Monday, September 30, 2019

If no More 355 - How Can USCG be of More Help?

When money gets thin, you have to be imaginative.

In case it slipped your scan mid-month, Under Secretary of the Navy Modly said in public what has been well known for a while;
The Navy's second most senior civilian today acknowledged the service will not achieve its 355-ship goal in a "reasonable" amount of time and that without a $20 billion to $30 billion increase in annual funding, the Navy could only maintain between 305 and 308 ships.
There are a variety of things that can be done to increase the American ability to flex at sea - one of which Chuck is offering up; call the USCG;
The Coast Guard used to be an armed naval force prepared for war. We came out of World War II with an ASW mission, and while our assets got older, the mission continued. In the late 80s we cut the number of ASW assets, but modernized the best of our ships, upgrading their ASW equipment and adding anti-ship cruise missiles.

Then, we all got a break. The Soviet Union collapsed and the need for ASW escorts pretty much disappeared. The Navy downsized and the Coast Guard removed all ASW equipment and the anti-ship missile.

We had almost 30 years without a major naval threat, but it looks like that is changing.

The US Coast Guard is the US Navy’s closest ally, but it seems there is little coordination between the two in defining Coast Guard roles in a major conflict. We certainly don’t see any evidence in the way the cutters are currently being equipped.
Upgrading the Bertholf class NSCs and the Offshore Patrol Cutters could add up to 36 light frigates to the national fleet. The Navy would need to provide some additional equipment, but that cost would be far less than the cost of adding similar ships to the Navy, and the difference in operating costs between ships with or without the upgrades is very small.
Well inside a generation ago, the Coast Guard had both ASW and Harpoon ASUW capabilities.

Bring them back.

We don't have to invent new ideas - more often than not - we can bring by proven ideas we left behind in myopic bliss.

Thursday, September 26, 2019

...and so; Goodbye to the Blueberries

As I've been aghast at the NWU since 2006, let me quote myself (a favorite pastime) when the Navy decided to force the blueberry uniform on us;
This is the wrong answer. As we say in D.C. - I non-concur, sir.
At last, our long national nightmare is over;
The last day of approved wear of the Navy Working Uniform (NWU) Type I is Sept. 30, as this uniform has been replaced by the NWU Type III, as announced in NAVADMIN 174/16.
If people would just listen to 'ole Sal and the Front Porch earlier, we would be saved from such grabassery - but such is life.

Next, let's move on to LCS.

Wednesday, September 25, 2019

Behold the Dawn of the "Second Century Fighters?"

After years of yelling in to the void, it is nice to hear an echo now and then.

So, who's up for a return to evolutionary development?

I don't care if the USAF leads ... but I like the direction they are going with the Next Generation Air Dominance (NGAD).

Details at USNIBlog.

Tuesday, September 24, 2019

The Slow Way is the Best way for Venezuela

One of the strangely incoherent natsec issues of 2019 was the clamor in some quarters for the USA to take some kind of military action against Venezuela. I still am trying to understand what foundation these people based their saber rattling on. No objective person with even a wikipedia thin understanding of Venezuelean geography/demographics, the history of USA involvement in Central/South America, or even a modest appreciation of our post-WWII record of invading other nations for their own good - would think this a good idea.

As distasteful the Maduro regime is, it is primarily up to the people of that nation to fix the mess they voted themselves in to, secondarily that of her neighbors, and tertiary at best the USA.

There are a lot of other - and better - tools to use. Diplomacy and sanctions ... always a good start.

It is solid news.
The member countries of the Rio Treaty agreed on Monday in New York to impose sanctions against members of the Nicolás Maduro regime in Venezuela, but for the moment refused to consider using military force.

The approved resolution establishes that member countries may sanction and extradite members of the Maduro regime who participate in drug trafficking, terrorist activities, organized crime and human rights violations, as well as freeze their assets.

Don't underestimate how hard it is to get these nations to turn in to the wind like this. Simply great progress. Imperfect? Sure ... but better than the alternatives in hand.
The resolution was approved by 16 countries. Uruguay voted against, and Trinidad and Tobago abstained. Cuba was not present at the meeting, as it was expelled from the inter-American institutional system and has not formally requested its reinstatement.
The meeting of foreign ministers of the 18 active members of the Inter-American Treaty of Reciprocal Assistance — known as TIAR for its initials in Spanish — which includes the United States, is the first in 18 years. It was convened at the request of the president of the National Assembly of Venezuela, Juan Guaidó — recognized as interim president of Venezuela by the United States and more than 50 countries — to increase regional pressure on the Maduro regime.
“It has been a very arduous process to get countries to adopt these sanctions,” said Julio Borges, Guaidó’s envoy to the Lima Group, a Latin American organization founded to try to resolve the Venezuelan crisis. “You have to take things intelligently, gradually.”
Read it all.

Monday, September 23, 2019

The MQ-25A Imperative

As many of you noticed in a post earlier this month on the future airwing, the MQ-25A is almost here - and it is about time.

Via Ben Werner at USNINews;
Boeing conducted the first flight of its prototype unmanned aerial refueling aircraft on Thursday, testing its handling and the Navy’s ability to fast-track a long-stalled program.

The MQ-25A Stingray “T1” test airframe flew for two hours, flying in and out of MidAmerica Airport, located next to Scott Air Force Base outside of St. Louis. Boeing and Navy officials described the weather as perfect for flying as the T1 gathered performance data for Boeing and the Navy to review.
While a lot are itchy and a bit flustered that we are only going to use it for tanking (for now), it remains the correct move for two reasons; 1) It is a basic mission that will enable us to get used to operating and maintaining a CVN UAS so we can expand later in to other missions; 2) We have a gaping maw of a requirement for organic tanking.

It has been clear for a very long time how stupid it was to get rid of organic tanking. I've said from the start and maintain my position, that buddy-tanking does not count and is a false economy.

Facts, as usual, are on my side;

The Navy’s mission for carrier-based UAVs has evolved during the past decade. Initially, the UAVs were considered to augment a carrier-based strike capability and to provide surveillance missions. Instead, the Navy narrowed its focus to refueling as a way to free up more F/A-18E/F Super Hornets for strike missions.

“Stingrays can provide persistent aerial refueling that’s going to extend the range and operational capability of the carrier air wing and the CSG, and it’s going to improve the efficiency by increasing the number of F-18s available for the strike fighter mission,” Reed said.

Currently, between 20 and 30 percent of an air wing’s Super Hornet fleet is dedicated to aerial refueling operations. The introduction of the MQ-25A Stingray will free up those Super Hornets for strike missions. The MQ-25A will delivery up to 15,000 pounds of fuel at 500 nautical miles.
No one is bringing back the S-3Bs and we may get lucky that a real naval conflict does not come up in the next decade ... so let's get that tanking ability back ... and then get to work on the FA-XX.

Hat tip Blake.

Friday, September 20, 2019

Fullbore Friday

He spoke for his nation. 

You know, or I hope you know, that picture on the right of a British paratrooper taken prisoner after the failure of Market Garden 75 years ago.

We know who he is ... and he just left us last month;
LEGENDARY war hero Jack Reynolds, who was famously photographed giving the two finger salute to his World War Two captors, has died aged 97.

The lieutenant's act of defiance towards the Germans became one of the most iconic images the Battle of Arnhem.
He has a story;
Lt Reynolds was born on Chichester and joined the army aged 17 to follow in the footsteps of his older brother Arthur.

He joined the Sussex Yeomanry and trained as a signaller, and was sent off to South Wales for more training instead of France when his real age was discovered.

Lt Reynolds later joined the Royal Artillery and was posted to Dover to man a 12-pound gun aimed at German E-Boats in the English Channel.

He then joined the 1st Airborne Division and took part in the invasion of Sicily in July 1943 - which he was awarded the Military Cross for his heroic efforts.

On September 17, 1944, Lt Reynolds was part of the first wave of glider borne troops in the Battle of Arnhem.

He was sent out on the back of motorbike to carry out reconnaissance, but was confronted by German snipers that disabled his vehicle.

He carried on by food (sic) and saw German infantry and Panzer tanks, before he retreated and reported back to battalion HQ.

The next day the troops marched towards Oosterbeek, near Arnhem, and came under heavy talk (sic) fire.

Lt Reynolds continued on alone to find out the strength of the opposition, but he was cut off and spent several days behind enemy lines.

By the time he made it back to battalion HQ it was taken over by Germans and the men were forced to surrender.
If living well and long is a great revenge - then he beat his iconic photograph;
He met and married Eulalie Willcocks - the younger sister of his commanding officer Captain AH Willcocks, who he was in the camp with.

The couple lived in Pulborough, West Sussex until he died - Eulalie died 13 years ago.

It is understood Lt Reynolds died in his sleep in West Sussex on August 22.
Great story about the picture as well;
As he was taken as a prisoner of war, Lt Reynolds spotted a German cameraman filming the captured Brits.

Lt Reynolds, who lied about his age to join the army, then flicked the V-sign out of anger and frustration.

He said: "I was so angry at the loss of fine young men and the carnage. Down the road I saw a German chap with a camera and a huge grin on his face and I thought what a b*****d and gave him the opposite 'V' sign'.

"It was an act of defiance but a momentary lapse of military discipline, which given the circumstance seemed totally justifiable!"
Some years after the war a German newspaper contacted him out of the blue and sent him this framed photograph of him giving the V-sign.

"It was an iconic image of Arnhem and one that he was very proud of because it summed up exactly what men like him felt, even though it wasn't the conduct you'd expect of an officer.

"When I visited him he had this photo hung up on the wall of his lounge."

Hat tip Scoobs.

Thursday, September 19, 2019

The Quandary of Aircraft Age vs. Mission Capability Rate

Just a quick graphic to ponder via DefenseNews's 05 AUG 19 edition.

This is USAF focused, and of course there are caveats; FMC vs PMC; maintenance hours per flight hour ... etc - but you would think that newer models would have a higher mission capable rate than models decades older.

Just a few to compare that caught my eye;

- B-52H: 69.3% vs B-2A: 60.7%

- F-16C: 70% vs F-35A: 49.6%

-UH-1N: 81.9% vs HH-60G: 70.7%


Wednesday, September 18, 2019

Slacker Nation Takes the Leadership Helm

When our most senior uniformed and civilian leadership don't seem to care all that much about the condition of our ships - how can we expect our Sailors to? 

When they make excuses for substandard performance, who won't follow that example?

I've got some sad examples over at USNIBlog. Come by and behold.

Tuesday, September 17, 2019

Your Power Phrase of the Day: Turbo Activation

This is a nice exercise, but what I would really like to see are the results of it. Via gCaptain;
The U.S. Department of Defense has ordered large-scale turbo activation of ships in the U.S. Maritime Administration’s (MARAD) Ready Reserve Force fleet.

The turbo activation is part of a large-scale activation exercise ordered by the U.S. Transportation Command (USTRANSCOM) on September 16. The activation calls for a total of 28 RRF fleet vessels to transition from reduced operating status to fully crewed and full operating status within 5-days. Activations are commonly followed by immediate sea trials.

The last turbo activation exercise was directed by Military Sealift Command in July when it ordered three to get underway with just five days notice from their berths in Alameda, California.

Going from 3 to 28 is a big jump ... but these exercises are excellent and should be thorough in their evaluation.

Of course, in Salamanderland we would follow up with a REFORGEResque exercise - but I'll take what I can get.

Monday, September 16, 2019

Drones and a New Age of Economic Terrorism

5% of the world’s oil production is knocked out … and days-on no one has any evidence who and from where.

The assumption – and I think it is a good one – was that the Yemeni Houthi rebels launched the attack using either drones or a combination of drones and missiles.

What we don’t know right now is what kind of drones and/or other weapons were used, where they were launched from, or really if it were actual Houthi who did it.

Whatever delivery platform(s) they used, you have to give a professional nod to those who carried out the operation. What an incredible bang for the buck.

This is not a “new” threat. Attacks against economic targets are as old as history – but to do it effectively usually took overt displays of nation-state military forces … or mercenary/piracy that were easy to track back to their benefactors. No more.

What to do?

1. Well, to start with, we need to “learn to code.” The threat is from the air, and we are not ready for it. I am reminded here one of the interesting accidents in the development of the Israeli Gabriel ASCM. When they were trying to develop a seeker head, they made a math error. As a result, they “over-engineered” their seeker head making it incredibly accurate for its time.

We have great AAW defensive sensors weapons – many we’ve exported to Saudi Arabia … but they are not designed to find and defeat this threat from small RCS and slow “drones” – especially if they come in low launched from nearby locations. You can transport drones for these type operations in a backpack on the small end, to the trunk of a car on the more capable end. There are some EW issues – but none that we’ll discuss on this net – but there are ways around it (you need to pony up some consulting fees for this advice). In any event; advantage to the aggressor, as we’ve seen.

We and the Saudis have good kit, but it is not optimal for this threat.

2. Diversity and disaggregation is the key. If you think the Saudi’s have a lot of refining eggs in a few baskets, you should look at the USA. That and our electrical grid…but I’ll try to focus on the topic at hand.

The cult of efficiency and NIMBYism resulted it a lot of critical capacity packed in to just a few locations. We are one natural or man-made disaster from having problems that will make the Saudi attack look small.

There are also military vulnerabilities to this threat.

Case in point – look at this pic.

Now, instead of oil storage tanks - here's your oldie-but-goodie - think ships lined up at Christmas in Norfolk. Think subs at Kings Bay or New London.

You get the idea. And no, you don't have to sink anything ... you just have to make a point. 

“We’ve” been chatting about this threat for a very long time, and the technology is reaching the point of where the chatting needs to move towards action.

In the attack, you don’t need a lot of money. You don’t need a big footprint; all you need is will and imagination. Do it right, and no one will even know how to retaliate.

In the defense, you do need a lot of money. You need more real estate. You need leadership, vision, and persistence. Do it right, and you will still be vulnerable, but not to the point of strategic risk.

There is a very good chance that this is simply an opening of a new type of global threat. I’ve had my Red Hat on too long this AM, I’m going to take it off – I’m scaring myself.

Sunday, September 15, 2019

Afghanistan in its 18th Year: at the Personal Level

Almost to the day, our direct military involvement in Afghanistan has reached its 18th year. Those Afghans, American, British, and others who were had yet to reach their first birthday when the attacks of September 2001 led us to move in to direct military action in Afghanistan, those children of 2001 are now on their way to that Central Asian country to pick up the conflict other generations have yet to put an end to is.

Nation building, counter-terrorism, training, capability building, infrastructure development and even agricultural assistance, we’ve had the better part of two decades to find a path, or combination of paths, to help the Afghan people stand in the modern age. The programs and names change, but in the distance was that common goal.

Our guest this Sunday from 5-6pm Eastern will be Lieutenant Jack McCain, USNR who returns to Midrats after recently completing a tour helping train the Afghan armed forces to fly and use the ubiquitous Blackhawk helicopter. We’ll cover his experience there to talk about that stage of our involvement in Afghanistan, the experience of working with Afghans on a daily basis, and other related topics.

Lieutenant McCain is a currently serving Naval Aviator and graduate of the United States Naval Academy and Georgetown's School of Foreign Service. He has deployed four times in the Pacific, Persian Gulf, and recently returned from Afghanistan where, as an Afghan Hand, he flew alongside Afghan pilots in the Blackhawk. Prior to that was a leadership instructor at the Naval Academy and a Search and Rescue Pilot in Guam. He is presently assigned the Navy Reserves as a helicopter pilot.

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.

Friday, September 13, 2019

Fullbore Friday

USS Pensacola (CA-24). A great ship with a great history. She had a very busy early war.
When the Pacific War began on 7 December 1941 with Japan's attack on Pearl Harbor, Pensacola was at sea escorting a convoy that was subsequently diverted to Australia. Following patrols in the vicinity of Samoa, the cruiser screened the carriers Lexington and Yorktown during their operations in the southern Pacific from February into April 1942. In the early June Battle of Midway PensacolaEnterprise and USS Yorktown. From August to December 1942, she operated in support of the Guadalcanal campaign, mainly serving with aircraft carriers, and was present during the Battle of the Santa Cruz Islands in late October and the Naval Battle of Guadalcanal in mid-November. At the end of November, Pensacola was badly damaged by a torpedo in the Battle of Tassafaronga, with the loss of over 120 of her crewmen.

In the end though, at least she died a warrior's death: she got nuked and then sunk by gunfire.

Best pictures are here.

First posted June 2006

Thursday, September 12, 2019

Germany: the Weak Sister

Of course, no one likes dunking on the German military like the Brits, but strip away the chortling, and this article from SpectatorUK has a few good datapoints to the very sad condition of the military of NATO's central state;
The most recent embarrassment for the Bundeswehr — the grounding of all 53 of its Tiger helicopters this month due to technical faults — is just the latest in a long series of humiliations to have sprung from Ursula von der Leyen’s spell as defence minister.
Christian Democrat Rupert Scholz, who served as Helmut Kohl’s defence minister: ‘The Bundeswehr’s condition is catastrophic. The entire defence capability of the federal republic is suffering.’
...when Germany took control of Nato’s Very High Readiness Joint Task Force, charged with combatting the threat from Russia. Germanypromised to have 44 Leopard 2 tanks and 14 Marder armoured infantry vehicles available for the task, yet in the event could only muster nine and three respectively.
...for a period from October 2017, when a Type 212A submarine damaged its rudder, none of the country’s six submarines were available for use.
What von der Leyen has done is increase the military budget, which rose sharply last year from €38.5 billion to €43.5 billion. A further €3 billion a year is planned by 2024. But even at that level, Germany will fall well short of its obligation as a Nato member to spend 2 per cent of GDP per year on defence — it will merely take its spending from 1.2 per cent to 1.5 per cent. True, few of Nato’s European member states fulfil this obligation, but of all of them you might expect the continent’s largest economy to be setting an example. Since the end of the Cold War, Germany has found it all too easy to exempt itself, or play only a token part, in joint military operations around the world — its aggressive past serving as a convenient excuse, as if it is telling the world: now, you wouldn’t want a Germany which was flexing its military muscles, would you?
There is no small bit of truth to that last part. With each year, that dated excuse has less bite and its overuse has further degraded its usefulness to almost parody.

Under the CDU/CUS, Germany by acts of commission increased her economic reliance on Russia - as policy - and under-invested on her and NATO's defense. The parties of the left; SDP, Greens, The Left etc most certainly will not promote a stronger defense. AfD and FDP? No.

Germany is a weaker and more fragile partner in the West under what for them is a conservative government. She seems incapable of righting herself any time in the near future - and the rest of the alliance needs to keep that in mind and act accordingly. 

Wednesday, September 11, 2019

Transgenerational War

The 18th anniversary of 911 is more personal than usual for me. I'm still pondering it a bit.

I'm oversharing over at USNIBlog.

If you're interested, head on over and give it a read.

Tuesday, September 10, 2019

Your Next Airwing

For those who didn't make it to Tailhook this year, here's a peek on the evolution of the airwing over the next decade.

Of note, you see UAS coming online and you can see the slow sunset of the Hornet.

Speaking of which ... I look forward to seeing more about the F/A-XX. We were supposed to see more this Summer, but I didn't see it anywhere. The earlier Boeing tandem cockpit concept looked very promising. Hopefully Mabus's foolish, "must be unmanned" fever dream is as dead as his maintenance legacy, but we'll see.

Remember; you can make a manned unmanned ... but the other way notsomuch.

Moar please.

Hat tip XBrad.

Monday, September 09, 2019

LCS: The Case for Skeptical Optimism

Time to see if the additional money, intellectual heft, and Sailor sweat will pay off. For the star-crossed LCS program, we are now at the "Post-Reset and Forward Deployed" stage in the bespoke "Build a lot; test little to none; hopefully learn something along the way" central core of the transformationalist mindset that birthed LCS and other programs at the dawn of this century.

As I've said since I threw in the towel on killing LCS earlier this decade, they key is to simply find the best way to make the best use of what we have showing up to the fleet ... because showing up they are.

Good people have been working very hard to make it work, and the next 12 months are so will tell us how this reset - a decade after commissioning of Hull-1 - has succeeded. 

I try to restrain my informed pessimism and internalized rage at they whole opportunity cost with the belief that internally we accepted the inadequacies of the two LCS classes and have put some of our best minds to work on the problem so we can get ... something of use.

Megan Eckstein at USNINews is doing a solid job keeping everyone up to date on progress for the last few months, and her article from last Thursday is full of all sorts of goodies.

Here are a few things that caught my eye.
In just a few years, he (VADM Richard Brown) explained, the Navy will have 66 LCS crews to support 38 LCS hulls in their deployments, training and testing activities. This compares to 68 destroyer crews today. While the LCS program won’t rival DDGs in terms of percentage of manpower – the LCS has a much smaller crew – the LCS’s much higher operational availability means it’s conceivable that as many LCSs may be on deployments as destroyers at any given time.
66 crews to support 38 ships.

Remember one of the fables used to sell LCS was how "optimal manning" would save so much money? Of course, that was exposed as folly years ago, but it still comes up now and then. Do the math yourself and you come up to the actual manpower requirements. The trade-offs aren't that sexy. Never forget - as these bad ideas continue to pop up with the, "We'll do it smarter" crowd. 

Also, is the fact that the sub-optimal LCS will be at sea as often as the fully useful in wartime DDG a feature or a bug? Do we have the maintenance support to sustain it? 

I'm a full believer that it is useful to have a good number of smaller, affordable, less capable ships for presence and low threat missions ... but LCS is not small, not all that affordable and ... if we are a nation at war do we really like that fleet balance?

I think the presence missions are great - and better to have a LCS do it or counter piracy etc than a DDG - but ... that ratio is, I would argue, a bug, not a feature. It is a natural by product of the false dawn of the "no need for FFG if you have LCS" and the trainwreck that was CG(X).

You never really know what you have until you give it to Sailors to work with ... and we are going to get a lot of data in the next year.

Here is the lineup,
USS Montgomery (LCS-8) is deployed in the Western Pacific today. A second Independence-variant hull, USS Gabrielle Giffords (LCS-10), deployed earlier this week, from San Diego to WESTPAC like its sister ship earlier this week, a Navy official confirmed to USNI News on Friday. Defense News first reported the deployment. Freedom-variant USS Detroit (LCS-7) will deploy from Mayport, Fla., later this year to U.S. Southern Command, and USS Little Rock (LCS-9) is also working up for the next deployment from Florida.
This is good, and the crews have been working hard - under a bit of a shadow - for deployment to get started.

We should all wish them well - and we should all hope that the additional time, effort, money and focus of the last few years will pay off for LCS useful to the fleet.

If this year goes well and money keeps flowing, 2020/21 deployments should build on this cycle and bring even more useful data on how to make this work.

RDML Casey Moton, Program Executive Officer for Unmanned and Small Combatants, spoke well to this guarded optimism;
“And so I come back, and things have progressed. We are 19 ships delivered; four this year, I think, two or three left to go. A big change there. … We are now firmly into executing the LCS plan, the fleet plan, in terms of both the ships getting out there in their (training and deployment) cycles, getting the crews certified. … It’s in a different mode. The ships are out there; we are now putting them to good use and doing what we always hoped.”
...and yet, we have this. It goes back to trying to make the manning construct work;
Under the Career Management System/Interactive Detailing process, Brown said, the Bureau of Naval Personnel can identify a replacement for a DDG sailor and get that new person trained up in time to report to a ship. That’s not the case for LCS, because the training pipeline sits at about 15 to 18 months, longer than the CMS/ID process.
18-months. That is what, 548 days? Keep that number handy.

Back in 2015, I coined a new measurement of time, the worldwar.

A worldwar is the length the USA was involved in WWII; 1,366 days. 548 is .4 of a worldwar.

In 40% of the time it took to fight WWII, we take to train someone to be on LCS. This is progress? This is cost effective?

Is this a process that has any flex to it in case of peer conflict? The whole manning concept here ... needs additional review. We should be able to do better.

Saturday, September 07, 2019

Sea Shepherd, Public/Private Partnership and Protecting our Seas with Paul Watson - on Midrats

Even developed nations have difficulty effectively managing marine resources, enforce pollution controls, and maintain the rule of law in their territorial seas. With most of the world's coastal nations struggling to maintain authority ashore, the sea is left lawless.

From fisheries to waste disposal, bad actors are taking advantage of these localized challenges with negative impacts not just on the coastal nations, but on the global environment and integrated ecosystems.

For over four decades, the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society has grown to the world’s most passionate and powerful protector of ocean life. They've expanded their expertise to include partnering with nations from Africa to Central American in a maritime public-private partnerships to bring order and proper stewardship to the already endangered maritime domain.

Our guest for the full hour this Sunday from 5-6pm Eastern will be Captain Paul Watson, the Founder, President, and Executive Director of what is commonly known as just, Sea Shepherd.

Paul is a marine wildlife conservation and environmental activist from Toronto, Canada. Watson was one of the founding members and directors of Greenpeace. In 1977, Watson left Greenpeace and founded the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society. Watson has served as Master and Commander on seven different Sea Shepherd ships since 1978 and continues to lead Sea Shepherd campaigns.

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.

Friday, September 06, 2019

Fullbore Friday

It hasn't even been a year, but given the interest in yesterday's post ... time to reload a FbF.

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, September 05, 2019

Remember how we laughed at the Russians ....

...when their only carrier-capable dry dock ... had an oopsie?

Well, I think that was the only one ... well - don't laugh too hard.

You know how long we've known the dimensions of the FORD Class CVN? In an unfortunate time to get enough eyes, Ben Werner had an important article out on the 30th that missed my scan earlier with the holiday and hurricane;
Only one of the Navy’s 18 dry docks used for maintaining the nuclear-powered carrier fleet can support a Ford-class carrier, Navy officials told USNI News.

Dry Dock 8 at the Norfolk Naval Shipyard can handle a Ford-class carrier, but only after a temporary cooling water systems is set up. A permanent cooling water system and other upgrades to Dry Dock 8 are scheduled to occur before USS Gerald R. Ford (CVN-78) enters its first planned dry dock availability, Anna Taylor, a Naval Sea Systems Command spokeswoman, told USNI News in an email.

The Navy also plans to upgrade a West Coast dry dock to handle the future USS John F. Kennedy (CVN-79), Taylor added.
So, a single source of failure now, and maybe two later? Hope a war doesn't break out.

Here is the zinger; I know the EDO types have been beating this drum in the background ... but who was the one who kept sending the power-down signal until their PQS cycle was complete?
“The Navy has taken a hard turn on how do you do readiness in a more efficient way, and that’s being led from the secretary’s office,” Petters said. “We’ve talked about readiness in my career for a long time. This is a no-kidding effort to go get it sorted out.”
So, if this is a "no-kidding effort" - then when was the kidding effort?

Maybe no in the USN studies the St Nazaire Raid any more - but I bet the Chinese do.

Hat tip DJ.

Wednesday, September 04, 2019

China: an Autocratic STEMocracy

We know the USN has a pro-STEM bias.

It that a net positive, negative, or a wash?

I have some ideas bouncing around USNIBlog. Come check it out.

Hat tip Gordon.

Tuesday, September 03, 2019

6.8mm on the Way: Eventually, Everyone Goes Salamander

Let's see, back in January 2006 I wrote;
Ground combat is not my specialty, my professional toolbox has big things that make big fireballs going out and going in, look cool on video, and require AC power - but please. There are more bad theories there than you can shake a stick at. I thought we stressed Aimed Fire? Spray and pray is what poorly trained targets do. Say what you want about the Soldier or Marine of 2006, but "..poorly trained and clueless 18 yr old" isn't very accurate. There was a move post OEF/OIF experience to go to a 6.5/6.8mm, but the bean counters, again, are trying to kill it. This sounds familiar.
I've been writing on and off the topic ever since.

I accepted defeat too early ... it appears that there were unknown Salamander types inside the Army lifelines working hard to make it happen ... and I smile with great satisfaction watching this progress.
The U.S. Army has selected three firms to advance to the next phase of testing to select the service's Next Generation Squad Weapon.

The Army chose General Dynamics-OTS Inc., AAI Corporation Textron Systems and Sig Sauer Inc. -- which makes the service's new Modular Handgun System -- to deliver prototypes of both the automatic rifle and rifle versions of the NGSW, as well as hundreds of thousands of rounds of special 6.8mm ammunition common to both weapons, according to an announcement posted Thursday night.
The Army's goal is to select a final design for both weapons from a single company in the first quarter of 2022 and begin replacing both M4s and M249s in an infantry brigade combat team in the first quarter of 2023, Brig. Gen. David Hodne, director of the Army's Soldier Lethality Cross Functional Team, told in July.
Why is this ultimately so important?

At the end of the day, everything a military has must support one thing; the infantryman. From time immortal, you do not achieve victory in war until you have someone in your uniform standing with their weapon - club, ax, sword, or gun - on any damn street corner they want to in a land that was until recently someone else's.

Infantry isn't sexy, but it is the One Thing.

They need the best. They deserve the best.

Green eye-shade types be damned.

Monday, September 02, 2019

Hong Kong's Reminder and Warning

For those who know how precious and rare individual freedom actually is in this world, this summer's series of protests in Hong Kong have been both inspiring and tragic.

The British Empire took land of no value and turned it in to an island of freedom. Even though a colony, by the time the British lease ran out, the people of Hong Kong had built a unique Chinese-Anglo-Saxon fusion culture that was a shining example what the Chinese people and their culture could accomplish if given even a basic level freedom and the rule of law.

The last few decades, Singapore and Taiwan have developed along similar lines. They have small populations (7.3 million, 5.6 million, & 23.8 million souls, respectfully) whose light outshines the autocratic and imperial PRC's 1.39 billion.

Ultimately, what would Hong Kong want - a people who have developed a very different concept of individual liberty, economics and civic culture than the mainland? In a perfect world, independence along the lines of Singapore. Outside a general collapse of the Chinese nation, that isn't going to happen. They also know that once the 50-yr transition period expires in 2047, the PRC would prefer to simply absorb them ... but in a way that keeps the dynamism.

Odds are, that is what will happen - though the PRC will not get the dynamism. Hong Kong's residents know this and hope for some way luck will give them a way to maintain some form of "One Country - Two Systems."

Sad. Very sad.

One thing the Anglosphere needs to start working on a plan for - especially the UK, Australia, Canada, and New Zealand - is how to accept Hong Kong refugees as we approach 2047 or earlier if the PRC reverts to form. Hong Kong was a small island of the West. A smart, hard working people facing assimilation by a soul-crushing PRC. For those who want to leave before the final boot of the PRC comes down, we should let them. Make sure you make sure they are ligit HK and not PRC citizens ... but yes.

Person to person, you could do a lot worse for new citizens.

We don't live an ideal world, and the PRC will in all likelihood just grind down Hong Kong resistance - and another little light of relative freedom will fade out - a footnote in history like so many other little island states.

While so many small minded, blinkered, self-loathing native born in the best of the Anglosphere; UK, USA, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand - like to bad mouth their nations - those who know the world know what special places they can be. Imperfect, yes, but less so than others.

Hug your passport a little more. Take a moment to appreciate your liberty. Nurture it, protect it, help it to grow both in your nation and elsewhere.

Also, look to Hong Kong's brave people - and thank the Fates that you were born where you are, and not there.