Archive for the 'Air Force' Category
The morning panel discussion at USNI West 2012 was entitled “The Navy-Marine Corps Team: Hang Together or Hang Separately?”
Excellently moderated by Frank Hoffman, the panel members were:
VADM Gerald Beaman, Commander, Third Fleet
VADM John Blake, DCNO, Integration, Capabilities, and Resources (N8)
BGen Dan O’ Donohue, Capabilities Development Directorate, HQMC
MajGen Melvin Spiese, Deputy CG, I MEF
Panelists were unanimous in their comments as to the new appreciation of the truly integrated nature of the Navy-Marine Corps team, and the necessity of that close and long-standing relationship as US focus “pivots” toward the Western Pacific. The unique combined capabilities of the Navy-Marine Corps team to project power globally and to gain entry, as Admiral Vern Clark once stated, “without a permission slip”, was acknowledged to be as important in the coming decade as it has ever been in our nation’s history.
As such, the integration of Navy-Marine Corps fixed-wing air, the maintenance and enhancement of amphibious assault capability, and the return of the Marine Corps to its nautical roots after two protracted land campaigns, all were indicators of the new-found sense of teamwork between the services. Several panel members commented pointedly on just how closely the guidance of CNO Admiral Greenert and Marine Commandant General Amos align. This is not coincidental, as in the coming budget challenges the Department of the Navy, which includes the Marine Corps, needs the capabilities of each of the respective services to execute the Maritime Strategy in the growing A2AD environment. Joint Operational Access must indeed be accomplished jointly, with each service enhancing and complementing the capabilities and mission sets of the other.
This represents a much more harmonious situation than the somewhat discordant voices (behind the scenes, at least) which were heard in the last several years. That is good news. Because the assertion of how much each service needs the other to operate in the vast expanse of the ocean to our west is difficult to overstate.
There was much discussion regarding the F-35B, which General Spiese termed the most important program in the Marine Corps. He stated that its capabilities to operate off big-deck amphibs and high sortie generation rate are keys to USMC warfighting doctrine. With a current and near-future paucity of sustainable Naval surface fire support, General Spiese’s assertion is spot-on.
A question to the panel from your humble author regarded identified capabilities gaps, lack of viable NSFS, and mine warfare, specifically counter-mine capabilities. As the Amphibious Operations Area expands exponentially, a necessary result of fielding of longer-range systems of delivery (MV-22, a future ACV), those two tasks in particular have been flagged as being an even greater gap than exists with current systems and methods. (Simply, the farther from shore the amphibs launch the landing force, and the farther inland the Ospreys can execute vertical envelopment, then the larger the mine-clearing task and the more expansive the target list. This is true even if the landing area is lightly defended.)
The answers were instructive, as Admiral Beaman asserted that prioritization of systems in the current budget environment might mean modification of requirements. Moderator Frank Hoffman identified the need for a low-cost and high-volume FS system to fill the gap until newer systems are fielded (rail gun, possibly) and existing systems improved. (An ability to UNREP VLS, perhaps?)
BGen O’Donohue talked in positive terms about the mine-clearing module of the LCS, and it is clear there is a tremendous amount riding on the success of that system. Admiral Blake explained that the migration is taking place from current methods of mine clearance where the sailor is in the mine field to methods where the sailor is not, and the clearance is performed remotely.
The panel espoused the distinct and realistic view that the current proliferation of A2AD systems make for a very challenging operating environment, and the emergence of a near-peer potential adversary in China raises the ante for getting it right with our Naval forces. But at least those challenges will be met together by the Navy-Marine Corps team.
This week in San Diego, USNI/AFCEA West 2012 will be examining the issues and challenges associated with a US Military that has reached a “crossroads”.
As has happened so many times in the last century, the signposts to that crossroads are fiscal and not operational. Even with the drawdown in Iraq, and the war in Afghanistan employing just a small fraction (about 90,000) of the 1.44 million US servicemen and women, the driving forces for the coming cuts are budget shortfalls, and spiraling national debt.
Panel sessions include discussion of the future of the Navy-Marine Corps Team (which doubtless will encompass amphibious capabilities), information and INFOSEC requirements for Naval forces, the balance between the warfighting head and the logistics tail, and the looming question of our new Pacific orientation, China.
Speakers include former CJCS Admiral Mullen, Navy Undersecretary (and former Marine Artilleryman) Robert Work, David Hartman, and Medal of Honor Winner SFC Leroy Petry, USA.
As usual, USNI will have a reinforced fire team of bloggers to tell you about it. The unit symbol is below. We will begin in a wedge formation for all around security and flexibility, and then we will do whatever SWMBO tells us to.
If you are going to ask tough questions, and give tough answers, San Diego in January is a pretty good place to do it. The forecast in Vermont is for snow.
Any pretense of a hopeful outcome from the so-called “Arab Spring” is all but gone. The Guardian reported at the beginning of this month that the Islamists will be the wielders of power in Egypt, and their agenda is precisely what those who warned of their rise feared it would be.
Two once-banned Islamist groups, the Muslim Brotherhood, and the Salaf Nour Party, appear to be the big winners of Egypt’s Parliamentary elections. Their plans for Egypt are abundantly clear, expressed in terms that should cause concern in the West, and already do in Israel.
Guided by a Saudi-inspired school of thought, Salafists have long shunned the concept of democracy, saying it allows man’s law to override God’s. But they decided to form parties and enter politics after the exit of Mubarak in February.
Salafi groups speak confidently about their ambition to turn Egypt into a state where personal freedoms, including freedom of speech, women’s dress and art, are constrained by sharia.
“In the land of Islam, I can’t let people decide what is permissible or what is prohibited. It’s God who gives the answers as to what is right and what is wrong,” Hamad said. “If God tells me you can drink whatever you want except for alcohol, you don’t leave the million things permitted and ask about the prohibited.”
While there are ideological differences between the Brotherhood and the Salafists, those differences are far narrower than those that exist between either of those groups and anyone else on Egypt’s political scene. Talk of any major rift that would prevent a coalition is wishful thinking, and similar assertions by leaders of the groups themselves are for public consumption and somewhat less than genuine. Interestingly, the Guardian article describes the Muslim Brotherhood as the more “moderate” of the two Islamist groups. This is the very same Muslim Brotherhood that openly admired Hitler’s Third Reich, and enthusiastically supported the Final Solution. Positions which, tellingly, they have never renounced.
Leader of Jordan’s Muslim Brotherhood Hamed Saeed’s words sound an unwelcome thunderclap in the ears of Western diplomats. Saeed declared last January that “unrest in Egypt will spread across the Mideast and Arabs will topple leaders allied with the United States.”
And so it has, and is not finished yet. There was nothing spontaneous about it. Western leaders, including our own, have been thoroughly outmaneuvered, as have any moderates who had hoped in those early days of the “Arab Spring” for a permanence of the new liberties they believed they’d won.
If the scenario rings eerily familiar, it should.
For a guy that doesn’t use salty nautical terms like “port”, “starboard”, “ladder”, “hatch”, or “abaft” in everyday conversation, XBRADTC has an exceptional grasp of Navy stuff.
His post over at Bring the Heat, Bring the Stupid, on the LCS(L), Landing Craft, Support, Large (The “Mighty Midgets”) highlights the ingenuity and adaptability that allowed the US Navy to fight and win the Second World War across the world’s great oceans.
As we turn our defense focus to the Pacific from our current and recent wars, many of the same challenges and lessons from the Second World War in the Pacific are as applicable today as they were from 1941-45. One of the sentences that jumps off the page of Brad’s post is this one:
What was needed was close in fire support for the last stretch of the run in to the beach. The Navy had actually foreseen the problem, but had totally underestimated the scale of fire support that was needed.
Seems there is not much new under the sun. Among the most misunderstood aspects of the massive amphibious effort in the Pacific War was that commanders has few qualms about landing on a fortified beach. While Tarawa and Iwo Jima tend to be the images in the mind’s eye of that war and that time, those were by far the exception rather than the rule, and then almost always by sheer and grim necessity. The vast majority of the landings conducted in the Southwest Pacific Area by MacArthur’s forces in New Guinea and New Britiain and the Admiralties, and a large majority of those in Nimitz’s Central Pacific, aimed at landing in lightly defended or undefended places to project power ashore.
Today, we look at the Pacific, and see the same expanse of water, the same limited basing available, similar issues and problems as were facing planners in the 1930s. There are many who dismiss entirely the need to project power across a beach as a means of theater entry, or who believe such can be conducted by seizing a port or an airfield, or by administrative means (JLOTS), apparently without any enemy resistance, or ability to impact our efforts. The US Navy has been rather intransigent in its belief that no such projection capability is required, or is in fact, feasible. Hence, the statement from CNO Admiral Greenert, making an interesting juxtaposition with Brad’s observations, above:
The third factor favoring a focus on payloads is the changing nature of war. Precision-guided munitions have reduced the number and size of weapons needed to achieve the same effect. At the same time, concerns for collateral damage have significantly lowered the number of targets that can be safely attacked in a given engagement. The net effect is fewer weapons are needed in today’s conflicts.
While empirically true regarding accuracy and effects, the cost of those precision munitions and the lack of redundancy of the platforms and systems to launch them, point once again to there being a far greater need in the actual practice of combat for such weapons than the Navy seems to believe (or admit to) in peacetime. (That we would jeopardize success of a major military operation for failing to prosecute high-value targets adequately out of fear of collateral damage, is much more our own folly of “lawfare” than any inherent requirements for fire support.) As for the ever-predicted change in the nature of war, that chimera will once again be disproved in the next war, as it has been in every war past.
Brad’s post should be instructive to those who would wish to continue building Littoral Combat Ships that are not intended to survive combat in the littorals. We had it right once, when the lessons were front and center in our collective military experiences. How far we have wandered.
h/t Brad and Sal
More than two years have passed since the Jihad-inspired cold-blooded murder of 12 US Soldiers and one DoD civilian at Fort Hood. An act committed by a man whose radical Islamist views were well known to his chain of command and his peers. By a man who shouted “Allahu Akbar” over and over again while shooting nearly fifty people, killing 13 and wounding 32. By a man who had exchanged more than a dozen e-mails with a radical Islamist, drawing inspiration for the attack from a man, Anwar al-Awliki, whom the Administration targeted for killing as an enemy of the United States, and who labeled the attacker at Fort Hood a hero and martyr for Islam.
Yet, the Defense Department is calling the incident “workplace violence”.
From the Greeley (CO) Gazette:
Witnesses said Hasan passed up several chances to shoot civilians, but instead chose to concentrate exclusively on soldiers in uniform.
Following the attack, the Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR) said the attack had nothing to do with Islam. It was claimed that Hasan’s murderous rampage was the fault of Army officials who ordered him to deploy to Afghanistan.
Hasan’s radical views regarding Islam were well-known. Once, while presenting a medical lecture to other psychiatrists, Hasan talked about Islam, stating that non-believers would go to hell decapitated, set on fire and have burning oil poured down their throats.
Had Major Hasan managed to plant a bomb aboard a bus that killed thirteen and wounded thirty-two, would that still be workplace violence? The motivation, the target, the results, would all be the same. The only difference would be the method.
The political correctness with which this massacre was treated has been a despicable, shameful display of avoiding the truth. This includes General Casey’s disgraceful and stomach-turning lament about the incident harming the Army’s diversity efforts. Secretary Gates’ PC-inspired unwillingness to comment upon the nature of Hasan’s motivations in the Defense report is equally egregious. The comments by Vern Clark and Togo West that the investigation shouldn’t concern itself with “motivation” are pathetic and dangerous pandering to political correctness.
Secretary Panetta has the opportunity to correct this travesty and this deliberate misrepresentation of the terrible truth. Which is that the US Army commissioned, and then promoted, an Islamic Jihadist to the Field Grade ranks. They ignored the myriad warnings of his conduct and his radical viewpoint, or were unwilling to confront Hasan and take appropriate action. And, that when Hasan went on his killing rampage, his actions were in the same spirit and motivation as the 9/11 hijackers, the Little Rock shooters, and the Fort Dix plotters.
What it will take is some courage and character, and a willingness to break out of the stifling repression of political correctness. The Secretary should revise the report to reflect what we all know the Fort Hood tragedy to be. A terrorist act committed by a radical Islamist against US Service members, on American soil. That is the truth.
Calling Fort Hood something other than terrorism is a deliberate lie. A lie perpetuated by the desire for political correctness above all things, including the truth.
George was a neighbor and friend with a remarkable past. I had lived across the street from George for a number of years, and always enjoyed the times when he would amble across busy Route 5 to talk to me when he’d see me out with the rake or the mower. We’d talk football and a host of other sports. He’d been a magnificent athlete, even as an older man, setting records for his age-group in many track and field events for seniors well into his 70s. He was an icon of the tight-knit community who’d been a high school coach and mentor for more than forty years. Tall and dignified, he had remained in excellent shape until the inevitable ravages of time caught his heels in his mid-80s. Even then, he remained a commanding figure.
Like many his age, George was a Second World War Veteran, serving in the United States Army in New Guinea and New Britain in the South Pacific. (This was the same area my Father served in as an MM2 aboard an LCT.)
What I didn’t know, and found out only after quite some time, was that George had been stationed at Schofield Barracks on December 7th, 1941. After a bit of prompting, I was able to get George to relate the story of that morning to me. George had enlisted in the Army upon graduation from Boston University in 1938, where he had lettered three times in football, and twice in track and field. On that fateful Sunday morning, George, then a Sergeant, was scheduled to play football for his regiment, the famous Wolfhounds of the 27th Infantry, against the arch-rival 8th Artillery. He had slept in and decided to skip Sunday mass, and was just getting up to shave at 0750, when he heard the hum of aircraft engines, lots of them, over the runway at Wheeler Field.
Squinting to see in the bright sunshine, George saw the large red roundels on the fuselages of the green-painted aircraft and knew instantly what was about to happen. He described how, because they had stored a substantial amount of ammunition in the Company barracks arms rooms, the various companies of the 27th Infantry were able to quickly bring several .30 caliber machine guns and BARs to bear against the attacking Japanese aircraft. George could hear the rumble of bombs exploding in the fleet anchorage at Pearl Harbor, and see the sky blackened by smoke. However, he would not get a true view of the carnage until a day later, when his company was moving toward fighting positions to defend against the Japanese attack which everyone was sure was imminent. The wrecked airplanes and hangars of Wheeler Field were a harbinger of a scene of even more complete destruction at Ford Island. George described the fleet anchorage as a “shambles”, and recalled seeing every battleship sunk, or capsized, with Arizona still burning like a torch.
The Japanese invasion never came, of course. The recovery from the attack began, and eventually an uneasy sense of order prevailed. But, as George noted at the end of his tale, every man knew that their lives had changed dramatically, and forever.
George never did get to play that football game against the 8th Artillery. From that day on, everyone was on the same team, and the games were finished.
George eventually received a commission in the US Army, and served in the South Pacific as a Captain and Combat Engineer. After the war, he remained in the National Guard, retiring in 1962 at the rank of Colonel. His vintage “crush hat” is one of my prized possessions. George died in November of 2004, at the age of 89. His funeral was, sadly, held on the same day that news came of the death of an area Marine killed in the Second Battle of Fallujah. I think of George every December 7th, and of the story of his remarkable participation in one of the watershed events in our Nation’s history.
On this very important day in our nation’s history – the 7th of December – we must give pause and remind ourselves….
The paragraph that jumps off the page in the wake of Pakistan’s bombast regarding the “unprovoked” Coalition airstrike is this one:
Both sides said they believed they were attacking insurgents along the border. A senior Pakistani defense official acknowledged that Pakistani troops fired first, sending a flare, followed by mortar and machine-gun fire, toward what he said was “suspicious activity” in the brush-covered area below their high-altitude outpost barely 500 yards from the border.
That the Pakistanis so loudly decried the events, and then very fundamentally change the narrative of events should leave us with little confidence in the assertion that the Pakistanis believed they were firing on “insurgents”. It seems that the Pakistanis did indeed fire first, as was the Afghan and Coalition assertion in the immediate wake of the incident. I believe it highly probable that the Pakistanis, with their track record of support of the Taliban, Al Qaeda in Afghanistan, the Haqqani network, and the Army’s gigantic loss of face with the bin Laden raid, knew very well who their targets were. They were targeting the Coalition efforts along the border, either in support of the insurgents, or on their own. All the “coordination mechanisms” in the world will not stop a deliberate attack.
Pakistan has been caught in a lie. Even if events prove that they indeed misidentified their targets, which strains credibility, the reports of “unprovoked attacks” and “sleeping soldiers” being killed in their beds is a colossal fabrication, and Pakistan knew such was fabrication well before they told those fabrications to the world in order to affix blame. They will cover that fact with loud bluster and threats, flag-burning, and the usual anti-American sentiment. But they have been caught in a gigantic lie, and as the myriad sources of battlefield information are sanitized and released, the world will know it.
Now would be an excellent time for our State Department to say so. Loudly.
This is going to get even uglier.
According to the UK’s Guardian, Western officials have stated that the NATO air attack that allegedly killed 24 Pakistani soldiers was an act of self-defense. Some very interesting comments from that story:
…a more troubling explanation would be that insurgents in the area were operating under the nose of Pakistani security forces. Many Afghan officials believe Pakistan helps the Taliban with cross-border operations.
Edrees Momand of the Afghan Border Police said that a US-Afghan force in the area near the Pakistani outposts detained several militants on Saturday morning.
“I am not aware of the casualties on the other side of the border but those we have detained aren’t Afghan Taliban,” he said, implying they may have been Pakistani or other foreign national Taliban operating in Afghanistan.
Pakistan’s consistent inconsistency has been a problem. The US has long suspected Pakistan of playing both ends against the middle as a US “ally” in the War on Terror. Its Inter-Services Intelligence, ISI, and its military, are a virtual stadt im stadt, and have aided Taliban and Al Qaeda efforts in Afghanistan for an entire decade. They have been linked to the 2008 Mumbai attacks in India, and to the attack on the US Embassy in Kabul in September of this year. CJCS Admiral Mullen called the Haqqani network a “veritable arm” of ISI. It is highly probable that Usama bin Laden had been under the protection of Pakistan’s intelligence apparatus since being whisked from Tora Bora in the last days of 2001, safely tucked away for most of that time in his Abottabad compound not two miles from Pakistan’s Military Academy.
It seems very unlikely that the air strikes that allegedly killed 24 Pakistani soldiers were authorized without a US terminal controller with eyes on the targets, and without those targets actively engaging US and Afghan forces along the border area. US commanders understand the sensitivity of the Pakistan problem along the poorly-defined Afghan border, and the restrictive (many say overly restrictive) ROE for CAS make the chance that the strikes were a colossal error by NATO forces a rather low probability. If such was the case, we will know soon enough. It seems extremely unlikely, however, that any Western officials would talk about such events as self-defense unless the picture of what happened was sufficiently clear to merit such a comment.
Pakistan’s version of events, that the Pakistani outposts were defending themselves from attack (“unprovoked and indiscriminate firing” by US aircraft), might hold more water without the deep US suspicions of ISI support to the Taliban and Al Qaeda in Afghanistan, or the rather implausible denials of hiding and protecting Usama bin Laden, and the categorical disavowing of involvement in the Mumbai attacks and the day-long assault on the US Embassy and other targets in Kabul.
Pakistan’s strategic location, and its substantial nuclear arsenal, make its fate an important consideration to the US. Its demand of evacuation of the air base at Shamsi, and the temporary closing of the border crossings, will be inconvenient but not crippling to ISAF efforts in Afghanistan. How long Pakistan remains a vital “ally” is open to question, as is the limit of US patience with the Zardari government, and its seeming lack of control over its Military Intelligence organization.
As the facts from this incident emerge, we will likely see more evidence of Pakistan’s aid and support to Taliban and Al Qaeda inside Afghanistan. And likely, more vehement denials on the part of the Pakistani government regarding provision of aid and support to US enemies in Afghanistan.
Whether they are any more believable than those of recent vintage remains to be seen.
It seems Pakistan no longer wishes “business as usual” with the United States. I do hope that includes eliminating the nearly $3 billion in US aid that can be put toward the US budget crisis instead of sending it as foreign aid to an “ally” who provides material support to America’s enemies and harbors terrorists. Perhaps the Pakistani Military may find itself in a different “transactional relationship” vis a vis the United States. The flow of military hardware may arrive business-end first.