Thursday, February 28, 2019

Theory is soft. War games are malleable. Hard truth is found in combat.

OK front porch, let's take out one of our favorite hobby-horses and ride it for all its worth.

We fight this battle all the time; "That scenario is not IAW the CONOPS." "Our wargames show otherwise." "That is oldthink." "Transformational technology has made that obsolete."

No.

The nature of war has remained the same for thousands of years. Tools may improve, time/distance may change ... but the core remains the same.

Today, let's turn to the air side of the house.

In the 1920s and 1930s there were all sorts of theories that were tried and found wanting, from the utility of high altitude heavy bombers against surface ships to non-forward firing interceptors that simply did not play out on the battlefield.

In the post-WWII era, the technologists and futurists who dreamed of speed and magic missiles ignored what those like Robin Olds & Erich Hartmann who tried to convince them otherwise; that all the speed and missiles in the world will not negate the fact that you will have to fight in the merge - you will never live in a pure BVR world. Your fighters and the training of those who fly them must reflect that.

The experience in Vietnam proved Olds and Hartmann right. That is why the F-14/15/16/18 all had an internal gun and later versions of the F-4 did too ... and the F-35A does as well. 

However, the seduction of technology seduces every generation. They fudge their scenarios and assumptions. They tailor their wargames to meet their needs. The longer you go without the hard truth of combat, the further your issued kit comes from an optimal capability.

Our navy has this problem in spades. The land components have - between the experience in the Long War first-hand or quasi-traditional conflicts in Ukraine second-hand - good examples of what is needed (i.e. RPG cages from Vietnam showing up a bit late in Iraq). On the naval side of the house, we can at best look to the early 1980s Falkland Island conflict that showed you need general purpose guns on every warship and you do not have enough AAW or ASW weapons - the exact lessons of WWII, BTW.

So, back to air. We hear it all the time; Beyond Visual Range (BVR) is the key. We don't have to dogfight, the battle will be over before the aircraft see each other.

Well, that argument has been made for over half a century and it never plays out that way when peer-near-peer aircraft meet each other over contested and crowded airspace.

General warning about imperfect information from imperfect sources, but this report from Shiv Aroor meshes with other reporting.

Behold ... the MiG-21 vs the F-16;
the Indian Air Force today declared that a MiG-21 Bison fighter managed to shoot down a Pakistan Air Force F-16D on Wednesday morning over the restive Line of Control that separates Jammu & Kashmir from Pakistan-occupied Kashmir.

The MiG-21, from the Indian Air Force’s 51 Squadron ‘Sword Arms’ is said to have conducted the kill using a Russian Vympel R-73 close combat missile.

The IAF also said it had captured electronic signatures of the aggressing aircraft, concluding that it was an F-16. While the Bison’s pilot Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman was captured in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir, two Pakistani pilots who punched out of the F-16D are currently unaccounted for. Pakistan has switched to claiming no loss after first announcing that it had shot down two Indian jets. The abrupt correction has led to the widespread belief that Pakistan initially believed it had shot down two Indian jets, but discovered only later that it was in fact an F-16D that had come down.

While information has been scant and buffeted by a typical hail of claims and counterclaims by both sides, Livefist has learnt from reliable sources that the unprecedented peacetime aerial confrontation yesterday — which came after a group of Indian Mirage 2000 jets flew into Pakistan a day previous to bomb a terrorist facility in the town of Balakot — was much larger than initially reported.
I cannot wait for an open source reconstruct of this engagement.
at least 20 Pakistan Air Force jets, a mix of F-16s, Mirages and JF-17s got airborne from a series of air bases in Pakistan and Pakistan-occupied Kashmir, quickly turning south towards Pakistan’s Sindh. They remained in the air for over 30 minutes, possible in an act of deception. Indian airborne early warning assets in the air had picked up the movement, with bases in Srinagar and Punjab alerted. The PAF fighter package then turned north towards the Line of Control, with all but three F-16s turning west towards their airfields, but staying in the air. The 3 F-16s then began the sweep, headed straight towards the Sunderbani sector of the Line of Control. By this time two MiG-21s from Srinagar were airborne and headed straight for the intercept. Two more MiG-21s got airborne a few minutes later, followed by a pair of Mirage 2000s. A pair of Su-30 MKI jets were already in the air on a combat air patrol further south, diverted to provide cover for the intercept. The rare within visual range engagement occured over the Sunderbani sector, with both jets — and all 3 pilots — plunging into Pakistan-occupied Kashmir.
Here's the nut;
...analyst Angad Singh says, “It’s historic, but at the same time I am not too surprised. The Bison is among the most capable of all MiG-21 variants, and I would put money on a capable pilot in a Bison cockpit any day.”

Italian journalist David Cenciotti, who runs he excellent Aviationist blog, writes, “If confirmed, it’s significant, as it would prove once again that when it deals with aerial engagement, not always does the more modern and capable weapon system (in this case the F-16 Block 52) wins. Several factors must be taken into consideration: pilot skills; support from other assets (including fighters and AEW aircraft), ground radars, etc. Above all, RoE play an essential role: if the Rules of Engagement require a positive VID of the opponent, a fighter might be forced to come WVR (Within Visual Range) where a MiG-21 can be particularly threatening. That’s why even 5th gen aircraft regularly train with legacy adversaries.”

He adds, “The MiG-21 Bison is an upgraded version of the Russian-made baseline MiG-21. Although the design is obsolete, its low radar visibility, instantaneous turn rate and acceleration, and the helmet mounted sight combined with high-off-boresight R-73 air-to-air missiles are among the factors that can make the upgraded MiG-21 a threatening adversary, even for more modern fighters.”
Watch the caveats;
Stephen Trimble, defense editor at Aviation Week tweeted, “Don’t forget those same MiG-21s embarrassed USAF F-15Cs at Cope India in 2006.” He later told Livefist, “The F-16 was designed specifically to beat the MiG-21, but AMRAAM, which came later, can be a great equalizer if basic fighter maneuvers are not involved.”
"If." 

Well, odds are the ROE and JAG will negate your BVR. Then it is the man-machine-training.
Air Vice Marshal Manmohan Bahadur, veteran pilot and Additional Director General of India’s Centre for Air Power Studies (CAPS) told Livefist,”For the first time, a third generation aircraft has shot down a fly by wire modern aircraft armed with a much better weapons package and avionics suite. Just goes to prove that the man behind the machine counts — and counts massively. And when it comes to the IAF, adversaries should have no doubts.”

Vishnu Som, defence editor with NDTV, says, “While we don’t know the exact circumstances in which the IAF pilot was shot down, let’s not for a moment forget that he shot down an F-16 first (possibly an F-16 Block 50) with an upgraded MiG-21 Bison, a jet which first entered service with the IAF in the sixties.”

Wednesday, February 27, 2019

TRUMAN to the Breakers Early?

If you were excited about the double-FORD CVN buy last month, well, you can stow that optimism.

Wait until you see the plans for TRUMAN.

Details over at my post at USNIBlog.

Tuesday, February 26, 2019

Keeping an Eye on the Long Game: Part LXXXI

The Terrible 20s - that period of time where the USN will face the combined headwinds of budgetary pressure, lack of political advocacy, and the hangover from the lost decade of the Transformationalist - are almost upon us. What we will look like coming out the other end is a great unknown.

The rising naval power on the other side of the Pacific, on the other hand, seems poised to grow with more backing and enthusiasm.

When we come out the other end in 10-years time, what will the Chinese have waiting for us?

Rick Joe over at The Diplomat has the summary:
The growth of Chinese surface combatants in recent years has greatly enhanced the PLAN’s overall profile. The emergence of the 055 class destroyer and high production rates of 055 and 052D class destroyers at two major shipyards have greatly changed the projections of future PLAN surface combatant composition from as a recently as a couple of years ago.

To place this growth in perspective, in the eight years between 2010 and 2018, 24 destroyers were launched from Chinese shipyards, consisting of four 052Cs, 16 052Ds (the three most recent being extended length variants), and four 055 large destroyers. By contrast, in the 20 years between 1990 and 2010, only 10 destroyers were launched from Chinese shipyards (not including four Sovremenny-class destroyers purchased from Russia), of which only two were the Aegis-type, competitive 052C class.

Current rumors regarding PLAN destroyer production suggest about 12 baseline 055 class destroyers will be produced before moving onto a more advanced 055A class perhaps sometime in the early 2020s. Production of the 052D will likely continue to over 25 units before an improved 052E variant succeeds it. Both the notional 055A and 052E are thought to incorporate new propulsion technologies in the form of partial or full electric propulsion.
...
In summary, an early 2019 prediction for PLAN ships in service by 2030 are broken down as such:

16-20 055/A destroyers (12,000 ton category)
36-40 052D/E destroyers (7,000 ton category)
40-50 054A/B frigates (4,000-5,000 ton category)
Approximately 60 SSKs
Anywhere from 16 or more SSNs (including six to eight existing SSNs)
Anywhere from eight or more SSBNs (including four to five existing SSBNs)
At least four aircraft carriers (two ski jump, two catapult)
At least eight 071 LPDs (25,000 ton category)
At least three 075 LHDs (36,000 ton category)
Of the above, frigates, SSNs, SSBNs, and carriers are currently the most difficult to predict, with the most margin for error.

Other ships of note include the approximately 60 056/A corvettes that will complete its production run within the next year or so, as well as the 11 older “non-Aegis” type destroyers and dozen or so older frigates that will likely remain in service as “second line” surface combatants. The 25-30 ship fleet of 072s will likely be retained. It is unknown if the 60 odd fleet of 22 class missile boats will be retained.
Will we have a usable FFG(X)? What will our Large Surface Combatant look like? What will our allies in the area be building? What will replace the Super Hornet?

The PLAN will demand respect sooner more than later. We should act accordingly. 

Monday, February 25, 2019

No ENS for LCS

I keep waiting to be proven wrong about LCS, I actually welcome it - hope for it. It might be humbling for me, but it would be great news for our Navy and the nation is serves. Sadly though, little is happening to convince me I've been wrong for a decade and a half.

We have 15 LCS commissioned as of earlier this month. With each passing year, this series of Little Crappy Ships become a larger and larger portion of our fleet. Well over a decade after commissioning of Hull-1, 2019 is supposed to be the big deployment year.

...and yes ... it appears the ships and even more numerous crews are ... no place yet for newly minted Ensigns from USNA?

Nice snag by Craig;
The U.S. Naval Academy’s annual Ship Selection “rite-of-passage” is enormous fun. Of course, it happened more than a month ago, so I’m a little late to the party. But, that aside, two things really struck me: the participation of the Japanese Maritime Self Defense Force (JMSDF) and the non-participation of the Avenger Class MCM and Littoral Combat Ship (LCS) Classes.
...
No Mids were able to select MCMs or LCSs (apparently as of last Fall). I know that the Navy is putting an increased focus on how their youngsters are trained, but….are you telling me that there are no opportunities for learning the craft aboard an LCS? That’s….crazy.

I can somewhat understand not sending Mids to the old Avenger Class Mine Countermeasures ships. They’re old, the fleet has already dwindled to 11 and, well they’re on the way out; three more are planned to decommission in 2022.

But the LCS?

No Mids? Not even NROTC? Surely we have the space–According to the Naval Vessel Register, seventeen are commissioned into the fleet. With a blue/gold crew apiece, that’s about 3400 sailors–and many more are coming. At the current rule of thumb 10:1 crew/officer ratio, I find it realy difficult to believe that there’s no space in the LCS for some first tour SWOs.

I get the fact that the SWO community is reconstituting their training program. And I also understand that the two LCS seaframes have challenges and are tough on officers, but….regardless of problems, these new “small” ships are, I would think, places where the Navy might want youngsters to obtain some of their first sea-time.
This does deserve answers.

If we have designed - after multiple redesigns - the manning construct for LCS that means that we cannot send ENS to them ... then scrap what we are doing now.

It simply is not sustainable to have such a large portion of our fleet a no-go zone for ENS. This isn't just a flashing red light, it has a blazing klaxon going off with it.

Good googly moogly - what a dog's breakfast of a program.

Sunday, February 24, 2019

Afghanistan & the Long War with Bill Roggio - on Midrats



This week, we are going to take a clear, cold, and unsparing look at the status of the conflict in Afghanistan and the Long War in general with our returning guest, Bill Roggio, from 5-6pm Eastern.

In a far-reaching discussion, we will touch on the rather unpleasant reality of where we have put ourselves through our own action, and what people should expect going forward.

Bill is a senior fellow at FDD and editor of FDD’s Long War Journal, which provides original reporting and analysis of the Global War on Terror from Afghanistan and Pakistan to Syria, Iraq, Yemen, Somalia, North Africa, Iran, and beyond. He is also president of the nonprofit media company Public Multimedia Inc.

Bill was embedded with the U.S. Marine Corps, U.S. Army, and Iraqi forces in Iraq between 2005 and 2008, and with the Canadian Army in Afghanistan in 2006. From 1991 to 1997, Bill served as a signalman and infantryman in the U.S. Army and New Jersey National Guard. His articles have been published in The New York Times, The Weekly Standard, The Daily Beast, National Review, and The New York Post, and his work has been in outlets including The New Times, The Washington Post, The Los Angeles Times, CNN, Foreign Policy, and Bloomberg.

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

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.


Thursday, February 21, 2019

So Long First Navy Jack, it Was a Good Run

Eight months after 911, then SECNAV England directed the following,
SECNAV INSTRUCTION 10520.6

From: Secretary of the Navy
To: All Ships and Stations (less Marine Corps field addressees not having Navy personnel attached)

Subj: DISPLAY OF THE FIRST NAVY JACK DURING THE GLOBAL WAR ON TERRORISM

Ref: (a) U.S. Navy Regulations, 1990

1. Purpose. To provide for the display of the first navy Jack on board all U.S. Navy ships during the Global War on Terrorism.

2. Discussion. As the first ships of the Continental Navy readied in the Delaware River during the fall of 1775, Commodore Esek Hopkins issued a set of fleet signals. His signal for the “whole Fleet to Engage” the enemy provided for the “strip’d Jack and Ensign at their proper places.” Thus, from the very beginning of our Navy, the Jack has been used on board American warships. The first navy Jack was a flag consisting of 13 horizontal alternating red and white stripes bearing diagonally across them a rattlesnake in a moving position with the motto “Don’t Tread On Me.” The temporary substitution of this Jack represents an historic reminder of the nation’s and Navy’s origin and will to persevere and triumph.

2. Action. The first navy jack will be displayed on board all U.S. Navy ships in lieu of the Union Jack, in accordance with sections 1259 and 1264 of reference (a) . The display of the first Navy Jack is an authorized exception to section 1259 of reference (a). Ships and craft of the Navy authorized to fly the first Navy Jack will receive an issue of four flags per ship through a special distribution.

Gordon H. England

Focus on a couple of things;
1. "DISPLAY OF THE FIRST NAVY JACK DURING THE GLOBAL WAR ON TERRORISM"
2. "The temporary substitution of this Jack represents an historic reminder of the nation’s and Navy’s origin and will to persevere and triumph."

Now, today, we have this;
The Navy released a NAVADMIN 039/19 directing the display of the Union Jack in lieu of the First Navy Jack aboard Navy ships and craft, Feb 21.

U.S. Navy ships and craft will return to flying the Union Jack effective 4 June 2019. The date for reintroduction of the Union Jack commemorates the greatest naval battle in history: the Battle of Midway, which began on 4 June 1942.
Read the release, but the excuse to make the change just rings hollow;
“Make no mistake: we have entered a new era of competition. We must recommit to the core attributes that made us successful at Midway: integrity, accountability, initiative, and toughness,” said Chief of Naval Operations Adm. John Richardson. “For more than 240 years, the Union Jack, flying proudly from jackstaffs aboard U.S. Navy warships, has symbolized these strengths.”
...
“The Union Jack is deeply connected to our heritage and our rise as a global nation with a global Navy,” said Richardson. “The Navy is a symbol that projects American values to the world. Just as the Navy embodies the values and principles that we hold dear, our very appearance in port and at anchor communicates important messages.”
Clunky.

Look at the reason the change was made back in 2002 - it doesn't line up with what we are doing in 2019. 

In essence, we are declaring the GWOT over. I expect the both GWOT medals to stop as well as the National Defense Ribbon too.

I'm only slightly kidding.

The full NAVADMIN is not available online yet (clunky again), and perhaps there will be more once it is.

OK fine. We'll say farewell to the more martial and attractive First Navy Jack for the rather sedate (yawn) Union Jack.


At least they're throwing this bone;
This policy change does not affect the wearing of the First Navy Jack patch as an optional uniform component on TYPE II/III Navy Working Uniforms.
For those who are too young to remember the pre-2002 Navy, there was zero enthusiasm for the Union Jack. No one wanted or even thought of wearing it as a patch. It had zero brand attachment to the USN. The First Navy Jack? Well, it took off like wildfire. Everyone, well, ALMOST everyone, loved it. From 2003 through 2009 I had a large one on wall of my offices here and in Europe.

There was a cadre of the usual suspects who did not like it, as its excessive martial vibe and, in the years that followed, its non-wokeish "problematic" structure received tut-tuts.

From the start, sadly, we knew it was just temporary. I don't think England thought it would stay to 2019 ... but then again, in 2002, we didn't think GWOT would last that long either.

If I were emperor, I would have made the change permanent, but I'm not.

So, if GWOT is over, can we all go home now?


Tuesday, February 19, 2019

GWOT Fatigue Isn't Just an American Thing

While we are looking at things from an European POV so far this week, let's take a look at the Long War from a French front-line leader's perspective.

We've all felt his frustration. We, as in the West, are exceptionally casualty shy. We are willing to trade time for fewer deaths on our side. 

We will use our comparative advantage in air power and indirect fire as much as possible before putting infantry on the ground.

This "low investment/slow reward" strategy is not without its dangers though. We can lose patience, and the enemy can gain good PR by looking to be able to hold out longer than they otherwise would.

Let's head over to RFI. It is in French, so you will pardon this rough translation;
The commander of the French gunners supporting the Kurdish forces against the Islamic State (IS) group in Syria claims that the victory could have been achieved faster and with less destruction if the Westerners had hired troops on the ground.

Colonel François-Régis Legrier, who has been in charge since October of the French artillery detachment (Task Force Wagram) in Iraq, makes this scathing statement in an article in the Journal National Defense (RDN) which makes the teeth cringe Staff of the armies.

The last major battle against ISIS, fought from September to December in the Hajine pocket in eastern Syria, " was won, but at a very slow pace , at an exorbitant cost and at the cost of many destructions, " says the officer.

IS jihadists now only hold a square kilometer plot in Deir Ezzor province (east) near the Iraqi border. And US President Donald Trump assured Friday that announcements would intervene " within 24 hours " on the end of the " caliphate " self-proclaimed.

" Of course, Westerners, by refusing to engage troops on the ground, have limited the risks and in particular that of having to explain to the public, " notes Colonel Legrier. " But this refusal questions: why maintain an army that one does not dare to engage? "Continues the officer, who uses an unprecedented freedom of speech for a military officer in operation.

According to him, 1,000 seasoned fighters would have been enough to " settle in a few weeks the fate of Hajine's pocket and (to) spare the population several months of war ". It took " almost five months and an accumulation of destruction to defeat 2,000 fighters with no air support, electronic warfare, special forces, or satellites, " he said.
If Col. Legrier's AOR sounds familiar to Front Porch regulars, it is because he leads the French unit that we talked about, in part, with Col. Seth Folsom, USMC eight months ago.

If you missed it the first time, give it a listen now.


Monday, February 18, 2019

Back in Africa: Portugease Edition

It is time to return again to our discussion of Africa.

Time to remind everyone that regardless of how much you may not be interested in Africa's future, Africa's future is very interested in you.

Head on over to the map, Africa is huge.


Size will not be the primary driver of the role she will have this century. It isn't her huge natural resources that is drawing China in that will be the driver either. Nope.

In the background is a topic many don't want to speak too loudly about; Africa has a very long front on the bleeding-edge of Dar al-Islam. That is part of this story, but not the two primary drivers.

This century unless it is managed carefully, Africa it will continue to produce more conflict than can be consumed locally. The causes are clear.

There are two things. First, demographics;


...and the resulting population growth that is on the way.


Second; economics.

As much as I would thoroughly enjoy it, we don't have time for a full seminar of development economics - so I'll give you a back-of-the-napkin summary.

A growing population can only grow its standard of living if its economic growth exceeds its population growth. Economic growth requires political stability and the rule of law. Nations who do not have political stability and the rule of law cannot grow their economy. Nations with high population demographics who cannot create increasing or at least a stable standard of living for their people will create conditions for a mass exodus/emigration. These migrants will move via the easiest path to an area with a high standard of living.

For the very poor in African, that path leads north, to Europe.

The European people have no more desire for migrants from Africa than they already have. In most of their nations, their ruling class lacks the ability to do what they need to do to curtail the incoming masses. The people of Europe, if their present ruling class will not address their concerns, will look to get a new ruling class.

Masses of migrants in to Europe are already warping the political landscape of Europe. If Europe wants to keep domestic political turmoil and conflict - not to mention cultural and economic issues - it must find a way to create conditions in Africa such that the pressure to migrate are at least mitigated or at best eliminated.

Sure, there is a humanitarian impulse in play here ... but in the background is the very real desire to stop mass migration from making the Europeans become a people they don't want to be once again.

That is why you find a nation of 10.6 million that spends only 1.36% GDP on defense sending 180 of their finest military members in to the very heart of Africa.

Via The Defense Post, welcome back to Africa, Portugal;
Decades after Portugal formally ended its more than 500-year-old empire in Africa, the Portuguese military has returned in force. From Mali to Somalia, and now the Central African Republic the state of Portugal has been increasingly active in peacekeeping operations and counter-terrorism efforts in Africa.

A contingent of Portuguese peacekeepers came under fire on April 1 in the capital Bangui. The force had been deployed to PK5, a historically Muslim neighborhood in the Christian majority nation when it came under fire. That incident sparked further operations against armed groups in the neighborhood. In total the operation left as many as 21 civilians dead and injured scores including peacekeepers with the U.N.’s Minusca mission.

Portuguese paratroopers were again called upon to protect civilians during clashes in Bangui on May 1 in which at least 24 people died, and around 170 people were wounded.
The Portuguese get it.
“We have to play an active role in contributing to the defense and security of Portugal, of NATO and part of that is working to ensure stability south of the Mediterranean,” said João Rebelo a member of Portugal’s parliament with the CDS – People’s Party. “I remind my colleagues often it’s only a short flight from Portugal to Libya.”
This weekend a tactical event in C.A.R. involving Portuguese forces broke above the background noise.
Portuguese peacekeepers battled for five hours to protect civilians and restore order after militants killed two police officers in the Central African Republic town of Bambari ahead of a scheduled visit by the country’s president on Thursday, January 10.

The attack came a day after President Faustin-Archange Touadera announced that the government would meet armed groups in African Union-brokered peace talks in Khartoum.

Members of the Union for Peace in the Central African Republic (UPC) ex-Seleka militia and their allies carried out “various attacks” in the town early Thursday, a government statement said.

“Two policemen were killed and another was wounded,” Communications Minister Ange-Maxime Kazagui told AFP.

Medecins Sans Frontieres (Doctors Without Borders) said it was treating 30 people for bullet wounds. MSF later said 26 people were still being treated but one person had died in hospital.

Corbeau News reported that around 10 people were killed, but it was not possible to confirm this toll.

The government later said on Twitter that 20 UPC members were killed and 15 others wounded.

According to an internal U.N. report seen by AFP, a combatant called “General Bello,” in charge of UPC fighters in Bambari, had been wounded.
Take some time to see this exceptional video of the Portuguese paratroopers in contact.

Things that caught my eye:
1. The influence of American special forces in the last 15-yrs has brought the light infantry kit to a refined point. Everyone is starting to look roughly the same.
2. Looks like almost every helmet has a camera, every helmet a number ... as such ... you can really deconstruct every engagement if all are working and recording. The Colonial Marines' kit from "Aliens" was pretty good in telling the future.
3. You may speak your national language to each other if you want, but when you want air support - know your English.




For everyone, especially former colonial powers like Portugal, there will be more Africa in their future.
There may be more such missions in the future.

Security in the former Portuguese colony of Mozambique is a growing international concern. Local Islamist groups in the province of Cabo Delgado have been conducting limited terrorist attacks against the government. It’s a region well-known in Portuguese military history and in Portuguese military circles. It was there in 1964 that Communist guerrillas crossed the border from Tanzania to attack Portuguese forces, an event which for Portugal marked the beginning of the Overseas War, Guerra do Ultramar, in earnest.

Friday, February 15, 2019

Fullbore Friday

If you were in the Palm Springs area the first week of this February 2015, you might have seen what looks like a gathering of exceptionally old people at the local American Legion hall.

Not an unusual sight in Palm Springs, but you may notice something a bit different about this group. Maybe more baseball hats than usual, or a smattering of brown leather, what look like flight jackets.

That group of people were going to the mini-reunion of the 100th Bomb Group. Their main reunion will be in New Orleans in SEP15. When you see this group of people, or others like them in shrinking numbers throughout this nation, carefully move from their car to the place where they are going to spend some time with some friends, take a moment to take a deep breath and close your eyes - and remember that these were once young men. Young men given incredible responsibility and thrown in to a level of combat and stress on a day to day basis our generation of combat veterans rarely came close to matching. They did some incredible things;
Following breakfast and briefing at the base, home to members of the 100th Bomb Group from June 1943 to December 1945, Rojohn and Leek learned that their target would be Hamburg, a port city with numerous oil refineries and submarine pens. Second Lieutenant Robert Washington, the ship's navigator, recalled the start of that, his 27th, mission: 'Takeoff on the morning of December 31, 1944, was delayed because of fog, and when we assembled the group and departed the coast of England, we learned that the fighter escort had been delayed due to the weather.'

It took 'almost as much time to rendezvous to go on a mission as it did to complete a mission,' Rojohn recalled, 'because the weather in England was always bad, and we had to circle around and around until we broke out above the overcast. Our squadrons [Rojohn flew in C Squadron] then formed, and we met other groups until we got into a long line of traffic heading toward Germany. This particular day we flew over the North Sea to a point south of Denmark and then turned southwest down the Elbe River to Hamburg. We were somewhere in the neighborhood of 25,000 feet [altitude]. At that time I don't think much was known about the jet stream, but we had a tail wind of about 200 nautical miles an hour. We got into the target pretty quick. Over the target, we had just about everything but the kitchen sink thrown at us.'

Leek's recollections of the Hamburg mission were equally vivid: 'The target and the sky over it were black from miles away. The flak was brutal. We flew through flak clouds and aircraft parts for what seemed like an hour.'

While Rojohn does not like to criticize his commanding officers, he thinks a mistake was made that day. 'Instead of hitting the target and angling out over Germany still on a southwesterly direction and then out over Belgium, they turned us at 180 degrees back toward the North Sea,' Rojohn said. 'So an 80-knot tailwind became an 80-knot headwind. We were probably making about 50 or 60 mph on the ground.'

'When we finally got clear of the coastal flak batteries,' recalled Washington, 'we turned west and skirted the flak area by flying between Heligoland and Wilhelmshaven. The flak was heavy as we crossed the coastline. I'm not certain whether we headed northwest between Bremerhaven and Kuxhaven, or due west over the little town of Aurich and across the coastline near Norden.'

Over the North Sea, Rojohn remembered, they were flying at 22,000 feet when they 'encountered wave after wave of German fighters. We just barely got out over the North Sea, and the sky was rumbling around us with exploding flak and German [Messerschmitt] Me-109 fighter planes so close I could see the faces of the young German pilots as they went by. They were just having a field day with our formation. We lost plane after plane.'

According to an account written by Tech. Sgt. Orville E. Elkin, Rojohn's top turret gunner and engineer: 'The fighters came from every direction, 12 o'clock, 6 o'clock, from the bottom and from the top. Your body becomes cold and numb from fright as you realize that only one-sixteenth of an inch of aluminum stands between you and this battery of firepower.' Ten planes were quickly lost.

Leek had been at the controls when the crew came off the bomb run. He and Rojohn alternated the controls each half hour. 'On this mission,' Leek recalled, 'the lead plane was off Glenn's wing, so he flew the bomb run. I should have kept the controls for at least my half-hour, but once the attack began, our formation tightened up and we started bouncing up and down. Our lead plane kept going out of sight for me. I may have been overcorrecting, but the planes all seemed to bounce at different times. I asked Glenn to take it, and he did.'

Rojohn maneuvered to take a position to fill the void created when a B-17 (No. 43-338436) piloted by 2nd Lt. Charles C. Webster went down in flames and exploded on the ground. 'I was going into that void when we had a tremendous impact,' Rojohn recalled. Feeling the bomber shudder, the men immediately thought their plane had collided with another aircraft. It had, but in a way that may never have happened before or since.

Another B-17 (No. 43-338457), piloted by 1st Lt. William G. MacNab and 2nd Lt. Nelson B. Vaughn, had risen upward. The top turret guns on MacNab's plane had pierced through the aluminum skin on the bottom of Rojohn's plane, binding the two huge planes together, as Leek said, like 'breeding dragonflies.' The two planes had become one.

Whether MacNab and Vaughn lost control of their plane because they were seriously injured or the planes collided because both Rojohn and MacNab were moving in to close the open space in the formation is uncertain. Both MacNab and Vaughn were fatally injured that day and were never able to tell their own story.

Staff Sergeant Edward L. Woodall, Jr., MacNab's ball-turret gunner, remembered that when a crew check was called just prior to the midair collision, everyone had reported in. 'At the time of the impact,' Woodall said, 'we lost all power and intercom on our aircraft. I knew we were in trouble from the violent shaking of the aircraft, no power to operate the turret, loss of intercom, and seeing falling pieces of metal. My turret was stalled with the guns up at about 9 o'clock. This is where countless time drills covering emergency escape procedures from the turret paid off, as I automatically reached for the hand crank, disengaged the clutch and proceeded to crank the turret and guns to the down position so I could open the door and climb into the waist of the airplane. I could see that another aircraft was locked onto our aircraft and his ball turret jammed down inside our aircraft.'

In the 1946 book The Story of the Century, John R. Nilsson reported that E.A. Porter, a pilot from Payton, Miss., who witnessed the midair collision, had sounded the warning over the radio: "F for Fox, F for Fox, get it down!' — however MacNab, whose radio was dead, did not hear. Not to see the collision which seemed inevitable, Porter turned his head, while two of his gunners, Don Houk of Appleton City, Missouri, and Clarence Griffin of Harrisburg, Illinois, watched aghast, as MacNab and Rojohn settled together 'as if they were lifted in place by a huge crane,' and many of the 100th's anguished fliers saw the two Fortresses cling — Rojohn's, on top, riding pick-a-back on MacNab's, how held together being a mystery. A fire started on MacNab's ship, on which three propellers still whirled, and the two bombers squirmed, wheeled in the air, trying to break the death-lock.'

Washington opened the escape hatch and'saw the B-17 hanging there with three engines churning and one feathered. Rojohn and Leek banked to the left and headed south toward land.'

'Glenn's outboard prop bent into the nacelle of the lower plane's engine,' recalled Leek. 'Glenn gunned our engines two or three times to try to fly us off. It didn't work, but it was a good try. The outboard left engine was burning on the plane below. We feathered our propellers to keep down the fire and rang the bail-out bell.'

'Our engines were still running and so were three on the bottom ship,' Rojohn said. When he realized he could not detach his plane, Rojohn turned his engines off to try to avoid an explosion. He told Elkin and Tech. Sgt. Edward G. Neuhaus, the radio operator, to bail out of the tail, the only escape route left because all other hatches were blocked.

'The two planes would drop into a dive unless we pulled back on the controls all the time,' wrote Leek. 'Glenn pointed left and we turned the mess toward land. I felt Elkin touch my shoulder and waved him back through the bomb bay. We got over land and [bombardier Sergeant James R.] Shirley came up from below. I signalled to him to follow Elkin. Finally Bob Washington came up from the nose. He was just hanging on between our seats. Glenn waved him back with the others. We were dropping fast.'

As he crawled up into the pilot's compartment before bailing out, Washington remembered, 'I saw the two of them [Rojohn and Leek] holding the wheels against their stomachs and their feet propped against the instrument panel. They feathered our engines to avoid fire, I think. [Shirley] and I went on through the bomb bay and out the waist door, careful to drop straight down in order to miss the tail section of the other plane which was a little to the right of our tail.' Because of Rojohn's and Leek's physical effort, Shirley, Elkin, Washington, Staff Sgt. Roy H. Little (the waist gunner), Staff Sgt. Francis R. Chase (the replacement tail gunner), and Neuhaus were able to reach the rear of the plane and bail out. 'I could hear Russo [Staff Sgt. Joseph Russo, Rojohn's ball-turret gunner] saying his Hail Marys over the intercom,' Leek said. 'I could not help him, and I felt that I was somehow invading his right to be alone. I pulled off my helmet and noticed that we were at 15,000 feet. This was the hardest part of the ride for me.'

Before they jumped, Little, Neuhaus and Elkin took the hand crank for the ball turret and tried to crank it up to free Russo. 'It would not move,' Elkin wrote. 'There was no means of escape for this brave man.'

'Awhile later,' recalled Leek, 'we were shot at by guns that made a round white puff like big dandelion seeds ready to be blown away. By now the fire was pouring over our left wing, and I wondered just what those German gunners thought we were up to and where we were going! Before long, .50-caliber shells began to blow at random in the plane below. I don't know if the last flak had started more or if the fire had spread, but it was hot down there!' As senior officer, Rojohn ordered Leek to join the crew members and jump, but his co-pilot refused. Leek knew Rojohn would not be able to maintain physical control of the two planes by himself and was certain the planes would be thrown into a death spiral before Rojohn could make it to the rear of the plane and escape. 'I knew one man left in the wreck could not have survived, so I stayed to go along for the ride,' Leek said.

And what a ride it was. 'The only control we actually had was to keep [the planes] level,' said Rojohn. 'We were falling like a rock.' The ground seemed to be reaching up to meet them.

Washington recalled that, from his vantage point while parachuting, 'I watched the two planes fly on into the ground, probably two or three miles away, and saw no more chutes. Shirley was coming down behind me. When the planes hit, I saw them burst into flames and the black smoke erupting.'

At one point, Leek said, he tried to beat his way out through the window with a Very pistol: 'Just panic, I guess. The ground came up faster and faster. Praying was allowed. We gave it one last effort and slammed into the ground.' As they crashed in Germany at Tettens, near Wilhelmshaven, shortly before 1 p.m., Rojohn's plane slid off the bottom plane, which immediately exploded. Alternately lifting up and slamming back into the ground, the remaining B-17 careened ahead, finally coming to rest only after the left wing sliced through a wooden headquarters building, as Rojohn recalled, 'blowing that building to smithereens.' Russo is believed to have been killed when the planes landed.

'When my adrenalin began to lower, I looked around,' Leek said. 'Glenn was OK and I was OK, and a convenient hole was available for a fast exit. It was a break just behind the cockpit. I crawled out onto the left wing to wait for Glenn. I pulled out a cigarette and was about to light it when a young German soldier with a rifle came slowly up to the wing, making me keep my hands up. He grabbed the cigarette out of my mouth and pointed down. The wing was covered with gasoline.'

Rojohn and Leek sustained only slight injuries from the crash, which shocked even the two pilots when they took a look at the wreckage of their B-17. 'All that was left of the Flying Fortress was the nose, the cockpit, and the seats we were sitting on,' Rojohn later recalled.
That's a fairly large pull quote, but there is much more there. Read the whole thing.

First posted DEC2014.

Hat tip Larry.

Thursday, February 14, 2019

Education for Seapower: Sound Diagnosis; Unsound Prescription

As the education of naval leaders has been a regular topic here and on Midrats through the years, I’ve been looking forward for the Final Report from the Education for Seapower (E4S) Study.

Here are links for the Study and the MEMO for Distribution from the Under Secretary of the Navy Modly that kicked it off.

It is a beast to digest, but you really only to chew through 65 or so pages.

Unfortunately, after slogging through, I have to say this is a failed opportunity. I got about 5-pages in to the 65 when it dawned on me that we were going to double-down on old, tired, and broken habits to try to move the ball on providing opportunities to grow the intellectual capital of our Navy and Marine Corps. As delivered, I have little confidence this will accomplish that goal.

Back in April 2018, the Under’s kick-off memo said a couple of things that gave me hope;
To shape this more lethal force, we must begin by thinking anew about how those strategies and capabilities are developed in the first place - with our most critical resource - human creativity and talent.

I will consider every viewpoint tendered before making my final recommendations to the Secretary, and the report will be made widely available to all.
This is good, true, and commendable.

However, there were also indications that this might be doomed from the start.
With this mandate firmly in mind, I am forming an independent subject matter expert team to conduct a comprehensive study of learning throughout the Department of the Navy. The Department of the Navy (DON) Education for Seapower (E4S) study team will seek input from experts and proven national-level leaders from government, academia, and private industry. They will use this information to develop a series of observations and recommendations for knowledge-based continuous learning throughout the naval services. In order to be effective, the results of this study must be just as consequential and pervasive as the challenges to our national security, as expressed in the 2018 National Defense Strategy.
I don’t have to tell you the history of anything in DC that is sold as “comprehensive” and “pervasive.” As it their nature, regardless of their individual talents and accomplishments, if your study is populated by those seeped in DC culture, you will get something excessively bureaucratic, birthing ersatz self-justifying empires that quickly diverge from their stated charter towards self-preservation and job security.

Yes, I am fully aware of my biases, but I came in to this with hope and an open mind. The lost opportunity to leverage the intellect we have in house has been a frustration of mine for 30 years. Too much effort was spread too thin over a preconceived structure.

First let me start with what is very good in the report.

In a way, this is the tale of two reports and it becomes clear in the above referenced first 5-pages. I’ll get back to the “Scope of the Study and Approach” plus the “Executive Summary” portions next – as they are on the naughty-list – but let go to the Introduction.

This is just solid stuff, very clearly identifying some of the challenges.
Education has long been the key strength of the American naval profession and a force multiplier for our Sea Services. For generations, the question of how to educate naval leaders has been subject to review and reform. From the founding of the U.S. Naval Academy in the 1840s and the U.S. Naval War College in the 1880s, through the Cold War and creation of Marine Corps University, naval education has adapted to changes in the character of war and the United States’ role in the world. However, the education of leaders goes beyond the war colleges and schoolhouses of the Navy and Marine Corps. In 1818, a young David Farragut spent nine months with the American Consul in Tunisia studying mathematics and languages, where he was introduced to the Islamic religion and North African culture. Lieutenant Chester A. Nimitz spent a year on what today the Navy would call a corporate fellowship, learning about the production of new diesel engines in pre-World War I Germany. The Navy sent Lieutenant Arleigh Burke to the University of Michigan for two years to receive his graduate degree in Chemical Engineering in 1931. Non-traditional personal study and career intermissions, learning from the corporate and civilian sector, attendance at leading civilian graduate schools, and Fellowships at leading public policy research institutions, all have an important contribution to the creation of a dynamic, adaptable, and innovative Navy and Marine Corps.

The United States finds itself at the crossroads of several significant changes in our modern world. We are seeing the return of great power struggle, and the rise of nation state competition, on the world’s oceans and ashore. Simultaneously, society and technology are experiencing a revolution in computing and data science, with the development or artificial intelligence, and quantum computing. These changes are progressing with a concurrent shift in the tactical and operational level of naval power, from the development of hypersonic weapons and cyber military capabilities, to the growth of asymmetric conflict in the form of maritime militias and irregular forces operating short of declared war.

The current and future leaders of the United States Navy and Marine Corps will have to deal with these challenges, and will have to be prepared for the challenges that lay just beyond the horizon as well. In the Cognitive Age, where leaders have to deal not only with incomplete data but also with analysis and decision making in a world that involves overwhelming data, the ability to evaluate information, reason strategically and ethically, and act decisively, will be essential elements of future success. These are skills that can be taught. These are talents that can be developed. The challenges and multi-disciplinary issues of our contemporary world can and should be specifically examined through our naval education programs.
This outlines the issues exceptionally well. The next bit points me to my major critique of the report;
The Department of the Navy is an extremely complex organization. We must ensure the Department understands changes in its external environment and adapts strategy, plans, technology, tactics, and operational concepts accordingly.
Bingo. Exactly true. Outside engineering though, the most complex problems are best addressed with simple solutions. That does not seem to be the direction we are going in this case.
It is highly unlikely that the greatest naval strategists and leaders of our past, such as Mahan, Ellis, and Krulak would be successful in today’s bureaucratic environment.
Fix that statement in your mind. If we have an excessively bureaucratic environment, do we fix it by … growing the bureaucracy?
When examining long-term global trends, the United States Intelligence Community expressed its concern with America’s K-12 education system, noting that other nations are surpassing the performance of our once cherished institutions. The rest of the world has taken notice of the intrinsic value of education, and has taken action. Revanchist powers and our allies both recognize the importance of military education and they are in the process of retooling their programs (see Appendix B). Maintaining a cognitive advantage over potential adversaries is of vital importance, as is keeping pace with our partners and friends; preserving the status quo state of lethargy would be a strategic blunder – one that no naval leader should be willing to make. As we face this vital inflection point, now is the time for change.
Can you feel the impending overreach? Here is comes;
Vigorous and transformative connections amongst education, research, science and technology, simulation and war-gaming, operational testing and Fleet exercises have never been more important. This requires a comprehensive approach and an effort that is coordinated and collaborative rather than stove-piped and individual to each educational institution. It is not only our charge to protect these precious instruments that help us understand and prepare for future conflict – it is our duty to challenge the assumptions of the manner in which we organize, resource, oversee, and network those instruments for maximum agility in anticipating that future despite an uncertain strategic environment.
The "T" word. Say "hi" to Admiral Mullin.

If you read this from the start, you have already seen the following, but here is what they want to do.

Remember the bureaucrat's first instinct; control. With control comes power. With power comes money. With money comes growth. With growth comes more control. Cycle.

Early on in the ES, we were warned.
Necessary teachings of advanced technology in strategic education curricula are haphazard and randomly pursued, made more difficult by the Department’s decentralized approach to education…
…and we’re off and running.
… we propose a major reorganization by creating a Naval University that enables a new alignment and orchestration of efforts amongst the various institutions of naval education: the United States Naval Academy, Naval War College, Marine Corps University, Naval Postgraduate School, Naval Reserve Officers’ Training Corps, Officer Candidate School, Federal Executive Fellowships, and all Flag/General Officer education. Our proposed structure retains the special characteristics and strengths of each educational institution, while aligning policy, budget, and acquisition authority in order to provide increased agility and accountability...
Take a moment before we move forward to ask yourself which already fully employed person who has found themselves “dual-hatted” was able to do the first job just as well, and the second job as it should be done?

Right. None.
Naval University, headed by a three-star naval officer President, dual-hatted as President, Naval War College with a five-year term, rotated between the Navy and Marine Corps, located in Newport, Rhode Island,

Chief Learning Officer, a senior civilian with educational leadership experience headquartered in the Pentagon, with a small supporting staff transferred from extant Navy and Marine education management billets, responsible to the President, Naval University...

Program Executive Office, Naval Learning Systems (PEO – L), established by dual-hatting the current Commander, Naval Air Warfare Center – Training Systems Division in Orlando, Florida,

Naval Community College, under the leadership of the President, Naval University, to facilitate education and certifications for enlisted Sailors and Marines that are relevant to the Naval Services.
That takes in to account a immodest respect towards leadership risk.

There is something to be said for not having everyone under one structure. Not all stovepipes are the same. The Kulaks did produce more grain than the collective farms, dontchaknow.

Does this look like an effective organization to you?
Institute a single Naval Education Governing Board for the Naval University, chaired by the Secretary of the Navy, with the Chief of Naval Operations and Commandant of the Marine Corps as co-chairs. This board will also include on a rotating basis one of the Navy’s four-star fleet commanders and Commanding General Fleet Marine Force Atlantic or Pacific. Other senior commanders should be appointed to bring specific skills such as cyber, space or intelligence.

- Create a Board of Advisors of distinguished persons to include as ex officio members the chairs of the Naval Academy and Marine Corps University Boards of Visitors. This board will have the primary duty of providing oversight for the Secretary of the Navy and for providing support, guidance and advice for the entire educational enterprise including its components. The President of the Board of Advisors should be a retired four-star military or naval officer, or civilian equivalent with national stature with a renewable four-year term.
Yes, you do need a 5’x10’ white board with 5 different colored pens to understand this C2 structure.

You really should read it all, as I could go on for another 10 pages of pull quotes, but let me do one more to let you see the incredibly large bite this report is choking on.

Just read it – it looks as easy to make happen as California’s high-speed rail connection from LA to San Francisco;
- Require Reporting Seniors of each Service to comment upon learning achievements as a separate category in officer fitness reports and enlisted evaluations, and make continuous learning achievements an essential part of promotion precepts signed by the Secretary of the Navy. The newly-created selection boards for in-residence graduate education by the Navy, and as established earlier by the Marine Corps, support this objective and are recommended for permanence.
- Require in-residence, strategically-focused graduate degrees of all future unrestricted line Flag and General Officers, with waiver authority solely invested in the Secretary of the Navy.
- Develop a naval education enterprise digital network for continuous learning by all Sailors and Marines, from E-1 to O-10, that shares the educational assets and learning opportunities of the entire Naval University, as well as those of the American university system and private sector.
- Institute naval war-gaming and competitive team learning as a necessary part of a continuum of learning at the junior, middle, and senior stages of a naval officer and enlisted person’s career path, as well as “just-in-time” education as new conditions arise.
- Begin the process of developing a differentiated talent management system that uses education, among other tools, to reveal, groom, and develop a deep bench of leadership in the services and the civilian workforce, acting as a retention and permeability tool in concert with the Blended Retirement System and new officer promotion flexibilities granted in the 2019 John S. McCain National Defense Authorization Act.
- Pursue changes in the Joint Professional Military Education system that meet the unique, sea-centric, forward operational requirements of the Navy-Marine Corps team, and provide essential Joint operational doctrine training earlier in the careers of its personnel.
- Activate an organizational learning continuum as part of the Naval Education Enterprise, with accountability and ownership in the person of the President, Naval University, reporting to the Commander, Fleet Forces Command, Commander, U.S. Pacific Fleet, Commander Naval Forces Europe and the Deputy Commandant for Combat Development and Integration, creating positive accountability and resources for institutional advancement.
- Implement new curriculum reviews for all educational institutions, with overarching strategic guidance and expectations to be issued by the Secretary of the Navy that are informed by a continually-adapting strategic estimate of the global situation created by the President, Naval University.
- Create a more flexible education model based on “stackable” certifications and courses that have the potential to be aggregated for graduate degrees along the course of a sea-centric naval career, in addition to greater in-residence opportunities, both officers and enlisted personnel, administered by the Naval University
Simple is better; direct is clearer; flexible is achievable – this is none of that.

The problem, especially in opening white space for advanced education and rewarding same, is real. The other issues spot-welded on to this in the report are real as well – but trying to do it all at once is folly.

The problem was identified in a fine manner, the history outline superb; but the offered solution is a horror-show of things we have not shown in recent history we are capable of doing; a micromanaging comprehensive systems of systems bureaucracy.

Perhaps it is a byproduct of those who produced it. This is all they know. Great Americans all, but given their mandate and background, this isn’t a surprise.

OK, there’s the critique, what would I do?

First of all, I would keep the problem identification and historical perspective part of the recommendation and disregard the rest. This is stillborn. 

Given recent history, there should be zero expectation that creating new bureaucracies and dual hatting already overworked senior leaders is going to result in a better end product. Perhaps I’m missing something, but I do not see any net efficiency here, much less effectiveness. Even if it did work perfectly, how long to see an impact? Simple solutions move faster. Complicated solutions take a long time, and often die of their own internal contradictions. 

Do we want to make things better intellectually in our Navy? There is a simple solution; focus on a single word; simple. Prioritize and simplify.

Disaggregate our problems set.
1. NWC should focus on the “W.” With rare exceptions, there is no need for anyone to go there before O5-Command. Full stop.
2. NPS should focus on advanced degrees that the USN needs that are not readily replicated by civilian institutions.
3. As I’ve mentioned before in different context, take a hammer and tongs to the shore billet infrastructure. Clear out and make available more space for people to get Masters & PhD in their first shore duty at civilian institutions with resident, full-time programs. If your first response is “...to be competitive..” then fix our selection board processes. I’ve been arguing this point since I was that LT being told that I “couldn’t” go because bla bla bla. We control it. The fact it is still a problem as we approach the 3rd decade of the 21st Century tells me we still are not serious. (NB: this can be done w/o creating huge new bureaucracies and collateral duties)
4. Other issues should be addressed on their own merits. If they cannot, then fire people until you hire someone who can.

Couple of final notes:
A: The Navy is not a business. Stop using “enterprise.” It is inaccurate and intellectually dishonest.
B: Stop trying to sound like you’re prepping for at TEDx talk by using “Cognitive Age “ like you have a special enlightenment. I found that constantly appearing in the text a bit off.

That's about all I have to say about this. A lost opportunity.

Tuesday, February 12, 2019

Russian Akula SSN - Monster of My Youth, Still Out There

Yes, yes, yes; this is Russian propaganda - but just watch the glory of it all.

The Akula SSN was the monster at the end of the Cold War. In 2019, they are a little long in the tooth, but still all that. Here we have a few who are still active. The youngest active is about 27-yrs old.

We start part-1 of a 2-part series on was I assume is one of their SUBRONs ... the Beast Division, with in K-317, Pantera, Commissioned in 1990.

As you watch this, I have a recommendation; ignore the people speaking, look in the background. Look at details. Do you own visual zone inspection. That is where the good stuff is. (NB: the P-8A RECCE quiz prep-page framed at the 2:46 mark, and the big talk about our VIRGINIA Class at 3:20).

If shipyards and drydocks are your thing, 15:50 mark is your place.



You need to keep going to Part-2 because, be honest with yourself, you want to see Russian underwear (3:00).



Nice note, at the 5:22 point; alcohol makes your body more resistant to radiation. I'm not sure how much more Russian you can get.

More maintenance at 13:20, but a guy I'd love to have a few drinks with Yury Farafontov was chief designer from 1996-2016 for the AKULA Class. He tells a nice sea story at 21 minute mark.

Like I said a the start - propaganda. A bit clunky in places ... but worth the watch.