Wednesday, May 18, 2022

Turkey Skunks the NATO Party

Especially for Finland, but less so for Sweden, their neutrality in Europe is in a large measure a Cold War relic.

For old NATO hands like your humble blogg'r, this is a great moment. Though they were not NATO, you could find in most NATO HQs and operations, including Afghanistan, Finns and Swedes. Superb professionals and friends. To see them come fully in to the fold is just plain right - not just from a security perspective, but on a baseline of NATO's common values and shared baseline respect for the rule of law and liberty. They are great nations for those who value Western civilization.
We should be so lucky.

Like the rude uncle that keeps showing up to holiday dinners, Turkey would like a word;
President Tayyip Erdogan said on Wednesday Sweden should not expect Turkey to approve its NATO bid without returning "terrorists", and Swedish and Finnish delegations should not come to Turkey to convince it to back their membership in the alliance.

Earlier, Finland and Sweden formally applied to join the NATO alliance, a decision spurred by Russia's invasion of Ukraine, with the accession process expected to take only a few weeks despite Turkey's objections.
...
Erdogan said NATO allies had never supported Turkey in its fight against Kurdish militant groups, including the Syrian Kurdish YPG, which Ankara also views as a terrorist group closely tied to the PKK.

"NATO expansion is only meaningful for us in proportion to the respect that will be shown to our sensitivities," he said.

Turkish state broadcaster TRT Haber said on Monday Sweden and Finland had not granted approval for the repatriation of 33 people that Turkey requested.
The diplomats have some time here, but Turkey is far outside a half standard deviation from the center of the NATO alliance. Most of us who served remember our Turkish colleges who "disappeared" or were forced in to exile by Erdogan. How does that mesh with "NATO values?"

No modern nation is going to turn people over to Turkey who have taken refuge there from torture or death. Erdogan has undermined basic freedoms as the rest of NATO members define them to the point it would be a crime to turn people over to a fate we all know is one best discussed at The Hague than Brussels.


As we've discussed here in the past, it is time to reassess Turkey's position in NATO.  Like Finland and Sweden's neutrality, is Turkey's membership in NATO also a Cold War relic worthy of reconsideration?

A step that should have been taken years ago (and maybe it has...), any "special weapons" assigned to NATO need to be removed from Turkish soil.

When push comes to shove in that part of the world, access to Turkish bases has always been unreliable. They are unreliable. They bully and threaten their friends. Who needs to be in an abusive relationship for that? Has her membership in the alliance brought her closer to Western values, or is she degrading in to Ottomanism?

Turkey is buying relatively advanced weapons systems from Russia.

She has used the refugee crisis to extort money and other concessions from her allies.

Turkey's turn to neo-Ottoman moves from off Cypress to Libya - including threatening the French navy - calls further in to question what she brings to the larger goals of the alliance besides inertia.

We should let this play out - but if Turkey decides to play the spoiler, then serious people need to start making some serious decisions about what NATO needs to focus on in the 3rd decade of the 21st Century. Yes, I know "kicking them out" is exceptionally unlikely for a whole host of reasons - but the rest of the alliance, if they can stand firm, has other motivational tools at their disposal.

Alliances, like friendships, have obligations as well as benefits. Actions have consequences. Turkey needs to know she can't be a bully with her friends ... or that friendship might not last.

Tuesday, May 17, 2022

Force Design 2030: Futurism, Imbroglio, or Creative Friction?


We haven’t really discussed the imbroglio presently roiling USMC-world around General Berger, USMC and “USMC Force Design 2030.” Well, today we’re going to step in – second hand.

The document itself isn’t as interesting to me per se as the reaction to it.

Berger is trying to look at where we are today, what challenges the nation faces, what the USMC’s role in addressing those challenges are, what resources provided to do it, and has come up with a path he and his staff believes best addresses the challenges.

No plan or vision is perfect. There are always weaknesses and imperfections, but decisions do need to be made.

The old guard, or as Bob Work - Former Deputy Secretary of Defense and Under Secretary, and Col., USMC (Ret.) well known to readers here - calls them in the article we’ll discuss below calls them, the “grandparents,” is not all that happy with the proposals … nor are some people from age 20 on up … and that is the spectator sport we’ve been watching.

You can read Force Design 2030 at the link if you have not already, but if you want to get in to the discussion on today's post, over at 19fortyfive.com take a moment to read Work’s article USMC Force Design 2030: Threat or Opportunity

Be warned, it is a substantial article. It is not a short read, but take the time to read it all anyway.

Work is clearly on Berger’s side (and that's OK) and is a little snarky toward the grandparents – but his article is on balance fair.

I’m not fully aligned with Berger, nor am I with the grandparents. I think both sides have good arguments … and this hesitation on my part is a signal to me that what we have going on here is healthy and good for the Marines and the nation they serve.

Here’s why. There are a few foundation stones to how I look at changes in military postures, CONOPS, and structure.

1. Creative Friction: no one has the right answer. If someone says they do either they are a fool or they think you are one. On both sides of contentious issues, only by the two sides having a good back-and-forth can you get closer to the optimal solution or truth. They won’t get there – you never do – but you can get close. Well meaning people with good intentions – even when in stark opposition – can together create great things through their disagreements. On balance, that is what I see.

2. War is Not New: there is a seductive draw to either signaling or joining in with the idea that you or your group has a unique ability to see a change, a pivot, or dare I say – a transformation. Some advocates and critics of FD2030 are getting a bit over their skis thinking Berger is some prophet on one hand or a starry eyed fool on the other. Neither criticism is valid. In the commentary on FD2030, there is some hedging, self-reflection, and doubt concerning the way forward, but also an acknowledgment that forward one must go. I disagree on a few points here and there, but that is to be expected. I may hedge too much, they may not hedge enough … time will tell. Unlike the Age of Transformationalism we spent the better part of two decades discussing here – while there may be a little of that flavoring in FD2030, not enough to be of concern. I think they avoid that trap … though some of its advocates are a bit too enthusiastic … but people are people and that is to be expected.

3. The Future is Not as Clear as You Think it is: though there is some acknowledgement of uncertainty and our spotty track record on correctly identifying the next conflict, I do worry that FD2030 is too biased towards the expected (but perhaps not the actual) challenge west of Wake and may warp too much the outcome of FD2030. Much of the intellectual effort here was before the Russo-Ukrainian War of 2022, and while I appreciate the case for experimentation, exercises, wargaming, and modeling … there is one hell of a real war going on right now. It might be worth pausing a bit and have some clear-eyed review of the lessons coming out of it. This is especially true when it comes to armor. Regardless of all the T-72 turrets you see flying through the air, remember that Ukraine is taking all the tanks they can get hold of. Ditto tube artillery.

4. You are Wrong More Than You are Right: I think Work brings out the fact that here as well, self-awareness is in the thinking around FD2030. I don’t share his enthusiasm for it as written – though I’m closer to him than to the grandparents – but I do not get the impression Berger and his staff think they have everything perfect. There is humility here. That means there is flexibility. 

Those are my top-4, and I picked that number because Work picked his top-4 areas in FD2030 he wanted to touch on. I’ll pull those out in the below.

Let me grab a few pull quotes and we’ll dive in;

(Berger) is convinced the organization, training, equipment and posture of the service–its overall force design–is not keeping up with the evolving character of war and needs to be changed as a matter of some urgency.

After two decades in a rather bespoke series of low-boil imperial policing actions in Central and Southwest Asia that existed alongside what to some looked as a Cold War concept frozen in intellectual aspic, that is fair. As his job requires, Berger has to make sure the USMC is ready for what is coming, whatever that may be. He owns it;

I am convinced that the defining attributes of our current force design are no longer what the nation requires of the Marine Corps.

So he needed to take action. As Work outlines; 

He made it his top priority to bring the Marine Corps more into alignment with both the changing character of war and international security environment, and he announced a plan called Force Design 2030 to accomplish this aim.

I'm going to take an extended pull quote after this as I know many of you have not "read the syllabus" and may not be fully up to speed on the imbroglio ... so here's the issue;

But today, a group composed primarily of disaffected retired generals vehemently disagree with the General Berger’s overall vision of a future Marine Corps–so much so, that they are mounting a sweeping public relations campaign to stop him from getting it off the drawing board.[iii]  While the Commandant is in no way obligated to listen to their complaints, the thoughts and inputs of retired Marines, particularly general officers, have long been valued by serving Commandants (the same can be said of all service chiefs).  But this campaign takes “input” to an unsettling degree.  The retired generals have made their objections known to General Berger and are expecting him to heed their preferences to preserve the status quo.  Up to this point, Berger has not done so–or at least not enough for their liking. They therefore decided to “seek legislation that would halt the [Commandant’s] ongoing efforts until a more thorough requirements-based future is reviewed.”

There is a term for this approach: a shake down.  There is nothing remotely like this behavior in Marine Corps history. Those who wage the campaign feel their attempts to engage Commandant Berger have either been ignored or rebuffed.  Having failed to force a reversal of the Commandant’s direction that has been carefully designed and tested over the past two years, they feel the only way forward is to relentlessly and publicly denigrate his plans.  Toward this aim, they have published a spate of attacks in numerous fora.  They have gone so far as to engage a lobbying firm to help persuade Congress Berger is on the wrong path.  As a Marine veteran myself, I am stunned, saddened, and embarrassed these respected gentlemen would pursue such drastic, unseemly tactics.

That second paragraph is where Work shows his cards. That is fair, these are big boys playing serious games, they can take some elbows and clear words. I actually wish we had more of this on the Navy side ... but I'll try not to get distracted from the subject at hand.

As promised at the top of the post, Work boiled down the four top judgments from FD2030 that stood out.

Judgment 1: The future Marine Corps must be organized, trained, equipped and postured to conduct distributed operations.

Berger argued that the “character of war in the future will be much different than that of the recent past,”[xi] dominated by what he would later refer to as the “mature precision strike regime.”[xii] At its core, then, his force design effort was a deliberate reaction to the widespread development and fielding of deadly accurate guided munitions fire–directed and controlled by increasingly capable command, control, communications, computer and cyber intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance networks. 

...

Achieving this end state requires a force that can create the virtues of mass without the vulnerabilities of concentration, thanks to mobile and low-signature sensors and weapons.

That is a good reading, though I shake my head a bit at the transformationalist "character of war" comment. I'm sorry, but that is an exaggeration to make a point. Tools, methods, and procedures, yes - "character" no. That is a semantic critique - as is my curling up my nose every time "pacing" is used, but it isn't minor. Assuming you live in a unique time is a dangerous idea that can get you in all sorts of trouble. This isn't a unique time. Our species has seen this pattern countless times in our history.

Judgment 2: The Chinese anti-access/area denial threat in the Western Pacific is the “pacing threat” for a future naval expeditionary force in the precision strike regime and calls for a different set of amphibious capabilities.

...

the appearance of land based anti-access/area-denial networks in the Western Pacific and beyond made “closer naval integration an imperative.”[xxi]  Large-scale amphibious assaults in the Western Pacific would be far too vulnerable and risky to mount.  As a result, perhaps the biggest bombshell in Berger’s planning guidance was that the Marine Corps would no longer use the longstanding “requirement” (quotation marks in the original) to conduct a 2.0 Marine Expeditionary Brigade (MEB) amphibious assault to help size and shape the force.  In truth, since 9-11, the Marine Corps had been sized and shaped primarily to service the wartime demands in the Central Command area of responsibility.  But the 2.0 MEB requirement provided the foundation for the size of the amphibious fleet (38 ships), the “requisite capacity” for vehicles and ship-to-shore connectors and the Maritime Prepositioning Force.

Partial non-concur here. Over the next 30-years, the challenge west of Wake vignette is not the only vignette we need to be able to respond to. In those cases, our amphibious fleet - as it proves over and over - provides capabilities unmatched by anything else. We cannot be focused on just one vignette more than any other. As you will see below, Berger isn't ... but the conversation needs to be careful here as the usual suspects are making that argument. 

Work mentioned the Korean War in his article. One of the problem we had was the the post-WWII Army was too stuck on the nuclear vignette and let other capabilities fade. That is the big lesson to take away that should inform our hedging - and I would offer that we need to lead with the hedge as nuance is being lost in the headline. 

The Commandant made clear that he did not think amphibious assaults were “irrelevant or an operational anachronism.”[xxiii]  However, the appearance of powerful anti-access-area-denial networks called for different types of amphibious capabilities in support of an integrated naval campaign in the Western Pacific.  Accordingly, Force Design 2030 called for III Marine Expeditionary Force (MEF), forward based in the Pacific, to be transformed into a new “fight tonight, stand in force capability to persist inside an adversary’s weapon system threat range, create a mutually contested space, and facilitate the larger naval campaign.”[xxiv]

I take that as a helpful hedge. We live in a big world with a diverse set of challenges that require an equally diverse set of tools to address them. Be careful, or some accountant will only give you a set of pliers and a roll of duct tape and expect you to carry on.

Judgment 3: Given expected budgets, pursuing any new force design would require the Marine Corps to divest some legacy programs and force structure to invest in needed future capabilities.

Another style note: I am not sure enough people realize how loaded, poisoned, and unhelpful the use of "legacy" and the construct of "invest/divest" has become. It is almost to the level of "do more with less" from the 1990s. Stop using it. You are unnecessarily weakening any argument you are making by using them.

It is relevant to understand that General Berger formulated Force Design 2030 just as the sequestration years were ending.  Demand for resources among the four services and within the Marine Corps itself was still intense. His philosophy was therefore to “seek the affordable and plentiful at the expense of the exquisite and few.”[xxvii]  

Good. Very good. For the stresses of the Terrible 20s, this mindset will serve everyone well.  

Beyond announcing the elimination of the 2.0 MEB amphibious “requirement,” the Commandant did not explicitly list capability divestments in his planning guidance, instead opting to provide general guidance for how future divestment decisions would be made.[xxix] In contrast, he was quite specific about the general investments he was confident 2030 Marine Corps would need.  These included ground-based long-range precision fires;  unmanned systems; command and control capabilities suitable for a degraded environment; air and missile defense; and emerging technologies, such as artificial intelligence.[xxx]

Solid list. These have all been validated the last few months in Ukraine. 

Judgment 4: The urgent requirement to adopt Marine Corps force design for the future operating environment meant change must start immediately; “essential to charting our course in an era of strategic fluidity and rapid change will be the effective integration of professional wargaming in force design…”[xxxi]

...

“While others may wait for a clearer picture of the future operating environment, we will focus our efforts on driving change and influencing future operation environment outcomes” (emphasis mine).[xxxiii]

This is one of the better quotes. I would offer that no one has a clear picture, but you cannot wait or freeze in time as the world advances around you.

General Berger was fully aware he was navigating primarily by dead reckoning through a fog of uncertainty. To mitigate strategic risk, he therefore announced a major focus during his tenure as Commandant would be a “campaign of learning” involving his “direct, personal [and] regular engagement…to drive an integrated process of wargaming and experimentation” that will rapidly produce solutions for further development.”.[xxxv] 

That is the correct mindset. We are also at a great time to learn from Ukraine. As mentioned before, a pause is needed to digest the lessons of Ukraine, especially here. Don't tell me to stop repeating myself, I'll bring it up again a few times before we're done;

Among the document’s more consequential decisions, Berger announced the divestment of one of eight infantry regimental headquarters; the divestment of three of 24 active component infantry battalions, two of six reserve battalions, as well as the redesign of all remaining battalions; a dramatic restructuring of Marine Corps cannon and rocket artillery capabilities; the divestment of all organic tank units;

...

Berger believed he had sufficient evidence to conclude that despite their usefulness in past wars, tanks were “operationally unsuitable for our highest-priority challenges in the future.”[xlvii] Accordingly, all seven companies of active and reserve tanks would be divested. In addition, two of six companies of tracked assault amphibian vehicles and all three bridging companies needed to support sustained armor operations ashore would go. 

Well, we have new evidence this spring. People have been trying to write off expensive and bulky tanks for decades, but when actual war comes, no one wants to divest them or send them to other units. There is a reason for that which cannot be readily dismissed.

Time to return to the one thing that is better than anything else when testing concepts; reality;

(Berger) cautioned that while it was important to remember that “’answers’ are elusive when the task is preparation for an unknowable future,” the three developments he outlined demanded that he not wait for perfect answers before pursuing change in response.  Berger therefore said “the next great challenge” would be analyzing his initial force design decisions “through integrated Naval wargaming and analysis but most importantly in real-world, live experimentation,” and adjusting plans based on their findings.[lvi]

I keep repeating it because it is the 800-lb gorilla. Better than wargaming and experimentation - the actual war going on right now. We cannot pretend it isn't happening. 

Hidden in Work's article is something that really should be a stand-alone article. I'd love to hear him spend an hour on the topic. I know it would be torture to most, but I have been told I am a strange person, so maybe it is just me. As we don't have an hour, we will have to be happy with a two paragraph reality check on the POM cycle.

You've heard me talk about "process" before. This is reality ... and something everyone needs to remember. Work provides on of the most concise executive summaries I've read on it;

Let’s apply some facts to the first part of this premise. Each year, the Commandant of the Marines Corps, like all service chiefs, creates what is called a Program Objective Memorandum (POM). This describes how a service chief wants to allot current and future year funding for a force design that meets both service and defense planning guidance. If a Commandant wants to make significant changes to Marine Corps force structure, they need to prepare a POM that reflects the desired changes. Once developed, the Commandant then briefs and seeks approval of their plans from both the Secretary of the Navy and the Secretary of Defense. If approved, the memorandum becomes a part of an overall defense program assembled by the Secretary of Defense.  The program is then sent to the Office of Management and Budget, to be incorporated in the President’s budget estimate submission to Congress. In essence, OMB’s delivery of the administration’s submission to Congress signals the President’s endorsement of anything included therein. Once delivered, the House and Senate Armed Services Committees unpack Department of Defense plans, study them, and decide whether to authorize and fund them. The former Commandants among the opponents know this process well. They followed it when they held the office.

Force Design 2030 was included in the Marine Corps’ Fiscal Year 2021 (FY 2021) Program Objective Memorandum.  It was approved by then-Secretary of the Navy Richard Spencer and briefed directly to then-Deputy Secretary of Defense David Norquist at the Deputy’s Management Action Group (the organ that reviews service POMs for the Secretary of Defense). Per standard practice, it was then considered by the Director of Cost Analysis and Program Evaluation and endorsed. Based on supportive recommendations from both that director and the Deputy Secretary, Secretary of Defense Mark Esper approved Force Design 2030 and transferred approximately $500 million to the Marine Corps budget to help pay for aspects of it.[lxiii] It was incorporated into the overall defense program and president’s budget request, which was considered and approved by Congress. What Senator Webb described–a wily Commandant sneaking a force structure plan through the Department of Defense and by Congress–literally could never happen.

That will sober you up real fast, won't it?

At the end of this I hope you take a moment to ponder a couple of final thoughts:

1. Don't you wish we had this kind of argument going on right now in the Navy? 

2. 2014 is to 2022 what 2022 is to 2030. It isn't that far way. 

Monday, May 16, 2022

Who is Helping Ukraine Build the Riverine Force They Need?

Time to raise a topic we first brought up the first year of this blog over 17-years ago; riverine.

As we discussed at the time, we invaded a nation, Iraq, dominated by major river systems, yet because of the stupidity of the 1990s defense policies, we divested of our riverine forces. The last units left the reserves just a few years before we would need them again.

As a result, we not only did not have the ability to take advantage of the unique mobility riverine environments can provide for our own military operations, we surrendered the waters to the enemy's use unopposed. 

The requirement was still there, we just ignored it in DC while the US Army did what it could with locally sourced fishing boats.

As we have over the years discussing this under-loved topic, let's dig in to it in the context of the Russo-Ukraine War.

As always, let's first go the the map room.


The Dniester, Bug, Dnieper, and the now famous for the failed river crossing, Donets rivers. Heck, throw in the small part of the Danube in the southwest on the Romanian border. This Texas sized nation is full of large, economically and militarily significant, deep, navigable river systems.

I've been thinking even more about this since the video came out last month of the riverine raiding party of Ukrainians and their remarkable fleet of ...

Yes, they used a collection of fishing, ski, and pleasure boats. Remind you of the images linked above from 2005's Iraq? Read the related article about the raid - it was successful. 

Before the war, the Ukrainian Navy knew riverine was important, and they had a small fleet, but there wasn't enough time and money - a common pre-war Ukrainian situation. 

It was on their mind. 


Just not enough.

The Russians are making better use of the riverine environment;
Russian patrol boats are racing up the Dnieper River to conduct covert operations deep behind enemy lines, a Ukrainian think tank has said.

Boats that can reach Kyiv have been seen speeding upstream from the Russian-occupied city of Kherson, the Centre for Defence Studies (CDS) said.

The Dnieper is the fourth longest river in Europe, measuring 13 miles wide at points, and potentially allowing Russian boats to travel deep into Ukrainian-held territory undetected. Defence experts said Russian special forces could be using the missions to mark out targets for air strikes and artillery fire in cities such as Zaporizhzhia, Dnipro and the Ukrainian capital itself.


The CDS said that Mangust patrol boats had been deployed from Kherson to conduct operations upstream. “The Dnieper River may be the fastest way for them to covertly reach many of the river’s cities, including Kyiv,” the think tank warned.

The Mangust patrol boat, which means “Mongoose” in Russian, can travel at speeds of up to 50 knots or about 58 miles per hour. It is armed with a 12.7mm machinegun, two Igla surface-to-air missile launchers and two 30mm grenade launchers. The Russian Black Sea fleet has 26 Mangust boats in its arsenal.

This makes sense. There is a shared history of such operations for Russians and Ukrainians.

Have you ever heard of the Danube Flotilla?  

As the Red Army cleared Crimea and the Dniester River of German troops, the Danube Flotilla was re-constituted on the Dniester in April 1944 to assist further offensives.

The flotilla assisted the Red Army in operations including the clearing of the Dniester Estuary and the clearing of the Danube Delta, including both troop-carrying and gunfire support for landings at Prymorske and Vylkove on August 23–24, 1944, and at Kiliya on August 25.

As the Red Army moved upriver, the Danube Flotilla followed and participated in the Belgrade Offensive, the Budapest Offensive, and the Vienna Offensive.[4] Flotilla operations included assisting in landings at Raduevats and Prahovo on September 29–30, 1944 (even well into the 21st century, the wrecks of about 200 vessels sunk by the Germans to block the landings remain in the Danube at Prahovo), at Smederevo on October 16, at Vukovar on December 8–10, at Gerjen on November 30–December 1, at Esztergom on March 19–23, 1945, and at Radwanska on March 28–30.

On April 13, 1945, as the Battle of Vienna was ending, the Flotilla landed troops in a surprise stroke at both ends of the Imperial Bridge in Vienna. This enabled the Red Army to cut the demolition cables and seize the bridge intact.

It is almost criminal malpractice not to take full advantage of such river systems. 

Looking at this note from Jane's in January ... has this been sped up?

Time. Never enough and what you need is always late.

Plans to rebuild Ukraine's naval capability have taken a further step forward after US company SAFE Boats International received an USD84.2 million contract to deliver six MK VI patrol boats.

The award, confirmed by the US Naval Sea Systems Command (NAVSEA) on 30 September, combines Building Partner Capacity (BPC) and Foreign Military Financing (FMF) funds. The contract includes an option for a further two MK VI craft.

The US State Department in June 2020 approved a Foreign Military Sales case for the supply of up to 16 MK VI patrol boats and associated equipment to Ukraine. “The proposed sale will improve Ukraine's capability to meet current and future threats by providing a modern, fast, short-range vessel ... to better defend its territorial waters and protect other maritime interests,” said the Defense Security Cooperation Agency in a statement issued at the time.

SAFE Boats International was awarded a USD20 million contract by NAVSEA in December 2020 for long lead time material and associated pre-production and planning support for an initial two MK VI patrol boats for Ukraine. The new award announced at the end of September funds detail design, construction, outfitting, reactivation, and training for six MK VI craft, plus the option for two more units.

Fiscal Year (FY) 2020 BPC funds using Ukraine Security Assistance Funding to the amount of USD43.7 million and FY 2021 FMF (Ukraine) funds to the amount of USD40.5 million have been obligated at the time of award. Work is expected to complete in March 2025; the completion date will be extended to March 2026 if the contract options are exercised.

There must be more that we can do. 

Fun note. Guess where the memorial for the Danube Flotilla's Sailors is?

Izmail, Ukraine.



Sunday, May 15, 2022

The USN's Port Arthur Problem - with Matthew Hipple on Midrats

What do the numbers tell us about  the USN's expected fleet during the rest of what we call the Terrible 20s?

We are going to spend an hour this Sunday from 5-6pm Eastern digging in to that question with returning guest Matthew Hipple, active duty Surface Warfare Officer & former president of the Center for International Maritime Security.

As a starting point for our conversation we will reference his May 9th article over at CIMSEC, "20 Years of Naval Trends Guarantee a FY23 Shipbuilding Plan Failure."

"The FY23 Shipbuilding Plan proposes a 10-year drop in fleet numbers that deviates in spirit from every shipbuilding plan since 2012. During this dangerous decade, the FY23 Shipbuilding Plan returns the fleet to a size that precipitated the period of panic that inspired Congress to enshrine the 355-ship goal into law (Figure 2). The FY23 Long Range Shipbuilding Plan will miss the defunct, minimum goal of 300 ships by another decade, and is less likely to meet the Navy’s legal and operational 355-ship requirement."

Join us live if you can, but it not, you can get the show later by subscribing to the podcast. 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, May 13, 2022

Fullbore Friday


Assuming you know what kind of war you are in, (not always known at the time) at the Strategic Level victory is achieved when there is a cascading series of Operational Level victories that brings your enemy to the point of combat ineffectiveness or collapse. 

At the Operational Level, victories are had when a series of Tactical Level victories achieve Decisive Points along various lines of Operations in support of Objectives and End States and undermining the enemy's Center of Gravity.

Some victories are more important than others ... and the smallest thing can make all the difference, even something as simple as listening through the fog for an outboard motor.

One day the full story of the the attempted crossing of the Siverskyi Donets river at Bilohorivka will be known, but what we know now is enough for a fullbore:

On the morning of May 8 Russia blanketed the river with smoke by burning nearby fields and throwing smoke grenades, he said, but commanders detected the sound of boat engines and called in artillery strikes which caused devastating losses.

It came as Ukraine's generals said Russia's offensive in the Donbass has largely stalled, with Putin's troops forced on to the defensive north of Kharkiv as counter-attacks push the invaders back across their own border.

In a late-Wednesday update, Ukraine's commander said there had been no major attacks around Izyum - where the bulk of its Donbas force is located - or in Mykolaiv or Kryvyi Rih, hundreds of miles to the south, where it has been forced to reinforce its units after taking casualties.

To the north of Kharkiv, commanders said 'occupying forces moved to the defence in order to slow down the pace of the offensive of our troops'. It means the only section of frontline that remains active is around Severodonetsk - where the bridge ambush took place - Donetsk and Mariupol, where Ukrainian defenders are still holding out. 

...

'Roughly 20 minutes after recon unit confirmed the Russian bridge was being mounted, heavy artillery engaged against Russian forces, and then aviation chipped in as well. I was still in the area, and I have never seen or heard such heavy combat in my life.

'After one day of combat, 9th May morning the bridge was down. Some Russian forces - roughly 30 to 50 vehicles and infantry - were stuck on the Ukrainian side of the river with no way back. They tried to run away using the broken bridge. Then they tried to arrange a new bridge.

'Aviation started heavy bombing of the area and it destroyed all the remains of Russians there, and the other bridge they tried to make. Rumors say it's 1,500 Russian dead. Their strategic objective was to cross the river and then encircle Lysychansk. They miserably failed.'

Russian troop losses in the bombardment are almost impossible to estimate, but online observers have so-far counted 58 destroyed vehicles including at least seven tanks and dozens of armoured infantry carriers.

At least one tugboat appears to have been wiped out, along with two pontoon bridges left floating in the river with shell-holes visible in the top of them.

Look at the map. You can tell what the Russian were attempting to do with this bridgehead.

The Ukrainians continue to exceed all expectations. BZ to them and all the trainers sent to help them since 2014. 

Read the whole thing from The Daily Mail.

Thursday, May 12, 2022

LCS Just Cracks Me Up



The best thing about LCS is that when you feel the need to take a break from the war in Ukraine, it delivers you news at just the right time.

Since its commissioning in 2018, the littoral combat ship Omaha has developed cracks in its hull and superstructure that limit the speed it can travel and the sea states it can operate in.
Four years old. Of course, cracks on warships are not new - we saw some issues with OHP, TICO and others ... but this is different.

Before we dig more, let's pause a bit and talk to each other as adults. As was amply demonstrated again yesterday on The Hill in front of Congress, our Navy has a loose association with the truth.

I'm sorry, that is simply a fact - and it is deeper than LCS or our various shipbuilding problems.

There are nicer ways to describe it than "lies" - and "loose association with the truth" is one way. You can call it "happy-talk" or "multi-iterative positivity filtering" if you want to get technical - but really it is just an institutional dysfunction with honesty.

It starts with things as basic as our FITREP/EVAL system. You can throw in our awards system on top of it as well. Even our selection boards with their "we don't need photographs to choose the right people but when we got rid of them we had trouble selecting the right people" that sound almost like a lie until you realize that, yes, we are supposed to be part of this lie so its not a lie - it is loyalty to a lie. Etc. 

In the LCS program's birth at the turn of the century to today, we have seen a path of self-deception that started with hope, then turned to personal loyalty, then careerism to keep what was clearly a sub-optimal program going. As they started to displace water and doubt crept in to those who held out hope that - glory be - no way our Navy leadership could really execute such serial malpractice, a pall of despair began to loiter around the LCS piers. 

So good people in hard jobs did their best to make the best of previous generations' failures...but at every step there was a need for this reason or that for even the best of people to keep a clear distance from unalloyed candor to themselves, their command, their Navy, and their nation's elected representatives. 

Was it just pride? Loyalty to people and not institutions ... or simply our culture? 

Well, those soft-science excuses and habits rarely survive the hard sciences of engineering and metallurgy. Those don't respond to spin or POM cycles. 

The last couple of years we simply had to surrender to reality and began to decommission non-operational LCS well before their expected life. We've relegated the odd-digit FREEDOM Class to secondary or no duty...but...even ole' Sal held out hope that the INDEPENDENCE Class would find of some utility.

The original sin of two decades ago - those compromises and waving away of technology risk - has caught up to even them;
Half of the Navy’s littoral combat ship fleet is suffering from structural defects that have led to hull cracks on several vessels, limiting the speed and sea states in which some ships can operate, according to internal records obtained by Navy Times and confirmed by sea service officials.
...
documents obtained by Navy Times warn that cracks can grow if the ships transits faster than 15 knots in seas with maximum wave heights of about eight feet.
...
Such cracks have since been discovered on six of those LCS variants, according to Baribeau, nearly half of the 13-ship Independence class fleet.
There you go. The core requirement was 40+ knots ... yet in 2022 we find what many of us warned about almost two decades ago.

What do you see here?
Asked whether the six ships suffering from hull cracks are operating with those cracks, Baribeau again responded that “all Independence variant ships have been inspected and are able to meet their operational requirements.”

The four-to-eight foot wave range of sea state 4 is “fairly common,” according to Martin, who reviewed the records for Navy Times.

“Being unable to go at speed in sea state 4 is a pretty significant limitation,” he said. “Fifteen knots is a transit speed, a very normal transit speed, less than half of LCS’s supposed maximum speed.”
Again, we see the customer - the Navy - talking as if they work FOR industry and not as a customer OF industry. They know the truth, but can't speak it?

Why? Well my sweet summer child - that is the culture.

As we can't avoid the Russo-Ukrainian War's lessons, what is one of the primary ones we have seen?

It is clear that the Russian military had an uncomfortable relationship with the truth. They lied up their chain of command about their readiness. They lied about their training. They lied about their material condition.

How did that work out for them?

That can be papered over in peace - but you can't paper over such things at war.

BZ to Geoff for keeping this in the news. We need to raise the profile of every LCS failure so it can be an example to future program managers.

Well, that is the theory at least. Let's see how FFG-62 works out. The French and Italians did a good job with their FREMM. They've teed the ball up for us - will we hit it?

Wednesday, May 11, 2022

Rep. Elaine Luria (D-VA) Gives a Congressional Oversight Master Class

Have you been waiting for more substantial push back by Congress about the Navy's self-deluding happy talk, their iffy deployment numbers, and sleepwalking in to disaster should war come?

Do you see the disconnect between warfighting requirements west of Wake and the looming VLS cell issues in the Davidson Window?

Are you concerned that not enough people - even in 2022 - see the Terrible 20s headwind?

Behold from today's HASC hearing on FY23 Navy Budget.


UPDATE: Fellow FloridaMan Rep. Waltz (R-FL) also brings the big charts ... and he owes friend-to-the-blog Matthew Hipple for it too.

Tuesday, May 10, 2022

What is Really Going on in Eastern Ukraine?

I just dropped this tweet as an afterthought on twitter last night and it received a LOT of interest so I thought I would bring it over to the blog for review and discussion.

Again, the Austrian Army is providing the best briefs on the Russo-Ukrainian War. Col. Markus Reisner, AUT Army sets the benchmark.

If your German is iffy, you can get English subtitles in settings by going Settings<Subtitles/CC<English.

The Kursk-Donbas side by side is exceptional at the 13-minute mark.


Monday, May 09, 2022

A Victory Day

History is funny about how it delivers leaders. Some nations, when they need it most, are given the worst leaders who on paper at least, should have been the right leader at the right time.

Other nations are provided leaders who, on paper, seem to be a disaster in the making ... but don't just rise to the occasion, come to dominate the occasion.

A comic. They elected a comic.

Ukraine's President Zelensky's May 9th address to his nation - and to everyone else - is a masterpiece of the right man at the right time with the right words.

Take time to listen to it. This is what a sharp, vibrant, focused, and grounded leader looks like.

At least at this moment, at this time, I don't see how a nation in a place such as Ukraine's could get a better leader.


Friday, May 06, 2022

Fullbore Friday


Some days - fullbore is just staying alive.

It doesn't happen by accident; it takes you knowing your equipment, your procedures - and most importantly, your ability to think and act without delay. It also takes your Shipmates - known and unknown - who know their business.


One of those days for Crusader pilot Cliff Judkins.
Fuel was pouring out of my aircraft; from the tailpipe; from the intake duct; from under the wings, and igniting behind me in a great awesome trail of fire.

The suddenness of the disaster overwhelmed me, and I thought: “This can’t be happening to me!”

The voices in my ears kept urging me to fire the ejection seat and abandon my aircraft.

I pressed my mike button and told the flight leader, “I’m getting out!”

I took my hands off the flight controls and reached above my head for the canvas curtain that would start the ejection sequence. I pulled it down hard over my face and waited for the tremendous kick in the pants, which would send me rocketing upward, free of the aircraft.

Nothing happened! The canopy, which was designed to jettison in the first part of the ejection sequence did not move. It was still in place and so was I.

My surprise lasted only a second. Then I reached down between my knees for the alternate ejection-firing handle, and gave it a vigorous pull. Again, nothing happened. This was very surprising. Both, the primary, and the secondary ejection procedures had failed and I was trapped in the cockpit of the burning aircraft.

The plane was now in a steep 60-degree dive. For the first time, I felt panic softening the edges of my determination. I knew that I had to do something or I was going to die in this sick airplane. There was no way out of it. With great effort, I pulled my thoughts together and tried to imagine some solution.

A voice in my earphones was shouting: “Ditch the plane! Ditch it in the ocean!”
It must have come from the tanker skipper or one of the destroyer commanders down below, because every jet pilot knows you can’t ditch a jet and survive. The plane would hit the water at a very high a speed, flip over and sink like a stone and they usually explode on impact.

I grabbed the control stick and leveled the aircraft. Then I yanked the alternate handle again in an attempt to fire the canopy and start the ejection sequence, but still nothing happened. That left me with only one imaginable way out, which was to jettison the canopy manually and try to jump from the aircraft without aid of the ejection seat.

Was such a thing possible? I was not aware of any Crusader pilot who had ever used this World War II tactic to get out of a fast flying jet. I had been told that this procedure, of bailing out of a jet, was almost impossible. Yes, the pilot may get out of the airplane but the massive 20-foot high tail section is almost certain to strike the pilot’s body and kill him before he falls free of the aircraft. My desperation was growing, and any scheme that offered a shred of success seemed better than riding that aircraft into the sea, which would surely be fatal.

I disconnected the canopy by hand, and with a great whoosh it disappeared from over my head never to be seen again. Before trying to get out of my confined quarters, I trimmed the aircraft to fly in a kind of sidelong skid: nose high and with the tail swung around slightly to the right.

Then I stood up in the seat and put both arms in front of my face. I was sucked out harshly from the airplane. I cringed as I tumbled outside the bird, expecting the tail to cut me in half, but thank goodness, that never happened! In an instant I knew I was out of there and uninjured.

I waited . . . and waited . . . until my body, hurtling through space, with the 225 knots of momentum started to decelerate. I pulled the D-ring on my parachute, which is the manual way to open the chute if the ejection seat does not work automatically. I braced myself for the opening shock. I heard a loud pop above me, but I was still falling very fast. As I looked up I saw that the small pilot chute had deployed. (This small chute is designed to keep the pilot from tumbling until the main chute opens.) But, I also noticed a sight that made me shiver with disbelief and horror! The main, 24-foot parachute was just flapping in the breeze and was tangled in its own shroud lines. It hadn’t opened! I could see the white folds neatly arranged, fluttering feebly in the air.

“This is very serious,” I thought.

Frantically, I shook the risers in an attempt to balloon the chute and help it open. It didn’t work. I pulled the bundle down toward me and wrestled with the shroud lines, trying my best to get the chute to open. The parachute remained closed. All the while I am falling like a rock toward the ocean.

I looked down hurriedly. There was still plenty of altitude remaining. I quickly developed a frustrating and sickening feeling. I wanted everything to halt while I collected my thoughts, but my fall seemed to accelerate. I noticed a ring of turbulence in the ocean. It looked like a big stone had been thrown in the water. It had white froth at its center; I finally realized this is where my plane had crashed in the ocean.
“Would I be next to crash?” were my thoughts!

Again, I shook the parachute risers and shroud lines, but the rushing air was holding my chute tightly in a bundle. I began to realize that I had done all I could reasonably do to open the chute and it was not going to open. I was just along for a brutal ride that may kill or severely injure me.

I descended rapidly through the low clouds. Now there was only clear sky between me and the ocean. This may be my last view of the living. I have no recollection of positioning myself properly or even bracing for the impact. In fact, I don’t remember hitting the water at all. At one instant I was falling very fast toward the ocean. The next thing I remember is hearing a shrill, high-pitched whistle that hurt my ears.
Suddenly, I was very cold.
Don't stop now - read it all.

Hat tip SJS.

First posted in JUL 2012

Thursday, May 05, 2022

Diversity Thursday


As the world rages around us, let's check in to see the latest update on the unopposed march through the institutions by the Diversity Industry.

Your tax dollars are paying for it, you might as well track.

I want to see it you had the right questions come to mind. If not, I'll point them out at the end.

BEHOLD!

R 191126Z APR 22   

FM COMDT COGARD WASHINGTON DC

TO ALCOAST

BT

UNCLAS

ALCOAST 142/22

SSIC 1500

SUBJ: DIVERSITY AND INCLUSION (D&I) CHANGE AGENTS UPDATE: NEW DIVERSITY AND INCLUSION EDUCATION AND AWARENESS SITE AND PROGRAM UPDATES

A. COMDT COGARD WASHINGTON DC 081432 APR 20/ALCOAST 129/20

B. COMDT COGARD WASHINGTON DC 181646Z MAY 21/ALCOAST 191/21

1. The Coast Guard introduced its Diversity and Inclusion Education and Awareness Program (DIEAP) as outlined in REFs (A) and (B). The  purpose of the DIEAP, implemented by the Office of Diversity and  Inclusion (CG-127), is to support the total workforce, consistent   with the Commandant's Guiding Principles and the 2019-2023 USCG Diversity and Inclusion Action Plan through personnel, throughout the Service who can directly support local commands, LDACs, and our workforce through diversity and inclusion education and awareness and coaching support.

2. The Diversity and Inclusion Education and Awareness Program (DIEAP) supports our total workforce through virtual, live, and hybrid Diversity and Inclusion training sessions provided to units across the Coast Guard with a cadre of 95 change agents. The level of engagement with units across the Service continues to increase each month as units become more aware of the benefits derived from the DIEAP services, as indicated by continual increases in requests for Change Agent-led Diversity and Inclusion training sessions.

3. DIEAP services can now be accessed via a SharePoint site provided by COMDT (CG-127). Diversity & Inclusion (D&I) Change Agent training and support can be requested through SharePoint site at:

(Copy and Paste URL Below into Browser)

https://uscg.sharepoint-mil.us/sites/DIEAProgram

4. The specific services that units can request include:

    a. D&I Training: Available in two formats- a two-hour and four-hour format. The two-hour training introduces D&I Education and Awareness concepts through facilitated training and multimedia content. The four-hour format includes the same D&I Education and Awareness concepts offered in the two-hour training, as well as additional interactive activities to support increased D&I education and awareness. D&I Change Agents can support both in-person and virtual training requests. The training is kept to a maximum of 20 attendees to allow for optimal participation, interaction, and value-added discussion. Units can request D&I training sessions for their unit. Personnel from any unit can also sign up for posted open sessions.

    b. D&I Empowerment Coaching: Intended for Commanding Officers, Officers in Charge, and Program Managers who want to embed the inclusive behaviors of fairness, openness, effective communication, empowerment, and support in the workplace. On a space-available basis, other personnel may request coaching to strengthen their D&I self-awareness and cultural fluency within the total workforce. All coaching sessions are confidential and requested and completed on an individual basis.

5. For questions about the D&I Education and Awareness Program, please contact the DIEAP Program Manager, Ms. Melissa [redacted]  at:  [redacted]@uscg.mil.

6. To find USCG D&I Change Agents in your local area, visit:

(Copy and Paste URL Below into Browser)

https://uscg.sharepoint-mil.us/sites/DIEAProgram/SitePages/Find-A-Local-Change-Agent.aspx

7. POC: Ms. Melissa [redacted] at: [redacted] @uscg.mil.

8. CAPT Laura [redacted], Acting Director of Civilian Human Resources, Diversity and Leadership (CG-12), sends.

9. Internet release is authorized.

As we all know that the primary goal here is to get paid and the secondary goal is to grow the cadre, you should have asked yourself:

1. Who got the contract to create the training material, and what was the cost?

2. "Change Agent" - I'm sorry, I prefer the term "Commissar." So there is a cadre of 95 Commissars. What is their salary? Are they contractors, GS, or a collateral duty? What is the cost of their salaries and how many hours per year - combined - are they spending in this job responsibility?

3. 2-hrs and 4-hrs training sessions. OK. How many man-hours (if one may use such a term) are spend each year on this, i.e. 1,000 Coastguardsmen (if one may use such a term) take the 4-hr course = 4,000 man-hours?

You may have other questions. Let us know in comments.

Wednesday, May 04, 2022

Lessons Never Learned - Accountability Never Achieved

It is amazing what you can find just out there in the open for all to see.

In case you missed last week's Navy Force Structure and Shipbuilding Plans: Background and Issues for Congress, you should take some time to read it.

If you're running short on time, just check out Appendix D. 

Read the very last bit. The fact that in 2022 this needs to be said ... but it does.

Scathing indictment. Just scathing. 

h/t Charlie B.

Tuesday, May 03, 2022

What Our NATO Friends are Bringing to Sea

Yesterday we looked at who in our NATO alliance was spending their fair share to our collective security.

Today, including the plucky Finns, let's look at who is constructing what via the good folks at NavalAnalysis;



My quicklook; nice to see a lot of 127mm vs lesser guns, that Italian DDX is a CGX, and that we need A LOT more VLS tubes in the alliance.

A lot more.

Monday, May 02, 2022

NATO's Naughty and Nice List

Let's check in on the pre-war scorecard from our friends over at DefenseNews


The interesting part will be to revisit this in a year's time.

BZ to the nations carrying their fair share of the load and more importantly, living up to the promises they made to their friends; Greece, USA, Poland, United Kingdom, Croatia, Estonia, Latvia, & Lithuania.

We should also find a way to reward those nations with a "*" next to their name.

Friday, April 29, 2022

Fullbore Friday

 


In war, it often is not what you were designed to do. It is not what in theory what you were primarily trained, manned, and equipped to do. No. More often than not it is what you must do. What you are needed to do. What you may be the only unit in place to do.

There is also, like we saw in the below - what must be done now with what is at hand. With the right leadership, a lot is possible. The dogmatic, rigid, and blinkered - things that are often rewarded in peace - are not what gets the job done in war. One hopes that in peace we accept the above truth and only have our minds dogmatic, rigid, and blinkered. Hopefully we have enough intellectual and material flexibility to be able to do what is needed and must be done. To improvise, adapt and overcome.

A bit of a encore FbF, but as the original video links don't work from 2010, and I like to emphasize the important fundamentals, I would like to bring back the Battle of Beersheba; almost 105 years ago.
The Turkish defences of Beersheba were strongest towards the south and west. There they had a line of trenches, protected by barbed wire, supported by strong redoubts, all constructed along a ridge. To the north and east the defences were much weaker, and crucially lacked any wire. No serious attack was expected from the area of rocky hills east of the town. Beersheba had just been designated as the headquarters of a new Turkish Seventh Army, but on 31 October that army had not yet come into being. The town was defended by 3,500-4,000 infantry, 1,000 cavalry with four batteries of artillery and fifty machine guns.

Allenby allocated a very powerful force to the attack on Beersheba. Three infantry and two cavalry divisions would take part in the attack. Two of the infantry divisions were to attack against the main Turkish defences, to the south west of the town, to tie down the Turkish garrison. The third division was to protect against any Turkish reinforcements arriving from the north-west. Meanwhile, the two divisions of the Desert Mounted Corps (Anzac Division and Australian Division) were sent around the town to the east, with orders to sweep into the town through the weaker eastern defences.

The infantry attack proceeded entirely according to plan. The bombardment began at 5.55am, and lasted, with one gap, until 8.30. Over the course of the day the Turks were slowly forced out of their strong defensive positions, the last of which fell at around 7 p.m. The attacking infantry suffered 1,200 casualties during the battle.

At 9.00 am the Desert Mounted Corps was ready to attack the eastern defences of Beersheba. The New Zealand Brigade of the Anzac Division soon ran into a problem. The Turks had a strong defensive position at Tel es Saba, a steep sided flat topped hill three miles east of the town. The battle to capture the Tel took up all of the morning and much of the afternoon, and did not end until 3 p.m.

General Chauvel then decided to take something of a gamble. The delay at Tel es Saba threatened to prevent the capture of Beersheba before dark. Rather than continue with the methodical plan of attack, Chauvel ordered one of his reserve brigades, the 4th Australian Light Horse, to mount a direct assault on Beersheba. They had the ideal terrain for a cavalry charge – a long gentle slope running down into Beersheba. It was defended by two lines of trenches, but crucially not by barbed wire.

The attack soon developed into a classic cavalry charge. The 4th A.L.H. simply galloped over two lines of Turkish trenches. Part of the brigade then dismounted to attack the trenches, while the rest galloped on into Beersheba. There they found a Turkish column preparing to retreat. The sudden appearance of the Australian cavalry caused panic. Most of the 1,500 prisoners captured by the Desert Mounted Corps on 31 October were taken during the charge of the 4th A.L.H. The Australians suffered very light casualties during the charge of 32 killed and 32 wounded, most of them in the attack on the trenches east of Beersheba.
The whole movie The Lighthorsemen is available - but I would like you to go ahead to the 1:20 mark for the charge (the German officer's assumptions at 1:34 is critical). One of the best filmed scenes in the genre - if it doesn't raise your heart rate, pressure nothing will.

First posted OCT 2014.

Thursday, April 28, 2022

Return of the Black Sea Convoy?

The commercial folks sure would like it;
The world's largest shipping management firm has requested that NATO provide naval escorts for shipping in the Black Sea amid concerns that vessels could be at risk as a result of conflict in Ukraine, the Financial Times reported.

The CEO of V.Group, René Kofod-Olsen, told the outlet that NATO intervention is merited due to the region's importance for shipments of food. According to the paper, the conflict in Ukraine has made the northernmost third of the Black Sea unsafe for shipping.

"We should demand that our seafaring and marine traffic is being protected in international waters. I'm sure Nato and others have a role to play in the protection of the commercial fleet," Kofod-Olsen told the FT.

According to NATO, floating mines have been found and deactivated in the Western Black Sea by authorities of countries that border the waterway. The organization also said that "threat of collateral damage or direct hits on civilian shipping" in part of the Black Sea remains high.

V.Group did not immediately respond to Insider's request for comment.

NATO has so far declined V.Group's request, according to the FT.
"Russia's naval presence in the Black Sea has disrupted maritime commerce even before its invasion of Ukraine," the military alliance told the paper. "Nato is not considering a naval mission to escort ships in the Black Sea, but Nato allies that have coastal borders — Bulgaria, Romania and Turkey — have deployed ships to find and neutralize any mines that may be in the area."
Let's go to the map room.
 

It is clear that the Black Sea is a NATO sea. Romania, Bulgaria, and Turkey own almost half of its coastline ... and yet even with the mine threat long standing from the start of the war, it is also clear that NATO is going to avoid any risk to conflict by getting further in to the Black Sea outside of what the three NATO coastal nations are doing.

I can argue both sides, but given the historical habit of problems at sea translating quickly in to conflict ashore, I can understand the caution. 

The economies, and stomachs, that rely on the free flow of goods at market prices from the Black Sea will just have to absorb the cost of mitigating conflict risk.

The great irony here is that Bulgaria, and to an extent Romania, all owe their status to the military actions of Imperial Russia in the 19th and 18th Centuries against the Ottoman Empire. Now those nations are aligned with the Ottoman successor state against Russia.

History is funny that way sometimes.

Wednesday, April 27, 2022

Marine View from Down Under

There is a lot of good ... and sometimes not so good ... arguments pro and con on the decisions being made by and the direction where Gen.  David Berger, USMC is taking our Marine Corps - but the fact he has engaged a lot of minds and forced a lot of people to think is a service in itself to our nation's security.

In his visit earlier this month to Australia, he summarized some points that just cannot be said often enough.


You have to repeat the basics to as many people as you can as often as you can...because most people either don't know or don't understand the basics.

This is just superb, and I wish our Navy's senior leadership would use this mindset every time they have the opportunity.

Has Berger upset some people? Yes.

Good. That means he's standing for things and making people uncomfortable with their ideas.

Berger has done his thinking. If you are going to counter him - you had better done yours;

... in the long term, the marines’ value to the US military joint force was as an expeditionary element that was forward all the time and which could gather information while preventing an adversary from doing the same. That presence could ‘open the door to places’, Berger said.

‘Some of it is back to our roots where we came from.’

The marines have had to adjust their structure and posture, how they train and manage their people, their warfighting concepts, what platforms they use and what capabilities and weapon systems they need wherever they operate to make sure they stay ahead of change happening around the world, Berger said.

‘As a service chief, we have two responsibilities to make sure we provide the forces today for a conflict, but also to make sure that five, 10 years from now we’re in the right spot. We have made the investments in the right places so that the future is in a good place.’

A likely challenge for the marines and for allies such as Australia would be to keep maritime choke points open to allow commerce to flow freely and they would need to develop the tools to do that.

‘You have to be able to monitor that, to engage an adversary who wants to close it down. So, we need things like anti-ship capabilities, the surveillance, the collection capabilities in the maritime domain that we don’t have right now. We need the ability to move laterally, both by air and on the surface at a tactical level, with greater frequency and in smaller numbers than we do right now.

‘But I would say, beyond a piece of hardware, the most important part is that human part of operating in an austere, expeditionary, maritime environment without any developed infrastructure, but getting a job done. And being able to transition quickly if there’s a crisis.’

A little sidenote on the pic above (you see more on DVIDS); it represents a part of Marine culture I have always respected. The most senior Marine is visiting your command, and is just there talking to a few other Marines while everyone else just carries out the Plan of the Day as if he's just another Marine ... which he is.

Nice.