Thursday, April 30, 2020


As reported by Chris below, it looks like Fincantieri Marinette Marine won the first 10 FFG(X).

Yes, once again - the Navy chose the Salamander Option. Wise move.

Wednesday, April 29, 2020

No, this crisis will not fade quickly or painlessly

It almost seems like the Navy has done something very wrong to the Old Gods, and they are very angry.

We are being punished by our own hand.

If you think the latest wave revolving around the relief of Captain Crozier, USN and COVID-19 will fade soon ... you are sadly mistaken.

Details over at USNIBlog.

Come on by and behold with me.

Tuesday, April 28, 2020

The Post-COVID-19 Natsec Environment

If you haven't had a moment to consider a point EagleOne and I have discussed here and there on the last two Midrats - how COVID-19 is going to change national security assumptions and priorities - then as we start the downslope of the first wave of infections, you may want to start investing some of your ponder-time on the topic.

Over at WOTR, Lt. Gen. David W. Barno, U.S. Army (ret.) and Dr. Nora Bensahel have been giving it a thought in a recent article, Five Ways the U.S. Military Will Change After the Pandemic.
The number of Americans killed by the virus is about to exceed the number of U.S. troops killed in Vietnam, unemployment is higher than it has been since the Great Depression, and the social and human toll is simply incalculable. The ultimate damage will be so great that after the pandemic, the urgent need to defend the American people from devastating threats inside the homeland will quickly displace foreign threats atop the hierarchy of national security concerns.
I'm in alignment with three of their five points, but not with two. Read it all for the details, but here's a brief outline.

Let's look at the three I agree with them on.

Reliance on Forward Defense Will Diminish
... the United States will continue to defend its most vital interests overseas: keeping NATO alive, protecting Eastern Europe from Russia, supporting Israel, and deterring conflict in Asia. But U.S. forces across the Middle East, Afghanistan, Africa, and even in some parts of the Pacific are likely to be drawn down if not withdrawn completely.

The economic crisis may also require changes to U.S. force posture in the places where military forces remain, since the sprawling network of overseas bases remains expensive.
Yes, that is a bit self-serving for me as this "withdraw from empire" call aligns with what I have wanted to do for the last two decades, as regulars of the Front Porch know. Now more than ever it makes sense from a reactive response, vice a long term strategic move ... but that is OK, eventually everyone goes Salamander and they are welcome to the party.

The Reserve Component Will Become Much More Important

The increasing primacy of homeland defense means that the reserve component of the U.S. military may become equally if not more important to the nation than the active component, which would completely invert the traditional relationship between them. The vast majority of the military capabilities that have been used to respond to the pandemic, and that will be needed for future homeland crises, reside in the reserve component (which includes the National Guard and the reserve forces of the individual military services).
Like the first point above, this aligns with my long-term call to invest on what is our comparative advantage as a maritime and aerospace power. The vast majority of our land forces should be in the reserves and National Guard with a smaller more expeditionary focused active component for our land forces. Extra bonus - it will be harder to knee-jerk our way in to land wars in Asia if we have to mobilize significantly.

Final point of agreement:
Legacy Programs and End Strength Will Be Cut — By a Lot

As we’ve argued, the massive economic crisis and growing political pressures for greater domestic spending mean that the defense budget will likely plummet — and may even make the sequestration-era cuts look rosy by comparison. The combination of sharply declining budgets, less emphasis on the land, sea, and air domains, and diminishing forward presence means that expensive conventional platforms like aircraft carriers, amphibious ships, and manned fighters will likely face severe cuts. Major legacy modernization programs that were already reaching unaffordable levels (like the F-35 fighter and the Ford-class aircraft carrier) will inevitably have to be significantly scaled back, and some may be canceled outright.
Welcome to the Terrible 20s folks.

Now for the "others," those two points where I disagree with the authors.

Cyber and Space Will Be Higher Priorities Than Land, Sea, and Air

The U.S. military currently recognizes five warfighting domains: land, sea, air, cyber, and space. After the pandemic, external threats to the United States from the land, sea, and air will become much lower national security priorities than protecting against threats to the homeland from newly emerging and unconventional dangers. For the Department of Defense, that means a much greater emphasis on the cyber and space domains.
This is a mistake that pre-dates COVID-19. It is easy to want supporting domains, such as cyber and space, to be the supported domains of the future. It is easy because it excuses you from having to accept that war was and what it has always been, will be again - a nasty, bloody business that isn't won until young armed men and women stand athwart the enemies land and say, "this is no longer yours, it is mine." Hard power will always be the deciding factor, no matter how many think-pieces you write trying to make the icky go away. Those who forget that will lose the next war, and the one following that.

The Prestige of the U.S. Military Will Be Dimmed

The U.S. military will also face a profound cultural challenge after the pandemic, as its place in American society inevitably shifts. Since September 2001, the United States armed forces have been uncritically revered by the American people. The amount of deference and praise heaped on the all-volunteer force fighting overseas for almost two decades has been enormous, and largely warranted. But it has grown so excessive that even some in uniform now find it a source of embarrassment. Every year has brought new pay raises, more benefits, and greater visibility, which has sometimes raised expectations of ever more prestige and perquisites.
No, not really. That thought/wish has been true for some intellectually and culturally isolated segments of our society for a long time and it not new - but for the American people as a whole, no, that won't happen. I know a lot of the usual suspects want it to happen and look forward to it - but it won't. At least in my blessed corner of the country.

On balance, nice article that should encourage everyone to think about the topic.

Three out of five ain't bad.

Monday, April 27, 2020

COVID-19 isn't just a 1st World Problem

Great overview over at FT of the problem getting hold of the death toll from COVID-19.
The death toll from coronavirus may be almost 60 per cent higher than reported in official counts, according to an FT analysis of overall fatalities during the pandemic in 14 countries.

Mortality statistics show 122,000 deaths in excess of normal levels across these locations, considerably higher than the 77,000 official Covid-19 deaths reported for the same places and time periods.

If the same level of under-reporting observed in these countries was happening worldwide, the global Covid-19 death toll would rise from the current official total of 201,000 to as high as 318,000.
According to the FT analysis, overall deaths rose 60 per cent in Belgium, 51 per cent in Spain, 42 per cent in the Netherlands and 34 per cent in France during the pandemic compared with the same period in previous years.

Some of these deaths may be the result of causes other than Covid-19, as people avoid hospitals for other ailments. But excess mortality has risen most steeply in places suffering the worst Covid-19 outbreaks, suggesting most of these deaths are directly related to the virus rather than simply side-effects of lockdowns.

David Spiegelhalter, professor of the public understanding of risk at Cambridge university, said the daily counts in the UK, for instance, were “far too low” because they only accounted for hospital deaths.
The thing is, this is just covering those fully developed nations (+Indonesia) who have exceptional health care systems from a global perspective, and relatively good and transparent reporting systems.

What about the rest of the world from Africa to South Asia?

We really have no idea.

Sunday, April 26, 2020

Midrats in the Garden Good & Evil

Last week, we could have gone another hour, so we thought the easy thing would be to bring it forward to this Sunday from 5-6pm.

We will cover the waterfront as the Navy continues to struggle to get past COVID-19's dominating Navy news, not just with the TR, but now the USS Kidd and everything from boot camp to the Naval Academy.

Throw in a pick up game presence missions in the South China Sea, and the Russians ditching their future surface fleet ... and there is more than enough to make a fast hour.

Open topic and open mic.

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, April 23, 2020

Presence Mission Done Right

Hidden behind all the COVID-19 news this week is another standoff in the South China Sea that had a bit more energy than usual.

Via Sam LaGrone at USNINews;
On Monday, USNI News first reported USS America (LHA-6) was operating in the vicinity of the site of a tiff between China and Malaysia over mineral-rich territory in Malaysia’s Exclusive Economic Zone. The region has been marked by the increased presence of naval and paramilitary ships from China, Vietnam and Malaysia since Malaysian drillship West Capella began exploring the region in October. Currently, the Chinese survey ship Haiyang Dizhi 8 has been operating in Malaysia’s EEZ since April 16 with an escort of China Coast Guard vessels.

Chinese officials typically call out U.S. actions in the South China Sea that conflict with Beijing’s interests. However, during a Tuesday press conference, the foreign ministry presented a toned-down response to questions about U.S. ships near the territorial dispute.
We seem to have put together a team to make a point;
“USS America (LHA-6) and USS Bunker Hill (CG-52) are forward-deployed to the region and are currently operating in the South China Sea,” U.S. Indo-Pacific Command spokeswoman Lt. Cmdr. Nicole Schwegman said in a statement to USNI News.
America and Bunker Hill are operating in concert, with the cruiser serving as an air defense escort for the amphibious warship. Guided-missile destroyer USS Barry (DDG-52) is also operating in the region.
Then look who came out to play;
HMAS Parramatta (FFG 154) began sailing with Ticonderoga-class guided missile-cruiser USS Bunker Hill (CG 52) then rendezvoused with amphibious assault ship USS America (LHA 6) and Arleigh-Burke class guided missile destroyer USS Barry (DDG 52) April 18.
Isn't this a great view?

That is the way it is done. I think we need to get the Australians a properly sized battle-flag, but that is a minor quibble.

Photo credit, IPN.

Wednesday, April 22, 2020

Tuesday, April 21, 2020

Monday, April 20, 2020

What Would it Take to Navalize This?

The incredible lost opportunity to get a good gun cruiser back in the mix by the Transformationalists making a dog's breakfast our of the ZUMWALT Class is still rage inducing.

Like with so much of that arrogant cabal's products, it was lost in a stew of technology risk and compounded best case scenarios.

It didn't have to be that way. 

There are proven systems that just need to be modified and evolved. If we wanted a larger naval gun, we could always dust off and evolve the MK-71 ... or do what navies have done for centuries - navalize good army kit.

How to do that in a modern sense? Just for entertainment, ponder what the Germans are doing ashore with the same caliber Zumwalt was going to bring to the fleet; 155mm/6.1".
Rheinmetall plans to develop and manufacture a new 155 mm gun with a significantly larger chamber and longer, 60-calibre barrel, the company said in a 27 November press release.
...a gun able to fire existing rounds compliant with the NATO standards set out in the Joint Ballistics Memorandum of Understanding (JBMoU) as well as new ammunition families. The new ammunition types will be optimised to withstand the stresses occurring in the new gun as well as being able to be fired from legacy JBMoU-compliant guns. The German procurement authorities have specified a maximum effective range of 75 km, according to Rheinmetall, which said it would use 83 km as the baseline as the course correction fuze necessary to achieve precision at these ranges reduces range by 10%.
The Germans aren't going to build a ship large enough to carry this gun - and one could argue they don't have the requirement, but we can and do.

The Germans buy a lot of American kit. Wouldn't it be nice and return the favor?

Sunday, April 19, 2020

Midrats in the Time of COVID-19 Melee

Take a break from trying to find a way to socially distance yourself from the people you are non-self-isolating with this week by joining us LIVE for a free for all Midrats.

We have a lot in the maritime domain to discuss from the response to the outbreaks on the carries Theodore Roosevelt and Charles de Gaulle, PCS, the budget, upcoming FFG(X) selection, Iran, China and more.

As we always do, we will keep the phone and chat room open if you have questions or a topic you would like us to discuss.

Open mind; open topic.

Come join us Sunday from 5-6pm Eastern!

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, April 16, 2020

Something's Funky in Big China

There is something going on in China ... a bit of a quickening. In language and tone, they are a bit ... off.

Have a sniff of this from Global Times by Wang Wenwen based on an interview with Chu Yin, a professor at the University of International Relations;
As China rises and walks close to center stage of the world, facilitated by the relative decline of the West, many Western countries are feeling uncomfortable, which is behind their unwarranted accusations against China. In the eyes of Westerners, China is not behaving as humbly as it once did. The West believes it occupies the high moral ground and only it can point a finger at others who it deems submissive, which reflects the West's deep-rooted, self-centered mind-set.

The days when China can be put in a submissive position are long gone. China's rising status in the world, requires it to safeguard its national interests in an unequivocal way. After all, what's behind China's perceived "Wolf Warrior" style diplomacy is the changing strengths of China and the West. When the West falls short of its ability to uphold its interests, it can only resort to a hysterical hooligan style diplomacy in an attempt to maintain its waning dignity. As Western diplomats fall into disgrace, they are getting a taste of China's "Wolf Warrior" diplomacy.

Moreover, as Chinese diplomacy increasingly reflects the interests of its people, they have become more astute in diplomatic affairs. They are no longer satisfied with a flaccid diplomatic tone.

Some claim that China is abandoning its principle of "hiding its ability and biding its time" which it stuck to over the past 30 years. The "Wolf Warrior" style of diplomacy doesn't contradict this principle, it's just less subtle. The reasoning behind this principle was to dilute ideological conflicts and concentrate on development, and China's national policy has always prioritized economic development. China embraces globalization and multilateral cooperation. The growing influence of China worldwide can be largely attributed to internationalization and the force of markets.
This isn't isolated either. There is a lot of this overcompensating, over-caffeinated verbosity being thrown about as of late. It has been building in the background for a few years, but COVID-19 seems to be acting like an oxidizing agent.

Kristina Wong outlined the mood nicely;
They are really working overtime here. Not sure if it’s a sign of panic and desperation, or they think they’re in an advantageous position.
Whatever it is, it isn't healthy or helpful.

Wednesday, April 15, 2020

Tuesday, April 14, 2020

Keeping an Eye on the Long Game: Part LXXXV

It will be at least a year, more likely two, until we have a firm grip on the impact the mountain of immeasurable debt the USA and other nations have been burdened with due to COVID-19.

This is a completely new environment we are all simply going to have to work our way through.

Regular readers here have been reading and discussing the "Terrible 20s" for over a decade, but I did not predict this event to throw on top of it. It will be worse than we think. 

The easiest thing to know now is 355 for the USN - a near run thing anyway - is simply not going to happen. Where will we wind up in 2030? Somewhere between 240 and 270 is my bet.

Where will the rising power China be? Their plans will see an unexpected headwind, but let's look at where we thought they were going just under a month ago before COVID-19 hit. It is still good to get a Pre-COVID-19 Chinese naval modernization snapshot at the economic high water mark for both nations.

If you are a numbers guy, no need to get worried now about the PLAN being larger than the USN - especially on their side of the Pacific, we passed that point half a decade ago.

This kind of says it all;

Read it all, there is a lot of good stuff in the China Naval Modernization: Implications for U.S. Navy Capabilities—Background and Issues for Congress.

Numbers are not everything. They still have a lot of structural and cultural problems, but you cannot dismiss their effort, drive, and desire. They are coming at us and are just waiting for the right time and place for their coming out party.

We still have an edge, but there's no slack left. Some of their weaknesses are right opposite some of our strengths. Regardless of numbers, that won't change;
Although China’s naval modernization effort has substantially improved China’s naval capabilities in recent years, China’s navy currently is assessed as having limitations or weaknesses in certain areas, including joint operations with other parts of China’s military, antisubmarine warfare (ASW), long-range targeting, and a lack of recent combat experience. China is working to reduce or overcome such limitations and weaknesses.12 Although China’s navy has limitations and weaknesses, it may nevertheless be sufficient for performing missions of interest to Chinese leaders. As China’s navy reduces its weaknesses and limitations, it may become sufficient to perform a wider array of potential missions
The Terrible 20s are here. Better get smart, because you're not going to get fat.

Monday, April 13, 2020

Lies, Damn Lies, and a Fired CO

With time we will know more details from January's firing, but I kept thinking back to reference points in my career. 

I've seen people lie about readiness, I've seen units simply refuse to CASREP broken equipment. I've seen inside the lines but incredibly sketchy manpower moves ... and I've seen some pressuring behind closed doors that left everyone feeling unclean ... but I have never seen something so incredibly brazen.
The captain of the San Diego-based guided-missile destroyer Decatur was removed from command in January for filing false position reports to the Navy, according to a Navy investigation recently obtained by the Union-Tribune. 
According to the investigation, Cmdr. John “Bob” Bowen, the Decatur’s commanding officer, ordered his crew in September not to report that the ship had gone dead in the water.

The ship had stopped to conduct maintenance on one of its propeller shafts while transiting the eastern Pacific from Hawaii to Seal Beach, California.

In order to hide the four-hour-long stop from the fleet, the crew reported inaccurate ship positions to make it appear as though the vessel never stopped, the investigation said.
I have been told of other people who have worked with/under people who lied about operational items on a regular basis - it happens, I guess.

There are lies of commission - such as this, and there are, what would we call it, lies of omission such as finding yourself inside an international standoff by just a tad and sneaking out before anyone knows - and as nobody caught you - so you don't report it; are they all the same?

I don't know, but asking an entire ship to lie in such a manner as this?

Lying is a habit, especially petty lies. A petty habit grows to big lies, and eventually it crosses a line. 

Lies become a shortcut. It can help one avoid accountability, uncomfortable reality, or to position for personal gain. Those are often tied together if there is a feeling that there is nothing to gain from the truth. Accepted truth is a narrow and unforgiving path, so in order to get from one point to another, some people may decide they need to widen the path in order to successfully make the journey. Getting to the end justifies the means to get there.

Is this what we are seeing, simply someone with a habit that caught up to them, or is this simply someone who was an otherwise good and honorable man who found himself in an environment where he thought he had to do this?

I don't know - but I sure would like to know.

Why is this only breaking above the background noise in April if it happened in January? Why hide this? Wouldn't this serve as a good example as to what we will and will not accept as an organization - to both those inside the Navy and the nation it serves? Wouldn't it be a warning to the next CO who found themselves wanting/needing to fudge reality to avoid sending out a message?

Friday, April 10, 2020

No Rush on SECNAV Hearings

Rightfully, the month of April for navalists has been dominated by COVID-19's impact on the USS Theodore Roosevelt (CVN 71), the Acting Navy Secretary, and the Navy as a whole. Time to roll up the work week with a reminder that there is a pre-existing nomination for SECNAV out there. 

To discuss the issue, we have a guest post by Bryan McGrath. Bryan, over to you.

Late last year, the Secretary of the Navy resigned after crossing streams with the White House and the Secretary of Defense. Within hours, the President announced that he would be nominating a gentleman named Kenneth Braithwaite—then serving as the United States Ambassador to Norway—as the new Secretary of the Navy. In the meantime, Under Secretary of the Navy Thomas Modly became Acting Secretary of the Navy. It is from this position that Modly last week fired the Commanding Officer of the USS THEODORE ROOSEVELT (CVN 71) and was then fired/asked to resign for his unfortunate remarks to the TR crew.

There are reports in the defense trade press of a desire on the part of the Secretary of Defense for the Senate Armed Services Committee to put Braithwaite to the “head of the line” so to speak, in order to ensure that there is a Senate-confirmed Secretary of the Navy to guide the service through its ongoing inability to get out of its own way. And although there are a number of dark corners in the Navy worth shining light on, it occurs to me that the presence of Senate-confirmed individuals atop the Navy civilian bureaucracy has not been as causal to these troubles as the judgment of the individuals occupying those offices. Which brings me to Ambassador Braithwaite.

Clearly, Ambassador Braithwaite is an accomplished man, rising to flag rank in the Naval Reserve in the Public Affairs career field, in addition to his successful civilian life. He may indeed turn out to be a solid choice to lead hundreds of thousands of people in the Department of the Navy, civilian and military, an organization with a budget of over $200B annually.

My wariness of the pick rests on two matters, both of which are worth due consideration in a deliberate process of vetting.

The first, is that what strikes me as having been Braithwaite’s primary qualification for the job of Secretary of the Navy is his close personal relationship with the Secretary of Defense, Mark Esper. I like being surrounded by my friends as much as anyone, but I am not running the Pentagon. And one of the problems with the Navy that I have identified elsewhere is that the Navy Secretariat (and the other service secretariats, I assume) has through the years declined in influence and effectiveness, with much of its authority diffused either downward into the uniformed service staffs it oversees (Navy, Marine Corps), or upward into the Office of the Secretary of Defense. Truth be told, both trends were aided and abetted by the Senate Armed Services Committee, whose former Chairman, Senator John McCain, seemed to have no love for the Secretariats.

Crucial to American Seapower is a reinvigorated Navy Secretariat that recognizes the unique role it plays in the nation’s security and prosperity. While there has been some forward progress in identifying renewed great power competition as the defining focus of national strategy, there has been little progress made in defining strategy suitable to that focus. It is my view that such a strategy would necessarily privilege Seapower, but that is debatable. What is NOT debatable is that a Secretary of the Navy would have a fundamental role in shaping such a strategy, and that doing so would almost certainly be a point of friction within the Department of Defense. Mr. Esper has already been dismissive of the Navy’s efforts to define its future architecture and placing an old friend in charge of the Navy is not a recipe for tough debate. Bureaucratically speaking, it is just the opposite. Which brings me to my second objection to moving forward quickly on this nomination.

Let’s assume for a second that Mr. Esper greatly desires his service secretaries to be independent power bases and thoroughly effective spokespersons for the capabilities resident in their services and the contributions those capabilities make to the National Defense Strategy. For this best-case scenario to be enabled, the Secretary of the Navy would have to thoroughly understand those capabilities, how they roll up into a coherent case for American Seapower, and how the strategic benefits of American Seapower decompose into desired capabilities. And while Ambassador Braithwaite has led an accomplished life, there is simply no evidence that he ever considered these matters closely before his name was put forward. I look forward to being disabused of this notion if there is an extant record, but my research does not reveal it. Graduating from the Naval Academy and then serving as a naval aviator for one’s junior officer tours—while common to Secretary Spencer, Secretary Modly, and now Ambassador Braithwaite—simply does not predispose one to think deeply about the things that a Secretary of the Navy deals with on a daily basis.

A final note. Flag Officer biographies are sometimes difficult to read, but as I look over Ambassador Braithwaite’s, it is difficult for me to discern where in the last 36 years since graduating from the Naval Academy he served in even one full-time Pentagon job. Is this a requirement for running an armed service? Not to my knowledge. But it strikes me as worth considering given the Byzantine world of process and culture that exists there.

I urge the members of the Senate Armed Services Committee to exert their influence in this situation. They should re-evaluate their complicity in the decline of the service secretariats, and they should require of this and all presidential administrations a higher level of professional knowledge and experience in Senate-confirmed positions within the services. Furthermore, the SASC should use its “advise and consent” power to foster sufficient organizational tension within the Department of Defense to encourage strategic debate. Finally, the SASC should slow down and think deeply about this nomination, and why it is so important to some that it be hurried. Ensure that Ambassador Braithwaite is his own man, and that he can articulate a theory of American Seapower that advances this nation’s security and prosperity. The uniform leadership of the Navy and Marine Corps can take the tiller while you do your work in thoroughly vetting this nomination.

Bryan McGrath is the Managing Director of The FerryBridge Group LLC. He currently consults for the Navy on matters of Surface Warfare force structure and operational concepts.

Thursday, April 09, 2020

What the Navy Knew About COVID-19 on 19 MAR 20

A few critical dates for everyone to remember:

08 MAR: TR departs Da Nang, Vietnam.
15 MAR: USS BOXER (LHD-4) has first case of COVID-19 on a USN ship.
22 MAR: USS THEODORE ROOSEVELT (CVN-71) has first COVID-19 case.
27 MAR: TR pierside Guam.
30 MAR: The Crozier memo goes out.
02 APR: CO of RT, CAPT Crozier, relieved of command.
05 APR: Acting SECNAV Modly gives his speech to the crew of the TR over the 1MC.
07 APR: Modly submits his resignation.

That my friends, is a compact and busy timeline.

One of the top questions that comes to mind is; when it comes to COVID-19, what did the USN know and when did it know it?

One note of caution, usually it takes a day or two from when something is published for it to be distributed and then in front of the eyes of the decision makers to see it - or be briefed on its content. That is when a Staff works correctly. Rarely do you get same-day info unless it is flash traffic.

On 19 MAR, here is what the USN medical community produced for decision makers and leaders to consider for what they may face for COVID-19.

Look for the information about "Shipboard Population of 5,000" estimates, that is a CVN.

Ponder; what would you do?

Hat tip John Cordle.

Wednesday, April 08, 2020

The Sound of Silence

Have you heard what is not there?

How do you define a leadership vacuum?

Are you seeing military leadership, or political manouvering?

Is our Navy better set up for the next decade now than it was 10-yrs ago? 30-yrs ago? When?

Are you any good at acoustic ASW?

Confused and or pissed at what is going on WRT the TR vs. COVID-19?

All those things are wrapped up in one nice little post over at USNIBlog.

Come on by and give it a read!

Tuesday, April 07, 2020

Frigates, Now More Than Ever

There are some arguments that are so sound they become timeless.

In the lexicon of USN "Gods of the Copybook Headings" there is a, "We Need Frigates."

The call remains constant because the reasoning is sound and survives the test of time.

The standing requirement for the US Navy to have a ready percentage of its fleet in "smaller" multi-mission warships, AKA frigates and corvettes really can no longer be credibly argued against. LCS does not count, because they simply don't count for much. 

We have been on this message here for over a decade and a half. We have not been alone - another person engaged in our long-term insurgency to do what we can to get our Navy to do what it needs to do is Jerry Hendrix.

Detecting some quiet, he has set back up his drums to remind everyone the what and why.

Read the whole thing over at NRO, but here's the meaty bits;
So why are high-end ships being used so consistently to do low-end missions, of which counter-drug operations in the Caribbean and Pacific are yet another example? The answer is that the Navy doesn’t have the low-end ships to match with those missions.

“Low-end” refers traditionally to frigates and corvettes that are smaller than destroyers or cruisers, have smaller crews, lower sensor-system and weapons complexity, and lower costs so that navies can purchase them in larger numbers to perform day-to-day presence, escort, surveillance, and interdiction missions. British admiral Horatio Nelson referred to frigates as the “eyes” of the fleet, and historically corvettes were designed to be small enough to operate in an enemy’s close-to-shore littoral regions. By this standard the U.S. Navy’s littoral-combat ships would normally be considered corvettes. Although the Navy has purchased 30 of them, these ships have not been as effective as the Navy had hoped, with nearly all of them presenting difficulties with their combat systems. To fulfill the counter-drug mission described by the president and his team, what the Navy and the Southern Command really need is frigates, and fortunately, they should be coming soon.
To meet persistent requests and requirements, the Navy keeps about 110 ships deployed at any given moment — out of a total of only 296 ships. Normally a ship should spend about six months in maintenance and then six months in training before deploying for six months; it then returns home to spend another six months in a ready-surge status before beginning the cycle again. The Navy’s current 110-to-296 ratio means that compromises have been made throughout the cycle — truncated training or maintenance, or extended deployments, or ships unready for crisis surges. As the Navy charts its course to 355 ships, new frigates will offer a solution to the problem. For now, however, it must assign the high-end, and highly expensive, destroyers to perform counter-drug patrols off the shores of Central and South America, as well as to put additional pressures on Maduro.
For our FFG(X), I continue to ask that you light a candle for FREMM, and hopefully we'll see.

If you want to see what a challenger is building, check out the latest Russian offering.


Monday, April 06, 2020

Africa and COVID-19

As we like to do here, as others look away - we like to keep an eye on sub-Saharan Africa. In economic, demographic, radicalism, migration and other areas - Africa will produce more friction by mid-century than it can consume locally.

From the expansion of ISIS in the north, to the crippling secondary effects of HIV/AIDS in the south - anything that further keeps back the continent's progress will make an already challenging present and future more difficult.

COVID-19 is pulling every corner of the world down, Africa will be no exception. As they are already so far down the development ladder, this shock holds the potential to drive negative effects in all directions.

Adding to this already grim prospect is an assumption that COVID-19 will act in a similar way through different populations - with different outcomes relative to the access to and quality of available health care. Africa, even on a good day does not look good with that variable.

Could it be worse? Things can always be worse. 

History shows that some diseases have a predilection to be deadlier to some populations more than other based on shared DNA. Though more research is needed, in the first nation with a significant population of sub-Saharan African extraction, the USA, is fighting through a COVID-19 infection, we are seeing signs that the disease is deadlier to those of sub-Saharan African extraction.

If COVID-19's deadliness can vary among population groups relative to DNA commonality ... what does that hold for Africa?
Some of Uganda’s poorest people used to work here, on the streets of Kampala, as fruit sellers sitting on the pavement or as peddlers of everything from handkerchiefs to roasted peanuts.

Now they’re gone and no one knows when they will return, victims of a global economic crisis linked to the coronavirus that could wipe out jobs for millions across the African continent, many who live hand-to-mouth with zero savings.

“We’ve been through a lot on the continent. Ebola, yes, African governments took a hit, but we have not seen anything like this before,” Ahunna Eziakonwa, the United Nations Development Program regional director for Africa, told The Associated Press. “The African labor market is driven by imports and exports and with the lockdown everywhere in the world, it means basically that the economy is frozen in place.
There is so little flex in Africa, you can assume where this is going. Economic dislocation brings conflict and migration.

Keep an eye here, especially if you live in Europe.

Sunday, April 05, 2020

Jones Act: National Security Asset or Liability? - on Midrats

The Jones Act is hailed by many in the maritime community as an essential lifeline to keep the domestic merchant marine viable. There is an equally vocal argument that it is not just unnecessary, but counterproductive.

Are the assumptions being make by the pro-Jones Act faction wrong?

To discuss the Jones Act from the skeptical school this Sunday from 5-6pm Eastern will be Colin Grabow, a policy analyst at the Cato Institute’s Herbert A. Stiefel Center for Trade Policy Studies.

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, April 02, 2020

The Law of Gross Tonnage Applies

Am I a bad navalist if I can't stop laughing at this ... and cannot wait for the video?

Via Joseph Trevithick at The Drive;
The incident occurred in the early hours of Mar. 30, 2020, but Columbia Cruise Services only released an official statement on Apr. 1. The company, which is headquartered in Germany, said the RCGS Resolute was drifting just over 13 miles off the coast of Isla La Tortuga, a Venezuelan island situated some 60 miles off the country's northern coast, when ANBV Naiguatá, also known by its hull number GC-23, approached it. The Venezuelan Navy ship ordered the cruise ship to follow it to Puerto Moreno on Isla De Margarita, located to the east, accusing it of violating the country's territorial waters.
Engineering matters, math is hard, and the law of gross tonnage always applies.
The 403-foot-long Resolute, which is flagged in Portugal, reportedly had a gross tonnage of around 8,445 tons at the time. The ship was laid down in September 1990 and completed in June 1991. Intended for Antarctic cruises, it has a reinforced ice-capable hull.
The Naiguatá, which is just over 262 feet long, is a Guaicamacuto class offshore patrol vessel and displaces around 1,720 tons with a full load.
Good seamanship can be harder.
"While the Master was in contact with the head office [in Germany], gun shots were fired and, shortly thereafter, the navy vessel approached the starboard side at speed with an angle of 135° and purposely collided with the RCGS Resolute," the statement continued. "The navy vessel continued to ram the starboard bow in an apparent attempt to turn the ship’s head towards Venezuelan territorial waters."

Columbia Cruise Services does not say what kind of gun was fired or if it did any damage to the Resolute. The Naiguatá has a 76mm main gun in a turret forward of the main superstructure, as well as a pair of 20mm cannons and two .50 caliber machine guns. The crew would also have access to various small arms.

Whatever the case, the steel-hulled patrol ship suffered severe damage from repeatedly ramming the cruise ship, began to take on water, and ultimately sank. Columbia Cruise Services says Resolute remained in the area until it was clear its services were not required to help in the rescue of the 44 crew members. It then continued on, as planned, to the Port of Willemstad in Curaçao.
BZ to the crew of the Resolute ... she's earned her name ... and seems no worse for the wear.

Wednesday, April 01, 2020

CO of CVN-71 Makes the Call & Goes Public

Simply one of the more remarkable moments for a contemporary navy leader I have seen in awhile.

Captain Brett Crozier, USN, Commanding Officer of the USS Theodore Roosevelt (CVN 71), is doing exactly what we have wanted our leaders to do since we started this blog.

Read his full 4-page letter with a few of my thoughts sprinkled here and there over at USNIBlog and tell me what you think.