Thursday, January 30, 2014

DOT&E - LPD-17

The San Antonio, LPD-17, class amphibious ship has had a troubled and challenging history, to say the least.  The DOT&E 2013 annual report sheds light on the current status of the class.

The class consists of 11 ships, 9 of which are completed and 2 building.  The lead ship was completed in 2003.  At this point the class should be fully operational and working out any final bugs in the design.  The DOT&E report, however, paints a different picture.

The Initial Operational Test and Evaluation (IOT&E) revealed numerous, serious deficiencies that led DOT&E to evaluate the class as

“… not operationally effective, not operationally suitable, and not survivable in a hostile environment.”

The ship’s combat system, the Ship Self Defense System (SSDS), was found to have major problems which have yet to be corrected.  In fairness, the SSDS is problematic on all ship classes that it is installed on although the LPD-17 class seems particularly affected.

Reliability issues across many different systems continue to plague the class.

The enclosed mast which proved troublesome early on and almost led to the deletion of the feature in the earlier ships continues to be a problem.

Improvements and fixes that the Navy claims to have made have not been validated in follow-on testing (FOT&E).

DOT&E lists many other problems and you can read the report if have an interest in the details.  The salient point is that, now, ten years after the lead ship was completed, the class is still not deemed survivable in combat.  There’s just no excuse for this.  As has been repeatedly pointed out, the Navy is so focused on new construction that existing ships, however new, just don’t get the attention they need.  This is how you build a hollow Navy.

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

The Meat of Testing

Well, the 2013 DOT&E annual report is out (1) and we’ll be looking at its many topics in greater detail.  As I started to quickly skim the introductory portion to get to the meat of the report, I almost missed what may actually be the meat. 

To quickly review, the Director, Operational Test and Evaluation (DOT&E), headed by Director Michael Gilmore, is the group tasked with testing and evaluating the performance of the various weapons and systems the military buys.  This group provides the objective and scientific assessment of systems that counterbalances the hype, spin, and sales claims made by the manufacturers and the services.  Without this group we would have very few functional systems.  We’ve seen that the Navy, left to its own devices, would proceed full speed ahead with little regard for actual performance or functionality.  Indeed, the Navy is consistently at odds with DOT&E and makes every effort to thwart and bypass the required testing.  For example, the Navy has delayed shock testing of the LCS for several years and probably has no intention of ever doing it. 

Now consider what makes the test programs possible and worthwhile.  It’s the test equipment, of course.  Appropriate test equipment ensures that worthwhile data is collected and that the systems are subjected to realistic test conditions.  Without the proper test equipment, the DOT&E efforts are pointless.

Consider then, the true import of the following two sections taken from the introductory portion of the annual report.

Electronic Warfare Test Infrastructure
In February 2012, I identified significant shortfalls in the test resources required to test mission systems electronic warfare capabilities under operationally realistic conditions. The Department programmed for an Electronic Warfare Infrastructure Improvement Program starting in FY13 to add both closed-loop and open-loop emitter resources for testing on the open-air ranges, to make at least one government anechoic chamber capable of providing a representative threat environment for electronic warfare testing, and to upgrade the electronic warfare programming laboratory that will produce threat data files.  These test capabilities are essential to many programs, including F-35 Joint Strike Fighter (JSF), F-22 Increment 3.2 A/B, B-2 Defensive Management System, Long-Range Strike Bomber, Next Generation Jammer for the EA-18G, Integrated Defensive Electronic Countermeasures upgrades, as well as several other programs. However, progress in selecting sources and beginning development of the test resources has been slower than needed to assure these resources are available in time for the JSF Block 3 IOT&E in 2018. Without these resources, the JSF IOT&E of Block 3 capability will not be adequate to determine the system’s effectiveness in existing operationally realistic threat environments.”

“Aegis-Capable Self-Defense Test Ship (SDTS)
As mentioned above, the test community currently relies on an unmanned, remotely controlled ship, called the SDTS, with the actual radars, weapons, and combat systems employed on some (not all) of the Navy’s currently deployed ships to examine the ability of these systems to protect against incoming anti-ship cruise missiles. … The Navy employs a high-fidelity modeling and simulation capability that relies heavily on data collected from testing with the SDTS, as well as data from manned ship testing, so that a full assessment of ship self-defense capabilities of non-Aegis ships can be completely and affordably conducted. While the Navy recognizes the capability as integral to the test programs for certain weapons systems (the Ship Self-Defense System, Rolling Airframe Missile Block 2, and the Evolved Sea-Sparrow Missile Block 1) and ship classes (LPD-17, LHA-6, Littoral Combat Ship, DDG 100, and CVN-78), the Navy has not made a similar investment in an Aegis-capable SDTS for adequate operational testing of the DDG 51 Flight III Destroyer (with Aegis Advanced Capability Build “Next” Combat System and Air and Missile Defense Radar (AMDR))
capabilities. The current SDTS lacks the appropriate sensors and other combat system elements to test these capabilities.

I continue to strongly advocate for the development of an Aegis-capable SDTS to test ship self-defense systems’ performance in the final seconds of the close-in battle and to acquire sufficient data to accredit ship self-defense modeling and simulation test beds. Other methods that are being examined and desired in lieu of an STDS, in my estimation, are wholly inadequate to fully examine the complex, close-in battlespace where multiple components of the combat system must work simultaneously to orchestrate shooting down multiple incoming highly-capable anti-ship cruise missiles, all within an engagement timeline of tens of seconds. The estimated cost for development and acquisition of an SDTS capability over the Future Years Defense Program is approximately $284 Million. …  I have disapproved the Milestone B AMDR TEMP because, contrary to its predecessor AMDR TES, the TEMP did not provide for the resources needed to equip an SDTS. Similarly, I will disapprove the DDG 51 Flight III TEMP if it omits the resources needed to equip an SDTS.”

These two statements are saying that the proper means of testing the systems are not available and it’s not just limited to these two examples.  The Navy has, for years, refused to obtain drone targets that can realistically simulate the cruise and ballistic missile threats possessed by enemy nations.  The Navy has refused to obtain Meggit Hammerheads for anti-swarm testing and training.  And the list goes on.  Without those means, the Navy will be fielding systems that, of a certainty, contain crucial flaws that will only become apparent under the tragic conditions of actual combat.  The Navy falls all over itself to fully fund a questionable program like the LCS but has to be coerced into developing and obtaining the test equipment necessary to ensure the full functioning of the systems they’re sending sailors to combat with.  This is shortsightedness of a nearly criminal nature and a gross violation of the trust of the men and women of the Navy. 

This is the true meat of the DOT&E report – the unwillingness of the Navy to provide the proper test equipment to ensure that the fleet’s weapons and systems function the way they’re supposed to.


Tuesday, January 28, 2014

The Electronic LCS

I keep looking for missions or roles that the LCS can perform since it’s having trouble with its intended ones.  Well, here’s a possibility – an electronic surveillance and intelligence gathering platform. 

In the past we’ve performed this role using a variety of platforms.  Do you remember the Pueblo, captured by the N.Koreans?  Or, how about the powerful but relatively short-lived ES-3A Shadow which was a modified S-3A Viking?  Submarines have always been a popular choice.  Many other platforms have performed various facets of the electronic intelligence gathering mission, as well.

We’ve got LCS’s that are literally going to be sailing around with nothing worthwhile to do while they wait for useful modules to be developed over the next decade or so.  Why not outfit a few as electronic intelligence gatherers?  Consider the advantages: huge amounts of space to mount antennas, unlimited power (on a relative basis), huge amounts of space to install the computers and signal processing equipment, and plenty of room for specialist personnel.  All of the required equipment already exists so it ought to be a fairly quick process to put together a package.

Another advantage is that the LCS has defensive capabilities, at least compared to previous intel platforms.  While the RAM and 57 mm gun are laughable for combat, they represent a fairly potent capability for self-defense during peacetime harassment incidents.  It would be difficult for an enemy to pull off another Pueblo event.  Heck, if all else fails, the LCS has plenty of speed to run away.

A handful of electronic surveillance LCS’s off N.Korea, Iran, certain areas in Africa, and prowling the South/East China Seas might prove beneficial.

Of course, the biggest drawbacks to such a proposal are the same ones that make the LCS a poor choice for sustained deployment anywhere.  The ship has limited range and very limited endurance.  Still, a group of a few ships could provide sustained coverage of an area via a rotation. 

Hey, this may not be a perfect idea but I’m trying to come up with something useful for the LCS to do!  If not this or something similar, we’ll see an endless string of Singapore-type PR deployments that aren’t worth the fuel they use.

Sunday, January 26, 2014

LST - What Happened?

Most posts have a point to them.  Not so this one.  It’s more of a question.  I’d like to take a look at a ship that has always fascinated me and yet my understanding of it is limited and its demise is a mystery to me.  I’m talking about the USS Newport (LST-1179) class tank landing ship.

A little background to start …

The Newport class LST was the ultimate development of the WWII LST and represented the largest landing ship that could discharge directly onto the beach.  The bow doors differed from the classic WWII LST in having a ramp that deployed over the bow as opposed to having the entire bow open up.  The ships also had a stern ramp to operate AAVs or mate with other landing craft.  The class began construction in 1966 and served through 2002.  A dozen or so were sold to foreign navies where they are, presumably, still serving.  Bow thrusters allowed enhanced maneuverability.  The ships can carry 2000 tons of vehicles  and 400 troops.  A large helicopter flight deck was located on the aft deck but no hangar.  Speed was 22+ kts with Wiki citing a reference to 27 kts.  Range was 14,250 nm at cruising speed.

The class was intended to put tanks and heavy vehicles on the beach.  That’s straightforward.  What I’m puzzled by is the reason for discontinuing the class without a direct successor.  I’ve read that the LST line was ended so as to make room for the LPD-17 class but I haven’t found any solid confirmation of that. 

USS Newport

My puzzlement stems from the fact that I still see a need for the capability. 

I understand that the Marines are largely out of the frontal beach assaults or, indeed, heavy combat.  They have relatively few tanks and are planning to cut back on the number they do have.  However, the Marines are just one part of the assault effort or, at least of a serious assault effort.  The Army will always be the major participant in a serious assault.  I’m not sure we can count on friendly, secure ports to land our heavy tanks and equipment at a leisurely pace while the enemy waits patiently for us to complete our buildup (seriously, what was Iraq thinking in Desert Storm?!).  Lacking a port, how are we going to get the tanks and heavy equipment ashore?  -one at a time with LCACs?  If one does the delivery rate math for an LCAC versus an LST, there’s no comparison.  An LCU can carry a bit more but there’s still no comparison.

An LCAC is faster but would have to make dozens of trips to equal a single LST delivery.  That shoots (pardon the pun) the survivability argument of the LCAC out of the water.  Plus, missiles don’t care about the little bit of speed that an LCAC has and area artillery bombardment is completely immune to speed as a defense beyond a somewhat reduced exposure time but, again, the dozens of equivalent trips negates the exposure argument.

Someone help out, here.  Why was the LST concept abandoned?

Friday, January 24, 2014

F-35LCS Almost Ready

The F-35LCS is the F-35 aircraft coupled with the imaginary technology of the LCS which is always just months away from completion, yet never works.

The LCS, whatever you think of the concept, was predicated on the use of technology that was largely non-existent at the inception of the program and remains, to this day, technically unachievable.  Supporters have claimed for the last several years that the technology, while suffering from some glitches that are expected in a program of this size and complexity, is fixable and would be ready in a matter of months.  Yet, here we sit – still without any of the promised technology and no reasonable expectation that it will be available for several more years, if ever.

The parallel between the F-35 and LCS is remarkable.  The F-35, whatever you think of the concept, was predicated on the use of technology that was largely non-existent at the inception of the program and remains, to this day, technically unachievable.  Supporters have claimed for the last several years that the technology, while suffering from some glitches that are expected in a program of this size and complexity, is fixable and would be ready in a matter of months.  Yet, here we sit – still without any of the promised technology and no reasonable expectation that it will be available for several more years, if ever.

Reuters (1) reports on a soon to be released DOT&E report that states that the Block 2B software needed for the Marine’s to put the F-35 into combat will slip by a year or more.

“Initial results with the new increment of Block 2B software indicate deficiencies still exist in fusion, radar, electronic warfare, navigation, electro-optical target system, distributed aperture system, helmet-mounted display system, and datalink…”

That’s OK, though, LCS defenders F-35 defenders say that the problems are fixable and are just months away from completion.  And so we wait for the F-35LCS to be ready.

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Top Gun For Ships

Well, we seem to be on a bit of an Admiral Thomas Copeman kick.  His latest effort is an article he authored in the current Proceedings (1) about the new surface warfare training program he’s established.  We’ve talked repeatedly in previous posts about the woefully deficient level of tactical training in the Navy and options for improving the situation.  Suggestions have included a standing OpFor (ala TopGun), the use of Meggit Hammerhead remote speedboats for live fire exercises, and generally more realistic training. 

Copeman acknowledges the very problems that we’ve pointed out with the statement,

“It may be hard to believe, but the U.S. Navy, widely recognized as the greatest Fleet the world has ever known, lacks an organization tasked with development, training, and assessment of the full scope of tactics for the warfare community on which it was founded 238 years ago – surface warfare.”

He also recognizes that the Navy’s focus has mistakenly been exclusively on ship readiness,

“The Surface Navy has long focused on ship readiness above all else …”

Even with that focus, ship readiness is at an all-time low with the situation having gotten so bad that INSURV inspections were classified so as to avoid the continual embarrassment of failures.  Regardless, readiness merely indicates that the ship is functional.  It says nothing about the tactical proficiency of the commanders and crew of the ships and groups.  Physical readiness without tactical readiness borders on pointless and, to his credit, Adm. Copeman sees this and has done something about it.

Some tactical training does, of course, exist in the Navy but it is isolated from any larger picture.  For example, tactical ASW prosecution of a submarine may be taught but the tactics are divorced from any larger consideration of how the ASW tactics fit into the ship or group’s overall tactical actions.  In other words, we may understand how to deal with a submarine in a one-on-one duel but we don’t have a validated set of tactics for executing an overall mission in the face of a submarine threat.

This haphazard approach results in gaps in tactics – sometimes significant and, frankly, astounding.  As Copeman says,

“… no command is currently focused on surface warfare, a core competency since 1775.”

That’s quite an indictment of Naval tactical training!

Using his position as Commander, Naval Surface Forces, Adm. Copeman has instituted the Naval Surface and Expeditionary Warfare Command which is responsible for creating, validating, and teaching tactics throughout the surface fleet.  He likens the group to the Navy’s Naval Strike and Warfare Center (NSAWC). 

He states that the development and training of tactics will be conducted by full time professionals dedicated to that purpose.  Unfortunately, he also strongly implies that the majority of the positions will be filled by naval personnel as a duty assignment.  That’s not the way to build concentrated knowledge.  By the time personnel come up to speed it will be time to move on.  I’ll withhold my judgment on this aspect.

Training will build from the individual to the ship to the group in much the same way an airwing trains independently prior to integrating with the carrier and then the carrier group.

The one aspect that is not mentioned in the article is how the individuals/ships/groups will be challenged during training.  I’ve opined that a dedicated OpFor is required.  Copeman offers no explanation about this aspect.  Again, I’ll have to wait and see how it develops.  The potential problem with the lack of an OpFor is that the training risks becoming a paper exercise with no opportunity to prove out the tactics being taught.  The benefit of Top Gun was that the student aviators could put the tactics that they were being taught into practice during training, learn lessons, grasp finer points of the tactics, and get immediate and expert feedback.  Lacking an OpFor, there is no chance to attempt the tactics against a thinking enemy and no chance to learn through experience.  A trainee may be able to regurgitate the tactical maxims but will have no gut level experience to fall back on when things inevitably go wrong.

We’ve discussed the use of simulators as an OpFor and noted that they just don’t provide the level of stress and confusion that real combat will.  While we can’t engage in real combat, we can actually “fight” our ships for minutes, hours, or days on end and feel some of the stress and fatigue of combat through the use of actual drone targets, maneuvering real ships, having to be aware of actual terrain effects, and so forth.  For those of you typing out comments to the effect that combat occurs in CIC so computer simulations are the same thing, I refer you to the Vincennes incident where a highly trained CIC crew made every mistake possible and few that were thought not possible when faced with a real situation.  I would remind you that as Air Force simulator use increased, so, too, did real world mishaps because the simulators just couldn’t replicate the stress of g-forces and cockpit confusion.  There’s a reason why naval aviators qualify on the carrier rather than on simulators.  Britain sends their prospective submarine commanding officers to sea for evaluation rather than simulators.  And so on …  Simulators have a useful role but can’t be the entire training process.

It sounds like the key to the program will be the Weapons and Tactics Instructors (WTI) who will be the core, highly trained experts who will be placed throughout the fleet to provide expertise and training.  Here, the program seems to differ from Top Gun in that the WTIs will go to the fleet as opposed to having the fleet come to the instructors.  Again, the merits of this approach remain to be seen.

In summary, Adm. Copeman has recognized the Navy’s failure to focus on tactics and has created a training program to address the issue.  Several aspects of the program remain open questions as far as their effectiveness with the biggest unknown being the apparent lack of an OpFor to exercise against.  Still, this program is the best training effort to come along in quite some time and I’ll give it every chance to succeed before passing judgment.  Admiral Copeman has, once again, stepped up and demonstrated vision far beyond the rest of his peers.

(1) US Naval Institute Proceedings, “Tactical Paradigm Shift”, VAdm. Thomas Copeman, USN, Jan 2014

Monday, January 20, 2014

RAND Air Combat Report

The RAND Aug 2008 air combat report briefing slides (1) are a fascinating study.  Being slides without the accompanying verbiage, there are many points that are unclear but, overall, the message comes across loud and clear.  Here’s a few highlights.

Effective air power requires close, secure bases in order to generate sufficient sorties.  Sortie rates decline rapidly with distance from the operating area.  This will prove to be a severe problem in a Chinese conflict.  Further, given the existence of 1000+ mile range ballistic missiles, base security, even at great distances from the operating area, may be compromised.

The study made the statement that USAF fighter ops are most efficient when bases are within 500 miles of the battle area and then noted that China has 27 airbases within 500 miles of Taiwan while the US has 1.

The study looked at historical air-to-air missile kill probabilities, Pk, and the pre-combat expectations versus actual combat experience.  The US AIM-7 Sparrow was the primary AAW going into Vietnam, with a pre-war Pk estimate of 0.70.  Combat experience demonstrated a Pk of 0.08 which meant that an enemy aircraft had a 100X greater chance to approach within gun range than expected. 

This is exactly the issue that I’ve discussed on multiple occasions – that weapons never work as well in combat as they’re supposed to.  All of our weapons will significantly underperform and, thus, we must make tactical allowances for it.

The AIM-9 Sidewinder had an anticipated Pk of 0.65 prior to Vietnam but demonstrated a 0.15 Pk in combat.  The more modern AIM-9L as used by Harriers in the Falklands war achieved a Pk of 0.73.  Again, many of the targets were not representative of air-to-air combat.

In Desert Storm, the US fired 48 AIM-9M and achieved 11 kills for a Pk of 0.23.

The current AIM-120 AMRAAM has demonstrated a Pk of 0.59 but that’s based on only 17 missile firings and none of the targets were maneuvering or using ECM – hardly representative of air-to-air combat.  The missile firings were, essentially, target drone exercises.  Under the circumstances, that’s a pretty poor performance!

The study postulated a combat scenario over Taiwan that was intended to examine the relationship between quantity (China) and quality (US).  The scenario intentionally postulated ridiculous parameters:  the US planes were credited with a long range Pk of 1.0 (every shot hits and kills an enemy aircraft) and the Chinese planes were credited with a Pk of 0.0 (no shot hits).  Even with these parameters the US forces were overwhelmed.  The use of realistic parameters would simply make the situation that much worse.  The scenario was not an attempt to model air combat but, rather, to graphically demonstrate the impact of quantity over quality when the US is constrained by sortie rate and manufacturing/cost issues.  The scenario is a real eye opener!

I urge you to take a look at the RAND report slides for yourself.  There are two major takeaways from the report.

First, the US needs to seriously re-examine the assumptions that its entire air combat philosophy is based on, especially as it relates to a possible conflict with China.

Second, the JSF with its limited range, limited weapons payload at distance, and moderate stealth (stealth is addressed in the study) is not going to perform anywhere near the levels claimed by its supporters.  We’re betting our future air combat capability on an aircraft that, at best, will be at a disadvantage and, more likely, will be outmatched the day it comes into service.

The obvious issue for the Navy, as suggested by the report, is the role of the carrier given the problems that the Air Force will have due to lack of basing and distance from the battle area (at least in a Chinese conflict).  Carriers, potentially, can bring a lot of aircraft close to the battle which makes for high sortie rates.  This raises questions for the Navy:

  • What would be an effective carrier operating doctrine?  Pairs of carriers?  Multiple pairs of carriers?  How close together?

  • Do we have enough carriers?

  • Is the size and makeup of the airwings optimized for this type of combat scenario?

  • Do we have the type of aircraft needed to operate effectively in a badly outnumbered scenario?

  • Do we have the types of ships (BMD, AAW, ASuW) and operating doctrine needed to support the carriers while they fight an air battle?

  • Can and how will we integrate submarine support in land attack and ASW/ASuW roles to support the carrier operations?

  • Integrated Air Force and Navy operations and doctrine so that the services are mutually supporting rather than just co-existing?

In summary, if one can read the report without falling into a defensive mode (our weapons will work better because … or the JSF will be better because …) the report has a lot to offer and suggests a lot to think about.  Do yourself a favor and look it over!

Saturday, January 18, 2014

Surface Force Commander's Vision - Part 2

Admiral Tom Copeman has done it again.  He previously authored an internal Navy memo which we discussed ("Surface Force Commander's Vision") and in which he described his view of the current surface fleet and some of the actions he believed warranted consideration.  There was a lot to like in the memo and ComNavOps was impressed – no easy feat from today’s Navy leadership.  Copeman has now issued a follow-up memo (1) giving a bit of a State of the Navy assessment and a description of the ongoing, and still needed, actions required to get the surface fleet where it needs to be.  Here are some excerpts from the document.

Copeman points out that various measures of success can cause unintended conflicts.  He offers an example,

“Success in spiral development of C4I systems means inefficiencies in training, main­tenance and logistics on the deck plates as 62 DDGs have 42 different configurations when measuring just eight major Command, Control, Communications, Computers and Intelligence (C4I) systems.”

He’s pointing out that the Navy’s obsession with spiral development (essentially the model being used to develop and deliver LCS modules) means that not only is there never a “final” version but that continuous development litters the fleet with many versions of the product which hinders training, maintenance, and operation due to the many fielded versions.  This is an absolutely insightful observation that has, potentially, profound implications for the Navy’s acquisition and development programs.  Outstanding!

Discussing manpower shortages, Copeman notes,

“Manning actions are required for many ships to deploy with the minimum critical skills onboard, and these “rip to fill” actions not only erode ship readiness for those ships at home preparing to deploy, but also erode the morale of the force.  The timing of these actions-just before deployment-also means that these Sailors don’t train with the rest of the ship or the strike group.”

Despite the convoluted Pentagon-speak, he’s talking about cross-decking of personnel to fill gapped billets in deploying ships and he notes the negative impact that has.  As he points out, cross-decked personnel haven’t been part of the ship/group’s workup and are not fully integrated the way they should be.

Copeman then links new ship construction quality issues to training and maintenance,

“New ship construction deficiencies (LPD 17, LHD 8, and LCS in particular) must be corrected after ships have entered the deployment rotation, resulting in bills that must be funded through fleet maintenance accounts and major schedule changes and interrup­tions that directly impact the crews’ ability to train.”

His comment recognizes the failure of NavSea to ensure the quality of the ships the Navy is accepting.  NavSea is being forced to sign off on incomplete and substandard ships as a political and PR measure.  This is pure and simple ethical cowardice being displayed by Navy leadership.

He further addresses training as we have so often in this blog,

“Arguably the most important finding in our Readiness Kill Chain effort was that we documented how far we have fallen behind in individuals training.”

Spare parts availability is addressed,

“…gross effectiveness numbers have increased, though they are still in the 50 percent range (five times out of 10, a Sailor can get the part they need from the storeroom to correct a casualty).”

CNO Greenert can talk all he wants about warfighting and readiness but it’s clear from this kind of evidence that it’s just talk.  Our leadership is failing the Navy.

Copeman looks at warfighting readiness, which is something I’ve long criticized the Navy about.

“As we look critically at how we do business, we cannot escape the fact that deploying ships that can successfully execute Phase 0/1 operations and those fully prepared for combat operations are two different things. In recent decades, warfighting has not always had the focus it requires for us to meet our obligation to be prepared for prompt and sustained combat operations. It has my complete attention.”

He states that warfighting readiness has his complete attention.  Well, that’s just great.  I have only two questions:  what has had his attention for the last several years and why aren’t the other Navy leaders focused on warfighting given that it’s the Navy’s reason for being?

Listen to this one,

“Warfighting excellence starts with training.”

My goodness!  Doesn’t that sound like half the posts I’ve written?  (Try "Realistic Training" as one example)  This guy could write this blog.  The disturbing part is that I’ve been on this bandwagon for some time and he’s only just now getting on board.  Still, far better late than never.

He offers a statement about effective training that has implications that even he does not grasp,

“Our officers and enlisted personnel will be developed using a holistic approach with a deep, solid foundation in the basics of naval warfare and will be trained so as to have the cognitive agility to land on their feet inside a chaotic situation, pivot to the task at hand and carry the day.”

This is exactly what I’ve called for – realistic training that intentionally incorporates chaos and confusion.  That’s how you avoid the Vincennes CIC debacle.  Unfortunately, while Copeman recognizes that chaos is an integral part of combat, I don’t think he grasps that the chaos must be trained for and incorporated into the training exercises.

Copeman indirectly addresses one of our recent points (see, "Industry In Charge") about the Navy abdicating its responsibility to define requirements for weapons and systems in favor of allowing industry to deliver whatever they want rather than what the Navy needs.

“…it is incumbent upon us to ensure that research organizations supporting us understand what we need … “

He’s speaking specifically about research organizations but the thought applies equally to industry.

Looking at soft-kill (ECM) defensive measures,

“Culturally, the Surface Force is hard-kill oriented, but the quantity and quality of threat weapons that our forces will face in any future conflict necessitate better soft kill capability …”

C’mon, now.  This guy is just copying my posts! (see, "AAW - Hard or Soft Kill?")

Copeman acknowledges the death of optimal manning programs,

“We will no longer reduce manpower first, hoping that innovation will follow. To this end, I have formally rescinded the rule sets that led to the shipboard manning reductions of the last decade.”

Maintenance “savings” are addressed,

“As we have learned, “saving” money by not doing maintenance in the short term does not save money. It defers payment and increases costs over time.”

Seriously?!  This is intuitively obvious to all the rest of us.  Again, better that the problem is recognized now, however late and however obvious.

There were many other observations contained in the memo and I urge you to read it in its entirety.  As I have stated previously, Adm. Copeman is, so far, the only Navy leader I’ve identified that seems to have a common sense and logical understanding of the various issues facing the Navy.  He is a rare treat among an otherwise putrid rank.

Thursday, January 16, 2014


The current issue of Proceedings has an article (1) about the Navy’s slogan, “A Global Force For Good”.  The author states that the slogan represents “… an embrace of soft power as a strategy.”  He notes with puzzlement that the slogan has never been accepted by sailors and veterans and then goes on to describe a detailed program of indoctrination (propaganda?) intended to force sailors to embrace the slogan and concept.

One has to be awfully dense not to grasp the reason why the slogan has not caught on.  It sounds more like a Peace Corps slogan than a warfighting organization’s slogan.

I really do believe that the author made one brilliant observation about the slogan when he recognized it as an official embrace of soft power.  This CNO, in particular, seems totally focused on soft power and, at most, low end “peacetime” threats.  The slogan kind of sums up what’s wrong with the Navy today.

I’m now going to leave the serious aspects of this behind.  Frankly, the slogan is self-evidently idiotic and warrants no further time.  Instead, ComNavOps wishes to examine the lighter side of military slogans.

If the “Global Force For Good” slogan isn’t catching on, here’s some alternatives.

“Nice People In Ships”
“Meals From The Sea”
“Sailors For Social Change”
“The World’s Babysitters”
“International Helpers”

The Navy isn’t alone in its sloganeering problems.  If “An Army Of One” ever has to fight “An Army Of Two” we’ll be badly outnumbered!

I understand that the Marines are going to changer their longtime slogan from “The Few, The Proud, The Marines” to “The Few, The Proud, The Exactly Equal Men And Women”.

Here’s a late breaking development.  I’ve just received this communiqué from my intelligence sources in China.  Apparently, the Chinese Navy has adopted the slogan,

“A Global Force For Bad”

Makes sense, I guess.  We can’t both be good.

(1) United States Naval Institute Proceedings, “We Really Are A Global Force For Good”, LCdr. Matthew Krull, USN, Jan 2014

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

LCS To Be Cut

Christopher Cavas at Navy Times website (1) reports that the Pentagon has directed the Navy to cut the LCS program from 52 ships to 32.  This is a preliminary guidance and far from a final action.  Nevertheless, it demonstrates that the LCS program is one of the vulnerable targets in the ongoing budget challenge. 

That the LCS program would be cut is not particularly surprising.  What’s surprising is that it would allow an additional 8 ships from the current 24 that are built, building, or under contract.  Terminating the program after the current 24 makes sense.  Extending the program to 32 but not the full 52 does not make sense.  There is no discernible benefit to 8 more ships that I can see.

Regardless of the final numbers and rationale, an early termination of the program is going to make the operational cost of the LCS much greater.  The entire shore-based maintenance system was based on an assumption of sufficient numbers of ships to make the system cost efficient.  Spare parts will be purchased in much smaller quantities and will, therefore, be much more expensive individually. 

In addition, the entire module concept is going to be impacted.  Far fewer numbers of modules will be purchased, again driving up the cost of each one.  With fewer modules, the flexibility of the LCS will be further constrained with even fewer of any particular module available for swapping (to the extent that the swap concept was even still viable).

From the Navy’s perspective (not mine!) it would make far more sense to voluntarily terminate the program at the current 24 and immediately begin moving on to the next incarnation of the LCS with heavier weapons, less speed, no module swapping, and incorporating the lessons learned.

* Thanks to NICO for the heads-up on this item! *

Manpower Shortage

Here’s an interesting tidbit reported by Navy Times website (1) …

Addressing the impact of manpower shortages on fleet readiness, Adm. Thomas Copeman acknowledged a shortfall of 8,000 sailors or 15% of the fleet’s billets.  From the article,

“The top readiness deficit is the correct number of people with the correct skill sets and experiences on the ships,” Copeman said in answer to an audience question at the opening day of the Surface Navy Association’s annual symposium outside Washington, D.C. “It manifests itself in a bunch of different ways. We do a lot of cross-decks ... and we do them as ships get ready to go out the door on certain skill sets that we don’t have enough of.”

This is exactly what I’ve been hearing for the last several years and there is no sign that the situation is improving.  In fact, from what I hear, it’s getting worse.  Cross decking of personnel means deployments with little or no time off and no chance for the cross decked personnel to be integrated into the training of the group.

Of the Navy’s various problems, this one is easy to correct.  There’s an adequate pool of potential trainees in any given field.  The only challenge is budget and that’s only a challenge if we let it be.  Worst case, we occasionally drop a new ship or two to pay for the increase in personnel.  It’s far better to have a couple fewer ships and have a fully manned, trained, and ready fleet than to have a few more ships that are gapped, short of technical expertise, and unprepared for combat.

(1), “3-Star: Sailor Shortage Threatens Surface Navy's Readiness”, Sam Fellman, 14-Jan-2014

Monday, January 13, 2014

Ford Problems

Stars and Stripes reports (1) that the Boston Globe has obtained a Navy report that describes potentially severe problems being encountered during continued fitting and testing of the new carrier, the Ford.  Here’s some excerpts from the article.

“The U.S. Navy's newest aircraft carrier, a multibillion-dollar behemoth that is the first in a next generation of carriers, is beset with performance problems, even failing tests of its ability to launch and recover combat jets, according to an internal assessment by the Pentagon obtained by the Boston Globe.”

“The Globe reported Friday that early tests are raising worries that the USS Gerald R. Ford, christened in November, may not meet the Navy's goal of significantly increasing the number of warplanes it can quickly launch — and could even be less effective than older vessels.”

“At least four crucial components being installed are at risk because of their poor or unknown reliability, states the 30-page testing assessment, which was delivered last month to Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel and other top Pentagon leaders.”
“In addition to the launching and landing systems for jet fighters, officials are also concerned about its advanced radar system. It also remains unclear if a key weapons elevator will work as promised.”

“A number of other systems, such as communications gear, meanwhile, are performing at less than acceptable standards, according to the assessment by J. Michael Gilmore, the Pentagon's director of operational test and evaluation. Gilmore concluded that the Navy has little choice but to redesign key components of the ship.”

I don’t find the existence of problems to be terribly troubling.  A new ship class is expected to have teething problems.  The disappointing aspect of this is that the major problems have been predicted for several years, now.  Components such as EMALS, the AAG, radar, etc. were installed before completing development and testing.  It’s a lot easier to find and fix problems on land, in a test facility, then to do so on an installed system.  Large amounts of money have already been spent retrofitting the Ford to accommodate modifications and fixes to these systems and, apparently, much more will be spent in the coming years.

Was there really a need to rush these systems into service?  None are game changers from a combat perspective.  In theory, they’ll provide some nice advantages eventually but we have a bunch of Nimitz carriers that are functioning just fine without them.  Couldn’t we have waited five more years and installed the new systems on the next carrier after a thorough development and testing period?  We’d have saved many hundreds of millions of dollars and wound up with mature designs.  Did we learn nothing from the LCS fiasco?  Instead, the Navy continued its recklessly irresponsible pattern of concurrent design and production and concurrent R&D and production as we’ve discussed repeatedly in previous posts.

The Navy’s response was predictable.

“Rear Adm. Thomas J. Moore, the program executive officer for aircraft carriers, defended the progress of the ship in an interview and expressed confidence that, in the two years before delivery, the Navy and its contractors will overcome what he acknowledged are multiple hurdles.”

When everyone tells you that you’re wrong about something you can either choose to believe that there might be something to what they say or you can stubbornly believe that they’re all wrong and you, and you alone, are right.  Which response is most likely to be the correct one?  If your name is Einstein, you may be justified in believing that you, and you alone, are correct.  If, however, your name is anyone else, you might want to pause and reconsider when everyone tells you that you’re wrong.  On top of that, if you’ve been through this exercise a dozen times and you’ve been wrong every single time, it’s just the definition of insanity to continue to believe that you’re right and everyone else is wrong.

The Navy continues to ignore GAO, Congressional Research Service, DOT&E, and ComNavOps, among others, preferring to believe that they know better.  Sadly, history does not support their belief and this is just the latest example.

That the Ford has problems is not a concern.  That the Navy continues to exhibit a pattern of stupidity is a concern.

Friday, January 10, 2014

LCS Anniversary

We’re coming up on the 8 year anniversary of the start of construction of USS Independence, LCS-2, which was laid down on 19-Jan-2006 and the 4 year anniversary of the ship’s commissioning on 16-Jan-2010.

Here’s a list of the ship’s deployments:

Hmmm …….

On a related note, PCU Coronado, LCS-4, was laid down on 17-Dec-2009 and is scheduled to be commissioned in April of 2014.  Four and a half years to get a corvette size ship built and into the Navy?

Also on a related note, we’re coming up on 8 years since construction of the LCSs started and 6 years since the first LCS, USS Freedom, was commissioned.  There are currently 24 LCSs built, building, or under contract.  So far, there are no functional mission modules and no LCS has conducted a deployment related to their intended missions.  The LCS class generates an amazing amount of attention for a class that has accomplished nothing and currently has no capability – of course, that’s probably the reason for the attention!

Thursday, January 9, 2014

Aviation Assault Transport

The previous post about Marine assault transport problems has generated fascinating responses.  There seems to be general agreement that the Marine’s current transport capabilities are inadequate but there is less agreement about what alternatives would be better.  Various people have suggested various specific or generic platforms that might offer better performance.  However, none of the options fully address the overall problem to a satisfactory degree.  I’m not an expert in this area so I don’t have a specific solution to offer but I can see and define the problem.  Let’s look a bit closer at the transport platform itself. 

If the current transports don’t meet the needs, what would, generically?  What characteristics should a Marine transport platform have?

There are three aspects that need to be addressed:

Movement over high threat territory
Transport of troops
Transport of equipment

These aspects demand certain obvious characteristics that are not always compatible.  Let’s look at those characteristics in isolation and then we’ll try to assemble an overall requirement.

Stealth.  Almost by definition, the assault transports will operate in the heart of high threat environments and multi-faceted stealth would greatly enhance survivability.  In particular, stealth in the IR range would enhance survivability against shoulder launched SAMs.  IR countermeasures are also desirable but IR stealth should be an inherent characteristic.  Stealth in the radar ranges, while nice, is probably less of an issue for platforms that will operate at low altitudes.  Acoustic and visual stealth would also be helpful for countering manually/optically controlled gunfire.  Unfortunately, there is no stealth measure that can counteract the “wall of lead” anti-aircraft tactic.

Speed.   This one’s obvious.  The greater the transport’s speed, the less the exposure time. 

Maneuverability.  Threats will appear and will have to be evaded.  The greater the maneuverability, the better the chances of survival.  Given the speed and proximity to the ground, maneuverability might have to be automated.  The threat warning/reaction time is going to be too short for human interpretation and reaction.  Software controlled evasive maneuvers may be required.  Unfortunately, the degree of coding sophistication required to do this may be beyond our current abilities as demonstrated by the software problems plaguing so many weapon systems.

Armor.  Armored bottoms and sides of the transport would be desirable to mitigate the danger from small arms and shrapnel bursts.  Armor sufficient to counter larger caliber gunfire is desirable as well.  The use of armor on the transport would be analogous to armored humvees and whatnot.

Size.  From an efficiency point of view, the maximum load possible is preferred.  The more troops and equipment that can be carried on a platform the better in terms of efficiency.  It’s better to complete the delivery of an assault unit in one wave than in multiple waves.

Lift Capacity.  A transport must be able to transport the heaviest item the MEU uses which is the Abrams tank.  Further, it would be desirable to be able to transport multiple pieces of equipment rather than one at a time.

Internal lift of equipment is preferred over external sling so that the transport platform can perform at least some maneuvering and retain as much speed advantage as possible.  Of course, the internal lift needs to be rapidly unloadable.

So, given the preceeding characteristics, what would our ideal transport look like?  It would be a very stealthy, high speed, highly maneuverable, armored platform of large size and with enormous lift capacity.  Unfortunately, some of these characteristics are mutually incompatible.  For example, a heavily armored transport can’t also be very fast and maneuverable.  Size negates stealth.  And so on…

So where does that leave us?  We can’t have all the characteristics we’d like so we need to balance characteristics which means we have to prioritize. 

Stealth seems the most desirable characteristic and will do the most to enhance transport survivability.  This is the biggest bang for the buck and since we’re talking more about IR, acoustic, and visual stealth, as opposed to radar stealth, we ought to be able to achieve it economically.

Armor seems the next most desirable and is almost as valuable as stealth.  It does no good to deliver troops that have been decimated by shrapnel along the way.  Further, we absolutely do not want to concede cheap kills.  If a transport is killed by a direct hit from major caliber gunfire or a large SAM, that’s one thing.  However, a cheap kill by small arms, smaller caliber gunfire, or shrapnel must be avoided.

Speed and maneuverability are desirable though only marginally compatible with the need for armor.  To the extent possible, speed and maneuverability should be provided although, as pointed out, maneuverability may not be achievable to a relevant extent.

Size is the most ill defined characteristic.  On the one hand, we want the largest lift possible but on the other hand we don’t want to suffer too large a loss due to the loss of an individual transport.  As some readers pointed out, a squad size (maybe two-squad size?) transport may be the optimum.  The ability to transport 50-200 troops, while efficient, simply risks too much in a single platform.

Size is also a factor in equipment transport.  Here, there is no option.  We must be able to transport the heaviest item, the tank (or make the decision that we can’t conduct armored aviation assaults).  I have no idea what kind of transport can do that.

So, now where are we?  We seem to need a squad (maybe two-squad?) size helo that is very stealthy, armored as much as possible, and has as much speed and maneuverability as possible given the armor it carries.  A stealthy version of the Soviet/Russian Hind series might be in the general vicinity of what’s needed?

Stealthy Hind for Transport?

 As far as equipment transport, I’m seeing that we may need a second, different transport that is dedicated to equipment transport since the requirements are so different.  The main characteristics would be internal lift, stealth, speed, and rapid loading/unloading.

I don’t see any way to transport tanks without going to a cargo plane type of approach similar to the Army and that wouldn’t seem possible for a typical Marine assault.  If the Marines can’t bring tanks along then we need to re-evaluate what type of assaults can be done.  While tanks wouldn’t be absolutely necessary for raids and lower end assaults it would be foolish to conduct tank-less assaults against peers who have armored capability.  It’s possible that inland assaults can only be performed against lower end threats and that higher end threats must be attacked via beach or port assaults so that heavy equipment can be delivered.  I’m venturing out of my element at this point so I’ll leave the discussion here. 

What I’m convinced of is that the Marines/Navy are, at this moment, conflicted about what to do and how to do it.  The haphazard acquisitions that are being pursued and the contradictory statements emanating from Marine/Navy leadership are proof of that.  The Marines/Navy need to quickly settle on an approach and, hopefully, it will be based on strategy rather than budget.