Tuesday, October 17, 2017

The line is holding ... but you can hear the load it is carrying

Many of the threads we've discussed here over the years have come together in this one deployment of a cruiser.

In all the discussions about what we need to do to remain the premier naval power in the world and the tools we provide our Navy to do it, there is a lot of theory talking about talking. That is natural, as it is easy to hide some problems from the general public and even those in "the know" when your greatest challenge is yourself. 

Often in peace, when things are not where they need to be nothing bad happens. Why should it? They system is not under stress. Likewise, when things are going real well, nothing really bad happens either. It is hard to find something that you can put your hands on to get a tactile feel of what is going on.

The USS MONTEREY (CG 61) just gave us one of those moments. We should take a moment to see why the world's largest Navy continues to show the signs - from retention to collisions at sea - of an organization under stress from overuse.

We did not get here by accident. From the rise of China, the demographic/economic/religious drivers of migration and terrorism, to the expansion of mid-20th Century weapons technology - all the threats we see evolved in clear sight.

How did we get there?

First of all are the 2nd and 3rd order effects of the manning concepts of the Transformationalists. Instead of seeing our Sailors as our greatest asset, instead they saw only costs. As a result, they were treated as green-eyeshade mentalities have always treated people as a cost.

The shambolic mess of at-sea manning speaks for itself.

Instead of joining a long, almost anonymous list of people making strong, steady progress in evolving the fleet step by step, they decided to reach for fame in an arrogant leap as none have done before - to succeed for their name - or sell the future of others to fate when it was time to make the flash flesh.

LCS, DDG-1000, CG(N?)-X, and the restart of the DDG-51 line speaks for itself.

Training and readiness were no longer seen as how one prepares and measures the ability to take ships and Sailors to go in harm's way when the time comes, but uncomfortable and difficult things that if not properly "shaped" might produce the wrong color on a stoplight PPT. Fudge, hedge, ignore.

The material condition of the SPRU as we decomm'd them were the first sign, and then to the everyday results of a the lack of depot level support requiring already undermanned ships to do that work themselves that we see today speaks for itself.

We will do more than less, not because it is the best thing to do, but because it is what we want to do to make the theory flesh, get our check in the block, and hopefully make it through the change of command ceremony without a bad FITREP, crunched ships, and dead Sailors.

The initial reports of the factors that led to the FITZGERALD and MCCAIN speaks for itself.

Instead of a natural progression from the TICO cruiser, we created an unaffordable, program and technology risk laden monster that went nowhere. We still do not have a modern frigate - or any frigates for that matter. We tried to force-mode a "no frigate" requirements on a world that demanded them. We still do not have a DDG-X design. Will the Arleigh Burkes become the Navy's B-52, where four generations of a family will serve on the same platform?

And in OCT of 2017, where have two decades of malpractice gotten us? We find ourselves at the second half of the second decade of the 21st Century surrounded by threats in hostile waters we watched grow for years and did little ... and are found wanting not by some exotic and advanced adversary - but our inability to execute the very basics of seamanship from anchoring to avoiding being run over by merchant ships.

With no great battles at sea, no lurking threat in the deep attriting our fleet, we are running short of ships.

...and so, we have to do this;
The Ticonderoga-class guided-missile cruiser USS Monterey (CG 61) departed Naval Station Norfolk Oct. 16, for a surge deployment to the U.S. 5th Fleet and U.S. 6th Fleet areas of operation.
Why?
The guided-missile cruiser Monterey will deploy on Oct. 16 as the Navy shuffles ships around to ensure there are enough ballistic-missile defense ships in the Pacific in the wake of two major accidents that rendered the destroyer’s McCain and Fitzgerald unable to deploy.

“Monterey will leave on a previously unscheduled deployment to the 5th and 6th Fleet areas to conduct maritime security operations,” Lt. Cmdr. Courtney Hillson told Navy Times Thursday.

“This deployment will allow the Hawaii-based destroyer O‘Kane to deploy to 7th Fleet to provide more BMD-capable ships in the region,” she said, referring to ships with ballistic-missile defense systems.
Didn't MONTEREY just get back from deployment? Yes, she did;
It will be Monterey’s second deployment to both regions in the past year. Monterey left Norfolk June 1, 2016, as part of the Eisenhower Carrier Strike Group and spent most of that deployment in 5th Fleet supporting operations there. The ship returned home Jan. 19.
Deployed 7.5 months. Home 9 months. Deploying again.

This 27-yr old cruiser and her crew are headed out again. Didn't we just spend a couple of months talking about how riding our ships hard and leaving them up wet, along with burning out crews was bad?

The MONTEREY will turn-to and take care of business as ships and Sailors have done for thousands of years. The why and when are the responsibility of senior leadership. I hope she has the material, training, and manning support she requires that the MCCAIN and FITZGERALD didn't.

This little vignette is exactly why the likes of Jerry Hendrix and Bryan McGrath have been warning that our Navy is too small.

We know what not to do, but we continue to do it - because we have decided we "have to." Hope isn't a plan, as the saying goes - but that is where we are. We hope that the MONTEREY will not find herself in a place where she demonstrates what we just got through telling Congress and the American people what happens when you ask too much - stretch demands too far - of our ships and the very human men and women we put on them.

The line is holding fast, but can you hear that? That sound resonating up and down the line?

Monday, October 16, 2017

The Report on the HMS SHEFFIELD: 35-yrs Later

Top of the fold article in the UK's The Guardian that should demand your attention this AM.

Ian Cobain has a superb summary following a review of the fully declassified results from the board of inquiry into the loss of the Sheffield during The Falkland Islands War.

I'll make the assumption that my readers are very familiar with the attack on the SHEFFIELD, if not - slap yourself three times, get to the bookcase and comeback. Instead, here are some of the findings as reported by Ian. And yes, we can all see this moment in time on ships we've served on;
- Some members of the crew were “bored and a little frustrated by inactivity” and the ship was “not fully prepared” for an attack.

- The anti-air warfare officer had left the ship’s operations room and was having a coffee in the wardroom when the Argentinian navy launched the attack, while his assistant had left “to visit the heads” (relieve himself). 
- The radar on board the ship that could have detected incoming Super Étendard fighter aircraft had been blanked out by a transmission being made to another vessel.

- When a nearby ship, HMS Glasgow, did spot the approaching aircraft, the principal warfare officer in the Sheffield’s ops room failed to react, “partly through inexperience, but more importantly from inadequacy”.

- The anti-air warfare officer was recalled to the ops room, but did not believe the Sheffield was within range of Argentina’s Super Étendard aircraft that carried the missiles.
- When the incoming missiles came into view, officers on the bridge were “mesmerised” by the sight and did not broadcast a warning to the ship’s company.
I have a lot of sympathy for the crew and leadership of the SHEFFIELD. They fit in a centuries long record of navies content in peace having a spotty transition to war.

The attack always come at a bad time, from a bad direction, doing things you were trained the enemy could not do, when you are worn down by constant watches and little sleep. 

At the end of the day, later with plenty of time, hindsight, and comfort; other people ashore will pick and pick at every detail to find fault - and so it was, is, and will be.

Before one judges too much Captain Salt, RN and his crew, make the effort to read it all - and understand the context and time.

I cannot find an online copy of the unredacted version The Guardian mentions, but here is a copy of the previously highly redacted copy.

The results continue to rightfully influence ship design and training. There are very few examples of what can happen in modern naval combat, and the weapons have not changed all that much in the last few decades - and physics along with the human element are unchanged.

Friday, October 13, 2017

Fullbore Friday

No more complaining about a long Sea & Anchor detail.

What a great story about a frigate ... and three hurricanes.

Read the full thing, but here is how it starts;
THE 24-gun frigate H.M.S. Experiment was built in 1740 by Henry Bird of Rotherhithe. She sailed on her maiden voyage on 21 July 1740 from Spithead to join Vice-Admiral Vernon's squadron in the West Indies. Her captain was James Rentone, who had piloted Vernon's squadron into Portobello Harbour and had been given the honour of bearing the news of Vernon's victory to the king. George II had rewarded him with a present of 200 guineas and the promise of a 6o-gun ship. Under his command H.M.S. Experiment had nearly completed her passage to the West Indies when she received her first taste of what a hurricane could do.

By her reckoning she was in latitude 16° 34' N, longitude 43° 04', west of Madeira. Her log reads:
Saturday 30 August 1740
The first part fresh gales and squally, the latter a very hard Gale of wind at NNE and NE with a great swell from the ESE. At 6 p.m. took all the reefs in the topsails, furld the foretopsail, bunted the courses, brought too under main topsail and got down the topgallant yards: at 1 a.m. handed maintops'!, lower'd the main and foreyards and reef'd the courses: at daybreak the gale continued increasing and, having no hopes of its breaking, about r o a.m. cut away the topmasts to save the lower masts: soon after the mizon mast went away at the lower part of the hounds: the sea made a breach over the ship and we kept one pump constantly going, the wynch of the other being broke render'd it useless: lost one of the swivell guns over board by the fall of the foretop mast and had one of the lower studding sail booms wash'd away and severall other things of the deck harness, barr'l with beef 45 pd. and sev'l casks.

Sunday 31 August 1740
The first part a violent storm of wind from NE to East with a very great sea making a breach over us, the latter part the gale somewhat abated: at 4 a.m. the foresail being split in pieces cut him away from the yard and lost most part of the canvas: at 8 a.m. bent a new foresail and set the reef' d courses.
On that afternoon her company raised a jury maintopmast and let the reefs out of the courses. On the next day they got up a fire-boom for a foretopmast and a maintopgallant yard for a topsail yard. At daybreak on 3 September they sighted Antigua and sailed into English Harbour. There Captain Rentone delivered the Duke of Newcastle's letters to General Mathews and wrote to the Admiralty a description of the hurricane which adds a little to the log-book entry.
I made a great deal of water, my comings being very low and the tarpaulings, tho' double battened, being insufficient to keep it from getting down in a very great quantity for 14 hours which the gale continued without the least intermission and one of my pumps disabled by the wynch breaking so that I had but one to depend on and that almost constantly going and if the gale had continued many hours longer, the least increase of water would have made it very difficult to save the ship.
Hat tip Society for Nautical Research.

Thursday, October 12, 2017

Diversity Thursday

Apple's first VP of Diversity and Inclusion goes Salamander?

It seems so;
“Diversity is the human experience. I get a little bit frustrated when diversity or the term diversity is tagged to the people of color, or the women, or the LGBT.” Her answer was met with a round of applause at the session.

Young Smith went on to add that “there can be 12 white, blue-eyed, blonde men in a room and they’re going to be diverse too because they’re going to bring a different life experience and life perspective to the conversation.” The issue, Young Smith explains, “is representation and mix.” She is keen to work to bring all voices into the room that “can contribute to the outcome of any situation.”

Young Smith wants to also focus on “allies and alliances,” and called on “those who have platforms or those who have the benefit of greater representation to tell the stories of those who do not.” She said when that’s accomplished, it’s a “win for everyone.”
In a month where we are looking for good news, I'll take it at face value.

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Relax, no Coup

One of the less enlightened talking points of the last few weeks was started by the left flailing away at Trump, but instead just smearing the military. Their whole argument is both an insult to history and to the intelligence of the reader.

It has been bubbling up over the last few months from those associated with the previous administration. Mostly that group who floated around in the miasma one found in the Rhodes/Rice/Powers circles. They and their comrades seem to be suffering, ahem, from a little historical amnesia seasoned with varying degrees of fainting-couch flopping and communal bed wetting.

Last week, Jerry Hendrix & Adam Routh writing over at National Review showed mercy by bringing in a truck-load of cold water to this sad intellectual spectacle.
It seems that President Trump’s reliance upon retired and active-duty generals in staffing the upper echelons of his administration has raised concerns among a large number of well-informed people.

With retired Marine general John Kelly serving as White House chief of staff, retired Marine general James Mattis serving as secretary of defense, and Lieutenant General H. R. McMaster serving as national-security adviser, charges are being levied that the nation has embarked down a dangerous path. Some feel that the abundance of retired military officers in high-level government positions undermines the “non-partisan nature of the military” and decreases the public’s trust in its armed forces. Others are of the opinion that Trump’s reliance on military men will “throw off the balance of a system that for good reason favors civilian leadership.
They bring up Stephen Kinzen in the Boston Globe as a solid example of this breathless irresponsibility.
Among the most enduring political images of the 20th century was the military junta. It was a group of grim-faced officers — usually three — who rose to control a state. The junta would tolerate civilian institutions that agreed to remain subservient, but in the end enforced its own will. As recently as a few decades ago, military juntas ruled important countries including Chile, Argentina, Turkey, and Greece.

These days the junta system is making a comeback in, of all places, Washington. Ultimate power to shape American foreign and security policy has fallen into the hands of three military men: General James Mattis, the secretary of defense; General John Kelly, President Trump’s chief of staff; and General H.R. McMaster, the national security adviser.
That guy, that overheated and ill-informed guy, is – perhaps not shockingly – a professor at Brown University.

Everyone needs to take a powder.
The historical fact is that the government of the United States has always relied heavily upon retired military men for advice and service. Three former generals — George Marshall, Alexander Haig, and Colin Powell — have served as secretary of state. A fleet admiral and a general — William Leahy and Haig — have served as White House chief of staff. One vice admiral and four generals — John Poindexter, Brent Scowcroft, Powell, James Jones, and McMaster — have served as national-security adviser. The military has also played strong leading roles in the nation’s intelligence community, with ten admirals or general officers serving as either the director of central intelligence or the director of national intelligence. Additionally, while only two former generals have served as secretary of defense since the position was established in 1947, of the 56 men who served as secretary of war before that position was replaced by the secretary of defense, eleven had served previously at the military rank of general. Even more important, twelve of our nation’s 45 presidents have held the rank of general, beginning with General of the Armies George Washington and ending (for now) with General of the Army Dwight Eisenhower, who left office in January 1961.
There is an additional factor to keep in mind to help explain why we have so many General Officers in the Trump Administration. In 2016, as a reaction to what rightfully is considered a hostile takeover of the Republican Party, many of our best and most experienced right-of-center leaders took themselves out of consideration for any position serving a possible Trump Administration. That narrowed the pool of people to pick from to either Trump partisans or those who kept themselves quiet to neutral.

There are consequences to elections and actions taken in the course of one. In the end though,
...everyone should take a breath. Historically, the appointment of former and actively serving generals to high-level political positions has been the norm. The service of former generals in high office does not signal the beginning of a military coup today any more than George Marshall’s service in the 1950s indicated an attempt to overthrow civilian authority then, nor does the service of retired military officers threaten to damage the reputation of the military so long as they provide considered advice and act in a responsible manner.

Monday, October 09, 2017

Engineering is hard. Even harder in a global marketplace

New ships and their engineering plants have a long history of growing pains of one cause or another. Our LCS and the Royal Navy Type-45 are just two of the most recent examples.

At the end of this small article at StrategyPage.com's Murphy's Law about the next batch of 5 German Navy K130 corvettes, the author brings up a couple of issues that are a bit under-appreciated;
The first five K130s didn’t enter service until 2010 because it was found that there was a serious problem with the first ones delivered. It seems that the gearbox for the diesel engines were defective. Some screws came loose, fell into the gears, causing them fail. The gearbox was manufactured by a Swiss firm, and the Swiss reputation for flawless engineering was believed to have made a problem like this nearly impossible. But it turned out that the Swiss subcontracted much of the work to a Polish firm, which did not have the same Swiss standards of engineering excellence. The Germans demanded that the Swiss clear up this mess and delayed the first K130s entering service until 2010. The first two K130s were commissioned in 2008, but were soon decommissioned until the gearbox problems were addressed. Three more K130s were not commissioned until they had any needed modifications to their gearboxes and five were in service by 2013.
First issue: when you outsource your engineering - don't assume that is the end of the outsourcing chain. If you are "buying" a supplier's reputation, and are you actually getting that which you thing you're buying?

Second issue: while the peacetime economics may be sound, what are the potential issues at war with having significant parts of your warships built in other nations - especially ones that are not even allied with you?

When the next multi-year nation-state on nation-state war comes, which it will, who will be able at war to best get around the outsourcing efficiencies of peace?