Thursday, March 31, 2022

People Died for What You Can Get in a Click

Every time I access Google Earth or other open source imagery/mapping service, I am reminded what an amazing time we live in.

As early as the 1990s for something as unclassified as hunting, you had to make extraordinary efforts to find good maps. I remember taking pictures with a film camera in the early 90s from a plane window that just happened to be flying over an area I duck hunted ... so I could see where the out of the way wood duck ponds were.

Now, a click.

On the much more serious note, the efforts made on the military side of the house to get overhead photographs or even good maps cost billions of dollars and the lives of unknown numbers of intelligence assets and spies to get at a level of detail that wouldn't be good enough for a random civilian consumer today.

It is hard to understand how valuable detailed information on land - or even under the sea topography - is to a successful or unsuccessful operation. You can also find yourself in a situation where knowledge is there, but you don't have the people on staff who happen to have that knowledge.

One of the characteristics of the 2022 Russian invasion of Ukraine is that of the Russians simply not being able to get their armor and supplies successfully from point-A to point-B in something that used to be their back yard (and in the mind of Putin, still is).

In a simply engrossing article over at Wired about Soviet mapping efforts - this bit just yelled at me about the paradox of how easily the essential can be forgotten...or ignored.

The Soviet maps of US and European cities have details that aren’t on domestic maps made around the same time, things like the precise width of roads, the load-bearing capacity of bridges, and the types of factories. They’re the kinds of things that would come in handy if you’re planning a tank invasion. Or an occupation. Things that would be virtually impossible to find out without eyes on the ground.

Given the technology of the time, the Soviet maps are incredibly accurate. Even today, the US State Department uses them (among other sources) to place international boundary lines on official government maps. ... the US military rarely made maps more detailed than 1:250,000, and generally only did so for areas of special strategic interest. “The Soviets, on the other hand, were the global leaders in tank technology,” Forbes says. After suffering horrific losses during the Nazi ground invasion in WWII, the Soviets had built up the world’s most powerful army. Maneuvering that army required large-scale maps, and lots of them, to cover smaller areas in more detail. “One to 50,000 scale is globally considered among the military to be the tactical scale for ground forces,” Forbes says. “These maps were created so that if and when the Soviet military was on the ground in any given place, they would have the info they needed to get from point A to point B.”

A manual produced by the Russian Army, translated and published in 2005 by East View, a Minnesota company with a large inventory of Soviet maps, gives some insight into how the topographic maps could be used in planning or executing combat operations. It includes tables on the range of audibility of various sounds (a snapping twig can be heard up to 80 meters away; troop movements on foot, up to 300 meters on a dirt road or 600 meters on a highway; an idling tank, up to 1,000 meters; a rifle shot, up to 4,000 meters

Other tables give the distances for visual objects (a lit cigarette can be visible up to 8,000 meters away at night, but you’d have to get within 100 meters to make out details of a soldier’s weaponry in daylight). Still more tables estimate the speed at which troops can move depending on the slope of the terrain, the width and condition of the roadway, and whether they are on foot, in trucks, or in tanks.

Institutional knowledge - especially the most valuable and hard won kind - is highly perishable. What does it take, a generation for what was once assumed to be now rare?

30-years after the end of the Cold War, before we scoff too much at the Russian Army's problems in Ukraine, perhaps we should take a moment and wonder what things we may need in the future we used to know, but now have forgotten.

h/t Marcus Faulkner

Wednesday, March 30, 2022

Losing the Solomons

You know the names; Guadalcanal, Savo Island, Cape Esperance, Santa Cruz, Tassafaronga.

There were other less known fights during the Solomon Islands Campaign, but those are the major ones ... some even had USN warships named after them.

During the campaign, the United States suffered over 10,600 killed, 40+ ships sunk, and over 800 aircraft lost.

Imperial Japan suffered over 86,000 dead, 50+ ships sunk, and 1,500 aircraft lost.

These islands are critical to control/protect the sea lines of communication from the Indian Ocean in to the Pacific Ocean - from the United States to Australia.

After WWII, this was generally an Australian sphere of influence, but as always, the USA had purchased in blood an ongoing interest in the status of these islands. Any review of a globe shows you their importance in any war in the Pacific.

The Chinese know this as well.

I am not sure what is going on at our State Department desk responsible for the Solomons, but if we could just get proper civil service reform in place so we could do the only honorable thing - fire them all.

A leaked document has revealed that China and the Solomon Islands are close to signing a security agreement that could open the door to Chinese troops and naval warships flowing into a Pacific Island nation that played a pivotal role in World War II.

The agreement, kept secret until now, was shared online Thursday night by opponents of the deal and verified as legitimate by the Australian government. Though it is marked as a draft and cites a need for “social order” as a justification for sending Chinese forces, it has set off alarms throughout the Pacific, where concerns about China’s intentions have been growing for years.

Via Anna Powles, here are the pages in question. Read them yourself;


The Chinese are focused, serious, and understand what they want to be in the world. Their people responsible for this area of the world, as we discussed concerning other islands last year, are simply doing an outstanding job in pursuit of their nation's strategic interest.

What, exactly, are our State Department employees focused on for their nation's strategic interest?

Let me help everyone out. As always, meet me in the map room.

Here is the great circle route from our southern California ports, through Hawaii, to Australia.

Find the Solomon Islands.

It isn't really that hard to figure out - but I guess for The Smartest People in the Room™ it is.

Tuesday, March 29, 2022

We Chose Decline

The People's Republic of China does not have to aggressively take our status as the premier world power. It appears that we are willingly giving it to them, sooner more than later.

As a maritime and aerospace power, especially when it comes to the challenge west of Wake, if you want to understand how serious our nation's national security nomenklatura is toward the clear threat to the place previous generations died by the hundreds of thousands to place us in the last century - just look at what we are spending our money on.

Megan Eckstein over at DefenseNews has the summary for everyone. It isn't pleasant reading, especially for those who have their eyes on the world around us. You don't have to like it, but you do have to accept the simple fact that the leadership the American people have put in charge of their security simply are not interested in funding it.

Until elections move new people in to power - and even that may not produce the needed result - we will simply have to accept that The Terrible 20s that we started talking about a dozen years ago are our future.

The title of Megan's latest is as good of a start as any;

US Navy budget would pay for 9 ships, decommission 24 amid readiness drive

Yes, that is a net loss of 15 ships. Meanwhile the PLAN grows and grows.

Like the intellectually dishonest "Integrated Defense" we covered yesterday, all this is being justified with spin and bad theory.

A couple of examples;

Meredith Berger, who is currently performing the duties of Navy undersecretary, told reporters the plan is strategy-driven and follows the chief of naval operation’s priorities of funding the Columbia-class ballistic missile submarine in full and then prioritizing readiness for today, lethality for tomorrow and capacity for down the road.

The budget proposal, she said, “enables the Department of Defense’s investment in the three pillars of the National Defense Strategy: integrated deterrence, campaigning forward and building upon our enduring advantages to fulfill the strategic priorities that are identified [in] the National Defense Strategy.”

I'm sorry Acting Under, but bullsh1t. No serious person who sees what is happening on the other side of the Pacific believes that. I really am interested in what exactly you will be "campaigning forward" with ... and the rest is, as my European friends like to say, "fried air."

The U.S. Navy is requesting more money in its fiscal 2023 budget proposal compared to the previous fiscal year, but it’s still on a trajectory toward a smaller fleet.


The Navy’s request represents a 5% growth in spending compared to the FY22 budget Congress passed, and the Marine Corps’ request would be a 1.8% increase in spending compared to the enacted FY22 budget.

In an inflationary environment - especially accelerating inflation - these % changes and raw number increases are meaningless.

Only units matter. How many of what you can buy. Focus on that first, then the money.

Along those lines, here is where the numbers fall;

Included in the request are two Virginia-class attack submarines, two Arleigh Burke-class destroyers, one Constellation-class frigate, one America-class amphibious assault ship, one San Antonio-class amphibious transport dock, one John Lewis-class fleet oiler, and one Navajo-class towing, salvage and rescue ship.


The Navy currently has 298 ships. That would dip to 280 by FY27 under the plan pitched by the Navy.

The service proposes decommissioning 24 ships in FY23: nine Freedom-variant LCSs, five Ticonderoga-class cruisers, four Whidbey Island-class amphibious dock landing ships, two attack submarines, two oilers and two Montford Point-class expeditionary transfer docks.

The loss of LCS is a net gain for the Navy, but building two while decom'n two SSN doesn't grow that needed west of Wake capability ... and we are gutting what is needed to get personnel and gear ashore from the sea - a strange position to take when that is one of the critical requirements to conduct and sustain operations in the Pacific.

Of those 24 vessels, 16 have not yet reached the end of their service lives and would require the Navy secretary to sign a waiver to Congress, including all nine LCSs, one of the five cruisers and the two expeditionary transfer docks.


Two thirds of our ships are being decommissioned before they were even used to their designed longevity. That is damning of both our maintenance and fleet design errors of the last 30-yrs.

Speaking of submarines, let's go back to something we were discussing on the Front Porch a dozen years ago;

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

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

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

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

No one - at least here - should find this from Megan's article even a little bit surprising;

He also noted that 21% of the shipbuilding budget supports the Columbia program — which doesn’t affect the ship count for FY23 since the Navy is not buying a new ship this year but rather is incrementally paying for the lead ship bought in FY21 and buying parts for the upcoming FY24 ship.


The Columbia program will grow to consume 30% of the shipbuilding budget once it moves into one-per-year procurement later this decade. As a result of this pressure, surface ship programs may be scaled down.

A month before the above post from FEB2010, we also had this CDRSalamander post - again from over a dozen years ago;

 We did this to ourselves - and in the budget environment everyone who wanted to has seen for the last half decade, the simple math that the Tiffany Navy forces us to use tells us that there was no way we would reach 313, 300, or even hold fast at 283.

Further evidence continued to mount last spring, when the administration submitted a shipbuilding budget that would only support the construction of eight ships.

In just a few short years, this level of funding will produce a 240-ship fleet, given that a typical Navy warship has an expected life of 30 years.

We will be lucky if we can hold 240 - as we have been discussing here for the last few years.

What is happening on the aviation side of the house?

... it plans to retire 24. It is asking for 96 aircraft, but no F/A-18 Super Hornets and fewer carrier-variant F-35C Joint Strike Fighters than last year. It’s also proposing a decrease of about 10,000 sailors to crew the fleet in the next five years.


Of note, the five Advanced Hawkeyes and the 26 TH-73A helicopter trainers in the budget request would be the last in the program before the production lines end.

The three V-22 Ospreys the Navy is buying this fiscal year and the nine the Marines are buying would be the last for that production line as well, with the services listing zero in their request for FY23 and in the four following years.

10,000? Do you know anyone in a sea-going command who thinks they are overmanned?

I repeat my standard once again; if you believe war in coming west of Wake, time is short. Under no circumstances should any production line of aircraft or ships be allowed to go idle until there is an immediate production of that platform's replacement. 

We cannot afford to allow us to lose in the mid-20s the ability to produce E-2 or MV-22 or F/A-18...anything until their replacements are in production. 

We need serious people for this serious time.

We will have to wait.

Monday, March 28, 2022

The Intersection of Integrated Delusion and Institutional Dishonesty

If you care about the truth, if you care about our ability to deter war west of Wake, then it is time to stand against one of the most destructive attempts to sideline our nation’s military power seen in a long time, the consultant-speakish concept being pimped throughout the Beltway, “Integrated Deterrence.”

As we must, let’s go to the source for a first-person definition. As per DODNews back in December;

Colin Kahl, the undersecretary of defense for policy, fleshed out the concept ... He said the concept "will inform almost everything that we do."

Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III has spoken about the concept since taking office last January. He calls it a new way of approaching deterrence.

Kahl discussed both sides of the concept: integration and deterrence. "In terms of integrated … we mean, integrated across domains, so conventional, nuclear, cyber, space, informational," he said. "[It is also] integrated across theaters of competition and potential conflict [and] integrated across the spectrum of conflict from high intensity warfare to the gray zone."

The concept in this case also means integration of all instruments of national power. Most importantly it means being "integrated across our allies and partners, which are the real asymmetric advantage that the United States has over any other competitor or potential adversary," Kahl said.

So, how did that work out to keep Russia from Ukraine? And don’t say we’ve never integrated with allies and partners. I and millions of others literally mad a multi-decade career out of it. Don’t say diplomacy is something new. Don’t say economic sanctions are something new. No, this isn’t new - and neither is what is trying to be done. This is cover to weaken our military power in pursuit of a softer theory of power.

As typical from the group presently running our national security apparatus, they will not let real world experience get in the way of their too-clever-by-half theories emanating from their preferred think-tank holding pools and academic fever swamps. No. Can’t do that.

On Saturday from what I believe is a tear in the space-time continuum from a parallel universe, the WaPo has an outright bizarre article; Russia’s failures in Ukraine imbue Pentagon with Newfound Confidence;

I read this twice this weekend just to make sure I was reading what I just read. 

It is written as if no one has a memory longer than six weeks – or the authors don’t think their readers do.


…one month into Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, senior Pentagon officials are brimming with newfound confidence in American power, spurred by the surprising effectiveness of U.S.-backed Ukrainian forces, Russia’s heavy battlefield losses and the cautionary lessons they believe China is taking from the war.

Who is this “senior Pentagon official” and will someone please get in touch with their doctor to confirm they are taking their meds?

Did we deter war? Didn’t we advise Zelenskyy to either retreat to Lviv or leave the country before the Russian invasion even start or not? Was our alliance ready? Did we show resolve when our own embassy evacuated? 

I ask this is a very serious question - who paid for this to be written? 

Gaslighting is an overused phrase, but in this case, there are few other words that describe what is being done. No objective, knowledgeable, and educated person can really believe what they are writing. 

Read it an come back. I’m serious. Don’t just ride my pull-quotes. Read it and come back.

I don’t have the time to fisk the whole thing – but if you are not concerned about who this nation defines as The Smartest People in the Room ™, well then you should be.

Start with someone who should know better than what he is saying, Obama’s ambassador to NATO, Ivo Daalder;

The United States also has relied heavily on European allies, who have often taken the lead in leveling crippling sanctions on the Russian economy at considerable costs to themselves. It’s not yet clear whether the current unity will fracture if the war drags on for months.

“We need to demonstrate our [collective] power every day, and we can only demonstrate it if we keep everybody together,” said Ivo Daalder, president of the Chicago Council on Global Affairs and a former U.S. ambassador to NATO. “This is not something the U.S. has traditionally done well.”

The European allies who did nothing to push back against Nord Stream I or II? The ones who initially balked at SWIFT sanctions?

Allies good; America bad. State good; Pentagon bad.

Fine, get it ... standard issue natsec left world view. Wonderful. Got it.

Also, we kept NATO together fairly well in the Balkans campaign in the 1990s. Even though laded with national caveats and capability gaps, we did a fairly good job getting NATO to run the AFG campaign from 2002 until shortly after they culminated in the summer of 2007, and we had to start taking the keys back.  Alliances of free nations is hard work … but we have a not-too-bad record of it considering there are now 30 nations in the alliance (as of today). When there have been problems, it wasn’t the USA who was the problem nation; DEU, TUR, HUN, FRA – pick your crisis – the USA was not the one who has a habit of not ponying up as a troop contributing nation. 

Traditionally we have done it very well for the right causes. 

That is an arguable point – but this is just … wrong;

Pentagon officials contend that there was little they could do to deter Putin, who expected a quick and easy victory in Ukraine, and argue that their broader strategy of “integrated deterrence” — which leverages economic, diplomatic and military power to dissuade potential aggressors — has so far worked to stop Putin from expanding the war into NATO territory. The Biden administration has made integrated deterrence the cornerstone of its soon-to-be released National Defense Strategy, which was delayed as the threat of an invasion grew.

Integrated Deterrence "so far worked to stop Putin from expanding the war into NATO territory."  What? Who is briefing these people? I guess Integrated Deterrence "so far worked to stop Cuba from joining the war and expanding the war into Florida."  OK. Fine.

I love the last part. “We realized what we wrote was immediately OBE, so we want to change things so we don’t look like idiots.”

Smart, but tells you how horrible that pig must have been. It will be interesting to see how they make a silk purse out of it.

They know – like last summer in AFG, that they failed. They are not good at their job. 

The diplomats failed. The intel community failed. The military aid we did supply to UKR was not enough to make her a tough enough target for RUS.

Regulars on the Front Porch have known for years in writing and on Midrats I asked that we send our best JOs to UKR as observers. We didn't. Hey, I'm a proud Floridian, but the last US unit in UKR was Florida National Guard. A lot of the training on the air side of the house was done by Air National Guard. The Pentagon was clearly looking elsewhere to employ their top units and career personnel. Like we saw in AFG and IRQ, they found priorities everywhere else but where the actual real-world threat was manifesting itself. 

The uniformed side of the house needs to own this failure, but – the uniformed military is but a tool of the Executive Branch and Congress. It does what it is told to do inside the laws of our nation. It does nothing on its own. It does nothing without oversight.

A longer-term challenge for the Pentagon, which is prone to its own fits of military hubris, will be to recognize the limits of its power and the crucial role U.S. allies will play in containing Russian and Chinese global ambitions, according to analysts and even some senior Pentagon officials. In the 1990s and early 2000s when the United States was at the height of its power, U.S. leaders often treated allies as an afterthought. Former President Bush launched the invasion of Iraq in 2003 over the objections of allies such as Germany and France.

“We had this sense where we could do it all and the allies were a problem,” said Daalder, the former NATO ambassador. 

Where do I start?

“The Pentagon” is not alone in hubris, but its hubris is a byproduct of what it received from CINC’s Intent and Direction and Guidance. Those are informed by civilian appointees and advisors. Department of State, Commerce, etc? What about their hubris? If you are going to sell “Integrated Deterrence” then you have to accept “Integrated Failure.”

Let’s go back to alternative-universe Daalder.

Did we treat our allies as an “afterthought” during Desert Storm? Look for yourself;

Did we treat our allies as an “afterthought” during the 1990s wars in the breakup of Yugoslavia? No.

Did we treat our allies as an “afterthought” in AFG? No. We gave it to them for most of the 00’s.

Did we treat our allies as an “afterthought” even in the 2003 invasion of Iraq? You tell me, here are the nations of the “Coalition of the Willing.”

Did we treat our allies as an “afterthought” in the 2011 attack on Libya? You tell me, here they are.

The map gets smaller, but so was the justifications for each war. That isn't the fault of The Pentagon.

This push for the already failed concept of “Integrated Deterrence” is just another way to attempt to dilute efforts to build a strong military deterrence against nations who wish to supplant us and our allies by themselves or with others from our premier position on the world stage. 

A strong military is the shield behind which diplomatic, economic and informational efforts can be made to best shape the international order to best serve the interests of our nation and its friends.

RUS invaded UKR because UKR was not in their mind a hard target. European NATO was seen as easily threatened into inaction due to their demilitarization and decades-long slide in to dependency to RUS energy. Our diplomats were seen as weak sisters on the stage willing to do almost anything to get a deal with Iran again.

Let’s go back to that first quote:

…senior Pentagon officials are brimming with new found confidence in American power, spurred by the surprising effectiveness of U.S. backed Ukrainian forces…” 

Again, taking credit for the performance of UKR when at D+0 we were trying to talk Zelenskyy to either bug out to Lviv or just leave the country? We were depressing their will to fight, not enhancing it. Will is the primary driver here – and all credit for that goes to the Ukrainians.

This “brimming” is either delusional or a bold-faced bluffing lie.

It is all kind of insulting, isn't it? It isn't that they are lying to everyone, it is that they expect you to join in their lie.

The only people who gain here from this attempt to dilute military power are neither the USA nor our partners and allies. 

UPDATE: For those who have a WSJ subscription, Rep. Mike Gallagher (R-WI) has a few thoughts on Integrated Deterrence as well.

We have good company.

Friday, March 25, 2022

Fullbore Friday

An encore FbF because, well ... it sings to me ... and it is always good to see the Navy-Marine Corps work together as designed.

One. Hundred. Feet. Then pull closer.
The two steam cutters were fitted out as mini-gunboats to provide the sailing launches with covering fire and pin down the Spanish soldiers firing from the rifle pits along the beach and from the surrounding hills. For this purpose, each of the steam cutters, in addition to its crew of five, carried a sergeant and six Marines to act as sharpshooters. To supplement the Marines and provide greater firepower, additional armaments were added. A one-pound Hotchkiss cannon was mounted aboard Marblehead’s steam cutter, while Nashville’s cutter was fitted out with two Colt machine guns. Together, the two cutters provided the operation with significant firepower.

Just after dawn on the morning of May 11, 1898, Nashville’s cutter and launch pushed away from the gunboat. They were soon joined by the boats from Marblehead. Winslow was in command aboard Nashville’s sailing launch; Lieutenant E.A. Anderson of Marblehead, the expedition’s second-in-command, was in charge of the flagship’s sailing launch. En-sign T.P. Magruder commanded both of the accompanying steam cutters.

The task of the supporting naval squadron during the operation was to draw the Spaniards’ fire away from the work boats. And the gunboats wasted no time in putting their part of the plan into operation. At 6:45 a.m. both ships got underway. Marblehead was the first to open fire upon the Spanish positions on shore. And no sooner had the sound of Marblehead’s opening salvo faded than Nashville commenced firing as well. The ships soon found the range of their target, their shells falling regularly in the vicinity of the cable house.

There was no doubt about the effectiveness of the naval fire. The cable house on the beach was quickly destroyed.

Again and again the shells found their mark, bursting and sending clouds of stone and mortar into the air, Winslow would later write of the engagement, …until one shot, striking the tottering structure, burst, and brought it down, leaving nothing but a disordered pile of masonry covering the wreck of the electrical equipment.

At five minutes before 7 o’clock,, the second phase of the raid began when, with the bombardment continuing, the boat flotilla started moving toward its designated position offshore. The steam cutters led the way, each towing one of the sailing launches. When they were about 300 to 400 feet offshore, the steam launches threw off their tow lines, leaving the sailing launches to move in toward shore under their own oar power. The men in the sailing launches began throwing their grappling hooks overboard in order to locate the telegraphic cables.

The presence of coral, however, made the task of locating and raising the cable with grappling hooks particularly difficult. In order to grapple the cable, the men had first to be able to see it on the bottom through the clear Caribbean water. To do this, the launches were forced to move closer and closer to the shore — closer and closer to the source of enemy fire.

Almost from the beginning, the Americans had lost all hope of keeping their true intentions secret. A Spanish cavalryman astride a white horse spotted the boats as they moved toward the beach. The sharpshooters in the steam launches opened fire in an attempt to prevent him from escaping and raising the alarm among other Spanish troops in the area. The pitching of the boats in the Caribbean waves, however, made precise shooting impossible. The Spaniard was successful in his escape, and word of the American operation quickly spread among the Spanish troops.

The boats were about 100 feet from the shore when the sailors saw the first of the cables in about 20 feet of water. This particular cable ran east and connected Cienfuegos to Santiago.

The sailors aboard the launches wasted no time in trying to raise the cable, but pulling it up from the bottom and aboard the boats proved difficult. The heavy submarine cable, two inches in diameter, was shielded in so much lead and insulation that it weighed about 6 pounds per linear foot. The 30 men in both boats heaved and strained to pull the cable to the surface. The heavy cable, laid taut along the bottom, seemed to weigh tons, Winslow later wrote.

They finally did raise it, and now the steam cutters towed the launches to deeper water for the task of cutting the cable. Here inexperience at the task began to tell. The sailors aboard the launches at first tried to use axes to hack through the cable. Then, when this method proved unsatisfactory, they tried to cut through with cold chisels. They finally found, however, that hacksaws worked the best. All the experimentation took time. It took 20 to 30 minutes to complete the first cut, but the work went more quickly after that. The sailors finally managed to make two cuts in the cable, removing a section of about 150 feet to make it difficult for the Spanish to repair.

Despite the heavy labor, the first step of the operation had gone with surprising ease. The eastbound cable, though, had been out of the line of fire from the Spanish rifle pits on the beach. In addition, the task had been largely completed before reinforcements arrived from the town. All in all, the Spanish response so far had been weak and ineffective. Winslow later wrote that the Spanish fire was so desultory and ineffective that the working parties had paid no attention to it.

Such a lack of enemy resistance, however, was not to last for long. The search for the second cable took the boats farther and farther to the west, and when the American sailors discovered the second cable, their launches were directly in front of Spanish rifle pits on the shore. To make matters worse, the underwater coral again forced the boats to move closer to shore to search for cable. When the crews finally discovered it, the launches were within 100 feet of the shore — close to the Spanish rifle pits dug along the beach.

To ease the plight of the cable-cutting parties, the ships’ commanders increased their bombardment of the Spanish positions on shore. According to Winslow, the shells from the ships’ guns passed so close overhead that the crews instinctively ducked when the rounds passed. The shells could hardly have come closer to us without hitting the boats, Winslow said.

The close shelling was unnerving for friend and foe alike. We soon realized that we had to take the chance of an accidental hit from our ships or receive fire from the enemy at pistol range, Winslow wrote of the battle, and the men worked in disregard of both.

As if the location were not enough to contend with, the second cable proved to be even more difficult to snare than the first. The coral growth underwater made it hard for grappling hooks to reach the cable. Worse, rough water knocked the boats together and made it hard to see through the high waves.

Increasing fatigue also overtook the crews as they struggled to locate the second cable, which connected Cienfuegos with all-important Havana, and drag it to the surface. Nonetheless, the men persevered and eventually succeeded. As with the first cable, Marblehead’s men made the cut in the inshore end while Nashville’s men made the cut on the offshore end. A section of cable about 100 feet long was removed.

In lifting the second cable, Winslow and his party discovered a third, smaller telegraphic cable, too small to be an ocean cable. They assumed that it connected the cable house with the city of Cienfuegos, and before returning to the ships, Winslow and his men set about cutting it as well.

Under the intense naval bombardment that lasted throughout the morning, the Spanish small-arms fire from the shore had gradually faded. As the boat crews finished cutting the second cable, it almost seemed that the Spanish had given up the fight altogether. In response, the fire from the American warships had also nearly stopped.

The lag in Spanish gunfire, however, was only temporary. As work began on the third cable, the Spanish shore fire became stronger. By late morning, large numbers of Spanish reinforcements had made their way out from Cienfuegos and the surrounding area and taken up positions at Punta de la Colorados. Under cover of tall grass and bushes of the chaparral, the reinforcements were able to crawl unseen into the rifle pits and trenches, even into the lighthouse.

Locating and raising the third cable again took the boats perilously close to the Spanish positions. Both boats were within 100 feet of the shore and within 200 feet of the Spanish trenches. Because of the noise of sea and wind, the Americans at first did not notice the increase in fire. Moreover, the Spaniards’ Mauser rifles used smokeless gunpowder, so the men in the boats could not see the incoming fire. The only evidence of the gunfire for the men aboard the boats was the small splashes the bullets made as they struck the water.

Again the ships moved into position, firing their heavy guns upon the positions ashore in effort to quell the Spanish gunfire. And again the naval fire had its devastating effect. All along the ridge and down its sides our projectiles were falling, shattering the rocks, bursting, and sending fragments into the air, clouds of dust, Winslow later said.

Despite the shelling from the ships offshore, the Spanish fire remained concentrated on the launches and the cutters as their crewmen worked to destroy the enemy cable. The Spanish persistence led to the first American casualties of the Spanish-American War. Aboard Marblehead’s cutter, one of the Marines, Patrick Regan, was killed when struck in the head by a bullet. Another man, also struck by a bullet, fell in Nashville’s cutter as well. And in Winslow’s own boat, sailor Robert Volz was struck four times by Spanish bullets. Winslow himself was struck in the hand.

No longer using small arms only, the enemy now opened fire with a fieldpiece mounted in the vicinity of the lighthouse and with machine guns, as well. Clearly, the position of the men in the boats had become untenable. Winslow was forced to abandon the effort to destroy the third cable and ordered the boats back to the ships.

It was a fighting retreat. Some of the sailors took up their rifles to return the Spanish fire, while others bent over the oars. Ensign Magruder’s steam cutters quickly came up to take the launches in tow. They then all made their way back to the ships. Their ordeal, however, was far from over — the Spanish fire remained heavy. Especially hard hit were the boats from Marblehead, enveloped by shore fire as they passed in front of the lighthouse. Five of their men were badly wounded.

The heated Spanish fire also caused minor casualties aboard the gunboats. Spent bullets from the shore injured several men aboard Nashville. At one point during the action, a spent round struck a sailor, then hit Commander Maynard in the chest as he stood on the bridge of the gunboat. The impact was sufficient to put him out of action, and Nashville’s executive officer, Lieutenant A.C. Dillingham, was forced to assume command. The brief interruption in command, however, did little to disrupt the gunboat’s covering fire. We had to clear away very large numbers of Spanish troops, and you can tell [the volume] of our firing when I say we each [Marblehead and Nashville] fired 400 shells, an officer aboard the Nashville wrote home after the battle.

By 10:15 that morning, the boats had finally pulled alongside the ships after being under enemy fire for three hours. For about 30 minutes, the fire had been galling. Nevertheless, Americans casualties were amazingly light. One Marine had been killed, one sailor would later die of wounds, and several men had been seriously wounded. Winslow’s bullet had passed through his left hand.

About an hour later, the American ships got underway and put back out to sea. The raid on Cienfuegos was over.
What was that mission? Computer Network Attack before computers? Electronic attack with a hatchet? Still lessons, ahem satellite comms ahem, to be taken on board today.
The following men served in the cable-cutting party. Those with an asterisk (*) received the Medal of Honor:


ERNEST KRAUSE, Coxswain. *
AUSTIN J. DURNEY, Blacksmith. *
JOHAN J. JOHANSSON, Ordinary Seaman*.
JOHN P. RILEY, Landsman. *
DAVID D. BARROW, Ordinary Seaman.*
BENJAMIN F. BAKER, Coxswain. *
LAURITZ NELSON, Sailmaker's Mate. *
FRANK HILL, Private, U. S. M. C. *
JOSEPH H. FRANKLIN; Private, U. S. M. C.*
JOSEPH F. SCOTT, Private, U. S. M. C. *
THOMAS HOBAN, Coxswain.*
ROBERT VOLZ, Seaman. (severely wounded 4 times)*
ALBERT BEYER, Coxswain. *
GEORGE W. BRIGHT, Coal Passer. *
WILLIAM MEYER, Carpenter's Mate, 3d class.*
HARRY H. MILLER, Seaman. *
JOHN EGLIT, Seaman. *
PHILIP GAUGHAN, Sergeant, U. S. M. C.*
POMEROY PARKER ,Private, U. S. M. C. *
OSCAR W. FIELD, Private, U. S. M. C. *
MICHAEL L. KEARNEY, Private, U. S. M. C. *


JAMES H. BENNETT, Chief Boatswains Mate. *
JOHN J. DORAN, Boatswains Mate, 2d class (shot through right buttock)*
HARRY HENRICKSON,' Seaman (shot through liver, thought to be fatal)*
AXEL SUNDQUIST, Chief Carpenter's Mate *
WILLIAM HART, Machinist, lst class. *
HENRY P. RUSSELL, Landsman. *
HERMAN W. KUCHMEISTER, Private, U. S. M. C. (shot through the jaw bone and neck; thought to be dead). *
WALTER S. WEST, Private, U. S. M. C.*
WILLIAM OAKLEY, G. M., 2d class. *
JULIUS A. R. WILKE, B. M., lst class.
JOSEPH E. CARTER, Boatswain. *
JOHN DAVIS, G. M., 3d class. (wound, right leg)*
WILLIAM, LEVERY, Apprentice, lst class. (wound, left leg, very slight)*
HERBERT L. FOSS, Seaman. *
NICK ERICKSON, Coxswain. *
FREEMAN GILL, Gunners Mate, 1st class. *
JOHN MAXWELL, Fireman, 2d class. *
LEONARD CHADWICK, Apprentice, lst class. *
JAMES MEREDITH, Private, U. S. M. C. *
EDWARD SULLIVAN, Private, U. S. M. C. *
DANIEL CAMPBELL, Private, U. S. M. C. *
PATRICK REGAN, Private, U.S.M.C. (fatally wounded)
E. SUNTZENICH, Apprentice, 1st Class
JULIUS A. R. WILKE, Boatswains mate, 1st Class*

Lt. Winslow was slightly wounded in the hand.
Is your crew ready?

Thursday, March 24, 2022

Scratch One Russian Navy Alligator LST

No one really knows for sure what caused the explosion this AM on the Russian Navy's 54-yr old Alligator Class LST Orsk in the Port of Berdyansk. What we do know was the accident/attack was livestreamed.

This video captures it best.

Just as a professional side note: BZ to the crews of the two Ropucha Class LSD for getting underway and out of the way - both of which seems to have fires of their own to fight.

What we do know is that the Russians liked to store a lot of things on the deck of an Alligator, as you can see in this pic of the Orsk's sister ship Saratov going through the Dardanelles. 

In this still, it appears that the explosion took place on or under the after portion of the deck storage area.

I'm not sure how long it takes to unload those ships, but the Russians put out this video two days ago showing the unload going rather well with most of the gear already gone;
There was, and continues to be, a lot of speculation as to the cause of this incident being some kind of attack by the Ukrainians via one of their few remaining SRBM or other weapons.  I have no more information than anyone else, but that isn't my bet. 

Heck, some are even blaming the video above as some PAO mistake in giving targeting data, etc. No. 

Everyone knew the ship was there and the unloading areas of the pier are easy to enter in to any precision targeting software from a paper map even decades old as they DON'T MOVE and thousands of people can see what is there from their apartment balcony.

No, my bet is - like the burning of our large-deck amphib the Bonnie Dick in San Diego almost two years ago - this was not caused by an attack. Probably an accident or something else internal to the ship. Perhaps sabotage, but that is low probability as well.

That being said, I had a flash of SRBM theory of my own when I first saw this ... and it brought to mind one of the nightmares LTjg Salamander had to ponder one day a bit over 31-yrs ago.

31-yrs is a long time in weapons development. Even in 1991, the Iraqis were using old Soviet Scud kit ... and yet they knew where the ports were that we were using; which piers we would use, etc. Again, they don't move. Anyone can see them.

Even in 1991 with old kit and ... well ... the Iraqi army ... they got close;
c.  February 16th Attack on Al Jubayl (Event 7 in Table 3)

Iraq fired a single Scud at the port city of Al Jubayl early on February 16th.[75] The Patriot battery positioned to defend Al Jubayl was undergoing maintenance at the time and could not engage the Scud.[76] The incoming missile broke up in flight over the harbor and hit in the water just off a large pier where six ships and two smaller craft were tied up. The missile’s impact also was about 500 feet from ammunition storage on the pier.[77] Figure 4 displays a map of the harbor showing the impact location.

Well in to the 3rd decade of the 21st Century we need to realize - regardless to what happened to the Orsk - that fixed ports are as vulnerable as fixed airfields to conventional ballistic missiles tipped with modern multi-spectral seeker-heads and other precision guidance that may or may not require external sources. These warheads are - how can I put this on this net - not dumb.

Especially west of Wake, deep in to our operational rear during a war in the western Pacific, our fixed ports, airfields, repair depots, storage areas, magazines - command locations - you name it - are all well within range of the PRC's rocket force's thousands of S/M/I/RMBs.

How can we mitigate that? Are we taking steps to mitigate that? Do we have enough BMD defenses? Do we have enough alternative places to keep the fight going?

Of course, as regular readers of CDRSalamander, you know the answers to these questions. What you need to ask yourself is why are you letting your government and your Navy continue to act like they don't exist in the reality we have?

UPDATE: Looks like the possibility that we are looking at a successful SS-21 attack by the Ukrainians after all. They have a limited supply, so carefully chosen target. From five days ago, the Russians themselves reported on a SS-21 attack on what seems to be the same pier;
There is also this video from the other side of the port from the first video above that seems to show cluster munitions and a booster falling. If this video holds, the question is; do the Ukrainian SS-21's have the option to have the 9H123K warhead installed with its 50-cluster munitions released at 2,250m?

Wednesday, March 23, 2022

What is Wrong with the English Speaking World's Merchant Fleet?

Here and on Midrats over the years we've discussed the embarrassingly dangerous maladministration of the US merchant fleet, but we're not alone.

We are putting a lot of emphasis on our growing partnership in security with Australia.

How are things down under?

Australia faces a “national emergency” unless it re-establishes a sovereign commercial shipping fleet to ensure critical goods flow during times of war and economic sanctions.

The war in Ukraine, alongside Canberra’s geopolitical tensions with Beijing, has highlighted the vulnerability of Australia’s security and economy given its supply chain is almost completely reliant on ships registered to other countries.

The Australian government was forced last week to ask a British ship set to bring in munitions for the defence force to replace Russian crew members.

The number of Australian-owned ships is set to wither to just nine by 2024, according to data from Maritime Industries Australia Limited, an industry association. That comprises six roll-on, roll-off ships used in the Bass Strait and three cement ships but no container ships or oil tankers. In the 1980s, the country boasted about 100 Australia-domiciled ships.

She is an island nation whose wealth relies on the sea. So does the USA.

Why then don't our national leaders act like it?

Is it myopia? Is it a corrupt donor class? Is it ignorance? 

What illness besets our nations?

h/t SW.

Tuesday, March 22, 2022

A Friend's Frigate Benchmark

Want to take a break from the Second Russo-Ukrainian War? 

Good, so do I.

As we (well at least I) impatiently wait for the USS Constellation (FFG 62) and her sisters to start displacing water, it is interesting to see the design decisions other nations have made to meet their frigate requirements. 

As our new FFG will be the USN version of the French and Italian FREMM, it is natural to compare it to other European designs, but what about our friends in the Pacific? 

What are the South Koreans building? Let's take a quick side-by-side look at their Daegu-class frigate presently under serial production.

Of course, different nations have different requirements, and you can see it in the fact that the US Navy,  as a global navy, needs a larger frigate to get the range and endurance requirement we need to get to the fight and stay there. ROKN's concerns are a lot closer to home, and their design reflects this reality.

Constellation is expected to displace twice as much as the ROKN frigate...but does she bring twice the punch?

Well, you all know how stupid I think a 57mm is on a ship this size, but if you look everywhere else, you are getting a lot of fight for the size. I'm not too happy with the lack of TLAM. A ship this size should have this capability. We may want it to only do escort and ASW missions, but when war comes, warships over 7,000 tons won't have the luxury to pick out missions they want. I hope some of those MK-41 have ASROC in them and the NSM retain their surface-attack capability.

Anyways,  that is my quick look. The ROKN ship does not have the legs a USN ship needs, but for her size, she's a nice bit of kit.

h/t PointLuck.

Monday, March 21, 2022

Amphibious Operations in the Russo-Ukrainian War SITREP

As navalists are wont to do, first thing I do when looking at the latest developments in Ukraine, I look to the Black Sea coast.

In the run-up to the war, a lot of attention was given to the naval buildup on the area by the Russian Navy, especially  with the bulk of their remaining amphibious warships. Besides a minor operation in the Sea of Azov early on, there has been little seen of them, much less a vaunted amphibious assault around Odessa.

There are many tactical level details we just don’t know about at this date, so as we look to the sea, today we’ll keep this to the big pixels, specifically the fundamentals we already knew but may have forgotten to one degree or another.

Here are the five take-aways as of 21MAR2022 that have been reinforced:

1. The threat of an amphibious landing is greater than a landing itself: for a land component commander, the sea is a dark and mysterious place. Unlike land where you can take out a map and clearly see where terrain limits an enemy and define where you can employ forces to attack or defend – the sea has few natural obstacles that are easy for a land-focused force to understand. Some shores are more suitable than others, especially if the opponent’s amphibious capability is limited in number and capability, but as both the Germans and North Koreans learned the hard way, a risk-tolerant and aggressive opponent will not let that be a deal breaker if the gain is sufficient. 

2. Once your force  is there, sooner is better than later: the Russians do not have a lot of naval infantry/marines and ships to host them. As such their risk tolerance is small (warning USN). The longer a war goes on, the more hardened vulnerable shorelines can be made. Approaches can be mined, coastal defenses – both active and passive – can be put in place. Options narrow. 

3. Mobile reserve: not limited by GLOC or tied to a specific ground campaign, when opportunities present themselves ashore that is accessable from the sea, or the land component needs rapid reinforcement not available elsewhere to exploit and advance, bringing your forces ashore can provide combat ready, already provisioned, fresh forces in to theater and directly in to the fight. At sea, combat effectiveness degrades over time, but when employed ashore correctly, they appear almost magically and can be a shock for an opponent not ready for them.

4. Ashore, just another army:  In line with #3, once ashore, especially with limited forces like the Russians have, you lose your amphibious card. Your naval infantry/marines just become a butched up army running around confusing everyone with naval jargon.

5. Golden BB: Without full control of the seas, you don’t have an amphibious capability: again, small numbers exponentially increase operational risk. Especially with today’s amphibious forces where peacetime efficiency drivers put a lot of capabilities and souls on fewer and fewer ships, you are one mine, one ASCM, or a lucky 152mm round away from being operationally ineffective by loosing a critical percentage of your equipment and up to 1,000 dead, wounded, or missing – in an instant.

So, there we are. There is still a chance for an amphibious operation at scale in support an Odessa investiture (I know how I would use them), but as we see in the video embedded above, as more Russian naval infantry/marines are brought ashore to fill shortages in capability in the Russian land force, there simply won’t be much left at sea to do more than a raid here and there … if that.

Friday, March 18, 2022

Fullbore Friday

Your town isn't a small town at a bit over 34,000, but everyone knows each other more or less. It isn't so big that you are disconnected from your neighbors. You are always one degree away from having a connection to anyone. Maybe 2.

Any American from New England would feel comfortable here. The weather is not that different, really - perhaps even a few degrees warmer.

Trip Advisor does not give your off the beaten path home (even though you are a stop on the railroad line to Odessaa big write up, but you have nice restaurants and pubs. You have shockingly beautiful parks. Again, you are poor, but you were, at least before the Russian Army came, a tidy and proud town in a post-Soviet way.

Not so tidy now, especially near the bridge where you used to swim as you can see on the googlestreetview, but still proud.

Do you think your town is worth fighting for? 

Do your neighbors? Do you run, or do you stay?

The people of Voznesensk seemed to have answered that question, at least for them.

At first, I thought this story about the Ukrainian stand at Voznesensk was too rah-rah to be true, but when WSJ picked it up I figured, "Must be ligit."

From most reports I've seen, Voznesensk is a Russian speaking town...but as true as that may be, they were Ukrainians to the core.

As the CBS report isn't behind a paywall, let's pick up the story;

Ukrainian troops in Voznesensk came up against a Russian invasion force that was armed to the teeth. They had heavy artillery and helicopters. In a heroic act of self-sacrifice, they blew up the main bridge into the town to keep Russian tanks from crossing.


The mayor guided CBS News through the rubble and around the anti-tank mines still littering his town.

"This is where we stopped them," said Velichko.

His sleepy country town, without heavy weapons of its own, routed a Russian battalion.

Even locals like 66-year-old Sushenko Nikolay Semenovich, a retired minesweeper in the Soviet army, pitched in to repel the Russian force.

"I jumped out and shot with my own rifle," he told CBS News. "Our commander told me, 'get back in the basement, grandpa!' But my heart simply couldn't handle just sitting in the basement. These Russians don't give up. We will kill them all."

The Wiki summary is solid;

On 2 March 2022, elements of the Russian 126th Naval Brigade advanced northwest towards the city of Voznesensk from Mykolaiv, attempting to find a crossing over the Southern Bug river. The Russian column was alleged to have consisted of 400 men and 43 vehicles.[2][3]

In preparation, Yevgeniy Velichko, the mayor of the city and one of the Ukrainian commanders, stated that local businessmen helped Ukrainian forces create numerous roadblocks and destroyed a bridge over the Mertvovod River [uk] in Voznesensk, as well as digging out the shoreline of the river so that Russian vehicles couldn't ford it.[3]

Russian forces initiated the battle by shelling the city, damaging several buildings. Russian paratroopers were dropped to the southwest of the city, while an armored column advanced from the southeast, staging in the neighboring village of Rakove [uk]. Russian snipers created nests in several houses in the village, and Russian forces set up a base at a local gas station. A Russian APC fired at the local Territorial Defense Forces base, killing several Ukrainian soldiers. However, Russian forces were unable to push into Voznesensk, and Ukrainian artillery began shelling Russian positions, preventing Russian artillery from setting up their mortars.[3]

By nightfall, Russian tanks began firing into Voznesensk, but retreated after being met with counterfire. Concurrently, Ukrainian forces continued to shell Russian positions, destroying some Russian vehicles. Ukrainian soldiers advanced on foot, attacking Russian vehicles with American-supplied FGM-148 Javelin missiles, destroying at least 3 tanks. Ukrainian forces were also able to down a Russian Mil Mi-24 attack helicopter. Russian forces fully retreated on 3 March, abandoning equipment and vehicles. During their retreat, Russian artillery shelled Rokove, hitting a clinic. Russian forces also looted the village. The Russian column retreated 40 miles (64 km) to the southeast.[2][3]

In total, 30 Russian vehicles, including some tanks, were abandoned. Among them, Ukrainian forces were able to salvage 15 tanks. Local officials stated that around 100 Russian soldiers were killed and 10 were captured, while Ukrainian forces suffered some causalities, mainly among the Territorial Defense Forces. 12 civilians were killed during the battle.[2][3]

Second battle

On 9 March, Russian forces conducted another attack on Voznesensk.[4][5] Ukrainian forces positioned a defense near the destroyed bridge. The following day, Russian forces captured the city. However, Ukrainian forces recaptured Voznesensk three days later on 13 March.[1][6] By 18 March, Ukrainian counter attacks around the area , had pushed the Russians 120 kilometres back from the city.[7]

The local Ukrainian forces continued to fortify the city after the second assault, believing that Russian forces would continue their attacks.

This would make a great movie.

Who will pay grandpa?  

I would like to offer that the couple at the beginning of this video (after the rail car full of dead Russian soldiers) would be happily played by CDR and Mrs. Salamander. We'd do it gratis. 

Mrs. Salamander would simply play herself, because that is pretty much what she might have done...after telling me to get off the ground....

Thursday, March 17, 2022

Not How You Signal Power

So, we have this great new Australia-United Kingdom-United States alliance in the Pacific.

We are supposed to be the big power here  -  to instill confidence in the face of a growing China.

What signal does this ship send?

Context here:

There is no excuse here. This speaks for itself.

I'm embarrassed for myself, my Navy, my nation, and for our friends for showing them so much disrespect by showing up as their guest like some late-Soviet trawler.  

Wednesday, March 16, 2022

Battle of Odessa Starting?

For obvious reasons, the navalists amongst us (guilty) have an ear out for Odessa.

Not only is it the last significant port on the Black Sea under the control of Ukraine, it has a history from the dawn of time as the key to any conflict in this area.

The Russians must take it during this campaign.

As such, this got my attention today;

The Ukrainian military is reporting Russian warships in the Black Sea are shelling villages near the coast close to the nearby port city of Odesa.

These attacks specifically targeted the settlements of Lebedivka, Sanzheika, Zatoka, and Bilenke, according to a Wednesday Facebook post from Ukraine’s General Staff of the Armed Forces. These villages are approximately 18 miles south of Ukraine’s third-largest city.

Why these small towns to the southwest of Odessa, on the other side of the main drive to invest that critical city?

Could be a few things. On the low end, it could just be the Russian Navy doing something to appear to be part of helping this operation, but when you look at the map - which you always must do - something else comes to mind;

The Ukraine-Romanian border is in the southwest corner of the map. The four towns shelled by the Russian Navy are the triangles. That large bay/lake looking body of water is the bay and estuary the Dniester River empties to. That small road at the top of the estuary is the border to Moldova. There is a small road across the estuary, well within range of the Russian forces in the Transnistria.

I have no idea why they shelled poor, isolated, sleepy village of Lebedivka (that would be like attacking Namskaket, MA) but if you need to move supplies in to Odessa from Romania, you would need to use the roads that go through the other three towns. Zatoka also has the rail line go through it.

Does that mean a move on Odessa is imminent? I don't think so...but would shelling those towns be a preparation for one? Probably. 

Then again, I can see the Russian General Staff looking at the Russian Navy senior member and asking, "Exactly what use are you? What have you done today?"

It could be that.

First map credit to ISW Second is mine.