Tuesday, August 23, 2016

The "T" in T-AKE stands for "Toothy"

This is a 100% Salamander endorsed effort. If we are going to discuss "Distributed Lethality," then let's also discuss "Distributed Risk."

Spreading assets around different platforms does more than just mitigate some risk, it also expands a Commander's options and complicates an enemy's targeting.

Via Lance M. Bacon over at MarineTimes;
Military Sealift Command is making Marine-driven changes to its nontraditional fleet to give amphibious forces a greater edge on an ever-evolving battlefield. The developments promise to advance the Corps’ use of alternative platforms for everything from maritime security and riverine missions to disaster response and flight operations.

The MV-22 is also key to this new concept.
...one key conversion will enable dry cargo and ammunition ships to stow an MV-22 Osprey.

MSC dedicated two dry cargo and ammunition ships (the two oldest) to the Marine Corps pre-positioning fleet: Lewis and Clark, and Sacagawea. They provide ammunition, food, repair parts, stores and small quantities of fuel — but the aft flight deck is a highlight among Marine strategists who have used ships from the T-AKE class as alternate command, control, operational and logistics platforms in recent exercises.

Landing an Osprey is not enough. The Corps has asked for a converted hangar that will allow an MV-22 to be folded and stowed. Sacagawea will receive these modifications during a regular overhaul planned to run from October through January, ...Dry cargo and ammo ships aren’t the only ones slated for an amphibious upgrade. Two expeditionary fast transports — Spearhead and Trenton — have upgraded cranes that allow boats and personnel to launch from the mission bay. That modification will eventually be added to all EPF ships, Thackrah said.
There are some issues to quibble - but let's not let the good and doable lose to the perfect and unattainable;
Because it is a USNS ship, rather than USS, it cannot conduct “belligerent acts.” While the shallow-draft catamaran can quickly move troops deep into littoral areas, it has no mounted guns or defense systems. And a reasonable explosion would likely tear through the commercial-based aluminum vessel.

In fact, its weak structure requires the ship be delivered to theater and remain there.

“They do not do well in rough seas,” Thackrah said. “They are a ship based off the design of a commercial ferryboat. There is a safe operating envelope for the ship, and they are proving that if you violate the safe operating envelope, you can wrinkle them up. But this is not an open-ocean vessel. This is a near-shore, high-speed vessel.”

Many hulls have cracked and been damaged by strong seas. This was evident when Fall River, the fourth ship in the class, was sidelined by one rogue wave off the coast of Florida. MSC has since started reinforcing the bow structure.
“What we do have to say no to is trying to put too many ideas on the same boat. We have run into that,” he said. The ships have been used to do “anything and everything you can dream of. What these guys are thinking of is just fascinating.”
It is good to hear this is getting people excited - and the fact that we are having to pull people back instead of kicking them forward tells you something.

There is "there" there.

Monday, August 22, 2016

If Forced to Choose; Iraq vs. Kurdistan?

There was a little I&W last week that needs your attention.

From just a few sources, in this case Kurdista24, the Kurds are seeing a moment they don't want to let pass. I don't blame them, it was only a matter of time. This isn't a new issue, just another card being pulled out of the deck as facts on the ground are meeting centuries of desire.

If this continues forward, there will be a point when we will have to make a choice. 

Since 1991, there has been one part of Iraq that has been reliable; Kurdistan. There is one major ethic group in Iraq that is respectful of religious and ethnic minorities; Kurds. If there is one ethnic group in the Middle East that offers a view of how we wish the rest of the area would behave, there would be just one; the Kurds.

Things are moving in a direction that may force us to choose between backing the chimera of dysfunction that is what ever power holds in Baghdad, or the Kurds. Here's why.
A member of the Iraqi parliament stated on Thursday that Peshmerga forces will receive the same treatment as the Islamic State (IS) if they do not withdraw from liberated areas.

Mohammed Saihoud an Iraqi MP from the State of Law bloc, led by the former Iraqi PM Nuri al-Maliki, said that “if Peshmerga forces do not retreat from the liberated areas, they will be considered as occupiers, not liberators.”

“IS and Peshmerga forces are equal before the gunfire of the Iraqi security forces and Hashd al-Shaabi if they insist on the occupation of the liberated areas,” the Shia MP told an Iraqi news outlet.
The Kurds are known for understated firmness. They do not fail to deliver;
...KRG spokesperson Safeen Dizayee told Kurdistan24 that Peshmerga forces will not withdraw from the areas in their control because Peshmerga is the source of security and stability for people.

Dizayee stated that Peshmerga forces will make further advances towards the Islamic State (IS)-held areas surrounding Mosul that are considered outside of the Kurdistan Region administration.

“The areas were liberated by the blood of the Peshmerga forces. Peshmerga will not retreat,” he reaffirmed.
I'd take them at their word.

Here is the part that shows where the game is;
Arif Taifoor, the commander of Peshmerga forces in Khazir frontline told Kurdistan24 on Thursday that the Peshmerga forces will liberate all the areas included in the Article 140 of the Iraqi Constitution, particularly IS-held Christian-populated areas and they will stay there.
What is Article 140?
Article 140 of the Iraqi Constitution is supposed to deal with the country’s disputed territories – that is, land that Iraqi Kurdistan says is part of its quasi-independent region but which Baghdad says belongs to Iraq proper. This includes the much disputed area of Kirkuk. Article 140 outlines a series of steps that should be taken in order to resolve who exactly the disputed territories belong to – these are, firstly, normalization - a return of Kurds and other residents displaced by Arabisation – followed by a census taken to determine the demographic makeup of the province's population and then finally, a referendum to determine the status of disputed territories. Obviously whether a territory is home to mainly Kurds or mainly Arabs will have an effect on who can lay claim to the area.
As the Iraqis are learning, paper is paper.
“And if the Iraqi Kurdish region demands that Article 140 be implemented, then they would have to do that according to the Constitution,” Qurbani argues. “In which case, Iraqi Kurdish forces would need to withdraw from the land they are now occupying. But instead,” he concludes, “the Iraqi Kurdish are creating their own reality, on the ground.”
The scramble for the most land to negotiate with is well underway.

Sunday, August 21, 2016

The Farsi Island Incident and its Aftermath - on Midrats

The thankfully bloodless embarrassment that was the Farsi Island Incident is still making news after the January 12, 2016 seizure of 10 U.S. sailors by Iranian forces. 

Especially for our Surface Warfare community, there are a lot of hard, cold lessons here not just about the incident itself, leadership and professionalism – and institutional lessons about how conditions are set and organizations are sub-optimized to a degree that an incident - in hindsight – was just a matter of when vice if. 

Using his recent article at CIMSEC on the topic, our guest for the full hour this Sunday from 5-6pm Eastern to discuss the background leading up to the Farsi Island incident, its aftermath, and the lessons we should be taking from it will be Alan Cummings, LT USN. 

Alan is a 2007 graduate of Jacksonville University. He served previously as a surface warfare officer aboard a destroyer, embedded with a USMC infantry battalion, and as a Riverine Detachment OIC. The views expressed in the article and on Midrats are his own and in no way reflect the official position of the U.S. Navy.

Join us live if you can with the usual suspects in the chat room and offer up your questions for our guest, but if you miss the show you can always listen to the archive at blogtalkradio or Stitcher

If you use iTunes, you can add Midrats to your podcast list simply by clicking the iTunes button at the main showpage - or you can just click here.

Saturday, August 20, 2016

Airlander 10 - Underway

Yes, yes, yes - I know you blinkered troglodytes like to make fun of my and Campbell's faith in these aircraft - but I'm sorry; we should have at least two squadrons of these on order; one we give to the logistics guys, the other one to the Maritime Patrol and Reconnaissance guys and tell them; figure out what you can do with these.

From long-dwell ASW patrols to humanitarian assistance (not to mention a few SEAL missions I'll keep my mouth shut about), this platform has a lot of capabilities that have not been thought of yet. Perfect for the Reserves ... but that would require imagination and the willingness to take risks with proven technology. I know that isn't fun; but it sure has a good track record.

Well, we don't live in Salamander's world, so just watch her take off and ponder.

We believe in a new vision for air transport. That new vision is called Airlander. Hybrid Air Vehicles’ goal is to change the world of aviation through Airlander.
- We believe aircraft should be able to land and take-off anywhere.
- We believe aircraft should be able to fly for weeks at a time.
- We believe aircraft should be low cost and should pollute as little as possible.

Airlander takes the best of aeroplanes, helicopters and airships and combines them with the latest innovations in materials to create a truly revolutionary aircraft. The Airlander is a “hybrid” of an aeroplane and an airship – we get 40% of our lift from the aerodynamic wing shape of our aircraft, and 60% from the helium fill – it is therefore inherently more efficient than other forms of air transport. It uses the very latest fabrics to maintain its shape and is technologically years ahead of other aircraft. Airlander has flown before under a US Government programme, but is now being developed for commercial purposes, such as freight, remote access, aid distribution, advertising, surveillance, communications and luxury passenger transport.

Airlander aims to revolutionise transport and travel by:
- Being one of the lowest carbon emissions aircraft in the world, like for like.
- Having game-changing endurance (it can stay airborne for weeks rather than hours).
- Providing significantly lower delivery cost for airborne freight.
- Being able to land anywhere (water, land, desert, ice) thus opening up new point-to-point routes to previously inaccessible areas.

We will focus initially on Airlander 10, which has a 10 tonne payload, and ultimately could produce a range of hybrid aircraft capable of carrying up to 1000 tonnes.

Friday, August 19, 2016

Fullbore Friday

- 108 Australians of D Company, 6th Battalion, Royal Australian Regiment (including 3 New Zealanders).

- ~2,000 North Vietnamese Army and Viet Cong.

- A storm riden rubber plantation in Vietnam.

- A nine hour battle, 50 years ago.

Don't forget, the Australians and New Zealanders fought with distinction in Vietnam with us. This was one of their finest hours.
D Company left the base at 11.15 that morning bound for the Long Tan rubber plantation. As they departed Nui Dat the sounds of a concert by Little Pattie, the Australian entertainer, reached their ears. They entered the Long Tan plantation at 3.15 that afternoon. Less than an hour later the Viet Cong attacked in force, putting the Australians under mortar, machine gun and small arms fire. Only the quick response of a New Zealand artillery battery to desperate calls for support saved D Company from annihilation.

Almost as soon as the battle began a torrential downpour added to the gloom in the rubber plantation. The Australians, surrounded, short of ammunition and fighting an enemy whose strength they could only guess at, called for helicopters to drop ammunition to them. Flying at tree-top height, braving the terrible weather and heavy Viet Cong fire, two RAAF helicopters located the beleaguered Australians and dropped boxes of ammunition and blankets for the wounded.

The survivors of D Company along with accurate artillery fire from New Zealand's 161 Field Battery as well as the Australian 103 and 105 Field batteries and a United States battery inflicted heavy losses on the Viet Cong. As the fighting continued Australian reinforcements were committed to the battle. B Company was on the way and A Company, loaded into Armoured Personnel Carriers of 3 Troop, 1 Armoured Personnel Carrier Squadron, which fought its way into D Company just before 7 pm as daylight was fading. The Viet Cong had been massing for another assault but were forced to retreat into the plantation. They had suffered terrible casualties, but only when the Australians returned to the scene of battle the following morning did they realise the extent of the defeat that they had inflicted on the enemy. The Australians counted 245 enemy dead still in the plantation and surrounding jungle with evidence that others had already been removed from the battlefield. Captured documents and information from prisoners suggested that D Company had faced some 2,500 Viet Cong. Eighteen Australians were killed in the Battle of Long Tan and 24 wounded, all but one of the dead were from D Company.
At the end of the battle, 18 killed, 24 wounded with the Australians.

For the Vietnamese Communists? 245 killed, 350 wounded (estimate), 3 captured.

A bit more detail on the battle here


Thursday, August 18, 2016

Diversity Thursday

I’ve avoided a DivThu long enough these last few weeks – so let’s get back to this fetid topic for a bit.

“Though this nation has proudly thought of itself as an ethnic melting pot, in things racial we have always been and continue to be, in too many ways, essentially a nation of cowards.”
Well, at least on this topic you can’t call us cowards. Sigh; let’s wade in.

Today I ask you to pray, again, for our recruiters. As all who have worn the uniform have done, they have been given an almost impossible set of orders that they will do the best they can to achieve. It isn’t illegal, so it must be done.
Statistically the youngest, most junior and most male of all the military services, the Corps also skews strongly caucasian, particularly in the senior ranks. African-American and black Marines make up roughly 12 percent of all enlisted troops, according to Marine Corps data from February. Less than 6 percent of Marine officers are black, and only 10 general officers in the entire force are non-white.

In 2012, the Marine Corps launched an advertising campaign aimed at attracting black and female officer candidates. Officials cited the importance of developing role models for female and minority enlisted troops in creating the ads, which showed Marine officers leading in their home communities as well as in uniform.

"What distinguishes certain groups, particularly African-Americans, is that they are closely associated with their communities at home," Maj. Gen. Joseph Osterman, then head of Marine Corps Recruiting Command, told The New York Times at the time.

In 2013, then-Marine Corps Commandant Gen. Jim Amos published a memo to Marine leadership saying the Corps had "failed" in promoting diversity in its officer ranks. It was "imperative that the Corps take a fresh approach to diversity, one that reflects our reputation for performance and leadership," Amos wrote.
… "Targeted studies toward specific demographics have been part of our marketing program for several years, to include research focused on races and gender," he said.

As we’ve discussed before, if you treat everyone the same and use objective performance based standards, the US military will never fully reflect the ethnic composition of the USA – much less the various billet types and communities within. Some is cultural, some just is.

There is one fact that is beyond dispute; the US military can only access the talent pool coming out of our education system at the end of high school. For the enlisted ranks, and especially for our officer accessions, academic background and performance are THE entering argument for objective selection criteria.

If each ethnic group showed up at age 18 with the same aggregate marginal propensity to serve and objective criteria qualifications, then within a half standard deviation or so, all ethnic groups would be about the same. For a variety or reasons – all beyond the control of the military – we don’t live in that country.

From just one major highly diverse metropolitan area; here is the entering argument – the facts that recruiters face.

According to just released data, only 31 percent of Duval’s African-American students passed Florida’s annual reading assessments in grades 3 through 10, while Hispanics did slightly better, with 41 passing.

That is worse than the 62 percent passing rate for white students and 68 percent passing among Asian-American students in Duval.

Similarly, African-American and Hispanic students under-performed white and Asian-American students by wide margins in math and other subjects.
But the latest state testing data show that African-American and Hispanic students scored far below white and Asian students in 10th grade reading last spring; 28 percent of African-American students and 41 percent of Hispanic students passed, compared to 60 percent of white students and 65 percent of Asian-American students.

Students need to pass 10th grade reading to qualify for a diploma their senior year.
Know this – you cannot get from there to a military that “looks like America.” You can only get there via a variety of artificial manipulation methods and discrimination through acts of commission or omission against “over represented” self-identified ethnic groups.

That stands against what should be a core belief of all Americans; we do not discriminate against people by race, creed, color, or national origin. 

We should provide equal opportunity based on objective criteria without any consideration to race, creed, color or national origin. If at the end of the day that meant that 80% of surface warfare officers were of Philippine extraction, pilots were African-American, submarine officers of Japanese extraction, SEALS all had last name that began with “Mc,” your doctors Muslim, and Marines had last names that ended in “o,” “a,” or “z” – who cares?

Well, people whose jobs rely on promoting a racialist mindset and keeping us divided do – to their great shame and ours for employing them.

One day we will achieve the goal of judging each other by the content of our character and not the color of our skin - not to mention getting away from the "one-drop" rule that ignores actual diversity from being multiracial, but the Department of the Navy is not there yet.

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

What if I told you ...

All may not be exactly what you think in the great "Sunni-Shia Civil War" taking place from Aleppo to Saana.

I'm discussing over at USNIBlog. Come visit and ponder.