Archive for December, 2009

More of my interview with John Burton, author of Fortnight of Infamy: The Collapse of Allied Airpower West of Pearl Harbor, December 1941. How did sudden dependence on airpower in the Far East present a serious problem for the United States?

Today, we take for granted the importance of the role of airpower in any theater of war; whether we’re considering the contest for air superiority above enemy lines, precision bombardment of strategic objectives, interdiction of supply lines, or vertical envelopment operations to capture key territories. It has become a given that control of the skies is a necessary prerequisite for control of the battlefield. From a naval point of view, the carrier task force has been the flexible base of power for every ‘projection of force’ mission the United States has staged since World War II. Airpower has actually become such an integral part of our concept of military action that it is virtually impossible to imagine the U.S. conducting any operation without aviation involvement.

In 1941, however, United States doctrine for employment of airpower was more of a theory than a practical tool that could be leveraged to win campaigns. Until the middle of that year, in fact, the shelves of Franklin Roosevelt’s “arsenal of democracy” were bare – particularly with regard to supplies of modern aircraft. At that point in time, Japan possessed greater aviation resources and had amassed far more practical experience in managing air operations.

In the words of Major General Lewis Brereton, commander of the U.S. Army’s Far East Air Force, “we were definitely a third-rate air power”. The U.S. may have had a first-rate navy, but in 1941 that service could reach, at best, only at a level of parity with the Imperial Japanese Navy in the Pacific. A five-to-three overall numerical and tonnage advantage that arms control negotiations had bestowed upon the U.S. Navy was hardly enough for America to manage an adequate defense for both the Atlantic and the Pacific in any “two ocean war”. When the Japanese finally chose to ignore the treaties, the balance of naval power tipped firmly in favor of Tokyo. Coupled with the fact that American land and air forces were actually quite inferior in both quantity and quality when compared with those of Japan, the United States found itself in a decidedly tenuous position at the end of 1941.

General Brereton and his peers faced a grim reality that the United States could do little to threaten, let alone stop, Japan’s armed forays into China and Southeast Asia. For nearly forty years, the secret papers and studies that constituted America’s War Plan Orange indicated that a rapid defeat of forces in the Philippines would be inevitable once the Japanese committed to any serious invasion attempt. Grudgingly, U.S. military leadership had come to accept the fact that naval limitation treaties and budget constraints all but precluded armed intervention in the Far East. By the mid-1930s, American politicians had even decided to grant the Philippines independence; an act that would effectively and conveniently relieve the U.S. of any responsibility to defend interests in Southeast Asia. After Japan began its invasion of China in 1937, the best the United States could really hope to do to curb Japanese expansion was to materially support the Chinese Nationalist war effort being led by Chiang Kai-Shek and place progressive sanctions on Japanese trade. Predictably, the results of that effort were less than satisfactory.

At the close of 1941, neither the U.S. nor Great Britain was in any position to provide an adequate ground force or naval deterrent to rein in Japan; even by marshaling their collective resources. In an unusual confluence of events that began in a series of clandestine meetings with Chinese authorities during November of 1940, and culminated with a secret agreement between President Franklin Roosevelt and Prime Minister Winston Churchill at the Argentia Conference in August, 1941, the idea of a pre-emptive bombardment of the Japanese home islands took shape. Aircraft procurement plans that had been set in motion by France before its defeat in 1940 – and Churchill’s willingness to defer deliveries of fighters and long-range bombers that had been scheduled for delivery to the Royal Air Force – enabled a rapid, if somewhat ill-conceived, American plan for deployment of a substantial air force presence in the Philippines. Four-engine bombers were judged to be the only stick the Allies could wield in the struggle to bring Japanese aggression to a halt – at least for the near term.

In most War Plan Orange scenarios, the U.S. intended to maintain only minimal garrison forces in the Western Pacific, and all U.S. possessions west of Midway were expected to be lost in short order. Once an attack by Japan triggered an American response, the U.S. planned to begin a gradual, relentless, build-up of naval and ground forces that would slowly advance westward from Hawaii toward Japan. Victory was anticipated, but generally estimated to require three to four years of active fighting. Generals and admirals understood the basic constraint: until war was formally declared, a parsimonious Congress would be unlikely to release the funds needed to prepare for such a costly effort.

The eleventh-hour investment of strategic aviation assets in the Philippines constituted a problematic ‘about face’ with regard to the tenets of War Plan Orange. When the decision to send nearly a thousand planes to the Philippines was finally confirmed at the Argentia Conference, no logistics process existed to support such an extensive deployment. The required numbers of transport ships, airbases and trained personnel simply did not exist – and it was believed that adequate preparations to achieve a critical mass for success of the plan could not be made before April, 1942. Consequently, the U.S. diplomatic process in the closing weeks of 1941 was generally tuned toward delaying any Japanese attack in the Far East until the spring months of 1942.

In an unfortunate turn of events (and possibly due to some miscommunication between government departments), the Allied oil embargo forced Japan to tip its hand prematurely (at least as far as the Allied timetable was concerned). In reality, an oil-thirsty Japan had actually planned to launch its attack in October, 1941, but the abrupt resignation of most of Japan’s governing cabinet led to a delay and additional “peace” negotiations.

As is often the case, timing is everything: the Allies were caught with their trousers rather tightly wrapped around their ankles.

To be continued…

42440_115937_301573With the neck down in platforms, officer accession and student naval aviator (SNA) training pipelines, there is a certain homogenization characterizing Naval Aviation today. Not that that is all bad mind you, especially when one considers the reduction in mishap rates and capabilities today’s anchor-winged warriors bring to the fight. Still, for those of us who had the opportunity to train, fly and fight with those who entered in the 40’s – 60’s we had the fortune of knowing some real characters and, occasionally, some real pioneers and pillars of the community. For that was a period of interesting, challenging and oft times, awkward growth as Naval Aviation moved past the breakout period of WWII and through the early days of the jet age to arrive at the version more recognizable today, repleat with super carriers and supersonic fighters. Getting to that point, however, required a distinct breed of aviator, formed in a time before NATOPS, honed on the small decks of 27C’s and the early “supercarriers” of the Forrestal class CVA, with new missions and (then) leading edge technology to master and fight with.

One of the signature aircraft of that period was the A3D/A-3 Skywarrior, aka “Whale.” Originally designed to be the Navy’s contribution to long-range nuclear strikes, the Whale eventually morphed through a number of other platform variations and missions — tanking, photo-recce, ELINT, electronic warfare, DV hauling, and the like. It was at once a typical life that the Whale led, compared to some of its contemporaries (viz., AD/A-1 Skyraider and F3D Skynight) – yet it outlived all those and many of the more modern and specialized aircraft that followed.

Like their aircraft, the men who worked on and flew the Whale were (are) of a particular bent and were central in establishing the tenor and tone of that era. Today, courtesy Andy Niemyer (A-3 Skywarrior Association) we learn of the passing of a true pioneer and pillar of the VQ community from that era – and Naval Aviation Pilot, CAPT John E. Taylor, USN-Ret:

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First of a three-part series of my e-interview with John Burton, author of Fortnight of Infamy: The Collapse of Allied Airpower West of Pearl Harbor, December 1941.

What inspired you to write Fortnight of Infamy and how is it different from other books written about 8-24 December 1941?

For most of my life, I’ve resided within a few miles of the Pacific Ocean. As a child, I lived in Hawaii at the time the epic movie Tora, Tora, Tora was released. My proximity to Pearl Harbor and the influence of that film drew my attention to the history of the Japanese attack from an early age. However, the more intently I studied the incident that took place on Oahu, the more I realized that concurrent events at the opposite side of the Pacific were equally interesting – and vastly more important in their overall impact on the U.S. and Allied war effort. Although the attack on Pearl Harbor was stunning, actual losses of personnel, equipment, and facilities in Hawaii paled in comparison with those in the Far East. In the end, the present-day status quo was barely affected by the Japanese bombs that fell on Oahu, but it was changed altogether by what took place in the Western Pacific and Southeast Asia during December of 1941.

It seems that most Americans – distracted as they are by Hollywood versions of Japan’s assault on Oahu – don’t fully grasp the desperate situation that the United States faced at the start of the Pacific War. That is not really surprising, since even the curriculum of a higher education does not advance the story of this period much beyond that told by the filmmakers. Unless one is a fairly serious student of history, the study of WWII in the Pacific is perfunctorily limited to the Pearl Harbor attack, an occasional brief mention of the battle at Midway, and a slightly more protracted discussion of the ethics surrounding the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. While these are undeniably important events, I’m guessing few people know that General Douglas MacArthur’s surrender in the Philippines, and the British capitulation of Malaya and Singapore, constituted the worst battlefield defeats that the U.S. and Great Britain have ever experienced; before or since. In the very short duration of those disastrous campaigns, nearly a quarter-million Allied soldiers were either killed or forced into a torturous and extended captivity, and their fate was sealed within the first fortnight of combat.

An extensive and comprehensive body of research and literature has been compiled over the years about the Pearl Harbor topic. Very few stones have been left unturned at this point. In contrast, there is a relative paucity of published information about the early weeks of war in the Far East. Despite the fact that the situation in the Far East is underreported, until Fortnight of Infamy was published a reader would have had to acquire and digest several dozen books just to acquire a basic understanding of these battles and their interrelationship. Because most of those volumes are very narrowly focused on specific topics – including two excellent aviation-related books written by Bill Bartsch (Doomed at the Start and December 8, 1941) – they do not coherently combine aspects of the Philippine campaign with those of the simultaneous Malaya/Singapore campaign. Although airpower was the most important factor in the Allied defense of the colonial Far East during December of 1941, before the publication of Fortnight of Infamy, the only attempt at covering the whole subject was found in two volumes of Bloody Shambles, by Shores, Cull and Izawa. Unfortunately, those books – which do stand as an excellent reference for Japanese and British air operations – contain many inaccuracies in their account of American activities, and make no attempt to explain or analyze the events they summarize. Thus, I wrote Fortnight of Infamy in an effort to fill in much of that gap by providing a comprehensive, yet readable, account of the Allied tragedy that took place west of Pearl Harbor.

To be continued…

Posted by Jim Dolbow in Books | 7 Comments

As the latest shipbuilding notes leak out over at the subscription newsletter, the going “spin” is that missile defense has come out of this as “the big winner.” But how does missile defense really win in a shipbuilding program that axes the missile-defense-ready CG(X) and attenuates the DDG-1000? The whole world wonders…

Does this shipbuilding plan “spin” mask a growing concern over international submarine proliferation and a dire U.S. shortage of anti-submarine-warfare (ASW) capable platforms? Let’s take a look!

To get shipbuilding dollars, it makes a lot of political sense to play up the “missile defense” angle. ASW, frankly, leaves the large and powerful Congressional “missile defense” claque kinda cold. But a close examination of the new shipbuilding plan suggests that ASW, via the boosted production of DDG-51s, may actually become the big winner here. If that is the case, and ASW is getting a big boost, then why not openly discuss this change in emphasis and examine the policy implications of such a shift?

While missile defense does get a honest boost, in the new plan, missile defenders loose a lot. They don’t get their purpose-built, likely non ASW-capable CG(X) tech-demonstration platforms and have to make do with an attenuated DDG-1000 buy (even though the missile defense prowess of this plaform is under debate). Add the Virginia Class purchases and the 55-ship LCS buy (assuming the ASW modules are, like the larger LCS program, viable) to this new “proposed” shipbuilding plan, it sure looks like ASW is getting a far bigger slice of the overall resource pie than it was originally gonna have.

Projected shipbuilding data aside, boosting ASW makes a far better fit with what CNO Roughead spelled out as his major concerns back before he was appointed CNO! I know ADM Roughead is cagey around reporters, but…he has talked about sub proliferation. A lot. And yet, very few people–aside from Politico’s Jen Dimasco–have reported on ADM Roughead’s concerns about ASW and sub proliferation.

Let’s take a look at today’s set of Missle Defense “spin” articles…both come from Inside Defense. (no link, subscription) From the first comes this quote, taken out of a recently “leaked” internal Navy study:

“Compared to the Navy’s previous [313-ship] requirement . . . the Navy’s future fleet must evolve to provide increased capacity for ballistic missile defense and provide more balance with forces better suited for building partner capacity and conducting irregular warfare,” the report states.

But does missile defense come out as the big winner here? Not really. In a different Inside the Navy article (by the same author, no less) the over-reaching, poorly conceived CG(X) missile defense cruiser gets–thankfully–the axe, leaving an upgraded, up-powered DDG-51 platform the big winner:

The Navy is buying nine DDG-51s from FY-10 to FY-15 and anticipates adding an integrated air and missile defense capability to new DDG-51s as early as FY-16, the report states. These upgraded DDG-51s will be modifications of the current design, combining the “best emerging technologies” aimed at further increasing integrated air and missile defense capabilities and providing a “more effective bridge between today’s capability and what had been planned for CG(X), the service writes.

While the Navy has “much work” to do to determine the final design, the service envisions the DDG-51 variant having “upgrades to radar and computing performance with the increased power-generation capacity and cooling required by these enhancements,” the report states. The report also states procurement of a new class of DDG(X) destroyers will begin in FY-23 “and is anticipated to be a modification to legacy ship designs.”

Well, wonderful–instead of a bunch of missile-defense oriented battleships, we get multi-purpose DDG-51s with a computer/sensor upgrade and more power–stuff that may well help the platform pursue ASW a bit better than it does now. But the mainstream press is sorta forgetting that DDG-51s come with some ASW faculties as well–and they’re forgetting that it was, in significant part, ASW shortcomings that helped attenuate the DDG-1000 program in the first place.

And DDG-51s? They’re out there trolling for interesting sub contacts right now! Anybody remember the USS John S. McCain’s inadvertent encounter this summer? Anybody wonder how much time our legacy DDG-51s are spending on ASW today (right now!) versus serious missile defense?

ASW is missing from the shipbuilding debate. And yet, as friends and peers build quiet export submarines like hotcakes, we’re falling all over ourselves to minimize our potential future ASW needs by, say, scoffing at noisy Chinese subsand informationally disseminating fear of a carrier-killing DF-21 missile system that is, to date, little more than an untested glimmer on a China-hawk’s wish list.

What’s the greater need? ASW? Or ballistic missile defense? That’s a debate that needs to happen–because there’s a lot of complex geopolitical ramifications if we decide (or have already decided) that one or the other poses a greater, more pressing threat. So rather than hide our ASW buildup under some large missile-defense skirts, let’s have an open debate. Maybe it’d be a good thing to quietly start putting pressure on, say, our French, German and Italian friends to limit the spread of sub technology. If ASW is a priority, then somebody, please, say so.

Stranger things have happened, but why fear a good debate? It might be a long shot, but good debates, on occasion, lead to a stronger, far more capable Navy.


Today marks the one year anniversary of this blog. Thanks to all of you for your insight: contentious, smart and humorous. This is a blog that succeeds not because the Naval Institute has opinions or agendas (other than giving a voice…a platform to those who serve, have served or care about the Sea Services) but because of the hard work of our guest bloggers, commentors, lurkers and linkers. Some are the one-in-the-same, some a combination and some we hear from privately.

We knew coming into this that we were the old guard (1873? Hello?). We knew that some would question us with regard to our core role with Proceedings…and we firmly believe that this adds to the discussion and the two are not the same but complimentary.

Really.Thank. You.

Now…tell us, PLEASE…

What have we done wrong?

What could we do better?

What would you like to hear about more about?

Do you like our From the Archive pieces (Huntington, Knox, Nimitz, etc) Who would you recommend?

The book reviews?

The campaign stories (Midway and Solomon’s)

We thank ALL of YOU for making this an independent forum and helping the Naval Institute evolve. We especially thank the bloggers out there who have led the way, from all branches and taught us old schoolers what it means to have free speech in this medium.

And with that…Happy Anniversary!

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Wilbur Wright USN, served 1938-1945

With emotions still raw, Wright fights to maintain control as he recalls his personal experience on board the USS Ogala at Pearl Harbor the day after the Japanese attack. Wright’s heart-felt story begins by describing the carnage at Pearl, and he barely holds back tears as he struggles to say, “We had lost everything, and we didn’t have nothing to fight back with.”

From our Americans at War Series

*Telegraph from Patrol Wing Two Headquarters warning of the attack on Pearl Harbor

Mr. Vice President, Mr. Speaker, Members of the Senate, and of the House of Representatives:

Yesterday, December 7th, 1941 — a date which will live in infamy — the United States of America was suddenly and deliberately attacked by naval and air forces of the Empire of Japan.

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In view of the fact the holidays are fast upon us and noting the need for a bit of levity around these parts, the following sea story is submitted. As all good sea stories are wont to begin, this one too begins “This is no sh*t” — all the more appropriate as you read further. Besides, the current post count stands at 666 and *that* simply cannot be left to stand for even a little while… – SJS


Naval Aviators (and by extension, Naval Flight Officers), of the tailhook variety that is, tend to be a peculiar lot. On the one hand we live to fly “at the boat” and yet, the prospect of actually doing anything else besides actually aviating is well, anathema – for some. Early on the behavior was learned at the feet of our elders – the sage department heads and XO and of course, the grand wizard himself, the CO (with occasional helpings from the local deity – CAG). GQ station? Rack or Ready Room, door locked and flicks on the reel (that’s movies on a reel-to-reel projector for the iGeneration…). Later, when offered the opportunity to serve as ship’s company, we feign the vapors and allege as how we will “be forever scarred and isn’t there a spot on CAG staff and why do I have to go back to sea but not in a squadron?” Well, some that is. Others, think differently .

For you see, it is during that tour that one comes to work with a whole new breed of creature in a way that the temporary residents of the air wing never could – ship’s company. An assortment of black shoes, brown shoes (of the, you know, VP type), and nukes. Ah yes, the nukes – but that’s another story.


One comes to work with and appreciate the skills and sacrifice of such a diverse clan made up of SK’s, OS’s, QM’s, IC’s, AB’s, and BM’s amongst others. Now each has their own field of specialty – the SK’s were supply folk, the QM’s did the navigation grunt work (because, you see, the ‘gator and his henchmen – the ANAV and QMC, were not believers in GPS and demanded a full day’s navigation work, including celestial, the taskmaster…). And the HT’s? Well, the HT’s were the handymen of the ship – doing the dark, dirty, hot, nasty jobs that kept the gleaming city of aviators and sailors afloat and functioning.

So it was that your ‘umble scribe found himself midway through another mind-numbing at sea period as navigator on the second ship of the renowned Nimitz-class, the USS Dwight D. Eisenhower (CVN 69). Now one of the many responsibilities of the ‘gator and the Nav Department is the material condition of the navigation bridge (home, as it were to the CO, ‘gator and bridge watch teams during underway periods) as well as several other spaces throughout the island. Included in that roster of spaces are the head (“rest room” for our Air Force readers) that is just aft of the port side entrance to the Nav bridge and abreast an area quaintly known as the “blue tile” area – so named for an area that is a pathway for distinguished visitors on their way to visit the CO. Ergo, it is an area to be kept spit/polished clean and shiny.

Or else.

And it was, of course, owned by the Nav department.

Funny thing about heads – just like their shore-based counterparts found in dwellings across the land, there is a requirement to vent gasses overboard. And just like their shore-based counterparts, they can get blocked. Not necessarily by bird’s nests, but any one of a number of other devices including corrosion or misplaced rags. The end result is the same – noxious odors, like uninvited guests settling around one’s self.

So it was during this particular underway period that the faint beginnings of a malodorous presence was detected by the ‘gator who, ever alert for that which would offend the big CO, made haste to summon the denizens of Nav, posthaste, to clean the offending head. With much elbow grease and disinfectant, they applied themselves and the odor withdrew, for the moment. Alas, as it was summer and this was the warm waters of the Caribbean, temperatures crept inexorably upward and the odor reasserted itself. This wicked game of olfactory hide and seek continued over the next day, day and a half and finally drew the baleful glare of said CO upon the ‘gator.

“Fix it” was the non-verbal communication – passed and quite clearly received.

The Chief Engineer was summoned and with him a young hull tech (HT). By this point in time, the odor, an overly ripe, heavily ammonic one, had manifested itself throughout the blue-tile passage way and hung like a curtain in front of the entrance to the bridge. With SECNAV himself due on the morrow for a visit, the pressure was well and fully on. The Chief Engineer departed the premises to consult his oracle, leaving the HT to continue the search and the ‘gator in dark funk. The sun was setting in the west – and a glorious setting it was, displaying all manner of vermilions and gold and yet, the ‘gator – he a connoisseur of such, was unable to appreciate it as he and the HT began an expanding circle search forth with to locate the source of the odor.

Let us hit the “pause” button for a moment here and further describe the lay of the land. At twenty some years of age, IKE was not quite the spring chicken she was when the ‘gator first boarded her as a young Ensign with his first squadron, the Bluetails of VAW-121. In the intervening years sensors and other equipment had been added and removed. Supporting those systems, like great bundles of ganglia, were cable runs located in the overhead. When he and the ship had been young, such was the paucity of cables in the overhead that he could walk relatively upright with little fear of busting his noggin at the top of his 6’4” frame on said cables. Now, twenty years later and thick, twisted bundles snaked their way down through the island to the main part of the ship below – obstructing what lay behind them to all but the most determined of searches – the same kind normally reserved for finding the rear-most sparkplug on a V-8 shoe-horned into a cavity reserved for a wimpy 4-cylinder. The kind that required fingers of, oh, a foot or so in length. With eyeballs on the end to better see what one was looking for.

So, it was while thinking evil thoughts and contemplating his immediate future — of a visiting SECNAV having to be escorted to his bridge through his spaces wearing a HAZMAT suit because of the increasing toxicity of the air that he turned to the HT and asked if he could sense any differences in the intensity of the smell, all the better to try and locate the source.

Whereupon, said HT, who must have been all of a very young 18, paused, and turned to the ‘gator and with the most mournful look the ‘gator had ever beheld, said “sir, I’ve been sniffing sh*t for so long I can’t smell anything anymore”

And with that, the ‘gator’s heart melted and his dark mood fled as he said with a slow smile “Well, I’ve been shoveling sh*t for so long now that together we ought to be able to locate it by sight” and they recommenced the search this time starting with a careful inch by inch search in the passageway’s overhead. And it was while doing this, stretching from the top of an overturned wastebasket (and hoping the Safety Nazi’s wouldn’t put in a surprise appearance) that the ‘gator felt something crumble under his hand. Grasping some more, a cascade of brown powder fell on the ‘gator and a surprised HT – both of whom were quickly reduced to retching coughs in the face of a flood of gasses, freed from the now open vent.

Sometime later it was determined that the offending vent pipe had so many coats of paint sprayed on it over the years that the coating of paint was all that was left when the original pipe material had rusted (‘scuse me, corroded) away. A repair party was summoned and by daybreak, a new vent pipe was installed, restoring the decorum of the sacrosanct area, well ahead of SECNAV’s arrival.

And the ‘gator had re-newed appreciation of the great American White Hat to add to his esteem for the aviation wrench turners and box swappers with whom he was previously acquainted.

As well as a story to pass along to you, gentle reader.


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A Rear Admiral with the EU forces protecting ships off Somalia, says “Sea too large to prevent all piracy”:

International naval forces will never be able to completely secure the vast area of ocean where Somali pirates are hijacking ships off East Africa, the commander of the EU Naval Force’s counter-piracy efforts said Tuesday.
“The news of a few days ago of a 300,000-ton tanker being seized is illustrative of the problems in protecting and policing an area of the world’s oceans that amounts to an area of about 1 million square miles,” said Hudson, the commander of the EU Naval Force’s counter-piracy operations.

Hudson also said the fact that pirates are now attacking ships as far as 1,000 miles (1,600 kilometers) off the Somali coast presents a large challenge and that the EU force will never fully secure such a large area. The EU Naval Force’s strategy in the smaller Gulf of Aden is to lengthen the amount of time it takes pirates to get on board so that a warship or helicopter can be dispatched to the scene.

“The difficulties in an area as large as it is in the Indian Ocean with the short number of assets that we have is that … the pirate can keep going and keep going and keep going until it’s successful in getting on board, because there’s nothing there to stop it,” he said.

It’s a fair point, and one that I’ve made myself at times. Ignoring for the time being that the only complete answer to Somali piracy lies on the shores of Somalia, we are forced back to a containment policy to control the pirates.

I have discussed containment before here and here:

But complete defeat of pirates may not be the goal. It may make sense to work to minimize the harm they can cause and work on “containing” the pirate problem.

“Containment” in this context means keeping Somali pirate interference with important sea lines of communication to an acceptable level – one in which the cost is not too high in dollars or blood. This makes economic sense, reduces the risk of death to innocent parties and justifies naval piracy patrol operations.

Containment is the alternative to taking over Somalia.
Containment involves limiting the damage that can be caused by pirates. This can be carried out by naval patrols, convoys, establishing safe routes and blockades of pirate ports, the very sort of activity we now see by naval units in the area.

In the future, private ship escort “navies” or other techniques may be employed by ship owners to control the safety of their ships. If poor shipping companies can’t afford protection, then the pirate targets will be limited to ships that probably can’t pay much in the way of ransom. This will affect the pirates’ bottom line and screw up their business model.

Containing the level of piracy, while guarding against complete sea line of communication disruption, allows time for something to happen internally in Somalia that may allow that failed nation to regroup and control its own territorial waters and the operational areas of the pirates.

The answer is not to worry about the entire Indian Ocean or the entire Gulf of Aden, but rather to focus on protecting certain defined sea lanes. I discussed this here and, more specifically, here:

How do you thwart these pirates at sea? One possibility, in use in the Gulf of Aden, is to flood the sea lanes with sea policemen or naval forces who serve to deter or stops assaults on shipping in their beat area. Another possibility, especially when you have limited naval assets, and which is also in use in the Gulf of Aden, is to provide escorts to single or multiple ships as they transit the risk areas during periods when the pirates are likely to be active (low winds, day light hours or during periods of a bright moon) or escort ships that have proven to be at risk (low freeboard ships, slow transit speeds).

Put helicopters and UAVs in the air and learn the local fishing patterns to find the “fishing boats” that don’t act like the others. Use the helicopters to scout routes ahead of merchant ships.

For the long transit down the eastern coast of Somalia, I propose a small variation on the convoy system. Points A, B and C on Map 5 become Ocean Convoy Collection Points (OCCPs) where ships desiring to transit piracy risk areas can gather for convoying to the other points.

Where do you get more escort ships? Why, I even have a proposal for that. As I wrote here:

We need lots of hulls in the water – tomorrow – not 3 years from now. I have proposed a plan that I think could put 40 – 50 satisfactory platforms at sea in 6 months given the right hard-charging officer in charge and a SecDef/SecNav knife to cut through red tape and bureaucratic nonsense. And my plan, flawed as it may be, won’t cost a billion dollars. We even have people trained to do this sort of work, like the Navy Expeditionary Combat Command, U.S. Marines and the U.S. Coast Guard. Heck, lots of work for merchant mariners who want to go into harm’s way, too. Use large amphibs as “mother ships” and helicopter repair and readiness depots…But do something. Now.

The net effect of more ships patrolling “protected sea lanes” for merchant ship transits is to make that big, unmanageable ocean into a smaller, more easily managed area.

Now, I assume that someone out there is doing a “cost/benefit analysis” of the cost of Somali piracy including the operating costs of a force of 20-30 warships, staffs, helicopters, ransoms, insurance rates, lost revenues for the Suez Canal, etc. I don’t know what they will use as a factor for the cost of doing nothing…

To contain the pirates, make the sea smaller.eagle-ans

And, “Send the Eagle’s Answer – More Ships”

One issue the Obama Administration has been facing is what to do with the ‘don’t ask, don’t tell‘ policy. Now comes word that Congress is looking into the matter and would like some servicemen (and women) to publicly ‘out’ themselves. As a reward for doing so, they would be given immunity in the process:

Gay service members who reveal their sexual orientations during congressional testimony would be immune from forced discharges under a bill introduced Wednesday, as lawmakers prepare to consider repealing the ban on gays serving openly in the U.S. military.

The legislation’s author, U.S. Rep. Alcee Hastings, D-Fla., said the bill is needed to ensure that Congress has reliable and relevant witnesses at its disposal if the House holds hearings next year on the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy.

The bill also would protect from retaliatory personnel actions any members of the military who testify for or against lifting the 16-year ban. – Washington Post

It is interesting to see how this would play out as the result would seem to be that those service members who testify would then be serving in violation of the ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ policy. And once that happens I can see calls to repeal the policy altogether using those who testify as examples why the policy is no longer needed.

Then again, they can turn this into a de facto repeal depending on how they grant immunity. I would think that simply volunteering to testify would be enough to warrant immunity.

The story does note that immunity is not total:

Alexander Nichols, executive director of Servicemembers United, an advocacy group for gay Iraq and Afghanistan war veterans, said the legislation is good in theory but on a practical level would not protect gay service members who out themselves to Congress from becoming pariahs within their units.

“This proposal is, of course, well-intentioned and the idea behind it is certainly noble, but I believe it is a bit naive in its conceit and doesn’t reflect a thoughtfulness on what this would mean for gay and lesbian service members,” Nichols said. He thinks it is better for gay veterans to share their experiences than to put active duty service members at risk. – Washington Post


(Cross posted on my blog Fred Fry International)

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