Friday, December 30, 2016

Fullbore Friday

Your commander matters. The best commanders know when to take the advice of their staff and when to brush it off. 

The worst commanders are those who lack the knowledge or personality to know when to do one of the other.

As told by Douglas Sterling;
“Great Army of the Sea”

On May 16, the English royal council met and pushed back the deadline for gathering the ships until June 12, which would mean a sailing date around the 20th. When Edward met with his council again on June 4, it was clear that earlier delays had not been resolved. The only way to even attempt to keep up with the timetable previously set, which was being relied upon by the allies, was to send at least a small force across the Channel to give support. Little did the English council know that the French had amassed a fleet, principally from the Norman ports, and had sailed from Harfleur on May 26. It was a large force, consisting of 202 vessels—seven royal sailing ships, six galleys, 22 oared barges, and 167 merchantmen— requisitioned by Philip’s agents. By the time the smaller English force sailed, the French had passed Calais.

The French fleet, called the “Great Army of the Sea,” appeared off Sluys on June 8. According to Jonathan Sumption, author of a multivolume history of the Hundred Years’ War, the French soon “swiftly and brutally occupied the island of Cadzand and anchored in the mouth of the River Zwin opposite the harbor of Sluys. The news passed rapidly through the Low Countries, spreading panic in coastal towns and drawing a great crowd of gapers to the foreshore to watch the denouement.”

Reaching the English government two days later, the news of the French attacks at Sluys caused a near panic, many of the king’s advisers claiming the odds were too great to force a confrontation with such an armada. Edward’s Chancellor, Archbishop Stratford, in particular argued strenuously that the risk was too great. He had never supported the King’s enterprise and now considered it folly to risk the government’s finances, its fleet, the security of the English coast, and, indeed, the King’s person on an unworkable scheme. Edward would have none of it, and accused his advisers of trying to frighten him. For him, there could be no question of abandoning the coalition he had helped create, nor could there be any question of running from a fight. “I shall cross the sea and those who are afraid may stay at home,” he announced.

Archbishop Stratford resigned and was succeeded by his brother Robert, Bishop of Chichester. Edward was, however, persuaded to delay his departure for a few days to requisition more ships and to convert a transport armada into a battle fleet. Horses were removed to make room for infantry, and strong messages were sent to every reachable port to provide all ships over 40 tons. No excuses were accepted; Edward himself confronted the mariners of Great Yarmouth who were yet delinquent.

By June 20, nearby harbors were empty and the ships previously assembled were brought into the Pool of Orwell to join the large ships of the western Admiralty. The exact size of the armada is unclear, but is thought to have been around 140 to 150 ships when added to the Northern Fleet under Lord Robert Morley. Edward himself went aboard the cog Thomas, and the fleet set sail just after midnight on June 22, 1340.

Kind Edward Longed for Revenge

Catching a strong northwesterly breeze, the English fleet passed the point of Harwich at dawn and late on the following afternoon stood off the Flemish coast west of the Zwin estuary. Inside, the French fleet lay in wait, commanded by Admirals Hugh Quieret and Nicholas Behuchet. According to Jean Froissart, the famous chronicler of the early part of the war, “King Edward saw such a number of masts in front of him that it looked like a wood. When he asked his ship’s captain what it could be, he replied that it must be the Norman fleet that King Philip kept constantly at sea, which had done such great damage at Southampton, capturing the Christopher and killing her crew. King Edward declared that he had long wanted to fight them, and now, please God and Saint George, he would be able to, for they had done him such harm that he longed for revenge.”

The French saw the English fleet, too, and held a council of war. Barbavera, as the most experienced sailor among the commanders, counseled caution. He was concerned that the anchorage in which the French fleet lay was too confined for maneuvers if attacked and that the wind, blowing into the mouth of the river, would further hamper maneuverability. He suggested that Quieret and Behuchet take their fleets into the open ocean where they would have a better chance to maneuver and meet the English fleet on more favorable terms, but his colleagues balked. In their minds, the mass of their force was more than a match for the English. It certainly looked it, with the closeness of their ships and their great bulk, with bows, poops, and masts fortified with timber. Reinforcements from Flemish and Spanish allies brought their force to 213 vessels. Quieret and Behuchet were afraid that any move to the open ocean would provide an opening for the English force to sail in behind them and land in Flanders.

Instead of following Barbavera’s advice, the French admirals drew their ships into three lines across the mouth of the estuary, like an army on land setting up a strong defense. In the first line were 19 of their largest vessels, including the captured cog Christopher, which stood out larger than the others. Each line was chained together to form an impregnable barrier.
Who said SEALS are a recent invention?
The English sent a knight, Reginald Cobham, ashore with two others to gather intelligence on the French anchorage and their dispositions for the battle. Their report pointed out the major weakness of the French order of battle that Barbavera had warned of: the anchored, chained, and massed lines. According to N.A.M. Rodger, “This was a traditional galley or longship tactic, serving to make the naval battlefield as much like a battlefield ashore as possible, but of course it removed any possibility of manoeuvre and resigned the initiative to the enemy.” 
An English council of war decided to grasp the initiative and attack the next day when they would have the advantage of wind and tide behind them. 
Preparing for Battle
At the end of the 15th century, the Zwin estuary silted up, so that the site of the Battle of Sluys is now farm land and dunes. In 1340, according to Sumption, it was “a stretch of shallow water about 3 miles wide at the entrance and penetrating some 10 miles inland towards the city of Bruges. It was enclosed on the northeastern side by the low-lying island of Cadzand and on the west by a long dyke on which a huge crowd of armed Flemings stood watching. Along the west side lay the out-harbours of Bruges, Sluys, Termuiden and Damme.” 
In preparation for battle, the English also drew up their fleet in three battle lines. In the early afternoon of June 24, they began to press down from the north on the entrance to the Zwin. Although Froissart’s account of the battle is truncated in time— making it seem like the dispositions of the two fleets and the attack of the English followed quickly upon the two forces sighting one another—he nevertheless gives a stirring battle narrative. According to him, Edward deployed his fleet, maneuvering it “so that the wind was on their starboard quarter, in order to have the advantage of the sun, which had previously shown full in their faces. The Normans, unable to understand these maneuvers, thought that the English were trying to avoid giving battle; but they were delighted to see that King Edward’s standard was flown, for they were eager to fight him.” It was then that the English fleet “advanced to the sound of trumpets and other warlike instruments.” 
The English had the wind and the tide. Importantly, they sailed with the sun behind them, shining into the faces of the French. 
Within the French force, confusion was beginning to overshadow confidence. As Sumption relates, the French fleet “had been too long at their battle stations and the chained lines of vessels, which originally extended across the breadth of the bay, had drifted eastward piling the ships up against each other on the Cadzand shore and reducing their sea room still further. The chains were useless in these conditions.” The French admirals ordered the chains to be thrown off, and the fleet then attempted to recover the open flank to the west. 
Unfortunately, the Riche de Leure, a front line vessel of the French force, detached from their line and became entangled with a ship of the English van. While those ships grappled and struggled together, the English front line rammed into the French. 
The front lines of the two forces included their largest ships. Edward’s flagship, the cog Thomas, was among the large ships from the Cinque Ports and faced the Christopher, captured from the English in earlier action, and the St. Denis, a large vessel with 200 seamen aboard. 
Sea battle tactics in this period consisted of grappling with an enemy vessel to assault the enemy decks with showers of arrows in preparation for boarding, which was seen as a kind of infantry attack, like an assault on a fortress. The idea was to hold the enemy close to weaken them for a victorious assault. This is indeed how Froissart described the beginning of the battle, with “each side opening fire with crossbows and longbows, and hand-to-hand fighting began. The soldiers used grappling irons on chains in order to come to grips with the enemy boats.” Both sides had artillery of a sort, stone throwers and giant crossbows called “springalds,” but, according to Sumption, they were “more dramatic than useful.” 
Arrows Fell on French Crews “Like Hail in Winter” 
Because the French force was hemmed in by the weight of the English fleet and was soon snared with hooks and grappling irons, they were forced to fight with a serious disadvantage in firepower. For, as in the English land battles that were to come in the following years, the English crews were equipped with the longbow, which was greatly superior to the crossbow used by the French and their Italian allies. As Sumption says, the longbow “was more accurate. It had a longer range. Above all it could be fired at a very rapid rate.” He quotes a London observer as describing arrows falling on the French crews “like hail in winter,” while “crossbows had to be lowered and steadied at the stirrup while the wire was strenuously levered back between every firing.” 
By all accounts, the battle was ferocious and the slaughter terrible. According to Froissart, “The battle … was cruel and horrible. Sea-battles are always more terrible than those on land, for those engaged can neither retreat nor run away; they could only stand and fight to the bitter end, and show their courage and endurance.” Although the French had the advantage in numbers, the disposition of their forces and the weight at the point of attack favored the English. 
Still, the French and their allies fought hard. The English forces “were hard-pressed, for they were outnumbered four to one, and their enemies were all experienced sailors. But King Edward, who was in the flower of his youth, proved himself a gallant knight, and he was supported by … many … gallant knights [who] fought so valiantly, with the help of those from the neighborhood of Bruges, that they won the day.” 
The fighting proved to be fierce and lasted well into the afternoon when it became clear to the French in the rear lines that their comrades in the front were suffering grievously. Yet they were unable to join the fray because they were hemmed in between their own front line and the shore, and did not have room to maneuver round to the west. By evening, however, the English front line had broken through to the French ships in the rear and fell upon them. Now the English had a tremendous advantage in weight of ship as their cogs towered over the smaller French ships in their second line and they were able to rake the decks of the French from their greater height. 
With the English clearly winning, Flemings began to pour from Sluys and other harbors in the estuary to join the fight and share in the victory. They fell upon the French from the rear as the English continued to press from the front. As night fell, the third French line of Norman merchantmen and Philip’s barges attempted to escape the estuary. The English tried to block their path and the battle devolved into a series of skirmishes as more and more French ships made toward the open sea. By 10 pm the fighting was nearly over, except for two ships so entangled that they fought fiercely throughout the night. By the time the English were able to board the French ship at dawn the next day, they discovered 400 enemy dead aboard. 
Unlike war ashore, at sea here is not much room to retreat once fully engaged. Losses are rarely done in retail, deaths are wholesale. In modern times as it was for thousands of years.
Almost 18,000 Frenchmen Were Killed

In fact, only the dawn of the following day would reveal the extent of the French defeat and the tremendous loss of life and shipping. According to Sumption, the French “suffered a naval catastrophe on a scale unequalled until modern times.” The English had captured 190 of the 213 French ships that had been engaged, including their old cogs, Christopher and Edward . Although a certain number had escaped, including Barbavera’s six galleys, four of the six-oared galleys based at Dieppe, and 13 others, the death toll was almost indescribable. Again, as Sumption puts it, “The crews and troops on board the ships which did not escape were killed almost to a man. No quarter was given once a ship was boarded, and those who threw themselves into the sea, as many did, were picked up by the Flemings on the foreshore and clubbed to death.” Perhaps between 16,000 and 18,000 Frenchmen were killed. Edward himself would write to his son that each tide brought in more and more corpses.

As for the French admirals, Quieret was killed when his ship was boarded by the English. Behuchet, who was recognized by his captors, was held for ransom. Then, Edward III, in a pique of anger, waived the normal conventions of aristocratic warfare and had Behuchet hanged from the mast of his flagship.\
And now, befitting our era; the Battle of Sluys in Lego. Seriously; it's fairly good to excellent.

Thursday, December 29, 2016

Diversity Thursday

Now and then on DivThu, instead of raging against the dying of the light, we try to put a little light on one of the cold hard facts that are one of the real reasons that on the edge of 2017, we still do not have a Navy officer corps that "looks like America."

As we have covered through the years, there are significant problems up-stream that prevent black and "hispanic" groups from being represented in the same percentage as they are in the general population.

For officer selection, one of the primary objective criteria that will cull any pool of applicants is education. Just jumping through one gate or another isn't enough, you have to be one of the better jumpers.

If you desire an officer corps to reflect the racial and government approved ethnic group make-up of the general population, nearing the end of the second decade of the 21st Century, you need to stop putting your Diversity Stormtroopers against the armed services, but instead invest in the education of our children most in need.

Take some time to review the following from the Brown Center on Education Policy at Brookings on improving high school and college graduation rates.

There is a reason obscene, discriminatory, racist, and soul crushing compromises are made to "make the numbers work" on the margins - it is because you don't have the same entering objective criteria.

The reasons are complicated, but are not the fault of the US Navy - much less those who self-identify as Asian, mixed race, and non-"hispanic" European who just want to serve.

Here are the pull quotes;
...according to the Digest of Educational Statistics, Asians (57 percent) and whites (40 percent) are roughly twice as likely to hold a bachelor’s degree as African Americans (27 percent) and Hispanics (20 percent). Despite recent improvements in college-going rates, the overall degree completion rates, combined with disparities in educational attainment for low-income and underrepresented populations, will impede our nation’s efforts to develop a flourishing, inclusive economy.
The opportunity gap remains one ongoing challenge. The overall increase in high school graduation rates notwithstanding, substantial racial and economic variation persist. For example, while 88 percent of white students graduate, only 73 percent of African American and 75 percent of Hispanic Americans leave school with a diploma. That means one-quarter of African and Hispanic American students have little chance of obtaining a reasonably well paying job and are effectively shut out of college.
According to Columbia University’s Community College Research Center (CCRC), 92 percent of two-year colleges and many four-year colleges use reading, writing, and math placement assessments. The State Higher Education Executive Officers Association (SHEEO) and Complete College America report that for two-year colleges, “more than 70 percent of black students and 60 percent of Hispanic students fail the assessments and enroll in at least one remedial course compared to just over 50 percent of white and Asian students.” Another CCRC report finds that 68 percent of community college students and 40 percent of open-access four-year college students are placed into remedial courses.

There are some things the Navy can do that I think everyone can support. Our enlisted ranks have greater "diversity" than the officer ranks. As we all know, we have a lot of great Sailors who just happened to grow up in poor public education systems that did not prepare them for college level work. What if we move NAPS to what it should be, a place to get sharp but mal-educated enlisted ready for USNA, instead of mostly a place to red-shirt athletes?

That sure would establish the right priority signal, wouldn't it?

Just an idea.

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Fighting a War With Your Face

What does a well shaved Eastern European know about your line of work that you don't?

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

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

The Hard Math of Hypersonic

As much as I like to emphasize the important but much maligned liberal arts side of this line of work, I have to give a nod to our engineering minded; the math matters. As such, and be kind, but let's exercise that side of the brain today.

Be warned; there will be math.

As the designers of the Long Lance torpedo and its victims will tell you - the engineering matters. Speed. Distance. Rigorous, operationally realistic testing. It all matters. When war comes, they speak.

The numbers - both quantity and quality - are what often at sea define the odds when the shooting starts. It predestines nothing; in Tamarian I believe it goes, "The Spanish Armada in the Channel" or somesuch - but it must be the entering argument. Once you establish that baseline, then you can talk about tactics, leadership and all that liberal arts stuff.

Remember; the Comanche had the best light cavalry in the world; the Germans had the best tanks; the Japanese had the best torpedoes; the French had the best DFAC ... so ... having the best isn't everything, but it is preferred.

In that light, let's look at the most deadly offensive weapon in Anti-Surface Warfare (ASUW). Just in time for Christmas, this little present was slipped under the tree;
Two aging Russian Navy battlecruisers will be outfitted with the anti-ship version of the world's first hypersonic missile, the 3K-22, which carries Zircon (or Tsirkon) 3M22 hypersonic warheads. This hypersonic missile will also arm Russian ballistic missile submarines.

With a claimed speed of Mach 5 or 6,200 km/h, the 3K-22 has a range of 450 kilometers. The weight of the 3M22 Zircon warhead remains unknown but will likely be heavier than the 200 kg warhead on India's BrahMos supersonic cruise missile. 
It's widely believed BrahMos II is the export version of the 3M22 Zircon. BrahMos II, which will have a speed of Mach 7 (8,600 km/h), will be the world's fastest cruise missile when it enters service with the Indian Armed Forces some eight years from now.
Production of the 3M22 Zircon is expected to begin in 2017. Tests of this warhead began last March.
Yes my friends, over the last couple of decades as our best and brightest spent a lot of real capital - not to mention mountains of political and reputational capital - on one ship to counter Boston Whalers and another designed with around guns that can't afford the rounds it shoots - other navies were focused on weapons designed primarily to keep the premier global power from operating in THEIR seas, i.e. sinking the US Navy.

We made the decision that we could push to the right and accept the risk of not being able to do the same. In the post-Cold War era, we got a bit spoiled and rested on our temporary supremacy at sea. As a result, most of our primary surface warships built since the fall of the Soviet Union - the DDG-51 Class - don't - and more importantly can't - even carry Anti-Ship Cruise Missiles (ASCM), let's check in on what we have in the near term inside our lifelines, and what may be peaking it's nose over the horizon. 

As a companion piece to what I ran last month at USNIBlog, let's look at a couple of things;

- What we have.
- What they have.

When you can you see it?

How long until a weapon is ready to engage?

At what distance will your weapon intercept it?


...or perhaps this?

With those ASCM in the green, like we have seen off Yemen this year, we can handle that. Those in the Yellow? We've been thinking about that challenge since the end of the Cold War.  

Those in the Red?

Well, do the math and it doesn't take long to realize that the only effective kinetic counter to hypersonic once it makes it to a few minutes from impact needs to be, yes, the speed of light; lasers. Lasers are limited to line of sight, so that gives us the visual horizon of a warship.

I warned you there would be math. Let's use round numbers for a point to argue from; if both the incoming weapon and sensor are 30' above the water, that gives you a visual horizon to detect of 12.9-nm. For a missile going Mach 3, that gives you about 21 seconds to impact. 

Again, follow the questions between the spreadsheet and the video above.

That is for a Mach-3 ASCM. Now do the math for a Mach-5. A Mach-7.

It does focus the mind a bit, yes?

For some, this brings up the old saw, "Shoot the archer, not the arrow." OK; shoot it with what?

I actually like the archer analogy for a couple of reasons. Here's one way that goes a little deeper. 

Let's go back to the "archer." In the late Middle-Ages, the English/Welsh Longbowmen were the terror of Europe. They were fast, agile, and could eliminate the flower of European nobility hundreds of yards before that nobility, with their shining, exquisite armor and expensive lances, maces, swords, and battle-axes could be brought to bear.

Longbowmen were also very vulnerable, as they were lightly armed. The only way to eliminate them from the field was through a surprise cavalry attack from the flank or by your own archers who had the range, will, and numbers to move them off the field.

We have yet to see a Battle of Crécy at sea to really show the power of the ASCM. From the coast of Sinai, to the Falkland Islands, to the Persian Gulf, we have seen little demonstrations over the last couple of decades, that is about it. 

We have been warned.

Note I didn't include the recent US Navy swatting down the relatively primitive ASCM used off Yemen. That generation of ASCM really is no match for our DDG as long as everything works. That exchange ended as it should - but we should not think we have the modern problem solved.

In time, it was only the invention of the firearm that ended the Longbowman's tenure. That took awhile, as will our response to modern ASCM.

There is a larger question here, and it has to do with a dominate power's complacency. We mostly talk about defense - but what are we doing about offence? Why is it the world's premier naval power has some of the slowest and shortest range ASCM?

Does that fact give you pause? It should. Look at what we are, replacing Harpoon with, perhaps, LRASM and NSM. Are they even supersonic? No. Do they challenge modern defenses? On paper, not really if you discount any electronic fairy dust.

In some ways, we are just building the best, most high-tech pre-Dreadnoughts in an era when Dreadnoughts are growing in number.

NB: all speeds used here are from open source material. You, or I, may have different speeds in mind - but keep all that to yourself. This is just to demonstrate a point, not be military pedantic or to forget that we are blogg'n in the Red, not Green. An errata as well; "NATO Strike Missile" should be "Naval Strike Missile." My bust, I had NATO on the brain.

Friday, December 23, 2016

Fullbore Friday

It is always good to remember your friends at Christmas time.

When we speak of the "Frozen Chosin" or the "Chosin Few" we think of US Marines. Well - take some time to read this.

For those who have served with Royal Marines, the story of the
41 Independent Commando Royal Marines will ring a bell.
At Chosin, with 50 percent casualties from a unit strength of 250, they shaved every day in combat, looked after weapons and gear even when wounded, and refused helmets in combat.
41 Commando spent Christmas with the First Marine Division at Masan. ...Their ranks were badly depleted, particularly in specialists and NCOs, and it was eventually decided that they should withdraw to Japan to await reinforcements. It was with mixed feelings that the Commando left their USMC comrades. In his report, Lt.Col. Drysdale stated:

This is the first time that Marines of the two nations had fought side by side since the defense of the Peking Legation in 1900. Let it be said that the admiration of all ranks of 41 Commando for their Brothers in Arms was and is unbounded. They fought like tigers and their morale and esprit de corps is second to none.
Read it all.

When we fail to recognize what a great friend the British have been to this nation for so long, we not only do them a disservice - we dishonor ourselves.

Hat tip Derb. First posted DEC11.

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Rating Reversal - Back to the Future

In case you went to bed early last night - the CNO announced a reversal of the decision from a few months ago by the SECNAV to nuke a couple of hundred years of tradition to make the 3rd Wave feminists on his staff and the incoming Hillary Clinton Administration (sic) happy.

I'm discussing in a more balanced way over at USNIBlog, along with the leaked message that should be out by early AM.

Pic via SteelJawScribe.

Monday, December 19, 2016

Your LCS Callsign is "Grinch"

Yes Crew 203; we're talking to you. Yes, I know - it ain't your fault, but hey - you could be 204;
The deployment of the 70 sailors of Crew 204 plus its embarked air wing has been extended indefinitely because of the Navy's overhaul of the LCS manning structure launched earlier this year.

The ship and its crew deployed in June from San Diego en route to Hawaii and the semiannual Rim of the Pacific Exercise, followed by a transit to Singapore. The initial plan was for a six-month deployment and for the crew to rotate back to the states for the holidays. But that’s not happening, according to a Navy official familiar with the crew’s plight.

"They were originally told they'd be back around Thanksgiving, then it was Christmas," said the official, who asked not to be identified because he was not authorized to speak publicly about the issue.

"Now they are being told it might be April or May, but the truth is nobody seems to know when they'll be relieved."
Having been in that "needs of the Navy" shadow zone - I really feel for 204. They are just paying the bill run up by selfish people last decade motivated to feed the bureaucratic beast so the PPT slide was right, the metric matches the schedule, and Flag Officers had to answer fewer awkward questions on about program problems.

It also isn't the fault, really, of present leadership. They were given this scupper-trout in a hoagie roll at turnover. They are just having to figure out how to eat it.
Ultimately Crew 204 will be relieved by Crew 203, which is in its off-hull training cycle. But the change will come only after leaders are satisfied that the 203 is ready to take over Coronado, according to Cmdr. John Perkins, a spokesman for Naval Surface Force Pacific, which is in charge of training and equipping the surface Navy.

“Based on recent investigations into engineering casualties on board USS Freedom and USS Fort Worth attributed to insufficient turnover time and on-hull training opportunities, Naval Surface Forces directed that crews will receive on-hull training opportunities as part of the certification process,” Perkins said.

That should happen by early next year, he said.
As we warned here over a decade ago - the manning concept was not going to work. It isn't, and here we are in 2016 accepting the hard facts we told you would manifest themselves once LCS started displacing water and we tried to deploy. 

Yes, we need to keep repeating that fact - so all can see and as such will not repeat with future programs - the baby-shambles that came from all the wishes and words of yes-men ; the cants of lickspittles, dreamers, and time-serving fonctionnaires.

Sailors and their families will simply do what they have done for centuries; just accept it as part of the job. In a way, it is.

Read all of David's article. Feel free to get angry for Crew-204, and though again it isn't their fault, but someone needs a Crew 203 Grinch patch made pronto.

Sunday, December 18, 2016

The South African Border War and its Lessons, with LT Jack McCain, USN - On Midrats

If you define the Cold War as lasting 44 years from 1947 to 1991, then for over half the Cold War there was a simmering proxy war in southern Africa that involved, to one extent or another, the present day nations of Angola, Namibia, Zambia, and South Africa.

Over the course of time, it would involve nations from other hemispheres such as Cuba, and brought in to conflict two political philosophies of the 20th Century now held in disrepute in the 21st Century; Communism and Apartheid.

The last decade of the Cold War brought the conflict in fresh relief as part of the Reagan administration's push back against Communist aggression in South Africa, Central America, Afghanistan and elsewhere. Acronyms such as UNITA, and SWAPO were as well known then as AQAP and Boko Haram are now.

What does that relatively unknown conflict have to teach us about the nature of war today?

Our guest for the full hour this Sunday from 5-6pm Eastern to explore that answer will be Lieutenant Jack McCain, USN.

LT McCain is a helicopter pilot with operational experience in Guam, Japan, Brunei, the Persian Gulf, and the Western Pacific and is a graduate of the United States Naval Academy and Georgetown University’s School of Foreign Service. He is currently assigned as an instructor at the U.S. Naval Academy.

The opinions he expresses in this article are his own and represent no U.S. government or Department of Defense positions.

Join us live if you can, but if you miss the show you can always listen to the archive at blogtalkradio or Stitcher

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

Friday, December 16, 2016

Fullbore Friday

In the cold, grey, open sea there is a monster. It is a monster your whole nation fears. She fears it so much, the entire fleet is looking for it.

You are just a small part of that search and you are no dragon slayer. Your weapon is small, old, outclassed, and leaves you without protection - but it is what it is - and you are what you are.

The monster is out there, the call comes; you go. The odds are long; but they're your odds. It is your roll.

You step forward.
'The ship was pitching 60ft, water was running over the decks and the wind was blowing at 70 or 80mph. 
'And nobody mentions the deck hands who had to bring the planes up from the hangars - they did something special. After they brought them up they had to open the wings which took ten men for each wing. And then they had to wind a handle to get the starters working.
'After take-off we climbed to 6,000ft to get above the really thick cloud and we knew when we were near because all hell broke loose with Bismarck's fire. We got the order to attack and I went down and saw the enormous bloody ship. I thought the Ark Royal was big, but this one, blimey.

The Bismarck was built in August 1940 and was the biggest battleship made by Germany. 
'I must have been under 2,000 yards when I was about to launch the torpedo at the bow, but as I was about to press the button I heard in my ear "not now, not now".

'I turned round and saw the navigator leaning right out of the plane with his backside in the air. 
'Then I realised what he was doing - he was looking at the sea because if I had let the torpedo go and it had hit a wave it could have gone anywhere. I had to put it in a trough.

'Then I heard him say "let it go" and I pressed the button. Then I heard him say "we've got a runner" - and I got out of there. 
'My navigator was a chap called John "Dusty" Miller and I've spent the last 20 years trying to find out what happened to him or where he is.' 
Mr Moffat pulled up before the torpedo hit and didn't see it strike. The following morning he flew to the ship for a second attack but there was no need.

He watched as the Bismarck, which had been under siege from the Royal Navy, rolled over. And he saw hundreds of German sailors leaping into the water as she started to sink. Only 115 of Bismarck's crew of 2,222 survived. 
'I didn't dare look any further, I just got back to the Ark Royal and I thought: "There but for the grace of God go I",' said Mr Moffat, from Dunkeld, Scotland.

He only found out it was his torpedo that crippled the Bismarck when the Fleet Air Arm - the Navy's air force - wrote to him in 2000. He said: 'It gave me a sort of satisfaction.'
The pilot who dropped that torpedo didn't even know it was his torpedo that did the job until 60 years later. Amazing.

Lieutenant Commander John "Jock" Moffat, Royal Navy, passed earlier this month.

Interesting what he did post war;
In total, he served with four squadrons in a Fleet Air Arm career spanning eight years.
After the war he trained as a hotel manager and remained with the profession for decades. He took up flying again in his 60s and flew into his early 90s.
In recent years he campaigned for the 'No' side in the Scottish independence referendum, appearing alongside Scottish Conservative leader Ruth Davidson in 2014 to make the defence case for the Union.
Well done Shipmate. Well done.

Go to the 1:14 mark.

Thursday, December 15, 2016

Diversity Thursday

Just a short DivThu a little late today; sorry about that.

Today I point you over to a guest post via Doctrine Mat at, Diversity: At What Cost? A MINORITY FEMALE LEADER’S PERSPECTIVE.

Read it all, but this is what is so nice about it. 

It can be lonely sometimes pushing back against the officially sanctioned sectarianism as promoted by our Department of Defense. It is sad to see an organization we love encourage racial conflict and animus - to actively discriminate on the basis of race, creed, color or national origin.

How millions through tens of millions of dollars each year are spent to subsidize an otherwise unemployable cadre of spiteful, race obsessed, and bitter people in our branch of the Diversity Industry who wake up each day thinking to themselves how they can further prevent our Soldiers, Sailors, Marines, Coast Guardsmen, and Airmen from being one.

Then ... from down the trenches you hear a voice singing the same song, and then ... you know you are not alone;
Demographic profile goals, quotas, minority sub-groups, and diversity campaigns are counterproductive to the genuine organizational integration of minorities because — while well-intentioned — they defy logic in many ways:
- Quotas and goals are essentially a patronization of minorities. As a racial minority female, quotas stipulate that since I am incapable of earning a particular position based on my own merit or ability, I need the organization to improve my potential for success based on my gender and race.
- Quotas and goals perpetuate stereotypes: “The only reason he got that job is because he is Hispanic.”
- Quotas and goals create a perception of “equal results” as the goal instead of “equal opportunity.”
- Quotas and goals fundamentally contradict the principle of gender, sexual orientation, color, and religious “blindness” in talent management.

Instead, they do just the opposite.
- Minority sub-groups and campaigns create divisiveness by seeking celebratory attention for minority groups for nothing more than their existence in the organization.
- Minority sub-groups and campaigns undermine inclusiveness by highlighting differences that make minorities special, while simultaneously advocating for minority-blindness.
No one should be discriminated against because of gender, religion, race, or sexual orientation. Similarly, no one is any more special than another based on their gender, religion, race, or sexual orientation. It goes both ways! The act of dividing our organization into exclusive minority groups and special campaigns contradicts the ideas of inclusiveness and integration.

To promote equality of opportunity, we should remove names, genders, religions, races, and photos from ERBs and ORBs for selection boards for promotion and nominative assignments. Candidates won’t earn the opportunity to interview if they don’t advance beyond initial minority-blind screening. If we want equality of opportunity, “minority blindness,” and the removal of alleged institutional discrimination, this is a potential method.
Can she be any better? Of course she can;
Lastly, and probably most importantly, the organization absolutely cannot compromise standards. The expectations of our Army are far too serious for us to allow less-qualified individuals to permeate our organization in the name of diversity. Diversity is certainly beneficial — but not beneficial enough to justify deviating from established standards. What can my fellow minorities do to promote inclusiveness and diversity appreciation in the Army? First, do your job, and do it well. Second, use appropriate channels to report discriminatory people and policies — they have no place in our Army. Third, as leaders, always be fair and impartial, and take a hard look at yourself to identify potentially discriminatory biases you hold.
I could not say it better myself.

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Two Paths On Russia

There are different gradations of positions in an approach to Russia between an accommodationist and a confrontational stance.

I remain where I have been for years; we need to have a respectful but realist approach to Russia. She sees us as her primary opponent, but we have no desire for such and should not encourage her paranoia.

There are many places where we can work together, and we should happily grow our cooperation there. Those places our interests do not overlap, we should stand a reasonable ground, but not unnecessarily provoking a nation who has, rightfully, a not so slight streak of insecurity.

Thomas F. Remington over at TheNationalInterest gets close to where I am on Russia - a bit off in a few areas, but close;
Rhetoric matters, but it has to be backed up consistently with actual behavior. Gratuitous gestures, such as Assistant Secretary of State Victoria Nuland’s December 2013 visit to the Maidan rally, are foolish: they reinforce the paranoia of the Putin team while failing to bring about constructive change.

More generally, the next U.S. administration must shift its ideological focus from supporting “color revolutions” around the world—which in recent times have never resulted in democracy—and instead promote good governance as our primary aspiration. We should say that we want to see effective, honest and accountable governments that serve the interests of their peoples and enable countries to cooperate internationally to solve urgent global tasks.
While U.S. rhetoric and actions need to be consistent, the United States must recognize that Putin has increasingly staked the legitimacy of his regime on a hysterical anti-U.S. propaganda campaign. He is trying to foster a wartime atmosphere, and we should do nothing to give him opportunities to further this line. It is not in our power to force Putin to reverse course, but we should look for opportunities to deny him cheap public-relations victories. We should continue to point out that his posture is not benefiting Russia’s international positions, nor its economic well-being. And we must state again and again that we want Russia to be strong and prosperous, a source of stability in its neighborhood.
There is, of course, another option - a more aggressive option.

I would feel a little more comfortable with James Poulos's robust stance over at TheWeek if our allies in Europe were spending close to 3% of GDP on defense - or at least 2% - as a signal that they can back our play, but they aren't. As such, I think defending Europe to the last American while those nations closest to Russia barely spend 1% of GDP to help defend against the bear - is a bit much.

That being said, I can appreciate the verve;
While we reasonably fret about homegrown neo-Nazis, China is busy consolidating a truly neo-fascist regime — ethno-nationalist, corporatist, and conflict-hungry to boot — of historically unprecedented reach and ambitions. If Trump loses Europe to Russia, he would exacerbate all of these problems, no matter how inclined he might be to share some global responsibility with Russia.

Annoying as the unending political drama of Europe may be, America can't just wash its hands of the mess (a lesson President Obama should have learned on Day One of his administration, but will leave office never having mastered). Even if Trump doesn't always want to surround himself with the very smartest people, he'll soon find that, here, he's already surrounded. Even if he doesn't realize that he must stop Putin from his long-held goal of expanding into Europe, the people around Trump, and the veteran experts in America's "deep state," will absolutely know this.

If you want to make America great again, you've got to make its continental presence in Europe great again, too. However much Trump may wheel and deal with the Russians, only one country can have the upper hand in Europe — a fact that ensures he can't jump into bed with them, too.
I'm sorry James, I just can't fully align with you. Emotionally, I am right with you - but when the first flush works its way out of the blood - no. 

We can't love Western Europe more than the Europeans. When our NATO allies have more population and GDP than we do, having hundreds of thousands of Americans garrisoning positions a day's march around the Oder, Narva, and Prut rivers because they won't shift funds from their armies of the idle and entitled? No.

We don't have to be Russia's friend - I don't think she really can have any or wants any. We also do not have to provoke her to be any more confrontational, flinty, or paranoid than she was, is, and will be.

She respects power and even more than that - others who respect themselves and their position. We should be firm and demand respect - but not to be foolishly looking for problems.

Monday, December 12, 2016

Everyone Goes Salamander on LCS

Almost everyone except VADM Rowden this month it seems, but he'll come around, again.

I believe most visitors to the Front Porch have already caught a snippet or two of the LCS slam-dance from earlier this month, but I think if you only know the pull quotes - that I'll start with here - you are missing the best parts.

Let's start with everyone's most popular Salamanderesque remark from the Senate hearing from our friend Sean - at the 1:51 point;
"The experience of LCS, it broke the Navy," said Sean Stackley, assistant secretary of the Navy for research, development and acquisition.
Though repeated in many articles, that pull quote really needs full context of the complete 01 DEC 16 United States Senate Armed Services Committee's hearing on Oversight, Acquisition, Testing, and Employment of the Littoral Combat Ship (LCS) and LCS Mission Module Programs. You can watch this in full here.

Another solid pull quote from the hearing that got some play - and is still funny every time I read it, is from Paul Francis, managing director of acquisition and sourcing management at the Government Accountability Office;
"The miracle of LCS didn't happen,"
With that set of the most quoted bits, let's back up a bit and look at a little, well plowed ground.

We've beat up on LCS a lot for the last decade, and right now we are deep in that stage we started talking about when we reached the point of no return, the place somewhere in this 12-step LCS program where; "Good people in hard jobs are doing the best to make of a flawed program for our fleet and its Sailors."

I know the hearing at the link is 2.5 hrs long, but not only are Stackley and Francis worth your time, Michael Gilmore and VADM Rowden also have some good moments to inform your opinion of this still developing program.

Senators McCain, Reed, Ayotte, and Inhofe make a good show, as do others.

BTW, separate LCS, Gilmore's gutting of F-35 at the 1:30-38 exchange with McCain is just brutal.

At about the 1:39 point Stackley hit center mass with Sen. King on our hobby horse - a blindness to technology risk, as does Francis with his culture comment at 1:44.

If anyone really goes Salamander, it would be Gilmore at 1:46, but let's get to a sore point that goes back to when we first tilted against LCS a decade ago. 

Damn it - we were right from the start. Go to Stackley at the 1:52 point,
Mr. Chairman, in reference to the $220 million ship; the witnesses who informed the Congress, I don't think they knew or understand how much this ship would cost. ... they believed, or they desired it strongly enough to believe that it would cost $220 million, but the underpinning below that was broken. 
I. Rest. My. Frick'n. Case.

I should never have to buy a beer in the Beltway ever again.

As I pivoted circa 2010, we now have what we have and we will to make the best of it - but we need to make sure that everyone only now paying attention and in the future knows how we got here so the same mistakes are not made again with the same program.

This story needs to be told over and over again and again and again. Good enough for the Senate and House, it is good enough for the Front Porch. 

OK, I'm going to stop now with the minute by minute reporting. I can't do a blow-by-blow, but I did my favorite part.

Watch it all.

A week later over a The House Armed Services Committee;
“The ship works,” Sean Stackley, the assistant secretary of the Navy for Research, Development, and Acquisition, said in closing testimony Dec. 8 before the House Armed Services Committee. “We have reliability issues but we’ll get through those.”
“It’s an exciting time in our Navy bringing this capability into the fleet, the capabilities that it [the LCS] is going to deliver” he (VADM Rowden) said. “We have a team focused on the issues, we’re learning about the issues, we’re learning about how to maintain it, and going forward I am 100 percent that we will tackle those issues and we will defeat them.”

“We need to acknowledge that many problems that exist and fix them,” said Gilmore, who has been highly critical of the development of the LCS, particularly the schedule, lack of testing, lack of reliability and lack of redundancy of systems, which impacts survivability. “I’m glad the Navy is now acknowledging these problems, but in the past that hasn’t always been true.”
OK VADM Rowden, calm down a bit. We're drifting in to FITREP verbiage over-reach;
Rowden, whose surface force has deployed three LCSs to the Western Pacific to date, said the fleet commanders keep asking him, ‘How many LCS can I get and how fast can you get them to me?’”
Oh, in the name of all that is holy, no they are not - not as presently configured and deployed. No one would trade one DDG for two 2016 LCS. If anyone would, they should be relieved for cause. 

If LCS were all that in need, the coast of Yemen would be crawling with LCS, but it isn't because LCS can't. 

The fruit is not ripe. It is on the tree, and it is the only tree we have to eat from - but the ripening is not complete. Eat too much of what is there 1QFY17, and you'll get sick.

So, almost everyone is going Salamander now except VADM Rowden. He'll come around eventually - he's been there before, drifted away, and come back. It is known.

Sunday, December 11, 2016

Towards a 350 Ship Navy, with Jerry Hendrix - On Midrats

Even before the election, President-elect Trump mentioned he wanted to get to a 350 ship Navy. The outgoing Secretary of the Navy has put us on a path to 308, and in his waning months is fighting a holding action on the shipbuilding budget giving as good of a turnover in this area to his relief.

What are the viable paths to 350 we could see in the opening years of a Trump Presidency? How long could it realistically take? What would a fleet look like 5, 10 or 20 years down the road?

What will this fleet be built to do? Will we need new designs to meet the evolving maritime requirements of an eventual national strategy?

To discuss this and more Sunday from 5-6pm Eastern will be one of our favorite guests, Dr. Jerry Hendrix, CAPT USN (Ret.), Senior Fellow and the Director of the Defense Strategies and Assessments Program at the Center for a New American Security.

His staff assignments include tours with the CNO’s Executive Panel, the Office of the Undersecretary of Defense for Policy, and the OSD Office of Net Assessment.

His final active duty tour was the Director of Naval History.

He has a Bachelor Degree in Political Science from Purdue University, Masters Degrees from the Naval Postgraduate School (National Security Affairs) and Harvard University (History) and received his doctorate from King’s College, London (War Studies).

He has twice been named the Samuel Eliot Morison Scholar by the Navy Historical Center in Washington, DC, and was also the Center’s 2005 Rear Admiral John D. Hays Fellow. He also held the Marine Corps’ General Lemuel C. Shepherd, Jr. Fellowship. He authored the book Theodore Roosevelt’s Naval Diplomacy and received a number of awards, including the United States Naval Institute’s Author of the Year and the Navy League’s Alfred T. Mahan Award for Literary Achievement.

Join us live if you can, but if you miss the show you can always listen to the archive at blogtalkradio or Stitcher

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

Friday, December 09, 2016

Fullbore Friday

Living well is the best revenge, and more often than not, so is living long.

Just look at that smile
. The good Lord called him home back in October - but that is OK. It was his time. For decades a great man with a great family name stood as an example of ... we ... you figure it out.

Via the always wonderful TelegraphUK that I will quote from liberally;
Alistair Urquhart, who has died aged 97, was a prisoner of the Japanese from 1942 to 1945, surviving both the infamous Death Railway and the atom bomb dropped on Nagasaki; his memoir, The Forgotten Highlander, became a bestseller in 2009.

When Singapore fell to the Japanese in February 1942, approximately 80,000 British, Indian and Australian troops became prisoners of war. Urquhart took part in a forced march of 18 miles to Selarang Barracks on the Changi peninsula, which became a vast PoW camp. On the way there, the road was lined with the heads of decapitated Chinese on spikes.

Seven months later, he was crammed with 30 others into one of a number of small steel containers used for transporting goods by rail. It was dark, airless and so hot that the steel sides burned any skin that came in contact with them.

After five days and nights, he set out with his companions on a six-day march of 30 miles. Prodded by bayonets and beaten with bamboo canes, they had to keep up a good pace through the jungle while avoiding venomous tree snakes dangling from the branches overhead.

On arrival at Kanyu Camp, on the River Kwai, Urquhart had contracted malaria and was covered in scabies and lice, but he had to help build the huts in which some 200 of his comrades were to live.

After the huts were completed, he started work on a section of the 260-mile-long Burma-Siam Railway, hacking through jungle, gouging out passes, spanning ravines, bridging rivers in one of the most inhospitable regions in the world – all on starvation rations. Many thousands of British, Australian, Dutch, American and Canadian prisoners would perish in the task.
Cuts on feet and legs from poisonous plants, bad food or lack of hygiene were unavoidable and turned into ulcers which rotted flesh, muscle and tendons.

Urquhart, desperate to stop the rot that was devouring his legs, went to the doctor. He was advised to collect some maggots from the latrines and put these on the ulcers. The maggots nibbled away at the diseased flesh, new skin formed and the wounds healed.
When the monsoon arrived, the Kwai and its tributaries became loaded with cholera bacteria. Urquhart contracted the disease. He was isolated in the “death tent” and was the only survivor. He was then sent to Chungkai, a large hospital camp. Besides cholera, he had dysentery, beriberi and malaria and had lost the use of his legs.

He was examined by Colonel (Weary) Dunlop, an Australian doctor, who intervened with the Japanese constantly on behalf of his patients, at the risk of being executed, and has been credited with saving countless lives. After six months of treatment and rehabilitation, Urquhart was sent to the River Valley Road Camp in Singapore City.
In September 1944, together with 900 other British PoWs, Urquhart was herded aboard the cargo vessel Kachidoki Maru. He said afterwards that nothing that he had experienced in the camps had prepared him for the conditions on one of the Japanese “hellships”. Inside the hold, it was standing room only and there were no lavatory facilities. In the hot, dark, fetid atmosphere, men were driven mad by thirst. Cannibalism and even vampirism were not unknown.

Six days out of Singapore, the ship, part of a convoy, collided with an oil tanker which had been torpedoed and set on fire. There were no red crosses on the ship to indicate that PoWs were on board. That night, Kachidoki Maru was torpedoed by the American submarine Pampanito and sank within 15 minutes.
Water flooded the hold and Urquhart was washed over the side. The sea was thick with burning oil from other sinkings in the convoy. More than 240 of his comrades died that night. There were terrible scenes as men fought for a piece of driftwood that would support them. Urquhart found a one-man raft. By the fifth day, he was badly burned and unable to see. His eyes had been seared by the strength of the sun.

He was picked up, barely conscious, by a Japanese whaling ship and dropped off at Hainan Island. There, he and other prisoners who had survived the sinkings were paraded naked through the village. In mid-September he was taken by stretcher and lowered into the hold of another “hellship”.

Again the convoy was attacked by submarines, but after an 11-day voyage they reached Japan. Urquhart was put to work in a coal mine at Omuta. By that time he could hardly stand and scarcely knew his own name.

Dr Mathieson, a Scot serving in the RAMC, persuaded the Japanese to move Urquhart to the camp hospital, where he worked as an orderly. The doctor’s courage, dedication and skill saved Urquhart’s life and that of many others.

His camp was 10 miles from Nagasaki, and when the atom bomb was dropped on the city, his shrunken frame was knocked sideways by the blast. For several days he and his comrades feared that the Japanese would massacre them to destroy the evidence of their atrocities, but on August 21 1945 the camp commander announced the end of the war and the British gradually took over.
Read the whole thing, especially the post war portion.

On days when you think you just have it hard, think of Alistair. It is never that bad.