Author Archive

AC208B-Cessna-Caravan-AGM114-Hellfire-01-e1467998582695As I started the week with a Hendrix Renaissance Festival over at the homeblog, I’ve since read a few things that hit back on a core concept of “Influence Squadrons,” and I thought it was time to bring the topic back up over here.

For those who need a brush-up on “Influence Squadrons,” take a moment to go back to the start in 2009, and then the 5-yr anniversary nudge from 2014.

Much of the discussion of the economy of “good” vs. the exquisite vapor of the “perfect” involved our surface force. There is more to global engagement than just coming from the sea, and that is why this quote from our friends at ThinkDefence popped out at me;

Although the RAF conducts defence engagement activity with many nations and like the other services, has many nations wanting to come to the UK for training, the complexity of the RAF’s basic equipment does have a limiting effect on the types of defence engagement activity it can carry out.

For many years the gulf between modern Western combat aircraft and those of less developed nations has grown ever wider.

Aircraft like the Typhoon or even F-16 are enormously expensive to purchase and operate and need a developed engineering and training infrastructure that is simply unattainable for most, especially those likely to benefit most from even basic air power components such as logistics and ISTAR.

One of our guest authors has previously chronicled the complete waste of money and almost total failure of ISAF’s efforts to create an Afghanistan air force but in Iraq, the US had much more success. In Iraq, they started with simple equipment and worked up to the F-16’s they are now flying. The Iraqi forces had the advantage that they could read and write and that they had used complex aircraft before, but by starting with aircraft like the Cessna Combat Caravan they achieved a workable, sustainable and effective capability without breaking the bank or it collapsing under the weight of its own complexity.

Accepting the extensive and excellent work carried out by the RAF with NATO partners and other advanced air forces this is a proposal to extend that down the technology ladder for less advanced air forces, especially those in Africa and some parts of the Middle East.

Building on the activities that are currently carried out.

If as a nation we are at all serious about preventing conflict then we must include the benefits of ‘air-power’ and invest in capabilities accordingly.

He is, of course, talking well inside the lifelines of the “Influence Squadrons” concept, but on the air side of the house.

The quote above is only a very small bit of an extensive and in depth investigation by ThinkDefence. Though focused on the UK/RAF possibilities, it is almost perfectly scalable to any USA effort that might be made along the same lines.

I highly encourage you to read it all.

While you are reading it I would like you to consider this; when matched with a naval “Influence Squadron” and partnering efforts our Army and Marines are already good at – this is really a Joint concept. Execute all at one time in one country?

That is powerful.



ulleungdo-surrenderNavalists from Norfolk to Yokosuka have spent the last few months since the election pondering the what, how, and when of the 355-ship navy that the incoming Trump Administration is using as a planning goal.

I’ve enjoyed the conversation and seeing the arguments about different constructs to get there, but as shiny and attractive the topic is, there is a background stage-whisper that keeps getting louder. We all know it is there, but like makeup on a growing skin lesion, you can only mask it and pretend to ignore it so long.

There is something that is even more important than strictly numbers; there is the training of your Sailors, proper manning levels of your ships, and correct maintenance and upkeep of your ships that you plan to bring to battle.

As Admiral Rozhestvenski’s tired, reeking, barely seaworthy fleet chugged in to view of Admiral Togo’s fleet, it wasn’t the numbers that sealed the Russians’ fate; it was training, maintenance, and training that sealed their fate.

This fact comes up throughout naval history, and it applies now as well.

At the Surface Navy Association meeting on 11JAN17, the Vice Chief of Naval Operations, Admiral Bill Moran, USN played the Bishop of the Church of the Hard Truth to anyone who can only see new hulls;

Via John Grady from USNINews;

The message Navy leaders are sending to President-elect Donald Trump’s team is: We need money to keep the current 274 ships in the fleet maintained and modernized first and then give us the money to buy more ships.

Moran said the Navy is “lucky to get 90 percent” of what it needs in its readiness accounts.

In talking with the press and in his address, he said, “It is really hard to see the light at the end of the tunnel” if maintenance is continuously deferred, causing ships to be in the yards far longer in the yards than expected with costs rising commensurately.

“Deferred maintenance is insidiously taking its toll.”

Not only does this add greater risk and a growing gap between the combatant commanders’ requirements and what the service can deliver, “you can’t buy back that experience” and proficiency sailors lose when they can’t use their skills at sea.

“At some point, we have to dig ourselves out of the hole,”…

What is that dollar figure? How many years and how much per year, have we been deferring? What is the aggregate total of deferred maintenance?

Deficit spending leads to bankruptcy. Unaddressed deferred maintenance of a fleet leads to death, defeat at sea, and strategic risk to the nation it serves.

We need more of this conversation.



flyingreactor_drawingThere are some things that should stop everyone in their tracks. At the top of that list should be an apparent lack of risk awareness concerning nuclear weapons.

This line from Patrick Tucker’s article in last month’s The Atlantic stopped me cold;

Future nuclear missiles may be siloed but, unlike their predecessors, they’ll exhibit “some level of connectivity to the rest of the warfighting system,” according to Werner J.A. Dahm, the chair of the Air Force Scientific Advisory Board. That opens up new potential for nuclear mishaps that, until now, have never been a part of Pentagon planning. In 2017, the board will undertake a study to see how to meet those concerns. “Obviously the Air Force doesn’t conceptualize systems like that without ideas for how they would address those surety concerns,” said Dahm.

Stop. Stop right there.

If this reporting is accurate, the work of Air Force Scientific Advisory Board needs to be halted immediately and a thorough review of the members and leadership of the board conducted by an outside party.

Our nuclear weapons themselves must in no way be part of any IP connectivity or network enabled in any way. Full stop.

“We have formal Air Force documents that detail the formal certification process for nuclear weapons. To what extent do the current models for certifying nuclear systems carry over into these modern, network enabled systems and how would you re-conceptualize certification for systems that are likely to come out of these recap programs?” asked Dahm.

Some support systems? Sure, but command, control, mission loading, arming, and launch must be contained in a robust, hardened, isolated & closed system. Simple, almost primitive, with multiple physical human interfaces required. To be even thinking of network access to the weapons systems themselves is the height of irresponsibility; even more irresponsible than a reliance on GPS or satellite systems as a point of failure between authorization, launch, and “servicing the target.” Ahem.

This is the same kind of thinking that leads otherwise smart people to think “smart gun” technology is a good idea. It simply assumes away all risk, and places everything in the unstable hands of hubris-centered hope ungrounded by operational experience.

The fact that future nuclear weapons will be far more networked (though not necessarily to the open Internet) will create better safety and oversight, and allow for more coordinated operations. But more connectivity also introduces new potential vulnerabilities and dangers.

“You have to be able to certify that an adversary can’t take control of that weapon, that the weapon will be able to do what it’s supposed to do when you call on it,” said Dahm. “It isn’t just cyber. That’s definitely the biggest piece, but … When was the last time we built a new nuclear system? Designed and built one? It’s been several decades now. We, as an Air Force, haven’t done certification of new nuclear systems in a long time. These systems are different … What are the surety vulnerabilities for such a system, so to speak? How would you address them? How would you certify that the system will work when you need it to work and will do what it’s supposed to do?”

That’s what the study will cover.

The entire entering argument is wrong.

The only thing worse than the accidental launch of a nuclear weapon would be for our deterrent to be unable to perform when tasked – or worse – a hostile power thinks they can prevent its use.

Eric Schlosser’s book, Command and Control: Nuclear Weapons, the Damascus Accident, and the Illusion of Safety, is required reading for those not up to speed on how lucky we have been when it comes to nuclear weapons in case you are overconfident.

Opening additional paths for benign or malicious human malpractice?

No. Just no.



413IDUTnaWL._SX355_As we work our nogg’n’s to find a reasonable path to a realistic and sustainable fleet of 350 ships – do we need to look at the challenge a bit differently than our habit of throwing bags of IOU’s in our children’s name at it?

Matt Cavanaugh over at MWI has a fun bit about of all things, men’s shaving kit and what it can tell us about Russia vs. the USA – and how we buy the ability to force our will on others.

A sample. Stick with it;

In America, the most commonly used instrument is a plastic-handled, multi-bladed cartridge (usually three to five blades lashed together), which typically costs $3-5 per cartridge (though some lower-cost options are emerging—Harry’s, for example, are $2 each). The estimated lifetime cost of a daily shave for multi-bladed cartridges ranges from $7,000 for a Gillette Sensor3 to $22,000 for a Gillette Fusion ProShield (not including shaving cream!).

Russians and eastern Europeans, on the other hand, shave differently. In that part of the world, common usage is a steel-handled safety razor, designed to lock a single blade with two sides/edges into place—which is about a dime per blade. Estimated lifetime cost: $400.

Embarrassing, but enlightening. In this context, what a waste of capital – and are we really that much more smoothly shaved?

What would it be like to retrograde? What can a simple shave tell us about how we build our fleet of Sailors and ships?

So I bought a safety razor and have used it for the past six months … My observations: it’s not quite as good as a four- or five-bladed cartridge, and I did get a little bloody in transition, mostly owing to adjusting from a movable head to an inflexible steel variant. But the safety razor is at least 90 percent as good at 2–5 percent of the price. Put another way, I dropped 10 percent in performance to save 95–98 percent of the cost. That’s quite a bargain.

Let that set in. Now, think about what you have read about Russia’s economy, her military, her capability. Now, think again about shaving.

How does this translate?

…the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter (48 percent over budget on a program already planned to cost hundreds of billions of dollars), the DDG-51 guided missile destroyer (619 percent over on a hundred-billion-dollar-plus program), and the V-22 Osprey tiltrotor aircraft (44 percent over on a roughly sixty-billion-dollar program). [Note: figures cited in print and not digital edition.] But also recently, the New York Times published a massive cover story on Russian cyber efforts, calling it a “low-cost, high-impact weapon. … For Russia, with an enfeebled economy and a nuclear arsenal it cannot use short of an all-out war, cyberpower proved to be the perfect weapon: cheap, hard to see coming, hard to trace.” Even if contrasting these capabilities is apples to giraffes—the American/Russian strategic spending gap is noteworthy.

For each billion dollars increase in the Russian defense budget – how much more bang do they get compared to each billion of US defense spending?

Do you like the performance of the Russian corvettes in the Caspian and Mediterranean Seas? Do you, like me, sigh with longing at the SU-34?

As our good friend Jerry put it many moons ago; should we “Buy Fords, Not Ferraris?”

As Matt ended his article;

And as war inputs do not necessarily equal outputs, high investments will not guarantee optimal outcomes. From time to time, particularly in conflicts that appear to feature longer time frames, Americans could seek out simpler, less expensive options for strategic sustainability’s sake.

As with the Merkur handle, there is a shiny, silver-plated lining to this culture contrast: Americans willing to fight through the weight of cultural bias might acquire new tools for strategic success by appreciating the virtues of value and waging war on the cheap.

Ponderable.



21st

Ratings Return

December 2016

By

C0KsnRkXcAAMksULife comes at you fast.

Take a moment to click here to see where we were just a couple of months ago;

Mabus, sources said, was determined to put ratings reform in motion — and on the record — before he leaves office.

Mabus declined to speak with Navy Times. He and other top Navy officials, including Richardson and Burke, have said that the change, while a nod to gender neutrality, will facilitate sailors’ professional development and career advancement by freeing them to cross train and attain broader skills spanning multiple specialties. That should make them more marketable when they leave the military, too, they’ve noted.

“Course of action number one was simple: Remove man from titles,” Stevens said. “What we found was that you could in most cases, remove the word ‘man’ and replace it with the word specialist or technician…

The second proposal built upon the first and sought to determine whether the job titles in fact aligned with the work being done. An example here is yeoman; it’s a historic title, but it was decided that “administrative specialist” was a better fit for the work being performed, …

But none of the changes seemed right, he added. Taken in total, they did not amount to the profound change he felt the Navy needs. That’s when Stevens suggested something groundbreaking.

“What if we just eliminated rating titles altogether and simply referred to ourselves by our rate? That’s the traditional Navy word for rank. You could feel the air leave the room,” he said.

In a sign of what a critical issue this was for our Navy – on social media Tuesday and burning through emails everywhere – a neck-snapping leak announced that a 180 took place just in time for Christmas.

Leaked early message below;

SUBJ/NAVY RATING MODERNIZATION NEXT STEPS//
RMKS/1. This NAVADMIN announces updates to the implementation effort to transform current Navy Enlisted Career Management processes.
2. This NAVADMIN supersedes NAVADMIN 218/16 and directs the restoration of Navy Rating Titles.
3. Our goals for modernizing the enlisted career development program – rating modernization – are to provide greater choice and flexibility for our Sailors with respect to detailing and training, to provide greater flexibility for the Navy in assigning highly trained personnel, and to increase professional alignment with civilian employers. We strongly believe that providing this flexibility will make us a more capable Navy.
4. Since we made the initial rating modernization announcement in September, the SECNAV, MCPON and I, along with other Navy leadership, have had the opportunity to speak with thousands of Sailors during our travels throughout the fleet. The feedback from current and former Sailors has been consistent that there is wide support for the flexibility that the plan offers, but the removal of rating titles detracted from accomplishing our major goals. Furthermore, there has been a solid body of thoughtful input that pointed out that there is a way to have the benefits of the rating modernization program without removing rating titles.
5. I have been adamant that our Navy needs to be a fast-learning organization – that includes our leadership. The Design for Maintaining Maritime Superiority states that our most junior teammate may have the best idea and that we must be open to capturing that idea. We have learned from you, and so effective immediately, all rating names are restored.
6. This course correction doesn’t mean our work is done – rating modernization will continue for all the right reasons. Modernizing our industrial-age personnel system in order to provide Sailors choice and flexibility still remains a priority for us. As we execute the rating modernization plan, more Sailors will have multiple occupational skill sets or ratings. We will need to tackle the issue of managing rating names. We will continue to involve Sailors throughout the Fleet, using the Rating Modernization working group to figure out how to best do that.
7. Every Fleet, Force and Command Master Chief, and all Navy Counselors know how to provide input to our working groups. You also have a direct line to send your ideas to me at “[redacted]@navy.mil”.
8. Learning faster requires having a plan, getting feedback, and quickly acting on that feedback. This adjustment reflects our commitment to fast learning at every level. As this process moves forward we will continue to assess our performance and correct our course as appropriate.
10. Released by Adm. John Richardson, CNO.//
BT
#0001
NNNN
UNCLASSIFIED//

The official message should be out by early Wednesday, but to his great credit and his staff, CNO Richardson took to facebook to let everyone know that, yes, it is going to happen.



Bravo Zulo to all behind the scenes that made this happen. This clears an unnecessary distraction out of the way of the new team that will be leading our Navy next year so they can concentrate on moving our Navy forward in to more productive changes.

In the fullness of time, we’ll know the story about how this change took place, but that will be for another time.

This is a great day for our Navy and its Sailors. Put a bow on it, we’ll call it an early Christmas.



Posted by CDRSalamander in Navy | 62 Comments
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furious_and_camelsLast week we saw the 75th Pearl Harbor Day pass us by. There are libraries full of books about how it should not have been a surprise. Some of the examples given as to why it was not an “unknown” threat can be attributed from the Japanese history of surprise attacks from the sea, to the example of the British attack on the Italian Fleet 13 months earlier in Taranto.

Even before then – if you were looking (and many were) – the direction towards the aircraft carrier being used to negate power ashore was already set.

On a summer day in July of 1918, seven Sopwith Camel took off from the proto-CV HMS FURIOUS for the Zeppelin sheds in what was then Tondern, Germany.

The only thing between that day and a beautiful Sunday morning 23 years later was time and the progress of technology.

Today, there is a lot of speculation of how our Navy should progress with unmanned systems as the experience with the MQ-25 Stingray (AKA CBARS or Carrier-Based Aerial Refueling System) grows.

This isn’t the start of unmanned systems, not even close. In one way or another, we have been doing this for decades. The post 2001 Long War requirements have upped the progress. CBARS is just another chapter in that – or will be once we start deploying with it.

As we started this post with the British, let’s return to them to make the point. I would highly recommend a read of the British Ministry of Defence aircraft statistics during operations in Afghanistan, or as they call it – Op HERRICK .

– Harriers were used in Afghanistan from 2004 to 2009, when they were withdrawn from service and replaced by Tornados, which were used up to the end of Op HERRICK. Harrier and Tornado flew more than 56,000 hours in total, averaging about 500 hours per month between 2007 and 2013.
– Reaper was introduced in Afghanistan in 2007. Unlike Harrier and Tornado, Reaper is remotely piloted and is primarily tasked in an Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance role, but also has an armed capability. Reaper’s annual flying hours steadily increased between its introduction in 2007 and 2011, due to a staged increase in Reaper platforms arriving in Theatre and the subsequent increase in missions flown. Reaper flew more than 71,000 hours in total, averaging just over 1,000 hours per month in 2011 and 2012. This increased in 2013 and 2014.
– … Hermes aircraft flew over 85,000 hours in Afghanistan in total, and the Desert Hawks more than 18,000 hours.

Look at those numbers again.

For the more visually minded, I offer to you these two graphs from our friends over at ThinkDefence;
op-herrick-air-stats-2-740x393

op-herrick-air-stats-1-740x456
All caveats apply about bandwidth, air supremacy, electromagnetic dominance, etc … but still – this is what it is.

Look at it close. Ponder; what next?
CBARS



7th

The 7th, in Color

December 2016

By

calmbeforethestormSo much is written about the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor that I don’t think much more could be added here this year.

Instead, let’s use the power of color to bring to the front one of the most important lessons of this attack. This isn’t ancient history that is best looked at in the abstract. On the fading edge of living memory, yes, but still every bit of why we were caught flat footed applies to what we do today.

Perhaps part of the problem is that we see it in grainy black and white photographs and a few bits of video. It seems a long time ago, an “other.”

From false assumptions, habits worn in peace, and the natural belief that bad things only happen to other people in other places – it is all there.

As such, I find this collection of color video from that day and the world it took place in to be helpful, if for no other reason than to recall that their world is our world. What happened to them, with other players and with a slightly different set, could very well happen again.



Posted by CDRSalamander in History | No Comments
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30th

21st Century Thucydides

November 2016

By

513760d6c5bdc3fcc7768baf991682a6OK, there isn’t a “21st Century Thucydides” coming out as part of the exceptional USNI Press 21st Century Foundations series, but work with me a bit here.

If we are going to review the great minds of the 19th and 20th Centuries, then why not from the 400s BC? The Peloponnesian War lasted 30 years. We are 15 years in to a low degree but still very real war against expansionist Islamic fundamentalism and rising powers to the left and right of us. There has to be something there.

Why look at what happened between two city-states at the dawn of Western history? Take awhile to read Mark Gilchrist’s article at RCD, Why Thucydides Still Matters;

Thucydides’ History of the Peloponnesian War is a book that all who seek to understand the influence of war must read.

…reading The Peloponnesian War we come to realise the complexities of modern life have not rendered everything experienced by past generations irrelevant to the problems of today.[1] In fact, as he intended, Thucydides provides a sound basis from which to discover how best to approach the complex problems facing contemporary strategists through allowing us to better understand war’s continuities and discontinuities.

Thucydides charts the impact of war on the character of the states involved. He uses Athens’ transformation as a cautionary tale about what war will do to a state unprepared for its influence and of the cost of applying power unwisely or unjustly in the pursuit of a political objective. His writing is grounded in the understanding that war’s nature is inextricably linked to human nature, which in turn shapes the strategic and military culture that manifest in war’s character and the political objectives for which it is fought. Through a narrative approach, his work serves as a warning about the moral decline of society over the course of protracted war.

As we try to understand today why Russia does what it does, why China is motivated to push where she is pushing, it is helpful to recall that human nature, at its base, has not changed for thousands of years;

Thucydides tells us there is a tipping point where a rising power becomes too powerful to contain. By this point, conflict between near equals may present as an inevitability, particularly when junior allies are agitating for action from the dominant partner. In such circumstances, war’s political objective can be heavily influenced by fearing the costs of not going to war as much as a fear of war itself.

About 2/3 of the way through Gilchrist’s article, I was reminded of another one on Thucydides I read over a decade ago by one of the premier classicists of our day, Professor Victor Davis Hanson, in his 2003 review in Commentary Magazine of Donald Kagan’s book, The Peloponnesian War.

As he is want to do, Hanson uses every opportunity to grab his reader by the lapels and plead with them to know that the keys to the unlocking all their questions are there, and have been for thousands of years.

The Peloponnesian War, then, is not really so ancient. Even if some classicists think that Athens’s war with Sparta was relatively uninteresting, outsiders still write books with titles like War and Democracy: A Comparative Study of the Korean War and the Peloponnesian War or Hegemonic Rivalry: From Thucydides to the Nuclear Age. The conflict continues to be evoked in the present—its supposed lessons both astutely and clumsily applied to most of our own wars of the last century.

Why is this ancient war between tiny Athens and Sparta still so often used and misused? First, it was long—twenty-seven years—and it lined up the entire Greek world into opposite armed camps. Second, the two antagonists were antithetical in nearly every respect, and thus the bipolar fighting was proclaimed to be a final arbiter of their respective values—political and cultural values that still divide us today. Third, it started in Greece’s great Golden Age, and its attendant calamity was felt to have ended for good that period of great promise. Fourth, players in the war were the greats of Hellenic civilization—Socrates, Pericles, Euripides, Alcibiades, Sophocles, Aristophanes, and others—and their lives and work reflect that seminal experience. Fifth, Athens lost, casting into doubt ever since not merely the power but also the morality of democracy, especially when it executed Socrates in the war’s aftermath. Sixth—and at last we arrive at the theme of the Oxford Classical Dictionary’s brief entry on the war—Greece’s preeminent historian, Thucydides, was not merely an analytical and systematic writer of a great extant history; he was also a brilliant philosopher who tried to lend to the events of the war a value that transcended his own time, making his history of ideas “a possession for all time” that could furnish lessons for men at war in any age. Thucydides’ man of the ages is a pretty savage creature whose known murderous proclivities are kept in check—albeit just barely—by an often tenuous and hard-to-maintain civilization.

During moments of big change – and we are about to go through one in the course of the next few months – many will wonder; what is coming next? What should we look for? What have others done?

To see the future, you have to be comfortable with and acceptable of the past.

Most wars, of course, do not end like they start. Before Shiloh (April 6–8, 1862), for example, Grant thought one great battle would win the Civil War. After the battle he realized that years, thousands of lives, and millions of dollars in capital were needed to ruin rather than defeat a recalcitrant Confederacy. So too the Spartans marched into Attica in Spring 431 BC thinking that a year or two of old-style ravaging of fields would bring them victory; seven years later neither side was closer to victory, and they still had another twenty far-worse seasons to go.

The Peloponnesian War itself proved to be a colossal paradox. Sparta had the most feared infantry in the Greek world. Yet it was Sparta’s newly created navy that finally won the great battles of the war. Democratic Athens sent almost 40,000 allied soldiers to their deaths trying to capture far-off Syracuse, the largest democracy in the Greek world—even as thousands more of her enemies were to plunder her property with impunity less than twenty miles outside her walls from the base at Decelea. Alcibiades at times proved the savior of Athens, Sparta, and Persia—and their collective spoiler as well. Athens started the war off with gold piled high in its majestic Parthenon; it ended the conflict broke and unable even to flute the final columns of the Propylae, the monumental gateway to the still unfinished temples on the acropolis. Sparta fielded the most terrifying army in Greece, and yet most of its opponents fell not in pitched battle, but rather either to disease, at sea, or in guerrilla-style killing.

So, get to the bookshelf. Put down the fiction and reach deep.

Others have been here before. They’ve learned lessons you didn’t even know existed. All you need to gather this treasure of knowledge is time to read and open eyes to see.

Kagan’s abridged Peloponnesian War is still important because the solid judgment of its author remains throughout. No one—not a majestic Pericles, a fiery Cleon, or the chameleon Alcibiades—can fool Don Kagan; he appreciates the genius of bad men he does not like, and praises the inspiration of rogues he despises. Bad plans like Sicily can work if implemented well; good ideas of good men failed in the Delium campaign for bad luck and the simple want of common sense. Things about radical Athens bother him, but not to such a degree that he denies its energy and dynamism. He admires Spartan discipline, but hardly the blinkered society that was at the bottom of it all. If democracy was often murderous, oligarchy and tyranny brought the same violence but without the grandeur.

Finally and most importantly, Kagan has no condescension for his subjects. Cleon and Brasidas, Nicias and Lysander are not silly squabbling ancient peoples in need of modern enlightenment, but men of universal appetites to be taken on their own terms, just like us whose occasional crackpot ideas, fears, jealousies, and sins can sometimes—if the thin veneer of civilization is suddenly stripped away—lead into something absolutely godawful. If you don’t agree, ask the Serbians, Rwandans, Afghans—or those with cell phones and briefcases who politely boarded planes to butcher thousands.

Nothing is new; only new to you.



VLIn the next few weeks to months we should find out who will be the next Secretary of the Navy. Especially with President-Elect Trump’s desire for a path to a 350 ship Navy, there will be a lot of fine detailed work to be done, but out the door there is a larger theme that I would recommend to whoever finds their way in the office; back to fundamentals.

Long deployments, running rust due to fewer deck Seamen and less time and money to do preservation, DDG-1000 that can’t survive a Panama Canal transit, LCS engineering casualties almost every fortnight – these and other items are just external manifestations of a Navy that is a bit off balance. Some will argue that many of the causes of this ill-resonance felt throughout our Navy predate the present SECNAV, but that isn’t really the issue at hand.

What would be more important than attacking detailed issues first? Former Navy Intel Officer and Asst. Secretary of State Robert Charles recent article, Securing the Navy, had me thinking about that last night.

He based his article on the SEP 2016 Navy survey (which if anyone has a copy, I’d love to see it). Some of his observations are a bit evergreen,

…sailors are “increasingly unhappy with lengthy deployments, high operational tempo, and calls to reduce pay and benefits,”

“Sailors are most likely to leave uniformed service because of poor work/life balance, low servicewide morale

Yep. I think you will get that in almost any survey to one degree or another.

Then some other items are brought up;

How did we get here, … leadership appears to have become distracted or dissuaded from traditional ways of inspiring, rewarding, reinforcing and guiding men and women. Instead, leadership became enamored with domestic political ends and social engineering, forgetting to inspire and reward the resolve of men and women in uniform.

The next administration needs to focus on the Navy not as a social experiment, not as a way of pulling in fringe votes for fringe candidates, but as a group of professionals, selfless and committed, patriotic and hard-working, mission-focused and mutually respecting. They deserve good leadership, leaders devoted to them and to their success, not to political agendas. Individual careers matter, and so does the mission to which individuals devote their lives, assuring America’s national security.

A good starting point. As a great man one said; excellence is achieved by a mastery of the fundamentals.

In David Maraniss’s book on Coach Lombardi, When Pride Still Mattered: A Life of Vince Lombardi, the author outlined what Lombardi said to his new players in the summer of 1961.

He took nothing for granted. He began a tradition of starting from scratch, assuming that the players were blank slates who carried over no knowledge from the year before… He began with the most elemental statement of all. “Gentlemen,” he said, holding a pigskin in his right hand, “this is a football.”

Fundamentals. The basics. One should always make sure those are mastered first – but when things don’t seem to be going right, then what? You need to step back a bit and start again with the basics.

A lot of SECNAV Mabus’s time in office and political capital was spent on items a few layers beyond Navy basics; “green” fuel, shoehorning women in to every USMC combat position possible, excising “man” from ratings … no wait … eliminating ratings altogether, and a few other priorities. We all have our list. It was his watch, he had his priorities. Fair.

What would be a good start for the next SECNAV? Perhaps a start would be a moment to state, rather simply,

This is a Navy.



16th

A WESTPAC Missile Gap?

November 2016

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One of the worst kept secrets is that the balance of our surface fleet can do very little surface warfare outside their 5″ gun. Sure, we can play defense until Winchester like champs, but more often than not we’re hoping the aviation side of the house will be there to punch back – and if their lucky, a SSN might be lurking about. Hope and Luck; not a warrior’s ethos.

Like a fleet of Lotus Eaters, through compromise, risk hedging, and pulling the cost-saving short straw – we drifted through a post-Cold War complacency and a post-GWOT ground combat focus to a point where we decided that we would be happy to rely on an increasingly dated ASCM, Harpoon, on fewer and fewer platforms. As we advanced with our primary surface combatant, offensive ASUW was so out of mind that when it came time to move from Flight II to Flight IIA, we decided we didn’t need even Harpoon. As a result, the majority of our most numerous class of surface combatant can’t really effectively engage other warships at sea in combat. We’re the US Navy – who would ever want to challenge us at sea? Right?

Our FF(not-so-G) could carry Harpoon, but they are long gone after the even earlier removable of their ASUW capable SM-1. Our CG can, but they need to stay close to the bird farm. With an arc welder, duct tape and a few pounds of bailing wire, we managed to slap a few ASCM on a LCS – but that is about it when you run out of the Harpoon capable Flight I and Flight II Arleigh Burkes, 28 out of the 76 commissioned or planned of the class.

This is well known, and in the last few years some steps have been taken to patch up the gap. LRASM is under development, we’ve played around with the option of the Norwegian Naval Strike Missile, and there are steps to bringing back the anti-ship capability of the TLAM. Some people will shyly whisper about the sort-of ASUW capability of the SM-2 – but that argument usually never survives first contact with a raised eyebrow. We’re coding ASUW in to the SM-6 – but how many of those will be forward deployed in 2020? 2025? A lot can happen between now and then – so what does one do?

This is good and should receive more funds to accelerate the gap-fill. In the last decade or so, from the “1,000 Ship Navy” to “We Don’t Need Frigates, but if We Do, Our Allies Have That Capability,” response, we have assumed that others will be able to cover capabilities we don’t have. Well, more news came across recently involving our most capable partner nation at sea, the British Royal Navy;

Royal Navy warships will be left without anti-ship missiles and be forced to rely on naval guns because of cost-cutting, the Ministry of Defence has admitted.

The Navy’s Harpoon missiles will retire from the fleet’s frigates and destroyers in 2018 without a replacement, while there will also be a two year gap without helicopter-launched anti-shipping missiles.

So, we’ve got that going for us in the Global Maritime Partnership, which is nice.

That is a summary of where we are – and this topic of an offensive ASUW shortfall comes up inside navalist conversations on a regular basis – but it never gets the traction it should. Perhaps it is because we just have not used the right methods to demonstrate it.

Well, I think we have a solution from to that educational challenge at least.

From the Autumn issue of the Naval War College Review, Lieutenant Alan Cummings, USN, has a must-read article, A Thousand Splendid Guns.

I’ll let you read the full article, but there are two images that provides an overview of our ASCM shortfall in crisp profile.

When looking at the Chinese Navy in WESTPAC, how do our surface units that can or should carry ASCM line up – just in quantity?
Ship
Yes, I know there is quite the quality differential. That really isn’t the point – not the time to go down that rabbit hole in comments. Focus.

Let’s look at what these units bring to the ASCM fight.
ascm
Put your, “but..but…but” points about defensive capabilities and whose weapons are more primitive in the corner and look at that in detail, and you see the problem.

Ponder.



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