Archive for February, 2010

As the Littoral Combat Ship program faces an abrupt down-select to a single hull, the Navy must brace for some nasty litigation. The spurned party–either Lockheed or General Dynamics–will be poised to contest the selection process.

With little in the way of “real world” operational data available, advocates of either platform will have ample grounds to poke holes in the down-select’s Record of Decision (ROD).

If the Air Force’s $35 Billion dollar tanker down-select is any guide, this LCS down-select is going to be ugly.

It is a pity. With more resources, the Navy would have been busy building and evaluating two separate LCS squadrons, and the down-select years away.

Looking back, the outline for a “data-heavy” LCS down-select was put forth in 2004. Read Undersecretary of the Navy Robert Work’s essay from 2004, “Naval Transformation and the Littoral Combat Ship,” where he says:

“…the Navy would be advised to build at least two different operational prototypes. However, choosing two different prototypes will not completely resolve many of the operational issues. It seems clear that only by testing squadron prototypes will the Navy be able to fully resolve some of the outstanding issues surrounding the LCS and its support structure…”

Work isn’t going to get a firm test between LCS-1 and LCS-2 squadrons. By the time all four ships are available, the decision will be made.

That’s a little scary. Aside from the challenge of making a down-select decision with little data, the accelerated selection risks distorting LCS-1 operations.

I fear that the rapid down-select puts a lot of pressure on the deploying LCS-1 sailors to treat their platform gently. The opposite should be the case–the first model “Flight 0” platforms must be run hard, beaten up and, quite simply, broken. Broken early and often.

Put bluntly, the Navy won’t learn much if problems are covered-up and the ship treated like a museum piece. (As an example, aside from keeping the production line going, what, exactly, did two years of babying the USS San Antonio (or hiding INSURVs) do for the LPD-17 program? I mean, how’s that USS New York treating ya’ll?)

With enough hulls to form two LCS squadrons, the pressure to “take care of the showpiece” gets reduced. But with no squadron to share the risks, the Navy’s risk-averse chain-of-command needs constant reminding (along with some additional public top-cover and, on occasion, some prodding) that the first two LCS are test platforms–nothing more, nothing less. Break ’em and–for goodness sakes–tell folks you’re gonna break ’em!

And, just as an aside, barring obvious dereliction of duty, no penalty should be inflicted upon crew and commander, who, in the event their platform is not up for the mission at hand, goes and breaks the vessel.

That said, even when the Navy selects either LCS-1 or LCS-2 as the “LCS-of-record”, and the lawsuits get settled, I’d posit that the LCS down-selection still won’t be done.

Robert Work will get his squadron prototypes–and, again, in a couple of years, as the fiscal picture gets grimmer, the pressure to compare the LCS with the JHSV is going to be irresistible.

And that, simply put, is going to be an interesting battle.

My thoughts? If LCS-1 wins the initial down-select, the JHSV catamaran becomes a viable platform. (And given the minimum-cost focus of the LCS RfP–LCS-1 may well end up winning the LCS contract.) In that case, the JHSV gets a wide-open niche to go and exploit. Eventually, we’ll see a contest between a LCS-1 combat specialist and a do-anything up-gunned utilitarian JHSV.

It’ll be fascinating–and yes, as one of the first JHSV cheerleaders, I’m biased–but, as the civilian-crewed JHSV gets encumbered by more “combat-lite” duties, I can’t help but get a little anxious. Call me crazy, but I just don’t believe our model of using civilians for combat duty is gonna work very well. (Watch for more studies…)

If the LCS-2 wins, I don’t see why the Navy might want to keep the JHSV production line going for anything other than for risk-reduction. The JHSV and LCS occupy a similar sort of “truck-like” niche (Or, to use a “Workism”, their “boxes” are pretty similarly-sized). A civilianized LCS-2 is just a trimaran JHSV, right?

Look, a civilianized model of the LCS-2 is available right now. Rent it. If the LCS-2 hull-form works for the Navy, then wouldn’t it be appropriate to leverage savings that would stem from using the same hull-form, similar plant, identical layout and matching broad-based operational template?

If we use the same hull-form for both the JHSV and LCS-2, would it not be super-easy to, if necessary, swap out civilian crews? As the line between “combat” and “combat support” continues to shrink, it might be really useful to have the ability to seamlessly swap out civilians with a combat-ready Navy crew.

All in all, it’s going to be an interesting year. (And, just FYI, I’m betting the LCS-1 breaks on its upcoming deployment.)


Dr. Kongdan Oh was another person that pulled double duty at last week’s USNI AFCEA West 2010 conference in San Diego. As noted earlier by URR, Dr. Oh participated in a panel entitled “What to do with North Korea.

Great book. I highly recommend it. The book’s only error was that it was not published by the Naval Institute Press.

Today marks the 37th anniversary of the homecoming of our POWs from Vietnam — still the longest-held group of POWs in our nation’s history. No other POWs from any other conflict have been held as long as these 600+ men were. Surprisingly, despite their unprecedented ordeal, only four percent of them have experienced long-term Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, or PTSD, according to a study conducted by the Mitchell Center for POW Studies in Pensacola, Florida, and the Pennsylvania State University Population Research Institute. By comparison, the general Vietnam veteran population experienced a rate of PTSD of more than 30 percent. Why is that? Despite being held in isolation for months or years at a time, despite being physically tortured on a regular basis, despite not knowing when they would be released — if ever, these men returned home mostly intact physically and psychologically.

It is instructive to note that the POWs’ average age was over 30, much older than the average soldier serving in Vietnam. They were also more educated and more specially trained. These factors do not predetermine mental health, but age and maturity can provide better mental “shock absorbers” against life’s traumas. In addition, this group of men was given an unusual amount of attention upon returning from Vietnam. Most of the soldiers, sailors and Marines returning from Vietnam did not receive homecoming parades, keys to their hometown cities or a White House dinner in their honor. But the POWs did. Many of them were thrust into the spotlight and became their hometown heroes. This undoubtedly aided their healing process. However, after the parades and parties were over, these men returned to relatively “normal” and private lives — as fathers, sons, husbands, neighbors and co-workers…not unlike the soldiers, sailors and Marines who are coming home from Afghanistan and Iraq today. How will these returning servicemen and women fare physically and emotionally over the next few decades? The experience of these POWs and their long-term health may be a helpful indicator and could be a source of advice for those responsible for the long-term care of our recently returned warriors.

According to a number of studies, the human body is amazingly resilient and copes well with trauma — both physical and emotional. In a November 2004 New Yorker article, best-selling author and cutlure watcher Malcolm Gladwell analyzed the survivors of World War II combat trauma and compared them to the victims of childhood sexual abuse (CSA) and to those who had recently lost a spouse or a child. He found that the majority of victims of severe trauma like that experienced in bloody combat, the betrayal of CSA or the loss of an immediate family member usually get on with their lives and do not experience long-term negative effects of PTSD.

Tom Collins, a former Air Force pilot who was held as a POW in North Vietnam for more than seven years, has also survived the untimely loss of a child. A medical doctor, his son died of hepatitis contracted at work at the age of 34. Asked which was harder to endure — the loss of his son or the POW experience, both Tom and his wife Donnie say the loss of their son was the hardest experience of their lives. But these multiple hardships have not destroyed them or their marriage. They seem to enjoy retirement, their grandchildren and each other.

Gladwell summarizes human coping mechanisms in this way: “By far the most common response [to trauma] was resilience: the majority of those who had just suffered from one of the most painful experiences of their lives never lapsed into serious depression, experienced a relatively brief period of grief symptoms, and soon returned to normal functioning. These people were not necessarily the hardiest or the healthiest. They just managed, by one means or another, to muddle through.”

Indeed, there is a phenomenon called “post-traumatic growth” that psychological experts are only recently recognizing and defining. This is a condition where victims of trauma actually experience a type of psychological enhancement as a result of the experience. While hard to articulate and rationalize — given the plethora of research on the devastating effects of PTSD, post-traumatic growth is evident in anecdotes cited by combat veterans from many wars, including our current conflict. In a Washington Post article from November of 2005, staff writer Michael Ruane reported on this trend: “Eighteen months after [Hilbert] Caesar’s right leg was mangled by a roadside bomb near Baghdad, and after weeks of coming to terms with what he thought was the end of his life, the former Army staff sergeant believes he has emerged a richer person — wiser, more compassionate and more appreciative of life. Asked whether he would endure it all again, he replied, ‘The guys I served with were awesome guys….I would go through it again — for the guys that I served with. Yes. Absolutely. I wouldn’t change it for the world.'”

This sentiment is echoed repeatedly by the Vietnam POWs. They experienced a different type of trauma. After their violent shoot-downs during aerial attacks over North Vietnam, these men — most of whom were combat aviators — were largely shielded from field combat, as they were isolated in a decripit prison in downtown Hanoi. However, the uncertainty of when they would next be tortured and when they would be released — if ever — brought its own psychological horrors.

Most of them say they would not like to repeat the experience. But would they trade the experience? No. The same Washington Post article cited a 1980 study of the Vietnam POWs, indicating that 61 percent of those surveyed “believed their experience was ultimately beneficial. Tom McNish, a former Air Force pilot who was a prisoner in North Vietnam for six years, said, ‘There is no question in my mind that the experience I had in Vietnam has had an overall very positive effect on my life. But I don’t recommend it for anybody else. And I don’t want to have to do it again.'”

So, what does this teach us? Given time, good physical and mental health care, and continued appreciation for their service and sacrifice, most of our returning veterans will not just survive, but they will thrive. This generation of veterans is only beginning to show us their mettle. We need only look at the generations before us for examples.

To read more about how the Vietnam POWs rebuilt their lives after those prison doors opened and more accounts of their resiliency, go to


…though you might need a little more exotic kit than walking shoes and sunscreen to visit. (full story here)

For those of short memory, the story of the USS Macon and her brood was the subject of an earlier Flightdeck Friday: “Gasbags and Hookers”



Go Navy! Beat Snowstorm!

February 2010


Major thanks to all of the MIDN who were out of the Yard today and helping people get shoveled out.

For myself, I had an email from our intrepid blogger MIDN1/c Withington who asked if I needed help. Turns out I was good…but my brother [slacker!] who escaped south with his children, has neighbors along his drive who are wheelchair bound.

On my way to Gate 1 to pick up MIDN Withington, I stopped on College Ave and Shang Hai’d [with permission] two other generous MIDN [unsuspecting fools!] who immediately volunteered. Note that the houses downtown are 10 ft from the curb.

This driveway was at least 100 yds.

Thanks to :

MIDN 3/c Alexander King, 11th Company, USNA

MIDN 3/c Amber Jeter, 11th Company, USNA

MIDN 1/c Jeff Withington, 13th Company, USNA

Here’s the photo…they’re smiling through the pain…[see that house way in the distance…that’s a long way]



One last note, a Marine neighbor showed up at the same time and immediately set them on their mission.  

Posted by admin in Navy | 4 Comments

The Hooligan Navy

February 2010


Ernest Hemingway had a plan. He and his friends would locate a U-Boat, get in close, then throw grenades into open hatches. Luckily for future lovers of literature, his plan was never attempted. Sparing a miracle, he would not have lasted five minutes against the Kriegsmarine. Nevertheless, in 1942-1943 the author actively patrolled Caribbean waters, hunting U-Boats and German spies.

Hemingway made his quixotic patrols on his 38 foot wooden fishing boat, named El Pilar. With his crew of friends and ample alcohol, he stalked the waters near Cuba. Hemingway never made a confirmed U-Boat sighting, but he did claim one possibly sighting. It disappeared before he could see it for certain. El Pilar was one of many civilian boats taking it upon themselves to patrol for U-Boats during WWII. Hemingway called them the Hooligan Navy.

In 2009, Terry Mort authored a book on Hemingway’s Caribbean patrols, describing both Hemingway’s time on El Pilar and its effect on his relationship with his wife, Martha Gellhorn. Despite the paramilitary justification for the patrols, Mort argues that, for Hemingway, it was more about “the quest, the adventure, the serious purpose, the voluntary service, the fun, the satisfaction of command and comradeship, the joy of being at sea, the craft of seamanship and navigation, the possibility of danger, and the piquancy of not knowing whether it will come, the reality and the metaphor of an unseen enemy suddenly rising”. I would be happy to live half the life of Hemingway.

Last week during a Panel Discussion at the 2010 West Conference & Exposition, one thing that kept coming to mind was the goings-on in the mother country as they struggle to fund their defense budget. I kept hearing echos of what I have read about the challenges in the United Kingdom in some of the comments and observations about the future of the USN.

They have about a decade’s head-start in some areas, and not in a good way. If we choose to benchmark what decisions are being made there – we might be able to mitigate some of the down side; maybe.

Let me explain a bit.

Let’s look sideways (to the UK today) and look forward (2020s). When you look at what was promised in 2000 and what we have now – and project that difference forward – I don’t see as chickens coming home to roost, but vultures.

Just to have a sound foundation; for source documentation we are going to use the best magazine your money can buy, The Economist, and some comments last week by VADM David Dorsett, USN, Deputy Chief of Naval Operations for Information Dominance (N2/N6) and Director of Naval Intelligence (DNI) from last week. We’ll get to him later.

First let’s look at the fundamental underpinnings of our defense budget – not strategy – MONEY.

From the latest issue of The Economist,

Mr Obama’s budget reveals a road-map to fiscal catastrophe. At no point over the coming decade will the deficit be below 3.6% of GDP; and after 2018, it starts rising again. The cuts the president has proposed are comically insufficient: a budget freeze on non-security discretionary spending, which amounts to only about 17% of the entire $3.8 trillion budget; and a toothless deficit commission (a better version has already been killed by obstructive Republicans in Congress) whose recommendations will doubtless be ignored.

Note the right side of that graph. 2020. Keep that in mind.

First is the fact that the British have been under a left-of-center government for over a decade. That is neither here nor there – but a simple observation. Especially in the USA, but in general the UK as well – a Labour/New Labour/Democrat Party in power does not result in significant military budgets without a national emergency. From War on Terror to Overseas Contingency Operations etc, again – no editorial commentary, just a review of the historical ledger. In addition, a decade of high deficits as we are likely to see, it won’t really matter who is in power in a decade – the need to cut will be there is spades.

The British’s overall budget woes are roughly parallel to ours +/-. Ahead of our timetable, they are starting the battle to find money to replace their SSBN fleet now, and their defense budget – starved for years as a % of GDP vs. OPTEMPO – is shredding as they try to rebuild and maintain a fighting force in Afghanistan with other smaller international commitments.

Hard choices, many already made in the Royal Navy, are being demanded more and more as past neglect needs to be repaired out of hide. Financially they just cannot get the money they need in competition with other domestic programs their government has obligated itself to spend money on.

Let’s look at what is happening in the United Kingdom. From an earlier edition of The Economist;

This will cost about £1.2 billion ($1.9 billion) over the next three years. Some £280m of it will come from the Treasury, which has already provided £14 billion from its reserves to pay for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. The lion’s share, however, will be found by raiding other parts of the overstretched defence budget, with planned cuts that would realise around £1.5 billion over three years.

This amounts to more than trimming fat (by, for example, slashing the number of civil servants at the Ministry of Defence); solid muscle is to be sliced into as well. The Nimrod surveillance aircraft, one of which exploded over Afghanistan in 2006 because of a fuel leak, will be retired by March. The introduction of the new model, the Nimrod MRA4, will be delayed. This means that, at a time of greater Russian underwater activity, there will be a gap in anti-submarine surveillance to protect Britain’s own nuclear-armed subs. One of four Harrier squadrons is being lost and the rest are to be moved out of RAF Cottesmore, which will be closed. This could reduce still further training on Britain’s aircraft carriers. The loss of a minesweeper, at a time of rising tension in the Persian Gulf over Iran’s nuclear programme, was questioned by opposition MPs. Army training “not required for operations”, such as tank manoeuvres, will be reduced.

This is an unusually brave move by a defence secretary who was widely derided as second-rate when he was appointed in June, the fourth man in the job in four years. But whoever takes charge after next year’s general election will need to be braver still. Britain’s plans to buy new military equipment have long been unaffordable. Successive ministers have tried to balance the books by short-term savings (such as delaying or scaling back new equipment) that incur long-term costs. This has created a growing “bow-wave” of unfunded commitments that may finally break when an overdue Strategic Defence Review is held after the election.

Read that again. Look at those dollars you P-3/P-8 Bubbas …. because it parallels something said last week in San Diego about “..if you had to, where would you find a couple of $ billion.”

VADM Dorsett responded to that question in an interesting way. As N2/N6/DNI – Intelligence, Surveillance, and Reconnaissance (ISR) is a critical capability for him. It is a growth industry, but he has to look at how he meets COCOM demands within a limited, and possibly stagnant-to-decreasing budget.

He started a couple of times to answer, and then backed off. He paused, thought about his words carefully, and then stated with a grimace (paraphrase),

“Legacy ISR systems …”

When you fold that into the previous discussions about unmanned ISR in the panel discussion – there can be only one area he is talking about in a USN context – P-3/EP-3 and the upcoming P-8/EP-8 program. Re-read the above about the Nimrod. Ponder.

From a manpower and hardware requirements/budget POV, he is right, that is a large bucket of money – and if you need to make a call, make it. It is a defendable call as well. Subject to debate, sure – but defendable – yes.

That community’s vulnerability to a money grab is largely their fault. As we have reviewed at my home blog over the years, it’s leadership spent a decade hiding the possibility – and then the fact – of their exceptional fatigue life problems until they couldn’t be hidden any longer. They created bad blood through defending a Cold War staff structure while the actual personnel and platforms at the pointy end shrunk by almost 50%.

In spite of the “transformational” press they received right after 9/11 with their overhead ISR in support of OEF/OIF – starting with pressure from CNO Clark to shut up about it – they avoided toot’n their horn in this area to stress ASW — while operationally they continued to provide overhead ISR as their major contribution. The public face vs. COCOM requirements delta was huge. What got all the ISR press: UAV/UAS.

If you don’t tell your story, no one will hear it. If you don’t make yourself a lean operation while others are fighting and dying, you create distrust and envy among your peers. Neither buys you friends in budget fights.

In these two areas, the Maritime Patrol and Reconnaissance (MPR) community (as the P-3/EP-3-P-8/EP-8 folks are easier to describe) spent most of the decade setting the conditions for the same thing to happen to them that happened to their British counterpart – and in back rooms, discussions are already taking place … and some action in the shadows.

Is the “legacy” MPR fleet about to be decimated like the Nimrod? No, I don’t think so. Is the P-8 buy going to shrink? Perhaps. Could P-3 squadrons be decommissioned early? Perhaps. Is that the right answer? Perhaps. Priorities – and in the aviation side of the house, the F-35 isn’t getting any cheaper.

Let’s look at 2020 again. What else is happening in the 20’s? Well, for one, we will have to find money to re-capitalized the SSBN fleet. I offer to you that the 20 JAN HASC SEF Subcommittee meeting has an outstanding money discussion about that challenge. Deputy SECNAV Work has also discussed this challenge in other venues, and I think he has a very firm grasp of the problem, as do many in positions to know.

You have to look at it in the broader context of the budget as well. The hangover in the 20’s from this decade’s drunken frenzy of spending will couple with another cohort of Baby Boomers retiring and putting stress on the budget in ways we still do not have a firm grasp on.

In 2020 – a ship built in 1990 will be at 30 years. That LCS built in 2009 will only have 9 years or so of service life (LCS is expected to only last 20-25 years) – so by the end of the 2020’s, LCS will be dropping like flies.

When you consider that we will be limited this decade to LCS and DDG-51 for our non-amphib surface ship programs (don’t throw JHSV at me, that is just a truck – full stop – all else is spin and hope) – you have about a perfect storm for the 20’s of limited shipbuilding funds and a stunted fleet.

Stunted? If you continue to assume that CG(X) is dead, then you might get funding for the much needed DDG(X) follow-on to the DDG-51 – might, should. That will be requested in light of the SSBN money sponge – and I don’t see how with all the other needs in the 20’s, we will be able to afford both a DDG(X) and a CG(X) – and there is a good chance that we will simply have to live with DDG-51 Flight III as our “new” platform through the beginning of the mid-21st Century.

I know that looking into the future is a fuzzy hobby. Heck, if you outlined in 2000 where we were in 2010 people would have said you were a nutty pessimist – so we can only see 2020 in very large, fuzzy pixels. The beginning of the mid-century (2030) is just a silly exercise in many ways – but one that needs to be done. The pixels get smaller and clearer with each year, giving you time to shift aim as needed.

There are known-knowns (DDG-1000 will be a rump, expensive class of ships, Ticos history, DDG-51 backbone, LCS decomm’n like flies, etc), known-unknowns (will LCS even meet some of its promised ability and numbers, will DDG(X) be moving forward), and unknown-unknowns (Black Swan events), but still – 2020 is closer than we think, and there are economic facts that need to be looked at.

Huge challenge, one whose source is the lost decade of transformatinalist sugarhigh we just came out of. Yes, the “transformational” decade. The one that was to build the Fleet of the future. Well, it sure did, didn’t it? If nothing else, hoist that well known lesson onboard; avoid the transformatinalist seduction for a few decades if we can.

Look at what the Royal Navy is dealing with today, and it isn’t a stretch to see similar challenges for ourselves. Look and learn – and perhaps we can mitigate the pain.

Posted by CDRSalamander in Navy | 1 Comment

Arctic Training

February 2010


Lots of snow this week in Annapolis and conditions are perfect for some arctic warfare training.

Two Regiments of Midshipmen Participate in the Brigade Snowball Fight

Two Regiments of Midshipmen Participate in the Brigade Snowball Fight

The reflective bands were the markings of 2nd Regiment.

Mids Snowball Fight video.

Readers of this blog know that I had previously “e-interviewed” Vincent O’ Hara about two of his three books: Struggle for the Middle Sea: The Great Navies at War in the Mediterranean Theater, 1940-1945 and The U.S. Navy Against the Axis: Surface Combat 1941-1945. So it was a real honor to meet him in person at last week’s USNI AFCEA West 2010 conference in San Diego.

Enjoy the interview!

Posted by Jim Dolbow in Books, History, Navy | No Comments

SCULPINBack in a February 2008 issue of Naval History, a piece by Admiral Charles R. Larson (Retired), Captain Clinton Wright (Retired) and Paul Stilwell caught my eye. The article, “The Sculpin’s Lost Mission: A Nuclear Submarine in the Vietnam War”, details a forgotten patrol by the USS Sculpin (SSN-590). It is an article that deserves a second–if not a third–glance.

Why? Well, many of the challenges encountered during the Sculpin’s little-noted 2300- mile romp through the littorals remain relevant today.

For the Sculpin, this was a tough little tasking. During the 1972 patrol detailed in Navy History, the Sculpin tracked gun-running vessels from their Chinese point-of-origin to waters off South Vietnam. It’s an exciting COIN-esqe story–a story that should have gotten more play (in open fora) than it did. Today, as America struggles with Maritime Domain Awareness, littoral operations and clandestine use of merchant vessels, we’re having to re-learn the challenges the Sculpin grappled with back in 1972!

It’s no secret that shallow waters offer an operational challenge to certain sensors. But the Sculpin story could have been a good starting point to discuss the challenge of littoral undersea warfare–because the boat had issues:

“The active sonar in the Skipjack-class submarines wouldn’t have been reliable because of the reverberations in shallow water…”

As the USS San Francisco’s (SSN-711) 2005 interaction with a sea-mount sadly revealed, we still have issues with seafloor awareness. The Sculpin tale, if it had only been told, might have helped promote better mapping–and better navigational practices within the sub fleet. The Sculpin was effectively blind:

“One more challenge was that the trawler was heading south, right through the “dangerous ground.” On charts of the South China Sea, an area of about 180 nautical miles wide and 300 miles long is simply labeled dangerous ground. Our charts had one track of soundings through that area—taken in 1885..”

Complicating the matter of safe passage, the boat encountered rogue oil wells. The industrial infrastructure used to exploit seafloor resources poses an even greater operational challenge today. And the Sculpin, again, offered a glimpse of that future:

“We found a large number of oil-drilling platforms near the coast of Borneo. We first became aware of this hazard through the prolonged tracking of a diesel contact, which prompted the CO, Commander Harry Mathis, to go up to periscope depth for a look. We spotted an uncharted platform. If rigs were operating, that was no problem; we could plot the location of their noisy diesel engines. We found some charted, some not, some operating and others not. Our concern, of course, was about those uncharted and not running…”

How many times in recent years have subs hit tankers (or, um, fellow warships) in crowded shipping channels? The Sculpin experience in the South China Sea was–to say the least–instructive:

“The density of the large shipping traffic in this lane was incredible. Crossing it was like running across a busy freeway.”

The crowded littorals are even more crowded today. The Sculpin’s experience might have allowed foresighted naval strategists to “steal a march” and start grappling with the littorals far earlier:

“The surface was a dead calm mirror with fishing buoys and nets everywhere, not to mention small fishing boats of every description..”

With the Sculpin authorized to operate in waters as shallow as six fathoms, the boat discovered the littorals may be a pretty stressful place for fast-moving, large undersea boats:

 “We were trying to visualize what the Sculpin looked like on the surface, running at twenty knots, with maybe only 40 feet from the top of the sail to the surface. We visualized a hump—the water displaced above the boat’s hull—roaring through the South China Sea like a mini tidal wave, with observers wondering what it was…”

Why wasn’t the Sculpin’s mission used as a means to inform sailors–and modern policymakers–on the challenge of littoral operations? 

That’s an easy question to answer. All official records of this mission were destroyed. And now, as the littorals of the South China Sea have evolved to become a region of intense interest for the U.S. Navy, future submariners have little more than a bare-bones article in USNI’s Navy History Magazine to help inform their endeavors.

Instead of the usual submariner routine of “don’t ask, ’cause I won’t tell,” a little foresight–along with a little openness–might have been a real boon to those who, today, grapple with this sort of challenge. America’s Navy should maintain operational records–and do a far better job of telling these “odd lot” stories. You never know when they might prove useful…


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