Wednesday, August 31, 2022

A Stain Unfaded by Time: a Year After the Fall of Kabul

All month I tried to ... no ... I asked myself to come up with something good at the 1-yr anniversary of the national humiliation that was our negotiated retreat/surrender of Kabul a year ago, but here I am the night of the 30th and the morning of the 31st ... and I have pretty much nothing. "Good?" No.

I failed you and myself. I'm not all that happy about it either - but that kind of fits the moment.

I looked at the subtitles of the posts I did a year ago on the 31st of August, 5th of September, and 7th of September of 2021; 

- the fault, shame and humiliation is all ours; all red, white, and blue

- the good in the shadows

- the people, promises, and reputation we left in a sewage ditch  

...and I think that I will just roll with that.

While in uniform, Iraq was not "my war." From the C5F AOR and AFG proper from 07SEP01 and months following, AFG was my war for most of the rest of my years until then towards the end of 2QFY09, I left Kabul for good and inside six months later became a civilian. Most of that almost 8-yrs was either focused directly on AFG or indirectly supporting it - the archive is there for new readers and over on Midrats. It was an old war when I left it, yet it went on for another dozen years.

I failed. They failed. We failed.

I do have a lot to say on the topic, but not today. So many good Americans gave their lives and bodies - and those of their husbands, wives, brothers, sisters, sons, and daughters - and friends - for what in the end accomplished ... I'm not sure much more than another example of what not to do.

It did not have to end this way - but it did and we need to account for it. 

Even in our retreat from the airport, we lost 13 (11 Marines, one Soldier, one Sailor), and yet - almost silence from our most senior people who a year later feel content to enjoy their high positions and intact reputations.

It is sociopathic.

I wish as a nation we would demand accountability. Our military will fire field grade officers in command for a whole host of reasons - from serious felonies to subjective performance in exercises - and yet a year on from our greatest national humiliation since our defeat in Vietnam - where is the accountability for the 4-stars and SES who failed?

No one was fired in DOD or DOS for what happened in Afghanistan. No one resigned. Indeed, when we do hear from them, our most senior leaders at the time make excuses and point blame ... looking to do little more than keep their position and privilege in their carefully curated circle. 

The real heroes of the fall are mostly unknown. I know a few, and I am sure some of you do too.

In the last year I know people who have invested huge amounts of personal time and money to help their Afghan friends - and even fellow Americans - who we shamefully abandoned in that hellhole of our creation. They are still working, mostly in silence to get good people out. Our own State Department has stood in their way by acts of both commission and omission; our DOD distracted elsewhere.

No, I'm not over things. Not close. I have not moved past my thoughts of last August and September.

My bust.

Tuesday, August 30, 2022

Nice Ammo Dump You Have There, Shame if ...

Now that everyone has spent the last three weeks of the Russo-Ukrainian war watching what modern, precision guided, long-range fires can do to large, static supply bases - specifically "ammo dumps" - I'd like you to take a moment  and read this in a new light;

The Army in the Pacific had its first crack at testing out its APS-Afloat capability in March in the Philippines during exercises Salaknib 22 and Balikatan 22. part of Operation Pathways, a larger exercise in the theater. The 3rd Infantry Brigade Combat Team, 25th Infantry Division used it coming from ships designed to harbor complete equipment sets and spares the Army anticipates needing should a crisis unfold.


The APS-afloat is maintained by Army Field Support Battalion-Charleston and is the only floating stockpile in the theater. There are four other land-based APS locations in the Indo-Pacific area of operation.


Both land-based and afloat APS have their benefits, Bartholomees said., “but the key thing with Army prepositioned stocks is that the dispersion and the flexibility of them provide multiple options in the Indo-Pacom theater.”

The People's Liberation Army Rocket Forces are not just going to let American land-based supplies just sit there unmolested. Likewise, smart military planner does not place his supplies in quantity within range of an enemies artillery...but here we are.

In peace, afloat stockpiles are not as efficient - but they are movable and unpredictable to an enemy's targeteers.

Everyone likes to wargame things ... so wargame out what happens at D+1 that two of the four land based stockpiles are taken out. Then what?

Three of four? One?  

Time is short, but there is a solution. We need more afloat stockpiles we can move. Supplies either need to move onboard, move west, or get a signifiant plus-up of anti-ballistic missile defense - now.

Monday, August 29, 2022

The Eeyore Leadership Model for Our Navy

To paraphrase Papa Salamander's favorite saying, "No one owes you a Navy."

It has been eight decades since there was such a great gulf between the Navy our republic needs to meet a growing threat and the Navy its leadership was planning to have.

As we discussed a month ago, the institutions everyone is relying on to make the future fleet have failed their moment in time. 

Another reminder broke above the ambient noise last week, and it wasn't an easy read for navalists looking for firm leadership who - at least in words - give the impression that they have not given up the fight for what we know we need should conflict come in the next decade west of Wake.

Good thing I listened to AEI's scholars Hal Brands and Michael Beckley on The Remnant Podcast to discuss their recent book Danger Zone: The Coming Conflict with China. Folks smarter than me get it ... but it was a little discouraging that they sounded as frustrated - or more - than I am to what looks like a disaster we are sleepwalking in to. 

It isn't that the SECNAV and CNO don't know what time it is - they get better briefings than I do - they just seem to have thrown in the towel and are not up for the fight.

The SECNAV sounds, well, like he wishes he took a different job. Looking at his All Hands Message last week, well ... this isn't quite, "Join me in the battle to get our Navy the resources it needs." battle cry to inspire navalists;

....enhance our strategic partnerships, across the Joint Force, industry, academia, and nations around the globe. Those partnerships are critical in everything that we do. There’s no doubt in my mind about it. 

I don’t know that we’ll be able to ever match one for one, the number of ships that China is producing. But what I do know is that we can build a very large ‘Navy’ made up of all the ships of all our allies and partners around the globe working together collectively as one, in support of our mutual interests.

So, the Navy needs adopt a passive posture to continue to bend the knee to the Army's Cult of the Joint, publicly traded companies who have payrolls to meet, the grievance studies department at Oberlin College, and act-2 of Mike Mullen's wildly successful "1,000 Ship Navy™?"


Well, if that didn't make you proud and want to recommend to young men and women to join the Navy, this should do it;

...we must all speak up, speak out, and take action to eliminate sexual assault, sexual harassment, and racism from every part of our force. 

Disrespectful remarks, jokes, and actions contribute to an environment that increases the risk of assault, it weakens our force, and puts our Nation at risk.

Well, that message was almost designed to depress, so let's see what surge of energy the CNO provided to everyone as we get ready ponder the 1-year anniversary of our greatest national dishonor since the fall of Saigon;

“We have an industrial capacity that’s limited. In other words, we can only get so many ships off the production line a year. My goal would be to optimize those production lines for destroyers, for frigates, for amphibious ships, for the light amphibious ships, for supply ships,” Gilday said at a Heritage Foundation event.

“We need to give a signal to industry that we need to get to three destroyers a year, instead of 1.5, that we need to maintain two submarines a year. And so part of this is on us to give them a clear set of – a clear aim point so they can plan a work force and infrastructure that’s going to be able to meet the demand. But again, no industry is going to make those kinds of investments unless we give them a higher degree of confidence.”

Asked by USNI News after the event if the reason the Navy isn’t ready to send that signal to industry is because of funding, Gilday said, “it depends on the class of ships. Sometimes it’s affordability. Sometimes it’s industrial capacity.”

There is no reason why we should continue to play lip service to an obsolete system created at the creaking end of the Cold War 40-years ago and intellectually vapid Cult of the Joint that goes with it.

We don't have creative friction, we have complacent concurrence. 

We need someone, anyone really, to help build a pulse that will drive Congress towards a modern version of the Naval Expansion Act, 14 June 1940.

The CNO is close...very close...but like the SECNAV this is passive - diluted of vigor, and drive. 

We either have a moment of greatest threat from China or we do not. 

If we do, we need to act as such. If not, then by all means, maintain course and speed.

Post script: As I found out this AM as this post was in draft, our friend Jerry Hendrix is seeing the same need outlined a few lines above. Give it a read.

Sunday, August 28, 2022

The Use and Misuse of our Military Attachés - on Midrats

Networks, local knowledge, human terrain, and even gossip.  It does not matter if you are a tourist, a diplomat, or an invading army – if you come into a foreign nation you need local knowledge, a guide – someone who can not just tell you where the head is, but the important parts of the intangible nature of any culture that simply does not come from a briefing book.

And it needs to be someone you trust.

Likewise, as social animals, from the middle school lunchroom to the United Nations, we have our “in-group” and the “out-group.” Friendly, hostile, or aggressively neutral, out-group people are racked-n-stacked based upon their perceived threat or value.

Do they have power? Do they have access to power? Can they get information I need, or are they a reliable path to deliver information? Are they worthy of trust by me, and do they have the trust of their “in-group?”

When it comes to bi-lateral military relations between nations, at least on paper one of the most important players is the military attaché.

This Sunday from 5-6pm Eastern we will be looking at the United States’ military attaché ecosystem along the spectrum of how they should be used, how they are being used, and how we could better use them in the service of our nation’s interests.

Our guest for the full hour will be Colonel Raymond M. Powell, USAF former Air Attaché to Vietnam from 2013 to 2016, and the Senior Defense Official/Defense Attaché to Australia from 2017 to 2020.

We will use his recent article at DefenseOne, DOD’s Diplomats Don’t Need More Rank, Just Less Disdain, as a starting point for our conversation.

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, August 26, 2022

Fullbore Friday

The India/Burma theater is mostly forgotten by those who study WWII. In a quick skim, many will at least read a bit about Imphal ... but what about the Battle of Kohima?

Here's just a brief taste ... read the whole thing and the links to more detail. 

What an incredible battle by a combined force.
...Mutagushi ordered 2 of his divisions, the 15th & 33rd to encircle and destroy the British and Indian forces on the Imphal Plain. His 3rd Division, the 31st, commanded by Lt Gen Sato was to strike west to cut the road between the great supply depot and railhead at Dimapur thus preventing reinforcements from going to the aid of IV Corps. The road was to be cut at the small hill station of Kohima which sat at the pass through the hills. Once this was achieved, Mutagushi further planned to head off into India proper. He had been convinced that the Indians would then rise up in support against the British. This, the Japanese claimed, was the start of their march on Delhi.

The British of course knew that the Japanese were heading towards Kohima but they didn’t fully appreciate the numbers and the speed of approach. The Japanese 31st Division comprised about 13,500 men!!

Kohima was almost like a transit camp, with soldiers coming and going all of the time as the buildup in Imphal progressed, there was a field bakery, a hospital, vehicle repairs, a leave camp and a battle casualty reinforcement camp. With the constant movement of men, the best estimate is that the Garrison, commanded by Colonel H.U.W. Richards, consisted of about 1,500 combatant troops. These were mainly about 420 officers & men from the 4th battalion of the Queens Own Royal West Kent regiment who together with the remainder of their brigade, the 161st from 5th Indian Division had been airlifted out from the Arakan to meet the threat.

Elements of the Assam Rifles and Assam Regiment together with the soldiers from the leave & reinforcement camp formed the remainder.
The Japanese left behind around 7,000 dead and the British & Indian Army had around 4,000 casualties.

In the aftermath of the battle it has been said that there have been longer sieges but there have been fewer that were bloodier.

This was a battle in which everyone took part. There were no onlookers and the fighting was hand to hand for the most part. No-one was spared and 2 more Brigadiers were killed as were 5 Commanding Officers as testimony to the ferocity of the fighting.

The Battle of Kohima, in the opinion of many, was the decisive period of the Burma Campaign. Had Kohima fallen it is difficult to see how Imphal could have been relieved in time.

First posted in March of 2017.

Thursday, August 25, 2022

Diversity Thursday

"What fresh he11 hath Sal brought this week?" you ask almost every Thursday. Oh my dear, sweet summer child ... there is always a fresh he11 on this septic isle of a topic.

There are Collateral Duties ... and then there are Collateral Duties.

I wouldn't wish this on my worst enemy - just imagine being "that guy." Almost as bad are having to sit and listen to "that guy."

While you are reading the below pull quotes - actually you should read the whole "Solicitation: Become a Certified Diversity and Inclusion Change Agent" article - I want you to ponder the hours and money invested Coast Guard wide to do this. It isn't like the USCG cadre is big and overmanned (if one is still allowed to use this term)...but the USCG must feed Vaal, I guess;

A  group of certified Diversity & Inclusion (D&I) change agents are currently operating throughout the Coast Guard, and the Office of Diversity and Inclusion (CG-127) is looking for more folks to join the team.  

Wonderful ... these guys again.

Oh yeah ... "Change Agent."  Always fun to ask these people, "Oh, you're a Change Agent. You would like to change from what to what? Details please."

Afterwards, pray for their souls.

During group training sessions, change agents expand people’s understanding of what diversity, inclusion, and equity mean by demystifying concepts such as privilege, oppression, identity, and intersectionality. They also coach leaders on embodying inclusive, aware, and empowering behaviors, and create safe spaces to discuss topics of race, ethnicity, class, gender, disability, and more.

Drah di ned um, oh, oh, oh, Schau, schau, der Kommissar geht um, oh, oh, oh.

You should laugh along with me because we told everyone starting over a decade and a half ago that all these quaint fevers from academia - once loosed and unopposed in the uniformed services - would metastasize and manifest themselves as the supported, not the supporting effort.

“By having these important, complex conversations, a supportive, respectful work environment is fostered, which leads to higher performance and wellness,” said Hope Balamani, chief of the Office of Diversity and Inclusion (CG-127). “Teams with high-levels of trust are correlated with greater ability to understand, plan, program, and fulfill mission requirements, even in the face of emerging threats. Trust is developed in empowering environments where people truly feel they belong and change agents can help grow these empowering environments,” Balamani said. 

Never in human history has trust been improved by dividing people in to competing sectarian groups based on characteristics the individuals can do nothing about, then explaining to them that they are in conflict, and that there will by rewards and preferences given out - along with punishments - based on self-identified membership in these waring sectarian groups.

Change agents are a cornerstone of the Diversity and Inclusion Education and Awareness Program (DIEAP). After completing a six-month program, these agents provide diversity and inclusion (D&I) training sessions to members at the unit level as well as one-on-one coaching services to commanding officers, officers-in-charge, and program managers.  

Two pages. Even the Red Guards blush in admiration at this effort in self-criticism and professed admiration for The Party's Platform.

The new cohort of change agents must participate in ten days of training; successfully demonstrate D&I training facilitation and a DIEAP service elevator pitch, and complete a six-month, mostly self-paced practicum that includes six mentor coaching hours, 16 peer coaching hours, nine virtual labs, and a writing assignment (500-word reflective essay). 

Six months.

OK Shipmate, how many hours is this taking away from your assigned billet's responsibilities? Who is doing your work for you? If no one is, then is your command over-staffed? Can we get some savings then? Time for a manpower review? I think so.

D&I Change Agent collateral duty assignment performance expectations include the following: 

  • Facilitate D&I Training Sessions (at minimum four sessions per calendar year). 
  • Conduct D&I Empowerment Coaching sessions (at minimum three sessions per calendar year).   
  • Support activities for unit leaders and LDACs (upon request). 
  • Review, be familiar with, and comply with all published guidance from Office of Diversity and Inclusion (CG-127) and the DIEAP. 
  • Complete reports and course evaluations requested by the Office of Diversity and Inclusion (CG-127) and DIEAP. 

Now, take the collective workhours throughout the USCG from each change agent's duties at each of their commands, not just the change agent, but everyone who has to participate in these activities.

Put a dollar figure on that. Better yet, make the USCG put a dollar figure on that. Oh, and show your work.

Wednesday, August 24, 2022

Re-industrialization is a National Imperative

It is amazing that our nation - one so reliant on ocean trade and whose energy security is so reliant on the arctic - should have such a quote about it as below.

This came out in February...but came up in my digging around on a related topic.

The nation's first sea-going heavy icebreaker in more than 45 years will be named Sentinel -- a nod to its predecessors as well as future missions in the polar regions, Coast Guard Commandant Adm. Karl Schultz said Thursday.

We have been at peace at sea for so long, unchallenged for so long, I think we have forgotten what is needed to fight a sustained war at sea. 

Ships cannot be built overnight. Industrial capacity can take years to build and once lost may takes decades to have capacity at scale. The intellectual capital from welders to designers take generations to build and must be maintained or you will re-baseline yourself to almost zero.

As we've covered before, it isn't just new construction, it is maintenance as well. For decades we have let the accountants bleed our industry pale to bare subsistence. 

The service is in the midst of its largest ship recapitalization effort in decades, replacing its medium endurance cutters with 25 360-foot Offshore Patrol Cutters and planning to build three medium icebreakers, known as Arctic Security Cutters.

In the past decade, it has commissioned nine of 11 planned National Security Cutters and built dozens of Fast Response Cutters.

It also plans to build a variety of ships known as Waterways Commerce Cutters.

Schultz said that despite the delay in delivery of the Sentinel, the service will have no gaps in its ability to provide support in the polar regions and plans to keep the Polar Star running for several years after delivery of the first Polar Security Cutter.

Polar Star, he said, may be "tired and old," but "we'll keep it a couple of years" until delivery of the second heavy icebreaker because "quite frankly, we need the capacity."

We need to establish a slightly less efficient - but infinitely more effective and geographically diverse - maritime industrial infrastructure. 

Remember, nothing is more expensive than losing a war or surrendering your lines of communication to domination by a hostile power.

Tuesday, August 23, 2022

Some Damn Fool Thing in the Balkans

I know everyone is busy and all ... but you need to keep an eye on the usual problem areas.

You would think one war in Europe at a time would be enough, but you should never underestimate the Serbs.

As with most of us who were on active duty in the 1990s, I have more than a passing interest in the former Yugoslavia - and invested my quota of effort in its wars.

Later in my career I later served in NATO with Slovenes, Croatians, and N. Macedonians. I've vacationed a few times in Slovenia and Croatia. One of my daughters has studied, twice, in Serbia.

I keep an eye on it ... and thankfully so are some smart people in The Pentagon.

The Balkans is always on the edge and has been for centuries, so it is only natural that now and then it bubbles over.

You may have missed with all the other news that the frozen conflict in Kosovo was throwing sparks again. That is why on Friday I tilted my head a bit with this announcement;

Two U.S. Air Force B-52 Stratofortress aircraft assigned to the 23rd Bomb Squadron currently operating out of RAF Fairford, United Kingdom, will conduct low approach flyovers over Southeastern Europe scheduled on August 22.

The purpose of each flyover is to demonstrate U.S. commitment and assurance to NATO Allies and partners located in Southeastern Europe. Additionally, this will provide citizens an opportunity to take photos, videos, and enjoy the aircraft flying overhead.

That told me that the Balkans desk has run their concerns up the chain and whatever they briefed was enough to greenlight a not insignificant display.

Sure enough, off it went Monday;

A pair of U.S. Air Force B52 strategic bombers on Monday flew low over the Croatian resort of Dubrovnik and three other NATO-member states in the region as a sign of support amid the Russian aggression in Ukraine.

In addition to the walled Croatian tourist resort of Dubrovnik, the aircraft flew over the government headquarters in Skopje, North Macedonia, the downtown Skanderbeg Square in the Albanian capital, Tirana, and up the Adriatic coast of Montenegro.

The Balkans and the Adriatic Sea have lately seen increased military, intelligence and propaganda activity by Moscow, which considers the region of its strategic interest because of its access to the Mediterranean.

Serbia is about Russia's last friend in Europe and make no mistake ... the Serbs do not consider borders settled anywhere - they are just waiting for the moment to be ripe.

This too came out yesterday;

Serbia’s president called on NATO on Sunday to “do their job” in Kosovo or he says Serbia itself will move to protect its minority in the breakaway province.

The fiery televised address to his nation by President Aleksandar Vucic followed the collapse of political talks between Serbian and Kosovo leaders earlier this week mediated by the European Union in Brussels.

Serbia, along with its allies Russia and China, has refused to recognize Kosovo's 2008 declaration of independence. A NATO-led intervention in 1999 ended the war between Serbian forces and separatists in Kosovo and stopped Belgrade’s bloody crackdown against Kosovo's majority Albanians.

The EU has overseen years of unsuccessful talks to normalize their ties, saying that’s one of the main preconditions for Kosovo and Serbia’s eventual membership in the 27-nation bloc.

“We have nowhere to go, we are cornered,” Vucic said. “We will save our people from persecution and pogroms, if NATO does not want to do it.”

The successor states of the Serbian dominated Yugoslavia were Serbia, Croatia, Slovenia, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Montenegro, and North Macedonia. Bosnia itself is a spot-welded confederation of Bosnian Muslims, Croatian Catholics, and Orthodox Serbians who all have a blood feud against each other. It was, is, and will be a mess.

In the three decades after the wheels came off Yugoslavia, we now find Croatia, Slovenia, Montenegro, and North Macedonia all inside NATO. 

How may Americans know they are obligated to throw the bodies of their children in to an eventual Balkan bloodbath? Not many, I guess.

So, the intel is such that we feel the need to throw a B-52 brushback pitch against the Serbians.

The Serbians. 

At moments like this, I always seem to remember the words of German Field Marshal August von Mackensen;

You are going into a fight against a new enemy who is dangerous, tough, brave and sharp. You are going to the Serbian front, to Serbia, and Serbs are the people who love their freedom and who are willing to fight for it to their last. 

2022. What a year.

Pray for peace.

Monday, August 22, 2022

A Rust-Busting Renaissance?

After an absolutely dreadful decade long record failure of the most basic of all naval requirements - corrosion control - could our long navalist nightmare (at least this one) be coming to an end?

As in most things, ignore the excuses and emotional responses (some of the worst, by serving naval officers of all things was, "It is just a sign of how hard we are working." - as if no navy ever worked harder than the <checks news feed> US Navy at peace) - watch what naval leadership is saying, and look with your own eyes at what you see.

An interesting story from Mike Glenn over at The Washington Times this weekend is worth your time to read. It quotes some of our favorite people and opens with a quote from April that seemed to run under my radar.

The Navy’s top admiral has acknowledged how crucial the anti-rust campaign is for the service, militarily and aesthetically.

“Appearance is important. You’ve got to look sharp,” Adm. Mike Gilday, the chief of naval operations, said in April at the Washington-based Center for Strategic and International Studies. “We’re the world’s premier navy, [and] we’ve got to look like it.”

I think the boss sent a signal.

Where was this top cover a few years ago when David Larter, Chris Cavas, your humble blogg'r, and scores of others were beating a drum over this HUGE problem?

Well, a different story for a different day I guess ... but the pressure perhaps in some way helped move the needle. You can't change things overnight in such areas, but the April comment by the CNO (a careful man not prone too often - Kendi aside - of getting over his skis) starts to fold in to two other things I've noticed this summer. 

First was reports from people whose opinion I respect like Alessio Patalano (whose photos are used in this post with his permission) on the condition of our DDG during RIMPAC this summer. As you can find documented in the links earlier, we have not always done our best in high profile appearances. Nice change.

Second was the fun article on the 26-year old USS Benfold's (DDG 65) new enthusiasm - and success - it putting her in to proper shape. There was some carping from the cheap seats about, "Why are you asking for a BZ for doing what you are supposed to do anyway ... " but not from me. Yes, it shouldn't be news, but it is - and that means it is helping to set a "new" "old" standard ... as such it should be praised and encouraged. 

However, it is one ship and we can't overuse its example. We have a few hundred ships ... we should have more than one to point to. That is why I cringed a bit in the article here;
The Navy denies neglecting shipboard preservation. Cmdr. Arlo Abrahamson, a spokesman for the commander of naval surface forces in the Pacific, said the command’s crews devote “considerable time and energy” to balancing operational requirements and maintenance needs of their warships.

“We take a methodical approach to preserving our ships, synchronizing efforts with other maintenance requirements to ensure ships are ready and fully mission-capable,” Cmdr. Abrahamson said in a statement to The Washington Times. “We address these preservation challenges quickly at sea, after ships return to port, and during maintenance phases.”

Cmdr. Abrahamson pointed to the example of the USS Benfold, a guided-missile destroyer whose captain created a full-time maintenance group focused on preventing external shipboard corrosion, even while at sea.

“The team is hands-on busting rust, priming or painting every day except Sunday,” said Petty Officer 1st Class Alexander Polk, who is part of the Benfold restoration team. “Every week, we conduct a job review board and discuss upcoming jobs.”
No show ponies.

This was a lost opportunity. The record is clear that, yes, for well over a decade our Navy did neglect the material condition of our fleet. Do I need to point again to how we showed our stern to Kiel? That was only three years ago. We really need to stop spinning. There is nothing wrong with saying we are fixing a - pun intended - soft spot in our approach to preservation. 

I don't know who is setting the standards for our PAO's, but we do not help the reputation of those in uniform by sounding like the worst White House press briefing spin.

Yes, everything Abrahamson says is true ... but in context - no offense intended Arlo - it comes out slimy. 

There is a reason this is an important topic. It matters. In the article, Jerry Hendrix summarizes nicely;
“It’s having an impact on our standing in the world. That’s something the Navy really needs to come to grips with,” he said. “Influence is greatly tied to perception. If the perception is that your ships look terrible, that’s the perception of the country: ‘Our fleet is old and it’s tired and that we as a nation are old and tired and appear run down.’”
That is rock-solid correct.

Another CAPT., USN (Ret.), Carl Schuster of HPU, speaks a simple truth that needs to be repeated - it seems - every day until people are sick of hearing it;
“If you’re not willing to maintain the ship and preserve the hull and superstructure, what else are you ignoring in terms of maintenance?” he asked. “What else are they not taking care of?”
This is backed up by CMDCM Thomasson of the Benfold who states what used to be a universal, but sadly to many ears, seems "new." Master Chief knows ... and always knew;
Navy Command Master Chief Andrew Thomasson, the senior enlisted sailor aboard the USS Benfold, said his sailors take great pride in the condition of their ship. 

“When a ship looks pristine, new and looking her best, our enemies hesitate to mess with us because when we’re looking our best, we obviously must be performing at our best,” he said. “And just the opposite when we look dirty and rusty. When a ship is looking her best, just look at it as saving lives.”
As we have called for over the last decade, we need to prioritize material condition. We need a reset. We need to deploy less, increase at sea manning, and allocate resources until we get a better balance. For two decades we have refused to say no, and the fleet has suffered.

Could we already be in the early phases of a renaissance in the neglected areas of material condition? 

Perhaps. I hope so.

Friday, August 19, 2022

Fullbore Friday

The Russo-Ukrainian War of the last six months is reminding everyone - I hope - that war in a large measure does not change. Yes, some new technologies and ideas comes in that no one appreciates the value of until proven on the field of battle, some established technologies and ideas no longer work, and that process of integrating battlefield lessons often determines who gets better results over time.

At the end of the day, it is taking ground, keeping ground, and positioning yourself for more.

Thinking of that reminded me of a FbF from 4.5yrs ago that I thought I would bring back this week.

One of the enduring characteristics of WWI was the amount of blood that was shed over and over and over for such small bits of land.

So it was again in March of 2015;
French Commander-in-Chief General Joffre considered it vital that the Allied forces should take every advantage of their growing numbers and strength on the Western Front, both to relieve German pressure on Russia and if possible break through in France. British commander Sir John French agreed and pressed the BEF to adopt an offensive posture after the months of defence in sodden trenches. Joffre planned to reduce the great bulge into France punched by the German advance in 1914, by attacking at the extreme points in Artois and the Champagne. In particular, if the lateral railways in the plain of Douai could be recaptured, the Germans would be forced to evacuate large areas of the ground they had gained. This belief formed the plan that created most of the 1915 actions in the British sector. The attack at Neuve Chapelle was an entirely British affair – the French saying that until extra British divisions could relieve them at Ypres, they had insufficient troops in the area to either extend of support the action.
It is one thing to see the map of a battle as you see in the upper right hand part of the page - but here is a bird's eye view of the battlefield today. Driving through this now, it is an incredibly beautiful part of Europe - not the hellscape it was.

Neuve Chapelle village lies on the road between Bethune, Fleurbaix and Armentieres, near its junction with the Estaires – La Bassee road. The front lines ran parallel with the Bethune-Armentieres road, a little way to the east of the village. Behind the German line is the Bois de Biez. The ground here is flat and cut by many small drainage ditches. A mile ahead of the British was a long ridge – Aubers Ridge – barely 20 feet higher than the surrounding area but giving an observation advantage.
The attack was undertaken by Sir Douglas Haig’s First Army, with Rawlinson’s IV Corps on the left and Willcock’s Indian Corps on the right, squeezing out a German salient that included the village itself. The battle opened with a 35 minute bombardment of the front line, then 30 minutes on the village and reserve positions. The bombardment, for weight of shell fired per yard of enemy front, was the heaviest that would be fired until 1917.
Three infantry brigades were ordered to advance quickly as soon as the barrage lifted from the front line at 8.05am. The Gharwal Brigade of the Indian Corps advanced successfully, with the exception of the 1/39th Gharwal Rifles on the extreme right that went astray and plunged into defences untouched by the bombardment, suffering large losses. The 25th and 23rd Brigades of the 8th Division made good progress against the village. There were delays in sending further orders and reinforcements forward, but by nightfall the village had been captured, and the advanced units were in places as far forward as the Layes brook.
As was often the case in WWI - this 1915 battle was an experiment that hopefully informed future tactics. The price for this little wedge of land?

The British losses in the four attacking Divisions were 544 officers and 11,108 other ranks killed, wounded and missing. German losses are estimated at a similar figure of 12,000, which included 1,687 prisoners.
...and the lessons?
It demonstrated that it was quite possible to break into the enemy positions – but also showed that this kind of success was not easily turned into breaking through them. The main lessons of Neuve Chapelle were that the artillery bombardment was too light to suppress the enemy defences; there were too few good artillery observation points; the reserves were too few to follow up success quickly; command communications took too long and the means of communicating were too vulnerable. One important lesson was perhaps not fully understood: the sheer weight of bombardment was a telling factor. Similar efforts in 1915 and 1916 would fall far short of its destructive power.

History tells us that we will again see larger-scale, heavy-casualty, nation-exhausting wars again. We are actually overdue for one. Like the decades of relative peace that followed Napoleon, so we too have enjoyed a long peace after the Cold War.

Human nature and habits are unchanged. This will come again, but when? Next week, next year, next decade? Where?

No one really knows, but what we can know is that it will most likely be a surprise. It will not be a short war. It will not be an easy war, and the world that comes after will be a foreign world than that existed before some nation's best and brightest thought they could control events.

Oh, and speaking of lessons, LongLongTrail forgot this one that History got. We'll see this again too;
The slowness and inaccuracy of communication between the front lines and the corps headquarters—the army had no wireless technology, and telephone lines at the front were usually cut or destroyed by enemy fire during battle—caused Lieutenant-General Sir Henry Rawlinson, the corps commander, to order a fresh advance when support troops were unprepared. In the confusion, some artillery even opened fire on friendly infantry. By the late afternoon, forward units were attacking without adequate artillery support or effective coordination, in failing light, against a hardening German defense.
... it (was) incredibly difficult for commanders on both sides to know where and when to effectively deploy their reserve troops. General John Charteris, director of military intelligence under British commander Alexander Haig, took another sobering lesson from the battle, writing that “England will have to accustom herself to far greater losses than those of Neuve Chapelle before we finally crush the German army.”

Thursday, August 18, 2022

Diversity Thursday

What the RAF was doing is not new.

What the RAF was doing is not isolated to the United Kingdom.

Via SkyNews this is what broke earlier this week. (NB: first reports and all - as you will read downpost);

The head of RAF recruitment has resigned in protest at an "effective pause" on offering jobs to white male recruits in favour of women and ethnic minorities, defence sources have claimed.

The senior female officer apparently handed in her notice in recent days amid concerns that any such restrictions on hiring, however temporary and limited, could undermine the fighting strength of the Royal Air Force (RAF), the sources said.

Official racial discrimination is wrong. It does not matter who the group being discriminated against is.

They said the service was attempting to hit "impossible" diversity targets.

The defence sources accused Air Chief Marshal Sir Mike Wigston, the head of the RAF, of appearing willing to compromise UK security at a time of growing threats from Russia and China in pursuit of albeit important goals such as improving diversity and inclusion.

The diversity industry is not about equal opportunity. It is not about making organizations better or stronger.

It is about job security, grievance mongering, and power.

At least the UK seems, at the moment, to have civilian leaders at least say the right things;

The recruitment claims prompted a response from Rishi Sunak, one of the two contenders vying to be the UK's next prime minister.

A spokesperson for the Sunak leadership campaign said: "The only thing that should matter in recruitment is the content of your character, not your sex or the colour of your skin.

"That the Ministry of Defence would allow Britain's security to potentially be put at risk by a drive for so-called 'diversity' is not only disgraceful, it is dangerous."

However, as we know here, the commissariat does not care. They have their advocates, their levers of power, and they know they can lie without worry. 

What is going to happen? Fire them? LOLOLOL...

An RAF spokesperson disputed the allegations.

"There is no pause in Royal Air Force recruitment and no new policy with regards to meeting in-year recruitment requirements," the spokesperson said.

"Royal Air Force commanders will not shy away from the challenges we face building a service that attracts and recruits talent from every part of the UK workforce.

"As with the Royal Navy and British Army, we are doing everything we can to encourage recruiting from under-represented groups and ensure we have a diverse workforce.

"The Royal Air Force has a well-earned reputation for operational excellence that is founded on the quality of all our people. We will always seek to recruit the best talent available to us".

Word salad that does nothing but up the ante...and of course they are lying to you ... as they can't even get their story straight;

...responding to questions from Sky News on the issue, a spokesperson for the Ministry of Defence said: "Operational effectiveness is of paramount importance and no one is lowering the standards to join the Royal Air Force. The RAF recruits for many professions and, like the rest of the armed forces, is determined to be a force that reflects the society it serves to protect."

In the end, as on this side of the pond, the uniformed leadership are either true believers or broken souls. To effectively fight back against institutional discrimination the diversity bullies are pushing, you need new leaders who are immune to name calling, and a different set of incentives and disincentives for the mushy middle.

Admiral Sir Tony Radakin, the head of the armed forces, used his first public speech in-post last December to stress the importance of striving for better diversity.

He said this was not "about wokefulness. It is about woefulness. The woefulness of too few women. The woefulness of not reflecting the ethnic, religious and cognitive diversity of our nation."

The MOD has announced it aims to increase the ratio of female recruits coming into the armed forces in general to 30% by 2030 from around 12%.

The RAF - which was the first of the services to open all roles to women and already has the highest ratio of females - is aiming to go further. It wants the ratio of female air force recruits to hit 40% by the end of the decade - more than double the current level.

The target for ethnic minorities is to reach 20% of all air force recruits within the same timeframe, up from around 10%.

Yet the RAF must also hire enough people in the right trades to meet its "operational inflow requirements" - the number of new personnel needed to ensure the service can carry out the full range of tasks it has been given to help keep the UK and its allies safe.

Clearly they are as lacking over in the Mother Country as they are here.

Today, two days after the above report ... the RAF officially replied.


The boss of RAF recruitment has said she is 'unashamed' of the force's diversity targets, amid claims that it has effectively paused its recruitment of white men.

Air Vice-Marshal Maria Byford, chief of staff personnel and air secretary, said that recruiting more women and ethnic minorities would result in 'a better service in the long run'.

This is amazingly not satire;

Air Vice-Marshal Byford, one of the most senior ranking women in the military, told The Times that she had 'slowed down' recruitment processes for all candidates after failing to meet diversity targets.

She said: 'I want the best people. So I need the best people to join to achieve the best they can during their service career and we get... what we need from an operational capability perspective.

'And if I can include more women and more people from different backgrounds in that, I think I have a better service in the long run.

It's ok. It's not you. Go ahead and re-read that again. Diagram the sentences if you need to. No shame.

'We are unashamed about doing that because I think that's a good thing.'

At present, RAF candidates can be put forward for training immediately after they meet the requirements of the 'first past the post' type-system, rather than being merited on how well they perform in certain stages of the process.

The Vice-Marshal, who has served in the force for more than 30 years, said the RAF will look at how to use 'positive action' legally so recruits who have passed the basic requirements to join the force can be selected on merit as well as their gender and ethnicity.

She confirmed that women could be picked over men if they were underrepresented in that role and they had met the required standards.

Notice she says, "think" a lot? That is a subjective qualifier...because the objective data simply do not tell you that. I am sure the UK's data is similar to ours, well hidden in Millington and elsewhere. As we have referenced before, the facts do not give you that answer. You can "think" and "feel" all you want - but the facts are facts.

There has been a fierce backlash to the recruitment from former military personnel as well as politicians, who have claimed that the recruitment pause 'is an example of pandering to political correctness'.

Former health secretary Sajid Javid said it would be 'complete nonsense' if the RAF has paused recruitment of white males.

He told Sky News: 'I don't think any organisation, whether it's the RAF or any other public or private organisation, should be recruiting on the basis of one's race.

...but what is anyone going to do about it? Well, we have words at least. It is a start;

Colonel Richard Kemp, a former commander in Afghanistan, said: 'This idea of diversity now dominates the thinking of senior leaders in all of the Armed Forces.

'They have become seized by the need for political correctness over the need for combat effectiveness and that could be damaging to our national defences.

'This is an example of pandering to political correctness; the diverse make-up of the Army is important but it's definitely not the most important.'

At the very end, you can find the heart of the issue here that needs to be fleshed out;

Conservative MP and member of the Commons defence committee Richard Drax – also a former Army officer – said that while he supported more women and ethnic minorities joining the Armed Forces, he was 'nervous of any discrimination'.

He said: 'Although I have been assured there has been no lowering of standards, I suspect that the RAF is manipulating the quota figure.

'There is a surplus of people trying to join the force therefore they are without doubt discriminating.'

I guess I'm the one to do it, so here we go.

In an all volunteer force in a nation of people with free will, you cannot force the metrics to work while maintaining standards. You simply cannot unless you make aggressive actions based on preferential treatment or exceptions towards favored groups or worse - discrimination - against disfavored groups.

Besides the cancerous sectarianism of such systems in the zero-sum game that is accessions, it creates a perpetual problem down the career path that - by design - will do nothing but ensure an ongoing crisis that will demand more diversity commissars and greater discrimination.

The only way to get lower represented numbers in play without doing truly obnoxious actions like, "$20,000 enlistment bonus for self-identified ethnic group-A; $2,000 for group-B; nothing for group-C," you will have to lower objective entry standards for your "preferred" group.

Here is how that dynamic works - and why such sectarianism must be opposed at all levels. 

Having watched this intake-bias in practice, what develops is cohort performance deviation that manifests itself later in everything from time to qualify in your warfare specialty and advanced qualifications, to competitive rankings, to promotion (when only performance is measured). If you desire all groups to be the same to make the metrics look good on a PPT slide, further pressure for additional preference/quotas must be forced on the system. It gets worse over time and more obvious. 

If you believe that objective success criteria (education, standardized tests, etc) are indicators of future success, the process goes like this. First let's break a recruitment population in to three "Cohorts," and then inside these groups let's divide them in to performance quartiles where the 1st quartile has the highest objective criteria scoring, and the 4th the lowest. For demonstration purposes, we will break these up geographically, by US States;

- In Cohort-A (let's call them people born in Kentucky) you have "too many" of in the service based on the US population. You simply must have fewer of them, but darn it - the people from the Bluegrass State simply love serving their nation, the bastards, and keep signing up. Break them up in to the four quartiles we outlined above. Best in the 1st, "most challenged" in the 4th.

- In Cohort-B (let's call these people born in Tennessee) you "don't have enough of. " It seems that the Volunteer State simply is not volunteering enough. Must be the strong market in Nashville or something. They are divided in to quartiles as Kentuckians are. 

- In Cohort-C you have your control group. Cohort-C is a random collection of people from all 50 states, including those born in KY and TN. They are also broken in to quartiles.  

Now we need to recruit for 1QFY23 coming up in six weeks.

In your control group, Cohort-C - as you only want the best - you do what is best for your organization; you do not hire from the 4th quartile. They don't get an offer letter. It just so happens that to meet your intake requirements quartiles 1-3 will get you that number, so all three are given offers. Over time the best will work things out in competition with each other down the career path. Some 1st quartile will fail, some 3rd quartile will rise to the top, but as you have decades of hard data on this, you know that the 1st quartile will as a group have much better qualification times, rankings, promotion rates, and job performance than the 2nd. The 2nd over the 3rd, etc. Your objective criteria are, on average, very good determinations of success.

Then you have the problem with your boss and his PPT slides. There is a problem with Kentuckians and Tennesseans.

States must be represented in equal proportion to the nation as a whole.

You have too many Kentuckians and too few Tennesseans. 

If you had your way, you would do the same thing with the good people from KY and TN that you did with Cohort-C. You really don't want the 4th quartile of either and - because you trust decades of experience with your objective criteria performance predictors - you'd refuse to send them an offer for employment.

However, to make the boss's PPT metrics work, you have to decrease the number of Kentuckians. The only way to do this is to not make any offers for those in the 3rd quartile of Kentuckians. Problem solved there. 

However, that still does not give you enough Tennesseans. As you can't force any more to come in, the only option you have is to dig into the top of Tennessee's 4th quartile to get the numbers to make metrics where you want them to make the boss happy with his PPT. Your problem is solved. As for following problems down the road where your outflow is another's inflow, well, hope for the best. Not your problem. Not reflected on your FITREP.

That is how you get your "entering metrics" to work ... but it has an echo effect down the road. Let's now look at the three cohorts' average odds for professional success looks. 

Cohort-C is right in the middle with the average score. Kentucky has only 1st and 2nd quartile quality people in the service. Their average is significantly higher than any other Cohort. Tennessee's service members not only includes 3rd Quartile, but a non-zero number of 4th quartile personnel. Their objective scoring on criteria for success relative to the other cohorts is much lower. 

This will manifest itself down the career path. On average, Tennesseans will qualify slower, be of less utility for shorter periods of time in their jobs as a result. As such they will be competitively ranked lower and promote at lower rates unless external efforts are made to adjust the numbers to meet certain "goals." Of course, that is exactly what will - and what does - happen.

As things go down the road, Cohort-C looks at people from Kentucky as a bunch of rockstars and wonders what, exactly, is wrong with people from Tennessee. It seems that more issues come from people with a Tennessee drivers license than anyone else. The people from Kentucky start to think they are special and the people from Tennessee start to think there is something either wrong with them or the system.

An unfortunate byproduct of this activity is that 1st and 2nd quartile members from Tennessee - even though they are just as good as 1st and 2nd quartile members from Kentucky and the rest of the nation, will be assumed to be lower performers because such objective difference are not just readily seen --- the organization is well aware of the special considerations given to people who just happened to be born in Tennessee.  

That is the long term insidious nature of forcing quotas in this system. Instead of supporting equality, it forces a system of advantages and disadvantages based on sectarian lines.

No nation, and unquestionably no military, has ever been successful promoting such divisions among its people.


H/t Deborah Haynes.

Wednesday, August 17, 2022

The US Navy's Disarmed Hostility

So, how is your week going?

The Navy wants to shed 39 ships in Fiscal Year 2023, with the first ship set to depart on Halloween.

The list, which includes five guided-missile cruisers 

Armed neutrality is a good thing - it keeps an enemy at bay.

Being hostile while you are actively disarming yourself? That is begging for a whoop'n.

Inaction. Inattention. Slavish devotion to process. Entitlement. Distracted leadership.

That is how we got here – a destination we slid to this century on a carpet of happy-talk, half-truths, and aspirational time-buying.

First, let’s start with a statement that I could have made myself. Via David Sharp at AP;

Adm. Mike Gilday, chief of naval operations, defended the proposal that emphasizes long-range weapons and modern warships, while shedding other ships ill equipped to face current threats.

“We need a ready, capable, lethal force more than we need a bigger force that’s less ready, less lethal, and less capable,” he said Monday at the Navy League's Sea-Air-Space symposium in Maryland.

I would always want three effective warships as opposed to five worn out, worm-ridden with unpublished CASREPS, partially manned and maintained Command at Sea billets … but it didn’t have to be this way; this was a choice.

Anyway, this is just another way to say, "Divest to Invest" which is a kinder-gentler version of "Do More With Less" etc that we've all seen before.

We should have five warships - and need eight - but we don’t – and we are barely through the first 5th of The Terrible 20s. We did not get here by accident or by the action of external forces - but by decisions the Navy made.

No one is allowed to be surprised.

We are a dozen years past the announcement of “The Terrible 20s.” So the structural challenges of this decade were known a few PCS cycles before they began to manifest themselves in spades. 

Generations of leadership have been happy to let their Sailors be worked down to the bone in undermanned, rusty, poorly maintained ships on extended deployments with ships only partially mission capable. Little effort was made to promote either a replacement for Goldwater-Nichols, or push back against the Ottoman-effective “Joint” requirements. Less effort was made to bring the critical importance of sea power has in enabling the standard of living and place in the world of the American people enjoy to the ears of the American people.

We lost an entire generation of naval developments with programs like CG(X) that failed to launch, programs like DDG-1000 that failed to transition, and programs like LCS who exist only to mock our claim to be the world’s premier naval power. In some areas, we aren’t even that anymore. 

No. As we covered last month, the Navalist institutions have failed their moment and we are drifting rudderless into a minefield while those with the charter to provide and maintain a navy remain at their cocktail parties reminding each other how wonderful and influential they are in a potlatchesque onomastic orgy of feather-nesting – the future be damned.

We have wallowed in failure so long, we have forgotten how we got there.

How about a little Front Porch unintended call-out?

Some detractors proclaimed littoral combat ships to be the Navy’s “Little Crappy Ship,” but that’s not fair, said defense analyst Loren Thompson.

“It’s not a little crappy ship. It does what it was supposed to do. What it was supposed to do isn’t enough for the kind of threats that we face today,” said Thompson, from the Lexington Institute.

In the Navy’s defense, threats shifted swiftly from the Cold War to the war on terror to the current Great Power Competition in which Russia and China are asserting themselves, he said.

If you have to bring out Loren to defend you, you've lost the LCS argument. I mean, really people. As was even mentioned early on in the AP article, LCS was designed for a post-Cold War threat. This reads as satire, but it is serious as people think it is informed, objective opinion quoted in the article.

It isn't.

If we can't speak truth, we sail in a sea of lies and feast on a layer of error on top of error.

Enough of that rant, I am probably losing you ... let us behold the spawn of The Terrible 20s.

There are three stories here, all different, and all damning to the leadership of our Navy the last quarter century … but mostly the leadership of the first decade of this century. They begat the child the present leadership is having to raise – and still tell us what a great baby-daddy they are.

First let’s look at the list from NAVADMIN 181/22.

The three stories are the neglected unsexy but important, the worn out, and the snake-bit. 

1. The Unsexy but Important: The USNS ships range from 8 (Glenn) to 50 (Gordon/Gilliland) years old with an average of 36.2 years. Most should have been replaced years ago, but ... well ... you know. As a side note, if anyone knows the background on the T-ESD going away so young, let us know in the comments. I can't find anything.

2. Worn out: The SSN were both ~36-yrs old, the CG averaged 35 years old, and the LSD 33 years old. The way we use our fleet units, if after 30-yrs you can't replace them 1-for-1 then that is your fault. The PC's are 28 years old on average ... way beyond what those wee ships should be. Is the CNO right about these? Sure ... but don't say, "... less ready, less lethal, and less capable." - just be honest and say, "...worn out, unrepairable, and too dangerous to ask Sailors to go to war in." Be clear and direct. Be at least as blunt as we were defending the writings of Kendi.

3. Snake-bit: the Little Crappy Ship is little, crappy, and should probably be called a hulk. Average age here is 4.7 years, the youngest just 2 years. No one has been held to account. No one. If you are new to the LCS debacle or think the Front Porch is taking too much credit, is almost 2-decades of commentary on LCS. We were right from the start. Something useful is being made with the Independence Class with more money and fewer expectations, but what an opportunity cost this misadventure has consumed.

In what has been a bad decade for the US Navy’s relationship with Congress – and an exceptionally bad year when our senior leadership expended what was left of institutional good will defending racial essentialism – it appears that the powers that be insist it wants to pick a fight with the organization that feeds them. That is just picking a fight. I'm all about picking fights, but this isn't the right one.

U.S. Rep. Elaine Luria, D-Virginia, was more blunt, tweeting that it “sucks” to be decommissioning so many ships, especially newer ones.

“The Navy owes a public apology to American taxpayers for wasting tens of billions of dollars on ships they now say serve no purpose,” she said.

Rep. Lauria (D-VA), the surface-nuke that she is – knows what time it is – and can mock the lame and weak as only a surface nuke can.

So, add this to your folder of affirmative failures of vision and verve. 

U.S. Rep. Rob Wittman, R-Virginia, suggested the ship cuts were “grossly irresponsible” when the U.S. Navy has dipped from 318 ships to 297, while the Chinese fleet has grown from 210 to 360 ships over the past two decades.

Milley said it's important to focus on the Navy's capabilities rather than the size of its fleet.

“I would bias towards capability rather than just sheer numbers,” he said.

Milley doesn't know the difference between a MK-41 and a SeaRAM. 

What happened to "distributed lethality?" Nothing to the concept, it just seems that our leadership lacks the ability to have a sustained baseline strategy that lasts longer than a FITREP cycle and instead invents new buzzwords to chase around like a catnip addled kitty after a laser pointer. That and it is shamed by the empty piers LCS, DDG-1000, and CG(X) begat our already cursed decade of decline.

The 2020s were going to be hard whatever we did, but by our collective action, we have made it worse. The US Navy has earned a long, painful, and distinguished period of oversight from Congress that will hopefully result in a wholesale rebuild of our shipbuilding people, process, and procedures. 

If not, well ... the US Navy and the nation it serves had a good century in the sun. A hoot while it lasted. 

What follows will not be a hoot.

Tuesday, August 16, 2022

It isn’t the Platform: it’s the Engine

The “Out Years” is fantasy. It is a place where people wishcast the future they want. 

Let’s take a quick look at this gem from the Annual Long-Range Plan for Construction of Naval Vessels for FY 2007.

How'd that work out for us?

From that report looking forward nine years to 2016, it shows us having spent money on building in that time period … what exactly?

Seven (7) DD(X), aka DDG-1000, and six (6) CG(X).

Yeah … so be careful trusting these documents. That is why I simply refuse to listen to anyone’s pontifications on 2040 or 2045. Come on people. It’s insulting.

Let’s stick with that template of 9-years above, it's bad enough. From today that window would get us to 2031. Depending on who you talk to, that is either in the center or slightly right of center of the period expected to be the time of greatest danger with conflict over Taiwan with the People’s Republic of China. It also plays well with the issues we raised with the Hudson Institute’s Bryan Clark on Midrats last Sunday.

As men smarter than me have said, there are no magic beans. By the end of the decade there will be no “new” deployable program that will be able to change the fight west of Wake except on the margins in year-1 of any war. We will fight, +/-, at the end of the decade with what we have displacing water and making shadows on the ramp today. 

There are things that we have right now – at or near IOC – that may, if given the proper resources and focus, be significant additions to our combat power by the end of the decade.

I’d point you to Sunday’s Midrats for a series of platforms and capabilities that fit that bill, but today I want to focus on one that really got my attention – mostly because it is a historically proven force multiplier, engines.

Throughout aviation history marginal existing aircraft were made good, and good aircraft made great simply by updating engines.

In recent history, two example stand out.

First the USAF re-engined its KC-135s;

The re-engined tanker, designated either the KC-135R or KC-135T, can offload 50 percent more fuel, is 25 percent more fuel efficient, costs 25 percent less to operate and is 96 percent quieter than the KC-135A.

On the Navy side of the house, there was the re-engined F-14;

Navy Secretary John F. Lehman Jr. went on to say the TF30 engine “in the F-14 is probably the worst engine-airplane mismatch we have had in many years. The TF30 engine is just a terrible engine and has accounted for 28.2 percent of all F14 crashes.”

In 1987, F-14s began receiving new engines in the General Electric F110, which offered more thrust and eliminated many of the reliability problems associated with the TF30. These improved F-14Bs and the subsequent F-14Ds were very much the Tomcat of Top Gun fame, and as a result, you’ll often find Tomcat fans dismissing the TF30’s woes as a problem specific to the F-14A in the early days of operation.

See the pattern?

What does this have to do with any future conflict with China?

The self-inflicted vulnerability of our airwing and its well-known retreat from range with a deck full of short-legged strike fighters with no organic tanking (sorry, buddy tanking does not count) needs to be fixed at sea or balanced ashore.

While there is a chance to get a fair number of deployable unmanned tankers by the end of the decade, that is about the only thing we have on the horizon. Mindless dithering, entitlement, and sloth means our new carrier capable aircraft won’t be ready for the fight. 

What do we have that, possibly, might be able to help ashore for the USAF aircraft we will need beyond the finite number of heavy bombers and the delicate inventory of stand-off weapons they carry?

Though there are questions if it could be installed in the USN’s F-35C due to space constraints with the tailhook, and unquestionably can’t fit in the F-35B … for the land-based F-35A an engine replacement via the Adaptive Engine Transition Program (AETP) could provide a 25-30% increase in range. 

Pratt & Whitney is testing its new XA101 Adaptive Engine Transition Program powerplant and expects to conclude testing its two examples by the end of next year, company military engines division president Matthew Bromberg revealed in an interview. He expects that two-thirds of the technology developed from AETP could find its way into earlier engines now flying with the Air Force.

The company is “thrilled” to have two options available for the Air Force and F-35 partners to choose from for an upgrade to the fighter’s propulsion system, Bromberg said. GE Aviation has developed the XA100 AETP engine as a competitor to Pratt & Whitney’s version.

Testing of “our first new fighter engine in 30 years … was successful,” Bromberg said. The first XA101 and its twin will shuttle back and forth between Pratt & Whitney’s facilities and the Air Force’s Arnold Engineering Center in Tullahoma, Tenn., for the next year or so, generating more data. The Air Force and F-35 Joint Program Office will use the data to help decide whether the F-35 should get an all-new powerplant—one of the AETP engines—or take Pratt & Whitney up on its offer of an enhanced version of the F135 engine already in the F-35 fighter.

Pratt & Whitney succeeded in achieving the AETP’s goals, which were to obtain 10 percent improvement in thrust and 25 percent improvements in both fuel efficiency and thermal management, Bromberg said. “We know we can do that,” he said.

Range and endurance is a primary driver for any conflict in the Pacific. If we need more range inside 5-10 year window, AETP is one of the few ways I can see it happening.

I can think of fewer programs ready to go that seem more critical if the USAF is going to be able to join the fray in a manner we need them to. The timeline is tight, but take what you can get.

Time is short … and so is the range of our aircraft. 

All hail the F-35D.