Wednesday, April 21, 2021

Kiwis go Wobbly

Another sad week for those who wish New Zealand was a better partner for the West ... but she has a history here.

What is even more sad is that it appears this time it is for little more than money over human rights. Not much more.

Details over at USNIBlog.

Come on by and give it a ponder.

Tuesday, April 20, 2021

Keeping an Eye on the Long Game: Part LXXXIX

COVID-19 gifted the USA a window that, if we are smart, we will take advantage of.

I think this may even understate the advantage we have and need to leverage.

As I will cover tomorrow at my post at USNIBlog, China is making inroads in our traditional areas of influence at weak points, we need to work just as hard.

h/t ISEAS.

Monday, April 19, 2021

An Army Builds off Ukraine

There is something going on more than the usual spring maneuvers in Russian occupied Ukraine. 

The below from Der Spiegel is in Crimea ... so not an easy jump further in to mainland Ukrainian territory ... but ... still.

Moscow has been relocating military units near the Ukraine for weeksTrains with tanks, howitzers and transporters are also rolling into the Crimea, annexed by Russia . A huge new army camp has arisen in the east of the Black Sea Peninsula, as satellite images available to SPIEGEL show. 
About 30 kilometers from the town of Marfivka near the coast, the Russian military has gradually built a makeshift base, as this animation shows. If the area was still empty on March 15th, you will see more and more vehicles and bodies in the area until April 2nd:
... If you analyze the satellite image from April 13, there are more than a thousand military vehicles on the site, in addition to accommodation, in rows in fenced-off areas.:

Keep Ukraine in your scan the next six weeks or so.

Sunday, April 18, 2021

Mid-April Midrats Melee!

Sometimes, Midrats is like a VLS cell; you don't know what you have until ... wait ... bad analogy... but you get the concept.

Today for the full hour, come join us for a classic Midrats melee ... we take on all topics as they come in to range. I'm sure we'll cover the latest Black Sea happenings, interesting justifications for more DDG in Rota, and WESTPAC always makes and appearance. 

Join us live if you can and roll in with your preferred topic in the chat room or call the switchboard number right here on the showpage.

This Sunday from 5-6pm Eastern come join us for a Midrats free for all.

Open topic, open chat, open phones.

If you use iTunes, you can add Midrats to your podcast list simply by clicking the iTunes button at the main showpage - or you can just click here.

Friday, April 16, 2021

Fullbore Friday

Does this guy look badass enough for you?

You have no idea

In the summer of 1897 tribesmen of the North-western frontier of India (now a part of Pakistan) began attacking and intimidating British forces in the area. The Indian Government decided that the unprovoked attacks by the Afridis and the Orakzais tribesmen could not go unpunished and decided that a show of force in Tirah, the tribe’s summer home, was appropriate. Accordingly, Sir William Lockhart was ordered out from Britain and appointed to command a force of 32,882 officers and soldiers. The intention was to advance into the Chagru valley on 20 October but the Alikhel tribesmen had seen the preparation of a mountain road by the army working parties.

They anticipated the route to be taken by the army and occupied the village of Dargai and the Narik spur. This formed the western boundary of the valley and completely dominated the road along which the Expeditionary Force was to descend. It was therefore necessary to dislodge the tribesmen from their position. The water supply of Dargai was some distance away from the village and General Palmer saw that adjacent heights would have to be taken if it were to be reached. The tribesmen were not expected back and the order to retire was given. Two companies of the Gordon Highlanders were left to hold the tribesmen in check till the other regiments had taken up a new position. First one company was ordered to retire and then the other. Only half of the last company remained when the enemy appeared behind them from over a hill only thirty yards away. The Gordon Highlanders promptly formed up as the enemy fired and rushed them thinking them defeated. The men stood their ground and killed six of the tribesmen only yards from them. The other tribesmen turned and ran.

General Kempster’s brigade was ordered to storm the Heights and the 1st Division was strengthened by the 2nd Derbyshires and the 3rd Sikhs. They were to be supported by three batteries with another on Samana Sukh if required. The Gurkhas, Dorsets and Derbys all suffered terrible casualties and were met by such intense fire, from only 200 yards away, that those who were not cut down in the charge could do no more than hold onto the position they had reached. Over 100 men lay dead and wounded. The tribesmen rejoiced, waving their standards and beating their drums as victory seemed assured. General Kempster ordered the Gordon Highlanders to the front. The Gordon Highlanders advanced. The dead and wounded of the other regiments were brought back. On getting to the spot reached by the Derbys and Dorsets, the Gordons lay under cover for three minutes as the guns again concentrated their fire on the summit.

The moment came to advance. The Pipe-Major of the Gordon Highlanders was superintending the bringing up of the reserve ammunition when the order to advance came through and he was still doing so when the order to charge was given. Lance-Corporal Piper Milne was the next most senior piper and he led Pipers Findlater, Fraser, Wills, and Kidd into action. In his despatch to the Adjutant-General in India on 9 December 1897, Sir William Lockhart recalled that, "The Gordon Highlanders went straight up the hill without check or hesitation. Headed by their pipers, and led by Lieut-Colonel Mathias, CB, with Major Macbean on his right and Lieutenant A F Gordon on his left, this splendid battalion marched across the open. It dashed through a murderous fire…" As the Gordon Highlanders burst into the field of fire Major Macbean fell almost immediately, shot through the thigh. He dragged himself to the shelter of a boulder and cheered on his men as they passed. A bullet hit Piper Milne in the chest and he fell, unable to continue. Three-quarters of the way across the exposed strip of land Piper Findlater was shot in the ankles. He fell and, leaning against a rock, continued to play his pipes as blood ran from his wounds, dying his kilt red. Of the five pipers who led the charge only Piper Kidd made it to the Heights.

The first division reached the sheltering rocks and paused for breath. As their numbers increased to 400 they started again up the precipitous path to the crest of the hill. Reaching the top they rushed along the succession of ridges as the tribesmen took flight. The position was won at 3.15pm. The Gordon Highlanders gave three cheers for Colonel Mathias. As he came over the last ascent the Colonel had rather breathlessly commented to a colour-sergeant, "Stiff climb, eh, Mackie? Not quite - so young - as I was - you know." With a friendly slap on his commanding officer’s back the sergeant replied, "Never mind, sir! Ye’re ga’un vara strong for an auld man!" Major-General Yeatman-Biggs reported favourably on several Gordon Highlanders. "Major F Macbean, who was the first to spring out of cover and lead his company to the attack... Piper Findlater, who after being shot through both feet and unable to stand, sat up under heavy fire playing the regimental march to encourage the charge... Private Lawson, who carried Lieutenant Dingwall, when wounded and unable to move, out of a heavy fire, and subsequently returned and brought in Private Macmillan, being himself wounded in two places in so doing... I recommend Piper Findlater and Private Lawson for the Victoria Cross."

Later, Findlater wrote, "I remember the Colonel addressing the regiment, telling them what they were expected to do. I remember again the order for the regiment to attack, and the order "Pipers to the front". I am told that the ‘Cock of the North’ was the tune ordered to be played, but I didn’t hear the order, and using my own judgement I thought that the charge would be better led by a quick strathspey, so I struck up ‘The Haughs o’ Cromdale’. The ‘Cock o’ the North’ is more of a march tune and the effort we had to make was a rush and a charge. The battle fever had taken hold of us and we thought not of what the other was feeling. Our whole interest being centred in self. Social positions were not thought of, and officers and men went forward with eagerness shoulder to shoulder. When I got wounded the feeling was as if I had been struck heavily with a stick. I remember falling and playing on for a short time; but I was bleeding profusely and in a few minutes sickened. I am told that the time I continued playing after falling was about five minutes. After the position was won, and the wounded taken to the rear, my first thoughts on recovery were how lucky I had been in getting off so easily. It never occurred to me that I had done anything to merit reward. What I did I could not help doing. It was a very great surprise when I was told that my action had been brave, and a recommendation had been made to award me the soldier’s prize - the VC."

I don't think the FbF is fully complete unless you know what these men followed up that hill. Here's "The Haughs o' Cromdale."

Hat tip Claude & David. First posted OCT17.

Thursday, April 15, 2021

The Afghanistan Problem in Two Maps

Though I have a ton of stuff for a normal DivThu, not today.

I'm still working through some Afghanistan issues. I had another post as a companion to yesterday, but after letting it sit overnight, I decided to delete it.

Like all good Sailors, when things are a bit off ... consult the nearest chart/map.

There is comfort and knowledge ... and stories ... in charts/maps.

I'll let the Front Porch extend the commentary from here.

Wednesday, April 14, 2021

20 Years, 20 Months, or 20 Weeks?

We picked Option A it appears.

I remember when we thought about Option C and believed Option B was too long.

I have extended thoughts on the Afghanistan withdraw announcement today over at USNIBlog.

It's been a long time coming ... but regular readers here know that.

Come on by and give me your thoughts.

Tuesday, April 13, 2021

General Hamlet and the Small Boys

The Navy's hate-hate relationship with its fleet of small ships would be a comedy if it were not so tragic.

As recorded here in the opening years of this blog, one of the greatest errors of the last 40-yrs was the Navy's retreat from its exceptional riverine force it learned it needed the hard way in Vietnam. 

At the end of the 1990s, we disestablished the vestige of this once great capability in the Navy Reserve just a half decade before they would be desperately needed in Iraq.

Untold numbers of American and allied personnel were killed and maimed because we invaded a nation whose central geographical feature were two great rivers that we could not, for years, gain effective control of. While we fought for each intersection and highway ashore, on the water the enemy had relatively free run of the Tigris and Euphrates with their lakes and tributaries.

We still do not have the riverine forces we should have - for the same petty reasons the USAF does not have light attack aircraft - but we at least have a few bits in the took kit to use as needed

Problem is, the simply don't have the top cover they need. Via our friend Chris Cavas;

When it comes to big things the U. S. Navy has no problem with commitment. The service loves big aircraft carriers, big submarines, big ships – ships that travel on big oceans. It loves to think big – wide-open, transoceanic, blue water operations. Its shopping lists routinely include items costing in the billions of dollars – big bucks.

But when it comes to the small stuff, forget it. While there are passing fancies, the passion soon flames out and Big Navy is on to the next Big Thing.

The latest potential castoffs are some of the smallest ships in the fleet, if at 78-feet long they can be called ships at all. The Mark VI patrol boats began entering service in late 2014 and by 2018 a dozen of a planned fleet of 48 boats had been delivered. The craft were in response to an “urgent need” request from the U. S. Navy in Central Command for fast interceptors to protect big ships in the Persian Gulf from hundreds of small, fast vessels operated by Iran.

... on February 5 a service-wide message from the director of expeditionary warfare declared all 12 Mark Vis would be inactivated no later than September 30 of this year.

Marine Major General Tracy King, the director of expeditionary warfare, told a Surface Warfare Association audience on Jan. 12 the craft “are very expensive to maintain.” Acknowledging the craft were “very valuable in assuring partners and allies,” he added, “our wargaming has told us we could probably better spend that money elsewhere.”

Another example of the abuse of wargames. Again, you tell me what you want, I'll design a wargame to give it to you. 

Sorry, I'm not sold.

As I read this AM, I'm not the only one;

 “The previously released message (February 5) has since been cancelled, which stops the inactivation of MK VI boats this year [2021]. We are not going to speculate on the program’s future. The PB22 budget request is pre-decisional. We will not comment on future budgetary decisions until the budget request is submitted to Congress later this year.  The decision [to divest the Mark VI Patrol Boats] is still under review.” 

The Salamander Underground wins again. 

If MG King can claim all seeing wargaming, then I can claim credit for anything. It's only fair. (NB: fair to give credit to Chris for this tactical victory though, he was the one to bring this in to the light).

OK people, time to fight. MK VI are good kit to have with a lot of uses ... and there is no better way to build better officers.

Monday, April 12, 2021

Don't Cry for the Navy's Cruiser Problem

Learn from it.

On the list of things future historians will blow-torch early 21st Century US Navy leadership over will be the almost criminal mismanagement of their battle fleet - and it's cruiser fleet most of all. 

Building off the least worst compromise of making a cruiser from a Spruance Class destroyer in the last quarter of the 20th Century, we coasted in the "peace dividend" 1990s by ignoring a century of shipbuilding experience by not having the replacement class of warship building as the last of the previous class was finishing up. 

A bit more than a decade and a half later, the absolute Monty Python skit that was CG(X) blew up the second best option.

That leaves us in the 3rd decade of the 21 Century facing a young and building Chinese Navy with  ... this as reported by the exceptional Megan Eckstein over at USNINews. 
A plan to keep the Navy’s guided-missile cruiser fleet operating through the end of the 2030s is struggling as the ships show there’s a very real cost in time and money to keep old platforms around for the sake of having a larger fleet.
The Navy has for almost two decades struggled to figure out what kind of platforms should replace these CGs as the air defense command ship for the carrier strike group, and several efforts have been canceled or postponed along the way. To buy more time to find a replacement, the Navy modernized 10 cruisers beginning in the 2000s to extend their lives and give them the newest combat capabilities. A second cruiser modernization program that began in 2015 aimed to do the same to seven more.
At sea and in the air (the sub bubbas are actually doing OK), our procurement and acquisition people and process has failed the Navy and the nation is serves ... but despite decades of fail, what is being done to change or fix it? Besides an occasional innocent O6-7 thrown in the volcano, who is being held accountable?
In a budget environment where the military services are increasingly looking to “divest to invest,” or rid themselves of legacy gear to free up money for new equipment aimed at a high-end future fight, the cruiser fleet may not see much support in the upcoming budget cycle, two admirals told USNI News.


A new plan will be released in conjunction with the Biden administration’s Fiscal Year 2022 budget request, but Vice Adm. Jim Kilby, the deputy chief of naval operations for warfighting requirements and capabilities (OPNAV N9), suggested it would be hard to find support in the budget for an old ship that’s increasingly hard and expensive to maintain and operate.

“This job is more complex than I think the Navy anticipated for all the reasons Adm. Galinis laid out. So I would have to think hard about inducting more cruisers here because of what we’ve seen so far,” he said during the same interview on Friday.
“I do agree with Adm. Galinis that we’re going to get better, but I think it’s in this overall balance as I’m trying to produce the best Navy for the money that’s provided to us that we can, if that makes sense.”
We did this to ourselves. There is zero reason we should not have a new class of CG. None. Zero. The Cult of Transformationalism undercut good options because they did not have enough chrome or fins, and the lack of mature leadership refused to control their own team who was asked to deliver a tractor and instead rolled up in a BMW to plow the back 40.

Where to now? First, pray for peace as we are not ready for war. Second, we need to support Congressional leaders of both parties who are serious and, frankly, don't care who in industry or The Pentagon they piss off. Then, wait for someone in the Executive Branch to show up and appoint people who feel the same way.

What we have been doing for the last quarter century+ fails again and again. 

Until we rip up the present system - start with Goldwater-Nichols and the Joint Procurement Program bastard child - root and branch, we will not see progress that we need. We will consistently deliver 60¢ for each $1 of taxpayer money.

Sunday, April 11, 2021

The Supply Chains that Bind Us, with Ross Kennedy - on Midrats

Our comfortable, modern life exists on a delicate fabric of global transportation, laws, and lines of communication supported by assumptions of stability, peace, and professional competence. 

Over the last twelve months, from COVID-19 to EVER GIVEN in the Suez, the delicate nature off the global system of trade that allows affordable technology, food, and the full spectrum of consumer goods has broken in to the open for everyone to see. 
Is the global system of trade as delicate as it seems? Where are its weakest points, and how robust is it to various disruptions? 
Our guest this Sunday from 5-6pm Eastern for the full hour to discuss this and related topics will be Ross Kennedy Ross is a U.S.-based logistics and supply chain expert with more than fifteen years in international transportation, procurement, and analysis. His unique blend of operations, sales, and strategic planning allows him to provide creative, agile solutions for his public- and private-sector clientele.

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. You can find us on almost all your most popular podcast aggregators as well.

Friday, April 09, 2021

Fullbore Friday


Prince Philip passed today after a long and full life defined by service and duty.

I first posted this years ago when he left his official duties, but thought it was the right thing to do to bring it back. 

As a nod to his service - serving as men of privilege and education should - let's take a moment today to recognize a good XO.
Hargreaves was a yeoman aboard the destroyer HMS Wallace on which Philip, son of Prince Andrew of Greece, had been appointed first lieutenant - second-in-command - at the age of 21. In July 1943, engaged in the Allied landings in Sicily, the ship came under repeated bombardment at dead of night and its crew realised that they would probably lose their lives.

It was then Philip conjured up a plan to throw overboard a wooden raft with smoke floats that would create the illusion of debris ablaze on the water. As he hoped, the German plane was fooled into attacking the raft while the Wallace sailed to safety under cover of darkness.

Hargreaves recalled the terrifying events of that night on the website: 'It was obvious that we were the target for tonight and they would not stop until we had suffered a fatal hit. It was for all the world like being blindfolded and trying to evade an enemy whose only problem was getting his aim right. There was no doubt in anyone's mind that a direct hit was inevitable.

'There was no question but to accept that on the next run or the one after that we had little chance of survival. I had been through so much that the feeling of anger and frustration was as great as the fear I and everyone else felt.

'It was less than five minutes after the aircraft had departed and - if the previous space in time was approximately the same - we had about 20 minutes to come up with something. We couldn't steam far in that time, not even far enough to make the aircraft think we had moved.'

He continued: 'The first lieutenant [Philip] went into hurried conversation with the captain, and the next thing a wooden raft was being put together on deck. Within five minutes they launched a raft over the side - at each end was fastened a smoke float. When it hit the water the smoke floats were activated and billowing clouds of smoke interspersed with small bursts of flame gave a convincing imitation of flaming debris in the water.

'The captain ordered full ahead and we steamed away from the raft for a good five minutes and then he ordered the engines stopped. The tell-tale wake subsided and we lay there quietly in the soft darkness and cursed the stars, or at least I did. Quite some time went by until we heard aircraft engines approaching.

'The sound of the aircraft grew louder until I thought it was directly overhead and I screwed up my shoulders in anticipation of the bombs. The next thing was the scream of the bombs, but at some distance. The ruse had worked and the aircraft was bombing the raft. I suppose he was under the impression that he had hit us in his last attack and was now finishing the job.

'We lay there waiting for him to leave, which he did, and, in view of the solitary attacks so well spaced apart, we were convinced he would not return. It had been marvellously quick thinking, conveyed to a willing team and put into action as if rehearsed.'

Speaking from his home in Westport in Ontario, Canada, Hargreaves told The Observer: 'Prince Philip saved our lives that night. I suppose there might have been a few survivors, but certainly the ship would have been sunk. He was always very courageous and resourceful and thought very quickly. You would say to yourself "What the hell are we going to do now?" and Philip would come up with something.'

Thursday, April 08, 2021

Diversity Thursday

There are but a few options here, none of which speak well of our Navy or its leadership – but we have to look at where this is with clear eyes.

I have tried to be as clean-slate optimistic as possible with the CNO, Admiral Gilday. On a lot of actual Navy issues, I find him incredibly well informed, intelligent, and thinking in the right direction – but that is only part of his job. 

Another part of his job is to be a good steward of the position of the CNO, the Navy’s apolitical stance in line with our national traditions, and to ensure that all his Sailors can expect fair and equal treatment and consideration under his command. In the last respect, I can no longer give what I otherwise consider good man and exceptional officer the benefit of the doubt. 

He has become a willing accomplice to division, sectarianism, and the radicalization of our Navy. He has positioned himself and his Navy as supporters of sectarianism and division for one of a few reasons:

1. He is trying to keep the worst people circling around the Beltway – the diversity industry and its DOD/DON embedded nomenklatura – at bay, sated, and leaving him alone so he can pursue “the important things.”

2. He is terrified that he will find himself in the center of some Star Chamber trial for not being “part of the solution” and being made another example of leading a systemically racist organization, not being an ally, and needing to be removed.

3. He is a true believer. In the zero sum game that is accessions and promotions, he believes that one of the primary considerations need

What ever reason, the results are the same and the negative effects on our Navy will be long lasting.

I don't really have to say all that much more, I'll let the CNO tell you for me.

He is looking at offering Navy advancement exams in multiple languages.

He is open to different standardized testing requirements based on self-identified race.

That sets a hell of a precedent. 

Go to the 51:15 mark.

He knows this, but I'll put it here anyway: if he goes forward with this, he is laying a minefield for himself and his Navy in the future. Here's why.

For a simple example: if you have three cohorts and they are approved based on different gate requirements for objective standards that predict performance (they do). Group-1 has to break 100. Group-2 break 90. Group-3 only 75.

At every point and milestone, if they are evaluated and promoted based on performance and objective criteria, Group-1 will always do better, be selected more often, and simply do their job better ... on average ... than Group-2 and Group-3. 

The "crisis" of difference not only never ends, the ongoing crisis is baked in at the very beginning. As a byproduct, your organization will also perform less well because you have more people with lesser ability to do the needed job dragging average performance down.

If you set up different standards you also encourage an already existing problem to get worse; identification fraud by people who should be in Group-1 trying to be evaluated as Group-2 or 3. You also force the growing number of mixed-race people to "pick a side" when they are not one or the other. Forcing people to classify themselves like this in order to position themselves for advantage is cancerous and unethical ... but it is encouraged by this system. This doesn't make one from many ... this makes many from one.

If people who promote this evil are allowed to expand their world view, it metastasizes throughout the system. 

Since the middle of the '00s I've warned here about the growing number of billets being dedicated to the diversity industry nomenklatura - growing in number and power. They have no desire to fix any problem, only to keep them active. That is how they justify their paycheck and very existence. 

Well meaning leaders have given in year after year to their demands for more billets and more power out of fear, fellow travellership, or at worst - simply to make them go away and be someone else's problem.

They advance and advance with little to no pushback. They wait for a ripe time - and then they push extra hard.

There was no time since the early 70s where racial tension was higher than this summer. As the "time was ripe" the embedded diversity bullies made their move across a wide front. 

Another example made it my way this month, this time from USNA. What do you notice about this?

Fully in line with the CNO's efforts in the first part of this post; meritocracy is identified as a barrier. 

How much longer will we allow this cancer to go unopposed?

I will finish this DivThu with this reminder: this is Trump's Navy doing this. This is Trump's CNO. This is Trump's diversity and inclusion nomenklatura. Except for his last few months, his government did nothing to push back against this cadre driven by sectarianism and feeding off of division.

Next time those who support a color blind nation where people should be judged by the content of their character and not the color of their skin decide to back a candidate, pick better. Demand better. Demand action early and continuous. 

Wednesday, April 07, 2021

Nagorno-Karabakh War's Maritime Lessons Learned?

There was not a sea battle to be fought in that little war ... but there are lessons for our Navy all in it.

I ponder my #1 lesson over at USNIBlog.  

Tuesday, April 06, 2021

Egads on NGAD

I don't know who lead it will be or what crisis will cause it, but at some point we will realize that the golden calf idol of a procurement process we seem to think is a god is not only false, it is evil.

An entire generation going or two of acquisition professionals have grown up in a system that consistently fails the nation.

It doesn't have to be this inefficient or this ineffective, but it is. 

Latest datapoint is the overthinking and self-doubt is the replacement for the Super Hornet.

We have individuals who know what needs to be done - and if they had their way we would be a long way down the road to a modern fighter to replaced the butched-up 1970s runner-up that we have now ... but our self-imposed and voluntary system we work under won't let them. The amount of time this takes is simply gobsmacking - but we don't change.

Example. This sounds correct and sound.

The Navy is leaning toward replacing its fleet of Super Hornets with another manned fighter that will work with emerging unmanned aircraft concepts under the umbrella of the service’s Next Generation Air Dominance program.

Yes, that could have been said a decade ago and more - as a matter of fact it was, however ...

Rear Adm. Gregory Harris, who leads the chief of naval operation’s air warfare directorate (OPNAV N98), said Tuesday that the aircraft following the Super Hornets will “most likely be manned,” but that the Next Generation Air Dominance program will include a mix of both manned and unmanned platforms.

“As we look at it right now, the Next-Gen Air Dominance is a family of systems, which has as its centerpiece the F/A-XX – which may or may not be manned – platform. It’s the fixed-wing portion of the Next-Gen Air Dominance family of systems,” Harris told attendees at a Navy League breakfast. 

Is that clear? Sound confident?

Of course not. Harris knows what we need ... but ... 

“But we truly see NGAD as more than just a single aircraft. We believe that as manned-unmanned teaming comes online, we will integrate those aspects of manned and unmanned teaming into that,” he continued. “Whether that – we euphemistically refer to it as our little buddy – is an adjunct air-to-air platform, an adjunct [electronic warfare] platform, discussion of could it be an adjunct advanced early warning platform. We’ll have to replace the E-2D [Advanced Hawkeye] at some point in the future, so as we look to what replaces that.”

The Navy has been inching toward a family of systems approach for NGAD over the last several years. USNI News previously reported the service was leaning toward a manned fighter aircraft as part of the NGAD family of systems. The Navy last year quietly stood up its NGAD program office.

He can't see the future through a cloud of good idea fairies, snake oil salesmen, rent seekers, and people hanging on long enough to maximize their retirement. 

The system we have is so ossified and impeded by accretions, we can't just fiddle with it - it needs to be ripped up by the root and thrown in a chipper. 

DOD/DON won't do it either - Congress must act. 

Our acquisition systems isn't just not fit for purpose, it is an obstacle to producing the weapons our nation needs to win ... or even have a chance to win.

If you think this is a normal, efficient, and effective system - you are delusional.

Monday, April 05, 2021

Raids, Probes, & Scouting Parties

The latest iteration of the People’s Republic of China’s highly successful island hopping campaign in the Southwest Pacific has brought us to another round of the US national security nomenklatura and chatterati pounding away at their keyboards trying to figure out not just what is going on, but what China’s goals are.

Everyone continues to talk each other in circles, your humble blogg’r included. Towards the end of last week it started to dawn on me that perhaps part of the problem is that “we” continue to think ourselves in to the same intellectual box canyons. As a result, at the end of each iteration we don’t make progress and the Chinese get more islands.

The last decade saw the Chinese get the low hanging fruit with little substantive pushback or consequences, effectively creating a new normal in the South China Sea concerning who controls what. There really is nothing new here. As a matter of fact, it is old school, “This is mine, do something about it." mentality. As the saying goes, the mighty do what they will, the weak suffer what they must.

OK, there I go again – the usual intellectual box canyon. It sounds right, makes sense, explains a lot, but at the end of the chain, it just does not “feel right.”  Why?

Let’s go back to the “old school” comment above and pick at it.

Is that really “old school?” Am I suffering, as many other US natsec people may be, from an unfortunate byproduct of playing “Risk” too much? The Risk-Trap seems to get us in a lot of trouble trying to figure out what is going on in the real world. The game is all based on grabbing bit of territory in a manner to gain world conquest. It also sounds right, makes sense, explains a lot, but at the end of the chain, it just does not “feel right.”  I mean, is Irkutsk really that important? Really?

I don’t think Risk is all that popular in China, and perhaps that is the problem; cultural context. 

Old school, especially in the Chinese context, is OLD. I always try to keep in mind that they have a continuous culture going back 3,000 years just with the written word. Only the Jewish people have a longer record. The USA is less than a 10th of that age.

Our military history is also dramatically different, and it is there that I am trying to look at what the Chinese are doing in a different context. It is much more than China being a continental power while – contrary to Army fever dreams – the USA is a maritime and aerospace power. No, much deeper than that.

Though flavored with the "people’s army" insurgency foundation that is the modern Chinese military (even their navy is the People’s Liberation Army Navy), the Chinese military tradition, habits, and reference points go back thousands of years steeped in the fundamental nature of steppe warfare.

Where the only American experience in steppe (Great Plains) warfare was a few decades at the end of the 19th Century against … well … a people who immigrated from the Asian steppes over 10,000 years earlier, the Chinese for thousands of years faced Mongols, Manchurians, and other people who inhabited the grasslands and deserts on the periphery of the Han heartland.

What are the characteristics of steppe warfare? Raids, Probes, and Scouting Parties. Light, fast moving parties crossing empty spaces to isolated pockets of important terrain, cities, and resources. First in small groups to check the reaction, strength, and resiliency of the locals, and if the odds look right, sending for larger forces to take what is worth taking, plundering what is worth plundering, and laying waste to anything that might encourage the previous inhabitants to come back.

Perhaps we need to be thinking and studying more about that cultural reference as we try to get our minds around what is happening in the Western Pacific.

As the great philosopher Lloyd Cole encouraged, lean over on the bookcase if you really wanna get straight.

Because I’ve already read his entire canon twice, at first I thought of Hopkirk's works, specifically "Setting the East Ablaze" & "Foreign Devils on Silk Road." 

Where to go from there? This weekend led me down the rabbit hole of bits and pieces elsewhere of the Mongol conquests – and to the Russian experience with the same, especially their 17th and 18th century expansion of the Russian Empire in to Central and Eastern Asia. 

From there, I found a gold mine of “I wish I didn’t have a paying gig so I could read all of these this week” list from the University of Michigan’s Erik Hildinger’s article Nomadic Steppe Warfare.

In the article he has a simply fascinating reading list. I need more bookcases.

The subject of nomadic steppe warfare is narrow enough that no general work of any depth seems to have been written exclusively on this topic apart from Hildinger 1997. However, there are useful chapters or passages on the campaigns and tactics of various nomadic warrior societies in other general works on the history of warfare, notably Keegan 1994, Jones 1987, and Lot 1946. Grousset 1970, monumental and easily available, although primarily a general political history, touches on the details of steppe-style warfare in its first chapter. Although these last four works do not treat nomadic steppe-style warfare in exhaustive detail, they are informative as to its general characteristics and, by contrasting it with the more familiar aspects of warfare as practiced by sedentary peoples, they are helpful.

Davies, Brian L. Warfare, State and Society on the Black Sea Steppe, 1500–1700. London: Routledge, 2007.

As the title suggests, this book covers more than steppe warfare, though it has sections of some specificity regarding the equipment, tactics, and strategy involved in this area. Lithuanian, Russian, Polish, and Crimean Tatar interests are covered. It appears to be the only book-length treatment in English to focus on Russia’s expansion to the south.


Di Cosmo, Nicola. Warfare in Inner Asian History, 500–1800. Handbuch der Orientalistik 8. Leiden, The Netherlands: Brill, 2002.

Detailed academic study of warfare with, and between, nomadic peoples and their empires. There is a good deal of emphasis on Chinese responses to nomadic opponents, and a section dealing with the Manchu integration of the Mongols into their state in as they prepared to conquer China.


Drews, Robert. Early Riders: The Beginnings of Mounted Warfare in Asia and Europe. New York: Routledge, 2004.

DOI: 10.4324/9780203389928

A brief general history by a well-known academic. It treats the domestication of the horse, its use in warfare, steppe-style tactics, and the author’s view of the aims of those who practiced nomadic warfare.


Grousset, René. The Empire of the Steppes: A History of Central Asia. Translated by Naomi Walford. New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press, 1970.

Treats briefly the essential military characteristics of the steppe warrior, though with some exaggeration about the practical range of the composite bow. Though dated, the book is still useful and was long a standard text on the history of the many steppe tribes of central Asia. Now superseded by Sinor 1990 (cited under Modern Works Treating Specific Peoples).


Hildinger, Erik. Warriors of the Steppe: A Military History of Central Asia, 500 B.C. to 1700 A.D. New York: Sarpedon, 1997.

Apparently the only general history of nomadic steppe-style warfare. It contains chapters dealing with nomadism, the essential combination of horse and bow, strategy and tactics, and the activities of the most significant of the nomadic warrior societies, or those settled societies that retained or adopted their military techniques.


Jones, Archer. The Art of War in the Western World. Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1987.

Chapter 2, “The Diversity of the Medieval Ways of War,” treats briefly, but perceptively, the Mongol approach to war from a primarily strategic and logistical viewpoint.


Keegan, John. A History of Warfare. New York: Vintage, 1994.

Chapter 3, “Flesh,” discusses in some detail the various aspects of nomadic life that work to mold nomads into successful warriors.


Lot, Ferdinand. L’art militaire et les armées au Moyen Âge. Paris: Payot, 1946.

Several chapters treat the more significant nomadic warrior societies with whom the West had contact. The work is long (two volumes) and detailed. There is unfortunately no English translation.

Warfare is downstream from culture. Perhaps we all need to do a better job of getting to know the Chinese military culture, and then we can get a better grasp of what they are doing as Chinese, and not what we think they are doing as if they were Americans.

In steppe warfare, what do the raids, probes, and scouting parties look like? 

What follows? 

Friday, April 02, 2021

Biden and Mahan: National Strength and Maritime Power Are Still Linked

The last year has seen a growing bi-partisan consensus that the United States and the People's Republic of China are in competition to set the global order for the next century. After a year to firmly set in the minds of national security leaders on both sides of the aisle, we find ourselves at a moment when Congress and the Executive branch of government are both in the mood to strengthen our nation and expand job opportunities by opening the door for more spending. Why haven't we seen the logical connection between the two? 

To explain the importance of this moment in time is returning guest poster, Bryan McGrath.

Bryan, over to you.

In a speech in Pittsburgh Wednesday, President Biden announced what the Washington Post termed a “…$2 trillion jobs, infrastructure, and green energy proposal…”. With the simple title of the “American Jobs Plan,” Biden’s proposal is under fire from those concerned with its cost and from those who believe it does not spend enough on their priorities. It is not the purpose of this essay to take a position on the merits of the plan or its likelihood of passage but to point out that despite its significant cost and claims of working to provide for good jobs, not a penny is devoted to the good jobs building a larger Navy would create and sustain. This is particularly troubling given that the last large-scale recovery/jobs program (2009 American Recovery and Re-investment Act) also failed to capitalize on the strategic “two-fer” offered by putting more Americans to work building warships. 

The Obama Administration can be forgiven its 2009 oversight, as it clearly had not brought China into sharp relief as a competitor/adversary. But no such grace is available now, as the Biden plan’s White House Fact Sheet plainly addresses the strategic competition, stating “The American Jobs Plan is an investment in America that will create millions of good jobs, rebuild our country’s infrastructure, and position the United States to out-compete China.” A key part of that competition is military, and the central element of the military competition is naval. Ignoring both the national security benefit of a naval building program and the economic and industrial benefits of the good jobs it would produce is a mistake that can still be rectified. In so doing, the President could gain support for a bill that will likely prove popular with an American public for whom higher corporate taxes and higher individual tax rates on high earners are not central concerns. 

This symbiotic relationship between a powerful Navy and a prosperous nation was first laid out for Americans (and the world) in the late 19th Century by Alfred Thayer Mahan, and was reinforced this week in the Proceedings of the U.S. Naval Institute by author Nicholas Lambert. The essay, entitled “What is a Navy For,” is one of the most persuasive bits of writing on this subject since Samuel Huntington’s 1954 “National Policy And The Transoceanic Navy” and though Lambert’s piece mentions China only once—in the caption of a photograph—it is clear that Lambert is reminding a new generation of the relevance of Mahan’s thinking, and the special role that Seapower has in promoting our nation’s fortunes. Lambert explains Mahan this way:

“State power, Mahan held, was a function of national wealth, and the generation of wealth derived from commerce. In modern times, the single most valuable font of commercially produced wealth was overseas trade. Following this logic, he reasoned that access to the sea (the “common”) was essential to national well-being; hence the need for a strong navy to guarantee access.”

Writing in the late 19th Century, Mahan was responding to a set of strategic imperatives and fiscal challenges not unlike those facing America today. Here is Lambert again:

“The dispute was so intense because it occurred during a period of social upheaval and economic depression—and against the background of a still more profound debate over the future shape of U.S. society. Simply put, there were competing fiscal demands. Some interests wanted the federal government to invest instead in national infrastructure (or the Panama Canal). Others demanded more generous pensions (especially for Union Civil War veterans). A large number thought the money would be better spent fixing societal problems at home—a down payment on a redistribution of wealth necessary to create a more equitable society.”

Not only are more ships required to better compete with China, but additional infrastructure also to support those ships is needed. The Navy’s “Report to Congress on the Long-Range Plan for Maintenance and Modernization of Naval Vessels for Fiscal Year 2020” highlights “highlights a shortage of dry docks for surface ship maintenance and the need to improve existing infrastructure at public and private yards to keep up with newer classes of ships, as well as the need for process improvements to allow private shipyards and the supply chain to grow their capacity and move faster to respond to a growing fleet size.” 

Additionally, in 2018 the Navy proposed a 20-year, $21B initiative to overhaul its four public shipyards. Called the “Shipyard Infrastructure Optimization Plan,” recent press reports point to dissatisfaction in Congress with the pace of the plan. The Navy is reticent to move faster, citing considerable work that must continue to be done in these yards that would be disrupted with a faster pace. Perhaps then, one solution to put some of the resources from the American Jobs Plan into addressing ship repair and modernization infrastructure improvements, to include standing up an entirely new public yard?

And while the President’s bill is silent on the Navy, his party has not been. Rep. Elaine Luria (D-VA), a former nuclear-trained Naval Officer, recently wrote a letter to the President making an eloquent plea for “…a National Defense Strategy, that acknowledges and prioritizes the maritime nature of the current strategic environment” while also directly stating “Now is not the time to cut our defense spending—reality requires that we spend more to meet our defense needs.” Obviously, the Navy is funded by annual defense appropriations, but that should not preclude additional targeted funding flowing to the Navy as part of this China responsive jobs initiative. 

China is in the midst of an unprecedented peacetime naval buildup, a buildup that threatens freedom of the seas in the Western Pacific and beyond. The President has proposed a plan designed to achieve several important goals, including job creation and out-competing China. It is important for him to remember that the engine of our national power is an economy that provides for the kinds of investments in infrastructure, health care, and clean energy he desires. American Seapower underwrites that economy in a way that no other element of military power does or can. He should listen to Representative Luria about directing a maritime-based National Defense Strategy, and he should make a down-payment on it by adding a naval building and infrastructure program to his American Jobs Plan. It will be far more difficult for legislators to oppose his plan if it is not only popular with the American public but also helps to rebuild the Navy. 

Bryan McGrath is the Managing Director of The FerryBridge Group. These views are his and do not represent any client. 

Fullbore Friday

They've found her; USS Johnson (DD-557);

A team of ocean explorers has found the wreck of World War II Fletcher-class destroyer USS Johnston (DD-557) which played a critical role at the Battle off Samar, Navy History and Heritage Command said on Thursday.

Victor Vescovo, explorer and retired Navy officer, in the manned submersible Limiting Factor located Johnston‘s bow further down a cliff face at 21,180 feet. He said he is committed to respecting the final resting place for many of its crew, but will provide the Navy with all sonar data, imagery and field notes from his expedition.

Caladan Oceana's Battle of Samar Expedition has a superb website I highly encourage you to visit. 

The background;

Steaming straight for "Taffy 3" were four battleships (including the Yamato), eight cruisers (two light and six heavy), and eleven destroyers. Lieutenant Robert C. Hagen, Johnston's gunnery officer, later reported, "We felt like little David without a slingshot." In less than a minute, Johnston was zigzagging between the six escort carriers and the Japanese fleet and putting out a smoke screen over a 2,500-yard (2,300 m) front to conceal the carriers from the enemy gunners: "Even as we began laying smoke, the Japanese started lobbing shells at us and Johnston had to zigzag between the splashes.... We were the first destroyer to make smoke, the first to start firing, the first to launch a torpedo attack...."

For the first 20 minutes, Johnston could not return fire as the enemy cruisers and battleships' heavy guns outranged Johnston's 5-inch (127 mm) guns. Not waiting for orders, Commander Evans broke formation and went on the offensive by ordering Johnston to speed directly toward the enemy—first a line of seven destroyers, next one light and three heavy cruisers, then the four battleships. To the east appeared three other cruisers and several destroyers.

As soon as range closed to within ten miles (16 km), Johnston fired on the heavy cruiser Kumano—the nearest ship—and scored several damaging hits. During her five-minute sprint into torpedo range, Johnston fired over 200 rounds at the enemy, then under the direction of torpedo officer Lieutenant Jack K. Bechdel, made her torpedo attack. She got off all 10 torpedoes, and turned to retire behind a heavy smoke screen. When she came out of the smoke a minute later, the Kumano could be seen burning furiously from a torpedo hit. Her bow had been blown completely off, and she was forced to withdraw. Around this time, Johnston took three 14 in (356 mm) shell hits from Kongō, followed closely by three 6 in (152 mm) shells—either from a light cruiser or Yamato—which hit the bridge. The shells resulted in the loss of all power to the steering engine and all power to the three 5 in (127 mm) guns in the aft of the ship, and rendered the gyrocompass useless. A low-lying squall came up, and Johnston "ducked into it" for a few minutes of rapid repairs and salvage work.[1] The bridge was abandoned and Commander Evans, who had lost two fingers on his left hand, went to the aft steering column to conn the ship.

At 07:50, Admiral Sprague ordered destroyers to make a torpedo attack: "small boys attack". Johnston, unable to keep position with her damaged engine, and with her torpedoes already expended, nonetheless moved to provide fire support for the other destroyers. As she emerged from a smoke screen, she nearly collided with the destroyer Heermann. At 08:20, Johnston sighted a Kongō-class battleship—only 7,000 yards (6,400 m) away—emerging through the smoke. The destroyer opened fire, scoring multiple hits on the superstructure of the much larger ship. The return fire from the battleship missed clearly.

Johnston soon observed Gambier Bay under fire from an enemy cruiser, and engaged the cruiser in an effort to draw her fire away from the carrier. Johnston scored four hits on the heavy cruiser, then broke off as the Japanese destroyer squadron was seen closing rapidly on the American escort carriers. The Johnston engaged the lead ship until it quit, then the second until the remaining enemy units broke off to get out of effective gun range before launching torpedoes, all of which missed.

Then, Johnston's luck ran out; she came under heavy fire from multiple enemy ships, and right when it was most needed, the damaged remaining engine quit, leaving her dead in the water.

Some time into the battle, a Japanese battleship, Kongō, fired two rounds from her main cannons. One round punched through the thin side armor of Johnston and cut a hole through the engine room. Her speed was cut in half. The enemy ships closed in for an easy kill, pouring fire into the crippled destroyer.

Johnston took a hit that knocked out one forward gun and damaged another, and her bridge was rendered untenable by fires and explosions resulting from a hit in her 40 mm (2 in) ready ammunition locker. Evans, who had shifted his command to Johnston's fantail, was yelling orders through an open hatch to men turning her rudder by hand. At one of her batteries, a crewman kept calling "More shells! More shells!" Still the destroyer battled to keep the Japanese destroyers and cruisers from reaching the five surviving American carriers. "We were now in a position where all the gallantry and guts in the world couldn't save us, but we figured that help for the carrier must be on the way, and every minute's delay might count.... By 9:30 we were going dead in the water; even the Japanese couldn't miss us. They made a sort of running semicircle around our ship, shooting at us like a bunch of Indians attacking a prairie schooner. Our lone engine and fire room was knocked out; we lost all power, and even the indomitable skipper knew we were finished. At 9:45 he gave the saddest order a captain can give: 'Abandon Ship.'... At 10:10 Johnston rolled over and began to sink. The Japanese destroyer Yukikaze came up to 1,000 yards (910 m) and pumped a final shot into her to make sure she went down. A survivor saw the Japanese captain salute her as she went down, considering her an honorable enemy. That was the end of Johnston.

Crewmen from the destroyer escort Samuel B. Roberts spotted Evans at the fantail, asking "isn't that their captain", waving to them with what they did not realize was his only good hand.

From Johnston's complement of 327 officers and men, only 141 were saved. Of the 186 men lost, about 50 were killed by enemy action, 45 died later on rafts from wounds, and 92 men—including Cmdr. Evans—got off before she sank, but were never seen again.

A ship of legend, a superb Skipper, and a crew of unimpeachable honor.

If you have not read James D. Hornfischer's The Last Stand of the Tin Can Sailors, you need to.

She is deep enough no one will bother their rest.


Thursday, April 01, 2021

Ukraine Back in the Scan

I thought that we would have plenty to white space to concentrate on the start of what will be an interesting start to the fighting season in Afghanistan as we try to unwind our intervention there, but alas ... the Russians seem to have other plans, as we noticed yesterday.

We are in the golden age of OSNIT, but traditional news is reporting on this as well.
Ukraine demanded on Thursday that Russia halts escalating military tensions and reaffirms its commitment to a ceasefire in the eastern Donbass region.

Kyiv had earlier accused Moscow of building up military forces near their shared border, and saying that pro-Russian separatists were violating a ceasefire.

"Russia's current escalation is systemic, largest in recent years," Ukraine's Foreign Affairs of Ukraine Dmytro Kuleba said in a statement. 

"Russia's actions have brought the situation to a dead end. The only way out is diplomacy," Kuleba added, assuring that Ukraine preferred talks to violence. 

The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) recorded hundreds of ceasefire violations in the past few days, including 493 on March 26 alone.
In a smart move, SECDEF Austin notes that we are, after all, watching with interest.

History has her own plans ... but let's hope this is nothing more than spring positioning.

More interesting OSNIT,