Archive for the 'Navy' Category



Kill the Expeditionary Fighting Vehicle

BY Herschel Smith
5 years, 4 months ago

The EFV (Expeditionary Fighting Vehicle) has fallen on hard times.  More accurately, it fell on hard times long ago.

It’s back to the drawing board for the Expeditionary Fighting Vehicle.

The multibillion dollar program, designed to deliver combat-ready Marines from Navy ships to enemy shores aboard amphibious, armored personnel carriers, is so over-budget and behind schedule that it has been blasted as an “embarrassment” on Capitol Hill and identified as a poster child for troubled military acquisitions projects.

Widespread technical failures caused the Corps to scrap its existing plans two years ago and restart the program’s entire development and demonstration phase, a move that cost nearly $1 billion. But Marine Corps Systems Command is pushing forward with the creation of seven new prototypes while testing continues on existing vehicles in an attempt to head off future problems.

Marine officials say the program has turned a corner, but critics insist the EFV’s time has passed. It’s a money pit, they say, an engineering stinker that will consume about a quarter of the Corps’ research and development budget through 2014.

Even if does better next time around in operational assessments, analysts question whether the development of an amphibious vehicle without a V-shaped hull — favored for deflecting roadside-bomb blasts — makes sense, when there is no apparent need for amphibious raids on the Pentagon’s horizon.

But it’s more than just budgetary problems that plague the program.

Things began unraveling early into the development and demonstration phase. According to reports by the Government Accountability Office and the Oversight and Government Reform Committee, the Corps delayed the project’s completion date three times between November 2002 and March 2005 as numerous components failed in reliability tests.

Ultimately, General Dynamics was paid $1.2 billion under the contract, including $60 million in bonuses and fees for good performance, a 2008 congressional report said.

The GAO and Defense Department auditors blamed the EFV shortfalls on a variety of factors, including the adoption of an unrealistic schedule that rushed production, skipping a comprehensive design process in favor of having General Dynamics fix problems in a piecemeal fashion and not appointing an overall system engineer.

In a pivotal moment, the EFV failed a milestone operational assessment on numerous levels in 2006. According to Defense Department and congressional reports, the assessment was “dominated by very low reliability,” where the vehicle was able to operate only 4.5 hours between breakdowns, with 3.6 hours of corrective maintenance needed for every hour in use. Reviewers completed only two of the 11 amphibious tests and one of the 10 gunnery tests, and the gun turret support arm broke free during the assessment.

The Marines Corps is uncharacteristically willing to accept inferior equipment, even after all of the redesign has been finished.  “The Corps expects the new prototypes to last about 19 hours in between breakdown when they first receive them, which would put the requirement of 43.5 hours before breakdown within reach for the final product.”  Don’t let this fact escape notice.  Target = less than two full days of operation before major malfunction occurs requiring protracted maintenance.  This is the ultimate goal, not the interim stages while the Corps tests the vehicle.

Finally, there is the issue of the IED and roadside bomb vulnerability of the EFV, since it has a flat bottom hull due to its need to float.  The Corps has experience in the use of flat bottom craft when, in the summer of 2005, 14 Recon Marines perished in Anbar when running an Amphibious Assault Vehicle down a road in the desert.

Marine Corps Commandant Conway has a justification for the continued investment in the EFV.  “We’re optimistic that once people understand the facts and understand that the United States Navy is not going closer than 25 miles to a shore, they’ll appreciate the value of a vehicle that is really an armored personnel carrier that also planes at about 30 knots over open ocean,” Conway said. “We think that the program is absolutely necessary to what we do.”

This issue touches on a debate over the so-called littoral combat program on which the U.S. Navy has supposedly embarked.  Twenty five miles is beyond the horizon.  The Navy believes in littoral combat, or so it says, but not really.  Not if it’s a risky proposition.  So Commandant Conway’s solution is to field the EFV.  A video of the USS San Antonio, the LCAC and the EFV is below.

But the whole amphibious assault construct including the EFV rests on the propositions that it [amphibious assault] will be necessary, that the assault will be a surprise along with the corollary idea that there will be no IEDs to destroy the EFVs, and that there is no other solution to the dilemma.

Let’s challenge at least the last three of those propositions.  First, if an amphibious assault becomes necessary against a nation-state, it is not a legitimate claim that the state will not be aware of the Amphibious Assault Dock just off its coast.  The element of surprise is thus taken away, and therefore the EFV is vulnerable to IEDs due to its flat hull, just like the Amphibious Assault Vehicle shown above.

Second, if the target to be invaded is a failed state, it’s not plausible to claim that conventional equipment such as the EFV is necessary.  If there is a need for rapid deployment of Marines, along with heavier equipment and firepower, then the solution is to invest money in a new generation of assault helicopters.

The problem of a broken military procurement system and irresponsible defense contractors isn’t going to go away.  The Marine Corp Commandant doesn’t need to jettison the expeditionary philosophy of the Corps.  Helicopters can supply the needed firepower, carried on board Aircraft Carriers and Amphibious Assault Docks.  The Commandant needs to jettison the EFV.  And the Navy needs to stop bragging about littoral combat unless they prove themselves actually willing to do it.

How to Pay for a 21st Century Military

BY Herschel Smith
5 years, 7 months ago

Defense Tech links an editorial by the New York Times on How to Pay for a 21st Century Military.  Ward at Defense Tech doesn’t like the editorial very much, and neither does The Captain’s Journal.  Ward summarizes the recommendations as follows:

End production of the Air Force’s F-22. (Recommends the use of “upgraded” F-16s until the F-35 comes into production.)

Cancel the DDG-1000 Zumwalt class destroyer. (Advises the production of the Littoral Combat Ship instead.)

Halt production of the Virginia class sub. (Recommends extending the life of existing Los Angeles class submarines instead.)

Pull the plug on the Marine Corps’s V-22 Osprey. (Recommends buying more H-92s and CH-53s instead.)

Halt premature deployment of missile defense.

Negotiate deep cuts in nuclear weapons.

Trim the active-duty Navy and Air Force.

Some, if not most, of these recommendations are stupid to the point of being dangerous.  We have already discussed the fact that existing nuclear weapons systems are in need of refurbishment in order to maintain viability, and also the fact that new nuclear weapons systems must be pursued in order to maintain deterrence and modernize the force.

While aircraft carriers can project U.S. power deep into foreign terrain, and guided missile cruisers even deeper, the Navy hasn’t given us a single viable littoral combat scenario or reason to believe that the littoral combat program is anything but daydreaming.  On the other hand, every single ship in the active U.S. Navy has produced and participated in the national defense, whether actively or passively through deterrence.

As for the F-22, we have already halted production after 183 have been purchased.  Good enough.  Continue with the 183 and halt any further production after that.  The proposal to cut the 183 that have been purchased comes from the same presupposition as the proposals to cut the nuclear weapons program deeply, pursue the littoral combat ships and halt missile defense.  This presupposition is that the only thing we will ever face in the 21st century will be asymmetric threats, guerrilla warfare and insurgencies.

The Captain’s Journal believes in fighting and winning the current campaigns in Iraq and Afghanistan, but it’s foolish and shortsighted to assume that the future will necessarily look like the present.  Finally, short cutting planning, training and equipping for a conventional struggle and proper deterrence might just ensure that that’s the threat that is faced in the future by creating the very weakness that larger near-peer nation states seek.

Robert M. Gates on a Balanced Strategy for the Pentagon

Sounding the Nuclear Alarm

An Aging Nuclear Weapons Stockpile

Littoral Combat and Other Navy Adventures

The 26th MEU Stuck at Bahrain

The 26th MEU, the USS San Antonio and Military Equipment

Littoral Combat and Other Navy Adventures

BY Herschel Smith
5 years, 7 months ago

Sometimes the web is a wonderful thing.  Other times not so much.  We love the ability to communicate electronically, but we hate know-it-alls.  We hate know-it-alls, but we love the ability to expose them for what they are.

Every now and again a good example surfaces and it’s good to send it to our readers.  The most recent example of stupidity arises from a comment at the Small Wars Journal blog.  The wise and highly knowledgeable Frank Hoffman has written an analysis on American Maritime Power in the 21st Century.  It was linked by our friends Dave and Bill at the Small Wars Journal blog.  Now comes the stupidity with comments that add nothing to our knowledge.

This is drivel.
There has to be a better justification for spending money on big ships and expensive weapons systems than ‘to preserve our navel power’ (Fighting WW2 again).

Reaching back to the “American Century” for justification is backward looking and not a way for forward planing.

Go show us you can take care of a few boat loads of prates firing RPG’s. If you can’t do that with what you have now, we are not going to spend billions more getting more of it for you.

Ships are extremely vulnerable to air power (WWII), even the simplest missiles (Falklands), and a man in a row boat with a bit of explosive (USS Cole).

In the high speed world of today ships are slow, incredibly un-stealthy, and make wonderfully good targets when ever they get anywhere near hostile land.

The disadvantage with ships is they are not very large and easy to hit, and when hit the damage is compounded by the tendency for water to flow in through the holes.

They are really nice platforms for launching long range stand off weapons, like cruise missiles or aircraft, so long as the craft is far enough off shore to keep out of harms way.

As an off shore support system for operations in and against small backward nations like Vietnam and Iraq they are very useful.

In the age of satlights and cloud penetrating radar I am not sure that ships will continue to be a available fighting platform for use against a large modern state, like Russia or china, who have such technology.

They have one fatal flaw. You only have to get one or two good hits and the whole thing sinks. Resiliency and defensive systems are big problems for a modern navy.

No other military encampment takes down so much gear and men when when taking incoming fire. Maybe the future is not a navy as we know it now, but a fleet of much smaller fast boats that work together as a swarm.

Maybe the future of aircraft carries is a very high speed 150 foot long craft that can launch and recover automated predictor or raptor type aircraft.

To which The Captain’s Journal responded:

JamesM,

Yesterday Mr. Hoffman forgot some infinitesimally small amount of the information he knew on the subject about which he writes. This forgotten information from yesterday is more than you will ever know about this subject in one hundred lifetimes.

Also, your bravado concerning fluid mechanics is unimpressive. Some ships with holes sink, like aircraft with missing wings crash and tanks hit by EFPs break. And it took you some 70 – 80 words to state this fact and then repeat it for us. Wow.

As for the balance of your comment, I see nothing thoughtful about it. I, too, have concerns. Mr. Hoffman knows, like we all do, that money will be tight and that programs will have to husband their resources. I am concerned about the whole littoral combat program, whether maybe the USMC should re-evaluate their EFV program, etc. But I’ll attempt to address these issues without calling studied men out to have uttered drivel. I’ll follow this up on my own web site.

As for Naval power, the reason that China is pursuing an aircraft carrier is for force projection. We have 11, 5 or 6 or more active at any one time, and this takes cash. Maybe you should call up the Premier of the PRC and tell him your conerns about China pursuing Naval power. I’m sure he’ll listen. Let me know how it goes. Send me a note.

The only real “drivel” here is your comment. Now. I’m angry because I feel like I have wasted my time in responding to this comment. Finally, Dave and Bill are more gracious than am I. Your stupid URL http://drivel to which I am sent upon clicking on your name is enough to ban you forever from my own web site. I don’t suffer fools very well.

And we don’t suffer fools.  Smaller, faster naval craft phooey!  Small ships can be shot out of the water just like larger craft can.  But just as we don’t suffer people like JamesM, we wonder very deeply about the USMC EFV program.  We like the Osprey V-22 (although it needs more proving time), but we wonder about the notion of a floating tank, ready to swim and fight at the same time (or right after swimming).  Where are we going to perform a major amphibious assault of another sovereign country?  For what reason would we do something like this?  Really.  We understand the notion of ready reserve, and the idea of countries that go bad and embassies that have to be evacuated, and so forth.  We get it.  But the EFV?  Really?

As for high power force projection, China is pursuing an aircraft carrier because it is the very definition of power.  Guided missile destroyers can send ordnance even further into countries than aircraft can from aircraft carriers.  Yet the notion of using the 26th MEU for CENTCOM ready reserve is pushing the envelope when colleagues are suffering and dying in Afghanistan.  Ready reserve for what?  What’s going to happen that a single Marine Landing Battalion can handle?  Pirates?  The lawyers have prevented that.

Now.  Maintenance of force projection across the globe is one thing, but extravagance is another.  Should we really pursue the idea of the EFV?  Really?

In summary, we have concerns, but jamesM is an idiot and we aren’t.  We understand fluid mechanics.  So there you have it.

More:

Danger Room on Littoral Combat Ships

Strategy Page on Shipbuilding

The Captain’s Journal, 26th MEU Stuck at Baharain

The Captain’s Journal, The USS San Antonio

The Captain’s Journal, Can the Afford the New Destroyers?

26th MEU Stuck at Bahrain

BY Herschel Smith
5 years, 8 months ago

In The 26th MEU, the USS San Antonio, and Military Equipment, we detailed our objections to the job that Northrup Grumman had done in constructing the amphibious transport dock USS San Antonio, with its snarled electrical cables, unreliable steering, and general poor craftsmanship throughout the physical plant. It is wasteful of time and resources, and certainly hampers the ability of the U.S. Marines to perform during their duties.

In a time when pirates are endangering shipping lanes in the extremely busy Gulf of Aden, the U.S. Marines should be engaging and killing pirates. Ralph Peters, OpFor and The Captain’s Journal have weighed in describing the solution to the problem of pirates. But the Marines are wasting time in Bahrain rather than contributing to the global war on terror or protecting shipping lanes.

The USS San Antonio has yet another major mechanical problem. It has sprung an oil leak, and is in port in Bahrain to repair and weld piping.

Their ship is stuck at a Bahraini port, but that doesn’t mean extra liberty for some leathernecks with the 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit.

Marines and sailors with the Camp Lejeune, N.C.-based MEU who are aboard the amphibious transport dock San Antonio “continue to train aboard and from that vessel,” according to a MEU spokesman.

The ship’s maiden deployment with the Iwo Jima Expeditionary Strike Group out of Norfolk, Va., was interrupted Oct. 31 when it entered a yard in Bahrain to fix major oil leaks. Navy officials projected the maintenance would be finished within two weeks. This marks the latest problem for the ship, which has been plagued with performance problems, and was delivered late and $1 billion over budget.

But problems with the ship — criticized Monday by Navy Secretary Donald Winter, who said he “continues to be unsatisfied” with its performance — have not stopped its Marine inhabitants from participating in training exercises and classes.

“This training includes leadership, martial arts, physical training, infantry and other job-skills training they would normally conduct underway,” MEU spokesman Gunnery Sgt. Bryce Piper said in an e-mail. “Accessibility to land actually expands these Marines’ opportunities to conduct physical and small-unit training outside the confines of the ship, and unit leaders exploit these opportunities whenever possible.”

Elements of the MEU’s battalion landing team, 2nd Battalion, 6th Marines, and Combat Logistic Battalion 26, are on the ship, but they were not scheduled to participate in current training exercises, Piper said.

The 26th MEU set sail for a six-month deployment aboard the amphibious assault ship Iwo Jima, the San Antonio and dock landing ship Carter Hall Aug. 29. Those ships are currently in the 5th Fleet area of operation.

As expected, the Marines and Navy put a good face on this, but many Marines are surely grumbling under their breath, while their brothers suffer in Afghanistan, pirates plague the Gulf of Aden, and Islamists continue their takeover of Somalia. The long war is proving to be too difficult to encounter these kinds of problems during deployment. With radiograph, dye penetrant testing, and visual inspection, there is absolutely no excuse – none – for welding problems to become manifest while at sea on a new ship. This demonstrates that there is a QA problem somewhere that badly needs to be fixed.

But this also raises the important question of whether the existing MEU structure is the best way to implement the strategic vision of the Marine Corps Commandant for an expeditionary force. It might be wise to train to perform naval-based and amphibious operations, and perhaps this should be among the regular qualifications of Marines of all billets. But first of all, the use of an MEU with all of its expense, to work out the problems associated with a new ship is a questionable value judgment. Second, the use of a Battalion Landing Team (BLT) to spend seven months aboard a ship performing humanitarian missions, shows of force and practice maneuvers while their brother suffer in Afghanistan and pirates maraud the Gulf of Aden forces the question of whether command deployed this MEU in the most efficient manner to perform the most important mission.

Russian Nuclear Submarine Accident

BY Herschel Smith
5 years, 8 months ago

There are conflicting reports concerning a recent Russian nuclear submarine accident. One such report has the culprit as a failure of the fire protection system to actuate. The second account has the failure as the spurious actuation of the fire protection system.

Twenty people were killed on board a Russian nuclear submarine, the navy said on Sunday, in an accident that exposed the gap between the Kremlin’s ambitions and its military capability.

The accident, which happened while the submarine was on sea trials in the Pacific Ocean, was the deadliest to hit Russia’s navy since the Kursk nuclear submarine exploded beneath the Barents Sea in 2000, killing all 118 sailors on board.

Prosecutors investigating the latest incident said they suspected the victims died after inhaling a toxic gas used as a fire suppressant when the vessel’s fire extinguishing systems went off unexpectedly.

It was not clear why the portable breathing gear usually issued to Russian submarine crews did not save them. A navy spokesman said the nuclear reactor was not damaged and the vessel was now in port.

“Twenty people died,” the Prosecutor-General’s Office said in a statement. “Results of a preliminary investigation show that death occurred as a result of freon gas entering the lungs.”

It appears that the later account is correct. The sailors died of suffocation when freon (a Dupont brand name for refrigerant) made the atmosphere uninhabitable.

The victims suffocated after the submarine’s fire-extinguishing system released Freon gas, said Vladimir Markin, an official with Russia’s top investigative agency. He said forensic tests found Freon in the victims’ lungs.

Seventeen civilians and three seamen died in the accident and 21 others were hospitalized after being evacuated to shore, Dygalo said, adding that none of the injuries were life-threatening.

“The submarine’s nuclear reactor was operating normally and radiation levels were normal,” Dygalo said, explaining that the accident affected two sections of the submarine closest to the bow.

Markin’s agency, the Investigative Committee under the Prosecutor General’s office, has launched a probe into the accident, which he said will focus on what activated the firefighting system and possible violations of submarine operating rules.

Lev Fyodorov, a top Russian chemical expert, agreed that the Freon pushed oxygen out, causing those inside to die of suffocation. But he wondered why the individual breathing kits that everyone on board is supposed to have did not keep people from dying.

“People on board the sub may have failed to use their breathing equipment when they found themselves in an emergency,” he told the AP.

Igor Kurdin, a retired navy officer who heads an association of former submariners, told Ekho Moskvy radio that the high death toll probably resulted from shipyard workers who lacked experience in dealing with the breathing kits.

A siren warning the crew that the firefighting system was turning on also may have failed, RIA Novosti quoted an unidentified navy official as saying, so those on board might not have realized that Freon was being released until it was too late.

U.S. submarines use primarily Halon as a fire suppressant, and the combustion and thermal decomposition products are designed to be limited to less than lethal concentrations given the short bursts of release of the gas.

The design on board the Russian submarine sounds dubious and the system apparently lacked in construction quality assurance. The gap between the Kremlin’s ambitions and capabilities is wide, and this latest accident is a long line of malfunctions that have plagued the Russian Navy, not the least of which is the Kursk accident.

The 26th MEU, the USS San Antonio, and Military Equipment

BY Herschel Smith
5 years, 11 months ago

The Captain’s Journal will take great interest in the 26th MEU for the remainder of its current deployment. The 26th MEU consists of the USS Iwo Jima and USS San Antonio, are they are joined by amphibious dock landing ship USS Carter Hall, the guided missile cruiser USS Vella Gulf, the guided missile destroyer USS Ramage, the guided missile destroyer USS Roosevelt and the fast attack submarine USS Hartford.

The USS Iwo Jima, which carries the 2nd Battalion, 6th Regiment (2nd Marine Division), left the Norfolk Naval Station on Tuesday. On the other hand, the USS San Antonio has had equipment malfunctions that kept her in port.

Hydraulic problems have delayed the maiden deployment the amphibious transport dock San Antonio (LPD-17), which was supposed to leave Aug. 26 with the Iwo Jima Expeditionary Strike Group.

The ship, which has endured lengthy delays and cost overruns, had to stay back in Norfolk due to a broken stern gate that will take days to repair, said U.S. Navy Lt. Cmdr. Herb Josey, spokesman for Naval Surface Force Atlantic.

The amphibious assault ship Iwo Jima left the pier at 11 a.m. without San Antonio and is headed to North Carolina to onload the rest of the Camp Lejeune-based 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit.

Capt. Brian Smith, Amphibious Squadron 4 commander, said the problem with San Antonio was discovered Aug. 24 and he expects the new amphib – the lead ship of the LPD 17 class – to be repaired and outbound by the end of this week.

“There is nothing that will keep San Antonio from getting underway,” he said. The problem is a mechanical failure in a ram cylinder piston that controls the stern gate, he said, crucial for conducting well-deck operations, an amphib’s very reason for existence.

San Antonio’s fleet debut has been a rocky one. It underwent two scathing inspection reports and had to miss its first shot at deployment in February with the Nassau ESG.

Smith defended both San Antonio and the San Diego-based amphib New Orleans, the second ship in the class, which was deemed “degraded in her ability to sustain combat operations” by a recent Navy inspection.

“Any new ship is going to be scrutinized and discrepancies will be generated,” he said.

But intense scrutiny isn’t really the problem. The problems run far deeper, into management of the design and construction process.

… the San Antonio had a troubled fleet debut. After arriving late and over-budget in 2005, an initial inspection report revealed major problems.

Board of Inspection and Survey officers found the ship “incomplete” and unsafe for crew members to board in a July 5, 2005, report. Inspectors found “poor construction and craftsmanship … throughout the ship.”

Wiring was also problematic.

“Poor initial cable-pulling practice led to what is now a snarled, over-packed, poorly-assembled and virtually uncorrectable electrical/electronic cable plant,” the report states.

The San Antonio made headlines again in April 2007, after the ship was deemed “unsuccessful” because of several equipment failures and “unreliable” steering during March sea trials. However, the report commends the crew for presenting the ship “professionally.”

Still, the catalog of problems prompted Navy Secretary Donald Winter to write a June 22, 2007, letter to shipbuilder Northrop Grumman complaining that two years after commissioning, the fleet “still does not have a mission-capable ship.”

Over its early life, San Antonio’s price also rose from a 1996 estimate of $876 million to $1.85 billion, once all of its discrepancies were corrected.

Unless the cable raceways and trays are done per specification, the wiring and cabling are all marked and labeled, the terminal cabinets are all labeled, the terminations are all numbered, the sliding links are all clearly marked, the relays are all labeled, and electrical engineering, logic diagrams and wiring tabulations are all certified and quality assured, the contractor has left the Navy with an unmaintainable situation.

We’ve discussed this before in Can the Navy Afford the New Destroyers, where we cataloged the demise the ship building industry in the U.S., concluding that:

Anything as complex as the engineering behind shipbuilding cannot be long sustained if a country is not actively engaged in the process. Certainly, contractors who bid the jobs believed that procedures for doing dye penetrant and radiography on welds were the same as before, and protocols for QA had not changed since the last time ships were constructed. Engineers are, after all, plug-and-play, white jumpsuit experts at everything under the sun, and also certainly the technology can be rapidly learned and applied by new, young engineers straight out of school, or who had been the understudy of engineers who had done this work before.

Only, none of this is exactly true … To be sure, accountability is the order of the day, and strict management of costs will be necessary for the Navy to be allowed to move forward with its Destroyer program. But shipbuilding is a lost science in the U.S., and recapturing it as an institution will be difficult and fraught with hidden problems for the DoD to deal with. This is not so much an issue with the Navy, or what they call the ‘Destroyers’, or how much they control the contractors, as it is with the fact that the U.S. has lost the ability to do large scale steel projects and shipbuilding.

The USS San Antonio is not a destroyer, but the basic principle remains the same. Day laborers are no substitute for professionals, hope is not a substitute for a QA program, poor design and construction practices lead to problems with maintenance, and rework always increases the cost and decreases the quality.

While at least somewhat unrelated, this brings up the issue of the refueling tanker. We have previously weighed in on this issue, but a good technical discussion is contained in a Human Events article by General John Handy, USAF (Ret.). A brief quote gives his perspective on the tanker controversy.

Somewhere in the acquisition process, it is obvious to me that someone lost sight of the requirement. Based on what the GAO decided, it’s up to people such as myself to remind everyone of the warfighter requirement for a modern air refueling tanker aircraft.

Recall that we started this acquisition process in order to replace the Eisenhower era KC-135 aircraft with a modern version capable of accomplishing everything the current fleet does plus additional needs for the future. Thus the required aircraft is of small to medium size much like the KC-135. Not a very large aircraft like the current KC-10, which may be replaced later with a comparably large aircraft.

Why a smaller to medium size aircraft? Because, first of all, you want tankers to deploy in sufficient numbers in order to accomplish all assigned tasks. You need to bed them down on the maximum number of airfields around the world along with or close to the customer — airborne fighters, bombers and other mobility assets in need of fuel close to or right over the fight or crisis. This allows the supported combatant commander the ability to conduct effective operations around the clock. The impact of more tankers is more refueling booms in the sky, more refueling orbits covered, wider geographic coverage, more aircraft refueled, and more fuel provided. A “KC-135 like” aircraft takes up far less ramp space, is far more maneuverable on the ground and does not have the risk of jet blast reorganizing your entire ramp when engine power is applied.

Just so. And TCJ wondered why, if from the beginning the specifications targeted a medium refueling tanker, extra credit would be awarded to larger air frames. It makes absolutely no sense. But regardless of this technical point, there is a more salient point that TCJ made several months ago concerning who holds a major share of EADS.

Even more worrisome is the power grab by Vladimir Putin, who is buying up the depressed shares of EADS like a corporate raider. The prospect of the authoritarian Russian leader, whose political opponents are harassed and jailed while prying journalists turn up missing or murdered, having a heavy hand in EADS affairs is deeply troubling. Russia opposed the invasion of Iraq and has sought to undermine U.S. plans to deploy a missile defense system in Poland and the Czech Republic.

The most troubling aspect of the tanker contract is the danger it poses to U.S. national security. According to a report by the Center for Security Policy, EADS has been a leading proliferator of weapons and technology to some of the most hostile regimes in the world, including Iran and Venezuela. When the U.S. formally objected to EADS selling cargo and patrol planes to Venezuelan despot Hugo Chavez, EADS tried to circumvent U.S. law by stripping American-built components from the aircraft. Chavez is now building an oil refinery in Cuba to keep Castro’s failed Communist state afloat, funding terrorists seeking the violent overthrow of Colombia’s government, and recently meddled in the presidential election in Argentina with secretly smuggled cash contributions. If EADS had its way, Chavez would now be advancing his anti-American designs in the Western hemisphere with U.S. technology and components.

EADS entanglements with Venezuela make the Pentagon’s decision to waive the Berry Amendment, which prohibits the export of technology that might be developed during the building of the tanker to third parties, indefensible. Given the sophisticated radar and anti-missile capabilities of military tankers, this is no small matter. Such technology falling into the hands of state sponsor of terrorism would devastate our war fighters.

EADS entanglements with Venezuela make the Pentagon’s decision to waive the Berry Amendment, which prohibits the export of technology that might be developed during the building of the tanker to third parties, indefensible. Given the sophisticated radar and anti-missile capabilities of military tankers, this is no small matter. Such technology falling into the hands of state sponsor of terrorism would devastate our war fighters.

And such a scenario is hardly unreasonable. EADS executives recently attended an air show in Iran and were caught red-handed trying to sell helicopters with military applications. When confronted, an EADS executive said the company was not bound by the U.S. arms embargo against Iran. EADS also sold nuclear components vital to exploding a nuclear device to an Asian company that in turn sold them to an Iranian front operation.

As TCJ coverage of the unwarranted Russian aggression against Georgia has made clear, we consider Vladimir Putin to be a gangster and international criminal. Any involvement with Putin - any involvement, including the Airbus - should be rejected without further consideration.

Technology is hard to regain once it has been lost. This is true of ship building, engineering QA, and air frame design. It is not only good for the U.S. economy and technological capabilities to have this done in the States, but it enables holding contractors accountable, something that we can never do with gangsters and criminals. It is yet to be seen how this will play out. But only the U.S. could be so stupid as to award a contract for our military refueling tankers to Vladimir Putin.

Mocking the Troops at The Onion

BY Herschel Smith
6 years, 1 month ago

The sentiment where one opposes the war but supports the troops has evolved into mocking the troops regardless of any war.  The Onion (famous for satirical or fake news) released a report entitled Love Letters from U.S. Troops Increasingly Gruesome.  The Captain’s Journal hates to bring any more attention to this sophomoric tripe (it really is very poorly done and inept), but its real value might very well be the instruction it gives us about the author in contrast with its subject.

According to a Pentagon report leaked to the press Monday, love letters written by U.S. troops have nearly tripled in their use of disturbing language, graphic imagery, and horrific themes since the start of the war.

The report, which studied 600 romantic notes sent over a period of two years, found a significant increase in terrifying descriptions of violence and gore, while references to beautiful flowers, singing bluebirds, and the infinite, undulating sea were seen to decrease by 93 percent.

“Not only are U.S. soldiers stationed in Iraq less likely to compare their lover’s cheeks to a blushing red rose,” the report read in part, “but most are now three times more likely to equate that same burning desire to the ‘smoldering flesh of a dead Iraqi insurgent,’ and almost 10 times more likely to compare sudden bursts of passion to a ‘crowded marketplace explosion.’”

According to detailed analysis of the letters, the longer a U.S. soldier had been stationed in Iraq the more macabre the overall tone of his correspondence became. Troops who had been fighting for less than a year lapsed into frightening allegory only 15 percent of the time, while those who had been serving between two and three years described their affection for loved ones back home as more vibrant and alive than any of the children in the village of Basra.

Troops stationed in Iraq for four years or longer composed their letters entirely in blood.

“The more often U.S. soldiers are confronted with images of carnage, the more these elements become present in their subconscious and, ultimately, in their writing,” said Dr. Kendra Allen, a behavioral psychologist who reviewed the Pentagon’s findings. “This is precisely why we see so many passages like, ‘Darling, I miss the way your bright green eyes always stayed inside your skull’ and ‘Honey, how I dream of your soft, supple arms—both of them, still attached as ever, to the rest of your body.’”

Allen went on to say that many of the harrowing details found in the love letters were linked to specific events in Iraq. A bloody clash with Islamic extremists in late March resulted in more than 40 handwritten notes from a single battalion, all of which contained some version of the message “My love for you spills out of me like my lower intestine, my gallbladder, and my spleen.”

“Getting love letters from my husband used to be my favorite part of the week. But these days, they’re almost impossible to get through,” said Sheila Miller, whose husband, Michael, has been in Iraq since 2004. “Yes, it’s still flattering to be told that you’re as beautiful as a syringe full of morphine, or that you’re as much a part of his being as the shrapnel near his spine. But I’m really starting to worry about him.”

“My husband has never really been the romantic type, but even this is strange for him,” said Margaret Baker, the wife of Sgt. Daniel Baker. “How am I supposed to react to hearing that my name is the sweetest sound in a world otherwise filled with desperate cries of anguish? I made the mistake of showing [daughter] Gracie the birthday card her father sent her from Tikrit and she hasn’t spoken for a month.”

That’s enough for the reader to get the basic picture.  It’s a sad testimony to a narcissistic generation which has no value system except self worship.  But self worship inevitably leads to the mocking and denigration of others.  This mockery of the troops could very well have been written about World War II veterans and the horror they witnessed, or any other warrior in any other war.  It has nothing to do with the campaign for Iraq or Afghanistan.  It doesn’t even have to do with whether there can be good wars.

The authors are engaged in heartless, remorseless cruelty in the mocking of the pain and sacrifice of Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen and Marines on their behalf.  To be able to benefit from the pain of others, and then to mock their benefactors, is a sadistic skill that only the darkest of souls is able to master.  The warriors who fight for America, however, stand in marked contrast to this.  The physical pain, the deprivation, the loneliness and time away from family all testify to the commitment and indomitable spirit of the American warrior.

On the one hand, you have the American warrior who is committed to give his very life if necessary for our protection and freedom, while still others will live out the balance of their lives with PTSD, traumatic brain injury or lost limbs.  On the other hand you have those who would mock this commitment and dedication. The contrast couldn’t be more stark.  America has a future only to the extent that the former rather than the later constitutes her soul.

Can the Navy Afford the New Destroyers?

BY Herschel Smith
7 years, 3 months ago

The Strategy Page has an interesting rundown on the current state of affairs within the DoD naval complex, and this rundown is both informative and incomplete at the end in its analysis.  I will have to duplicate the article at length in order to comment on the conclusions.

April 15, 2007: Whatever happened to the destroyer? They seem to be disappearing. Part of the reason is cost, but there’s also the political correctness angle. Warships called destroyers appeared a century ago and by the end of World War I they were ships of about 1,000 tons armed with a few guns, some torpedoes and anti-submarine weapons. By World War II, destroyers had grown to about 3,000 tons. There were also “Destroyer Escorts”, which were half to two-thirds the size of destroyers. The larger types of surface warfare ships were cruisers, weighing in at between 6,000 and 12,000 tons, and battleships, which were 30-40,000 tons. Half a century later, all that’s left for surface warfare are destroyers and frigates, plus the usual assortment of smaller coastal patrol boats that have always been around. For whatever reason, the modern frigates perform the same mission (and are about the same size) as the World War II destroyers. However, most Western navies don’t even like to use the term, “destroyer” any more. Warships displacing 3-5,000 tons are increasingly called frigates. Sounds less warlike, or whatever.

Meanwhile, the modern destroyers have grown to the size of World War II cruisers. Actually, some of the larger destroyers are called cruisers, even though they are only 10-20 percent bigger than the largest destroyers. The latest ships in the U.S. Navy’s Burke class destroyers weigh 9,200 tons, cost $1.5 billion each to build, have a crew of about 330 sailors, carry 96 (a combination of antiaircraft and cruise) missiles. There’s only one 5 inch gun, but two helicopters. These modern destroyers could take on any World War II cruiser and win, mainly because the cruise missiles have a range of 1,500 kilometers. A Burke class ship could probably defeat a World War II battleship, although we’ll never know for sure since one of those heavily armored ships never got hit by a modern cruise missile. In effect, the U.S. Navy has settled on just three major combat ship types; aircraft carriers, destroyers and nuclear submarines.

The original cruisers of a century ago displaced less than 10,000 tons, but by World War II, that had increased by 50 percent. Two decades ago, the U.S. Navy reclassified its Ticonderoga class destroyers, which eventually displaced 10,000 tons, as cruisers. Now the U.S. wants build a new class of destroyers, the DDG-1000, that displace 14,000 tons. These ships will be 600 feet long and 79 feet wide. A crew of 150 sailors will operate a variety of weapons, including two 155mm guns, two 40mm automatic cannon for close in defense, 80 Vertical Launch Tubes (containing either anti-ship, cruise or anti-aircraft missiles), six torpedo tubes, a helicopter and three helicopter UAVs.

The problems is that these new “destroyers” will be very large ships, and will cost over $2 billion each. At the same time, the new LCS (Littoral Combat Ship) is sort of replacing the Oliver Hazard Perry-class frigates. The Perrys are 4,100 ton ships that would cost about $200 million to build today. The big difference between the frigates and LCS is the greater use of automation in the LCS (reducing crew size to 75, versus 170 in the frigates) and larger engines (giving the LCS a speed of about 90 kilometers an hour, versus 50 for the frigates.) The LCS also has a large “cargo hold” designed to hold different “mission packages” of equipment and weapons. The Littoral Combat Ship is, simultaneously, revolutionary, and a throwback. The final LCS design is to displace about 3,000 tons, with a full load draft of under ten feet, permitting access to very shallow coastal waters, as well as rivers. This is where most naval operations have taken place in the past generation.

Max range is 2,700 kilometers. Built using commercial “smartship” technologies, which greatly reduce personnel requirements, the LCS is expected to require a crew of about 50 in basic configuration, but will have accommodations for about 75 personnel. The ship is designed for a variety of interchangeable modules, which will allow the ships to be quickly reconfigured for various specialized missions. Crews will also be modularized, so that specialized teams can be swapped in to operate specific modules.

All this is happening at a time when the U.S. Navy is increasingly unhappy with the performance of American ship builders. Costs are rising sharply, quality is down and the admirals can’t get satisfactory answers from the manufacturers. For example, the new class of destroyers, the DDG-1000 class destroyers have also faced ballooning costs, up to as much as $3 billion per ship, as opposed to original planned costs of $800 million each. The current Arleigh Burke-class destroyers only cost $1 billion each. The LCS was planned (a few years ago) to cost $200 million each. That price has now doubled.

The LCS is, what the original destroyer was. A small, inexpensive vessel that could do a lot of dangerous jobs the more expensive ships could now avoid. But unless the navy gets its shipbuilding costs, and quality, under control, it won’t be able to afford a new class of destroyers. Unless, of course, it has an attack of common sense, and calls the LCS destroyers, and the DDG-1000 ships cruisers.

As always with the analysts at the Strategy Page, this is a most informative and interesting article, but we should rehearse what I said in an article on September 15, 2006, entitled High Tech Warrior Versus New Ships:

Regardless of the less rational reasons for or against retirement of the battleships, the history of the engineering and construction of these huge ships, and indeed, the very nature of engineering and construction, argues for the continuing viability of these vessels and against wholesale replacement.  This is true regardless of whether destroyers are constructed and commissioned.

Whether it is a bridge, large building, hydroelectric project (such as the Hoover Dam), nuclear power plant, or large sea-going vessel, these things end up being once-in-a-lifetime, unparalleled projects that can never be precisely duplicated.  First of all there is the so-called “tribal knowledge,? or things that are not writtten down, codified, or even necessarily passed on to successors, that contributes to huge projects.  This tribal knowledge has to be re-created and re-learned with each new project, especially with projects that are separated in time 50+ years.

Second, there is the well-known demise of the steel and shipbuilding industry in the U.S.  Many large steel components, including ships, are now constructed in the Rotterdam Shipyard.  Battleships literally could not be constructed in the U.S. today (at least, not without re-training, re-tooling and significant changes and modifications).

Retirement of Battleships is profoundly unwise, but here we need to hedge a bit in how we aim at the future.  The shipbuilding industry in the U.S. is not only in a dire condition, it may not survive without the infusion of defense dollars to — yes, you guessed it — build things like new destroyers.

We are in the unenviable position of saying that we need to find middle ground.  The Battleships should not be mothballed, but defense dollars should be found for newer, well-armed destroyers, even if not in the numbers that the Navy has requested.

Anything as complex as the engineering behind shipbuilding cannot be long sustained if a country is not actively engaged in the process.  Certainly, contractors who bid the jobs believed that procedures for doing dye penetrant and radiography on welds were the same as before, and protocols for QA had not changed since the last time ships were constructed.  Engineers are, after all, plug-and-play, white jumpsuit experts at everything under the sun, and also certainly the technology can be rapidly learned and applied by new, young engineers straight out of school, or who had been the understudy of engineers who had done this work before.

Only, none of this is exactly true.  The mistake that the Strategy Page makes, and other DoD representatives, whether military or civilian, is to frame this merely as a problem of “cost overruns,” with the Navy in need of getting control of its contractors.  To be sure, accountability is the order of the day, and strict management of costs will be necessary for the Navy to be allowed to move forward with its Destroyer program.

But shipbuilding is a lost science in the U.S., and recapturing it as an institution will be difficult and fraught with hidden problems for the DoD to deal with.  This is not so much an issue with the Navy, or what they call the ‘Destroyers’, or how much they control the contractors, as it is with the fact that the U.S. has lost the ability to do large scale steel projects and shipbuilding.  Starting this up again is vital to our national security, and hopefully, the congress will be willing to fund the programs.

F-18 Provides Close Air Support in Ramadi

BY Herschel Smith
7 years, 9 months ago

Michael Fumento has some tape up on his site of an F-18 Hornet providing close air support in eastern Ramadi.  Oh … no.  Do I have to make a new category called “Navy” for this blog?  I should have already done this with “High Tech Warrior Versus New Ships.”

F-18 Let’s Loose With Some Missiles


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