Friday, January 31, 2020

Fullbore Friday

A nation deep in war. A nation at crisis. A nation on the edge of starvation. A nation drained of its military aged men.

A retired naval officer of middling grade and no significant record, brought out of retirement who liked games.

A bunch of young women with nothing but smarts, an ill-fitting uniform and a desire to serve.

An empty room.

Together, they would save the lives of thousands ... and perhaps their nation's freedom.

On the first day of 1942, Gilbert Roberts, a 41-year-old retired British naval officer turned game designer, arrived at Derby House, in Liverpool, for his inaugural meeting with his new boss, Sir Percy Noble.

The admiral was greying but still youthful, and wore his authority with, as one observer put it, “naturalness.” That day, however, Noble was in a hostile mood.

“I thought the Admiralty were sending me a captain,” he said, woundingly. Noble explained that he had been instructed to give Roberts the entire top floor of Derby House, comprising eight rooms. There, using wargames, Roberts and his team of Wrens, young members of the Women’s Royal Naval Service, were to get to work on the problem of the U-boats which had, for the past three years, sunk millions of tons of essential food and fuel making its way from the east coast of America via merchant ships.
His plan was simple. Using the floor as a giant board, the Western Approaches Tactical Unit, or WATU, would design a game that approximated a wolfpack attack on a convoy in the Atlantic. One team would play as the escort commanders, the other as the U-boat captains.
Seeing the battle from a crow’s-nest perspective above the board, a question formed in his mind. If the U-boats were firing from outside the perimeter of the convoy, as was widely believed, how had HMS Annavore, which was in the center of the convoy, been sunk? Might it be possible, he wondered, that the U-boat had attacked the ship from inside the columns of the convoy?

There was, he reasoned, a simple way to prove his theory.

“Hold everything,” Roberts told his staff, as he rushed into his office to make a phone call.

Roberts picked up the receiver and asked the operator to put him through to the Flag Officer Submarines in London, hoping to speak to its chief of staff, an old friend, Captain Ian Macintyre.

To Roberts’ astonishment, the flag officer himself, Admiral Sir Max Horton, picked up.

Roberts explained who he was and asked Horton if he might be permitted to ask a question. During the last war, Roberts asked, would you ever have crept among the ships of a convoy to fire a torpedo?

“Of course,” replied Horton. “It is the only way of pressing home an attack.”

“Thank you, sir,” said Roberts, then hung up.

Step Into History: Learn how to experience the 1963 March on Washington in virtual reality

It was late, but Roberts asked Jean Laidlaw, a 21-year-old woman responsible for statistical analysis, and one of the younger Wrens, Janet Okell, to stay behind with him to reset the plot and run a new game on the giant board. They hurriedly reset the game.
Read it all.


Hat tip SAP.

Thursday, January 30, 2020

Europeans Need to Grow Up

If you want to understand the world, you need to read widely ... and for an American, that means to actively seek out non-Anglosphere writers, perspectives, and opinions.

It makes things so much clearer.

One of the fun parts of the Trump administration is that it teased out already existing European - and especially German - antipathy towards the USA, especially in their political/media class, that we had not seen since Bush43 was in office. Yes, there are great friends of the USA in Germany ... but as I learned living amongst them, just below the surface with a plurality of them - they have "issues."

They hate us, but they are dependent on us. The two are in a way probably connected, but enough of that.

In a great article over at EstonianWorld by Sigmar Gabriel, a former German foreign minister, and Michael Hüther, the director of the German Economic Institute, you have a nice sample of the present mindset of the Boomer leadership of Germany;
The European Union, and particularly Germany, have yet to rise to the challenge posed by the United States’ retreat from global leadership. But, given the new competition from China, together with Russia’s renewed great-power aspirations, the Western countries must find a way to cooperate more closely.
Just because they keep saying that, does not mean it is true.

Retreat? No ... just tired of doing other people's job for them.

Perhaps we are investing less time in areas of the world where we simply don't see the juice worth the squeeze. If we were really retreating, then why would the authors write this later on in the article;
If Europe does not wake up to the realities of the new Sino-American rivalry, it could find itself in a position of geopolitical irrelevance. In fact, there are already signs of Europe’s declining global significance. Wars and conflicts along the European periphery are increasingly being decided by other powers, with Europe playing no discernible role in their resolution.
Bingo. Europe is not the world.

We are still engaged in the world, we have just moved our attentions towards areas of greater importance. I don't think the Continental Europeans have fully hoisted on board that a critical mass in the USA have realized that Europeans have grown rich and lazy under our umbrella only to provide sloth and distain in return ... so we will let them take more responsibility for their own business.

Along those lines, the authors are sniffing at action items they can do to help the collective Western effort on our little planet;
...five issues seem vital. The first is Germany’s relationship with the US, which is now under severe stress. The elephant in the room is Germany’s failure to increase its annual defence spending to 2% of GDP, as agreed at the 2014 NATO summit in Wales. For obvious historical reasons, Germany is hesitant to become Europe’s de facto military power. Were it to meet its spending commitment, it would be allocating €80 billion ($89 billion) per year to the Bundeswehr, which is €46 billion more than what France spends.
For well over a decade on this blog we have been asking Germany to grow up and join the family of nations as a full partner. Trust us, we fully believe that today's Germany has regained her position as a respected and valuable member - indeed a critical member - of Western Civilization. WWII is almost out of living memory. We're all friends now. Your neighbors and friends are not afraid of a democratic Germany pulling her weight. We actually want her to. Heck, the Balts would love to host at least a division of German infantry and armor ... again.

Step up.
The second big issue is US-EU relations. The immediate challenges facing America and Europe have changed over the past seven decades. Most recently, Russia has expanded its sphere of influence into Crimea, eastern Ukraine, and the Sea of Azov, and China has begun to assert economic and technological dominance in Eurasia.
The USA has no issues with the EU. The EU though, keeps trying to make drama. Let's trade and work together on those things that benefit us both. We are more than happy for the EU to take the lead contra-Russia. The bear is your neighbor after all. Again, we're cool with that. 

As for China, it is clear what she wants to do. Don't let yourself fall for her ham-fisted efforts. You have agency, national interests and free will. As demonstrated by your politicians ear-deep in Russian corruption in the energy sector, you do have some easily purchased power centers, but again - that is within your control if you so wish.

Step up.
Amid deteriorating economic security and social cohesion, populist and nationalist movements have exploited voters’ anxieties by promising to defend the homeland against cosmopolitan elites and the multilateral institutions that have underpinned politics and economics since World War II.

Notwithstanding populist rhetoric, economic globalisation has, in fact, created prosperity and reduced poverty and opened up new development opportunities around the world. But without the West’s support, this system cannot be sustained.

What we need now to open up new possibilities for the world order is a globalisation of civil society, and to remind people and communities that the state is still capable of acting effectively. That starts with investing more in education, research and infrastructure, while striking a balance between cross-border cooperation and respect for cultural idiosyncrasies.
No, what you need to do is listen less at Davos, and more to your own people.

The center-left and center-right have failed the people in the center, so they are looking elsewhere. Protect your borders. Don't import an underclass. Show pride in your national character and history. That is all the "populists" are doing, answering the call that your establishment thinks is too "icky" to address. You don't even need to go in full throttle, just meet them halfway. Do that, and the fringes on both sides will go back to being single-digit parties.
...the third issue: Russia. Here, the EU’s pursuit of a balanced policy has created friction within the transatlantic alliance, as exemplified by the tensions over Nord Stream 2, a joint Russian-German pipeline project. In the German government’s view, Nord Stream 2 is fundamentally an economic issue. After all, German, French and other European companies have invested heavily in the project; in any case, it would be a grave political mistake to intervene in the private European gas market.
Still strange how they see that. When you see "transatlantic" they mean USA. The USA cannot be more concerned about European security more than the Europeans are ... oh, wait ... sure we can. That is part of the problem.

The core issue is that we know that if the Europeans hand the Russians a sword - the Russians will use it against the Europeans. It is amazingly obvious ... but the German leadership - as we've blogged about here - have been bought by the Russians - and the German elite in politics and the media defend each other. Some people in power need to be willing to lose some friends.

The last part of the quote above is almost beyond parody - just look at who is running the NORD STREAM project ... it is soaked in politics and politicians - from former Chancellors to former GDR Stasi leadership.

Private my ass.

I think the authors know this all too well, but are either too scared or polite to say so. Once again, they contradict themselves;
...a better way to secure Europe’s energy supply would be to expand and further integrate Europe’s natural-gas infrastructure, while building more terminals for liquefied natural gas. That way, no country – be it a member state or close partner – could be held hostage as a result of its dependence on Russian energy.
Yes, but what is being done to do that?

Things get better in the article the further you go;
... the fourth issue is China, which has made clear that it seeks a revision of the international balance of power. For its part, the Trump administration rightly challenged China on trade. There can be no “fair trade” when a country that does not play by the same rules as everyone else organises two-fifths of the global economy.

China lavishes subsidies on its industries, limits access to its markets and routinely violates intellectual-property rights. Moreover, China’s model of authoritarian state capitalism poses a double challenge, because it represents both economic competition and an alternative political model. As such, the EU and America urgently need to devise clear, mutually agreed rules for dealing with China.
We cannot wait for the EU and America to create the perfect together. Both can move faster alone. Let the EU and the USA get a "good" on the books now individually, and then work towards a "perfect" together. China is already 2-moves ahead of both of us. We need to move now. In the interim, keep China out of your 5G.

This should have been a realization at the top - but this isn't an issue as much as a statement of reality;
The fifth major issue is Europe’s role in the wider world. If Europe does not wake up to the realities of the new Sino-American rivalry, it could find itself in a position of geopolitical irrelevance. In fact, there are already signs of Europe’s declining global significance.
Relative decline.

Europe has a static to shrinking population with stagnant economies, importing net drains on economic growth from Africa and the Middle East. East Asia on the other hand, while having demographic problems on their own, have growing economies and per-capita GDP not overburdened by welfare state underclasses.

They are larger populations climbing out of poverty - not importing it. They are just growing stronger in relative terms ... which builds mass in real terms.

The article ends, surprisingly, in Salamanderland;
For good reasons, the EU has long resided beneath the US security umbrella, with the union effectively remaining on the sidelines. But that geopolitical conception of Europe is an American artefact, based on the Marshall Plan. As NATO’s first secretary-general, Hastings Ismay, famously put it, the purpose of NATO was “to keep the Russians out, the Americans in, and the Germans down.”

Much has changed since the 1950s. Today, we Europeans are only gradually beginning to understand that we must adapt to the geopolitical realities of the twenty-first century. The Atlantic era is giving way to the Pacific era. Europeans must harbour no illusions that all will turn out well on its own. Now is the time to muster the courage and the will to take responsibility for our strategic interests.
Yes. Good. Nice.

European NATO, starting with Germany, needs to invest its fair share. 

Europeans need to focus on the legitimate concerns of their citizens, not what the strap-hangers in Davos and Brussels feel would make them feel better. 

Europeans need to give their people security, not let their governing elites line their pockets with Russian and Chinese graft.

If Europe can stop from importing its own destruction, it will be fine. If its politicians will stop focusing on each other's virtue signaling, and instead focus on the standard of living and quality of life of its working citizens, they will be even better.

That would be pretty good advice for the USA as well.

Wednesday, January 29, 2020

The Lessons from Germany's Hollow Force

When you have a military overbuilt for the money you spend to man, train, and equip it properly ... and roll in a bit of mismanagement and overconfidence by industry ... you have ... the German experience.

Does that parallel or perhaps give a benchmark to our performance?

I'm pondering over at USNIBlog. 

Come on by and ponder with me.

Tuesday, January 28, 2020

Playing the India Card in AFG

Regardless of the topic at hand, within 5-minutes of any conversation with a Pakistani military type, India will come up.

Paranoia does not quite describe it.

If you really want to get them a bit off their stride, just toss out the idea of Indian troops in Afghanistan.

In this light, as the Afghan government starts to look for someone to help then against what they know is coming ... this is an epic troll.
Early this month, Afghanistan’s National Security Advisor, Hamdullah Mohib, used a visit to New Delhi to privately press a request for at least a Brigade — perhaps even a Division —of Indian troops to be deployed in a peacekeeping role, ahead of a peace deal with the Taliban which is expected to lead to the final withdrawal of United States forces. Kabul, diplomatic sources said, hopes to put together a multinational framework, perhaps United Nations-led, for this troop deployment.
To understand why Afghanistan’s calls for Indian troops are becoming louder, one has to turn to the agreement now being hammered out between Taliban negotiators and United States diplomats in Doha. The deal is expected to include guarantees the Islamist insurgents will scale down violence — but bitter experience has taught Afghans to suspect the Taliban will resile on their word the minute the United States vacates its military bases.

New Delhi’s long-standing allies in Afghanistan’s north — who India, along with Iran and Russia funded and armed through their long, bitter battle against the Taliban until 9/11 — see an Indian Army as insurance against their cities being overrun by proxies for the Pakistan Army.
Does this upset Pakistan?

Fine. It's their neighborhood. They'll figure it out.

Monday, January 27, 2020

Vietnam's Sound Foreign Policy Stance

There is an echo of our republic's founding foreign policy to be found in Vietnam's "Four No's" national defense policy.

There is a lot of wisdom here to ponder for a nation who wants to focus on the well being of her people.
The publication of the 2019 National Defense White Paper ... enunciates “Four No’s” principle for the development of the Viet Nam People’s Army (VPA).

Accordingly, Viet Nam consistently advocates neither joining any military alliances, siding with one country against another, giving any other countries permission to set up military bases or use its territory to carry out military activities against other countries, nor using force or threatening to use force in international relations, Lich affirmed.
I'm not sure I'm counting the four correctly, but I think they are:

1. Avoid foreign entanglements.
2. Strict neutrality.
3. No foreign military bases on sovereign soil.
4. Will not conduct military activity against other nations.

You can read the white paper here.

Sunday, January 26, 2020

Watching the Surface Force with David Larter - on Midrats

Put on your black leather jacket, get your SM-6 plush toy, pour a glass of your finest Chianti in honor of the epic Fincantieri after party, and join us this Sunday from 5-6pm Eastern to discuss the latest news about the USN surface force.

Using his reporting earlier this month from the Surface Navy Association Symposium as a starting off point, our guest for the full hour will be David Larter, Naval Warfare Reporter for Defense News. He's a graduate of the University of Richmond and a former Operations Specialist Second Class, still DNQ in his ESWS qual.

From new uniform items to future unmanned system, we will be talking about.

You can listen to the show at this link or below, but remember, if you don't already, subscribe to the podcast at Spreaker or any of the other podcast aggregators.

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, January 24, 2020

Fullbore Friday

In some cohorts, heroic men are so many in number, you simply miss a few.

A giant passed in 2013 - and I feel like a lessor man for not knowing his story earlier.

James Robinson "Robbie" Risner, Colonel, USAF (Ret.)

Read it all, but this should get you started;
“Robbie” Risner was a rising star in the Air Force when he was shot down and captured Sept. 16, 1965. In the previous decade’s war, he had been a hero, downing eight enemy planes over Korea. In Vietnam, he was such a standout that his tanned, chiseled face made the cover of Time magazine with a fighter jet streaking into the sky behind him.

Unfortunately, the April 23, 1965 piece, which profiled a dozen U.S. military members in Vietnam, made its way to Risner’s captors.

It “made him their ‘prized prisoner,’ which meant more abuse,” Gen. Mark A. Welsh III, the Air Force chief of staff, wrote in a remembrance last week. Risner also came in for harsher treatment because, as a lieutenant colonel and then a full colonel, he was the top-ranking officer for most of his imprisonment, including the three years he spent in solitary confinement.

He showed up a lot in his career ... in war and peace.

Here he is as a Major in 1957;

Hat tip SAP.

Wednesday, January 22, 2020

Losing Sleep Over Hypersonics

You are worrying about the wrong thing ... at least for now and the next decade.

Thoughts over at USNIBlog.

Come on by and tell me why I'm all wet.

Tuesday, January 21, 2020

Japan on Tanker Patrol

It is always interesting to watch as Japan continues a growing habit of re-establishing her military on the world stage;
Japan will send a destroyer that can carry one or two patrol helicopters in early February, with hopes that the vessel can start operations by the end of the same month in the Gulf of Oman, the northern part of the Arabian Sea and the eastern side of the Bab el-Mande Strait.

The Defense Ministry is preparing to send Takanami, a 4,650-ton destroyer that can carry one anti-submarine patrol helicopter.

Tokyo also plans to mobilize two P-3C anti-submarine patrol airplanes that are currently engaging in anti-piracy patrol missions off Somalia for the planned intelligence activities.

About 200 crew members will be aboard the destroyer and about 60 staffers will be mobilized for the P-3C unit. The government plans to spend ¥4.68 billion on the dispatch in fiscal 2020, government officials said.
Exceptionally professional and capable ... but still hesitant for all the reasons we would expect, by habit.

We should encourage the Japanese as much as possible to keep stretching and gaining institutional experience. It is good for Japanese defense capabilities, American alliance heft, and the international effort to keep the seas safe for commerce.
Under the plan, the SDF unit won’t be authorized to use any weapons to defend other ships.

But in the event of an emergency, Tokyo could invoke an SDF law and put the unit on maritime policing operations, which would allow the destroyer and aircraft to use weapons to defend Japanese-flagged ships, officials said.

However, under international law, the SDF unit engaging in maritime policing activities would not be allowed to use weapons to defend foreign-flag ships. Most oil tankers operated by Japanese firms are registered in foreign countries due to low operating costs there.

During a news conference later the day, Defense Minister Taro Kono did not elaborate when asked whether and how the SDF unit could defend such a foreign-flagged ship operated by a Japanese firm.

Kono just said the SDF will “make a decision based on individual situations” and possible defense tactics would include giving a verbal warning to a party assaulting a foreign-flagged ship and deploying a destroyer close to the situation.
More of this. Much more.

Monday, January 20, 2020

Words Mean Things: Fleet Marine Force Edition

Words mean things.

Though not universal, before structural changes can be made, words have to change.

Before mindsets can change, words have to change.

Earlier this month, did you have a chance to catch MARADMIN 004/20?

Subtle ... but talk to your local Marine what this means;
2. Background. As stated in ref (a), “The 1986 Goldwater-Nichols Act removed the preponderance of the FMF from fleet operational control and disrupted the long-standing Navy-Marine Corps relationship by creating separate Navy and Marine Corps Components.”
A. The rising global threat necessitates the need to re-establish our long standing Navy-Marine Corps tradition of an integrated approach to operations across maritime and other domains as depicted in ref (b), within the constraints of Goldwater-Nichols.
B. Throughout our history, subordinate commands and units have traditionally reflected the names of higher level commands and headquarters as part of their colloquial names in commanders’ signature blocks, stationery, awards citations, and other certain ceremonial items (e.g., guidons, unit colors, etc.). While these inclusions are not always part of subordinate commands and units’ official names, the practice is well established and steeped in Marine Corps customs and courtesies.
3. Conclusion. All previous references to operating forces as they relate to commands and units at or below the Marine Expeditionary Force (MEF) level will be replaced with the term “FMF”.

I checked in with one of my go-to Marines and he provided a good summary;
...he’s trying to change everyone’s set the conditions for the changes he wants to see implemented. Despite his desires to immediately return to the FMF construct, componency is not dead yet; I’m sure CDRUSCENTCOM was very happy with componency when he ordered up the SPMAGTF Marines to reinforce the Baghdad embassy. Also, as much as he - and most of us - want to return to the FMF construct, we (and the Navy) still don’t really know how we’ll reintegrate after all these years. I for one am glad to be able to say “the Fleet” again with impunity... I remember as a JO getting brow-beaten for saying that instead of ‘Operating Forces.’
So, changing names first, then mindsets, then structures.

I like it.

Sunday, January 19, 2020

Mid-January Melee on Midrats

Open mic and open topic for this week's Midrats as we cover the maritime spectrum from Chinese fisherman and their "strange" catches, to new carriers, to 1.001 things you can do with a DDG-1000.

We'll be live from 5-6pm Eastern as always and are taking questions and topic requests ... so come join us!

You can listen to the show at this link or below, but remember, if you don't already, subscribe to the podcast at Spreaker or any of the other podcast aggregators.

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, January 17, 2020

Fullbore Friday

Do you know the story of Tony Stein? Just a young Ohio man, son of Austrian-Jewish immigrants. A great American ... and a giant who helped create what today we would call a Squad Automatic Weapon from spare parts.

First, attention to citation;
The President of the United States takes pride in presenting the MEDAL OF HONOR posthumously to


for service as set forth in the following CITATION:

For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty while serving with Company A, 1st Battalion, 28th Marines, 5th Marine Division, in action against enemy Japanese forces on Iwo Jima, in the Volcano Islands, 19 February 1945. The first man of his unit to be on station after hitting the beach in the initial assault, Cpl. Stein, armed with a personally improvised aircraft-type weapon, provided rapid covering fire as the remainder of his platoon attempted to move into position. When his comrades were stalled by a concentrated machinegun and mortar barrage, he gallantly stood upright and exposed himself to the enemy's view, thereby drawing the hostile fire to his own person and enabling him to observe the location of the furiously blazing hostile guns. Determined to neutralize the strategically placed weapons, he boldly charged the enemy pillboxes 1 by 1 and succeeded in killing 20 of the enemy during the furious single-handed assault. Cool and courageous under the merciless hail of exploding shells and bullets which fell on all sides, he continued to deliver the fire of his skillfully improvised weapon at a tremendous rate of speed which rapidly exhausted his ammunition. Undaunted, he removed his helmet and shoes to expedite his movements and ran back to the beach for additional ammunition, making a total of 8 trips under intense fire and carrying or assisting a wounded man back each time. Despite the unrelenting savagery and confusion of battle, he rendered prompt assistance to his platoon whenever the unit was in position, directing the fire of a half-track against a stubborn pillbox until he had effected the ultimate destruction of the Japanese fortification. Later in the day, although his weapon was twice shot from his hands, he personally covered the withdrawal of his platoon to the company position. Stouthearted and indomitable, Cpl. Stein, by his aggressive initiative sound judgment, and unwavering devotion to duty in the face of terrific odds, contributed materially to the fulfillment of his mission, and his outstanding valor throughout the bitter hours of conflict sustains and enhances the highest traditions of the U.S. Naval Service.
Two videos that tell the story well.


And second, his "stinger."

Thursday, January 16, 2020

From DDG-1000 to CA-154?

So, we have a rump, 3-ship class of land attack destroyer, the ZUMWALT Class, that was designed about a bespoke 6.1-in (nee 155mm) naval gun that we are not going to use because we did not have an economist or historian on the program team.

As such, and we don't have to even go in to the problematic manning and other issues, we have your classic white elephant tooling around with the most expensive 30-mm batteries in Christendom with nothing forward of bridge of any lethality unless you are an unfortunate Cetacean that can't get out of the way of its bow on the few occasions it gets underway.

Well, we spent billions of dollars borrowed in the name of children yet unborn to get these in the fleet ... what can we do with them besides relegate the trio to technology demonstrators, CAPT Commands, or missile possible sponges as we try to keep the Chinese Fleet from moving east of Oahu?

It seems smart people with hard jobs have been looking at options and they may have found a way to get something moving forward.

To get a better idea we'd need a few artists rendering informed by competent marine engineers - but before we start getting the blow torches and blueprints out, let's see what they have to say.

The Navy’s newest destroyer may fire a not-yet-to-be fielded Conventional Prompt Strike conventionally-armed missile engineered to hit anywhere on earth within an hour, service program managers said. The weapon, now being considered by Navy weapons developers for the emerging USS Zumwalt, will bring new attack options to the stealthy destroyer being prepared for combat as soon as 2021, Capt. Kevin Smith, Zumwalt-class destroyer Program Manager
OK, let's unpack this a bit. First of all, let's define the most sparkly item; CPS;
Navy Starts Conventional Prompt Strike Missile Program Evidence of the growing Pentagon interest in hypersonic missiles, several exploratory programs have been shifted into engineering development over the past year. In 2019, DARPA relinquished control over the Conventional Prompt Global Strike program, with the effort transferred to the Navy’s Strategic Systems Program. Now called Conventional Prompt Strike, the effort became a program-of-record in late 2019. The aim of the program is to examine a new intermediate range missile that can be fired from Ohio-class missile submarines that have been converted to launch cruise missiles (SSGNs) and Virginia-class attack submarines equipped with the Virginia Payload Module.
On 30 October 2018, the Navy flew the first CPS test, designated Flight Experiment 1, more than 2,000 nautical miles from Hawaii to the Marshall Islands. ... The Navy expects to conduct the CPS Flight Experiment-2 in 2020 and FE-3 in 2022. So far, there is no estimate regarding an introduction into service.

The CPS missile is not called a ballistic missile since it employs a hypersonic maneuvering body to carry its warhead, called the Common Hypersonic Glide Body(C-HGB). On 30 August 2019, Dynetics Technical Solutions (DTS)of Huntsville, AL, was awarded a $351.6 million contract to build at least 20 Common Hypersonic Glide Bodies for both the Army and the Navy. The Army’s counterpart to the CPS is the Long-Range Hypersonic Weapon (LRHW). Lockheed Martin was awarded a $347 million contract in September 2019 for this program.
So, that is what we are looking at. First step, we need to find a way to shoehorn the Virginia Payload Module (VPM) in to the Zumwalt.

Not sure you will be able to do that by the end of FY21, but we'll see.

There is limited real estate - believe it or not - in this Graf Spee sized "destroyer." As such, what presently is fallow ground looking for highest and best use?  That's right kiddies, those mothballed 6.1" gun mounts. Let's extract those.

How many VPM can you fit in that space?

Each VPM is 87" wide. I can't seem to find a good open source diagram to ponder with, but let's make some assumptions using these two as reference points.

For planning purposes, let's remove both 6.1" mounts. In place of the forward, lets say you can install 3 VPM. Where the aft mount is, because it gets a bit wider, you can fit 5; 3 down the centerline like you did with the forward mount, and then two to the side between the two closest to the bridge.

The VPM can hold 7 TLAM. Will CPS use up the same space as a TLAM? If we assume so, that will give you 8x7=56 CPS if you did a full load out.

That ain't nothing. That is something. Could we do that ship modification for the cost of a LCS? If so, I'd approve that ship modification if for no other reason than not buying more LCS ... but for my approval you'd have to do the right thing and classify this pocket battleship sized warship to what it actually is; a cruiser.

As this would not be an air defense cruiser, but a cruiser designed around surface and land attack, then let's call it what it is; an attack cruiser. CA-154 is the next available number. If you insist on keeping the redundant "G" then fine, CG-74 - but that is lame.

This has the potential of salvaging something of use. Also, being that the VPM was designed for submarines, it will be more than fit-to-purpose for the bow of that tumblehome hull. That thing will be wet.

Wednesday, January 15, 2020

Selling Seapower to a Sea Power; a Masterclass

Would you like to read something from a member of Congress that will have you nodding your head in agreement?

Head on over to USNIBlog to see it all.

Ripe for the Front Porch; we are not alone.

Tuesday, January 14, 2020

Why Our Navy Has a Credibility Problem

The regulars here don't need a refresher on the dog's breakfast and institutional shame that is the ZUMWALT Class DDG (sic). Just click the DDG-1000 tag below if you are new here and want to know what all the fuss is about.

I had to check the day ... but yep, this came out yesterday.

“I’m very excited about getting the Zumwalt-class destroyers out there,” Vice Adm. Rich Brown, commander of Naval Surface Forces, said during a Jan. 6 media teleconference embargoed until Jan. 13. “Incredibly capable ships. When the ships deploy, they will bring the fear of God to our adversaries. I wish we were building more of them. They are great ships.”
Additionally, if you have a warship that was designed around its two 6.1-in guns, guns that cannot be used because we decided we didn't want to pay for the bespoke ammo & it won't use normal 155-mm ... then how does said ship;
Zumwalt “is tracking right on the timeline … and it’s looking like [fiscal 2021] will be FOC [full operational capability],” he said.
I'm sorry Admiral Brown, but no one believes what you've said. If you really believe this - and this is a free country, people can think what they want - then don't be surprised if this colors all other opinions you voice.

This is over the top happy talk. When you do such things, it will make everyone question everything else you say. They will wonder what else you are saying or claiming that has no ground in objective truth.

Sorry, but that is the plain truth.

You can change standards all day long, but it does not change the fact that this white elephant is nothing more than a technology demonstrator ... and an example of how not to run a program.

Shame on everyone.

When will we get a leadership that treats everyone like adults, and speaks truth? Leaders who act and speak like a customer OF the military-industrial complex, and not someone sounding at best like an industry spokesman, or posturing for a board position after retirement at worst.

Monday, January 13, 2020

Summer 2017's JAG Backwash

2.5 years.

That is roughly a bit more than 2/3 the time we fought WWII.

Though well meaning people can come to disagreements on details, but there is no question that from the junior officer to the flag officer, the Navy failed its Sailors. There has to be some accountability, or we send a message that poor performance at sea isn't really a concern.

Before we bring out a few pull quotes, we need to emphasize this; our Forward Deployed Naval Forces in WESTPAC are supposed to be our front-line. They are at the bleeding edge of the Pacific Pivot. They are responsible for BMD, and to be the face of our Nation to Russian, North Korea, China, as well as our friends.

And yes;
... Rear Adm. Brian Fort found that Combs’ CIC had "zero communication” with the bridge team before the Crystal loomed seemingly out of nowhere to ram the Fitz’s starboard hull.

Although listed as operational, her CIC’s SPS-67 system actually had fallen into a “degraded status,” according to Fort’s report.
Some CIC sailors didn’t appear to know how to use the equipment — much of it in various states of disrepair — and the room itself was heaped in garbage, human waste and exercise equipment, he wrote.

In the aftermath of the ACX Crystal collision, Fort found a stack of abandoned forms where Combs had been sitting.

“She was most likely consumed and distracted by a review of Operations Department paperwork for the three and a half hours of her watch prior to the collision,” he wrote.
Here we are, the winter of 2020 and the only officer held to any account was the one who was advised to take a plea deal.

Military prosecutors arraigned Combs in 2018 for two violations of the UCMJ: dereliction of duty that negligently resulted in the death of fellow sailors and the negligent and improper hazarding of a vessel.

It was a controversial call. Sifting through the evidence compiled against her, an Article 32 hearing officer previously recommended the Navy skip court-martial proceedings and send Combs to a board of inquiry to determine if she warranted remaining on duty.
the case against her and her commanding officer, Cmdr. Bryce Benson, collapsed nine months ago under the weight of an increasing number of allegations accusing senior leaders of misconduct, especially concerns that unlawful command influence, or UCI...
That left only Combs to face the administrative tribunal. While they determined her performance shortly before the collision was substandard, the board unanimously agreed there was no basis for involuntarily separating her and chose to retain her, according to Bean.
A Navy board of inquiry on Thursday ruled there’s no reason to separate a lieutenant for dereliction of duty while serving on board the guided-missile destroyer Fitzgerald during a deadly 2017 collision that killed seven sailors, one of her attorneys told Navy Times.

Lt. Natalie Combs now will be honorably discharged from the sea service after 11 years in uniform.
From DESRON to the CNO's office, the legal support, recommendations, and performance is, in a word, damning.

For years, officers have waited for some type of final closure on their reputation and careers. That isn't fair to them.

Families of the 17 Sailors have looked for explanations and something like justice. That isn't fair to them.

Our Navy has been looking for evidence that we are a sound, well run institution. That isn't fair to us.

It wasn't just the CIC of FITZ that was full of broken equipment, incomplete admin overhead, bottles full of human waste, and non-mission related distractions - as evidenced by this timeline, so is the Navy's system of accountability.

Sunday, January 12, 2020

Stress Tested a Sealift Surge? How'd it go?

We just stress tested our Strategic Sealift. We'll discuss what we can learn from it this Sunday from 5-6pm Eastern with returning guest, Salvatore Mercogliano.
Sal sailed with MSC from 1989 to 1992, and worked MSC HQ as Operations Officer for the Afloat Prepositioning Force 1992-1996.
He has a BS Marine Transportation from SUNY Maritime College, a MA Maritime History and Nautical Archaeology from East Carolina University, and received his Ph.D. in Military and Naval History from University of Alabama.
He's taught at East Carolina University, Methodist University, UNC-Chapel Hill, & the U.S. Military Academy.
Currently an adjunct professor at the US Merchant Marine Academy and an Associate Professor of History at Campbell University in Buies Creek, NC.
Recently published “We Built Her to Bring Them Over There: The Cruiser and Transport Force in the Great War,” in the Winter 2017-18 issue of Sea History; author of Fourth Arm of Defense: Sealift and Maritime Logistics in the Vietnam War, published by the Naval History and Heritage Command in 2017, and 2nd Prize winner in the 2015 US Naval Institute Naval History Contest with Semper Sealift: The U.S. Marine Corps, Merchant Marine, and Maritime Prepositioning
You can listen to the show at this link or below, but remember, if you don't already, subscribe to the podcast at Spreaker or any of the other podcast aggregators.

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, January 10, 2020

Fullbore Friday

1 ship. 1 Commanding Officer. 2 Theaters of Operation. 14 months.
3 Battle Stars.
That is it for the USS CHEVALIER (DD-451). A ship with some family connections.
The first Chevalier (DD-451) was launched 11 April 1942 by Bath Iron Works Corp., Bath, Maine; sponsored by Mrs. G. DeC. Chevalier, commissioned 20 July 1942 Lieutenant Commander E. R. McLean, Jr., in command, and reported to the Pacific Fleet.

Between 3 October and 11 December 1942 Chevalier made three convoy escort voyages; one coastwise, with tankers; a second, from Bermuda to Norfolk and with one of the first reinforcement convoys for North Africa. Sailing from Norfolk 17 December, Chevalier reached Efate, New Hebrides 22 January 1943. On 27 January she sortied with TF 18 to cover the movement of troop transports to Guadalcanal. On 29 and 30 January Chevalier joined in protective antiaircraft fire as her force came under intensive Japanese air attack in the Battle of Rennell Island. Chevalier operated on patrol from Efate, and after 14 February from Espiritu Santo. On 7 May she escorted three minelayers as they mined Blackett Strait, and Kula Gulf, Solomon Islands. The next night three Japanese destroyers, Kuroshio, Oyashio, and Kagero, ran into the minefield and were severely damaged by the mines and then sunk by aircraft. Between 11 May and 14 May, Chevalier joined in the bombardment of Vila, and covered another minelaying operation in Kula Gulf.

On 28 June 1943 the destroyer again sailed from Espiritu Santo as a part of the covering force for troops bound for landings at Rice anchorage to block Japanese movements from Vila to Munda Solomon Islands The group entered Kula Gulf shortly before midnight,1 July, and began to bombard Vila and Bairoko Harbor, while the transports headed for the anchorage. During the operation the American force was attacked by three Japanese destroyers which launched torpedoes, and retired at high-speed. One of the Japanese torpedoes hit Strong (DD-467), tearing open her hull amidships on both sides. Chevalier deliberately rammed her bow into Strong's port side and lay along side for several minutes while Strong's survivors crawled on board. Japanese shore batteries opened fire on the stricken ship, but Chevalier remained alongside until 241 survivors had come on board, while O'Bannon (DD-450) delivered counterfire against the Japanese. Chevalier pulled clear of Strong at 0122, and the stricken destroyer sank A minute later. Chevalier had torn a hole 10 by 2 feet in her bow, but it did not seriously impair her operating ability as it was well above her waterline. The destroyer returned to Espiritu Santo 8 July for repairs.
Repairs completed 22 July 1943, Chevalier operated throughout the Solomons on patrol and escort duty until 14 August. On 15 August the destroyer covered the landings at Vella Lavella, Solomon Islands. On the 17th Chevalier and three other destroyers were dispatched to intercept four Japanese destroyers and several enemy barges who were attempting to reinforce Kolombangara. After a brief encounter between the destroyers, in which neither side suffered to any great extent, the Japanese destroyers departed the area, abandoning the barges. The American forces turned their attention to this objective and sank or severely damaged all of them. The destroyer returned to Espiritu Santo 29 August and during September made an escort voyage to Sydney, Australia.

On 6 October 1943 Chevalier, O'Bannon, and Selfridge (DD-357) intercepted nine Japanese destroyers and destroyer transports attempting to evacuate troops from Vella Lavella, Solomon Islands. Although greatly outnumbered, the American destroyers attacked. After firing half of their torpedoes and scoring several hits with gunfire, the group continued to steam into the line of fire of enemy torpedoes in order to keep their own guns bearing. At approximately 2205 Chevalier was struck on the port bow by an enemy torpedo which tore her bow off to the bridge, throwing the ship entirely out of control. The destroyer O'Bannon which was following Chevalier could not avoid the damaged destroyer and rammed her in the after engine room, flooding that space and stopping Chevalier's port shaft. While making preparations to abandon ship, Chevalier's skipper ordered the torpedoes in her tubes to be fired at the Japanese destroyer Yugumo. The burning Japanese ship blew up soon after. By 2326 it was apparent that Chevalier could not be saved and "Abandon Ship!" was ordered. Her crew was picked up by O'Bannon's boats, and Chevalier was sunk the following day by a torpedo from a friendly destroyer. Her severed bow was located about a mile to the west and was sunk with depth charges. Chevalier lost 54 killed, and suffered 36 wounded.

Chevalier received three battle stars for World War II service.
Think about your crew 14 months ago, and then imagine doing all of that - and then having almost 1 of 4 of your Shipmates dead or wounded in battle. Trained, ready, and trusting? Have what you need? Ready with what you have now - not what is on someone's PPT?

As a side-note to those FbF fans - check out The Commissar's Ships of WWII site he is building. In addition, he is in the process of learning classic Greek and doing a running translation of one of Phibian's Top 10 books, Anabasis.

First posted in JUL 2007.

Wednesday, January 08, 2020

So, Who Wants to Cut Staff Numbers

Not in the Navy per se right now, but there are some significant moves in the National Security Council going on.

Details over at USNIBlog.

Come by and look at the bones with me.

Tuesday, January 07, 2020

For a Larger Fleet: An Open Letter to the President

A larger fleet will not build itself - especially a reach through the headwinds of the next decade to 355. To do so will not just take words, it will take vision, leadership, and substantial investment.

Nothing will happen without strong consistent Presidential leadership, supporting senior personnel, and emphasis that this is a priority.

How to get there? Regular guest Bryan McGrath has offered us the opportunity to post an open letter to President Trump on that exact topic.

Bryan, over to you.

Dear Mr. President,

To begin, I would like to wish you and your family a Happy New Year and much happiness in 2020.

The central message of this letter is that the Navy will not grow without your personal and sustained interest. Some background follows.

We are not acquainted, but if you asked a few folks in your national security team who I am, you would find that I am not well thought of in that circle. My criticisms of you as a person, a candidate, and as president have been consistent and unremitting. However, our differences are not the subject of this letter. Rather, I hope to connect with you on a subject that unites us, and that is a larger, more powerful Navy.

For the purposes of this discussion, I assume that your campaign promise to grow the Navy to 350 ships was an authentic policy position, and that the Navy’s late 2016 Force Structure Assessment (indicating a requirement for 355 ships) represents that Service’s attempt to reconcile what is being asked of it globally in an era of renewed great power contention.

Counting ships is an unsatisfying way of characterizing a Navy’s strength. Numerous other factors come into play, to include weapons, sensors, networks, carrier air wings and shore-based aviation, deployment patterns, employment posture, and training cycles. But a simple count remains the best method of quickly conveying to general audiences the strength of this Navy relative to past U.S. Navies and relative to other navies (when counted similarly).

As I draft this letter, there are 293 ships in the Navy’s battle fleet, which suggests growth on the order of 21% to reach your desired fleet. The Department of the Navy’s budget for 2020 is about $205.6B, and although this figure buys both a Navy and a Marine Corps, our discussion should assume an annual cost to buy, build, and maintain a 355 ship Navy as at least 21% higher (or $43.2B higher annually, in constant dollars). I qualify this figure because of my belief that current Navy readiness is underfunded, so simply increasing resources proportionally enshrines the readiness gap in a larger fleet.

Putting aside the expense associated with growing the Navy, difficulties in doing so are compounded by the inconvenient fact that the previous naval buildup (in the Reagan Administration) occurred about one ship-life in the past. Which means that as you try and build the Navy, Reagan era ships—built when there was a larger and more competitive shipbuilding industrial base—are reaching the end of their service lives, even after some of them have had significant service life extensions. The Reagan buildup was substantial, and its retirement produces considerable headwinds.

So we find ourselves with a problem. You want a significantly larger Navy. I want a significantly larger Navy. Your National Security Adviser recently made it clear that this remains an administration priority. Your Acting Secretary of the Navy made statements recently indicating that he is taking a more aggressive position in trying to bring about your wishes, seeking from uniformed leadership in the Navy and Marine Corps a plan to get to 355 ships in 10 years. Your Combatant Commanders worldwide want a larger and more powerful Navy. Your Navy Admirals want a larger and more powerful Navy (but not at the cost of its readiness). Many on Capitol Hill are in favor of building a larger Navy. So, what is the problem?

First, the defense budget has increased dramatically in your first three years in office, and I applaud this. But it hasn’t bought a bigger Navy, at least not anywhere near the bigger Navy that you and I want. It hasn’t bought a bigger Air Force, a bigger Marine Corps or a bigger Army. What this additional money did was address festering readiness sores across the Services and purchased needed precision weapons stocks. I am confident that the Joint force is at a higher state of readiness today than it was when you took office. But to repeat—it is no larger, and it must grow to keep up with our worldwide commitments to advance our security and prosperity. The expense associated with growth is massive and must contend with myriad other claimants upon the taxpayer’s dollar, including future taxpayers. Additionally, the costs associated with keeping even the present force level in a high state of readiness never go away.

Next, and related to the first, there are good cases to be made that resources for all three military department budgets are insufficient. The proof of this arises in part from the plain fact that your statements of support for growing the Navy have not translated into additional dollars necessary to not only build that Navy, but to man, train, and equip it. While conspiracy theorists sometimes point to the fact that the Defense Secretary is a West Point graduate, the Secretary of State is a West Point graduate, and the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs is an Army General as reasons the Navy has not grown in spite of your campaign promise, the truth is far more prosaic. Your cabinet secretaries and your Chairman of the Joint Chiefs are executing a National Security Strategy and National Defense Strategy that convey no real strategic rationale for a massive shift of resources within the defense budget from one Service to another. Absent a large, across the board increase in defense spending authorized by the Congress (that would grow all the Services), the only method of growing the Navy within foreseeable DoD resources is to privilege the Navy over the other Services within the department’s budgeting processes, and then take that budget to the Hill. To do this, a major strategic shift would have to occur, and this has clearly not happened.

All of this leads me to conclude that absent your leadership, a larger Navy will remain out of your grasp, and even with your leadership, it will be a difficult, but not impossible task. So please accept the following unsolicited advice designed to help achieve our common goal.

Build a Case for a Larger Navy.
There is a very strong case for a larger Navy. I make it all the time. But it is a lonely calling, and it requires (again) either a massive across the board increase in defense spending (the way we achieved growth in the 80’s) or a considerable shift in current resources within DoD. The former is unlikely to happen in the current threat/budget/political environment, and the latter is unlikely without a strategic basis for doing so. Build the case. Tell your advisers that you want them to investigate alternative national security strategies that rely more heavily on seapower. Give them six months to come back to you with a few options that do so within existing DoD resources. Pick a path and then proselytize it (recognizing of course, your other duties and priorities). Do not ignore Democrats on the Hill who would likely support you.

You Want it Bad, You Get it Bad. Achieving a 355 ship Navy within 10 years with modest increases in spending is not impossible. It is however, unwise. In order to do so, you could put a freeze on the retirement of ships. You could order ships to be brought out of mothballs. You could cut down on current operations and modernization in order to harvest dollars for acquisition. I would be shocked if any or all of these considerations were not on the table as the Acting Navy Secretary seeks to meet your mandate. The problem with these options is that they will contribute to a larger—but more hollow—force that will be poorly manned, trained, and equipped. Essentially, every ship kept on duty past its planned service life, and every ship brought out of retirement, instantly become new drains on current readiness accounts, at a rate far beyond their worth to the Fleet. Change the terms of the debate in order to get what is important—a larger and more powerful Navy—and not a larger, less powerful Navy. Do this by easing off on any existing timetable, and also by considering my next recommendation.

Consider Scrapping the Current Counting Mechanism. The counting rules we operate under today flow from a Reagan-era Navy Secretary John Lehman memo. Over time they have become “customary” law, and when Obama Navy Secretary Ray Mabus tried to change them, he encountered considerable resistance on the Hill. To some extent, the rigidity of these rules is tying your hands, so I recommend calling an audible. Direct the Acting Secretary of the Navy (through the Defense Secretary) to convene a task force that brings together DoD, Navy, Joint Staff, NSC, and Capitol Hill stakeholders, the purpose of which would be to arrive at a new method of quantifying and qualifying naval power. Baseline the current fleet under new rules that would more comprehensively account for capabilities ignored under the current rules. Then announce your plan for a larger, more powerful Navy under the new rules, and with a new strategy.

Make the Navy and Marine Corps Produce on Integration.
The new Commandant of the Marine Corps and the new Chief of Naval Operations are both dedicated to greater levels of integration of their services at the strategic, operational, and tactical levels. In this integration are the seeds for a greater reliance on seapower, which could then buy down risk on reducing resources to other elements of military power, allowing you to grow the Navy within a new strategic framework.

Get building. Direct the Secretary of Defense to move at least $10B annually from non-Navy accounts directly into the Navy’s budget, with half of it going to shipbuilding and half to other readiness accounts. This would be a down-payment on moving to a more seapower-oriented strategy. It would go a long way to arresting some of the cuts in shipbuilding that have been reported in the news recently. Keep in mind that this would be a down-payment on a much larger expenditure that will have to be continued over time.

Mr. President, your instincts on the need for a larger and more powerful Navy are right but the bureaucracy that must unlimber to bring it about needs your vocal and consistent leadership. I realize that you have a lot on your plate these days, but it does not take much time to look your team in the eye and tell them to bring you options by a date certain. This is of course, only half the battle, as you would then need to persuade the Congress to join you in this pursuit. Few things you do in your time in office would be as consequential as building the Navy this nation requires, and the cheering you hear from the shore will be me.

Bryan McGrath is the Managing Director of The FerryBridge Group LLC, a national security consultancy. The ideas offered here should be considered his and are not those of any client he represents.