaders such as Abdel Fattah el-Sisi in Egypt and MbS. They are now banking on their success, convinced that any compromise will undo the “gains” made so far.
Speaking of Egypt;
In Egypt, the campaign against the Muslim Brotherhood and any form of dissent is the fieriest in nearly 50 years. Most Islamists and critics are either languishing in jail or living in exile. ... To Sisi and his supporters, harsh measures are acceptable because they have stabilized the country. Even Muslim Brotherhood leaders acknowledge that the campaign against it has been effective in the sense that it has been devastating, breaking the organization into multiple pieces. Precisely because crackdowns have worked, the regime and its supporters also back their continuation. Now that a final victory against the Muslim Brotherhood is within reach, why let up?
I wonder who helped give the Muslim Brotherhood a boost in Egypt about a decade ago...
A sign that the Obama administration is willing to publicly challenge Egypt's commitment to parliamentary democracy: various Middle Eastern news sources report that the administration insisted that at least 10 members of the Muslim Brotherhood, the country's chief opposition party, be allowed to attend his speech in Cairo on Thursday.
The West should be humble in its efforts in that part of the world. Help those modernizing and secularizing leaders who emerge organically. Starve, ignore, and hobble retrograde leaders who promote externalizing their radicalism. Sometimes those can be the same people, but such is a culture that goes back to the dawn of human existence.

Whatever we do, we need to be quiet about it - and not the major player. Young, short-term players - as we are - do not usually come out on top vs. the old long-term players - as they are.

Young, long-term players - such as the Israelis - they are the exception, but you could argue they are only "young" players in the modern context. One could argue they are the oldest playing the longest long-term game of anyone.

Friday, November 09, 2018

Fullbore Friday

You go to war with what you have or what you can quickly patch together, the end result of the decision of others who will not have to fight, not have to command, not have to die.

There is no time to what-if. There is no time to complain. There is only time to get underway.

Duty. Mission. Training.
If confronted by the enemy, Fegen told his officers when he came aboard, “I shall take you in as close as I possibly can.”
You have what you have, but it is what you do with it that matters.

War is not fair. Your enemy will not wait for you to be ready. Time arrives when it want to.
November 1940.

America is over a year from joining the war. The Blitz is in its 2nd month. Liverpool has been bombed over 200 times already. German U-Boats rule the North Atlantic.

In Halifax, a convoy forms. 37 freighters heading to Britain across a hostile sea. They get one escort.

A converted merchant ship armed with a few late-19th Century manually aimed 6" guns that could fire - with a well trained crew - about 8-rounds per minute with a range of 14,600 yards.

She was the HMS JERVIS BAY, and she had a mission.
In November 1940 the Jervis Bay was the sole escort for Convoy HX84 of thirty-seven freighters moving from Halifax to Britain
An extended quote from the HMS JERVIS BAY website
The position of the convoy was known to the Germans. In his book, Kapitän Theodore Krancke certainly makes no secret of expecting to find convoy HX84. ("That was the convoy all right").

As the Jervis Bay repeatedly signalled the challenge "A", the signals officer of the Scheer was commanded to attempt a bluff.

" ... 'She'll give her recognition signal in a moment,' said Krancke. 'Whatever it turns out to be repeat it at once as though we were calling her.'

Krancke was anxious to leave the enemy in doubt as to his real identity for as long as possible in order to get close up to the convoy before opening fire. At the moment the distance between the Scheer and the British auxiliary cruiser was still about fifteen miles.
That is 30,000 yards.

Who was Krancke? The Skipper of the pocket battleship ADMIRAL SCHEER. SHEER was armed with 11" guns with a range of 39,000 yards and a secondary armament of 5.9" guns with a range of 25,000 yards.

The Skipper of the HMS JERVIS BAY, Captain Edward Fegen, VC SGM, Royal Navy, knew this.
The auxiliary cruiser's 'A' was now followed by 'M' - 'A' - 'G' in quick succession. The Signals Officer of the Scheer immediately had the 'M.A.G' signal repeated, but the bluff failed. The Captain of the British auxiliary cruiser was not deceived. In any case, he probably knew quite definitely that no friendly warship could possibly be in that quarter, and now sheafs of red rockets began to hiss up from his decks - clearly the pre-arranged signal for the convoy to scatter. At the same time the auxiliary cruiser and most of the other ships in the convoy began to lay down a smoke screen.

The distance between the two ships was considerably less now and when it was about ten miles the Scheer, which up to then had been racing straight towards the convoy, turned to port to bring her broadside to bear. The guns were trained on their targets now - the big guns had been ordered to concentrate on the British auxiliary cruiser while the medium artillery was to take a tanker not far away from her as its target.

The British auxiliary cruiser, which was ahead of the second line of the convoy, had stopped signalling, and by this time the ships were close enough for the British Captain to have realised what he was faced with, for the outlines of the Scheer were now clearly visible against the evening sky and he could plainly see the guns of her triple turrets trained on him. As unlikely as it might seem, he had encountered a German pocket battleship in mid-Atlantic.
Let's pick up Chuck Lyons story over at WarfareHistoryNetwork;
Made aware of the Rangtiki’s sighting, at about 4:45 Captain Fegen sounded action stations and began accelerating his ship out of her convoy position and toward the Admiral Scheer.

Fegen immediately began firing his 6-inch guns even though he was well out of range of the Scheer. He also ordered smoke canisters deployed to hide the convoy, which made a quick turn away from the German ship and scattered. At a distance of about 10 miles, Captain Krancke swung the Scheer to port, bringing both his triple turrets to bear on the convoy and Jervis Bay. He began firing at the oncoming armed merchantman, the second salvo splashing 50 yards off Jervis Bay’s bow with 150-foot spouts of sea water, soaking the Bay’s forward gun crews.

Sam Patience, a quartermaster aboard Jervis Bay, heard what he later described as a “thunk” and turned to see a member of his gun crew slump to the deck, his head severed from his body. Admiral Scheer’s third salvo hit Jervis Bay’s bridge, knocking out her rangefinder, wireless, and fire-control equipment. Several officers and crewmen were killed by the blast, and Captain Fegen’s left arm was mangled.

As Scheer continued to fire, Jervis Bay was hit repeatedly on her superstructure, and her hull was holed in several places. The port bulkhead of the radio shack was gone and a radio operator and two coders were dead.

The remaining radioman climbed to the remnants of the bridge where he saw Captain Fegen“clutching his arm, blood spilling off his sleeve.”

Fires burned uncontrolled.

Wanting to neutralize the escort ship so he was free to attack the convoy, Scheer’s commander continued to train his big guns on Jervis Bay. Darkness was falling, and he knew he needed to sink Jervis Bay quickly so that he would have time to attack the convoy. Each salvo from the Scheer launched two and a half tons of ordnance at the stricken ship. The forward port side of Jervis caught the brunt of the fire and became a mass of twisted girders, bent and jagged plate, dead and wounded sailors, and flames. A shell somehow loosed Jervis’s anchor, and another knocked the white ensign of the Royal Navy off the top of the main mast. Midshipman Ronald Butler later recalled helping an unnamed seaman climb the mast to nail up a replacement ensign.

Jervis Bay continued steaming at Admiral Scheer and firing her guns until her steering gear was knocked out. The petty officer manning the wheel called into the voice tube that the ship’s steering gear was out of action and heard the captain’s pained voice come back ordering him to “man the aft steering position.”

With his ship aflame and sinking, Captain Fegen continued to maintain the unequal fight and stayed in command despite his shattered arm, consciously buying time for the ships of the convoy to escape.

Up to now, Captain Fegen had stayed on the collapsing bridge, which was under continuous hits from Admiral Scheer’s big guns. Shortly after giving the order to man the aft gear, however, he struggled down the starboard side of the bridge and, aided by a signalman, headed aft, stopping to encourage a gunner along the way and ordering more smoke deployed.

After a blast destroyed the after-control compartment just as he arrived there, the captain headed forward again, with “blood running over the four gold stripes on his sleeve,” Midshipman Butler later said.

Captain Fegen never made it. His body and the body of the signalman who was helping him were later seen on the deck. “[Jervis Bay] did not have a chance, and we all knew it,” said Captain Sven Olander, commander of the Swedish freighter Stureholm, one of the convoy ships. “But she rode like a hero and stayed to the last.”

Meanwhile, exploding cordite bags on Jervis Bay’s poop deck had convinced Captain Krancke that the smaller ship was still firing despite the severe damage she had suffered. He didn’t dare concentrate on the convoy until the threat posed by Jervis Bay was eliminated. Any damage to his ship from a lucky hit could seriously affect her ability to escape any hunt for her launched by the Royal Navy.

Krancke continued focusing his big guns on Jervis Bay, but turned some of his smaller ones against ships in the convoy that were still within his range.

After an hour of the unrelenting German fire and with Captain Fegen dead, Lt. Cmdr. George Roe, now in command, ordered the remaining crew of Jervis Bay to abandon ship. All of Jervis Bay’s life boats had been destroyed but rafts, some of which were damaged, and the ship’s 18-foot “jolly boat” had survived the bombardment and were launched. Most of Jervis Bay’s men simply jumped into the icy, sub-Arctic sea, some making it to the rafts and jolly boat. Others made do with what they could find floating in the water.

Shortly after the order was given to abandon ship, Jervis Bay went down. The white ensign Midshipman Butler had helped raise was the last thing to settle beneath the Atlantic waves.
Of the 254 crewmembers of JERVIS BAY, only 68 survived the battle.

The Skipper of JERVIS BAY, 49-yr old Captain Edward Fegen, was awarded a posthumous Victoria Cross as a result of this action.
"for valour in challenging hopeless odds and giving his life to save the many ships it was his duty to protect. On the 5th of November, 1940, in heavy seas, Captain Fegen, in His Majesty's Armed Merchant Cruiser Jervis Bay, was escorting thirty-eight Merchantmen. Sighting a powerful German warship he at once drew clear of the Convoy, made straight for the Enemy, and brought his ship between the Raider and her prey, so that they might scatter and escape. Crippled, in flames, unable to reply, for nearly an hour the Jervis Bay held the German's fire. So she went down: but of the Merchantmen all but four or five were saved."
The Battle of Convoy HX-84 was far from over even after the loss of JERVIS BAY.

For that, you'll have to wait for next Friday's FbF.

Thursday, November 08, 2018

Sweden's Diverse Answer to ASW in the Littorals

I like the direction Sweden is going. Keeping solid, basic kill ability while incrementally making newer weapons.

I'm reviewing over at USNIBlog.

Come on by!

Tuesday, November 06, 2018

Just Vote

That is all today. If you have not already, vote.

I won't tell you who to vote for, just to vote for those who best reflect your policy views, or is the candidate of the two who is less corrupt or who leans towards individual liberty more than the other.

If you can vote but choose not to, then shut up.

Monday, November 05, 2018

Space Force; America's Bolivian Navy

Frankly, I don't care what you do to your ORG Chart. You can move things around and call them what you want - but what are you actually putting money towards, what will it buy, and what will you plan to do with it?

Bolivia - a landlocked nation - has a navy. That does not mean they are on any navalist's benchmark list.

Sure, it isn't fair to use that scenario as a direct parallel to the US space program - we are by almost all measures the #1 space power - but there are a lot of what-ifs and caveats to that #1. Decades of bi-partisan neglect has set us back from what was once a rock-solid structure.

I think everyone has had a little fun with the "Space Force" chatter over the last few months. It is a deadly serious subject, but as to the question if we need a separate service, I'm not totally sold.

I can argue the "pro" side easier than the "con," but only by a little bit.

Here's why; we have yet to do the very basics right first. Step 1: we should have a sovereign capability to execute the entire depth and breadth of space operations.

NASA has been starved for a long time, but has still done great things. For way too long we have had to rely on the Russians. The private sector is stepping up and we are trying to get better - but the nation that went to the moon and back decades ago is just throwing away a competitive advantage that history will not see in a positive light.

Let's get that right, then we can get back to arguing if Space Force should have Air Force ranks, or be the Space Corp with proper Navy ranks.

BZ to John Mosbey over at MWI, he's saying what needs to be said; Congress needs to put its money where its mouth is.
But one thing is missing: congressional support for launching America’s most precious assets—including national security satellites—exclusively from American launch facilities. The sooner we realize the importance of this element, and insist on it, the more secure and economically viable the American space launch sector becomes.

There are, of course, arguments against such action, typically made on ideological grounds—that such a move would amount to protectionism, something inconsistent with American notions of a free market economy. But remember, even Adam Smith, the father of free-market economic theory, believed exceptions should to his theory were justified: he believed, for instance, that subsidies for gunpowder manufacturers made sense if it ensured a ready domestic supply.

Discussions of whether, how and, when to stand up a Space Force, as well as what budget to provide, how to manage potentially splitting the US Air Force, and whether to put older industry players and ideas on waivers so we can field a more robust “US Aerospace Force,” will continue. And they should.

But below that level, important security options do present themselves to Congress. One is more vigorously supporting entrepreneurial, American space launch companies. Yes, we must always consider the inputs of time-proven sources, such as the Air Force Association, and others, but whatever the score on the Space Force, the time is now to get behind small American companies, and keep space launch on US soil.

Friday, November 02, 2018

Fullbore Friday

I like to bring this back as an encore FbF now in then. I first posted it in 2006, and again in 2010.

I'll adjust the dates and try my best to update dead links to keep it up to date - but the message stays the same.

One of the last. Great history. USS WISCONSIN (BB-64). BTY, shipmates have a great website as well. Just don't like it too much.

Oh, and for some perspective about how far the Battleship came to peak of the Iowa class, here is a nice pic of her next to the uprighted USS OKLAHOMA (BB-37).

As a final commentary - the USS OKLAHOMA (BB-37) was commissioned in 1916. The USS WISCONSIN (BB-64) in 1944. 28 years. Click that link above and come back.

The first
TICONDEROGA class CG was commissioned 35 years ago. The next "ship of the line" to be commissioned will be the Flight IIA ARLEIGH BURKE Class Destroyer USS Thomas Hudner (DDG-116).

There are a couple of transformationalists that I have friendly exchanges with on-&-offline. Their constant refrain is that we are in a period of radical technological advancement.

That always bothers me - no, we are not. 1898-1918. 1916-1944. 1939-1962. Please. We are not even close to be in a period of quickening.

If we looked as technology as a tool and not an answer, we would save a lot of blood and treasure. Be humble.

Thursday, November 01, 2018

Not a plot for a Bond film, just another day in Finland

You have to admit - you wish this kind of stuff was happening in your back yard.
Retired to a tiny island in an archipelago between Finland and Sweden, Leo Gastgivar awoke early one morning to visit the outhouse in his bathrobe, only to notice two black speedboats packed with Finnish commandos in camouflage fatigues waiting in the bay near his front door.

After an exchange of awkward greetings, Mr Gastgivar went inside, collected a pair of binoculars and watched aghast as the commandos raced off towards the island of his nearest neighbour, a mysterious Russian businessman he had never met or even seen.

“I thought: ‘Wow! That is certainly unusual’,” Mr Gastgivar recalled of the encounter. “Nobody ever visits that place.”

The island, Sakkiluoto, belongs to Pavel Melnikov, a 54-year-old Russian from St Petersburg, who has dotted the property with security cameras, motion detectors and no-trespassing signs emblazoned with the picture of a fearsome looking guard in a black balaclava.

The island also has nine piers, a helipad, a swimming pool draped in camouflage netting and enough housing – all of it equipped with satellite dishes – to accommodate a small army.
Who knows ... but still. 

If you want to play around, here's the google link to the island.