Monday, December 31, 2018

Ending 2018 with a Feh

Going through my weekly stack of unread mail this weekend, I came across my annual statement from the VA. I overshot the “to file” stack and it fell on the floor. It landed face down, and that gave me an opportunity to review something I have not looked at in a long time; the definition of The Long War.

We all need a reference point. Most, including myself, usually use September 2001 as the starting point, but that never really seemed right. Perhaps the VA is closer to the correct answer.

Sure, this is more just a reflection of the Legislative and Executive Branches’ inability to effectively do their job, but there is a bit of truth to this.

02 AUG 1990 is when the VA says the war we are still in started. Over 28 years ago.

Here is where, in a way, things have come full circle.

As we got ready for 2QFY91’s DESERT STORM, you know who we fought along side during the liberation of Kuwait? Of note, they were held in reserve, but in actuality, neither they nor the Egyptians in this part of the line had much enthusiasm for the fight and mostly refused to engage when they were needed most. However, there they were.

And what did we see over the weekend?

The Unites States, France, and Great Britain standing shoulder to shoulder with the Syrian army against Turkish aggression.

What has changed since 1990? Well, besides Iran being the boogie man, a lot.

One of the foundation reasons for the Gulf War, the free flow of oil (to us) at market prices, has changed significantly; in North America, we are completely self-sufficient with oil. We have an inertia to our policy and we have managed to tangle ourselves in that areas internal problems to the point that we are policing internal Syrian security against another NATO ally. So, we’re still there and will be for … who knows – 2046?

And so, my final post of 2018 looks back at 1990 and thinks, “We’ve really got ourselves in a mess this time, didn’t we?”

Friday, December 28, 2018

Fullbore Friday

While much has been written about the questionable operational and strategic use of the Imperial Japanese Navy's submarines in WWII, precious little has been written about some of the superb tactical leadership, performance, and effect some of their units had.

When re-reading portions of James Hornfischer's exceptional book, Neptune's Inferno, I was reminded of one of the most influential warships and commanders of the entire Pacific Campaign; then LCDR Kinashi Takakazu, IJN (later CDR and posthumously promoted to Rear Admiral).

It isn't just what he sunk or damaged (click here for his entire patrol record) - but the impact he and his crew had on the Naval Battle of Guadalcanal.

The first year of the war was not a good time to be an aircraft carrier, Japanese or American. USS YORKTOWN (CV 5) was sunk in June 1942 at the Battle of Midway. USS LEXINGTON (CV 2) was sunk a month before YORKTOWN at the Battle of the Coral Sea.

Then, one beautiful Pacific day,
15 September 1942:
At 0950, while running submerged, the soundman reports a contact with many heavy screws at 12-18S, 164-15E. LtCdr Kinashi orders I-19 to periscope depth. He makes a sweep with his 'scope but no ships are in sight.

250 miles SE of Guadalcanal. Captain (later Admiral) Forrest P. Sherman's USS WASP and Captain Charles P. Mason's (later Rear Admiral) HORNET (CV-8) are escorting a reinforcement convoy of six transports carrying the 7th Marine Regiment from Espiritu Santo to reinforce Guadalcanal. The carriers are steaming in sight of each other about 8 miles apart. Each carrier forms the nucleus of a task force. Captain George H. Fort's (later Rear Admiral) battleship USS NORTH CAROLINA (BB-55) is with the HORNET task force to the NE of the WASP force.

At 1050, Kinashi raises his periscope again. This time he sees a carrier, a heavy cruiser and several destroyers (Rear Admiral Leigh Noyes' Task Force 18) bearing 045T at 9 miles. Kinashi estimates the task force's course at 330 and begins a slow approach. The Americans, zigzagging at 16 knots, change course to WNW. Then at 1120, the target group again changes course -this time to SSE. WASP makes a slow left turn into the wind to launch and recover her aircraft - and heads toward the I-19.

LtCdr Kinashi estimates that his target is on course 130 degrees making 12 knots. At 1145, from 50 degrees starboard, he fires a spread of six Type 95 oxygen-propelled torpedoes at the enemy carrier from 985 yards. Two or possibly three hit the WASP and start an uncontrollable fire.

HORNET force continues a right turn to a 280 degree base course. Suddenly, an alarm is heard the tactical radio speakers from USS LANSDOWNE (DD-486) in the WASP's screen "... torpedo headed for formation, course 080!"

At 1152, a torpedo from I-19's salvo hits NORTH CAROLINA in her port bow abreast of her forward main battery turret. The blast holes the side protection below the armor belt and NORTH CAROLINA takes on a thousand tons of water. She takes on a five-degree list but counter flooding quickly levels her and she makes 25 knots.

At 1154, a torpedo hits destroyer O'BRIEN's (DD-415) port quarter and another just misses HORNET.

I-19 dives to 265 feet under the carrier's wake. The first depth charge explodes six minutes after the last torpedo hit. Soon the depth charges were exploding all around. American destroyers try to surround I-19 to attack together and finish her off. They rain down 30 depth charges.

At noon, WASP's avgas tanks explode. At 1515, two cruisers and destroyers abandon WASP and withdraw to the south. At 1520, Captain Sherman orders "Abandon Ship". The carrier is scuttled by five torpedoes from LANSDOWNE and sinks by the bow at about 2100. WASP suffers 193 killed and 367 wounded.
The USN was spooked by I-19 for weeks and months - seeing her everywhere and avoiding every hint of her.

Six weeks later, on 26 October 42, USS HORNET (CV 8) was sunk at the Battle of Santa Cruz Islands by aircraft. That left just one carrier USS ENTERPRISE (CV 6) - safely kept 200nm or so south of Guadalcanal - for the upcoming naval battles in November that saw close in surface actions that chewed up battleships, cruisers, destroyers, aircraft and men unlike anything either navy had seen in its modern history.

If you want that extended story, you need to get the book.

Thursday, December 27, 2018

Poland Speaks its Truth

Over at Defense News, Poland's defense minister Mariusz Błaszczak outlines some immediate steps Poland is taking in response to the changes she sees as a front line nation.

Imagine if each NATO nation took a comparable move relative to their size. You want to strengthen the alliance? That is how you strengthen the alliance.
We have decided to form a fourth division east of the Vistula river. The whole process will take approximately three years with the perspective of the division’s full operational capability in spring 2021. We will continue to develop the Territorial Defence Forces as the fifth service of the Polish Armed Forces with its 17 brigades spread across each Polish province. We also continue designating significant financial resources for military
Hat tip SP.

Wednesday, December 26, 2018

The Demographics of Naval Supremacy

The numbers.

There are two things that will make the Terrible 20s so terrible for the US Navy.

1. What we are willing to spend money on to build a new fleet while maintaining the old.

2. What I'm writing about this Boxing Day over at USNIBlog.

Monday, December 24, 2018

On Mattis

First of all, this Christmas Eve, regardless of your confession I wish all peace and happiness. 

As we are all busy, I'll just cut to the chase.

Last Thursday I offered a few points on Syria, and I guess I should make a few points about Secretary Mattis's departure as well.

Slightly modified from some comments I made SEPCOR, here is the Executive Summary:

We're all going to be just fine. I've been a Mattis guy since 2001, but SECDEF is a position for a politician, not a Field Marshall. Even though I have 100% trust in him for any position he may find himself in, Mattis was never quite well suited for the position of SECDEF as it was designed. He had to get a waiver for a reason. I am still a Mattis guy and I wish him well.

As for who should replace him, anyone who can get a nod from the Senate and will continue to promote what Trump has been doing and I have been honking about since Bush43: 
(1) decouple from being the world's policeman, 
(2) get our NATO allies to pull their fair share of the load. 2% isn't exactly asking for a lot.

Again, we're fine. 
- We are mostly in the Middle East due to strategic inertia and to tidy up problems generally of our own creation. We don't need their oil anymore. 
- While our debt issues are huge, we are in better shape than any other major nation on the planet. When the music stops, the world will groan, but we will hurt less than almost anyone else. 
- We feed ourselves. 
- Our entire hemisphere is of zero threat to us. 
- The only real global challenger we have will be China  and we have absolutely ZERO reason to have a land dispute with them on mainland Asia. Any conflict will - if we are smart about it - be mostly an air and sea conflict for us, with any land force hopefully limited to islands.

What we don't need is an expanded universe of nations and regions we are garrisoning in order to secure their peace at the cost of increasing the threat of possible war for us over things that are none of our business.

Specifically WRT Syria, I've said it a hundred and I'll say it a million times; if it were so important to secure - the area of the West most negatively impacted by the Syrian civil war would have a string of divisions lining the eastern banks of the Euphrates - the Europeans. You see a sprinkling of French there (the former colonial power), but that is about it.

It is only our circus and our monkeys if we stay long enough. Time to go. If we need to come back and break more things and kill more people for a few months, then fine - we'll do it.

I can argue the other side of the argument as well ... but I frankly don't care to any more. I save that energy for IRQ and AFG.

Friday, December 21, 2018

Fullbore Friday

Earlier this month, there was a lot to discussion about drydocks.

How important are they in wartime? Well, all you need to do is to look at one of the great acts of WWII, via Michael Hull at Naval History magazine; The Sacrifice at Saint Nazaire;
The port contained an enormous wet and dry dock—built in peacetime for the 82,800-ton French luxury liner Normandie—that was the only facility on the Atlantic coast where the German Navy could accommodate its two biggest battleships, the 42,900-ton Tirpitz and 41,700-ton Bismarck. The Royal Navy had sunk the latter on 27 May 1941 after an epic chase, but the Tirpitz, operational since mid-January 1942 and a prime threat to the British, was lurking in the fiords of Norway.
The chosen plan, drawn up in strict secrecy, called for an old destroyer laden with explosives to ram the steel outer lock gate, or caisson, of the Normandie dry dock and then be scuttled. Three eight-hour fuses on board would detonate the charges. The operation was to involve a 300-mile sea voyage and a five-mile run up the Loire estuary.

The destroyer chosen for the raid was the 1,090-ton HMS Campbeltown, formerly the USS Buchanan (DD-131). She was one of the 50 four-stack, flush-deck World War I–era destroyers turned over to the Royal Navy by the Roosevelt administration in September 1940 in exchange for British bases in Bermuda, the West Indies, and Newfoundland. For her “Trojan horse” role, the decrepit, flimsy vessel was heavily modified, in part to reduce her displacement enough to allow the ship to traverse the Loire estuary’s shallows and avoid its more heavily defended channel. The destroyer’s explosive charge consisted of 24 400-pound depth charges concreted in a specially built steel compartment below her foredeck. She also would carry two assault and five demolition teams of Commandos.

The raiding force assembled in the Cornwall port of Falmouth on the craggy southwestern tip of England. Besides the centerpiece Campbeltown, the vessels comprised a motor gunboat (MGB-314), a motor torpedo boat (MTB-74), and 16 unarmored motor launches. Manned by 346 naval personnel, the boats and destroyer were to carry 265 Commandos armed Bren light machine guns, Thompson submachine guns, hand grenades, and explosive charges. The vessels would be escorted by the Hunt-class destroyers Atherstone and Tynedale, which would remain outside the estuary, and additional support was to be furnished by the destroyers Cleveland and Brocklesby.
Shortly after 0100 on 28 March, Mecke received a warning that unlighted ships were sailing up the Loire estuary leading into the Saint-Nazaire harbor. Rushing to an observation post, he squinted through a telescope and discerned the dark shapes of about 15 vessels. Captain Mecke called for searchlights to be switched on, and Ryder’s flotilla was outlined brightly.

The Kriegsmarine officer was hesitant to give an order to open fire because one of the intruding vessels, the Campbeltown, appeared to be German, but the others did not. Yet all were flying German flags. He ordered a shell to be fired across the bow of the leading craft, and moments later the British fired a green flare that split into three red stars, the German recognition signal.

Flanked by enemy guns on both sides of the Loire, the flotilla moved carefully between mudflats and sandbanks, churning steadily onward. It was less than a mile from the Normandie dock at 0130 when the German batteries opened up with a deafening roar. While flotilla guns fired back, the German flags were rapidly lowered and replaced by Royal Navy ensigns. The British deceit had paid off, and the raiders had managed to penetrate the enemy lair before being identified as hostile.
Standing calmly on the bridge while tracer fire hissed around him, Commander Beattie could see the dock clearly outlined by the searchlights’ glare. “Full speed ahead!” he shouted. “Prepare for ramming!” Rocked by the shells, his vessel lurched toward the massive dock gate as flame, smoke, and flying debris filled the air. Closer and closer went the Campbeltown at 15 knots until, with a grinding crunch, she slammed into the gate dead center. Ten yards of her bow was sheared open like a tin can, but she came to rest with her forecastle hanging over the heavily damaged caisson.

The jarring impact knocked the seamen and Commandos down. The unruffled Beattie scrambled to his feet and remarked to the officers on the bridge, “All right, here we are.” Glancing at his wristwatch, which read 0134, he added with a hint of disappointment, “Four minutes late.” The Commandos swiftly clambered down her sides. The gallant Campbeltown had fulfilled her sacrificial duty, and her crew disembarked after the Commandos as Saint-Nazaire Harbor became an inferno of exploding shells, smoke, and tracer streams.
Within half an hour of the Campbeltown’s ramming, they had destroyed the dry dock’s machinery and mechanisms. They also disabled the winding gear of the gate, but their efforts to attack the U-boat pens were unsuccessful.

Pandemonium in Saint-Nazaire
With their mission completed, the Commandos regrouped to take a breather and tend their wounded. Under increasing enemy fire, Lieutenant Colonel Newman and the 150 weary men he had left took up a defensive position behind some trucks near the embarkation point, the port’s Old Mole. They waited patiently for the motor launches to return, but none arrived. As the minutes passed, it became all too clear that they were marooned in Saint-Nazaire and surrounded by thousands of Germans. The Commandos were not surprised; they had been warned that their chances of getting away were slim at best.

Newman ordered his men to split into small groups and try to slip or fight their way to the countryside and then work their way south to neutral Spain or Portugal.
...but there is a lot more to the story from there. Read the whole thing.

UPDATE: Superb tip by Bill in comments. You simply must watch Jeremy Clarkson's special on the raid.

Thursday, December 20, 2018

Operation Inherent Dissolve

My position on intervention in the Syrian Civil War has been roughly consistent. You can click the Syria tab below if you so wish to review back to 2012, or for the executive summary you can read PLAN SALAMANDER from SEP 2015 or Rev. 1 of JUN 2017 later here.

For those in a hurry, here it is; Syria has never been in the USA orbit. As long as her civil war does not impact our national interests, what happens there is not our business as primary lead.

That changed when the Islamic State set up their Caliphate. As we did in Iraq, we partnered with the most reliable native ground force opposing them. In Syria, we rightfully decided that we would eliminate ISIS from the Euphrates valley and east to the Iraqi border. The rest of Syrian territory would be the concern of the Syrians themselves and their allies. The Syrian government was and is, without question, the only non-Kurdish force in Syria that protected religious minority Christians and Druse (being led by a minority Shia sect themselves). Our interests overlap.

Outside a small pocket, the Islamic State’s Caliphate is gone. The local forces are in a position to deal with them from here and to work out a post-civil war arrangement with the Syrian government.

That is it. Our Objectives and End States have been achieved. Full stop. Let’s go home before some underemployed good idea fairy comes up with a Sequel Plan.

We are a republic, not an empire. It is neither our responsibility or requirement to garrison the entire world to make them behave themselves. When we do that, we are rarely good at it. In the post WWII era, at best we create a chain of frozen conflicts – at worst we lose or create the conditions for future conflict. We have very few successful adventures. Off the top of my head, I can think of Grenada. DESERT STORM seems a “win” but with hindsight of follow-on events, perhaps not. We can call it a draw.

It is one thing to take chances when your direct national security is threatened, it is another “just because in the short run you can.”

Watching the responses today to President Trump’s announcement of our with drawal would be amusing if not so infuriating. The easiest to understand are the usual suspects from the “invade the world” nation building school who want nothing else than to send the American people to force people to be something they don’t want or know how to be at the point of a gun. They can’t help themselves. They mean well.

The worst are the pure political who, if anyone else but Trump were president, would be praising the withdraw. They are throwing stones just because they don’t want to be seen saying anything positive about Trump.

Those people need to pray on their actions.

Regular readers know my feelings about Trump going back to 2015. No reason to review. I have no problem calling balls and strikes – and this is a strike. A bit sloppy in execution, looks goofy on the slo-mo replay, not how I would do it - but a clear strike.

Yes, one can make an argument that ISIS is not totally dead, but that isn’t the point. Our primary responsibility was to eliminate the Caliphate’s ground possessions. We have effectively done that. A secondary goal was to reinforce the Kurds. We have and will continue to effectively do that within certain conditions.

It is not our responsibility to force an agreement with the Assad government. It is not our responsibility to police Syria. It is not our responsibility to dictate who the Assad government derives their support from. It is almost 2019. That Decision Point passed us by a half-decade ago.

What should we continue to do? Provide support as needed to the Kurds and any of our allies who decide they want to stay and sweep up ISIS remainders. We can do that from Iraq. Iraq we need to keep a presence in. There we have responsibilities that are not complete. We can help form a blocking force from Iraq and let the Syrians of all factions deal with the remains of ISIS as fits their local custom. We should have no problem striking the odd ISIS target if it pleases us, but that is about it.

What about the Russians? Russia has a long standing interest in Syria – even pre-dating the Soviet Union. Let them have their naval base. Not our business.

What about the Turks? We should make it clear that they should not be in the business of snatching land in Syria like Russia is in Ukraine. If they do, warn. If that doesn’t work – if we haven’t on the sly done it already – pull our NATO nukes out of the country. If that doesn’t work – kick them out of NATO. Between the direction they are going politically internally – they no longer seem interested in being Western anyway.

I would offer this to those who think the above is bunk; tell me why we need to stay in Syria until the crack of doom? What direct national interest does that serve? Is that worth the expenditure of blood, treasure, and creating the conditions for some damn stupid think to happen between USA and Russian or Turkish forces?
To what end? For what gain?

If Syria’s civil war is of such importance, then let those who will be most impacted by it – the Europeans – take care of what is in their back yard. They French have a good start, let others join them. If none do, then perhaps it is not the threat some here make it out to be.

We are a republic, not an empire.

What did a great man say?
The great rule of conduct for us in regard to foreign nations is in extending our commercial relations, to have with them as little political connection as possible. So far as we have already formed engagements, let them be fulfilled with perfect good faith. Here let us stop. Europe has a set of primary interests which to us have none; or a very remote relation. Hence she must be engaged in frequent controversies, the causes of which are essentially foreign to our concerns. Hence, therefore, it must be unwise in us to implicate ourselves by artificial ties in the ordinary vicissitudes of her politics, or the ordinary combinations and collisions of her friendships or enmities.

Our detached and distant situation invites and enables us to pursue a different course. If we remain one people under an efficient government. the period is not far off when we may defy material injury from external annoyance; when we may take such an attitude as will cause the neutrality we may at any time resolve upon to be scrupulously respected; when belligerent nations, under the impossibility of making acquisitions upon us, will not lightly hazard the giving us provocation; when we may choose peace or war, as our interest, guided by justice, shall counsel.

Why forego the advantages of so peculiar a situation? Why quit our own to stand upon foreign ground? Why, by interweaving our destiny with that of any part of Europe, entangle our peace and prosperity in the toils of European ambition, rivalship, interest, humor or caprice?
We have done enough. It has been a good punitive expedition. Should the Islamic State raise another Caliphate there or elsewhere, and then let us talk again if it warrants action on our part in conjunction with other. Let us not now make a decision to establish yet another garrison which, at the end of this century, our great grandchildren will be asked to defend.

Update: It appears that SECDEF Mattis will be leaving in February of 2019. History will tell us if this was the last straw. Perhaps it was. I will miss Mattis.

Wednesday, December 19, 2018

Program Management Poster Child of the Decade

It would be hard to write a screenplay of a slow rolled program as bad as what the USAF continues to do with light-attack.

I wallow a bit on the topic at USNIBlog.

Come on by and give it a read.

Tuesday, December 18, 2018

DDG-1000: Our Mark of Shame

As reported by Chris Cavas yesterday, the Chinese 13,000 ton Type 055 continues sea trials prior to her expected commissioning in 2019, with at least 5 sister ships already approved for follow on.

You can get the details of her here, but she represents exactly what we should have done two decades+ ago; evolutionary development of a cruiser that was in some way aligned with what the 055 brings to the fleet;

-1 130 mm dual-purpose naval gun
-1 24-cell short-range SAM
-112 VLS cells that can support SAM, ASCM, LACM, or ASROC
-2 helicopters

While we will continue to bring more slightly smaller FLT IIA and III DDG-51 in to the fleet over the next few years, we have lost a generation in warship development with the aborted CG(X) and the white elephant that is DDG-1000.

Speaking of which, what is the latest for that national disgrace?
“[The Zumwalt] is a very capable platform with or without that gun,” Merz said. “We will be developing either the round that goes with that gun or what we are going to do with that space if we decide to remove that gun in the future. The ship is doing fine, on track to be operational in 2021 in the fleet.”

Merz said the Zumwalt, built as a land-attack platform, has been “remissioned to a strike platform, whether sea targets or land targets. It takes advantage of its tremendous arsenal of VLS [vertical launching system] cells. Those VLS cells are larger than any other surface ship VLS cells so that opens up an aperture of more weapons options for that ship.”

He termed the projectile challenge “as a science and technology challenge, not an engineering problem. We just cannot get the thing to fly as far as we want.”

Asked by King if the Zumwalt would be a platform for a future directed-energy weapon, Merz said the ship had the “balance of SWAPC — space, weight, power and communications — that allows us to expand this ship over time. She is going to be a candidate for any advanced weapon system that we develop.”
We simply do not have a warfighting focus.

Like LCS, we are defining DDG-1000 success as simply being able to get underway. "...operational in 2021..." to do exactly what?

Pray for peace, because with each passing year more and more of our warships are only fit for operations at peace.

ZUMWALT was commissioned over two years ago. 2021 is 3 yrs from now. So, that gives us 5-years post-commissioning before our most modern design will even be able to join the fleet in any manner. It looks like it won't even be able to use the weapons she was designed around - the twin 155mm guns. Ramming has returned in the last few years as an effective way of taking out modern warships - and with that bow she should be able to at least perform that function with aplomb ... so we have that going for us.

What have we learned? What should we learn? What could we learn from the Chinese?

Yes, we need to keep picking this scab, and pick at in often and in public.

Why? What is the design we have to replace the TICO CG? What about the follow-on to the DDG-51 Class?

Have we learned anything from the train-wreck from the Age of Transformationalism? We will get our first hint with the selection of FFG(X).

Monday, December 17, 2018

Underwater Video of the HELGE INGSTAD

The Norwegians, to their great credit, continue to show exceptional transparency following the collision and subsequent sinking of the NANSEN Class frigate HNoMS HELGE INSTAD (F313).

For the first time, you can get a thorough view of the damage both above and below the waterline.

Still amazing none were killed.

Sunday, December 16, 2018

Military Ethics and the Profession, with Pauline Shanks Kaurin - on Midrats

Where are the lines between what is legal, what is ethical, and what is moral? Who writes these lines and how rigid are they?

For the individual and the military as an institution, why are these things important?

Are there universals? National? Institutional? Are they at the end of the day, personal?

Is there a hierarchy of ethics? Where do they come in to conflict with loyalty, duty, or mission?

Are there secular ones that come in conflict with religious? How do leaders manage these highly personal - and often high profile - foundational conflicts?

Our guest for the full hour Sunday from 5-6pm Eastern will be Dr. Pauline Shanks Kaurin.

Pauline holds a PhD in Philosophy from Temple University, and is a specialist in military ethics, just war theory, philosophy of law and applied ethics. She is is a professor in the College of Leadership and Ethics at the US Naval War College. Prior to her arrival in Newport, she was Associate Professor and Chair of Philosophy at Pacific Lutheran University in Tacoma, WA and teaches courses in military ethics, warfare, business ethics, social and political.

You can follow her on twitter at @queenofthinair.

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, December 14, 2018

Fullbore Friday

Second in a series from 2007, but time to post again.

...the story of Admiral Graf Maximilian von Spee' glorious and beautiful, but doomed fleet. It is time for a classic story of revenge at sea: The Battle of the Falkland Islands, 8 December 1914. I like to pay a lot of attention to HMS Canopus. If you review Part 1, you will see how you could dismiss this old ship full of Reservists; but it that what a leader does? No, a leader finds a way to make every bit of kit count.
On November 11 1914 the battlecruisers Invincible and Inflexible under Admiral Sturdee left for the Falkland Islands. HMS Princess Royal was dispatched to the Caribbean to guard the Panama Canal. The shock of the defeat at Coronel had made the Royal Navy take decisive action to destroy Spee and the battlecruisers were the chosen means for retribution.

After his victory Spee coaled and then loitered in the Pacific whilst he decided what to do next, little did he realise that this indecision would prove fatal. Eventually he decided to enter the Atlantic and try to make it home. The squadron had passed Cape Horn by December 1 and on the following day they captured the Drummuir carrying coal. They then rested for three days at Pictou Island. Spee wanted to raid the Falkland Islands but his captains were opposed to the idea, however in the end Spee decided to go ahead anyway, another decision he was to regret.

HMS Canopus was now beached at Port Stanley, the capital of the Falklands, as guard ship. On December 7 Sturdee arrived, bringing the British warships at Port Stanley to the pre-dreadnought Canopus, the battlecruisers Invincible and Inflexible, the armoured cruisers Kent, Carnarvon and Cornwall, the light cruisers Bristol and Glasgow and the armed merchant cruiser Macedonia.

On the morning of December 8 1914 Gneisenau and Nürnberg were detached from the main squadron, which followed about fifteen miles behind, to attack the wireless station and port facilities at Port Stanley. At 0830 they sighted the wireless mast and smoke from Macedonia returning from patrol.

They didn't know that at 0750 they had been sighted by a hill top spotter which signalled Canopus which then signalled Invincible, flagship, via Glasgow. The British ships were still coaling and most ships, including the battlecruisers, would take a couple of hours to get up steam. If the Germans attacked the British ships would be stationary targets and any ship which tried to leave harbour would face the concentrated fire of the full German squadron, if they were sunk whilst leaving harbour the rest of the squadron would be trapped in port. Sturdee kept calm, ordered steam to be raised and then went and had breakfast!

0900 the Germans made out the tripod masts of capital ships. They were unsure of what theses ships were but they knew Canopus was in the area and they hoped that these were pre-dreadnoughts, which they could easily outrun.

Canopus was beached out of site of the German ships, behind hills but had set up a system for targeting using land based spotters. At 13,000 yards her forward turret fired but was well short, the massive shell splashes astonished the German ships who could see no enemy warships. The rear turret then fired using practice rounds which were already loaded for an expected practice shoot later. The blank shells ricocheted off the sea, one of them hitting the rearmost funnel of Gneisenau. The two German ships turned away. Canopus didn't fire again but she saved the British from a perilous situation.
Also a lesson on not pressing the attack and getting spooked. Probably remembering what happened when the British pushed the attack against his Squadron and were sunk for it - Admiral Graf Spee was too cautious by half, perhaps with a bit of "get-home-itis," a disease that will get you killed.

By 0945 Bristol had left harbour, followed 15 minutes later by Invincible, Inflexible, Kent, Carnarvon and Cornwall, Bristol and Macedonia stayed behind. The German squadron had a 15-20 mile lead but with over eight hours of daylight left and fine weather the battlecruisers would be in action in a couple of hours.

The German lookouts could now tell that the tripod masts belonged to battlecruisers which at c25 knots were considerably faster than the 20 knots the in need of refit German ships could manage. Spee set course to the South East in the hope of finding bad weather.

At first the British squadron stayed together but the battlecruisers were being slowed down by the other ships and so pulled ahead on their own.

At 1247 at 16,500 yards the battlecruisers opened fire, with little accuracy, taking half an hour to straddle the rear ship, Leipzig. Spee realised he was caught and turned his armoured cruisers to slow the British whilst ordering his light cruisers to try and escape. Sturdee had made contingency plans for this and Invincible, Inflexible and the trailing Carnarvon engaged the armoured cruisers whilst the rest of the force set off after the light cruisers.

The battlecruisers turned onto a parallel course to Scharnhorst and Gneisenau at 14,000 yards. The Germans had the advantage of being in the lee position of the wind, the British gunnery was badly affected by their own smoke. The German shooting was excellent but at this long range their shells did little damage to the battlecruisers. The British also scored a few hits which did more damage but they were unaware of this as the visibility prevented them from seeing these.

In an attempt to gain the lee (smoke free) position Sturdee made a sharp turn to starboard towards Spee's stern. Whilst performing this turn the British were shrouded in their own smoke and Spee took this opportunity to turn south, pulling out of firing range. It took the British another 45 minute stern chase before they could resume firing.

At 1450 the battlecruisers turned to port to bring their broadsides to bear. Spee decided that his only chance was to close the range and use his superior secondary armament but his change of course made the smoke much less of a problem for the British. Their firing became much more accurate and both German ships, but especially Scharnhorst suffered severe damage and casualties. By had received over fifty hits, three funnels were down, she was on fire and listing. The range kept falling and at 1604 Scharnhorst listed suddenly to port and by 1617 she had disappeared. As Gneisenau was still firing no rescue attempts were possible and her entire crew including Spee were lost. Invincible had received 22 hits, over half 8.2 inch, but these caused no serious damage and only one crew member was injured.

Gneisenau kept on alone, zigzagging to the south west. At 1715 she scored her last hit on Invincible before her ammunition ran out. The British stopped firing soon afterwards and the burning German ship ground to a halt, her crew opening the sea-cocks and abandoning ship, 190 crew from a total of 765 were rescued but many of these died from their wounds. Inflexible was only hit 3 times and had 1 killed and 3 injured.
The brutal facts of war at sea. There is little room for caution or pause.
Whilst the big ships were fighting the smaller cruisers were having their own battles. The German light cruisers were in the order Dresden leading followed by Nürnberg and Leipzig whilst the British were led by Glasgow with Cornwall and Kent trying to keep up with her.

At 1445 Glasgow opened fire on Leipzig, Leipzig turning to port to reply, scoring two early ships whilst Glasgow's fell short. Glasgow had to turn away, allowing Leipzig to resume her earlier course. The other German ships had not turned to help Leipzig but had carried on their escape attempt.

Glasgow fired on Leipzig again, but this time the other German cruisers changed course, Dresden to the South West and Nürnberg to the South East. Glasgow's ploy of forcing Leipzig to turn and fire succeeded in slowing her so that at 1617 Cornwall had her in range, Kent setting off after Nürnberg.

Leipzig's firing was good but she didn't hit Glasgow and her shells didn't do much damage to Cornwall. By 1900 Leipzig's mainmast and two funnels were down and she was on fire. When her ammunition was exhausted she made an unsuccessful torpedo attack on Cornwall and then her crew prepared to abandon ship.

Glasgow closed the range to finish her off as her flag was still flying, stopping when two green flares were fired by the crippled German cruiser. At 2120 she rolled over and sank leaving eighteen survivors.

Cornwall had received eighteen hits but no casualties. Glasgow had received no damage after the two early hits which killed one and four wounded. Her boilers were damaged which reduced her speed enough for there to be no chance of catching Dresden which escaped.

Nürnberg had a 10 mile led on Kent and was, on paper, faster, but Nürnberg needed an engine overhaul and Kent's crew worked so hard that the old cruiser exceeded her designed horsepower, reaching 25 knots, being forced to burn all available wood on board and causing the whole ship to vibrate violently.

By 1700 the range was down to 12,000 yards and Nürnberg opened fire with the by now expected superb accuracy. When Kent returned fire ten minutes later her shells fell short. Once the range had fallen to 7,000 yards both sides started to score regular hits and Nürnberg gave up her escape attempt and turned to bring her broadside to action.

By 1730 the range was down to 3,000 yards and Kent's heavier shells and thicker armour gave her the upper hand. An hour later, just as bad weather arrived which may have saved her, two of Nürnberg's boilers exploded, reducing her speed. Kent was now able to easily outmanoeuvre her opponent and within half an hour Nürnberg was dead in the water, at 1926 she rolled over to starboard and sank with only twelve survivors.
Kent had received thirty eight hits but only sixteen casualties.

Whilst these battles had gone on Bristol and Macedonia had sunk Spee's colliers Baden and Santa Isabel, the other collier, Seydlitz escaped, eventually being interned in Argentina.
Even in victory, you will be second guessed by those who don't know; they just don't know but their petty concerns.
Sturdee searched for the Dresden before returning to the UK with the battlecruisers. There was some criticism (mainly from the 1st Sea Lord Fisher) of him for letting Dresden escape and for the heavy ammunition expenditure of his battlecruisers (Invincible 513 12 inch rounds, Inflexible 661 12 inch rounds fired) but generally his clear victory was welcomed. He had destroyed Spee's squadron without any serious damage to any of his ships and their shooting (c.6.5%) was considerably better than was managed by British (and German) battlecruisers at Dogger Bank and Jutland.
Ah, the SMS Dresden. That will be Part 3, with a twist. See you there in March.

Thursday, December 13, 2018

More to learn from the Norwegians

Have you seen the multiple reconstructions the Norwegians have put together about the collision of the HNoMS HELGE INSTAD?

I posted it over at USNIBlog, but it does not seem to like that blog interface, so I'll put it here.

Lots to ponder.

Tuesday, December 11, 2018

Pick your light frigate

Great summary over at SaveTheRoyalNavy on the options the Royal Navy is looking at for what I call a "light frigate" program to compliment their larger Type 26.

They're down to three;
The designs from two of the candidates are already well known; the Babcock-led ‘Team 31’ consortium with the Arrowhead 140 and the BAE Systems / Cammel Laird consortium with their Leander design. The Atlas Elektronik UK / Thyssenkrup Marine Systems bid is a new entrant to the competition, although the company says their bid has been quietly in development for some time. Each of the competitors will receive around £5 Million to fund detailed design work.
The AEUK/TKMS bid is likely to be based on the MEKO A-200 which is already in service with the South African and Algerian navies. The modular MEKO (Mehrzweck-Kombination – multi-purpose combination) warship concept was developed in the 1970s and has a strong export heritage, many MEKO variants have been sold to a variety of navies. At this stage, there are no specific details of the design or even a name for the proposed Royal Navy version. The latest A-200 sold to Algeria is a general purpose 3,700-tonne vessel featuring Combined Diesel and Gas Turbine (CODAG) engines with water-jets propulsion making it a quiet ASW platform, something neither of the other Type 31 candidates offer. The hull and superstructure feature an X-form shell design which gives the vessel very low radar cross-section. There is no funnel and engines exhaust horizontally below the waterline for an exceptionally low infrared (heat) signature. We can look forward to more details of the UK armament and sensor fit emerging soon.

AEUK and TKMS are both German-owned companies. AEUK has recently been partnering with the Royal Navy developing unmanned systems but has no history of warship building. Parent company Atlas Elektronik is a global business which supplies mission systems, sonars, torpedoes and mine warfare equipment to navies across the world. TKMS is a large warship building company but has had a troubled recent history and is undergoing a major restructure after financial problems and serious issues with the F-125 class frigates they constructed for the German Navy. The Atlas/TKMS bid proposes to use Ferguson on the Clyde and Harland & Wolff in Belfast to construct the ships. This demonstrates a certain pragmatism amongst the shipbuilders as both Ferguson and H&W are also partners in the Babcock ‘Team 31’ consortium.
The Atlas Elektronik UK offering of MEKO (Algerian version pictured above) is probably the "safest" option from a technology risk POV, but BAE Systems, Babcock and Atlas Elektronik UK are all strong players and their offerings all bring good options.

Here the BAE Systems Leander;


Interesting stern view of Babcock Arrowhead 140 frigate design, derived from the Danish Navy's Iver Huitfeldt hull form. Smart way to hold down cost.

As a decision is due to be made by the end of 2019, we should see plenty more coming out with this program. Should be very interesting to see the solution here in parallel with the USN's FFG(X) selection.

With the discussion yesterday here and for part of Sunday's Midrats about survivability - it would be helpful to see a comparison of the three designs' damage control strengths and weaknesses. 

I would offer that this concern should get greater weighting among variables.

UPDATE: for those on twitter, EngagingStrategy has a superb thread here.

Really appreciate this side-by-side;

Monday, December 10, 2018

To Distributed Lethality & Battlemindedness, We Need Robustness

One of the topics we raised in yesterday's Midrats with CAPT Mark Vandroff, USN, was the importance of a clear and unflinching eye towards survivability in a warship.

Each time a modern warship is hit with an ASCM, mine, or even the odd merchant ship - we need to make sure our engineers make a thorough review of what did or did not help keep that ship afloat. That way, when the green-eyeshade people want to skimp here and there on "expensive" robustness, or a construction standard waved - those focused on survivability have the data they need to push back with facts.

As the Norwegians begin to look at the loss of their NANSEN Class frigate KNM Helge Ingstad following her collision with the Maltese registered tanker Sola TS in Hjeltefjorden, this little bit caught my eye;
The AIBN has found safety critical issues relating to the vessel's watertight compartments.

This must be assumed to also apply to the other four Nansen-class frigates. It cannot be excluded that the same applies to vessels of a similar design delivered by Navantia, or that the design concept continues to be used for similar vessel models. The AIBN assumes that its findings are not in conformity with the required damage stability standard for the Nansenclass frigates.

To start with, flooding occurred in three watertight compartments on board 'KNM Helge Ingstad': the aft generator room, the orlob deck's crew quarters and the stores room. There was some uncertainty as to whether the steering engine room, the aftmost compartment, was also filling up with water. Based on this damage, the crew, supported by the vessel's stability documents, assessed the vessel as having 'poor stability' status, but that it could be kept afloat. If more compartments were flooded, the status would be assessed as 'vessel lost' on account of further loss of stability.

Next, the crew found that water from the aft generator room was running into the gear room via the hollow propeller shafts and that the gear room was filling up fast. From the gear room, the water then ran into and was flooding the aft and fore engine rooms via the stuffing boxes in the bulkheads. This meant that the flooding became substantially more extensive than indicated by the original damage. Based on the flooding of the gear room, it was decided to prepare for evacuation.
Read the AIBN’s preliminary report and safety recommendations at the bottom of the page at this link.

I don't think it can be understated that in long periods of peace, the hard lessons of what it takes to keep a ship afloat when damaged can easily be forgotten or at best placed on the unfunded priorities list. It is one of the most important fights a peacetime navy has when designing its ships.

Over and over again we see where the skimpers win - and the results feed more fire, flooding, death, and sinkings. For someone who has a record of being a fan of the NANSEN, if it comes out that from a damage control point of view this is a flawed design - then let's bring out the details in public, gibbeted for all to see. 

At least with the HELGE INSTAD, if this bears out, then these lessons will only be learned with the loss of a ship, and not the death of Sailors. I would also place a bet that somewhere there is a Norwegian marine engineer saying, "I told you so!"

Saturday, December 08, 2018

The USN's Labs, Research Facilities, and Ranges with Mark Vandroff - on Midrats

With budget fights chasing money and arguments about hulls in the water, which part of our Navy makes sure what comes out the other end is more than just a fleet in being? A Navy that can get underway, get over there, fight, get back, get repaired, get upgraded, and deploy again - second to none?

We are going to dive deep in to the commands, men and women who make that happen, NSWC Carderock and other NAVSEA warfare centers that form the core of the labs, research facilities, and ranges that makes the sexy possible.

Our guest for the full hour this summer from 5-6pm Eastern Sunday returning to the show will be Captain Mark Vandroff, USN, Commanding Officer Naval Surface Warfare Center, Carderock Division.

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, December 07, 2018

USS OKLAHOMA's Final Story

This is always a handy pic of the USS OKLAHOMA (BB-37) in '44 next to USS WISCONSIN (BB-64) just to see how much battleship construction changed in 30 years.

Thursday, December 06, 2018

Japan Does Exactly What We Told You it Would Do

What did we say here about 5-yrs ago?
...let's work on some proper fixed wing assets for 'ya ... and you need a half-dozen more.
...and here we are.
There is also a proposal to retrofit its Izumo helicopter carrier into what would in effect be a full-fledged aircraft carrier -- a type of ship the country has not had since World War II. The idea is to have it carry F-35B stealth fighters, which require only a short takeoff and can land vertically. Japan wants to buy more F-35s, including F-35As already deployed domestically.
Good for Japan ... and good for our partnership.

Faster please.

Tuesday, December 04, 2018

Brave New China

When will the world wake up to the future a growing China is preparing for everywhere they will hold power?

Where are the protests?

Where are the UN statements?

Where is … well … much of anything?

BZ to Reuters for putting this together – but for now it is the exception, not the rule.
Xinjiang is now one of the most heavily policed areas in the world, according to academics and human rights groups. This follows the launching of a “people’s war on terror” in 2014 after a series of violent attacks in Xinjiang and other parts of China that authorities blamed on religious extremists.

While China says the Uighur camps are vocational training centers, they are heavily guarded. Researchers have resorted to using satellite imagery to view and track the expansion of these facilities.

Reuters worked with Earthrise Media, a non-profit group that analyzes satellite imagery, to plot the construction and expansion of 39 of these camps, which were initially identified using publicly available documents such as construction tenders. The building-by-building review of these facilities revealed that the footprint of the built-up area almost tripled in size in the 17 months between April 2017 and August 2018. Collectively, the built-up parts in these 39 facilities now cover an area roughly the size of 140 soccer fields.
Uighurs have bristled at what they say are harsh restrictions on their culture and religion. They have faced periodic crackdowns, which intensified after riots in the regional capital in Urumqi in 2009 killed nearly 200 people.

Bombings in Xinjiang and attacks allegedly carried out by Uighur separatists, including a mass stabbing in the city of Kunming in China’s southwest in 2014 that killed 31 people, led to further restrictions. In recent years, under Chen Quanguo, the Communist Party secretary in Xinjiang and a loyalist of President Xi Jinping, measures against Uighurs have included a ban on “abnormal” beards for men and restrictions on religious pilgrimages to Mecca.

Chen has also overseen the installation of a pervasive, technology-enhanced surveillance apparatus across Xinjiang. Tens of thousands of security personnel have been recruited to staff police stations and checkpoints. Security screening, including scanners equipped with facial recognition cameras, has been installed in public places such as mosques, hotels and transportation hubs.
From early morning to night, the detainees said they were subjected to mind-numbing political indoctrination. This included reciting Chinese laws and Communist Party policies, as well as singing the national anthem and other traditional Red songs. Those who failed to correctly memorize the lines of Communist Party dictums were denied food, said one detainee. Detainees were forced to renounce their religion, engage in self-criticism sessions and report on fellow inmates, relatives and neighbors.

Of the eight former detainees interviewed by Reuters, four were Uighurs and four were ethnic Kazakhs. Some requested anonymity, in most cases because they said they feared repercussions for family members who remained in China.
... China, which for months denied their existence, now calls them vocational training centers.

“Through vocational training, most trainees have been able to reflect on their mistakes and see clearly the essence and harm of terrorism and religious extremism,” Shohrat Zakir, the Xinjiang governor, said in remarks to the state-run Xinhua news agency in October. “They have also been able to better tell right from wrong and resist the infiltration of extremist thought.”
At this stage of the article it came to mind that everyone needs to re-read their Hopkirk - all of it - but start with Setting the East Ablaze. This conflict is centuries old.
n Kashgar, the ancient Silk Road oasis town in Xinjiang’s southern Uighur heartland, locals say they live in fear. As security forces have blanketed the region and high-tech surveillance has become pervasive, there have been waves of mass detentions of Muslims in places like Kashgar.

The arrests peaked last year as police convoys with sirens blaring took people away, their heads covered in black hoods. In Kashgar, the locals say that many of those detained have not yet returned. On the streets, there are few young men to be seen.

“You can go to a Uighur and slap him in the face and he won’t dare retaliate,” said one Han Chinese local, who grew up with Uighurs in Kashgar and saw many of his friends taken away. “It’s going to be quiet for another one or two years, but then what? The greater the pressure, the fiercer the backlash.”
Of course, we know why the “international left” is not in an uproar over this – China is not Western. They are not for "the people" they are for control of the people.

Though some of the legitimate liberal West are starting to rightfully call out Chinese abuses, so much of the international left they are in a popular front with is obsessed with one thing, tearing down the established Western culture and order. “Hey, hey, ho, ho, Western Civ has got to go!” is not just a goofy chant; it is what drives so much of the official outrage among the usual suspects.

-Who actually is the source of most of the plastic garbage choking our oceans? China.
-Who is actually the source of most of the pollution and carbon emissions on the globe? China.
-Who is actually a growing colonial power? China.
-Who is actually creating an Orwellian order in plain sight? China.
-Who is actively trying to destroy and convert a Muslim nation? China.

…and yet, who is the subject of protests from the usual suspects in the leftist community? 

I know the answer – and I’ve known it since my early 20s when I saw the same people excuse everything by the Soviet Union and their clients. I just wish the liberals who really care about individual rights and freedom would see that the left is not their friend, but hey - that's just me.