Thursday, January 27, 2022

What Did You do Your First 5-yrs After Commissioning?

Some ships are just cursed, snakebit, or ... well ... just a LCS.

Light a candle for the crew of USS Little Rock (LCS-9). 

Our friend Megan Eckstein doesn't mean to pick on the handicapped, but she's a professional and has a job to do;

Littoral combat ship Little Rock lost power while operating at sea and had to return to port on Jan. 22, according to a Navy spokesman.

The four-year-old LCS was conducting sea trials following a 19-month maintenance period in the dry dock at BAE Systems Shipyard in Jacksonville, Fla. The ship departed Naval Station Mayport on Jan. 21 for the contractor’s trials, LCS Squadron 2 spokesman Lt. Anthony Junco told Defense News.

During the operations at sea, the ship temporarily lost power.

“While conducting operations, engineering malfunctions were identified that resulted in a temporary loss of power, and the decision was made for the ship to return to Naval Station Mayport on Jan. 22, under its own power,” Junco said in a statement.

“The Navy is conducting a technical investigation on the root cause of the engineering malfunctions. While there is not currently any indication the casualty is related to the combining gear class issue, the investigation will examine all aspects of what occurred,” he continued.  

In February 2020, Little Rock departed Mayport for its maiden deployment, but had to return about six weeks later due to the combining gear failure. LCS Detroit suffered a similar failure in late October 2020 and also had to return home.

Big Navy has plans to put her out of her misery ... but still ... someone has to stay to the end

The future of Little Rock remains unclear. The Navy asked to decommission both it and five-year-old LCS Detroit in its fiscal 2022 budget in part because of the cost the service would incur in replacing the combining gear system and repairing damage incurred during that propulsion failure.

LCS; the gift that keeps on giving. 

Buy a round at Singleton's for the crew. Hey, at least they are stationed in Mayport and the sea and anchor detail is short.

Wednesday, January 26, 2022

28-yr Crisis in the Making

Words work, until they don't.

The world finds itself where it is today because soft words were not backed up with very hard iron.

The crisis in Ukraine did not start in the last year ... it was only a matter of time.

Come take a trip down memory lane with me over at USNIBlog.

Tuesday, January 25, 2022

What Can Get a VADM Fired?

Well, if you are German, all it takes is this;
The head of the German navy resigned late Saturday after coming under fire at home and abroad for comments he made on Ukraine and Russia. Speaking at an event in India on Friday, vice admiral Kay-Achim Schoenbach had said Ukraine would not regain the Crimean Peninsula, which Russia annexed in 2014. Schoenbach also said it was important to have Russia on the same side against China, and suggested that Russian President Vladimir Putin deserved “respect."
At some point in my career spending 9 of my 21 years on GOFO staffs, I was told that it is best to make sure that the principal not be allowed too much "free swim" time if there is any kind of press or recording present. 

I've seen more than one Chief of Staff emphatically make that point to incoming Loops. Most GOFO are self-aware of this and don't need or want a COS or Loop staring laser beams at them or finding awkward excuses to bring a meeting to an end ... but Generals and Admirals are human too. You can get tired, you can get comfortable, and you can forget who you are, where you are, and what your job is.

I like the cut of VADM Schoenbach's jib, but with the incredibly fragile situation in Ukraine, I don't think the present SDP/Green/FDP government really had a choice.


You really should see the whole thing to get an understanding of how he got here. There full video is below. It starts when VADM Schoenbach starts speaking, but if you want to see him steer a course over his own minefield go to the 1:08 point.

Monday, January 24, 2022

The Indispensable Nation: a Return of Forces to Europe

The words of former SECDEF Gates was on my mind all weekend;

Moscow has deployed some 100,000 troops to the borders of Ukraine. What now? Putin finds himself in a situation where Russian success is defined as either a change of government in Kyiv (with the successor aligned with Moscow) or conquest of the country. The 18th-century French diplomat Talleyrand is meant to have said: “You can do anything you like with bayonets except sit on them.” Putin must use those troops soon or face the humiliation of withdrawing them without achieving anything except pushing Ukraine closer to the west. In either case, he has placed himself in a difficult position at home and abroad. The US and its allies must do what they can to exacerbate his difficulties.

Regulars here on the Front Porch know I want none of this. How long have we begged continental Europe - especially the strong powers such as Germany - to spend enough to be a credible balance to Russia, to make the risk of conflict too great, to force her to look to other means besides violence and blackmail to learn to live with her neighbors? 

The Europeans are richer and larger - in aggregate - than Russia and in the 21st Century need to be able to hold their own without the USA, because as I have warned even before I started blogging 17 years ago, there is a good chance that the USA will either tire of doing all the heavy lifting, or we may find ourselves either internally or externally distracted by concerns greater than defending the welfare ethno-states of Europe.

That being said, we are still the irreplaceable nation for the West. We have our obligations. As a threat from the east rises again, we have a choice; we can reinforce our friends in the front line NATO states ... or we shrug.

We have betrayed those who trusted us once in the last year, we cannot do it again.

I've advocated for decades a decoupling of our ground forces in Europe, but we need to do that on our time, our schedule, in a way that is not destabilizing, and not when our friends are under immediate threat. We can address that decoupling some other time. This is not the time.

What is happening on the borders of Ukraine is different. Ukraine's neighbors are our allies. You don't show weakness at times like this. Bollocks to the Germans and French and their fecklessness in the face of this threat. Regardless of what they do, our response is on us.

How long have I warned of where weakness always leads, aggression? So, here we are. 

As it becomes clear that the Russians are not playing games, the Biden Administration seems to be slowly moving in the only responsible way

Ukraine is not our ally, but she borders many good allies. Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Slovakia and Romania.

A strong and free Ukraine is in our interest, but not worth going to war over. That being said, you may want to avoid a war, but a war may not want to avoid you.

If the Russians invade Ukraine, there are innumerable places for error and mistakes at the wrong place at the wrong time - not to mention the wave of refugees that will flood west, further disrupting western Europe.

We cannot do anything about the unalloyed irresponsibility of the new German government. It is the 3rd decade of the 21st Century and the Germans are well passed their probationary period and need to step up as a responsible nation ... but as they are led by the useful idiots that protested NATO in the 1980s (look it up, ISNY), so what do you expect? We will deal with them later (yes, I have ideas - many I've outlined here before).  France is looking at an election coming and are being ... well ... French. The only other significant NATO power of any use (Turkey does not count), is the United Kingdom. In many ways, they are being more forward leaning than we are. At least the Brits get the moment. 

Of the medium NATO powers don't expect much that isn't laden with national caveats and tokenism. DNK, NLD and perhaps NOR will help the frontline states. That is about it.

So, it is up to the adults. So be it.

Make no mistake, if RUS makes UKR come to heel, exceptional pressure will come to our frontline NATO allies. Former Warsaw Pact and Soviet Republics, they know the Russians better than we do ... and I am sure the Russians have deeply penetrated their government and civil society enough to make trouble. If DEU and FRA won't help as per their strength, then we just need to ignore them and as stated above - note their behavior and deal with it later at our leisure.

The next three weeks will be critical. If we can make it to Valentine's Day and things have settled out, we may be through the window of greatest threat. If they are still escalating after the 20th of February when the Russian forces "exercising" in Belorussia are due to head home ... then ... well.

Regardless of how we are doing, think of the Ukrainians. Yes, their government leaves a lot to be desired, but for those of us who served with Ukrainians know, they are great professionals and patriots. 

Take some time today to see photographer Timothy Fadek latest from Ukraine;

"They have embraced the inevitability," Fadek said. "I was talking to one of the soldiers and he said: 'It's inevitable. We've accepted this inevitability of an attack.' And then there was a little bit of an argument between two soldiers. One said, 'The Russians will not come across the border, they will attack from the sea,' meaning the Sea of Azov. Another soldier disagreed with both those assessments and said, 'No, the attack will come from Belarus.' "

But while they might not agree with where an attack will come from, they are all 100% convinced it is going to happen.

"They've resigned themselves," Fadek said. "But they're extremely relaxed. There is not a hint of nervousness in their faces. They're ready to fight. They've been ready for many years now. They don't want to. I asked them, 'Do you want this war?' And they're like, 'Of course not.' "

Timeless. So it has been for countless for thousands of years. That is the one constant of human existence and always will be - war.

...and so, the Ukrainians wait;

One final note; it appears that if thing go pear shaped, we need to all get ready for more national humiliations. See Jennifer Griffin's note below. I feel the need to point out that the State Dept. may say, "will not be in a position to" but it really should be "won't."

It is a choice.

They won't do it. They could if they wished, but once again - they are planning on abandoning American citizens to their fate. 

We voted for this; we own it.

Sunday, January 23, 2022

Big Navy vs. Reconnaissance & Strike-Capable Drones - on Midrats


We live in an era where in the blink of an eye we've gone from flip-phones to smart phones with the capabilities of both supercomputers a generation ago and entire movie studios in your back pocket. In that same time frame, what happened to the promised integration and operational utilization of aircraft carrier based drones - or Unmanned Aircraft Systems, or whatever we are calling them this week?

This Sunday we are going to dive deep in to the topic and problem with our guests Trevor Phillips-Levine, Noah Spataro, and Andrew Tenbusch.

We will use as the starting point for our conversation their recent article in War on the Rocks, "Winged Luddites: Aviators are the Biggest Threat to Carrier Aviation."  

Col. Noah “Spool” Spataro currently serves on the Joint Staff tackling Joint All Domain Command and Control demonstration and assessment challenges. His 23 years of service includes remotely piloted aircraft systems squadron command, aviation command and control, and unmanned aircraft systems capability development.

Lt. Cmdr. Trevor “Mrs.” Phillips-Levine is an F/A-18 Super Hornet naval aviator and department head. He previously served in Naval Special Warfare as a fires support officer and joint terminal attack controller, working with various unmanned strike and reconnaissance platforms.

Lt. Cmdr. Andrew “Kramer” Tenbusch is an F/A-18 Super Hornet naval flight officer and student at the U.S. Naval War College’s College of Naval Command and Staff. He is a graduate of the Navy Fighter Weapons School and previously served as a carrier air wing integration instructor at the Naval Aviation Warfighting Development Center. Additionally, he was a mentor and advisor to the United Kingdom Carrier Strike Group’s inaugural staff, focusing on collective training design and delivery across the remit of carrier strike group mission sets.

The positions expressed here are those of the authors and do not represent those of the Department of Defense or any part of the U.S. government.

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, January 21, 2022

Fullbore Friday

The war is only 10 months old and two months after the defeat at the Battle of Savo Island.

The night action of 10-11 OCT, sometimes know as the Second Battle of Savo Island - but usually as The Battle of Cape Esperance, is an excellent example of the critical importance of training, flexibility, initiative, and aggression - combined with a measure of luck. Luck is always essential, as even the most simple plans become complicated once the battle begins.

First background.
DIVISION 6 of the Imperial Japanese Navy was pretty pleased with itself following its engagement with the Americans off Savo the night of August 8-9, and perhaps with reason. The Japanese felt that they had won a victory, greater than their usual "victories," and although the loss of the KAKO outside the harbor of Kavieng following the battle had cut into their forces by a quarter, they felt themselves to be the backbone of Japan in the Solomons.

But the Americans still clung tenaciously to their ground in the Guadalcanal and Florida islands despite air raids and night bombardments from the "Tokyo Express. " And although their position was precarious, it wasn't enough so for the Jap.

If the Japanese headquarters on Rabaul was busy with plans for marshaling their strength for a knockdown battle for the Solomons, so were the Americans at Espiritu Santo. Something had to be done to stop the Japanese from reinforcing their troops, and from storming Marine positions from the sea, and obviously one way to do it was to reinforce our own land forces at Guadalcanal. For this, a large convoy with Army reinforcements for Guadalcanal was soon to depart from Noumea, in French New Caledonia, halfway between Fiji and Australia. By October 1 1 it would be about 250 miles west of Espiritu Santo, protected by two task forces: one built around the carrier HORNET, the other around the new battleship WASHINGTON.

In Espiritu was a newly organized task force. Its ships had engaged only in target practice together but they were good ships. It would do well, as protection for the left flank of the Army convoy approaching Guadalcanal, to station this task force off the southern shore of that island to intercept any enemy units moving in from the west.

Remember, this is still the "go to war with the Navy you have" part of the war, as the entire Solomon Islands Campaign was.

The post Midway march to Tokyo was on, but this was only the beginning of the beginning.

Let's look at the lineup.

TF 64

Rear-Admiral Norman C. Scott

Bombardment Group

Rear-Admiral Goto

And so, off they went.
Departing New Caledonia on October 8, ships carrying the US 164th Infantry moved north towards Guadalcanal. To screen this convoy, Vice Admiral Robert Ghormley assigned Task Force 64 ... to operate near the island. ... Initially taking station off Rennell Island, Hall moved north on the 11th after receiving reports that Japanese ships had been sited in The Slot.
MicroWorks calls this "Stumbling into Victory." That is one way to look at it.

Me? I call it a lesson on the need for trusting your Commanding Officers with short, direct orders. As an editorial note for brevity, there are two IJN groups NW of Guadalcanal, Goto's Bombardment Group and RADM Jojima's landing force with 4,500 troops.

As he moved north, Hall, aware that the Americans had faired badly in previous night battles with the Japanese, crafted a simple battle plan. Ordering his ships to form a column with destroyers at the head and rear, he instructed them to illuminate any targets with their searchlights so that the cruisers could fire accurately. Hall also informed his captains that they were open fire when the enemy was sited rather than waiting for orders.
Approaching Cape Hunter on the northwest corner of Guadalcanal, Hall, flying his flag from San Francisco, ordered his cruisers to launch their float planes at 10:00 PM. An hour later, San Francisco's float plane sighted Jojima's force off of Guadalcanal. Expecting more Japanese ships to be sighted, Hall maintained his course northeast, passing to the west of Savo Island. Reversing course at 11:30, some confusion led to the three lead destroyers (Farenholt, Duncan, and Laffey) being out of position. About this time, Goto's ships began appearing on the American radars.

Initially believing these contacts to be the out of position destroyers, Hall took no action. As Farenholt and Laffey accelerated to reassume their proper positions, Duncan moved to attack the approaching Japanese ships.
But ahhhh, one man's brevity code is another's order.
A mere 5000 yards distant Goto's ships were moving directly into the center of the American line, which Goto, deeply feeling that no American was present, considered to be Joshima's reinforcement group. It was up to Helena to teach him otherwise. Captain Hoover was certain he had the enemy before him and queried Scott to open fire. Scott replied, "Roger", which he intended as a confirmation of receipt, but if unqualified it meant open fire as well, and Hoover interpreted it as such. He switched on his searchlights, aiming them on Hatsuyuki, the left-wing destroyer, and opened fire with his fifteen 155mm guns at 2346.

That action caught Scott off-guard, but he did not prevent the rest of his line from opening fire on the enemy. Duncan, now only a few hundred yards from Kinugasa, joined in, but was quickly disabled.
Another account describes this classic thus;
At 11:45, Goto's ships were visible to the American lookouts and Helena radioed asking permission to open fire using the general procedure request, "Interrogatory Roger" (meaning "are we clear to act"). Hall responded in the affirmative, and his surprise the entire American line opened fire. Aboard his flagship, Aoba, Goto was taken by complete surprise.
Let's talk about VADM Goto for a second. In a battle that lasted only 30 minutes, the first few were an all-American show. Why? Well, confusion and an inability to realize that your plan was no longer going to happen and that all you were told was wrong. The enemy always gets a vote.
Gotō's force was taken almost completely by surprise. At 23:43 Aoba's lookouts sighted Scott's force, but Gotō assumed that they were Jojima's ships. Two minutes later, Aoba's lookouts identified the ships as American, but Gotō remained skeptical and directed his ships to flash identification signals. As Aoba's crew executed Gotō's order, the first American salvo smashed into Aoba's superstructure. Aoba was quickly hit by up to 40 shells from Helena, Salt Lake City, San Francisco, Farenholt, and Laffey. The shell hits heavily damaged Aoba's communications systems and demolished two of her main gun turrets as well as her main gun director. Several large-caliber projectiles passed through Aoba's flag bridge without exploding, but the force of their passage killed many men and mortally wounded Gotō.
CAPT Kijuma, VADM Goto's Chief of Staff stated,
"At first we thought the fire was from our own supply ships. It was a surprise attack. All ships but the KINUGASA immediately reversed course to the right. Due to the shellfire and the congestion, the KINUGASA turned left. As a result of
this turn the KINUGASA only received minor damage from three hits. The AOBA was hit about forty times and was badly damaged. The FURUTAKA and FUBUKI were sunk. The FUBUKI sank before it completed the turn, although it only received four hits. Due to the smoke from the AOBA, the MURAKUMO was not hit. The KINUGASA did most of the fighting for our force.

"Soon after the action started Admiral Goto was mortally wounded. While he was dying, I told him that he could die with easy mind because we had sunk two of your heavy cruisers.

"Following this action we retired to the northwest. The MURAKUMO turned back and rescued about four hundred survivors. When your forces reappeared it departed the area trying to make you chase it within range of our aircraft."
Chaos, on both sides.
Over the next few minutes, Aoba was hit more than 40 times by Helena, Salt Lake City, San Francisco, Farenholt, and Laffey. Burning, with many of its guns out of action and Goto dead, Aoba turned to disengage. At 11:47, concerned that he was firing on his own ships, Hall ordered a ceasefire and asked his destroyers to confirm their positions. This done, the American ships resumed firing at 11:51 and pummeled the cruiser Furutaka. Burning from a hit to its torpedo tubes, Furutaka lost power after taking a torpedo from Buchanan. While the cruiser was burning, the Americans shifted their fire to the destroyer Fubuki sinking it.
Two minutes of firing - four minutes of "where and the h311 is everyone" and then firing again. That 4 minutes must have seemed like an hour.
As the battle raged, the cruiser Kinugasa and destoryer Hatsuyuki turned away and missed the brunt of the American attack. Pursuing the fleeing Japanese ships, Boise was nearly hit by torpedoes from Kinugasa at 12:06 AM. Turning on their search lights to illuminate the Japanese cruiser, Boise and Salt Lake City immediately took fire, with the former taking a hit to its magazine. At 12:20, with the Japanese retreating and his ships disorganized, Hall broke off the action.

Later that night, Furutaka sank as result of battle damage, and Duncan was lost to raging fires. Learning of the bombardment force's crisis, Jojima detached four destroyers to its aid after disembarking his troops. The next day, two of these, Murakumo and Shirayuki, were sunk by aircraft from Henderson Field.
The end result of the battle was a complete smacking. Losses:

  • 1 destroyer sunk,
  • 1 cruiser,
  • 1 destroyer heavily damaged,
  • 163 killed
  • 1 cruiser,
  • 3 destroyers sunk,
  • 1 cruiser heavily damaged,
  • 341–454 killed,
  • 111 captured
This was unquestionably a great tactical victory for the USN, but an operational failure as Jojima was still able to get his troops ashore. It also did not supply the right lessons to take forward as we continued not to appreciate the true night fighting capabilities of the IJN and the exceptional danger posed by the Long Lance torpedo.

This battle was the happy middle between two sobering hammers - The Battle of Savo Island for one, and two months later 
Tassafaronga. In the end, I think this best catches the results,
A junior officer on Helena later wrote, "Cape Esperance was a three-sided battle in which chance was the major winner."
A great take-away would be this quote that could be heard after any sea battle for the last 2,500 years, I bet.
In the words of one petty officer who was overheard talking with another on the way back to Espiritu Santo, "I'll never complain of another drill, and I'll deck the man who does."
BTW, that quote and a few others come from Battle Report: Pacific War: Middle Phase by CDR Walter Purdon, USN and CAPT Eric Karig, USN which you can get here.

This will be crossposted at USNIBlog as part of the SJS led Solomon Islands Campaign thread.

First posted in AUG09.

Thursday, January 20, 2022

Russians to the East, North ... and From the South?

The slow building crisis in Ukraine is reaching a point of critical mass. 

I think a decision point in coming in mid-Feb.

I'm pondering in more detail over at USNIBlog.

Come by and give it a read.