Archive for April, 2011

USS O'Kane (DDG 77) launches an SM-3 Blk 1A for FTM-15 (source:

Another test of the SM-3 Blk 1A was successfully completed last night with the intercept of an IRBM-class target:

The Missile Defense Agency (MDA), U.S. Navy sailors aboard the Aegis destroyer USS O’KANE (DDG 77), and Soldiers from the 94th Army Air and Missile Defense Command operating from the 613th Air and Space Operations Center at Hickam Air Force Base, Hawaii, successfully conducted a flight test of the Aegis Ballistic Missile Defense (BMD) element of the nation’s Ballistic Missile Defense System, resulting in the intercept of a separating ballistic missile target over the Pacific Ocean. This successful test demonstrated the capability of the first phase of the European Phased Adaptive Approach (EPAA) announced by the President in September, 2009.

At 2:52 a.m. EDT (6:52 p.m. April 15 Marshall Island Time), an intermediate-range ballistic missile target was launched from the Reagan Test Site, located on Kwajalein Atoll in the Republic of the Marshall Islands, approximately 2,300 miles southwest of Hawaii. The target flew in a northeasterly direction towards a broad ocean area in the Pacific Ocean. Following target launch, a forward-based AN/TPY-2 X-band transportable radar, located on Wake Island, detected and tracked the threat missile. The radar sent trajectory information to the Command, Control, Battle Management, and Communications (C2BMC) system, which processed and transmitted remote target data to the USS O’KANE. The destroyer, located to the west of Hawaii, used the data to develop a fire control solution and launch the SM-3 Block IA missile approximately 11 minutes after the target was launched.

As the IRBM target continued along its trajectory, the firing ship’s AN/SPY-1 radar detected and acquired the ballistic missile target. The firing ship’s Aegis BMD weapon system uplinked target track information to the SM-3 Block IA missile. The SM-3 maneuvered to a point in space as designated by the fire control solution and released its kinetic warhead. The kinetic warhead acquired the target, diverted into its path, and, using only force of a direct impact, destroyed the threat in a “hit-to-kill” intercept.

During the test the C2BMC system, operated by Soldiers from the 94th Army Air and Missile Defense Command, received data from all assets and provided situational awareness of the engagement to U.S. Pacific Command, U.S. Northern Command and U.S. Strategic Command.

The two demonstration Space Tracking and Surveillance Satellites (STSS), launched by MDA in 2009, successfully acquired the target missile, providing stereo “birth to death” tracking of the target.

Today’s event, designated Flight Test Standard Missile-15 (FTM-15), was the most challenging test to date, as it was the first Aegis BMD version 3.6.1 intercept against an intermediate-range target (range 1,864 to 3,418 miles) and the first Aegis BMD 3.6.1 engagement relying on remote tracking data. The ability to use remote radar data to engage a threat ballistic missile greatly increases the battle space and defended area of the SM-3 missile.

Initial indications are that all components performed as designed. Program officials will spend the next several months conducting an extensive assessment and evaluation of system performance based upon telemetry and other data obtained during the test.

FTM-15 is the 21st successful intercept, in 25 attempts, for the Aegis BMD program since flight testing began in 2002. Across all BMDS elements, this is the 45th successful hit-to-kill intercept in 58 flight tests since 2001.

Aegis BMD is the sea-based midcourse component of the MDA’s Ballistic Missile Defense System and is designed to intercept and destroy short to intermediate-range ballistic missile threats. MDA and the U.S. Navy cooperatively manage the Aegis BMD Program.

This test in essence replicates what Phase I of the European Phased Adaptive Approach will be capable of in final form — a sea-based SM-3 Blk 1A intercept of MRBM/IRBM class missiles with cueing from a forward-based sensor (here the TPY-2). The lead element of Phase I, the sea-based element, is already deployed with the scheduled deployment of the USS Monterey (CG 61) earlier this year on BMD patrol. Worth emphasizing is that while deployed on BMD patrol, Monterey is nonetheless still capable of multiple missions, of which BMD is one, demonstrating the flexibility of these mobile, sea-based units.

USS O'Kane (DDG 77) (via


The Blogging Navy

April 2011


How does the increase in blog readers and writers affect the Navy? I can think of several reasons why blogs are good and bad for the Navy.

The Good:
• Users can write anonymously. When a sailor comments on a blog post from ADM X and chooses to do so anonymously, that sailor isn’t responding to advance his career or curry favor with the brass. He writes because he believes he has a good idea. If he writes well, his idea may induce change.
• High ranking officers can receive feedback instantaneously from all levels of the chain of command. In McCain’s book “Faith of My Fathers,” McCain lauded how his father, ADM McCain, had his staff meet one on one with low ranking sailors to elicit these sailors’ opinions. Now, any high ranking officer can post on his blog and receive comments from anyone with a computer and the impetus to write.
• When anybody can post anything, anytime, and anywhere, little is secret. I think blogs amplify the CNN effect. Everyone will follow the regulations a little closer knowing that his actions could be reported (anonymously) on a blog.

The Bad:
• Users can write anonymously. Without knowing a writer’s background, you can’t verify his experiences. A recent Economist article discussed how this anonymity allows people to fabricate facts and events on blogs for “LOLs.” Other (non-Navy) blogs have begun linking blog posts to the user’s Facebook accounts. While linking blog posts to Facebook accounts eliminates anonymity’s positive effects, the blogs using this new technology have seen a decrease in the quantity of blog posts and an increase in quality.
• When anybody can post anything, anytime, and anywhere, little is secret. I don’t pretend to have any data or statistics on this, but I do know that everyone makes mistakes. More chances to write one’s opinion means more chances to leak classified ship movements or operations into the world-wide-web.
• Blogs promotes the idea that it’s okay to question authority. Yes, it’s great to get feedback, but, in the end, the commanding officer is in charge. If sailors become accustomed to questioning orders on a blog, whether those orders came from LT Y or POTUS, then the hierarchical military structure breaks down. Knowing that his decisions could be posted online for the world to see could distort a commander’s judgment.

Like any change there are positive and negative effects. What really matters is how we as a Navy counter the negative effects.

Posted by jjames in Cyber, Navy | 4 Comments

Our interview (USNI) by me (admin) in conjunction with You Served Radio and Blog. Thanks to Troy Steward of You Served came to film and help me out during the interview.

Interview with Richard Harrison from Pawn Stars from You Served Radio & Blog on Vimeo.

Posted by admin in Navy | No Comments

April 12th, 1861

April 2011


On this date a century and a half ago, the fractured Union and its erstwhile member states, then in a state of succession, began the four-year long national tragedy of the American Civil War. Newly-inaugurated President Abraham Lincoln had sent a supply ship to replenish the garrison at Fort Sumter in the harbor of South Carolina’s port of Charleston, where Major Robert Anderson had retreated from Fort Moultrie with his little command of seventy-eight men. General P. G. T Beauregard, with around 500 men and a number of formerly Federal shore batteries, would not allow the ship to pass.

The standoff continued until the early hours of 12 April 1861, when Beauregard ordered his shore batteries to begin a bombardment of the Federal garrison. The small Federal garrison returned fire, but the unequal contest was over by the next afternoon. Ironically, the opening act of the great and bloody contest was nearly bloodless, without a mortal casualty on either side, and fewer than two dozen wounded. But the battle represented a gate that, once exited, could not be re-entered. Though many can argue with conviction that the the first shots of the Civil War were fired at Harper’s Ferry two years before, or even in Lawrence, Kansas, in the middle of the previous decade, it was the roar of cannon at Fort Sumter that signaled that war had arrived. Abraham Lincoln somewhat optimistically asked for 75,000 volunteers to help put down the rebellion.

Nearly four years later, Lee’s starving and threadbare Army of Northern Virginia would surrender to Grant’s massive Army of the Potomac. In the interim was four years of unprecedented slaughter at places like Malvern Hill, White Oak Swamp, Antietam, Chickamauga, Chancellorsville, Gettysburg, Spotsylvania, Cold Harbor, and Petersburg. More than 650,000 American soldiers had died in a war that stretched from St Alban’s Vermont to Pichaco, Arizona, and saw the first widespread military use of railroads, telegraphs, repeating rifles, and metal warships.

The Civil War has been described as a struggle between two types of warfare, the modern and the obsolete. The character of the American Civil War in 1861 differed little from the last great battles in 1815. By the end, the struggle in the shell-pocked trenches at Petersburg, and the images of streams of refugees in front of Sherman in Georgia more closely resembled 1915 than 1815.

In 1861 Helmuth von Moltke dismissively described American armies as “mobs that wander about in fields carrying muskets”. By 1864, both the North and South fielded vast armies of disciplined, battle-hardened veterans, led by talented and experienced commanders. These armies could march great distances, possessed unparalleled firepower, and showed an ability to endure punishment at Antietam, Shiloh, Gettysburg, Cold Harbor, and the Wilderness that astonished European observers. Indeed, the armies of 1864-65 were the most powerful on Earth, dwarfing in size and combat power any other armies fielded anywhere until the First World War.

In the end, the Union had survived. Slavery was abolished through force of arms. And in the words of a President who would be slain just days after the Southern surrender, “government of the people, by the people, and for the people” remained and remains to this day. The seminal event in American history, the great watershed that continues to shape our consciousness and outlook on ourselves and the world around us, began a century and a half ago, this day.

Austal USA announced today that Craig Hooper, a frequent contributor to Proceeding and an alumni of the USNI Blog, is their new Vice-President of Sales, Marketing and External Affairs:

I am ecstatic that Austal values the public discussion of naval affairs and national security strategy afforded by outlets like Over the coming weeks and months, I look forward to re-engaging the public (and the naval blogosphere) in new ways while helping Austal grow to become one of the best, most innovative naval shipbuilders in the business.

Huge congratulations to Craig on the new gig!

Posted by Christopher Albon in Navy | 4 Comments
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Sunday afternoon, 5pm Eastern U.S. – join us as we chat with some very experienced guests in Episode 66 Donald Rumsfeld Bing West 04/10 by Midrats | Blog Talk Radio:

For anyone interested in history, politics, or national security – there are two books that should be on your short list for 2011. Both authors will be on Midrats this Sunday.

Bing West
Donald Rumsfeld

Join Sal from “CDR Salamander” and EagleOne from “EagleSpeak” with their guests; former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld to discuss his book Known & Unknown: A Memoir for the first half hour, and then author Bing West to discuss his latest book, The Wrong War: Grit, Strategy, and the Way Out of Afghanistan.

UPDATE: BlogTalkRadio has eliminated the “download” feature for all of its shows, including Midrats. If you want to download our shows, they are on iTunes. Log onto iTunes (which, if you don’t have it already, is a free download), go to the iTunes store and search for “Midrats” – a screen will appear with a short list. Click on “See All” and all 66 shows will appear. Click on the “Free” tag to the right and the show you’ve chosen will be downloaded into your iTunes library. You can play it there or drag the show to your desktop or into your mp3 player (or whatever) for listening later. Of course, you can always listen to it in iTunes.

You can also subscribe to the show on iTunes and future shows will be automatically downloaded to your podcast library for you.

Listen to internet radio with Midrats on Blog Talk Radio

What happens when you are fighting an open desert campaign, have in your possession huge stocks of rocket pods, but no aircraft? Bolt those suckers onto a pick-up truck, of course! New photos and video from the New York Times’ CJ Chivers and Al Jazeera’s Evan Hill show the rebels using these MacGyver artillery pieces. However, while technologically innovative, I seriously doubt you can hit anything with accuracy. Someone also posted a video of their motor pool constructing the devices.

As a Marine, Clay Hunt, was wounded in Iraq and lost dear friends in Iraq and Afghanistan. After coming home, he searched for a way to continue serving, not just the United States, but all of mankind. He was a natural fit for Team Rubicon which bridges the gap between disaster occurrence and conventional aid response. Clay was instrumental in saving thousands of lives in Haiti and in other hellish disasters. He was not only one helluva Scout Sniper, but a one of a kind humanitarian who wanted to help anyone who needed it, and a brother that will be greatly missed. Last week, Clay lost his long time battle with the demons of war.

Clay Warren Hunt was the epitome of the American Badass with a heart of gold.


All Ahead Slow in Libya

April 2011


Secretary of State Hillary Clinton met with Italian officials on Wednesday and had an interesting quote about Libya.

The North Atlantic Treaty Organization airstrikes on Qaddafi’s forces, she said, are “buying time, buying space” for the rebels.

It is an interesting statement as reported, because it looks more like NATO is buying time for everyone instead of just the rebels. It is difficult to see if any political plan exists yet for a post-Gaddafi Libya, but that is probably because that plan hasn’t been fully developed yet.

President Obama rushed into Libya due to circumstances on the ground and for reasons that have largely been articulated at a high level, and not a detailed level. That typically means US policy is both political and strategic, but neither the political nor strategic reasons are good for domestic political consumption. After the initial phases of US military activity, under the NATO flag the US military policy for Libya has become “the least we can do which is also the most we will provide.”

While some object to our involvement at all, and others believe that once involved – we should be in it to win it, I’m OK with the Presidents “Least is Most” policy. Ultimately other nations, most particularly the Libyan people themselves, will determine the future of Libya. This very limited use of US military force is new to virtually every generation of Americans alive today, so naturally it feels unnatural to everyone.

I think it will be interesting to see what happens once the post-Gaddafi political solution is ready. As news reports continue to show, there is still a lot of fighting in the cities, and the Gaddafi military still has strength. While that Gaddafi military power is deadly to untrained rebel fighters, the whole of remaining military power in Libya can be wiped out should NATO military forces engage on the ground.

As events continue to unfold and the violence in the cities continues to result in bloodshed of innocent civilians, I do wonder if pressure will mount for NATO to quickly end the war in Libya. There are two options for ending hostilities in Libya; what I see as go long or go short.

“Go long” is the current plan, and is similar to the Thomas Jefferson model for Tripoli over 2 centuries ago which is basically send in a few special dudes to build a domestic Army and overthrow the government. The US has no shortage of special operators in the CIA ready to be the William Eaton of modern Libya, but that figure does not need to an American. The political and military training process take time to develop, but it can work with very little NATO footprint on the ground once the violence in the cities stops. This is the preferred way because it gives everyone time to build the political and security infrastructure needed to support Libya when Gaddafi is forced out while also keeping NATO boots off the ground (although UN boots might be called upon).

“Go Short” would be the contingency should events on the ground start going really bad for the civilian population and the media narrative starts adding political pressure. Basically it is a repeat the Iraq 2003 Marine drive model but in Libya. If you recall, the US Marines basically drove the road from Kuwait to Iraq blowing the Iraqi Army equipment to pieces along the way. There were several problems doing so in Iraq, specifically related to logistics and the lack of sufficient forces to hold ground, but in Libya those problems are much easier to overcome.

A European contengent of Marines supported by tanks would land near Benghazi and drive the coastal road all the way to Tripoli while blowing the Libyan Army to pieces along the way. Libyan rebel fighters would be responsible for securing the cities and facilitating humanitarian relief from the sea while the European Marine forces would be logistically supplied outside the cites from the sea, and once the military power is destroyed – the Marines would be pulled off the beach back to sea. This is basically a modern Marine amphibious raid. The US, Dutch, French, Spanish, Italians, or British all have the military capability to perform the amphibious raid mission if it was politically necessary to do so.

Right now the plan is “Go Long” which means everything is going to move at a very slow pace. The big hope is that air power can separate the two sides while the political and military infrastructure of the rebels is strengthened. The President said he is initially looking at 90 days of military operations. Today is only day 19, meaning the politics supporting current NATO air operations is content to give airpower at least 71 more days to separate the two sides from each other. A lot can happen in 71 days… a lot of good and a lot of bad.

Esquire Magazine’s monthly column ‘What I’ve Learned’ is an excellently composed editorial on the meaning of life from the perspective of some of the world’s most intriguing statesmen, artists, and philosophers. I am neither statesman, nor artist, nor philosopher (and if you ask any woman who has ever dated me, hardly intriguing) but I am a Marine who just left active duty service. After 11 years since having first raised my right hand, and in the spirit of Esquire’s eminent feature, I spent the first day of my terminal leave reflecting…on what it is I’ve learned.

On Life. (in general)

Life’s much easier when you read wonderful books and stare at inconceivable art and listen to transcendent music and watch inspiring movies. When you allow the great authors and poets and filmmakers and musicians and artists to help sort things out for you, life just becomes easier, I think. Perhaps this is because you realize you are not the first person that has ever felt that he had no clue what’s going on, or what’s to come. You realize you are not alone. And you say to yourself humble things like, “how small I am.” And you become stronger.

But even with the nod of the greats, it’s important we each tell our own story in our own way. It’s therapy, for one. But it also preserves the memory. I never want to forget any of the Marines I ever walked alongside. They are my heroes.

Chapters. (and why a father is always right)

On the last afternoon of my active duty service I met my old man for a drink. We sat in deep couches in a familiar bar and ordered the old fashioned. We first toasted the great naval service of which we had both served, and next the adventure that I had just lived. We sat in that bar for hours and told stories of the great men we knew back then and how I wish the VA would cover the Propecia prescription for my hair loss and finally did what it is a father and a son do after one has come back from war and the other had already been, which is change the subject and talk about mom.

And at some point that afternoon, I can’t be sure exactly at which time, I looked at my dad, who had flown three tours in Vietnam and whose one Marine son had fought in Afghanistan and whose other in Iraq, and asked him what he was thinking about just then. He told me he was thinking about life’s chapters and how important it is to recognize when they start and when they finish. He told me to enjoy this moment.

And that was all he said.

My dad’s lesson was simple that afternoon: It’s essential to sincerely differentiate between “time” and “moments” because life’s shade, import and value are defined by moments and time is just what we have left.

My father the Scotsman was right. But then again, it’s been my experience that a father is always right.

On Love. (swimming in the ocean, shakespeare and everything else)

Pool workouts are straightforward, comfortable and humdrum. But working out in the water is about heart and when you swim in the ocean you have the environment to compete with and the climate and God. And so I prefer to do my swim workouts in the open ocean.

This weekend I did my usual La Jolla Cove to La Jolla Shores and back swim. The water was cold and the sand sharks off the Shores, harmless though they are, did their best to frighten me (but how I love that they take 30 seconds off my 500 meter split). The only difference between this swim and the countless others I’ve done these past few years is that this was the first ocean swim I’d done since being off active duty.

For the first time this workout was about me wanting to look and feel good, instead of about preparation for training (or not wanting to fall behind my Force Recon Marines during a swim exercise) and, quite frankly, I hated that feeling.

My mind was everywhere during the swim. But at around the 1,000 meter mark it settled on one thing: how much I love the Marine Corps.

It came to me out there that my experience in the Marine Corps was the most wonderful, transformative, rich experience a man could ever hope to have.

And this is what I learned…

The Marine Corps taught me the sort of practical things that all men should know but don’t these days like how to shoot a weapon, survive in the wilderness, navigate by compass and map, and take care of your feet.

The Marine Corps taught me the true meaning of words I had only before read about in Shakespeare: honor, obligation, courage, fidelity and sacrifice. These were no longer merely a part of some story from an epic script on war, but real memories about real men in war.

In the Marine Corps I learned what it means to be truly happy and what it feels like to be truly sad. And I realized neither had anything to do with me but both had everything to do with the unit and the definition of a meaningful life.

In my travels I learned that life isn’t very easy for most people in this world. And that we are blessed to have won life’s lottery and to have been born in this country.

I learned that freedom is impossible without sacrifice and neither matters very much without love.

I learned that it’s not what’s on your chest that counts, but what’s in your chest.

I learned that standards matter. I was taught the importance of discipline. And of letting go from time to time.

I learned that all it takes is all you got.

I learned a good NCO is worth his weight in gold…a good Staff NCO is absolutely priceless.

I learned it is important to write letters to yourself along the way because the details will escape you.

I learned there is a difference between regret and remorse.

Phase lines help you eat an elephant. Which is true with so much in life I suppose.

I learned that apathy is the evil cousin of delegation.

The Marine Corps taught me about physical courage, team work, the absolute virtue of a human being’s great adventure and that all men fall.

With respect to tactics, I’ve found it most critical to never say never, and never say always.

I learned the importance of a good story shared among friends. Or a good glass of scotch enjoyed in solitude. Or of the importance of sailing away until you cannot see the coastline anymore…and then coming home, a better man.

I learned that faith matters. And that aside from the importance of believing the universe is so much bigger than any one man could ever comprehend, I learned that I truly believe in the power of a great bottle of wine, the courage of the enlisted Marine and the tenets of maneuver warfare.

I discovered my morality.

I learned how to fight in the Marine Corps…and my time in bars with my brother-Marines has taught me that contrary to our own self-perpetuated mythology, not all blood that Marines shed together is on the battlefield.

The Marine Corps taught me how to think aggressively. How to respond under pressure. How to perform. How to live excellently and that nothing is more important than the mission or the Marine.

The Marine Corps taught me how to laugh – deeper than I ever thought imaginable – and how to cry. And that a warrior’s tears reflect his soul.

Finally, the Marine Corps did more for me than I could have ever done for it…it gave me an extraordinary adventure to live that is mine and that I will never for the rest of my life forget.

And then there’s this last irony…

That I would have the honor of spending these years studying and practicing the discipline of warfighting alongside the wonderful modern Marine-hoplite only to realize that what I learned had so much less to do with war and so much more to do with love.

How do I feel in the 72 hours since I’ve left the Marine Corps?

I miss it already.

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