Tuesday, March 31, 2020

April: Mensis Horriblis

If you are at a high level of anxiety right now because of COVID-19, you probably need to look at different coping mechanisms. We are weeks from the peak.

There are a lot of places out there that have just plain bad information coming from either bad players, ignorance, malice, or what could be the worst - those on either side trying to find political gain from a pandemic.

Others can Monday morning quarterback or time travel if they wish, but we are where we are & plus or minus a few days, I doubt within a half-standard deviation anyone would have done anything different to bring us to a different place.

The more we know about the virus and the more we have solid metrics coming in from Europe, the better our modeling will be.

I think the best place to go is the CDC. Check on a regular basis as they are updating modeling as more information reveals itself from the data, but the critical takeaway is that we are heading in to the most difficult month.

Mid-April will be rough.

Don't be surprised, unprepared, or paralyzed by panic. Be informed.

These graphs should tell you what you need to know.

Monday, March 30, 2020

The French Navy Sorties Against COVID-19

There are different responses a navy can take in respond to COVID-19.

You can:

1. Assume readiness risk by pulling ships in, decrease manning/training/etc for a few weeks or months to enable social distancing and stop COVID-19 was spreading crud-like through your battleforce ships.

2. Continue as before because those readiness reports and stop light PPT won't wright themselves.

3. Deploy what you must for critical presence missions, hard operational necessity, or to help the fight against COVID-19.

With our hospital ships MERCY and COMFORT, we have done a bit domestically with #3.

The French don't have hospital ships ... but they are doing something very interesting with their big-deck amphibs in line with #3, via David Axe:
The French navy has mobilized all three of its Mistral-class amphibious assault ships and is deploying them across Europe, Asia and the Americas in response to the coronavirus pandemic.

The mobilization of the assault ships Mistral and Dixmude on March 25, 2020 came just five days after the French fleet sent sister vessel Tonnerre to Corsica to transport coronavirus patients to hospitals in mainland France.
French President Emmanuel Macron described (Operation) Resilience as an “unprecedented military operation dedicated to supporting public services and the French people in the fields of health, logistics and protection.”

Mistral will support the French territory of Reunion in the Indian Ocean. The ship already was in the region for training when the government announced the pandemic-relief operation. Dixmude at the time of the announcement was in the Mediterranean Sea but will sail west to aid France’s Carribean territories.

Thursday, March 26, 2020

Hoist High the Yellow Jack

Time to come up with a few COA around this specific question: what do you do with a ship that has an active COVID-19 outbreak?

Another article by David Larter who, it seems, is a national asset. No one covers the Navy more or better.
To combat a growing outbreak of COVID-19 on the carrier Theodore Roosevelt, the Navy has ordered the ship to pull into Guam and have the whole crew of 5,000-plus sailors tested for the novel coronavirus, the service’s acting secretary announced Thursday.

“We found several more cases,” Thomas Modly said in a news conference. "We are in the process of testing 100 percent of the crew of that ship.

“The ship is operationally capable if called upon to do so,” he added, “but we are pulling the ship into Guam. Nobody from the ship will be allowed to leave the ship other than on the pier.”
That is a hell of a fastcruise.

Most of those who have deployed know how a "crud" can pass through a ship. Almost everyone to one degree or another gets it. A ship is an incredibly close-proximity place.

I don't know if keeping 5,000 Sailors on a ship will do anything but cause more people to get sick. You have to eat, you have to keep the ship going, you have to use the head ... and you cannot self-isolate in 75-man berthing.

What can you do? How many berthing barges, YRBM and YRBM(L) do we have available?

I have no idea, but we need to find out. If you can take division by division off ship in to these barges, you can at least break down the total number of Sailors quarantined together into a number of smaller blocks, containing where you can.

That would be the first step I would take as we looked at other options.

We have ships presently deployed who will be coming home to CA, WA, VA, FL and other locations. How many will have outbreaks on the way home? What do you do when a plague ship pulls in to Norfolk or San Diego and thousands of Sailors' families are demanding their husbands, wives, fathers and mothers back?

We will find out sooner more than later.

And no, I won't second guess this decision. No one can see the future. No one has perfect information. It is what it is.
The Roosevelt was last in port in Da Nang, Vietnam, 15 days ago, Gilday said. The decision to go forward with the port visit in early March was made when Vietnam had only 16 total cases, all isolated in the northern city of Hanoi, he said.

Wednesday, March 25, 2020

Who will save a Navy for tomorrow from the zombies feeding it to vanity today?

We have learned nothing from our foolish habit of burning out Sailors and ships chasing fevered dreams pumped out by over-caffeinated and under-employed mid-level thinkers.

I'm screaming in to the void again over at USNIBlog.

Come by and bring you autotune machine with you.

Tuesday, March 24, 2020

Transformed Our Way Out of a Functional Sh1tter

It has been awhile since we covered the second most important thing to a happy Sailor next to good food - that is an easily available and fully functional head.

Want a nasty ship? Worse than the Big E during a Suez transit?

Have the heads crap out on you.

Better yet, have it do so because someone during the Age of Transformationalism had a great PPT slide that, after telling you how equality and modernity required you to get rid of urinals, told you modern technology was going to revolutionize the heads on your transformational warships.

Via Anthony Capaccio at Bloomberg, hug your HT today;
New toilets on the Navy’s two newest aircraft carriers clog so frequently that the ships’ sewage systems must be cleaned periodically with specialized acids costing about $400,000 a flush, according to a new congressional audit outlining $130 billion in underestimated long-term maintenance costs.

The Navy isn’t sure the toilet systems on the USS Gerald R. Ford and the USS George H. W. Bush can withstand the demand without failing frequently, according to the watchdog agency’s report on service sustainment costs released Tuesday.
No, there is no excuse for this. The USN has decades, well, actually over a century of experience having thousands of people use the head on a warship every day. I guess the Boomer designers and program managers just knew better than everyone who came before them.

Of course;
“The pipes are too narrow and when there are a bunch of sailors flushing the toilet at the same time, like in the morning, the suction doesn’t work,” said Oakley. “The Navy didn’t anticipate this problem.”

No, "the Navy" isn't the right answer.

Follow the people.

Follow the money.

Probably the same experts who sold the Navy on titanium fire mains.

Monday, March 23, 2020

Hospital Ships: Build, Buy, or Convert to Them Now

Here and on Midrats we have been calling for new and more hospital ships for over a decade. In a crisis, needs and utility come in to clear focus.

The argument should be over. I give you Rep. Jim Banks R-IN;
We need a fleet of a dozen or more hospital ships, says Navy reservist and Indiana Congressman Jim Banks.

Good people can hold different opinions on things, but good people can be wrong. Those who don’t support something between new hospital ships to replace the ancient MERCY and COMFORT on one end of the scale to taking up Banks’s idea on the other are, well, just wrong.

While there are many more, here are the Top-3 Reasons hospital ships are critical to our Navy:

1. Presence, morale and reassurance are missions. When citizens of LA & NYC see these CVN sized which ships sail in to view, they will know that their government cares and is there to serve.

2. Mobility is a multiplier. A mobile, self-supporting 1,000 bed hospital would be science fiction if it didn’t already exist. Look at the recent videos of hospitals in Spain and Italy with patients laying down on floors in hallways. Tell those people they don’t need a 1,000 bed hospital to help take even the non-COVID load.

3. Nice in peace and war. When not needed for war, pandemics, or natural disasters – imagine the positive effects to our nation of our hospital ships and other ships visiting ports of nations who have limited to no medical care for their citizens. Just ponder what a fleet of 4, 6, or 12 could do? Imagine the training our people will get seeing things they never would in the USA.

That is enough. I’ve read and digested all the reasons not to have hospital ships, and to be frank, they are weak arguments made by myopic minds.

If they can’t change their minds now, then they are just bullheaded.



Sunday, March 22, 2020

Obedience, with Dr. Pauline Shanks Kaurin - on Midrats

What is the nature of obedience for those in the the profession or arms and the civilian political community?

With a review of classical studies, philosophy, history, international relations, literature and military studies, can you get a firm grounding on what it is, what it means, and how it should shape decisions and behavior?

Returning to Midrats Sunday from 5-6pm Eastern to talk about this and more based around her new book, On Obedience: Contrasting Philosophies for the Military, Citizenry, and Community, will be Dr. Pauline Shanks Kaurin.

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

You can 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.

Thursday, March 19, 2020

Cruise Ships and the USNR: a COVID-19 Public-Private Partnership we Need Today

This will require nimble, flexible, and imaginative leadership who are willing to adjust and improvise on the fly. 

Leadership that will accept the OK CONOPS today for a good one tomorrow and be willing to make mistakes and correct them quickly. 

We have great people in the Navy Reserve who are underemployed for the skills they have, but know how to work in a disciplined manner on a ship. They don't need to be from a medical field; engineering, deck, admin, security, culinary, and the ability to stand watch are all that would be needed to bulk up and support such efforts as this.

There can be a quick turnaround if the right people with the right top-cover move now.

This is a great offer the USNR can help make better, faster, more effective.
Carnival Corporation has issued an official press release confirming its ships are available to take pressure of land-based healthcare options globally.

The company said that governments and health authorities should consider using cruise ships as temporary healthcare facilities to treat non-COVID-19 patients, freeing up additional space and expanding capacity in land-based hospitals to treat cases of COVID-19, the company said.

As part of the offer, interested parties will be asked to cover only the essential costs of the ship's operations while in port, Carnival announced.

Governments or health authorities with interest can contact Monica Puello by email at MPuello@Carnival.com or by phone at (305) 406-8656.

According to Carnival, if needed, cruise ships are capable of being quickly provisioned to serve as hospitals with up to 1,000 hospital rooms that can treat patients suffering from less critical, non-COVID-19 conditions. These temporary cruise ship hospital rooms can be quickly converted to install and connect remote patient monitoring devices over the ship's high-speed network – providing cardiac, respiratory, oxygen saturation and video monitoring capabilities. The rooms also have bathroom facilities, private balconies with access to sun and fresh air, as well as isolation capabilities, as needed.

Wednesday, March 18, 2020

My Eyes Have Seen the Horror of the Coming of the COVID-19

All the plans, plots, and hopes of navalists to avoid the Terrible 20s are effectively dead.

Those who hope to avoid it are simply not paying attention.

It was coming anyway, but now it will only be worse.

355? Try 255. Hope for 275.

The COVID-19 overview at USNIBlog.

Come on over and cheer me up.

Tuesday, March 17, 2020

Whither the Super Carrier

With apologies to Jo Moore, with COVID-19 spinning out of control, last week was a good week to bury bad news.

Did you catch it? The anti-CVN forces saw their moment, and it looks like they are making their move.

Though ordered, CVN-82 is as of yet, unnamed.

Could she be the last of her kind?
The Navy is launching a deep dive into the future of its aircraft carrier fleet, Breaking Defense has learned, even as the Secretary of Defense, dissatisfied with current Navy plans, conducts his own assessment. The two studies clearly show the deepening concern over how China’s growing might and the Pentagon’s eroding budgets could affect the iconic, expensive supercarriers.

The Future Carrier 2030 Task Force, which the service plans to announce next week, will take six months to study how carriers stack up against new generations of stealthy submarines and long-range precision weapons being fielded by China and Russia.
While always willing to give great and worthy people the benefit of the doubt, "Blue Ribbon Panels" have a spotty history of objectivity. I willing to be sold - but I'm not at the moment.

Add to that nugget, a little under two weeks' earlier, the confirmed SECDEF sent a frowny-face emoji to the acting SECNAV;
Defense Secretary Mark Esper has put a stop to the the expected release of the Navy’s long-term force structure plan, telling the service on Monday to hold off and take another look, several sources confirm.

The plan, announced last year and slated to be wrapped up by Jan. 15, has run into serious headwinds. The Navy insists it can grow the fleet to 355 ships as early as 2030 despite its shipbuilding budget being cut in the recently released 2021 budget, and as officials concede there’s little hope of significant growth in the near-term. Now Esper, who has been reviewing the plan for the past two weeks, is unwilling to sign off on it.
There you go. Unless there is significant intervention at the Congressional level - things look set up.

Even without the above, we knew this was coming.

Almost exactly 10-years and one month ago, I wrote the opening post announcing the upcoming Terrible 20s. This is what I wrote in February 2010;
Let's look at 2020 again. What else is happening in the 20s? Well, for one, we will have to find money to re-capitalized the SSBN fleet. I offer to you that the 20 JAN HASC SEF Subcommittee meeting has an outstanding money discussion about that challenge. Deputy SECNAV Work has also discussed this challenge in other venues, and I think he has a very firm grasp of the problem, as do most in positions to know.

You have to look at it in the broader context of the budget as well. The hangover in the 20s from this decade's drunken frenzy of spending will couple with another cohort of Baby Boomers retiring and putting stress on the budget in ways we still do not have a firm grasp on.

In 2020 - that ship built in 1990 will be at 30 years. That LCS built in 2009 will only have 9 years or so of service life (LCS is expected to only last 20-25 years) - so by the end of the 2020s, LCS will be dropping like flies.

When you consider that we will be limited this decade to LCS and DDG-51 for our non-amphib surface ship program (don't throw JHSV at me, that is just a truck - full stop - all else is spin and hope) - you have about a perfect story for the 20s of limited shipbuilding funds and a stunted fleet.

Stunted? If you continue to assume that CG(X) is dead, then you might get funding for the much needed DDG(X) follow-on for the DDG-51 class - might. That will be requested in light of the SSBN money sponge - and I don't see how with all the other needs in the 20's, we will be able to afford both a DDG(X) and a CG(X) - and there is a good chance that we will simply have to live with DDG-51 Flight III as our "new" platform through the beginning of the mid-21st Century.

I know that looking into the future is a fuzzy hobby. Heck, if you outlined in 2000 where we were in 2010 people would have said you were a nutty pessimist - so we can only see 2020 in very large, fuzzy pixels. The beginning of the mid-century (2030) is just a silly exercise in many ways - but one that needs to be done. There are known-knowns (DDG-1000 will be a rump, expensive class of ships, Ticos history, DDG-51 backbone, LCS decomm'n like flies), known-unknowns (will LCS even meet some of its promised ability and numbers, will DDG(X) be moving forward), and unknown-unknowns (Black Swan events), but still - 2020 is closer than we think, and there are economic facts that need to be looked at.

Huge challenge, one whose source is the lost decade we just came out of. You know, that "transformational" decade. The one that was to build the Fleet of the future. Well, it sure did, didn't it?
It holds up well, I think.

What I didn't see was the POLMIL stew our Navy would find itself in.

At this critical juncture, The Pentagon is led by the Esper/Milley West Point-West Point team while the Navy's Flag Officers try to recover from damage the previous generation of leaders inflicted on our institution over a decade spending their professional capital, like, well, drunken Sailors - mostly in WESTPAC - from Malaysian fat men to exhausted and untrained bridge watches driving Japan based destroyers. 

To top things off, those who should have spent every penny left getting ready for this decade spent what little professional capital they were able to scrape together from under the couch cushions on Ottomanesque bureaucratic protect-my-legacy games.

Almost two decades of sub-optimal performance at the highest levels has us where we are; a nice, solid-but-last-man-standing CNO and an Acting SECNAV fighting hard but wrestling two weight classes up in 4A. The previous SECNAV demonstrated what some of his problem was when he was last seen endorsing a Presidential primary candidate from the other party just a few weeks before he dropped out due to a complete lack of support among, well, almost anyone.

Of course.

Of course we are where we are.

The smart money is on a better than average chance the CVN will be killed by next POM (though perhaps not for good) and what little money is captured will be spent prosealing cracks from an overstressed and underfunded maintenance and readiness hole while trying to find some magic beans to build a useful fleet not reliant on a Cold War era destroyer as we stumble to 2030.

How will we project power from the sea in 2030? You can't do that from a submarine - a platform with limited followthrough and has its own growing vulnerability issues. You can't do that from land based aircraft. I win that wargame every time. There are not enough VLS cells in Christendom to do what a CVN can do ... with a proper airwing (which we don't have).

No, if we have to go to war in 2030, the question will be, "Where are the carriers?" ... and we will send thousands of Sailors in harm's way with an underfunded legacy system bereft of upgrades, carrying an airwing saddled with three decades of bad, short term decisions made by people trying to survive the next POM, not create a Navy ready to fight and win the next peer war.

I'm really not interested in discussing CVN vulnerability ... something known in detail since WWII. All capital ships are vulnerable ... that is why RN BB sortied so little during WWII, etc ... etc ... etc ... we've discussed that in volume here through the years. New folks can look it up, won't rehash it wholesale.

No, what are you going to replace them with? Vaporware? PPT thick programs? Unmanned systems whose performance and utility assumptions are based on AI that does not exist, robust reachback that is peace-time only, and ROE that won't survive a public university law school second-year law student?

I've seen that movie. It is stale and derivative. 

No, you can't. All you can do is, like The Thing in the dog kennel, flail around for anything that can justify taking food from Mom's plate so you can feed Dad so you can tell the rest of your family that you are taking care of the parents just fine.

With apologies to Jeremiah,
1:1 How doth TACAIR sit solitary, that was full of people!
She is become as a widow, that was great among the the services!
She that was a princess among Hollywood is become tributary to grunts!
1:2 She weepeth sore in the Unfunded Priorities List, and her tears are on her EMALS;
Among all her WBB contractors she hath none to comfort her:
All her fellow Service Chiefs have dealt treacherously with her; they are become her enemies.
1:3 NAVAIR is gone into captivity because of affliction, and because of great servitude;
She dwelleth among the Mine Warfare community, she findeth no rest:
All her budgetary enemies overtook her within the POM.
1:4 The ways of PEO Aircraft Carriers do mourn, because none come to the solemn assembly;
All her hangars are desolate, her Program Managers do sigh:
Her Flag Officers are afflicted, and she herself is in Executive TAP.
1:5 Her adversaries are become the head, her enemies prosper;
For SECDEF hath afflicted her for the multitude of her transgressions:
Her JOs are gone into career transition before the selection boards.
1:6 And from the Office of the Acting SECNAV all her majesty is departed:
Her Admirals are become like harts that find no pasture,
And they are gone without strength before the CBO.
So sayeth the Book of Salamander.

Monday, March 16, 2020

A Terrible Decision by the Commandant of the Marine Corps

What are the primary drivers when it comes to the unmanned systems we will deploy forward, ready for wartime use? 

Size, range, use, mission, flexibility, technology risk, commonality, basing, cost? What weight do you give each variable - and why?

With only a few systems that will end up getting a funding line, you need to make sure you thought it through correctly, and have the right set of priorities.

This week, let's take a look at the USMC's recent decisions on unmanned air systems from the point of view of friend-to-the-blog Bryan McGrath.

Bryan, over to you.

Since assuming the duties of Commandant of the Marine Corps last summer, General David Berger has enjoyed a fairly smooth go of it, releasing a Commandant’s Planning Guidance to near-universal acclaim and putting forward a vision of naval integration around which the Department of the Navy has wisely moved to coalesce. And so, it was surprising earlier this week to see the Commandant make a decision that so starkly works against the principles of integration for which he has so forcefully advocated.

The decision, as the Naval Institute’s Megan Eckstein first reported, was to restructure the Marine Air-Ground Task Force (MAGTF) Unmanned Aerial System (UAS) Expeditionary program -- known as “MUX”--from one centered around a large, medium altitude long endurance (MALE) unmanned vehicle organic to the ships of the amphibious force to a “family of systems” approach that would rely heavily on a “very large land-based aerial vehicle and a medium sized one for shipboard operations”. There are three main reasons that this decision is wrong, and Acting Secretary of the Navy Thomas Modly should intervene quickly to reverse the Commandant’s error.

Reason 1: Kiss the “Lightning Carrier” concept goodbye

Commandant Berger expressed support for the “Lightning Carrier” concept in his planning guidance. As described in detail in the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessment’s 2017 Fleet Architecture Study, the Lightning Carrier would evolve the current LHD/LHA from its current singular devotion to the support of troops ashore, to a multipurpose, multi-mission conventional deterrence platform built around the considerable capabilities of the F-35B. The LHD/LHA would become more of a small aircraft carrier and less of an amphibious assault platform. Key to this transformation would be the provision of the LHD/LHA or its escorts with a proper intelligence, surveillance, reconnaissance, and targeting (ISRT) platform, one acting as an integral part of the planned and executed operations of the amphibious presence forces. As envisioned, MUX was the platform that would create this transformation. To put it another way, to achieve the Lightning Carrier, the F-35B was necessary, but not sufficient.

Barrels of ink have been wasted over time in the distinction—made primarily in the United States—between an aircraft carrier and an amphibious assault vessel. The most important distinction has been the availability of organic ISR/T from the aircraft carrier’s deck. The E-2D more than anything else, is what makes an aircraft carrier. Its huge wingspan requires a large ship. A large ship requires nuclear reactors to be efficient and effective. As capable as the LHD/LHA has been, it is utterly dependent on land-based ISRT and the ISRT provided by the carrier air wing. Had the Commandant made the decision to provision the amphibious force with a true MALE ISRT platform, the LHD/LHA would minimize its reliance on inorganic targeting and surveillance. Denying this organic capability regrettably makes an F-35B-packed LHD/LHA into a more lucrative and less well-defended target, and less of a maritime dominance/integrated naval power platform.

Reason 2: Missed Opportunity for Closer Integration with the Navy’s Surface Forces

There is no question but that a capable MALE UAV within the MUX program would have been a costly proposition, one that it would have been difficult for the Marine Corps to shoulder alone. This is why the true value proposition for this program would have come into sharp relief in a Navy/Marine Corps program that would provide the MAGTF with the ISRT it requires under the MUX program, and the Surface Navy with the additional ISRT it requires as a result of a new generation of longer-range anti-ship and strike missiles. One of the more innovative aspects of the MUX acquisition was the oft-repeated desire that the unmanned vehicle be capable of fitting into an ARLEIGH BURKE Class Destroyer helicopter hangar. A common solution based around modular sensor and weapons packages would have been a win-win for both the Marine Corps and the Navy, bringing with it considerably more and more responsive lethality and ISRT within the forces that make up the “contact” and “blunt” layers of our National Defense Strategy.

Reason 3: Unwise Reliance on Land-based ISRT

The most disturbing aspect of the Commandant’s decision is the degree to which he is sacrificing the precision and certainty of organically-controlled ISRT for the uncertainty and inefficiency of land-based solutions, a subject my former colleague Seth Cropsey and I studied in our November 2019 monograph “If You can’t See’em, You Can’t Shoot’em: Improving US Intelligence, Surveillance, Reconnaissance, and Targeting”.

Looking specifically at the Navy’s MQ-4C Triton system, we suggested that the Navy’s planned buy of 68 systems (in order to have 20 deployable at all times) was woefully inadequate to the task of consistent ISRT of the area inside the First Island Chain, a task made even more difficult by the extensive fly-in ranges of the land-based aircraft that would provide the coverage, in some cases using half their fuel simply to transit the huge distances in the Western Pacific.

A truly effective conventional deterrent in the Western Pacific is one in which each and every Chinese Navy ship captain understands that he is targeted as soon as he leaves port, the kind of targeting perception under which U.S. commanding officers currently operate within the First Island Chain. This certainty is not going to be provided by wide area search platforms ferrying in from thousands of miles away. It will be provided by ISRT platforms of enough mission duration that sensor to shooter kill chains can be maintained organically, while high altitude, long endurance land-based UAV’s remain the purview of theater commanders executing operational and strategic surveillance schemes.

Putting aside the wisdom of more heavy reliance on land-based ISRT, there is a roles and missions question here. Do we need yet another service buying and operating its own large, land-based ISRT systems? Does the Marine Corps really believe that even if it were to acquire such systems, that they would be able to exercise the same level of MAGTF level control of them in an age of Joint asset allocation? The Joint Requirements Oversight Council (JROC) should look long and hard at any USMC program that seeks to duplicate already existing and somewhat inefficient capabilities.


Acting Secretary of the Navy Thomas Modly has been exceptionally good at talking about Integrated American Naval Power, and he has an opportunity to strike a tangible blow for its future by halting the USMC MUX program in its tracks and directing the Commandant and the Chief of Naval Operations to report back to him on the prospects for an integrated, departmental solution to the mission requirements of the two services. An organic, MALE UAV that services the targeting needs of our nation’s conventional deterrence forces where they operate and under their control is a necessary step to providing a deterrence posture that influences the adversary to reconsider aggression.

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.

Sunday, March 15, 2020

Unmanned and Unafraid ... on Midrats

First of all, it's glad to be back on watch at the 'ole blog. Just got set back up in time for this week's Midrats and I wanted to thank everyone for hanging with the usual suspects in the comments section. 

I have not had a chance to read through them all, so hopefully there aren't pics of Byron or Laz skinny dipping, but you never know.

Anyway, I'm back and the theme for the first few posts, including this one, will be unmanned systems. 

Tomorrow we'll kick off the week with a post from our friend Bryan McGrath about the USMC's recent decision on unmanned systems. 

It will be up first thing in the AM, so see you there ... but for now - on to Midrats!

Where will unmanned technology take us in the maritime security arena?

We already have more than a toe in the water, and with each year unmanned systems at sea are taking a larger role.

Our guests Sunday from 5-6pm Eastern to discuss these and related topics will be Dr. William Burnett and Dr. Todd Holland.

We will use their recent article, Unmanned and Unafraid: The Transformation of Naval Oceanography, as our starting off point.

Dr. William Burnett is the Technical Director to the Commander, Naval Meteorology and Oceanography Command/ Task Group 80.7. In this role, he provides technical responsibility and oversight for a fleet of six survey ships, 2,000 civilian and military personnel and a budget over $300 Million.

Dr. Todd Holland is Chief Scientist for Littoral Oceanography Sensing at Naval Surface Warfare Center Panama City Division. He is presently detailed to Commander, Naval Meteorology and Oceanography Command to support the alignment of strategic priorities & collaborative initiatives between the two commands. He serves as senior technical representative on multiple efforts involving Unmanned Systems throughout the Naval Research & Development Establishment.

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.

Saturday, March 07, 2020


Hey there folks ... I have not had to do this for awhile, but things are going to go quiet here for about a week or so.

Everything is fine and I am well, I think, but I just have to drop off the grid for awhile.

For those who follow me on twitter, I may weigh in now and then there as the opportunity presents itself, but not that much.

What I won't have the ability to do is post anything of substance here.

Lord willing and the Creek don't rise, I'll be back here in a week or so - and we have a Midrats scheduled on the 15th of March ... so let not your heart be troubled.

Set the troll watch for me in comments and remember to wash your hands as much as you can.

Don't abandon the blog ... we'll pick up right where we left off next week.

As always, thank you to the Front Porch for being you, and I look forward to bouncing ideas off the bulkhead with you again in a bit.

Friday, March 06, 2020

Fullbore Friday

With the trailer dropping yesterday for Greyhound, it is time to bring back this NOV 2011 Fullbore. Enjoy!

One Fullbore --- two ships. Lots of lessons here for today; importance of small arms, diversity of weapons systems, training, drills, cold weather survival, damage control .... and just plain battlemindedness; on both sides.
During her fourth patrol, Borie got a radar contact on U-256 shortly after 1943 hours, 31 October and closed in. The sub promptly crash dived. Two depth charge attacks forced her back to the surface, but she again submerged; after a third attack, a large oil slick was observed. Though U-256 made it home badly damaged, Hutchins believed the target to be sunk, and signalled the Card: "Scratch one pig boat; am searching for more."
Borie then got another radar contact about 26 miles (42 km) from the first, at 0153 hours on 1 November 1943, range 8000 yds. (7200 m) and charged in to engage. At 2800 yd (2500 m) radar contact was lost, but sonar picked up the enemy sub at about the same time. Borie engaged U-405 (a Type VIIC U-boat) hours before dawn, at 49°00' N., 31°14' W. There were 15-foot seas, with high winds and poor visibility.
The destroyer initially launched depth charges, after which the submarine came (or was probably forced) to the surface. Borie then came about for another attack, engaging with 4 inch (102 mm) and 20 mm gunfire at a range of 400 yd (360 m)

The sub's machine guns scored hits in the forward engine room and several scattered and harmless hits near the bridge, and her deck gun crew traversed their 88 mm (3.5 inch) gun and took aim for their first shot at Borie's waterline; but Borie's 20 mm gunfire wiped out every exposed member of the sub's crew topside, and a salvo of three 4 inch shells then blew off the sub's deck gun before it fired a round. Borie then closed in and rammed U-405, but at the last moment, the submarine turned hard left and a huge wave lifted the Borie's bow onto the foredeck of the U-boat.
After the ramming, Borie was high-centered on top of U-405, and until they separated, exchanges of small arms fire took place. This was a unique battle: unlike most other modern naval battles, it was decided by ramming and small arms fire at extremely close range. Borie's 24-inch spotlight kept the submarine illuminated throughout the following battle, except for brief periods when it was turned off for tactical reasons.
The two ships were initially almost perpendicular to one another; as the battle progressed, wave action and the efforts of both crews to dislodge from the enemy ship resulted in the two vessels becoming locked in a "V" for an extended fight, with the U-Boat along Borie's port side. The two ships were locked together only 25-30° from parallel. The action of the seas began to open seams in Borie's hull forward and flood her forward engine room. The submarine's hull, made of thicker steel and sturdier beams to withstand deep diving, was better able to handle the stress. Hutchins reported later, "We were impressed by the ruggedness and toughness of these boats."
Normally, in a surface engagement the superior armament, speed and reserve buoyancy of the destroyer would have been decisive. But in this unusual case, the destroyer was unable to depress her 4 inch (102 mm) and 3 inch (76 mm) deck guns enough to hit the sub, while all of the submarine's machine guns could be brought to bear. One or two 4 inch gun crews attempted to fire, but their shells passed harmlessly over the target. Borie's crew had a limited number of small arms, however, and the German deck mounts were completely open and had no protection. The executive officer had presented a virtually identical situation during drills on 27 October — a theoretical ramming by a U-boat on the port side — and as a result, after the ramming the Borie's crew took immediate action without orders.
In the extended and bitter fighting that ensued, dozens of German sailors were killed in desperate attempts to keep their machine guns manned. As each man emerged from the hatch and ran toward the guns, he was illuminated by Borie's spotlight and met by a hail of gunfire. Borie's resourceful crew engaged the enemy with whatever was at hand: Tommy guns, rifles, pistols, shotguns intended for riot control, and even a Very pistol. Borie's executive officer and a signalman fired effectively from the bridge with Tommy guns throughout the fight. One German sailor was hit in the chest with a Very flare. One of the Oerlikon 20 mm cannon was also able to continue firing, with devastating effect.
Borie's crewmen could clearly see a polar bear insignia painted on the conning tower of the sub, and three numerals that had been obliterated by 20 mm gunfire. The bow of the sub had been badly damaged by the depth charges and she was probably unable to submerge. U-405's deck armament was extensive: in addition to the 88 mm gun, she also had six MG 42 machine guns, in one quadruple and two single mounts. These weapons would have been devastating if the sub's crewmen had been able to keep them manned. Occasionally, one of them would reach one of the MG 42 mounts, and open fire briefly before he was killed. Other German sailors kept up a sporadic small arms fire of their own from open hatchways.
At a key moment in the fight, as Borie's port side crewmen were running out of 20 mm and small arms ammunition, two Germans broke from their protected position behind the bridge and approached the quad mount gun. A thrown sheath knife pierced a German crewman's abdomen and he fell overboard. Unable to bring his gun to bear, one of the 4 inch gun captains threw an empty 4 inch shell casing at the other German sailor, and successfully knocked him overboard as well.[4]Finally, U-405 and Borie separated and the two crews attempted to engage each other with torpedoes, to no effect.[4] At this point, about 35 of the German crew of 49 had been killed or lost overboard. Borie had been badly damaged and was moving at a reduced speed, while the sub was still capable of maneuvering at a similar speed.
The U-405's tighter turning radius effectively prevented the Borie from bringing her superior broadside firepower to bear, and her skipper, Korvettenkapitän Rolf-Heinrich Hopmann, did a masterful job of maneuvering his badly-damaged boat with his remaining crew.
Borie shut off her searchlight, with her crew hoping that U-405 would attempt to escape and provide a better target for gunfire. The submarine did attempt to speed away, and Borie switched her searchlight back on and turned to bring her broadside guns and a depth charge thrower to bear. The sub was bracketed by shallow-set depth charges and struck by a 4 inch shell, and came to a stop. Borie's crew observed about 14 sailors signalling their surrender and abandoning ship in yellow rubber rafts, and Hutchins gave the order to cease fire; several of them were apparently wounded, being loaded into the rafts in stretchers by their shipmates. The last to leave the stricken ship was wearing an officer's cap. U-405 sank slowly by the stern at 0257. She was seen to explode underwater, probably from scuttling charges set by the last officer to leave. Hutchins reported later,
When the submarine sank, there was a yell that went up from all hands — it probably could be heard in Berlin. The men were clasping each other and patting each other on the back, and all during the action, there were times when it was actually comical to observe the situation, particularly with the submarine pinned underneath ... heretofore their one dream had been to catch a submarine, depth charge him, bring him to the surface and then to sink him with gunfire, this particular action more than justified their hopes.
The survivors were observed firing Very star shells: Borie's crew believed this to be a distress signal, and maneuvered in an attempt to recover them from their rubber rafts, as they approached 50-60 yards off the port bow. But as it turned out, the Germans were signalling another surfaced U-boat, which answered with a star shell of her own. A Borie lookout reported a torpedo passing close by from that U-boat, and Borie had no choice but to protect herself by sailing away. The Borie was forced to sail through the U-405 survivors' rafts as she turned away from the other U-boat, but the men on the rafts were observed firing another Very flare as the Borie steamed away in a radical zigzag pattern. No German survivors were ever recovered by either side; all 49 crewmen were lost.
A jubilant radio report of the sinking of the U-405 was sent to Card after the engagement,
Time to celebrate? Well, notsofast.
Because of the loss of electric power, the crew had to wait until daylight to fully assess the damage to their ship. First light brought a thick fog. Borie was too badly damaged by the collision to reach the rendezvous in time, or even be towed to port by her sister ships. She had sustained severe underwater damage along her entire port side, including both engine rooms, as the two ships were pounded together by the sea before separating. The stress of the wave action from the 15-foot waves, as Borie was pinned against the U-boat's hull, had caused damage to key operating systems throughout the ship.
The forward engine room and generators were completely flooded, and only the starboard engine was operating in the partially flooded aft engine room. Auxiliary power had been lost and speed was reduced. The most critical damage was the compromised hull; but steam and water lines had separated, and most of the fresh water for the boilers had been lost, compounding the drive system problems. As a result, Hutchins was forced to use salt water in the boilers: the reduction in steam pressure forcing him to further reduce speed to 10 knots, making her an easy target for U-boats.
At about 1100, the communications officer restarted the Kohler emergency radio generator with a mixture of "Zippo" lighter fluid and alcohol from a torpedo; a distress call was sent, a homing beacon was set up and, after some delays due to poor visibility, Borie was spotted by a TBF Avenger from the Card.
Valiant efforts were made to save the ship. Kerosene battle lanterns had to be used for all work below decks. The crew formed a bucket brigade, and all available topweight was jettisoned, even the gun director. All remaining torpedoes were fired. The lifeboat, torpedo tubes, 20 mm guns and machine guns were removed and thrown over the side, along with the small arms used against the U-boat crew, tons of tools and equipment, and over 100 mattresses. Only enough 4 inch ammunition was kept for a final defensive action: 10 rounds per gun.
But the ship continued to slowly settle into the water with all pumps running; trailing fuel oil from all portside fuel tanks, and an approaching storm front had been reported. It would have been necessary to bring out a tugboat to tow her into port; due to the poor visibility prevalent in the North Atlantic, Hutchins believed the chances of a tugboat finding the Borie were slim. The nearest port, Horta, was about 690 miles away; Iceland, Ireland and Newfoundland were all about 900 miles away, and the task group was at the approximate center of five reported U-boat wolfpacks. By now there were 20-foot waves.
As nightfall approached at 1630, Hutchins reluctantly ordered his exhausted crew to abandon ship. The Card task force had taken a substantial risk by leaving the escort carrier unprotected in sub-infested waters. Card was 10 miles away, but Goff and Barry were close by as the crew abandoned Borie; on orders from the Task Group commander, the ship was not scuttled at that time. Despite the sporadic machine gun and small arms fire from U-405, none of Borie's crewmen had been killed during the engagement, although several were wounded. But due to 44° F. (6° C.) water, 20-foot waves, high winds and severe exhaustion, three officers and 24 enlisted men were lost during the rescue operation. Hutchins reported, "Many of the lost were just unable to get over the side" of the two rescuing destroyers.
Still, the ship remained afloat through the night; Goff and Barry attempted to sink the wreck at first light, but torpedoes went astray in the heavy seas. One 4 inch shell from the Barry struck the bridge and started a small fire, but she still refused to sink. The coup de grace was delivered on the morning of 2 November by a 500 lb (227 kg) bomb dropped by a TBF Avenger from the Card, piloted by Lt. (jg) Melvin H. Connley of VC-9. Borie finally sank at 0955 on 2 November. The survivors were transferred to the more spacious accommodations of the Card for the journey home.
The battle of the Atlantic in a nutshell. There is a reason you hear the trailer for The Cruel Sea on Midrats.

Hat tip S.

Thursday, March 05, 2020

The Ghosts of Gadaffi and Milošević Haunt Syria

I think I’ll keep on the Syria topic for another day just for an observation that bubbled up again after yesterday’s post; why Assad isn’t going anywhere.

There is a strange amnesia coming from the internationalist nomenklatura as to why Assad has held on so long, why the war has gone on so long, and how steadfast the Syrians are to keep moving towards eliminating the last Islamists holdouts in their territory.

Assad is no fool - he’s an ophthalmologist after all - and from day-1, there was zero reason for him to do anything but go for the win in his civil war.

All he had to do is look to his northwest and southwest to see examples where the internationalist West was not to be trusted when they called for peace or negotiation short of total victory.

First, there is what happened to the former head of the former Yugoslavia when the West's benighted "Smartest-People-In-The-Room" convinced him that it was in his best interest to agree to peace.

As the former Yugoslavia consumed itself, some version of peace was reached via the Dayton Peace Agreement.

There they are, signing the agreement.

Slobodan Milošević (third from left), Alija Izetbegović (fourth from left), and Franjo Tudjman (sixth from left) initialing the Dayton Accords at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, outside Dayton, Ohio, November 21, 1995.
What did Milošević for his efforts?
On 11 March 2006, former Yugoslav president Slobodan Milošević died in his prison cell of a heart attack, while being tried for war crimes at the ICTY in The Hague...
Less than a decade after Dayton with the Iraqi invasion still in the shock phase, another strong man decided he wanted to no longer be on the bad side of the West. What did he do?
On December 19, 2003, long-time Libyan President Muammar Gaddafi stunned much of the world by renouncing Tripoli’s weapons of mass destruction (WMD) programs and welcoming international inspectors to verify that Tripoli would follow through on its commitment.

Following Gaddafi’s announcement, inspectors from the United States, United Kingdom, and international organizations worked to dismantle Libya’s chemical and nuclear weapons programs, as well as its longest-range ballistic missiles. Washington also took steps toward normalizing its bilateral relations with Tripoli, which had essentially been cut off in 1981.

Libya’s decision has since been characterized as a model for other states suspected of developing WMD in noncompliance with their international obligations to follow. Assistant Secretary of State for Arms Control Stephen Rademaker stated May 2, 2005 during the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT) Review Conference that Libya’s choice “demonstrates that, in a world of strong nonproliferation norms, it is never too late to make the decision to become a fully compliant NPT state,” noting that Tripoli’s decision has been “amply rewarded.”
And what did Gadaffi get for his efforts?
...a jerky three minutes and more shot by fighter Ali Algadi on his iPhone and acquired by a website, the Global Post – that describes those moments in the most detail. A dazed and confused Gaddafi is led from the drain where he was captured, bleeding heavily from a deep wound on the left side of his head, from his arm, and, apparently, from other injuries to his neck and torso, staining his tunic red with blood. He is next seen on the ground, surrounded by men with weapons shouting “God is great” and firing in the air, before being lifted on to a pickup truck as men around him shout that the ruler for more than four decades should be “kept alive”.

There are other clips that complete much of the story: Gaddafi slumped on a pickup truck, face smeared with blood, apparently unconscious; Gaddafi shirtless and bloody on the ground surrounded by a mob; Gaddafi dead in the back of an ambulance. What is not there is the moment of his death – and how it happened – amid claims that he was killed by fighters with a shot to the head or stomach. By Friday, the day after he died, the body of the former dictator once so feared by his Libyan opponents was facing a final indignity – being stored on the floor of a room-sized freezer in Misrata usually used by restaurants and shops to keep perishable goods.

When the usual suspects wonder why people like Assad hold on so long, they should perhaps ask themselves what they and their friends at Davos and Munich have messaged to the bad players in the world over the last couple of decades or so.

Trust is a hard currency. 

A bunch of smug people looking for scalps and headlines have spent their currency and then some - and then wonder why no one is interested in doing business with them.

Gadaffi of Milošević in their time knew that even Idi Amin was left in peace to die of old age in Saudi Arabia.

What does Assad see? 

Wednesday, March 04, 2020

Willing to bet your life on the EU?

The European Continental internationalists are realizing that it is too hard to try to convince the USA to lead NATO in another dragon hunt, they are looking to ... the EU?

I'm glad I don't have to brief that CJSOR fill.

More ponderings over at USNIBlog.

Come by and give it a read.

Tuesday, March 03, 2020

Airships: Now and Forever

At least once a year we need to throw a bone to our friend Campbell and allow me to bring one of my hobby horses out of storage.

Yes my friends, time to witness to you heathens the glory of airships!

This time, even FP is on the story;
The government of Quebec will be pitching 30 million Canadian dollars (23 million in U.S. dollars) to Flying Whales, a French company, to start building its massive zeppelins.
Flying Whales’ LCA60T model, according to the company, will be able to carry up to 60 metric tons of goods, travel up to 62 miles per hour, and serve remote areas with ease. If all goes according to plan, the company hopes to get the first airship off the ground in 2022.
Experimentation is good. With OPM, it is even better.

I hope they get this off the ground so we can learn what promise there is or is not there.

The maritime and logistics applications are well known.

Worth watching ... at least for Campbell and me.

Monday, March 02, 2020

It's Always About More Than the Pilots

Pictures are important in telling our story.

We always see the sexy shot of the naval aviator doing their aviator things; the sexy jet with the right visuals, turning tax dollars in to the sound of freedom ... but there is a lot more there to make it happen.

As it was then, it is now. U.S. Naval Air Forces recreated a great picture from out past and updated it for today. 

I think when it comes to what kind of team it takes to get a plane in the air, this one pic does more than a thousand words.

BZ to all involved. Public Affairs messaging done right.

NB: I won't claim credit and all, but check out my tweet from 24 Jan of this year - I'll take the "W." ;)