Archive for February, 2010

MidratsWhat is “Sea Control?” Well, today on Navy milblog radio Midrats, we’re going to try to get a bead on it.

Is it,
– “… fundamentally, the ability to carry your, and your allies’, commerce across the seas and to provide the means to project force upon a hostile, distant shore. A sea controller must limit the sea denial capabilities of the enemy.”
– “… control over distant regions, … it must ultimately be decided by naval power, …, which represents the communications that form so prominent a feature in all strategy.”
– “…the employment of naval forces, supported by land and air forces, as appropriate, to achieve military objectives in vital sea areas. Such operations include the destruction of enemy naval forces, the suppression of enemy sea commerce, the protection of vital sea lanes, and the establishment of local military superiority in areas of naval operations.”

…or is it something else?

What does Sea Control mean in 2010 and where do we need to prepare be able to exercise it over the next decade?

These are some of the questions we will be asking this afternoon, 28FEB 1700R/2200Z/5pm EST.

Joining me on our panel will be Bryan BcGrath from InformationDissemination and fellow USNI Blogger EagleOne.

Our guest will be someone well known to readers of my homeblog, Robert C. (Barney) Rubel, CAPT USN(Ret), The Dean of the Center for Naval Warfare Studies at the Naval War College.

Join us live at the Episode page where you can listen and join the usual suspects in the chat room where you can feed us questions and provide comments as the show is going on. If you can’t make it live, you can get to the archives at the blogtalkradio showpage, or subscribe to and download the podcast on iTunes.

Posted by CDRSalamander in Podcasts | No Comments

(from the archives)

27 Feb 1940: Development of the “Flying Flapjack”, a fighter aircraft with an almost circular wing, was initiated with notice of a contract award to Vought-Sikorsky Aircraft for the design of the V-173–a full-scale flying model (as distinguished from a military prototype). This design, based upon the research of a former NACA engineer, Charles H. Zimmerman, was attractive because it promised to combine a high speed of near 500 m.p.h. with a very low takeoff speed.

060619-N-7359L-003Cutting edge design – Naval Aviation has been at the forefront of a number of innovative and successful aircraft designs for new or existing missions across the years. Fighters like the F-4 Phantom and F-14 Tomcat, attack aircraft like the bantam bomber, the A-4 Skyhawk, and the E-2 Hawkeye, benchmark for AEW/Battle Management. Along the way there were some, well, not so moments where what seemed like a grand and game changing idea on paper, didn’t quite make the grade for one reason or another. preVFX F-11BPerhaps the airframe was too far ahead of engine development (cf F3H Demon), weapons delivery encountered critical flaws that forced a change in the original mission (cf A-5A Vigilante) or the entire endeavor had so many problems — weight, aero, engines, weapons system, etc.,that it was best to just kill it altogether before it made its way to the fleet (cf F-111B and A-12).

There is an axiom in aviation that runs along the lines that if something looks good, it will fly good. Others you just look at and wonder what the designers, engineers and/or approving procurement officials were on…


Northrop N9MB


Vought V-173

June, 1947. Navy Day. Bathers along the beaches lining Long Island Sound look aloft to an incredulous sight – a silver and yellow disc that is speeding along, looking unlike any other flying object seen in the area. They didn’t know it at the time, but those folks were witnesses to the one and only public flight of the Vought V-137/XF5U, nicknamed the “Flying Flapjack.” At onetime a cutting edge aerodynamic design, it was now not much more than a curiosity as the age of the jet was ascendant. Soon, it would be sent to the breakers to be broken up along with the one and only prototype and assume its place in the annals of aeronautical fantastical or just plain weird designs.

During the war years, considerable energy was expended in making fighters go faster (“speed is life” didn’t originate with the movie ‘Top Gun’). Much thought was spent in streamlining and reducing drag. The effort took many paths – some more conventional than others. Flush riveting, new airfoils (like the Mustang’s laminar flow), reduced frontal area via in-line, liquid cooled engines represented most of the mainstream efforts. Some, like Jack Northrop and the engineers at Vought, thought that reduced drag could be accomplished by eliminating entire structural components, like the tail. Northrop’s work evolved through the N9MB into the familiar flying wing. Over at Vought, it was if anything, a little more unconventional.

click on image to enlarge

click to enlarge

Beginning in 1933, Charles Zimmerman, an aeronautical engineer with the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics (NACA) at Langley Field, Virginia began to promote a tailless “pancake” design. He filed for a design patent on April 30, 1935 and was granted patent #2,108,093 on February 14, 1938. With the concurrence of NACA, Zimmerman approached United Aircraft Corporation with his novel design in 1937 and joined United’s Chance Vought Aircraft Division in that year as project engineer. By August 15, 1939, drafting, engineering design, and aerodynamic studies were far enough along for Vought to submit a proposal to the U.S. Navy for a full-scale prototype of the V-173. The U.S. Navy placed a contract for one V-173 on May 4, 1940. First flight of the airplane was on November 23, 1942.

click to enlarge

click to enlarge

To say the V-173 was unconventional would be an understatement. Powered by two Continental A-80 engines, rated at 80-horsepower each, turning two 16.5-foot three-bladed propellers, the V-173 used a semicircular planform (wide at front, narrow in back) with two vertical tails for stabilization and two “ailerators” for control. The aircraft had long fixed main landing gear and a 22-degree nose-high static ground angle. The cockpit had a windowed leading edge ahead of the pilot for downward visibility. Four segmented leading edge inlets (left and right) provided air to the engine. Built light, the V-173 structure was made of wood with fabric covering. The upside was with a wing loading of only 5 lbs/sq ft; the V-173 could lift off in 200 feet in no wind conditions, and with a zero run against a 25-knot headwind. The implications for a carrier-based fighter were readily apparent. However, with a mere 80-hp driving the prototype, max speed was only 138 mph. Clearly a proof of concept prototype should be built, designed from the keel up as a fighter.

click to enlarge

click to enlarge

The letter of intent for the Vought VS-315 (XF5U-1) was issued September 17, 1942. Designed for land- or carrier-based operations (the latter minus a tailhhook), the XF5U-1 was a twin-engine, single-seat, low aspect ratio flying wing type of airplane, manufactured by the Chance Vought Division, United Aircraft Corporation, Stratford, Connecticut. The basic wing area (~472 sq. ft) and planform of the XF5U-1 was the same as the V-173. Power

click to enlarge

click to enlarge

was substantially upped with the use of two embedded Pratt & Whitney R-2800-7 radial engines rated at 1350 hp each. These were in turn, connected via shafts to two hydraulically operated, fast-acting, electro-mechanically governed propellers. Each engine was cross-connected to the opposite prop such that if an engine was lost on take-off/recovery, both props would continue turning. (ed: And you thought an engine out on a Cessna 310 could be a handful…imagine what the possibilities might have been here.) Continuing the unconventional theme, the props themselves consisted of four Pregwood blades and load-relieving hubs which differed from the conventional four-way hub in that the blades were free to “flap” in pairs about the shaft axis. Low pitch stop was 15 degrees; high pitch stop was 70 degrees. The cockpit was a monocoque shell with a bubble canopy for better visibility and space set aside (but never utilized) for six 50-calibre guns and ammo boxes. Unlike the V-173’s fixed gear, the landing gear on the XF5U-1 would retract.

xf5u_titleThe first XF5U-1 airplane (Bureau Number 33958) was used for static tests; proof loads, extended to ultimate, largely confirmed structural design predictions. The second XF5U-1 airplane (Bureau Number 33959) was used for experimental flight test and concept validation. Early in the test series though, significant problems were encountered with vibrations from the props that translated to the shafts, gearboxes and airframe structure and considered excessive. By this point (1947) the war was over and the budgetary long-knives were out. With proven prop-driven fighters in its inventory already (notably the F4U) and intent on moving into jets (recall McDonnell’s Phantom and Banshee, Grumman’s Panther and Vought’s own Pirate were in various stages in the pipeline), the decision was made to axe the XFU5 on 17 March 1947. Both prototypes were subsequently destroyed, although the V-173 was saved and is now in the National Air and Space Museum’s extended storage facility awaiting restoration.

Specifications (XF5U-1):
Wingspan: 32.50 ft
Overall Length: 28.62 ft
Height: 16.96 ft
Aspect ratio of basic wing: 1.275
Wing airfoil section (NACA): 0016
Wing area less ailavators (48) sq ft: 427
Weights and Capacities
Empty Weight: 13107 lb
Gross Weight: * 16758 lb
Useful Load
Fuel Capacity: 261 gal
Oil Capacity
Power plant Characteristics
Type: Two Pratt & Whitney R-2800-7
Rating: 1350 hp

Maximum Speed, Sea Level: ** 425 mph
Landing Speed, Sea Level: 490 mph
Initial Rate-of-Climb: *** 3000 ft/min
Range at Cruise Speed: **** 1152 miles
Absolute Ceiling: 30700 ft
Crew: 1
Armament: Provisions for six 50-caliber Browning Machine Guns


* Empty weight plus 261-gallons internal fuel, pilot, ammo, two 150-gallon
drop tanks. Overload gross weight equals 18,931 pounds with two
1,000-pound bombs.

** Max speed, 425 mph at sea level (501 mph with advanced engine)

*** Rate of Climb
fpm at mph EAS at alt, ft
3,000 175 Sea Level
2,500 175 10,000
1,000 165 20,000

**** Max range, 597 statute miles at 10,000 ft altitude with 261 gallons of internal fuel (less 50 gallons for warm-up, take-off and climb) with high blower, 1700 engine rpm, 31 inches Hg M.P., auto lean mixture, 280 mph TAS, prop gear ratio 0.1763:1. With two 150-gallon drop tanks, max range, 1,152 statute miles.

Postscript: While the V-173 flew some 130+ flights, not all ended in a clean landing…
Huge cudos are due to Vought for their heritage site from whence most of these photos were sourced — doubly so since they are refurbishing the V-173 at the Vought facility in Gran Prarie, Tx. – SJS

On Thursday The Department of Defense issued a memorandum setting the ground rules for accessing social media sites. All components of the DoD “shall be configured to provide access to Internet-based capabilities” which include “collaborative tools such as SNS [social networking services], social media, user-generated content, social software, e-mail, instant messaging, and discussion forums (e.g., YouTube, Facebook, MySpace, Twitter, Google Apps).”

In short, social media sites shall remain unblocked. The most interesting part of the policy concerns the maintenance of “personal, corporate or subject-specific” blogs, to which the DoD now grants access service-wide. As long as servicemembers pay due respect to operational security, the policy formally allows them to update and run a blog. However, commanders are allowed to temporarily restrict activity to “address bandwidth constraints,” a clause which might prove vague enough to allow arbitrary blocking of sites.

I’m excited that the DoD is defaulting to “yes” when it comes to social media; however, we’ll see how the policy becomes enforced.

The Navy is getting underway as Hawaii prepares for an incoming tsunami.

The latest news, with about an hour and a half to go before the tsunami arrives, is that 4 naval vessels are getting underway to ride out the tsunami at sea, and some naval housing complexes are being evacuated.

Though the strategic impact of this tsunami is likely to be low, it might be an interesting exercise to consider what the impact of a larger event might be. So, this morning, as we wait, we ask the readers to weigh in. Is the Navy too vulnerable to natural disasters? Are we putting “too many eggs in too few baskets”?

The Russian Navy Blog recently translated and posted a Russian after-action report. The most interesting aspect of this report is that it spells out the differences between the way the Frence and Russians operate their vessels at sea with particular emphasis on quality (or lack) of life issues. These differences might be well known to many of you, but it is nice to see what the Russians themselves think.

Part I

I ran across an interesting document, an after action report detailing “living conditions on board ships of the Russian Navy, observations by officers in the French Navy during joint Russian-French exercises and a port visit to Brest, France by ships of the Northern Fleet” dated 28 October 2004. There are a lot of interesting observations here, which can be summarized thusly:

They have hot water! Sh–, the French have water at all! The watch actually stands watch! Goddamn, we’re dirty! Paint mixed with sand on the decks so people don’t slip and break their necks? Mon dieu! Musters! Do we really need so many musters? And maybe our ships wouldn’t be so dirty if we gave our guys stuff to clean with. Or if we let them shower more than once every two weeks!

Well, not quite, but pretty close.

——- Read the rest of this entry »


Oh, Those Other Waterways

February 2010



A neglected resource and vital to our national security, too.

A look here.

In Move 5 of Expeditionary Warrior 2010, our Red Team analysts told us how they would degrade, disable or attack the seabase.

1. It is harder to attack a seabase than it is a land base for your typical bad guy ground force.

2. The difficulty of attacking the seabase will cause opposing forces to attack the connector boats ferrying supplies and forces ashore and back.

3. OpFor will use bad weather and sea state to their advantage.

4. During HA or NEO, the OpFor will attempt to overwhelm aid distribution points, medical stations, evacuation points, etc., in order to show our inadequacy.

5. The trends of technology will make unmanned aircraft, vehicles and boats as well as anti-ship missiles smaller and cheaper.

6. Rumor or whisper campaigns counter to our efforts are more difficult to detect and counteract from a seabase.

7. U.S. forces will be continually filmed while ashore, for opportunities to show us as cruel, uncaring, inadequate, etc.

Based on these observations from the Red team, it would seem like we need to develop:

1. Seabase and connector force protection practices and craft.

2. Increase our ability to operate in rougher weather.

3. Develop international standards for connector craft.

Move 4: Stability Operations

After evacuating Americans in 2025, the country degraded into a low-intensity civil war, with opposing political parties, criminal factions and motivated radicals using violence against the government. Eventually, the government got the upper hand militarily, but still had a large refugee and infrastructure problem. The country requested help from the UN to feed refugees and enforce a tenuous cease fire.

Here comes the U.S. We have ponied up to lead the JTF under the UNSC charter. The mission is: assist the host nation’s government to assist displaced persons, create stability required to allow displaced persons to return to their homes and to allow the government to begin to provide basic services to its people again. We expect this effort to last a couple years until we can transition operations to the host-nation, UN agencies, and NGO’s.

First item, a Seabase is great, but it is expensive. Probably in a timeframe of two years, we would be looking at repairing and opening a port to allow shipping to tie-up and offload to support operations ashore.

Another point was force protection for the connectors. In supporting operations ashore for a prolonged time, you will spend a lot of resources to protect the seabase and especially to protect the connectors going back and forth to shore. Positioning the seabase farther off shore provides more security to the big ships, but also puts the LCU’s and LCAC’s at more risk with a longer transit (perhaps even out to 20 miles or more off shore). Quickly, we realized a need, not only for lots of connectors, but for lots of escort and security craft.

It made sense to keep your higher level medical support on ship. It made sense to keep a lot of command and control on ship.

We used the MPS and Army pre-positioned stocks to build up forces ashore and refugee camps, etc. We planned on resupplying the forces ashore primarily by shipping for the two year operation. We figured 90% or more of your supplies could be forecasted well enough, so that the slow speed of shipping would still be acceptable. Certainly in the beginning of the operation, the MPF ship you loaded two years ago in Blount Island is what you get, but perhaps a few months into the operation, your cargo ship can be specifically loaded in the U.S. or elsewhere to support your unit. Still, we liked the concept of keeping a light footprint on shore, and keeping your “Iron Mountain” of spare parts and supplies on ship. It’s just tough to make it work.

The MPF-Future (MPFF) has an “extra” big-deck amphib (LHA/LHD) with enhanced aircraft maintenance facilities. In addition, the LHA/LHD and MLP of the MPF-F will provide thousands of berths, so you could fly-in the Marines or Soldiers and truly base them on a ship, and ride or fly ashore to conduct operations.

Consideration was given toward taking a whole MPF squadron out of action to support this kind of stability operation. Is it worth it to take the MPF squadron and the ability to outfit a rapidly deployed force out of action to support a stability operation for which you really only need a portion of the MPF stuff? Again, selective offload of cargo is vital.

Finally, an extended land campaign is not a core competency of the Marine Corps, (please ignore current land war), so it is difficult for us to plan a two-year operation supported from ships, we’re not necessarily set up for that, MPF is not necessarily designed for that. The MPF-Future will have a capability to sustain operations ashore from the seabase for a prolonged time, but so far that concept is briefed, but not bought. Even if we do develop the MPF-F, it is an expensive way to support prolonged operations ashore of multiple MEB’s or BCT’s. Company-sized or smaller FOB’s supported from a seabase for a long period of time are conceivable.

We realized very quickly, we need the Army and we need a port. Marines have an attention span of about 6 – 7 months, so we don’t set up the chow hall or PX until the second rotation of Marines. The Army is much better at thinking in long-term deployments of large forces. Am I actually asking for a Soldier’s help?….Got to go to sick call tomorrow.


Move 2: Humanitarian Assistance

For background information on Expeditionary Warrior 2010, go to: Sorry, only accessible for CAC users, we’re working on it!

Move 2: Humanitarian Assistance, 2022. After a couple years recovering from the 2020 severe flooding, the host country is hit again with an even more severe rainy season, requiring the international community’s help.

To answer a comment about the Marine Corps in 2022: The Marine Corps Warfighting Lab is currently experimenting with something called Enhanced Marine Air-Ground Task Force Operations. Basically, in EMO, the lowest level independently operating Marine Corps unit will shift from a reinforced battalion, as we see in a Marine Expeditionary Unit, to a reinforced company. MCWL is experimenting with the additional comms, fire-support and transportation that will be needed to support platoons operating 40 miles from a ship, and 10 miles from each other. A Company Landing Team (COLT) is pretty cool, because it creates a small amphibious operations capability that could fit on one ship, potentially increasing the reach of U.S. forces around the world.

Another answer to a comment: There will be partners, and there will be other countries with competing interests. We have discussed the difficulty in relief operations if someone like an Iran, Russia, China, Venezuela brings a cargo ship or frigate and says, “We’re here to help.” The basic answer from the ambassadors, admirals and generals helping the game is: “It depends.”

The wargame is looking into the advantages and disadvantages of using a seabase in various scenarios, Move 2 requires a humanitarian assistance operation.

First of all: it’s all about relationships and agreements. The Embassy is key in starting an HA operation, the first thing the seabase commander needs to do is check in with the embassy. The HA operation needs to be run as truly a supporting operation to the host nation, and not a “we’re in charge” kind of operation.

Environment, to run HA, we need a benign environment, with no threat other than a few criminals and looters. HA won’t be effective if we need to attack the village before we bring in water. This is applicable from a seabase or not, but it was an interesting nugget from the gray hairs in the room.

Advantages of the seabase in HA: A HA operation will require a lot of heavy equipment. Water purification, power, road building, other engineering equipment is all heavy. Ships are great for transporting heavy stuff, and LCU’s, and LCAC’s to some extent are great for taking that heavy stuff ashore, where a port facility might be damaged. (Like Haiti in 2010)

Basing your HA operation from a seabase reduces your footprint ashore, which is good to reduce the support required ashore, and helps your security situation as well. (During tsunami relief in Thailand, the US forces kept only a couple dozen on shore at night.)

But there are disadvantages to a seabase too: A seabase is slow to respond, in comparison to human suffering. A seabase will not be there in time to be a first responder and tend to the dying or bleeding. In fact, a seabase may not even be there to prevent suffering or death from a lack of water or food in the first 72 hours. During the wargame, we looked at a week to ten days as a reasonable window in which we could respond to a disaster with a seabase. So, the seabaase won’t be there first.

Another disadvantage to a seabase is a reduced effectiveness if the ship-to-ship connectors cannot mate up to all ships in the base. Currently, the Army and the Navy both have ship-to-ship and ship-to-shore connectors, as well as our own service MPF ships. The connectors need to work together. Maybe only buy one LCU for the whole DoD, or one LCAC; commonality, incredible concept.

In 2022, we assumed MPF ships have a ramp (Vehicle Transfer System) that they can roll vehicles to another ship or floating dock. We also assumed a ship called a Mobile Landing Platform (MLP) exists. An MLP will be able to accept the rolling vehicle from the VTS/MPF ship, and will have a lot of deck space for docking LCAC’s and LCU’s.

This link might answer some ship and connector questions:

Afternoon. Move 3 

Move 3: Non-combatant Evacuation Operation

The situation ashore has deteriorated. The assassination of the opposing political party’s leader has thrown the host nation into an armed conflict between the government and the opposing party. The embassy has requested military assistance to evacuate non-combatants.

The combatant commander has assembled a seabase composed of Joint High Speed Vessels, a Mobile Landing Platform, MPF ships (T-AKE and LMSR’s), and a MEU on a 3-ship ARG. Once they decide who’s in charge, we conducted the NEO in this game, with command and control functions staying on ship. Amphibious big decks and carriers have great communications capabilities and flag staff spaces, so they were very useful for this move.

The majority of American and allied nation citizens that are to be evacuated live in a port city, so evacuating by sea, as slow as ships may go, was seen as a good option. This also reduced crowding in the few airfields that are still serviceable after a few seasons of flood.

A couple ships we will have in 2023, the Joint High Speed Vessel, and the Mobile Landing Platform were invaluable in conducting the NEO. The JHSV was used to ferry evacuees to a nearby port with a working airport. The MLP was used in much the same manner. The JHSV can carry a few hundred (in seats and troop berthing) for a matter of hours. The MLP can carry upwards of 1,100 for a matter of days (troop berthing) if it didn’t carry soldiers or Marines into theater.

During the NEO, we didn’t see as much a need to play nice with others as we did in the previous HA move, we saw the NEO as a clear mission that U.S. forces would conduct, and U.S. forces would be in charge of the U.S. evacuation of U.S. citizens.

Another invaluable tool for the NEO was the ability to connect the shore to the ship, and not have to rely on a serviceable port. Again..we are operating from a multi-billion dollar seabase with state-of-the-art aircraft and communications, and the most useful tool was the 65 year old LCU! It’s tough to carry people on an LCAC, and it’s tough to carry thousands of people on helos. LCU’s to the rescue!

In general, the seabase was very useful in the NEO, but it was a stepping stone in the evacuation process. You can’t just impress the evacuees to be a new crew of the ship, we’ve eventually got to get them home, and the evacuees will probably want to go faster than 15 knots across the ocean. So using the seabase’s ships as ferries and a base of operations was valuable, but it didn’t complete the whole mission by itself, we’ll need to get the evacuees to an airport.

Stay tuned, tomorrow we will conduct stability operations from a seabase.

USS Franklin

Fifth ship of the Essex class — fifth ship to bear Benjamin Franklin’s name…

On the 19th of March, 1945, her crew would write a story for the ages as they were tested in the crucible.


Today, like so many of their generation, the already small band of survivors of that day continue to dwindle. This coming March they will hold their reunion at Lodge of the Ozarks (Branson, MO). If you are a former member of the Big Ben, they’re waiting for you. If you are a student of naval history, or even just history — they will welcome you with open arms and warm hearts. Interested? Here’s the gouge:

Contact for Questions:
Sam Rhodes 772-334-0366 or
Beth Conard Rowland (daughter of crewman) 740-524-0024 (please leave message)

Registration closes 1 March, 2010.


And all you former Santa Fe crew? I’ll bet they would especially love to see you guys too…


h/t Xformed

« Older Entries