Archive for March, 2010

So, it seems the 131st consecutive successful Trident test flight (*) went off in an epic fashion! In Saudi!


(UPDATE: Looks like the story is getting walked back a bit…the AP’s source, “A Western military official in Saudi Arabia” is being contradicted by Pentagon spokespersons–who say there was no launch of any kind.)

How, exactly, does one test a “submarine-launched ballistic missile” from Saudi territory?

“The United States test-fired a submarine-launched ballistic missile capable of carrying nuclear warheads during a joint military exercise Wednesday with Saudi Arabia, a Western military official said.

The Trident missile launch was carried out in the kingdom, the official said, but he would not give a precise location. He spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the issue.”

Was this missile fired from a land-sharkesque Sand Sub? Did we ship a missile over for a launch from a Saudi facility? Or fire it from a sub elsewhere?

I mean, while this may explain why some Tehran IP addresses have been, ah, oh, rather avid consumers of my home-blog,, I really wonder what is going on here.

What an odd story….If this missile launched from the Saudi’s sandy seas, at a Saudi launch facility, then…I must ask: Do we really want to export this kind of strike platform? There?


We need to know more.

A lot more–Did America conduct an unprecedented Persian Gulf/Red Sea/Indian Ocean launch….for a missile defense test? Or is this the new face of Prompt Global Strike–a little project you can read more about in April’s USNI Proceedings)?

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(*) Estimated. H/T:



March 2010


Getting early reports that an E-2C Hawkeye assigned to the VAW-121 (“Bluetails”) is down in the North Arabian Sea. The crew evidently conducted a controlled bailout and three of the four have been recovered by SAR efforts. Fourth remains missing after four hours.

I can only speculate on what the cause of the mishap was — according to published reports the crew only notified the ship (after returning from a mission over Afghanistan) that there was a problem and they were conducting a “controlled bailout”. Prior to this, there had been only one other successful bailout (where all of the crew got out of the aircraft), that being the VAW-122 bird lost in the East Med due to a fire in the right nacelle behind the firewall. In the 1990’s, we lost a couple of aircraft due to inflight fires fed by the hydraulics — those were not survivable.

For those unfamiliar with the aircraft, the E-2 is the only fixed wing aircraft operating off the carrier today without ejection seats — because of the arrangement of the aircaft and the overhead radar dome, there is no practical way to eject from the aircraft. Hence, emergency egress in the air is via the main entrance hatch for all five crewmembers (for some reason the VAW-121 aircraft was carrying only four for this mission). although you practice and practice — and practice some more on the ground, it never is the same as when a real emergency occurs and you find yourself headed for that small door, through a narrow passage between equipment racks with all the possibility of getting caught on something. For the pilots, it is even worse as they have to turn around and step down from the flightdeck to reach the door — assuming the auto-pilot is still functional and can keep the plane level until everyone is out. Then, upon exit, you have to freefall away from the aircraft and manually release your chute, inflate your preserver, deploy raft, etc.

Overall, the VAW community has been one of the more fortunate when you compare Class A mishaps across the tailhook community – but when something goes really bad, it gets grim in a hurry.

Prayers for the crew, their families and the Bluetails. Hits especially close to home as that was my first squadron too, albeit a long time ago.

On days like today, we are all Bluetails…

Posted by SteelJaw in Navy | 3 Comments

Somehow I missed this CSIS video on the future of the US Navy’s involvement in humanitarian and disaster relief operations. Participating is Gene Bonventre of CSIS (who I had the pleasure of meeting in September); Captain James Terbush, Commander Fourth Fleet; and Commander Bradley Hartgerink of the Navy Bureau of Medicine and Surgery. CSIS has been on the leading edge of policy discussion on health diplomacy for the last few years, as evidenced in this video and more significantly the release a massive report on “Smart Global Health Policy” last week.

As the Arctic heats up, diplomatic meetings are getting rather frosty. You might have missed this, but Canada got a public rebuke from the U.S. yesterday over Arctic policy. From the Voice of America:

On Monday, Canada hosted a meeting of foreign ministers from five countries with Arctic coastlines for talks on maritime boundaries, disaster response and other issues. The U.S. and Canada were joined by Denmark, Norway and Russia.

But other countries with Arctic interests – Finland, Iceland and Sweden – as well as northern indigenous groups were not invited.

Clinton said in remarks to the meeting that significant international discussions on Arctic issues should include those who have legitimate interests in the region. She said she hopes the Arctic will always showcase the ability to work together, not create new divisions.

Canada, who had invited only those countries with Arctic coastlines, irked Iceland, Sweden and Finland–who think that Arctic decisions need to be made by the 8 state Arctic Council. The Inuit were also upset. So the U.S. issued Canada a public rebuke–the first since the run-up to the Gulf War.

And today, Canada confirmed it was going to leave Afghanistan.

Other arguments aside, the Arctic debate is getting serious, and, given that the five participants have plans to operate 66 ice-ready, combatants, the time to talk is now–even if a few non-territorial claiming stakeholders are left out–after all, Iceland, Sweden and Finland won’t be fighting over places like, oh, Hans Island

And then, to boot, where does one draw the line? If the Arctic Council participates, why shouldn’t China be allowed to participate? I mean, they might feel they have “legitimate interests”:

Earlier this month, a Chinese rear-admiral asserted that the Arctic belongs to all peoples. He was correct — if only with respect to the central Arctic Ocean where the water and sea-ice form part of the high seas and an area of ocean floor beyond the continental shelves of the five coastal states is part of the “common heritage of mankind.”

I don’t understand the goals here. Why are we making a big stink over this diplomatic meeting? Sometimes it’s OK to have an exclusive club…and with Arctic Claims being seen as a basis for support of China’s claims in the East and South China seas, the five “Arctic-owning” nations need to talk far more than argue. A lot of things ride on getting this right.

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Quote from this week’s Navy Times article “Former SECNAVs urge Navy to join museum effort:”

“The Navy is aware of the Maritime Foundation’s proposal — which was submitted in September — but considers it just one of many options for a new museum somewhere around the capital, said retired Rear Adm. Jay DeLoach, director of Naval History and Heritage Command.

Although DeLoach said there was ‘general recognition within the Navy and senior Navy leadership’ that it was a good idea to raise the profile of the Navy’s relatively small museum at the Washington Navy Yard, officials must analyze all options. DeLoach said he could not discuss what the other options were, nor could he talk about what he called the ‘risk’ of the Navy joining the project, or any of the other options.

The situation is apparently in flux because it’s the subject of discussions between History and Heritage Command, Naval District Washington, Naval Facilities Engineering Command, Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Gary Roughead and Navy Secretary Ray Mabus.

‘We’re exploring a number of options,’ DeLoach said. ‘We have to do our due diligence to ensure that any risk to the Navy is minimal.’”

Last week, some very senior legacy leaders endorsed the National Maritime Heritage Foundation’s (NMHF) project to build a new National Museum of the United States Navy on the Southwest Waterfront, Washington, D.C., as outlined in this week’s article and in a letter to the editors of the Navy Times. First, we would like to applaud these leaders for stepping forward and supporting NMHF and its project. These leaders have the vision to see the value of the project, site offered and team assembled by the Foundation. We have reviewed the full proposal (it’s on the Navy Times web site) and this is a once-in-a-century opportunity for the Navy.

Projects of the size, scope and status of a national Navy Museum are only successful because they engage and galvanize a huge swath of varied and interested groups. Examples are prevalent around the country and in Washington: the WWII Memorial, the Marine Corps Museum, and the USS Arizona Memorial. Each of these national campaigns activated citizen supporters, corporate America, and many non-profit organizations. These projects and associated campaigns were led by a professional team of experts, under the oversight of a prestigious board of directors who were willing to give their time and money.

What is innovative about the proposal that NMHF is offering the Navy is that it is a public-private venture or partnership (PPV), one that has precedent in the approach that the Navy has taken in other areas – most notably in the construction of new Navy housing. Through a PPV model, the Navy acquires expertise and experience, including state-of-the-art design and business modeling that will ensure long term success of the project. Additional major benefits to the Navy include:

• As outlined in the proposal, the Navy has ownership of the Museum and the joint Naval/Maritime Museum.

• The Navy has complete control over design of the Museum.

• The professional team NMHF has assembled includes the very best professionals in the discipline of museum development (having designed and built the Spy Museum, the Smithsonian’s Oceans Hall and the D-Day Visitors Center in Normandy – just to name a few of their success stories).

• Long-term stability that does not require additional Navy funding.

• Navy Museum is the cultural anchor in a major new development that is supported by the local government, with a District commitment of $198 million.

• NMHF will be responsible for undertaking and managing the fundraising for this project and has a team of fundraising professionals with a successful track record of completing multi-million dollar capital campaigns.

The Navy Times article states that the Navy is “exploring a number of options” for relocating the Navy museum. Over the last five years, with the professional support of the Staubach Company (now Jones Lang LaSalle), NMHF’s team of experts has examined all potential waterfront sites in Washington, D.C., for a new museum. Nothing compares to the Southwest Waterfront site currently under consideration. It is the only site near the monumental core of the city, on the water and available for development. It is four blocks from the National Mall and the 30 million people who annually visit it. It is adjacent to the 14th Street Bridge, the main southern entrance to the District. What an incredible branding and marketing opportunity for the Navy. The commercial developers are eager to get started and have indicated in no uncertain terms that they will not wait for the Navy to do its own exhaustive study of locations. The studies have been completed and the Southwest Waterfront location wins in every category of analysis.

We are delighted that several former Secretaries of the Navy and a former Interior Secretary recognize the exciting opportunity the Navy has. We hope the current Navy leadership agrees and moves the project forward.

There are things that give you pause and make you wonder where our compass went to.

There is one way for a nation to show its gratitude.

The father of a Marine killed in Iraq and whose funeral was picketed by anti-gay protesters was ordered to pay the protesters’ appeal costs, his lawyers said Monday.

On Friday, Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit ordered Snyder to pay $16,510 to Fred Phelps. Phelps is the leader of the Westboro Baptist Church, which conducted protests at Marine Lance Cpl. Matthew Snyder’s funeral in 2006.

And there is another.

Are we a Navy-Marine Corps family? What can we do? Well, there are the simple things – like voicing support for Lance Cpl. Snyder’s family. We can also do what we can to offset the costs – and I will update this post as that information comes forward. The American Legion is filing an Amicus Brief with the Supreme Court on this, and TheBurnPit is tracking as well . For now, these things we can do.

It is OK to feel outrage – but take that outrage and focus it in a positive manner. Help the family – and do not let this stand in the culture. Support and defend; in a large measure, that is what families do.

UPDATE: Payments via credit card can be processed at this link.

USS New Mexico SSN-779 at a chilly pier 14 of the Norfolk Naval Station. She is the second ship named after the Land of Enchantment. Photo by Jim Dolbow

Posted by Jim Dolbow in Navy | 6 Comments

Well — they aren’t calling it the Prague Treaty per se — yet. But the post-START Treaty is scheduled to be signed in Prague later this spring and represents some pretty major changes in the arms control world and respective stockpiles of the US and Russia:

The White House

Office of the Press Secretary

For Immediate Release March 26, 2010

Key Facts about the New START Treaty

Treaty Structure: The New START Treaty is organized in three tiers of increasing level of detail. The first tier is the Treaty text itself. The second tier consists of a Protocol to the Treaty, which contains additional rights and obligations associated with Treaty provisions. The basic rights and obligations are contained in these two documents. The third tier consists of Technical Annexes to the Protocol. All three tiers will be legally binding. The Protocol and Annexes will be integral parts of the Treaty and thus submitted to the U.S. Senate for its advice and consent to ratification.

Strategic Offensive Reductions: Under the Treaty, the U.S. and Russia will be limited to significantly fewer strategic arms within seven years from the date the Treaty enters into force. Each Party has the flexibility to determine for itself the structure of its strategic forces within the aggregate limits of the Treaty. These limits are based on a rigorous analysis conducted by Department of Defense planners in support of the 2010 Nuclear Posture Review.

Aggregate limits:

  • 1,550 warheads. Warheads on deployed ICBMs and deployed SLBMs count toward this limit and each deployed heavy bomber equipped for nuclear armaments counts as one warhead toward this limit.
    • This limit is 74% lower than the limit of the 1991 START Treaty and 30% lower than the deployed strategic warhead limit of the 2002 Moscow Treaty.
  • A combined limit of 800 deployed and non-deployed ICBM launchers, SLBM launchers, and heavy bombers equipped for nuclear armaments.
  • A separate limit of 700 deployed ICBMs, deployed SLBMs, and deployed heavy bombers equipped for nuclear armaments.
    • This limit is less than half the corresponding strategic nuclear delivery vehicle limit of the START Treaty.

Verification and Transparency: The Treaty has a verification regime that combines the appropriate elements of the 1991 START Treaty with new elements tailored to the limitations of the Treaty. Measures under the Treaty include on-site inspections and exhibitions, data exchanges and notifications related to strategic offensive arms and facilities covered by the Treaty, and provisions to facilitate the use of national technical means for treaty monitoring. To increase confidence and transparency, the Treaty also provides for the exchange of telemetry.

Treaty Terms: The Treaty’s duration will be ten years, unless superseded by a subsequent agreement. The Parties may agree to extend the Treaty for a period of no more than five years. The Treaty includes a withdrawal clause that is standard in arms control agreements. The 2002 Moscow Treaty terminates upon entry into force of the New START Treaty. The U.S. Senate and the Russian legislature must approve the Treaty before it can enter into force.

No Constraints on Missile Defense and Conventional Strike: The Treaty does not contain any constraints on testing, development or deployment of current or planned U.S. missile defense programs or current or planned United States long-range conventional strike capabilities.

I will be the first to admit (along with many others it seems in the arms control community) to still trying to intuitively puzzle out the “separate” and “combined” limits, but bigger picture see somethings of interest:

a) This is a “build-down” treaty, not one designed to forestall future developments (e.g., throw weight breakouts, air launched ballistic missiles, etc.) which speaks volumes to the current and future states of the strategic programs of the US and Russia.

b) For the US — B-1’s, SSGNs , conventional ballistic missiles (aka Prompt Global Strike) and missile defenses (both the ground-based BMDS and the forthcoming PAA) are off the books. Russia ends up with a less obtrusive inspection/verification regime and a requirement for only 5 telemetry exchanges per year (per SECDEF Gates at the press briefing).

c) Empty launchers apparently won’t be counted – unlike START. Bombers weight in the overall equation is lessened (as some commentators have pointed out, almost Reagan-esque as his assertion was the slower bombers weren’t as much of a threat as the missiles).

d) Though each bomber counts as one warhead — each bomber also counts as one delivery vehicle, which acts to limit temptation to build a large fleet of bombers armed with cruise missiles (that and the current state of air defenses). On the future of the bomber force as an element of the traditional nuclear deterrent triad, an interesting and recent paper by the Mitchell Air Power Institute on what shape the deterrent force should take (Triad, Dyad, Monad?) asserts that:

(The) US Department of Defense should pursue an ICBM/SLBM Dyad as it moves to reshape its nuclear force posture at lower warhead levels. Essentially, the US is already moving in this direction: the ICBMs and SLBMs remain robust, with modernization scheduled and funded, but the aging ALCM calls into question the value of the B-52 fleet, while the modernized but very small B-2 force is assuming a niche role. In short, the United States will soon field a de facto nuclear Dyad.

and that for the near term the United States should

leverage the strengths of the ICBM and SLBM forces while minimizing the weaknesses of the nuclear-capable bomber as that leg of the Triad is phased out. Prudent decisions about nuclear weapons and delivery vehicles for the future—under arms control ceilings limiting deployed weapons and launchers—demand deliberation within a framework of deterrent attributes and stabilizing outcomes such as offered here. We believe a Dyad of modernized ICBMs and SLBMs will provide for strategic nuclear deterrence and stability in the years ahead, while allowing and encouraging needed investments in long-range conventional strike.

All of which, along with the release of the NPR and expected forthcoming debate over PGS, should provide interesting fodder for deliberations over the size and shape of the US strategic deterrent force in the coming years.

I’ll continue turning over the whole numerical relationships — and hopefully we’ll have the actual treaty text to review and add insight in the near future. In the meantime, it is a good sign that Sen Lugar (R-Ind.) has voiced his approval on the treaty which I hope will be subject to a through, dispassionate review as it goes to ratification this summer More, definitely more, to follow.

(crossposted at

It seems the South Korean patrol ship Cheonan split into two pieces. After the explosion, the stern sank immediately, while the other half took three hours to go down, floating about four miles before sinking. The stern has yet to be found.

That news in itself might suggest damage akin to a mine or torpedo, but some family members say the vessel was in poor condition:

Some families vented anger at the military, accusing authorities of a cover-up and saying survivors told them the Cheonan was leaky and in need of repair. They jumped on a car carrying the rescued captain of the Cheonan.

Details are sketchy, but it seems U.S. assets may be on the way to the incident site. According to the JoongAng Daily, a vessel that appears to be the USNS Salvor (T-ARS 52) will soon arrive to help:

Defense Ministry spokesman Won Tae-jae said that the United States 3,000-ton salvation ship Salvo is scheduled to arrive this morning at the area of the sinking to support the search and rescue missions. Specially trained U.S. military divers will join the operations.

US sources say the Salvor is standing by:

U.S. Navy vessels including the USNS Salvor rescue and salvage ship are standing by to help in the event South Korea requests assistance, said Lt. Anthony Falvo, a spokesman for the U.S. Seventh Fleet, based in Japan. The American ships were wrapping up a joint training exercise nearby with South Korea.

“Should our forces be requested to provide assistance, that would be one of our main units,” Falvo said in a telephone interview.

It will be interesting to see how the investigation plays out. And as to North Korea’s response to the presence of a U.S. naval vessel near the contested sea border? Their response is anyone’s guess.

Korea’s “Remember the Maine” moment may still arrive.


Today at 5pm EST (1700R/2200Z), join fellow USNIBlogg’r EagleOne and me as we look at multilateralism at sea; how different nation’s navies work together.

Our guests will be Hans de Vreij from Janes Defence Weekly and Radio Netherlands, followed by James S. Robbins from The Washington Times and National Review.

From piracy to exercises to warfighting – what are the plusses and minuses of working with other nations at sea?

Are we leveraging the capabilities of other nations enough – or are we in danger of relying on them too much? How does the American Navy see working with other naval forces – and how do they see working with us?

What special capabilities do other nations have that we don’t, and what could we learn from them?

What do the lessons from multilateralism in ground combat in Afghanistan, and multilateralism against pirates tell us?

Hans de Vreij is the Netherlands correspondent at Jane’s Defence Weekly, and the Security and Defense specialist at Radio Netherlands Worldwide.

Hans received his education at the University of Amsterdam. Previously, he web editor, was Economics, and EU & NATO correspondent for Radio Netherlands World.

Our second guest will be James S. Robbins. James is the Senior Editorial Writer for Foreign Affairs at the Washington Times. He is also author of the book, Last in Their Class: Custer, Pickett and the Goats of West Point, and a political commentator and contributing editor for National Review Online.

Dr. Robbins holds a Ph.D. and Master of Arts in Law and Diplomacy from The Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy in Medford, Massachusetts. He also has Masters and Bachelors degrees in Political Science from the University of Cincinnati.

In addition to contributing to a wide variety of publications, he served in government for ten years, and in 2007 was awarded the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Joint Meritorious Civilian Service Award.

Make sure and join us live – all you need to do is click the here to go to the showpage. At that same link during the show, at the bottom of the page, we will have a chat room going for you to join in with your comments among the usual suspects, and input your questions host and guests in real time.

If you miss the show or want to catch up on the shows you missed – you can always reach the archives at blogtalkradio – or set yourself to get the podcast on iTunes.

I look forward to seeing you later today!

Posted by CDRSalamander in Podcasts | No Comments
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