Monday, May 22, 2017

China War - Taiwan Seizure

I’m on record as saying that the first act in any Chinese War will be the seizure of Taiwan.  Why is that?  Well, two reasons:

  1. Taiwan has long been a sore point for ChinaTaiwan belongs to them, in their view, and its “hostage” status to the West (the US) is an affront to China’s national pride.  China has vowed to reclaim Taiwan, the only question being when.  If China is going to enter a war anyway, it may as well seize Taiwan in the process even if Taiwan is not the main purpose of the war.

  1. Taiwan is too close to China for the Chinese to allow it to possibly be used as a military base of attack on China.  Thus, Taiwan must be seized at the outset of hostilities.

So, having recognized the fact that Taiwan will be the first objective (in terms of land seizure) of any war, how will China go about accomplishing it?  ……  I have no idea but for the sake of filling up some post space, why don’t we speculate.

If you had decades of time to plan for the seizure of a major piece of land, and an island to boot, how would you go about it?  Ideally, you’d slowly secure surrounding pieces of land so that once you initiated the seizure of your target, you’d already have fully equipped bases surrounding the target and protecting your invasion force.  Does this sound familiar?  The Chinese have seized various islands in the surrounding first island chain and militarized them.  Where islands are not physically available, the Chinese have built artificial ones.  You’ve got to give them credit for some outstanding creativity and initiative.  Would we have thought to build artificial islands?  I doubt it and, if we did, we’d have subordinated our military needs to ecological concerns, the welfare of coral reefs, the protection of endangered species, and abandoned the idea.

Instead, the Chinese have constructed numerous bases to the south of Taiwan with the Paracels and Scarborough Shoal protecting the area to the south and the Spratleys protecting approaches to the South China Sea in the far south.

Further, China is moving to co-opt the Philippines into their sphere of influence via a combination of state sponsored emigration, veiled threats, and political maneuvering.

China is also looking to seize and construct island bases to the north and east of Taiwan in the Senkaku and Ryukyu Island groups.

“Chinese authorities in the spring of 2013 brazenly challenged Japan’s sovereignty of the islands with a concerted campaign that included an article in a magazine associated with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs; a widely publicized commentary in People’s Daily, the Communist Party’s flagship newspaper and therefore China’s most authoritative publication; two pieces in theGlobal Times, the tabloid controlled by People’s Daily; an interview of Maj. Gen. Luo Yuan in the state-run China News Service; and a seminar held at prestigious Renmin University in Beijing.

At the same time, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs refused to affirm that China recognized Okinawa and the Ryukyus as Japanese.

The close timing of events indicated these efforts had been directed from the top of the Chinese political system.

Over the last decade, Beijing has been moving in on Okinawa step by step, almost island by island. It has regularly dispatched its ships and planes to the Senkaku Islands, often entering sovereign water and airspace, in a campaign to wrest from the Japanese those small and uninhabited specks in the ocean. The provocations around the islets, which China first claimed in 1971 and now calls the Diaoyus, spiked upward in 2012 and then noticeably declined the following year.” (1) [emphasis added]

Here’s the statement from PLA General Luo Yuan.

“’Let's for now not discuss whether [the Ryukyus] belong to China, they were certainly China's tributary state,’ Luo said in an interview with China News Service. ‘I am not saying all former tributary states belong to China, but we can say with certainty that the Ryukyus do not belong to Japan,’ he added, in comments translated by the South China Morning Post.” (2) [emphasis added]

To understand the geographical and, therefore, military perspective, the Senkaku Islands lie about 100 miles to the northeast of Taiwan.   The Ryukyu Island chain begins about 100 miles to the east of Taiwan and arcs to the northeast up to the Japanese mainland.  The two groups of islands would form natural barriers and military strongpoints isolating and shielding any Chinese military actions involving Taiwan.

The presence of the surrounding island bases allows the Chinese to seize Taiwan without worry about US counterattacks.  The island bases represent the line in the ocean that the US must cross in order to come to the aid of Taiwan.  We must be willing to engage and destroy Chinese territory just to get to Taiwan.  There’s a major difference between going to Taiwan’s aid and destroying Chinese sovereign territory.  Will we be willing to destroy Chinese territory?  I suspect not.  For all practical purposes, the seizure of the first island chain and the construction of bases has sealed Taiwan’s fate.  For all those Chinese apologists who tried to argue that the islands were of no value and not worth contesting, there’s your answer.

The islands also present a speedbump in the road to aiding Taiwan even if we want to.  The time and material required to neutralize the surrounding islands are likely to be enough to allow China to consolidate its seizure of Taiwan and present the US with a fait accompli.  It’s one thing for the US to come to the aid of an ally that is actively resisting attack but it’s another to step into a situation in which the attack is over and the invasion has been accomplished.  The latter requires a good deal more fortitude on the part of the US and may present an insurmountable threshold for the US geopolitical calculation.

So, not only do the island bases represent a “line in the ocean” that we would hesitate to cross, they also represent a significant speed bump in the path of our response – one that would render the attempted rescue moot.

Even if war with China never comes, the slow and steady seizure of surrounding island bases (or construction of artificial ones) will eventually put the Chinese in a position of being able to dictate their desires to Taiwan under threat of blockade.  The geopolitical implications of this are obvious.  China can simply “starve” Taiwan into submission and reunification.

Viewed from a military strategy perspective, China’s actions in the South and East China Seas are not only understandable but logical and predictable.  We simply need to acknowledge the reality and choose our response.


(1)The Daily Beast website, “Now China Wants Okinawa, Site of U.S. Bases in Japan”, Gordon Chang, 31-Dec-2015,

(2)The Guardian website, “China lays claim to Okinawa as territory dispute with Japan escalates”, Justin McCurry, 15-May-2013,

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Offensive Mine Warfare - Operational Usage

We previously reviewed the Navy’s inventory of mines (see, "Offensive Mine Warfare") and noted that there are only two active versions:

  • Quickstrike – converted general purpose bombs of 500, 1000, and 2000 lb sizes
  • SLMM (Submarine Launched Mobile Mine) – modified Mk37 torpedo

We further noted that the delivery options for these mines are quite limited.  B-1 and B-52 bombers have mine laying capability but rarely train for the mission.  Submarines theoretically have the capability but have little capacity and apparently do not regularly train for the mission.

Mk 65 Quickstrike Mine Loading Onto A B-1 Bomber

How does this matter?  Well, that brings us to the operational employment of mines.  In order to understand their employment, we need to have an understanding of their historical use.  Without attempting to document a comprehensive listing, here are some notable historical uses by the US military.

In WWI, over 6000 mines were laid as part of the North Sea Mine Barrage, intended to inhibit U-boat movement into the Atlantic convoy lanes.  A US Navy group of ten converted commercial ships took part in the effort, aided by the Royal Navy.

Defensive minefields were laid up and down the east coast of the US and into the Caribbean during WWII.  Navweaps website states that 20,000 mines were laid defensively in US waters alone (2).  As far as is known, no enemy ship was sunk by the approximately 20,000 mines used in defensive minefields placed in US waters (2).

Also in WWII, US submarines planted mines in Japanese harbors and shipping lanes.

“[During WWII] US submarines planted a total of 576 Mark 12 mines and 82 Mark 10 mines in 36 fields. Of these, 421 mines planted in 21 of the fields sank 27 ships of about 63,000 tons and damaged 27 more of approximately 120,000 tons.” (2)

By 1945, the Army Air Force was devoting considerable resources to the mining role, with 80 to 100 B-29s based at Tinian being used to mine the home waters around Japan. These B-29s could carry seven 2,000 lbs. (907 kg). or twelve 1,000 lbs. (454 kg) mines. Starting in March 1945 and continuing until early August, 4,900 magnetic, 3,500 acoustic, 2,900 pressure and 700 low-frequency mines were laid. These mines sank 294 ships outright, damaged another 137 beyond repair and damaged a further 239 that could be repaired. In cargo tonnage, the total was 1.4 million tons which was about 75% of the shipping available in March 1945.

“Between January and March 1945, B-29s also closed the approaches to Singapore, Saigon and Camranh Bay harbors by magnetic mining.” (2)

Smaller WWII Aircraft were also used to lay mines.

“Avenger and Ventura aircraft could carry a single mine and in 1944 Avengers closed Palau harbor by mining the entrances. They then sank all 32 ships in the harbor with conventional bombs and torpedoes. A total of approximately 100 ships were sunk or badly damaged in the Pacific during the war by mines laid by Navy aircraft.”

This was a classic example of sealing the escape route and then destroying the trapped vessels at leisure.

We see, then, that a major conflict could be expected to require many tens of thousands of mines.  I can’t recall ever seeing an inventory summary of how many mines the US Navy has but I strongly suspect it’s not a large amount. 

Further, note that mine laying objectives are two-fold: 

  • One, is an offensive minefield intended to close enemy harbors, approaches, and navigational chokepoints.

  • Two, is a minefield intended to provide defensive protections around friendly harbors or invasion site approaches.

As a bit of a sidenote, here are some interesting examples of mine laying vessels used by the Navy in WWII.

  • The Navy developed a dedicated mine laying destroyer in WWII, the Robert H. Smith class, which was a variant of the Sumner class destroyers.  Twelve ships were built in late 1943 and early 1944.  Mine tracks ran along both sides of the ship and each track could hold 60 mines.  The mines were released over the stern, similar to the way depth charges were dropped (1).  Astoundingly, none of the ships ever laid a mine!

  • The Navy did utilize a converted cargo ship, USS Salem CM-11, to lay 202 mines of Casablanca in late December 1942.  Salem also laid 390 mines off Gela, Sicily in July, 1943 in support of the Sicily invasion.

  • USS Weehawken, CM-12, originally a 1920 car ferry, was converted to a mine layer.  The ship laid defensive mine fields of Casablanca in December 1942 along with USS Salem and USS Keokuk.  Following that, she laid minefields off Gela, Sicily in July 1943.

  • USS Keokuk, CM-8, was also a conversion of a commercial ship built in 1914.  Wiki suggests that the ship engaged in mine laying along the Atlantic coast of the US during the summer of 1942.  The ship also participated in the mine laying off Casablanca and Sicily along with Salem and Weehawken.

  • USS Terror, CM-5, was the only purpose built Navy minelayer of WWII.  She laid defensive mines off Casablanca in December 1942.  The ship also operated in the Pacific, laying mines in the Pacific Marshall Islands in March and April 1944 and around Ulithi in September of 1944.  She also acted as a tender for numerous small craft engaged in mine laying and mine sweeping.

  • Several Clemson class 4-stacker destroyers were converted to mine layers during WWII.

We see then, that mine laying has, historically, never been given much priority in terms of developing dedicated mine laying vessels.  When the need arose, the Navy converted commercial vessels or adapted destroyers already in production.  This can be interpreted one of two ways:

  1. The Navy has failed to recognize the importance of mine laying and is continually caught short when the need arises or,

  1. Mine laying is a simple and generic enough exercise that there is no need to maintain dedicated vessels and when the need arises, any suitably sized vessel can be adapted to the task.

I tend to think it’s a combination of the two with a leaning towards the relatively undemanding nature of mine laying and the underlying economics of conversion versus maintenance of a dedicated mine laying force.  Of course, this only applies to mine laying in relatively uncontested areas.  Mining contested areas like enemy home waters requires either stealth (submarine mine layers) or stealth/speed (aircraft) in order for the laying vehicle to survive.  This suggests the need for maintaining a dedicated mine laying vehicle for contested areas.  Converted vehicles simply will not have the stealth and/or speed necessary for the task.

Let’s return, now, to the operational aspects of offensive mine warfare.

History tells us the kinds of mining that will be required.  So what kind of targets/areas should we be planning for in a major war?

Iranian harbors – a relative handful of mines could effectively shut down Iran’s entire navy (such as it is) and commercial shipping.

NKorean harbors – war with NKorea will be a land and air war.  I can foresee no reasonable need to conduct an amphibious operation but the ability bottle up NKorea forces and effectively blockade Russian and Chinese resupply vessels would be worthwhile.

Russian harbors, approaches, and navigational chokepoints especially those used by the Russian sub fleet, if mined, would deal a critical blow.  Mining of the so-called SSBN bastions would deny Russia the use of its ballistic missile submarines and completely disrupt one of their major strategic foundations.

Chinese harbors and navigation chokepoints are particularly susceptible to mining.  The narrow waters and sea lanes between the first island chain islands provide ideal opportunities to restrict Chinese submarine and surface ship movements and island resupply efforts.  An effective mine laying program would largely bottle up China’s fleet and remove at least one aspect of the A2/AD zone.

In summary, the patterns of use of offensive mine warfare are clear as is the need in future conflicts.  What is far less clear is the capacity of the US Navy to wage effective offensive mine warfare given the lack of mines (inventory), the dearth of mine laying platforms, and near total disregard for offensive mine warfare tactics and training.  As is so often the case, the US Navy is focused on the big, shiny toys and is neglecting a far more powerful and effective weapon.


(1)Destroyer History Foundation website,

(2)NavWeaps website,

Monday, May 15, 2017

Professional Warriors?

This is the companion piece to the previous LCS incompetence post (see, “More [Unbelievable] LCS Incompetence”).  We discussed the blatant incompetence being demonstrated by Navy leadership and noted that professional warriors should already know what they have, what they need, what’s out there, and so on, without the need for endless study groups.  So, what’s wrong with our professional warriors?  The answer is simple.  We don’t have any professional naval warriors.  Here’s the reason …

Lately, the Navy has been dithering over many issues.  Do we need an LCS?  Should we have a frigate?  If so, what type?  What kind of over-the-horizon (OTH) missile do we need?  What kind of radar should an LCS “frigate” have?  Do we need F-35Cs or Advanced Super Hornets?  Should an anti-ship missile be supersonic or subsonic?  Should the America class LHA have a well deck or not?  What kind of uniform should sailors wear?  What size fleet do we need?  Should we retire the Ticonderoga class?  Is distributed lethality a good idea?  And so on.

The Navy’s response to all these questions has been to form myriad study groups, committees, Admiral-chaired panels, and the like.  All have the common attribute of delaying critical decisions.  These systematic delays reflect Navy leadership’s chronic inability to make decisions.  For example, the Navy just announced yet another delay, this time in the LCS “frigate” program.

“The Navy has slowed its frigate procurement timeline, looking at awarding a detail design and construction contract in Fiscal Year 2020 to allow more time to understand what it needs the ship to do and how it might affordably meet those requirements.” (1)

Another example of the inability to make decisions is the apparently constantly changing specifications for the OTH missile program (2).

Wouldn’t you think that a professional warrior would understand their craft well enough to be able to make timely and correct decisions without needing to resort to endless study groups of various types?

Consider another type of professional – a professional athlete.  The professional athlete practices his craft all day, every day.  The practice takes the form of film study of himself and opponents, physical skills practice, general physical training, scrimmaging (practice contests), and games against other athletes.  This regimen ensures that the professional athlete is the master of his craft.  If you ask the athlete about a new item of sports apparel or a new bat/ball/glove/whatever, he can tell you instantly whether it is any good because he thoroughly understands what is required and he has tried out every conceivable variation over the course of his career.  He has no need to conduct endless studies prior to answering.

Should not the professional warrior be the same?  Should not the professional warrior be able to define the characteristics of a new missile?  Should not the professional be able to evaluate a new doctrine or tactic without endless study?  Should not a professional warrior have developed an innate understanding of what characteristics make a good ship or aircraft?  Should not the professional warrior thoroughly understand the relationship between tactics and technology?

And yet, our professional warriors seem incapable of making such decisions.  Why is that? 

Well, the answer is simple – our warriors are not professional.  In fact, they are the farthest thing from it – bordering on amateur. 

Recall what we just said a professional does with his life – he studies his craft all day, every day, and practices it daily.  Now, what do our naval leaders do with their days?  They attend seminars on sensitivity, diversity, leadership, alcohol and substance abuse, ethics, gender respect, sexual assault, etc.  They process endless amounts of paperwork, mostly useless.  They strive to achieve ecologically friendly “green” initiatives.  They attempt to increase retention rates.  They host visitors and provide tours.  They perform humanitarian missions.  They build schools.  They frantically cross deck equipment for meaningless inspections.

How is any of that building up their warrior capabilities?

What they should be doing is conducting daily operational and tactical wargaming, conducting daily live tactical drills, engaging in frequent live wargames, studying friendly and enemy ship and weapon designs, conducting simulations of weapon performances, exercising live fire weapon system drills, etc.  If they did that, they’d know exactly what works and what doesn’t, what weapon system characteristics are desirable and what aren’t, what tactics work and what don’t, and what our gaps and needs are.  There would be no need for endless and unproductive study groups and delayed decisions.

Every day we see the end result of the lack of warrior focus.  Clearly, the sailors who allowed a vastly inferior Iranian “force” to capture them and seize their boats had not trained to be warriors.  The Captain of the Aegis cruiser that allowed an unknown and unresponsive fishing boat to ram it was not ready as a warrior.  The entire Navy leadership that keeps flip-flopping over the LCS direction are clearly not professional warriors.  And so on.

Do you recall my post calling for a dual path of Administrators and Warriors (see, "Promoting Warriors")?  Now you begin to understand the need for it.

We need professional naval warriors and we currently don’t have any.  We’d better start developing them or we're going to wind up with more LCS's, more Zumwalts, more Fords, and more F-35's and nobody but the Navy wants that!


(1)USNI News website, “Navy Slowing Frigate Procurement To Allow Careful Requirements Talks; Contract Award Set for FY2020”, Megan Eckstein, 3-May-2017,

(2)Defense News website, “Boeing Pulls Harpoon From US Navy Missile Competition”, Christopher Cavas, 2-May-2017,

Saturday, May 13, 2017

More [Unbelievable] LCS Incompetence

The Navy just announced a year’s delay in the LCS “frigate” program.

“The Navy has slowed its frigate procurement timeline, looking at awarding a detail design and construction contract in Fiscal Year 2020 to allow more time to understand what it needs the ship to do and how it might affordably meet those requirements.”

You’ll recall that the initial small surface combatant evaluation took place without appropriate analysis and in a very compressed time frame.  To the amazement of absolutely no one, the recommendation was to buy more LCS!  That process and decision triggered a firestorm of criticism and the Navy was roundly mocked for attempting to pass the LCS off as a frigate. 

Now, apparently, the situation has changed.

“Director of Surface Warfare Rear Adm. Ron Boxall told the House Armed Services seapower and projection forces subcommittee in a hearing today that the Navy is working under time constraints but not cost constraints at the moment, as the current “Frigate Requirement Evaluation Team” works through what is now the second look at future frigate requirements.”

“…2014 SSC TF [Small Surface Combatant Task Force] and therefore didn’t want to criticize its work, he told lawmakers “the Small Surface Combatant Task Force, the environment when they created that task force was, I’ll call it reactive in nature. We were responding to criticisms and to get to a more capable, survivable ship as quickly as possible. And there was also fiscal guidance that was given to them at the time.”

So, the Navy admits to having selected and designed a ship, the LCS-frigate, in response to public criticisms and negative publicity.  Is that really the right reason to select and design a ship?  Further, the Navy now acknowledges that the prime selection criteria was financial rather than combat capability.  Again, is that the main criteria we want to use when designing WARships?

“This time, the Frigate Requirement Evaluation Team has not been given any cost guidance. Boxall told USNI News at the hearing that there wasn’t even a date yet for when the Navy would have a cost cap – rather, the surface warfare community is looking at what it needs …” [emphasis added]

Now?  Now?  Now, the surface warfare community is looking at what it needs?  Shouldn’t it have looked at needs in the original process?

“…the mission set [has] somewhat changed since 2014. Whereas the LCS and the frigate had been envisioned for primarily independent operations near the shore, the Navy now believes the LCS and frigate could be used by fleet commanders to support the carrier strike group out at sea.”

Littoral … out at sea … The Navy just can’t seem to decide what it wants the LCS/frigate to do.  Is this kind of dithering really the best our professional naval warriors can offer?  Apparently so.

“…Boxall said the Navy is assessing what self-protection systems, offensive weapons, strike group connectivity and more the frigate would need to be the right ship at the right price tag.”

Again, does the Navy really need to perform still more assessments?  Shouldn’t professional naval warriors pretty well know what’s needed?

“…Boxall said in 2014 the Navy discounted foreign frigate designs due to none of them exactly meeting its requirements, and the need to quickly begin work on a frigate that would quell LCS detractors. Today, Boxall said there still doesn’t appear to be any other small surface combatant design, foreign or domestic, that exactly meets its needs …”

Nothing foreign meets the Navy’s frigate needs?????  Good grief, what kind of frigate are they looking for – especially given the previous statement that the Navy is “assessing” what’s needed?  If they’re still assessing, how do they know that no foreign frigate meets their needs?  With all the amazing and varied frigate designs out there, none meet the Navy’s needs?  Does that really seem like a credible statement or does it seem more like setting the stage to choose, yet again, the LCS as the next frigate?

Okay, I’ve just suggested that this is all laying the groundwork to, yet again, select the LCS as the Navy’s next frigate.  Is there any proof other than my invariably correct opinion?  Well, consider this tidbit from a USNI News article.

“As the Navy reworks its frigate requirements in the hopes of fielding a more capable ship for a more dangerous world, the two current Littoral Combat Ship builders may still have a slight advantage due to their hot production lines, the acting secretary of the Navy [Sean Stackley] said last night.” (3)

That sure sounds like a pre-ordained conclusion in the making, doesn’t it?
“We have less data on the foreign designs than we do on most of the other designs in the U.S., but having said that, what we learned from the Small Surface Combatant Task Force was that we made some assumptions then that weren’t exactly right,” he said. “We don’t know if they can or can’t [meet the new frigate requirements] with a foreign design …”

Wait a minute!!!!!  You don’t know whether a foreign design can meet the requirements?  Didn’t you just say that no foreign design meets the requirements?  Which is it?  Do they or don’t they meet the requirements?  And remember, you’ve admitted that there are no requirements since you’re still “assessing”.

“In particular, Boxall said, the 2014 task force didn’t get as much information as desired on alternative foreign designs, something the new effort hopes to correct.”

Not to beat a dead horse, here, but, again, if you didn’t get as much information as desired on foreign designs, how do you know they don’t meet the Navy’s [still being assessed] requirements?????

And what was that bit about, “we made some assumptions then that weren’t exactly right”?  I’ve got news for you Adm. Boxall, you made a LOT of assumptions that weren’t exactly right – in fact, they were exactly wrong.  Still, I wonder which one he’s referring to?

Is this enough or do you want more incompetence?  Of course you want more incompetence!   Consider this confused and contradictory statement.

“If we choose to go with a vertically launched system that could take any other longer-ranged missile of the future, that would be a bonus if you will, it would increase the flexibility to adapt to future weapons, but from an anti-surface standpoint that is not one of the focuses of this team at this time,” Boxall told the subcommittee. (Emphasis ours). “Most of the efforts we’re looking at right now is focused on the survivability aspects, (especially) improving the air defense capability.” (What he didn’t mention was that the Navy’s most powerful air defense missiles are all fired from, you guessed it, VLS).” (2)

The Breaking Defense article that this came from got it exactly right with their imbedded comment.  If the Navy is looking at improving the air defense capability of the LCS, the VLS is the most flexible and powerful way to achieve it and yet, in the Navy’s mind, a VLS is not a focus.  How’s that for confused and contradictory?

The LCS has, from day one, been beset by incompetence on an unbelievable scale and this is just continuing that trend.  The Navy lacks even the slightest clue about how to run the LCS program.  This would be hysterically funny if we weren't talking about a ship that will make up a third of our future combat fleet.

Adm. Boxall is a blithering idiot attempting to justify and speak for a confused and utterly incompetent Navy. 

Are you getting the picture, here?  This is utter lunacy and rampant incompetence run amok.  This is the best our “professional” naval warriors can offer??  Crap, we’re in trouble!


(1)USNI News website, “Navy Slowing Frigate Procurement To Allow Careful Requirements Talks; Contract Award Set for FY2020”, Megan Eckstein, 3-May-2017,

(2)Breaking Defense website, “LCS: HASC Seapower Chair Praises Frigate Delay”, Sydney J. Freedberg, Jr., 4-May-2017,

(3)USNI News website, “Stackley: More Capable Frigate Requires Full and Open Competition, But LCS Builders May Have Cost Advantage”, Megan Eckstein, 12-May-2017,

Friday, May 12, 2017


I’m seeing more and more blind, aimless pushing for more Navy ships by a variety of people both in uniform and out.  So what’s wrong with that?  Don’t we all want a bigger Navy?  Don’t we all think the Navy is overstretched?  Well, there are several problems.

Relevance – One of the major, possibly the most important, themes on this blog is the need for a solid concept of operations (CONOPS) before leaping into ship construction.  CONOPS is, of course, ultimately derived from strategy of which we have neither geopolitical nor military.  So how can we possibly build useful, relevant ships if we have no idea how they will fit into our force structure and how they will be used?  Building ships just to put hulls in the water is a good way to waste enormous sums of money – witness the Zumwalt, LCS, and Ford, to name a few.  The LCS, of course, is the poster boy for the bad results from the absence of a CONOPS.  We have a ship that has no military value and yet we’re building 40-50 of them!  Why would we want to give the Navy money to build more ships that offer no operational benefits?

Asset Responsibility – The Navy doesn’t take care of the ships and aircraft they have - quite the opposite, in fact.  The Navy is actively engaged in systematic deferral of maintenance intended to prematurely wear out platforms in order to justify new construction.  The Navy is attempting to early retire the entire Aegis cruiser class, the most advanced and powerful warship on the planet.  This is the farthest thing from responsible asset management and yet the Navy wants more assets?  Try taking care of what you have, first!

Fiscal Responsibility – The Navy has consistently demonstrated an almost incomprehensible inability to manage construction funding and stay on budget.  To be fair, the Navy knowingly lies about the estimated costs just to entice Congress into signing up for new construction and then when the real costs appear, of course they’re way over budget – a budget that was never realistic to begin with.  Either way, the Navy is fiscally inept at managing projects whether by lying up front, failing to meet stated budgets, or both.  How many billions (billions!!!!) of dollars is the Ford over budget, now, and it’s still not done?  Why should we give an organization with the Navy’s track record of fiscal mismanagement more money?

Readiness – The Navy has become a largely hollow shell of what it once was.  Readiness is at an all-time low.  Claims of readiness are a joke.  INSURV inspections were classified because they were too embarrassing.  Since the Navy can’t maintain the readiness of the ships they have, more ships will just mean more ships that are not combat ready.  Why would we want to compound the readiness problem by adding more non-functional ships and a greater maintenance burden to the fleet?

Here’s an example of the kind of the kind of blind, aimless push for more ships that I’m talking about.

“Eight Senators sent a letter Friday to Defense Secretary James Mattis, urging him to request all three Littoral Combat Ships originally planned for the 2018 budget.” (1)

Just out of idle curiosity, who were the 8 Senators who courageously stood up and advocated for the Navy?  Well, six of them were,

Richard Shelby – Alabama
Luther Strange – Alabama
Ron Johnson – Wisconsin
Tammy Baldwin - Wisconsin
Marco Rubio – Florida
Bill Nelson - Florida

On a seemingly unrelated note, do any of you remember what states the two LCS variants are manufactured in?  That’s right, Alabama and Wisconsin!  Now, do you happen to remember what state the east coast LCS’s are based in?  Right again, Florida!  It’s probably just coincidence that six of the eight Senators who want more LCS’s are from Alabama, Wisconsin, and Florida where the LCS’s are manufactured and based.  United States Senators would not use the LCS as a jobs program at the expense of the welfare of the country and the Navy, right?

The other two Senators are from Michigan.  I’m sure there’s a jobs related connection there but I’m not seeing it at the moment.  Perhaps Michigan manufactures some key LCS component?  Moving on …

You see what’s happening, here?  We’re seeing a demand for Navy ships that is not based on strategic and operational needs but on crass and petty reasons like jobs and the Navy is happy to go along with it.

Now, understand that I’m not opposed to increasing the size of the Navy.  In fact, I’m strongly in favor of it but only if it’s done responsibly and in a way that supports our strategic and operational needs.  More LCS’s aren’t going to accomplish that.  Zumwalts aren’t going to accomplish that.  Hideously expensive Fords that offer little improvement over Nimitzes aren’t going to accomplish that.

With all that in mind, I’m dead set against giving the Navy any more money until they can convince me that they’ll spend it wisely, spend it with an eye on operational requirements, prove they’ll maintain the assets they’re given, and can convince me that they’ll be good stewards of my taxpayer dollars.  Until then, not a penny!


(1)Breaking Defense website, “Key SASC, SAC-D Senators Push More LCS”, Sydney J Freedberg, Jr., 29-Apr-2017,

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Aegis Cruiser Gets Lucky

You’ve probably already read that a South Korean fishing boat collided with the Aegis cruiser Lake Champlain.  Apparently, damage was minimal to both vessels. 

“Guided-missile cruiser USS Lake Champlain (CG-57) and a South Korean fishing vessel collided in international waters east of the Korean Peninsula, the Navy said in a statement this morning. That fishing vessel lacked functioning radio or GPS and did not heed audio warnings, a defense official told USNI News.” (1)

How can a Navy Captain allow an unidentified and non-responsive boat to get close enough to collide?  Did we learn nothing from the Cole attack?  Do we not recall that North Korean forces have torpedoed a South Korean ship?  Have we forgotten that North Korean small boats and mini-subs have been found in South Korean waters?  While there may have been no overt reason to believe this was a suicide/attack attempt, there was also no reason to believe that it wasn’t given North Korea’s history and erratic and unpredictable behavior.  In fact, blowing up a US cruiser would have been something quite appealing to North Korea.

I repeat, how did a Navy Captain allow an unidentified and non-responsive boat to get close enough to collide?  That’s a huge risk of a multi-billion dollar ship.  That’s gross incompetence.  The Captain should be relieved and court-martialed. 


(1)USNI News website, “UPDATED: Cruiser Lake Champlain Collides With South Korean Fishing Vessel That Lacked Radio, GPS”, Megan Eckstein, 9-May-2017,

Monday, May 8, 2017

Dual Band Radar Review

Before it passes into a mere historical footnote, let’s take a closer look at the once vaunted Dual Band Radar (DBR) that was to equip the Ford and Zumwalt classes.  The DBR combines an X-Band and S-Band radar in array panels versus the old style rotating radars. 

Let’s take a moment and recall what the old, mechanical, rotating radars were.  There were two main ones:

  • SPS-40/49 - Two dimensional (bearing and range), long range (256 nm), air search, L-band (851-942 MHz)

  • SPS-48 – Three dimensional (bearing, range, and height), long range (250 nm), air search, 7.5 – 15 rpm, mechanically rotated, electronically steered beams for elevation, 4500 lb, E & F-band (2-4 GHz)

There were also additional radars for navigation, air traffic control, fire control illumination, etc.

By comparison, the DBR consists of several flat panel arrays of two types:

  • SPY-3 – X-band (8-12 GHz), low altitude targeting and horizon search, target illumination and datalink for SM-2 and ESSM (2)

  • SPY-4 Volume Search Radar (VSR) – S-band, 3-face, long range search/track and cueing for the SPY-3 (2)

There is a great deal of overlap between the two systems, as described by Raytheon,

“Many search and track functions, such as cued acquisition and precision track (providing high update rate, fire control quality data) can be allocated to either or both frequencies, automatically or through command and control direction.” (2)

This provides a measure of redundancy and resilience to damage in combat.  Along the same lines, the presence of two overlapping radars allows the degrading effects of weather to be minimized by being able to switch between them as conditions warrant (2).

The system uses a total of six array faces, three for each band.  Each of the arrays covers 120 deg with three of them combining to provide 360 deg coverage.

The total DBR system is reported to cost $500M (1).

The DBR was originally intended to outfit the Zumwalt and Ford classes but will now only be installed on the first Ford carrier (3).  For Zumwalt, the SPY-4 has been deleted as a cost savings measure.  Deletion of the SPY-4 from the Zumwalt DBR will reportedly save $180M (1).

The Navy concluded, correctly, that a carrier just doesn’t need a radar system this capable since the carrier has no long range AAW missiles and would be unlikely to radiate in combat, depending instead on shared data pictures provided by Aegis escorts and E-2 Hawkeye aircraft.  This was acknowledged by RAdm. Thomas Moore, PEO Carriers, in an article presented by Defense News website,

“… analysis showed the carrier didn't need all the system's capabilities.” (3)

Related side note:  wouldn’t it have been nice (and logical) to perform the analysis prior to designing the carrier?  But, I digress …

DBR was slated to replace several different legacy radar systems that performed air traffic control, air search, navigation, and fire-control, etc.  This offers a potentially significant increase in efficiency and reduction in maintenance and personnel.  However, by combining the functions of several legacy radars into one system, a single point of multiple failures is created.  A single failure can potentially cost the ship its detection, tracking, targeting, navigation, air traffic control, and fire control functions.  That’s a steep price to pay for a single failure.  This is a case where efficiency is trumped by separation and redundancy, the foundations of survivability.  In other words, combat resilience trumps cost effectiveness.  This is yet another example of how trying to run a combat organization like a business is a flawed concept.

Another key aspect of the DBR system, just as with Aegis, is complexity and maintainability.  Aegis suffered from a fleet wide degradation serious enough to cause the Navy to form one of its infamous Admiral chaired panels.  I have seen no public documentation regarding the results of that remediation effort.  I do not know what state the Aegis system is in, today.  Having seen no grand pronouncements of success, I have to assume that the system still suffers from systemic degradation. 

DBR will be even more complex and common sense suggests that it, too, will suffer from maintenance and reliability problems.  Even worse, DBR is almost a one-of-a-kind system.  The Navy is highly unlikely to incur the cost of setting up technician schools and creating a technician training program adequate to maintain the system.  Similarly, the spare parts logistical train necessary to support the system is unlikely to be adequately established.  We saw exactly this phenomenon play out with the nearly one-of-a-kind Enterprise/Long Beach radar systems which suffered from a lack of trained technicians and support and were, in relatively short order, abandoned.

It is a near certainty that the Ford’s radar system will never work as intended and will, in relatively short order, be abandoned and replaced.

On a closely related side note, the complexity and support issues lead, inexorably, to the question, is it better to have a bleeding edge radar system that can’t be maintained and never achieves its intended performance or to have a more basic system (like a mechanical, rotating system) that is utterly reliable, can be maintained at sea, and provides its maximum performance at all times?

In any event, there are lessons to be learned from the DBR program. 

  • Carriers don’t need highly capable radar systems since they don’t have highly capable weapons that require highly capable radars

  • Carriers don’t radiate in combat;  instead, they rely on data links from other aircraft and ships so, again, they don’t need sophisticated radars

  • Performance analyses must be performed prior to ship design

  • One of a kind systems are not sustainable

  • Cost and operational efficiency do not trump combat effectiveness

The DBR is fated to pass into the footnotes of history but we would do well to learn its lessons before it does.


(1)USNI News website, “PEO Carriers: CVN-79 Will Have a New Radar, Save $180M Compared to Dual Band Radar”, Megan Eckstein, March 17, 2015,

(2)Raytheon website, What We Do > Products > Dual Band Radar,

(3)Defense News website, “Dual Band Radar Swapped Out In New Carriers”, Christopher P. Cavas, 17-Mar-2015,

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Harpoon Drops Out of OTH Competition

Defense New website reports that Boeing is pulling its Harpoon missile out of the running for the Navy’s over-the-horizon (OTH) weapon system intended for the LCS and, possibly, other Navy ships (1).  The bizarre aspect of this is that Boeing’s stated reason for doing so is that the Navy has dumbed down the requirements to the point that Boeing believes the Harpoon is overqualified and that the opportunity is, therefore, not worth pursuing.

Digest that, for a moment.

Here are the relevant quotes.

“Troy Rutherford, director of cruise missile systems at Boeing Defense, said the company had long planned to adapt the Block II Plus Extended Range Harpoon being developed for Naval Air Systems Command (NAVAIR) to support the needs of Naval Sea Systems Command (NAVSEA).

“We felt we were well-positioned when the RFP dropped” in February, Rutherford said, but subsequent Navy changes -- in Boeing’s opinion – devalued a lot of what the company felt it could offer.”

“But, he said, “in every iteration of the RFP amendments we see a decrease in the top-level requirements document and changes in the top-level requirements document. We’ve taken a hard look at that and said that at this point it doesn’t make sense for the Boeing Company to bid on this.” 

We just recently reviewed the Kongsberg Naval Strike Missile (NSM) (see, "Kongsberg Naval Strike Missile") and we’ve previously looked at the Long Range Anti-Ship Missile (LRASM) (see, for example, "LRASM Update").  Both of those appear to have many more features and capabilities than the Harpoon and yet they're not dropping out of the competition.

Harpoon Test Launch From LCS

Something is not right about this.  Is Boeing pulling out because they’ve realized or been told that their Harpoon is technologically non-competitive and they just want to put a positive spin on it – a spin intended to support and reassure less demanding foreign sales?  Is Boeing nervous about having a unilateral – and non-profitable – cost imposed on them by the government, as was done to Lockheed?  Has Boeing concluded that their ship version of the Harpoon would be too expensive to compete?  Something else?

By all accounts, the ship launched version of Harpoon essentially already exists.  If the Navy has dumbed down requirements, Boeing could simply omit the various affected bits and pieces and price the missile accordingly.  What would they have to lose by placing a bid for a dumbed down version?

Here’s a puzzling and potentially disturbing statement from the article.

“Among the differences between the NAVAIR and NAVSEA requirements, Rutherford noted, are all-weather and net-enabled capabilities for the air-launched weapon – capabilities deleted or not given in the surface ship requirements.

This is saying that the ship launched OTH missile will not be all-weather capable?!  So, we’re only going to fight during good weather?  Nothing about that sounds right, does it? 

Also, the OTH missile won’t be network enabled?  The entire premise of the Navy’s much ballyhooed distributed lethality is that every sensor, every platform, and every weapon ARE networked.  Again, this does not sound right.

You don’t need me to tell you that something is fishy about this.  Something is not right about this story but I don’t know what.  I’ll keep an eye on this.


(1)Defense News website, “Boeing Pulls Harpoon From US Navy Missile Competition”, Christopher Cavas, 2-May-2017,