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In testimony before the House Armed Services Committee yesterday, US Defense Secretary Leon Panetta left little doubt as to whether the People’s Republic of China was assisting North Korea with their ballistic missile program. From the Reuters article:

“I’m sure there’s been some help coming from China. I don’t know, you know, the exact extent of that,” Panetta told members of the House Armed Services Committee when asked whether China had been supporting North Korea’s missile program through “trade and technology exchanges.”

While understandably unable to delve into details due to “sensitivity”, Secretary Panetta gave voice to the deep suspicions many have had since the beginning of China’s rise twenty years ago. It should be clear for all to see that China gains advantage by having a belligerent and nuclear-capable North Korea as a major thorn in the side of the United States in precisely the region that is the future focus of US Defense strategy, the Western Pacific.

The People’s Republic of China has consistently thwarted the efforts of the US and her allies to bring the DPRK under control China refused to condemn North Korea for the sinking of the ROK frigate Cheonan, which killed 46 ROK sailors. Nor did China offer any meaningful criticism for the shelling of Yeongpyong Island, which resulted in the deaths of two ROK Marines, other than an admonition not to “escalate”. When taken with the Chinese watering-down of UNSC sanctions against North Korea, continued military assistance, collaboration with DPRK in cyber attack efforts, ambivalence toward DPRK weapons and technology proliferation into the Middle East, and a blind eye to provocative border and SOF incursions into South Korea, these actions are indicators of China’s tacit approval of North Korea’s actions and posture.

There have been many who have sounded the warning klaxon. The issue has been addressed here, and the December 2011 Proceedings “Now Hear This” article by Defense analyst Joseph Bosco.

While China’s role in keeping the North Korean regime in power—and in the WMD business—is indisputable, analysts have offered unconvincing explanations of Chinese motives. U.S. experts have assured us that China shares our nuclear concerns but fears instability on the Korean peninsula. They accept China’s argument that even threatening to cut economic aid would collapse Kim Jong Il’s regime and trigger a refugee flow into China. But it has been clear for 60 years that the sole cause of instability between the Koreas has been Pyongyang’s own bizarre and dangerous behavior, despite substantial aid and concessions from accommodating South Korean governments. Yet China stands by its ally.

Indeed. Despite the consistent platitudes from Chinese diplomats and military officials of their willingness to be of assistance in “managing” North Korea, the reality is that China has very successfully played power politics in developing and maintaining North Korea’s military capabilities and belligerent posture. Chinese assistance to North Korea in developing a ballistic missile capability to carry a nuclear warhead well beyond the Korean peninsula is not a shocking aberration, but another in a long and consistent series of actions that cannot point reasonably to any other conclusion. North Korea will try again with the missile launch. And with Chinese assistance, they will eventually succeed.

The assertions to the contrary grow equally foolish-sounding, and detached from reality. One, in a rebuttal to the Bosco article, was that “The prospect of a better outcome lies not in blaming China but in working imaginatively with China and others to transform North Korea under new leadership”. Don’t you believe it. China has proven for decades they are more than willing to live with their recalcitrant southern neighbors, and the only “transformation” that Chinese leadership is interested in is making North Korea a more potent threat to the United States and its Western Pacific allies.

As has been said before, the time has long since come to recognize at the highest military and civilian levels of leadership in the United States that China is very far from being a benevolent ally, and even farther from sharing any kind of common interests or vision of either Asia and the Pacific Rim, or any other geographic region where they perceive their interests to lie. And this includes China’s subsidizing of the brutal, aggressive, repressive regime in North Korea.

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As if on cue, DPRK ratchets up the rhetoric. And this telling summation from MSNBC:

In Beijing, North Korea’s biggest ally, China’s top foreign policy official met Sunday with a North Korean delegation and expressed confidence in the country’s new young leader, Kim Jong Un.

**********************************************

Seems the nuclear DPRK is no longer a hypothetical, if US estimates are correct. Which magnifies every last occurrence of Red China’s assistance to the Hermit Kingdom.

While below some comments express abhorrence of the spectre of a nuclear exchange, it is highly useful to remember that the People’s Republic of China and by proxy, her ally North Korea, do not necessarily share that view. I would caution the use of the term “well-reasoned” when framing the Korean peninsula in terms of American values and viewpoints. Which brings the argument back to that of being strong and capable enough with our conventional and nuclear arsenal to deter both countries from precisely the bellicosity that one has repeatedly threatened and the other has excused and minimized.

 



An amazing story. One of which I knew nothing. But I do now.

Reckless. Fifty-one trips. A more appropriate name you’ll never find for this wonderful little mare.

h/t Jay



The College of the Holy Cross is a small Jesuit four-year Liberal Arts college ensconced on a breathtakingly beautiful campus on Mount St James, in Worcester, Massachusetts. A top academic institution, Holy Cross was once a national powerhouse in football, basketball, and baseball. Today it retains its academic standing, while its sports teams boast a more modest level of excellence.

Its small enrollment of 2,500 belies an amazingly rich and significant Naval Service heritage. Holy Cross was the site of one of the first Naval Reserve Officer Training Corps units, established in 1942, and was one of the very few NROTC to survive the anti-military backlash during and after the Vietnam War. Among the fifteen graduates of Holy Cross who have worn stars in the Navy and the Marine Corps are Lieutenant General Bernard Trainor, BGen Michael P. Downs, and USNI’s own VADM Peter Daly. Captain Tom Kelly, USN (Ret.), who wears the Medal of Honor, is another alumnus. Assistant Marine Commandant General Joe Dunford was the Marine Officer Instructor at Holy Cross in the late 80s.

Yet two of the most distinguished servicemen from Holy Cross never came near the General or Flag Officer ranks. Their stories are quite remarkable on their own. How they and their lives are intertwined is truly extraordinary.

John Vincent Power was born in Worcester, Massachusetts, in 1918, a week after the Armistice which ended The Great War. He was smart and athletically gifted, and graduated from Worcester’s now-defunct Classical High School in 1937. From there, John attended the College of the Holy Cross, where he played basketball and football, and golf. John graduated in 1941, in the last of the peacetime classes, as war clouds once again gathered in the east and west. In July of 1942, John enlisted in the United States Marine Corps, was sent to OCS, and commissioned in October of 1942. Like so many of his age and time, John died on a far away battlefield, in a place few had heard of. On 1 February 1944, while leading a platoon of K/24th Marines on Namur, First Lieutenant John V. Power was killed by enemy fire while charging a Japanese emplacement. He was not yet 26. But his bravery did not go unnoticed. Power was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor. He is buried in St Mary’s Cemetery in Worcester.

While John V. Power was a student at Holy Cross, he took two courses in Mathematics from a bespectacled, gray-flecked professor who was the head of the Mathematics Department. That professor was Father Joseph Timothy O’Callahan, SJ. “Father Joe”, left Holy Cross in 1940, to join the Navy as a Chaplain. While serving as Chaplain (for less than three weeks) of USS Franklin (CV-13) on 19 March 1945, while the carrier was operating near Honshu, Lieutenant Commander O’Callahan ran repeatedly into the smoke-filled, flaming carnage that was the hangar deck to save sailors trapped below. The famous picture of Chaplain O’Callahan ministering Absolution on a tilting flight deck is one of the iconic images of the Pacific War. For his heroism, Father O’Callahan was awarded his own Medal of Honor.

Their time together at Holy Cross, student and teacher, and their “conspicuous gallantry” are, incredibly, not the only connections between these extraordinary men. Father O’Callahan left the active Navy and returned to the classroom at Holy Cross in 1948. Near the end of his life, while in St Vincent’s Hospital in Worcester, one of the attending nurses for the ailing Father Joe was was Patricia (Power) Rose, sister of 1stLt John V. Power. Father O’Callahan died in March of 1964. He was just 58. He is buried in the Jesuit Cemetery on the Holy Cross campus.

 



Sixty-one years ago today, April 5th, 1951, Judge Irving Kaufman sentenced Julius and Ethel Rosenberg to death by electrocution. They had both been convicted seven days earlier of passing atomic secrets to the Soviet Union. While there has been some attempts to claim their innocence and attribute the Rosenbergs’ conviction to a post-war “Red Scare” and paranoia of Communism, the evidence was overwhelming in 1951, and has become even more so in the decades since. The opening of Soviet archives in 1992-3, the 1995 release of the decoded VENONA cables, and several books by former Soviet agents point to a far more widespread espionage effort than the United States had heretofore acknowledged, and also removes any doubt as to the guilt of the defendants. The Soviet spy ring which successfully infiltrated the Manhattan Project included both of the Rosenbergs, Ethel’s brother David Greenglass, German scientist Klaus Fuchs, Harry Gold, and others, is estimated to have obtained information that allowed the Soviet Union to develop their own atomic bomb a decade before otherwise possible. The Soviets successfully detonated an atomic device in late-August, 1949. At the sentencing of the Rosenbergs, Judge Kaufman remarked:

I consider your crime worse than murder… In committing the act of murder, the criminal kills only his victim… But in your case, I believe your conduct in putting into the hands of the Russians the A-bomb years before our best scientists predicted Russia would perfect the bomb has already caused, in my opinion, the Communist aggression in Korea, with the resultant casualties exceeding 50,000 and who knows but that millions more of innocent people may pay the price of your treason.

As we enter our second decade of the 21st Century, it is somewhat disconcerting to recognize that the massive efforts which the Soviet Union expended to infiltrate US government and scientific research, the expenditures of millions of dollars, lengthy and risky recruitment of American Communists who were willing to betray their country, NKVD and GRU operatives working from US and Canadian cities, the transmission of stolen secrets via encrypted cables and microfilm, all are largely unnecessary today. In this, the information age, penetrations of computer networks of both Government and industry can obtain results very similar to Soviet efforts regarding “Enormous”, the NKVD code name for the Manhattan Project. Industrial espionage is exceedingly widespread, the vast majority of it from compromised computer networks that hemorrhage proprietary information to rivals businesses and foreign governments, to include those of our enemies and potential enemies.

While some traditional HUMINT espionage undoubtedly still exists and has its uses, the fact of the matter today is that the great balance of the damaging espionage work done by the Rosenbergs, and Greenglass, and Harry Gold, and Kim Philby, Donald MacLean, Klaus Fuchs, and the others recruited and employed by the Soviet Union, is now performed by for-hire hackers, often called “Black Hats”, working for those rival businesses and governments. Gaining access to sensitive information has become infinitely easier, cheaper, and far less risky than ever before. The days of photographing stolen documents and making “drops” of bundles of information are all but ended. Often these hackers are operating outside the United States, in areas where arrest and prosecution are not options, even if the hackers were caught. With the ability of these skilled “Black Hats” to cover their tracks, and indeed their presence, attribution to the hackers themselves is all but impossible without other corroboration, and the entity or government paying for the hacking can only be surmised.

However, like the Rosenbergs’ treason moved the Soviet Union a decade ahead in its atomic efforts, stolen technology and data from both military and industrial networks have greatly accelerated technological developments in The People’s Republic of China, and in other places where economic and military rivalry with the United States is seen as a reality. The compromise of classified and sensitive information has also allowed hostile entities to have an inside look at vulnerabilities of critical US infrastructure, as well as preparedness efforts and response capabilities to certain threats, information which can be exploited to increase the damage and disruption of an attack on US infrastructure or our populace. Much like the Soviet espionage of the Stalin era, the infiltration and compromise of US industrial and government information systems is likely more widespread than previously acknowledged.

There is another down side to the shift from traditional espionage to network exploitation: It doesn’t lend itself nearly so easily to parody. Maxwell Smart is nowhere near as funny if you put him behind a laptop. No shoe-phone or cone of silence. No Hymie in the mailbox. Same with Boris and Natasha. If they do all their work from Pottsylvania and never come to Frostbite Falls, where’s the humor in that? If “fiendish plan” means stealing the formula for Upsidaisium via computer hacking, it just isn’t the same.



Today at 1300 PDT, Captain Carroll “Lex” LeFon, United States Navy, Retired, will be laid to rest in Fort Rosecrans National Cemetery in San Diego, CA.

non omnis moriar

– Horace



Secretary Mabus, CNO Admiral Greenert, and Marine Commandant General Amos,

Suggest you read an effective, efficient explanation of the ramifications of a really bad idea over at Tom Ricks’ Foreign Policy blog.

Some highlights:

I wonder if the enhancement in personal readiness occasioned by breathalyzers will be worth the trade-off in flagging morale, professional insult, and perceptions of detached, out of touch senior leadership…

This is among the most paternalistic, professionally insulting concepts I’ve seen in all my years of service, and I’m not sure I will submit. Yes, I know my options, and I just may exercise them and go right over the side the first time the duty blowmeister shoves a plastic tube in my face and treats me like a drunk driver for daring to report for duty. To the CNO, CMC, CMC of the Navy, and SgtMaj of the Marine Corps, here’s my question: At what point will one of you four exercise your duty to tell the Secretary of the Navy, “Hey, Boss, WTF, over?” and that he really ought to fire whichever clown came up with this idea (?)

And, an additional observation:

Leaders exercising their solemn duty to junior sailors and Marines, who have even a modicum of intuition about their charges, can figure out who is sucking the worm out of the bottle every night without resorting to the extraordinary insulting and distrustful measure of breathalyzing every shipmate who steps across the brow and every Marine who marches into a gun park.

Please read the rest. There are some additional and very cogent points about the damage this exceedingly unwise little contrivance will cause.

Trust, like loyalty, is very much a two-way street. Trust is also a funny thing. Like an ornate hand-painted vase, it takes great dedication and hard work, and not a little inspiration, to create; yet just one instance of careless handling can shatter it into a thousand pieces. Even if one was so inclined to spend the time required to glue all of those pieces back together, the result is never quite nearly the same.

These Sailors and Marines have stood watch and fought two wars in the last decade. They have sacrificed, fought, bled, and died doing their duty. They are magnificent. They have given you, all of you, far more reasons for you to trust them than you have for them to trust you. The stars on the collar, the wide stripes on the sleeve, the nameplate on the big desk, those things are purely ornamental if you don’t earn the trust and respect of those you lead each day anew. Just as every Second Lieutenant and Ensign, every Chief Petty Officer and Gunnery Sergeant must do. Every day.

You are marching quick-time toward shattering that trust and breaching the loyalty of those you lead. The reasons that make this entire course of action seem like a good idea are inconsequential compared to the negative consequences of implementing this professionally insulting and terribly misguided policy. Your junior leaders, commissioned and non-commissioned, are telling you so, and loudly, even if the Generals and Admirals haven’t the courage to do so.

Good leaders listen, instead of ignoring sage advice. Now is just such a time.

 

h/t to LtCol P and to “John Paul Lejeune”

 



Tomorrow, 11 March 2012, the storied USS Enterprise (CVN-65) will leave home port to ply the world’s oceans for the 22nd, and last time. As she is about to head toward Middle Eastern waters, the Associated Press published a nice piece about her, and the challenges that her crew of 4,000 face in keeping a ship that is older than most of their parents operating and ready.

Since SWMBO reminded me how expensive picture books were to print, I figured I would take advantage of this newfangled internet thing to post some pictures of the Big E, and relate some things about her 52 years in service. A good deal of these pictures will come from familiar places, such as NavSource.org, and DANFS, as well as some others included from various spots.

Enterprise under construction in Newport News Shipbuilding and Drydock Company, 1960

Christening, September 24th, 1960

Enterprise in original configuration, perhaps on sea trials, with no embarked air wing. She reportedly exceeded 40 knots.

It is staggering to think of a ship 52 years in commission. How long is that? Here are some facts about Enterprise and her history:

The sitting Secretary of the Navy, William B. Franke, whose wife christened CVAN-65, had been born in 1894. He lived to be 85, and still died 33 years ago.

Enterprise’s first CO, Captain Vincent P. de Poix, Annapolis ’39, had been a World War II aviator, and is still with us at 95!

In February of 1962, Enterprise stood by to assist with the recovery of the first American to orbit the Earth, LtCol John Glenn, USMC, in Mercury 6.

Enterprise was a part of the Second Fleet force that established the “Naval quarantine” of Cuba during the Cuban Missile Crisis, October, 1962.

Iconic photo of Enterprise (CVAN-65), Long Beach (CGN-9 next to starboard), and Bainbridge (DLGN-25) during 30,000 mile unrefueled global circumnavigation, June, 1964 (Operation SEA ORBIT)

Enterprise was the first nuclear powered warship ever to operate in a combat zone, off Vietnam, December, 1965.

Enterprise remains the longest warship ever to put to sea at 1,102 feet, 2 inches.

On May 24th, 2011, a Navy F/A-18F Super Hornet of VFA-11 made arrested landing number 400,000 on Enterprise.

When Enterprise joined the fleet in October of 1961, she was one of 24 carriers, and the only nuclear-powered carrier, in a Navy of 870 ships. Today she is one of 11 nuclear-powered carriers in a Navy of 285 ships.

Flames on aft flight deck from fire that killed 28 Sailors and destroyed fifteen aircraft, 14 January 1969

Enterprise after 1979-82 modernization at Puget Sound

Enterprise deployed to Vietnam six times, Operation SOUTHERN WATCH three times, Operation ENDURING FREEDOM four times (about to be five), and Operation IRAQI FREEDOM three times. Her CO, Captain William Hamilton, was not yet three years old when Enterprise was commissioned, her XO would not be born for another five years.

Enterprise celebrates her 50th, November 2011

Best of luck to all the Officers and Sailors who crew this venerable old warship. She carries a glorious name proudly. One day you can tell your grandchildren you sailed on her. When you return, she will pass from the Navy list and into history.

But perhaps her name can live on with CVN-80. There always should be an Enterprise in the US Navy.



Many of the decision points in our lives can be sorted into four specific guiding questions. They provide an excellent means of evaluating our decision, our choices, and most effectively melding what we need with what we can afford. The questions can correspondingly apply to selecting a college, or to prospective employment. They work well when designing and building a house, or buying a car. Purchasing insurance. Even when deciding on marriage. What are these four questions?

  • What can I live with?
  • What can I live without?
  • What can’t I live with?
  • What can’t I live without?

Simple questions, really. But their answers require a good deal of thought.

They are also questions that should be asked when developing National Security Strategy, and its subcomponent, National Military Strategy. Those questions need to be asked as we determine the size, posture, and capability of our military and its supporting industrial base. Those four straightforward questions must eventually be asked of our Navy at a number of different levels.

The first is to address the size and capabilities/capacity of our Navy. What can we reasonably expect our Navy to do? For how long? In how many places at once? Hard questions that demand realistic and informed discussion. Currently, we have a Cooperative Strategy that cannot be executed under any but the most benign conditions on the world’s oceans. How long are we going to continue to make promises to ourselves and our allies that we cannot keep? What are we willing to have the courage to say openly that we cannot do with current capabilities?

Related to the above queries, but not identical, is to ask how big will our Navy be. Numbers tossed around in the previous decade and a half range anywhere from 340 down to the current 285-ish. (The disparity of 55 ships is equivalent to the strength of two Royal Navies, so it isn’t trivial.) Yet, the budget realities and the cuts made to shipbuilding projections point to a number closer to 260, if not lower, by the end of the decade. While it is true that 260 modern warships have tremendous combat power, it is also axiomatic that they cannot have the same global forward presence that 340 warships, some with somewhat less capability perhaps, can have.

The next level at which the four guiding questions need to be asked is the level of ship design and shipbuilding. This cannot be done in isolation, but must be informed by serious and exhaustive discussion regarding what Admiral Zumwalt called the “high-low mix”. How many capital ships of extensive capability are required for our missions, and how many of lesser but more appropriate capabilities does the Navy need? It is this level in particular that the Navy seems unable, in fact abjectly refuses, to answer. Not every ship needs every capability. When we believe it does, we end up with multi-BILLION dollar platforms chasing skiffs off the Horn of Africa, and a fleet so expensive that the risking of a single unit for a dangerous but necessary mission becomes all but unacceptable.

There has been much discussion of those issues in the pages of Proceedings, and among Naval Officers and strategic thinkers, Naval enthusiasts, and the legions of the Great Unwashed who blog the intertubes. One of the more interesting remarks in this regard was an assertion, perhaps rightly, that with its current philosophy and unwillingness to address the high-low question, the Navy is incapable of building a platform in between the under-gunned and unsurvivable LCS and an Aegis-capable Arleigh Burke.

So the question of the mix is not new. Captain Jerry Hendrix wrote of it with his Buy Fords, not Ferraris in the April 2009 Proceedings. Discussion at the last three USNI/AFCEA West conferences was rich with commentary. In this month’s Proceedings, Norman Polmar evokes Plan URR with his A Paradigm Shift, asking whether a much larger number of STOVL carriers would be more effective than a small and likely shrinking number of $15 billion dollar CVNs. (A hat-tip woulda been nice!) When I asked the question of high-low mix at this year’s Shipbuilding Panel in San Diego, the panelists all but admitted that there hadn’t been much discussion on the subject, and that the goal was still 313 ships.

The final level at which those four questions above need to be asked is in the experimentation with “Optimal Manning”. Anyone who even occasionally glances at this site knows my aversion to reducing crews of ANY equipment or weapon platform below what is required to drive, fight, fix, and maintain. The biggest decision for the Navy has to be defining “optimal”, and to whom the term applies. Is it “optimal” for the Navy leadership to show reduced manpower costs to our Congresscritters while our warships continue to experience serious maintenance issues and are not mission capable? Do we want crews so thin that there is only time for eating, sleeping, and operating? No time for training in the myriad skills and requirements of basic seamanship, damage control, or weapons proficiency? Do we want crews that have no ability to absorb any casualties without compromise of mission?

Again, difficult questions. Senior Navy leadership, and senior Defense Department officials, are going to have to make some hard calls. The answer is not to exhort our Sailors to do “more with less”. That bit of self-delusional platitude is the path to a head-on collision with the realities of combat, with usually catastrophic results.

The discussions must be informed, serious, and realistic. And they need to be soon. In May, USNI/AFCEA will be holding the Joint Warfighting Conference in Virginia Beach. The theme is “Joint and Coalition Forces; The Inflection Point. What to Hold and What to Fold?” Without these discussions, commentary will again be nearly blind speculation, akin to a hand of five-card stud, but deciding which cards to keep and which to discard without looking at them. If we continue to insist on playing our cards in such a way, we ought not to be surprised if the betting patterns of our potential adversaries change accordingly.



As the sun’s rays broke over the top of the eastern hills this morning, the military blogging community was coming to grips with the loss of a truly remarkable man. Retired Navy Captain Carroll LeFon, who was known to thousands by his “nom de blog” of Neptunus Lex, died when his Israeli-built F-21 Kfir single-seat fighter aircraft crashed at NAS Fallon at around 0915 yesterday morning.

The challenge in writing about such a man is that my command of the language to do justice to him is insufficient for the task, yet his mastery of words gave vivid understanding on most everything he chose to chronicle. “Lex” was one of the first and perhaps the best of those military bloggers (milbloggers), with a large and faithful readership that included his former Navy shipmates, other military types (including myself), former military types, and civilians of all descriptions. That readership came and stayed because Lex was far more than a milblogger who wrote about all things military. He had a wonderful gift with the written word, speaking to his readers as if engaged in a conversation at a back table of a favorite pub. His eloquence about military issues, his witty and often brilliant commentary on things political and social, always provided thought provoking reading. His commenters, even while disagreeing and adding rich commentary of their own, respected each other and revered their host.

His post was a daily read for me, and several times a week I would push my chair back from the desk and think (and sometimes say) “Damn! I wish I’d said that!” or “I wish I could write like that!” Lex wrote eloquently of the human condition, both in and out of uniform, and had an appreciation for others who did, as well. We had in common a love of Kipling and the classics of martial poetry and other such works, and I would always smile to read them quoted at some appropriate juncture or situation. His remarkable Rhythms, a superb narrative of a day in the life aboard a CVN, is suitable for publishing. (USNI?)

But Lex did something extraordinary in his missives. In the impersonal world of the internet, he gave us glimpses of himself. His writing brought his readers into his cockpit, where he described in common terms the joys and challenges of flight and what it took to be the exceptional pilot he was. He also wrote incredibly lovingly about his wife and children, his love for them and pride he felt, and the worries he carried as a husband and father. And he managed to do so without intruding into their lives or his, but in a way that allowed us all to share just a little of him.

Lex chose to re-grip the flight controls to serve again the Navy he loved, by doing what had been his passion (outside of his wife and children) for his far too brief time this side of heaven. He helped to train Navy pilots to be better Navy pilots, and accepted the concomitant risks long after his time in uniform ended. The value of men such as he cannot be overestimated. His loss leaves a hole, a void, that never really is filled.

Our thoughts and prayers to his wife, his Navy pilot son, and his lovely daughters. Theirs is a deep grief that cannot be assuaged by the words they will read today and in the coming days. But perhaps, as that grief lessens, they can be warmed with a pride of having been the greatest treasure of such a remarkable man.

Captain Carroll LeFon, United States Navy (Ret.) has stepped into the clearing. Far more than most, he will be missed.



The January 2012 issue of Proceedings Magazine contained an excellent article from Dr. Norman Friedman (“A Different Kind of Blast”, pg. 88-89) referencing the May 2011 testing of a cruise missile containing a Counter-Electronics High Microwave power (CHAMP) warhead. As Dr. Friedman explains, high-power microwave (HPM) is a short-range and non-nuclear alternative to Electromagnetic Pulse (EMP), something which the US Military is becoming reacquainted with after a post-Cold War hiatus.

Dr. Friedman goes on to explain the differences between those two phenomena and that of electronic jamming:

EMP and HPM differ from electronic jamming in that they operate at much higher power and across a broad frequency spectrum; their users do not need intimate knowledge of how their targets function in order to disable them.

The applicability of this weapon in beginning to reduce the Anti-Access/Area Denial (A2/AD) threat, and thereby helping to enable Operational Access, is potentially very interesting. Among the chief concerns to strategic and operational planners is the proliferation of anti-ship ballistic and cruise missiles, the latter in supersonic and hypersonic form, which are likely to saturate US Navy missile defenses with lethal warheads, even a small number of which would cause significant damage. This is not a new paradigm, as any Destroyer sailor on the Okinawa picket line in 1945 could attest.

However, with a weapon such as the CHAMP warhead, which by all reports is a more or less directional weapon, the ability to much more effectively and efficiently eliminate the targeting radars of air defense and anti-ship missile systems we would likely find in an A2/AD environment may be realized.

Previous discussions as to how to counter such numerous systems had centered around destruction with kinetic warheads, or disruption with “cyber” (there’s that word again) disruptions. The first is likely beyond the reach of current capabilities. Hardened and concealed positions will require precise, complete targeting and a prolific expenditure of munitions into areas where collateral damage may be considerable. The second, the “cyber” option, assumes a level of networking that most of our adversaries have not achieved, and with known and assumed US capabilities, something that is often purposely avoided. Indeed, a good deal of the air defense and anti-ship radars operate on purpose-built and relatively closed-loop networks, making intrusion into those networks a doubtful prospect.

Rather than destruction with kinetic munitions, or through disruption/intrusion, CHAMP/HPM offers the ability to blind those systems by burning out the processors and microprocessors of their operating equipment.

The recently-published Joint Operational Access Concept (JOAC) has a number of key imperatives that would be greatly enhanced by such capabilities that a directional HPM weapon can provide:

  • Prepare the operational area in advance to facilitate access.
  • Exploit advantages in one or more domains to disrupt enemy anti-access/area-denial capabilities in others.
  • Disrupt enemy reconnaissance and surveillance efforts while protecting friendly efforts.
  • Create pockets or corridors of local domain superiority to penetrate the enemy’s defenses and maintain them as required to accomplish the mission.
  • Attack enemy Anti-Access/Area-Denial defenses in depth rather than rolling back those defenses from the perimeter.

While I am always hesitant to employ the overused and hackneyed term “game-changer”, it would appear that countermeasures to something like CHAMP may be difficult to develop and expensive. The technology required to produce the HPM-protection equivalent of a “Faraday Cage” may be beyond many countries and non-state actors to develop and employ. The result of such limitations may render the A2/AD systems of smaller adversaries vulnerable to US capabilities. Such may also significantly reduce the number of effective nodes of near-peer adversaries, who will have to choose which of the critical A2/AD systems they wish to make survivable.

As with every emerging capability, we need to be aware of the effects of such weapons on our own weapons systems and information/operating networks. We aren’t the only ones developing such systems. The back-and-forth of measures and counter-measures will be the future of such development. With the widespread industrial espionage capabilities attributed to some of our adversaries, their development cycle will be foreshortened by the ability to steal information and technical data.

The myriad challenges of Anti-Access and Area Denial environments will require continued development and experimentation with equipment. technology, and doctrine. However, the capability of a directional HPM weapon such as CHAMP provides a potential key to one of the A2/AD challenges that has increasingly become the focus of those thinking Operational Access.



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