Archive for the 'Strategic communications' Tag

From the beginning of the Libyan conflict, American involvement was always stressed as being there because of the “unique capabilities” that we had which our NATO allies did not. Most of us understood the electronic surveillance and given the land-based nature of the air campaign – the tanker requirements – but there was much more.

John Barry over at The Daily Beast has a summary of that is worth a ponder;

The Libya campaign was a unique international effort: 15 European nations working with the U.S. and three Arab nations. The air offensive was launched from 29 airbases in six European countries. But only six European nations joined with the U.S. and Canada to fly strikes against Gaddafi’s forces.

According to two senior NATO officials, one American and the other European, these were the critical U.S. contributions during the six-month military campaign:

• An international naval force gathered off Libya. To lower the U.S. profile, the administration elected not to send a supercarrier. Even so, the dozen U.S. warships on station were the biggest contingent in this armada. …
• U.S. tanker aircraft refueled European aircraft on the great majority of missions against Gaddafi’s forces. The Europeans have tanker aircraft, but not enough to support a 24/7 air offensive averaging, by NATO count, around 100 missions a day, some 50 of them strike sorties. The U.S. flew 30 of the 40 tankers….
• When the Europeans ran low on precision-attack munitions, the U.S. quietly resupplied them. (That explains why European air forces flying F-16s—those of Norway, Denmark, Belgium—carried out a disproportionate share of the strikes in the early phase of the campaign. The U.S. had stocks of the munitions to resupply them. When Britain and France, which fly European-built strike aircraft, also ran short, they couldn’t use U.S.-made bombs until they had made hurried modifications to their aircraft.)
• To target Gaddafi’s military, NATO largely relied on U.S. JSTARS surveillance aircraft, …
• U.S. Air Force targeting specialists were in NATO’s Naples operational headquarters throughout the campaign. …
• U.S. AWACS aircraft, high over the Mediterranean, handled much of the battle-management task, acting as air-traffic controllers on most of the strike missions. Again, the Europeans have AWACS, but not enough crews to handle an all-hours campaign lasting months.
• Eavesdropping by U.S. intelligence—some by aircraft, some by a listening post quietly established just outside Libya—gave NATO unparalleled knowledge of what Gaddafi’s military planned.
• All this was crucial in supporting the European effort. But U.S. involvement went way beyond that. In all, the U.S. had flown by late August more than 5,300 missions, by Pentagon count. More than 1,200 of these were strike sorties against Libyan targets.

He has plenty of other things to chew on … and this that I had not heard before.

• When a desperate Gaddafi began to launch Scud missiles into towns held by the opposition, a U.S. guided-missile destroyer offshore negated his offensive by shooting down the Scuds.

News to me. A quick google search gets nada but this,

The missile, designed by the Soviet Union during the Cold War, has a range in excess of 200 miles — though it is not clear where it landed, the paper reported. It was detected by a U.S. Aegis destroyer off the coast of the war-torn country.

I would think that if a USN DDG/CG took out a Scud or 4 we would hear about that – but based on the PAO performance this summer from the Gulf of Sidra to the Horn of Africa – I wouldn’t be shocked if we hadn’t heard anything. Media gets a lot wrong – so perhaps not a single VLS door opened. Maybe they just saw and reported – maybe “something else” took care of the problem – c’est une mystère.

Detected? Sure – but intercepted? If so, the Aegis mafia is getting slow in its old age….

Well – silly me, I have been reading too much US press and mostly the Daily Mail and Telegraph from the UK. I should have read these two items from The Guardian (!) of all places.

At least four of the rockets have been intercepted seconds before they were due to impact on the city, reportedly hit by missiles fired by a US navy cruiser operating in the Gulf of Sirte.

The missiles’ failure to reach their target appears to be because of the US navy, with reports that a cruiser operating in the Mediterranean has been using Aegis missiles to intercept the Scuds each time.

So far the US navy has hit four out of four, …

Those two articles came out on the 24th and 25th of this month. With all this bad and conflicting reporting out there – I am sure that the Navy/DOD is trying to do something to tell the actual story. So, let’s go over to DVIDS and see what we can find.

You know, at heart I am an optimist.

Hmmmm, what is at DVIDS … all Irene almost all the time. Let’s do a Libya search. Page one is all talking-briefing, talking-briefing (if I were a reporter on a deadline, am I going to sit through all those PPT briefings? No.) … and then on page two – we have some Navy news. First entry from the 30th titled, I kid you not, “Navy continues operations over Libya.” Hey, it’s a picture of a CG … and the caption is …

The Ticonderoga-class guided-missile cruiser USS Bunker Hill is seen underway in the Arabian Gulf.

Fail. Does anyone study geography anymore?

OK, simply a mistake on the editor’s part. No one is perfect. I will try not to go all Salamander on them. That was, after all, only picture 1 of 2. Let’s look at the second pic; hey – it is a EA-6B! And the caption is …

An EA-6B Prowler assigned to Electronic Attack Squadron 134 banks over the Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson as it enters the landing pattern. The Carl Vinson Carrier Strike Group is deployed supporting maritime security operations and theater security cooperation efforts in the U.S. 5th Fleet area of responsibility.

Fail. Now this is just getting insulting.

Keep trying. Page 3 is more briefings and PPT … bla, bla, bla. On page 4, wait! What do we have! Pictures titled, “Navy and Marine Corps aircraft strike Libya ” Now we’re cooking with gas. There is a picture of a helo aircrewman doing his nation’s bidding and the caption is

Airman Travis Fletcher, aviation boatswain’s mate (fuels), fuels an aircraft tow tractor on the flight deck of amphibious assault ship USS Kearsarge. Joint Task Force Odyssey Dawn is the U.S. Africa Command task force established to provide operational and tactical command and control of U.S. military forces supporting the international response to the unrest in Libya and enforcement of United Nations Security Council Resolution 1973. UNSCR 1973 authorizes all necessary measures to protect civilians in Libya under threat of attack by Qadhafi regime forces. JTF Odyssey Dawn is commanded by U.S. Navy Admiral Samuel J. Locklear III. (Photo by: Petty Officer 3rd Class Scott Pittman)

There are so many layers of fail here – let me just focus on what is in our face. Since when are aviation boatswain’s mate wearing flight suits and flight helmets? I don’t see a fuel line … that is a funny looking tractor … Hmmm. Download the high-res and zoom in …

Fail. That Shipmate is an aircrewman from HSC-22 (I can see the warfare pin but not his name; and if you look at the expression on the other Sailor’s face on the other side of the helo through the window, that is about what my expression is right now), and it looks like he is trying to secure something or closing the door of his helo. HSC – does not strike anything ashore. I quit – three strikes and you are out. CHINFO call your office.

As the Navy taught me though – even you you decide to withdraw, execute a fighting withdraw. So, I clicked the Libya tag to see what was there. Hey, great stuff about the USS SCRANTON (SSN-756) coming home – but that is about it.

Go to and there is plenty of fun stuff about Irene, “green” energy, a pic and story with the CNO in his favorite role, and an ecosystem of NWU being approved under rules best understood by a Ottoman bureaucrat. That’s about it.

Go to the Navy’s facebook page and …. nothing after five pages of updates.

So, somewhere our Navy did something that our Sailors should be proud of – so – BZ, even if you only watched the Scuds go up and then down. We know you did more and want your story told – but something tells me that even the simple UNCLAS stuff someone wrote is dying in some control freak’s inbox, being watered down to nothing so when it is released the story will be over – so you’ll have to wait until no one will notice. That has to be it – otherwise what is the reason that our Navy is not telling the story of its Sailors efforts in the Med, HOA, and the Arabian Sea – or for that matter even making a basic check to make sure that the captions match the pictures that match the theater of operations?

This is simply one thing; disrespect. An open disrespect for our deployed Sailors by supporting commands, staff lines, PAOs, and the shore establishment.

Our deployed Sailors deserve better, their families deserve better – and the taxpayer deserves to know what their tax dollars and money borrowed from their children and grandchildren is being used for. Additionally, we cannot complain that the “Navy story” isn’t understood when we don’t even make an effort to tell it ourselves.

Enough of that; back to the topic at hand – as an interesting side-note; this is about what we suspected all along.

To lower the U.S. profile, the administration elected not to send a supercarrier.

Yep. Once you have a USA CVN – you suck all the O2 out of the room. If we had gone with Plan Salamander back in March and put 2-4 off the coast … yea … no chance for a low profile job then. Then again, it would have ended sooner but it wouldn’t have allowed the Europeans to smoke check their abilities either. In that light – good job if that was the goal.

As a matter of fact – that is the best part of the operation, intentional or not. Europe’s residual ability to conduct military operations even in their back yard in on display as impotent without the USA. That is not a good thing for them or the USA – but at least now there are fewer and fewer people who can effectively deny that fact. Once we reach that point, then we can have adult conversations with our allies.

In any event – will someone who was actually there find someway to get the story out?


UPDATE: USNIBlog gets results! DoD finally provides the answer today – with a push from our friend Phil Ewing. Major national/international papers publish something …. silence. USNIBlog puts out a question – Phil picks it up – and BEHOLD; DoD spokesman Col. Dave Lapan, USMC speaks.

Nice work all.

Now, CHINFO …..

“Washington should show its political will and stop playing with guns on China’s doorsteps.
‘Good fences make good neighbors’ the words of the American poet Robert Frost also hold true for this relationship.” – China Daily (27 July 2011)

Last week the Taiwanese press revealed an incident that occurred on the 29th of June wherein one of a pair of PLA-AF SU-27s crossed the median line between PRC and Taiwan while ostensibly pursuing a U-2 conducting reconnaissance in international airspace. The story briefly ran in the Western press and the US Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, ADM Mullen, when asked to comment on the incident, noted that while ” (W)e both have to be very careful about how we fly them,” the US would be undeterred in continuing to fly the missions. In the days that followed, “opinion” pieces ran in the China Daily (source of the quote above) and Beijing Global Times – both generally recognized sources of “official” Chinese messaging without coming directly from a government spokesperson. Both articles, pointing to the the recent visits by the PLA CoS to the US in May and the visit by ADM Mullen in mid-July, noted the difficulty in re-establishing these early steps in mil-to-mil relations and how this action (the continuation of U-2 “spy” missions) threatened their continuation. For it’s part, the Global Daily quoted a military expert’s analysis on China’s “legitimacy” in challenging the missions:

Song Xiaojun, a Beijing-based military expert, told the Global Times on Tuesday that China can legitimately interrupt US surveillance moves.”It is impossible for China to deploy the electronic countermeasures needed to set up a so-called protective electronic screen in the air to deter reconnaissance. Sending flights to intercept spying activities is essential to show China’s resolution to defend its sovereignty,” Song said.”The US has insisted that their spying on China brings no harm by using the excuse that it is safeguarding its own security,” Song said. “US spying activities, arms sales to Taiwan and uneven military communications with China have been the top three major barriers for military ties between the two countries,” he added.

China Daily, which tends to be a little more restrained or conservative in tone, emphasized Chen’s comments during the recent visits:

During Mullen’s visit to China, Chen Bingde, the General Chief-of-Staff of the People’s Liberation Army, also voiced his concern on potential miscalculations or even clashes between the two militaries. While China welcomes the US military presence in Asia-Pacific for its constructive role in maintaining regional stability, that does not mean that China will compromise on issues relating to its territorial integrity or national security. Chen criticized the US naval drills in the South China Sea and attempted arms sale to Taiwan, and also urged the US to reduce or halt its military surveillance near China’s coast. Given the increasingly interdependent relations between China and the US, and the commitment by both governments to build a cooperative partnership in the 21st century, it is in both sides’ interests to build and maintain good-neighborliness based on mutual respect for each other’s sovereignty and national dignity. (emphasis added)

Which, of course, preceded the ‘good fences = good neighbors’ quote above.


China, like North Korea and the former Soviet Union, is openly hostile to reconnaissance flights, taking every opportunity to display their impatience and displeasure with the missions. Generally speaking, unlike the Soviets and North Koreans, the Chinese have been less inclined to shoot down reconnaissance aircraft unless they were actually over Chinese territory (the wreckage of several Taiwanese U-2s shot down over the mainland are on display in a Beijing military museum). T0 a degree, that has been a function of their inability until the recent past decade to reach out and touch US platforms, like the U-2 (and presumably the RQ-4 Global Hawk UAS which has been forward deployed to Guam for a while now). The deployment of SU-27 FLANKERs, purchased from the Russians (and now, indigenously produced J-11′s) have served to significantly extend the PLAAF’s reach, both in range and altitude, over the much less capable F-8 and even the That, however, does not mean that they will not react to US aircraft engaged in intelligence collection missions off the Chinese coast. Ample evidence of how a reaction can go wrong, especially if the reacting fighters are overly aggressive, is provided with the midair between a PLAAF J-8 and a Navy EP-3. Though it turned out badly for the Chinese pilot (whose body was never found) the exploitation of the EP-3 after it made an emergency landing at a nearby airfield on the Chinese island of Hainan, proved to be a windfall for Chinese intelligence. Still, the manner and size of a reaction to reconnaissance missions can be used as yet another means of “signaling” to another country. A reaction by a pair of fighters that maintains a stand-off distance of 5 or so nautical miles, effectively shadowing the recce aircraft signals the awareness of the observed nation to the presence of the aircraft and the mission assigned. An intercept with aggressive maneuvering, like a CPA inside 50 ft, “thumping” or other clearly hazarding maneuvers might serve as a warning to open distance from the edge of a nation’s airspace (even though the recce aircraft may be in international airspace) or even a warning that future missions will be met with hostile fire. It’s all part of a range of strategic communications (like so-called “op-eds” in State-owned or directed media). So, what is the context here?

China, I believe, has clearly laid out three redlines where the future of mil-mil exchange and talks are concerned – China’s claims to the South China Sea, the continuance of arms sales to Taiwan and so-called “dangerous military practices” that are typified by US reconnaissance missions. In each of the high-level visits, this was the message delivered to the US – “here are our conditions for further progress.” The message builds on actions taken from the tactical to strategic — from serial harassment of Vietnamese survey ships in the South China Sea and intercept attempts at high-level reconnaissance aircraft (don’t forget – this took place after the visit by Chen to the US and before Mullen’s visit to China) to pursuing a bi-lateral condominium of “understandings” with nations bordering the SCS, eschewing multi-party fora and working hard to exclude US presence and influence. It is at once a fairly aggressive tack, but one that has remained hidden in plain sight of US policymakers who are wrapped up in three wars abroad and dealing with fiscal issues at home. As part of a carefully crafted strategic communications campaign, the target audience isn’t just the US, but more importantly, regional states. The message it carries – the US is in relative decline across all measures of power but more importantly, in the area of real power and presence in the region, its primacy is declining to such a degree that its reliability is increasingly suspect. Therefore, measure carefully your actions and intent for it is in your better interests – in the long run, if you not only reduce reliance on the US and its instruments of regional presence and power (e.g., naval and air forces), but work with us to reduce this increasingly risky and reckless presence. Combining challenges in relatively low-risk actions – like increasingly aggressive intercepts of US recce aircraft. Just when, for example, has the US militarily reacted to an aggressive intercept, much less shoot-down of a recce platform? Nothing was done to the North Koreans or Soviets even in the face of several high profile incidents like the Pueblo. Throw an unmanned recce platform into the mix as a potential target for a demonstration during a high stakes stand-off and it could get very interesting very soon. The very near sea trials of the former Varyag CV, allegedly named Shi Lang, serves as another point. China knows full well that it can’t compete hull-to-hull with the US CVN/CVW team – but it doesn’t need to because the US is so strapped worldwide in terms of force structure and OPTEMPO. Rather, the Shi Lang is at once a message and warning to states like Vietnam and the Philippines that should they decide to put force behind their challenge to China’s claims in the area, their naval forces are wholly inadequate to the job by themselves, and again, the US won’t be one to be relied upon to fill the breach.

None of this happens overnight and as mentioned, not without a strategic communications campaign. The point is recognizing that one is underway and that the terms of engagement may in fact be changing.

Good fences make good neighbors’ the words of the American poet Robert Frost also hold true for this relationship.”

Indeed – but as many a suburbanite will tell you, fences can also be very polarizing to a neighborhood, especially when built outside of where property lines are clearly understood and recognized.

Crossposted @

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