Archive for March, 2010
By Jim Dolbow
65 years ago today:
Before dawn on 19 March 1945 the U.S.S. Franklin, who had maneuvered closer to the Japanese mainland than had any other U.S. carrier during the war, launched a fighter sweep against Honshu and later a strike against shipping in Kobe Harbor.
Suddenly, a single enemy plane pierced the cloud cover and made a low level run on the gallant ship to drop two semi-armor piercing bombs. One struck the flight deck centerline, penetrating to the hangar deck, effecting destruction and igniting fires through the second and third decks, and knocking out the combat information center and airplot.
The second hit aft, tearing through two decks and fanning fires, which triggered ammunition, bombs and rockets. The Franklin, within 50 miles of the Japanese mainland, lay dead in the water, took a 13° starboard list, lost all radio communications, and broiled under the heat from enveloping fires. Many of the crew were blown overboard, driven off by fire, killed or wounded, but the 106 officers and 604 enlisted who voluntarily remained saved their ship through sheer valor and tenacity. The casualties totaled 724 killed and 265 wounded, and would have far exceeded this number except for the heroic work of many survivors.
Among these were Medal of Honor winners, Lieutenant Commander Joseph T. O’Callahan, S. J., USNR, the ship’s chaplain, who administered the last rites, organized and directed firefighting and rescue parties, and led men below to wet down magazines that threatened to explode, and Lieutenant (junior grade) Donald Gary who discovered 300 men trapped in a blackened mess compartment, and finding an exit, returned repeatedly to lead groups to safety. The U.S.S. Santa Fe (CL-60) similarly rendered vital assistance in rescuing crewmen from the sea and closing the Franklin to take off the numerous wounded.
The Franklin was taken in tow by the U.S.S. Pittsburgh until she managed to churn up speed to 14 knots and proceed to Pearl Harbor where a cleanup job permitted her to sail under her own power to Brooklyn, N.Y., arriving on 28 April.
The crew of the USS Franklin are having their reunion this week in Branson, MO. Please feel free to leave them a note in the comments section.
For more images of that fateful day, click here.
We are all family.
In Asia, America has gotta move away from a long-standing habit of engaging in simple, bilateral force measurements. Asia is a multi-polar place, and America’s penchant for strategic over-simplification is going to land the U.S. into serious trouble.
Put bluntly, U.S. Navy-folk need to remember there are a few other countries over on the other side of the Pacific. Some of them are rather formidable. And the U.S. is neglecting them.
So…Let’s take a moment to compare some naval forces in the Pacific Basin. Using the official DOD Annual Report to Congress on the Military Power of the PRC 2005 and 2009, it looks like China’s Navy is growing. But…when China’s rate of growth is compared with other neighbors, that burst of growth over the past five years looks a lot less daunting.
China: Diesel Attack Subs: (2005 vs. 2009): 51 vs. 54 (+3)
USA: Diesel Attack Subs: (2005 vs. 2009): 0 vs. 0 (+0)
Note: Japan commissioned 4 Oyashio-class, 2 Soryu-class SSKs; South Korea commissioned 3 Type 214s from 2005-2010.
China: Nuclear Subs (SSN only, 2005 vs. 2009): 6 vs. 6 (+0)
USA: Nuclear Subs (SSN/SSGN only 2005 vs. 2009): 58 vs. 56/57 (-2/-1)
China: Destroyers (2005 vs. 2009): 21 vs. 27 (+7)
USA: Destroyers (2005 vs. 2009/10): 46 vs. 54/57 (+8/+11)
Note: Japan brought into service 2 Atago-class destroyers, 2 Takanami-class destroyers, and a Hyuga-class “carrier” destroyer; Taiwan put 4 ex-Kidd-class vessels into service; South Korea put 4 KDX-2-class destroyers into service over the past 5 years.
China: Frigates (2005 vs. 2009): 43 vs. 48 (+5)
USA: Frigates (2005 vs. 2009/10): 30 vs. 30/31 (+0/+1)
Note: Regional Frigate-building programs are proceeding apace.
China: Coastal Missile ships: (2005 vs. 2009): 51 vs 70+ (+19 at least)
USA: Nada. Zip.
Interesting. China’s small missile ships are allowing China’s larger vessels to engage in “blue water” activities, so, while these vessels expand China’s “reach”, a dependence on small ships may prove a vulnerability. The region needs to know more about the small ship programs hosted by Taiwan, South Korea and Japan. What, by way of smaller vessels, can these navies offer? How good are the region’s Air Forces in hunting and destroying smaller craft?
In short, does China’s love of small craft contribute to regional stability or not?
Look. China’s Navy is still awfully small. And with China not exactly on friendly terms with it’s neighbors (who, on the part of Japan and South Korea, are building some very modern navies), the PLA(N) has a lot to do to secure China’s maritime borders. It is a little bit of a stretch to think all this new floating hardware is aimed exclusively at the U.S.A.
Not many details yet, but the Navy is now confirming that two F/A-18E collided last night:
One pilot ejected after the 10 p.m. incident and was recovered by a search-and-rescue team near the crash scene about 100 miles east of Fallon in the Mount Callaghan area, according to Fallon Naval Air Station spokesman Zip Upham.
The pilot was treated and released from a Fallon hospital.
The other aircraft safely returned to Fallon NAS.
Both aircraft are assigned to Strike Fighter Squadron One Three Seven (VFA 137) based in Californiat at Lemoore Naval Air Station.
The cause of the collision remains under investigation.
Rear Admiral Meyer’s philosophy of “Build a Little, Test a Little, Learn a Lot” drove the testing and milestones of the Aegis system. Having witnessed problems with existing missile systems related to a lack of testing, tests that incorporated too many objectives, and failed system integration efforts requiring massive “get well” programs, he drove the project to conduct numerous tests in development and in delivery of production gear prior to ship installation.
That philosophy carried over into the sea-based ballistic missile defense (BMD) program, using the Aegis weapons system at its core. The following are scenes from the development of Aegis BMD — from the designing board to sea. A clear example of the results of following that philosophy may be seen in the sequence of test shots over the final two minutes of the film — the early intercepts aimed for the center of mass of the target. As the tests progressed, watch how the aim point is walked forward towards the harder to hit but more important (simulated) warhead section of the target:
Video link: Aegis BMD – Beginnings
While we usually don’t cover the Army on this blog, this piece by Elizabeth Samet, a West Point professor, reflecting on the death of one of her students in Afghanistan, touches on some themes not partisan to any one service.
In the years since his graduation, Dan had become a correspondent–someone whose messages I welcomed, whose insights I valued. When I asked what he needed, he would say he needed nothing: “No specific needs or desires right now, but I’ll let you know if I lose/break anything.” When I asked him how he was, he would say, “[L]ife is good. Except the whole Afghanistan thing.”
Remember to spring forward and adjust your clocks so you don’t miss today’s 12th episode of Midrats.
Topic will be China.
Please join me and our panel of fellow USNI Bloggers Galrahn and EagleOne as we welcome our guests Dr. Donald Henry and Dr. James Kraska.
Dr. Henry attended Harvard College earning a degree in economics. After working for a year in the National Security Division of the Congressional Budget Office, he attended Stanford University for two years earning a Ph.D. in economics. He worked for the Rand Corporation for 18 years with a three year and a half year break for active duty Navy Service. Most recently, he served in the Office of Net Assessment in the Office of the Secretary of Defense for eight years as a political appointee.
He is a Captain in the Navy Reserve and an intelligence officer. He has been studying China and Asian security affairs for more than twenty-five years. While working in the Pentagon, he was a key player in drafting the Pentagon’s annual China Military Power Report. He now lives in Menlo Park, California.
Dr. Kraska is a Commander in the U.S. Navy, and serves as the Howard S. Levie Chair of Operational Law at the U.S. Naval War College, and holds appointments as a Senior Fellow at the Foreign Policy Research Institute and as a Guest Investigator at the Marine Policy Center, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution in Woods Hole, Massachusetts.
He holds both a research doctorate and professional doctorate in law, having earned a doctor of juridical science from the University of Virginia and a doctor of jurisprudence from Indiana University, Bloomington. Commander Kraska also earned a master’s of international law from the University of Virginia, master’s of arts in defense and foreign policy from Clarement Colleges and a diploma from the College of Naval Command and Staff, U.S. Naval War College.
Rhetoric supporting the new carrier launch system, EMALS, was on full display during CNO Roughead’s March 11 testimony before the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Defense. He said:
“…Among the new technologies being integrated in these ships is the Electromagnetic Aircraft Launch System (EMALS), which will enable the carrier’s increased sortie generation rate and lower total ownership costs. EMALS is on track for an aircraft demonstration later this year and is on schedule to support delivery of CVN 78 in September 2015…”
But, according to Inside Defense (subscription required), reality, in the form of a question from Rep. Norman Dicks (D-WA), forced SECNAV Mabus to confirm that the EMALS program had experienced an ugly test failure. What happened, exactly? This:
“…According to a Navy official, on Jan. 12 during a test at Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst , NJ, the shuttle was commanded to move forward 10 meters, but instead reversed direction and slammed into the catapult’s deck tensioner, causing damage to the system’s hardware. Damage to the armature and the tensioner was non-reparable, though a motor block and the end of the system’s trough, which also suffered damage, were salvageable. There were no injuries…”
That’s quite the mishap…But, never fear, they tell me this high-profile program is all still on schedule. Right?
I like EMALS, and I love this sort of high-profile challenge…and good poker games, too.
But…where’s the hedge? Did we start production of the Next-Gen Ford-class too early? If America needs to start figuring out how many MV-22s fit on the new LHA(N) amphibian, isn’t that something policymakers should know and discuss? And if the money that EMALS will, in theory, save (via reduced wear and tear, lower manning and so forth) gets eaten up by developmental costs and reliability SNAFUs, then, shouldn’t there be a debate on the strategic (and/or tactical) merits of this system?
Is a higher sortie generation rate and consistent high-power cat shots THAT important?
The Congressional Gold Medal was awarded to the Women Airforce Service Pilot (WASP) survivors yesterday. Later that evening at the Sewall-Belmont House on Capitol Hill (the former headquarters of the historic National Women’s Party), several of the WASPs were in attendance for a lecture and signing for Amy Goodpaster Strebe’s book, Flying for Her Country: The American and Soviet Women Military Pilots of World War II. This book is the first to take a comparative look at the Soviet and American women pilots who flew during the war, women who volunteered to break the gender barrier for the nation’s defense.
As with many of the untraditional jobsAmerican women took on during World War II, the WASPs were allowed to become aviators out of necessity. The manpower shortage brought on by the war effort was a lucky break for these women who loved aviation and were eager to serve their country. But, they were not considered military personnel; rather, they were given civil servant status. And they were not allowed to fly into combat. The Soviet women pilots, however, had a different experience. They were allowed to fly combat missions throughout the war; some of them were nicknamed the “Night Witches” by the Germans because of their success and agility in night missions.
Young and fearless, the women who were recruited for this program went through a condensed training program and were sent to the front to perform combat missions not unlike those of their male counterparts. One of the most well known was Lidiya Litvyak who earned the rare distinction of a double ace. She was the first woman to shoot down an enemy aircraft. On that day, September 13, 1942, during the intense Battle of Stalingrad, she felled two German fighters, including the German ace Erwin Maier. He was reportedly incredulous when, after being captured, he faced the pilot who had downed his plane.
Litvyak defied stereotypes: she was petite (she need pedal adjustments in her cockpit) and blonde and loved nature. Rumors are that she decorated her cockpit with wildflowers and painted a lily on the side of her plane. Unfortunately, she is believed to have been killed in action, her plane reportedly shot down in the Ukraine. Female remains were discovered in 1979, but without DNA, there is no conclusive proof the remains are hers. To add to the mystery, there are also rumors of POW sightings of Litvyak in Germany by several sources.
In the United States, aviation pioneer Jacqueline Cochran was making a name for herself long before the war broke out – beating Howard Hughes’ transcontinental record in 1937. She helped to convince Eleanor Roosevelt that women pilots were going to be an unpopular necessity in World War II and, in leading that successful fight, she became the first director of the WASP program. They were responsible for testing and ferrying war planes all over the U.S. They were also employed as instructors and test pilots. They did every job a male military aviator performed but flying in combat.
After the war, the WASP regiments and their Soviet counterparts were disbanded and dismissed from service. Cochran attempted to introduce legislation that would militarize the WASP program. But it was defeated. It was not until the 1970s that women in the United States started to play a major role in aviation again. The WASPs did not receive veteran status until 1977 and they did not have the right to have a flag on their coffins until after 2000. And, yesterday, about 300 surviving trailblazers finally received national recognition with the highest honor this nation bestows on a civilian. What took so long?
Two items of note for today’s summary — France may be seriously studying missile defense and Russia’s at it again (re. European Phase Adaptive Approach – PAA).
Parlez-vous la Défense de Missile Balistique ?
A recent 65-page study on BMD, written by three members of Parliament at a think tank linked to the National Assembly (“Defense et Strategie”) argues for France committing to building, or at least contributing to a BMD system to counter the growing threat from nations hostile to Europe (in general) and France (in particular). The authors, members of leading centrist parties, assert that the threat will grow over the next 15 years, especially from the likes of Iran, and (and this is a new argument) that a BMD is necessary to strengthen France’s nuclear deterrent. In doing so, they also acknowledge that the political will to move forward is lacking in France and Europe (surprise!) and is an attitude that they seek to change.
It is also perhaps worth noting that it was the Obama Administration’s decision to press with the PAA over the former GBI-centric system the Bush Administration had planned that pushed the authors into the study. The reason? Their view that an American-led system and architecture establishes American industry as a threat, or ‘double risk’ for Europe — double since the Europeans and NATO have yet to devise a comprehensive BMD policy in line with 21st Century threats and if one country equips itself with an American C2 system, it must, perforce, equip itself entirely with compatible US parts.” Note that the Japanese don’t seem to mind with the incorporation of Aegis BMD into their cruisers and establishing joint development for elements of the SM-3 system. The rub, of course, is as the report goes on to say, that the lack of a BMD system would leave European companies blocked from accessing certain export markets. Sort of like the ones cruise missiles like the EXOCET have been pitched to. That worked out well for all involved (cf. USS Stark).
Obligatory snark about export sales and French aspirations to industrial prominence aside, the study is significant in that it acts as both another venue voicing concern over Iran’s long-range missile progress (no one but the most ardent partisan would argue the French are sock puppets for the US, especially where maters of intelligence are concerned) and it may well be a bellwether signal that Europe proper may be moving off the dime in terms of serious consideration of ballistic missile defense on the Continent. One method suggested would be the formation of industrial partnerships to develop a European BMD based on France’s current highly advanced technology and cited the ASTER missile system as an example.
This will be a most interesting topic to follow for any one of a number of reasons. As anyone who has worked with/in NATO will attest, gaining consensus for action is the key for success, be it in planning or operations. But in the world of missile defense, one of the hardest things to accomplish is establishing a sound architecture for command and control of the system. Hard enough when only one or two countries or AORs are in play, and almost Stygian where the defended area encompasses many borders and nations. Seams abound and where seams and gaps reside, ballistic missiles readily fill. In no small degree this is one of the major challenges Navy faces as it moves down the four-phase PAA for the defense of Europe with sea- and shore-based Aegis BMD/SM-3 integrated with TPY-2 and THAAD batteries. Perhaps in the interest of integration and economy, France ought to look closer at what the US has already accomplished with international partners like Japan, Israel, Britain, Spain and the Dutch across a variety of programs and capabilities.
(note: the study may be found here: http://www.christopheguilloteau.com/actualite1.htm)
In the meantime, Russia continues to work a campaignof disinformation, hoping to disrupt and thwart the deployment of BMD in Europe…
Iran No Threat to USA, Europe ‘In Foreseeable Future’ – Russian Foreign Minister
In an article in today’s Ria Novosti, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov took a direct shot at the US’s proposed missile defense plan for Europe and the US:
“It is evident that Iran currently poses no threat to the U.S. and European countries… At the moment, Iran has no missiles capable of striking Europe, let alone the U.S., and is unlikely to develop [such missiles] in the foreseeable future,” Lavrov said.
Pressing the point, in another article he surfaced a concern that the US has repeatedly, since the days of the GBI deployment, detailed to the Russians is not the case:
U.S. officials admit that the missile defense system in Europe might be able to hit Russian inter-continental ballistic missiles by 2020. (ed. Note – it was said at the time that phase 4 would have a limited capability against some ICBMs – the US has never made the statement Lavrov attributes – SJS)
“The U.S. administration says its global missile shield program is not directed against Russia. However, our conclusions on the true potential of the future missile defense system should be based on specific military and technical factors, not on words,” Lavrov said.
“We will not accept a state of affairs when a missile defense system poses a threat to Russia’s nuclear deterrence potential,” he went on.
The question one must ask — is Lavrov playing a “bad cop” to Medvedev’s “good cop” (and that is stretching it given Medvedev’s comments re. linking missile defense with the follow-on START treaty) where his rhetoric is merely used to address the home audience’s concerns, or, are we seeing a glimpse of Putin’s approach when he ceases being the power behind the throne and assumes the full mantle of national leadership as many expect when he is eligible once again? If the latter, then this Administration is going to have its hands full. Caution in dealing with our European allies, especially with Poland and the like, is the watchword. After unilaterally changing direction on one missile defense plan for Europe and the US by the switch from GBI’s to the PAA (and, for the record, I thought this was a proper shift) – another such shift that reduces or places additional limits in any way on the planned system will have negative consequences for perceived US leadership on the Continent.
We can expect that the Russians will continue to press this issue relentlessly – and our leadership, especially State and DoD had better be ready to just as relentlessly push-back.