AR-15 Ammunition And Barrel Twist Rate

Herschel Smith · 19 Feb 2017 · 0 Comments

There are a lot of articles and discussion forum threads on barrel twist rate for AR-15s.  So why am I writing one?  Well, some of the information on the web is very wrong.  Additionally, this closes out comment threads we've had here touching on this topic, EMail exchanges I've had with readers, and personal conversations I've had with shooters and friends about this subject.  It's natural to put this down in case anyone else can benefit from the information.  Or you may not benefit at…… [read more]

The Ebb and Flow of IED Warfare: U.S. Lives are at Stake

BY Herschel Smith
9 years, 10 months ago

Due in part to a failure to listen adequately to Eric Shinseki and Anthony Zinni regarding Iraq war planning, along with premature cessation of conventional operations (bypassing large urban areas leading to costly MOUT later in the war) and halting invocation or implementation of counterinsurgency TTPs, the Iraq campaign has been problematic.  In Concerning the Failure of Counterinsurgency in Iraq, I said “we were utterly unprepared for the toll that IEDs would take on U.S. troops, and even after it became obvious that this was a leading tactic of the enemy, we reacted with lethargy.”  IEDs became one of the two most effective weapons of the insurgents, specifically because of two reasons: their cheap and ready availability, and the fact that they are a stand-off weapon, something unthinkable for the insurgents 40 or 50 years ago.

Sometimes the most effective countermeasure to the tactics of the insurgency is human manpower.  The Government Accounting Office tells us just how this is relevant for Operation Iraqi Freedom.

Unattended Iraqi ammunition depots provide the majority of explosives used by insurgents to attack U.S. and coalition troops with improvised explosive devices, according to a Government Accountability Office report released April 27.

“There’s an unknown number of sites that remain unsecured today,? GAO Director Davi D’Agostino said.

Drawing from after-action reports and input from military leaders, the report blames inadequate Operation Iraqi Freedom planning for the unsecured munitions.

“According to lessons-learned reports and senior level DoD officials, the widespread looting occurred because DoD had insufficient troop levels to secure conventional munitions,? the report states.

IED attacks, using conventional explosives, are four times higher than when the war began in 2003, said Christine Devries, spokeswoman for the Pentagon’s Joint IED Defeat Office.

“Looted munitions are being used to make improvised explosive devices that have killed or maimed many people and will likely continue to support terrorist attacks in the region,? according to the report.

For a period of time the U.S. has enjoyed some degree of success in countering the effect of IEDs by jamming the signals from the insurgents to detonate them (sometimes from cell phones).  Electronics has been put to good use in Iraq, but in case the reader hasn’t noticed, this enjoyment has diminished recently, and there is an increasing trend again in successful IED attacks apparently because the insurgents are employing electronics against us.

In 2006, the Pentagon spent $1.4 bn to develop sophisticated counter measures for roadside bombs, which account for more US deaths in Iraq than any other weapon. They were designed to locate and detonate the improvised explosive devices IEDs from afar, before American convoys drove past the spot where they are planted.

One such system has a sense of smell which sniffs out the presence of explosives; another uses radio beams to jam the IED’s electronic signals.

Soon after they were fitted on US military vehicles and went into successful use, al Qaeda came up with a device capable of disarming both US electronic measures by electronic circuits. The Islamist terrorists thus escalated their challenge to the US military by introducing electronic warfare.

Their success has boosted the US and British death toll in Iraq. Of the 50 US and UK soldiers who died in Iraq in the first 9 days of April, 30 were killed by IEDs. Al Qaeda’s mystery device is believed by military experts to account for the soaring rate of effective roadside bomb hits on American vehicles, even those fitted with the new counter-measures.

The Pentagon department entrusted with finding a new solution, the Joint Improvised Explosive Device Defeat Organization, is working day and night to produce a new counter-measure which is not susceptible to the al Qaeda blocker.

In the ebb and flow of IED warfare, U.S. lives are at stake and time is of the essence.  For the sniper threat there have been several tactics and countermeasures employed, including but not limited to satellite patrols and better body armor.  For IEDs, the two most effective countermeasures appear to be manpower and electronics.

Counterinsurgency Paradigm Shift in Iraq

BY Herschel Smith
9 years, 10 months ago

There appears to be a paradigm shift in the counterinsurgency strategy being employed by the U.S. forces in Iraq.  This shift goes further than the changes associated with the security plan of which many observers are aware (e.g., deployment out of Forward Operating Bases into the cities to combat operation posts).  The changes point to a fundamental shift in the way the U.S. sees the battle for Iraq.

The schema until now seems to have been focused on the notion that the Iraqi people, separated from the rogue elements in their midst, long for freedom and self-determination, with al Qaeda in Iraq, Ansar al Sunna, and foreign suicide bombers standing in their way.  Defeating the insurgents has primarily been seen as defeating AQI.  One need only to go back through the Multi-National force press releases to see how many references there are to AQI.  But it is becoming increasingly clear that this schema bears little resemblance to the realities on the ground in Iraq.

With AQI and AAS standing only at several thousand, for a country the size of Iraq, there simply aren’t enough to pull off destabilization of a country.  There are more gang members in most medium size American cities than there are al Qaeda in Iraq. Until recently, the Sunni militants were seen in the role of assisting AQI, but the view seems to be changing to one of the disaffected Sunnis (i.e., Fedayeen Saddam, former Iraq security police, former senior Iraqi army leadership and hard line Baathists) being primarily in the lead with AQI and AAS being secondary in their affect and power.

There are reports that the security situation in Ramadi might be improving.  Once again, AQI is mentioned as of paramount importance regarding the security situation in Ramadi, but the NewsDay article ends with an interesting admission concerning the Anbar province and other areas of Iraq.

The U.S. military has struggled for nearly four years to secure this city, which had become a magnet for Sunni insurgents and a lawless haven for al-Qaida militants.

Now – slowly, and in halting steps – something appears to have given way. At least by its own tortured standards, Ramadi seems to be calming.

“It’s much safer than it was, but is it perfectly safe? No,” said Army Col. John Charlton, the commander responsible for the city 75 miles west of the capital.

“As long as al-Qaida is operating in Iraq, it’s not going to be.”

Ramadi offers a snapshot of the Pentagon’s latest strategies to quell violence in Iraq. Neighborhoods are being walled off to keep insurgents out. Military units are moving off major bases and setting up smaller U.S.-Iraqi posts in violent areas downtown.

Alliances are being struck with influential Sunni sheiks once arrayed against the Americans, and tribal leaders have provided people for a police force …

While the U.S. military claims progress, Ramadi remains a place where fear shadows even commonplace acts. Shoppers and school children carry white flags in desperate attempts to show neutrality.

“A lot of people are still scared in their hearts,” said Mahmoud, an elderly man who gave only his first name.

“Jihadists were all around … killing everybody. They could come back anytime.”

In large part to allay those fears, Charlton said 70 percent of U.S. forces live downtown.

“We used to go on patrols and get shot at, then go back to base, eat chow and do it all again,” said Army 1st Sgt. Michael Jusino, also in Ramadi two years ago.

“But we realized … you have to go into the city and stay there.” Suicide bombers still strike, the most recent one on April 6.

But troops show off graphs indicating a recent turnaround in violence. Compared to 20 to 30 daily attacks a year ago, now there often are just a few bursts of small-arms fire in a day.

Marine Brig. Gen. Charles Gurganus, commander of U.S. ground forces in Anbar, said insurgents who fled Ramadi are still in Anbar.

“They’re going to places we aren’t. They regroup … but wherever they go, we’re going to go with them.”

As I have discussed before, Fallujah is currently a hot spot of insurgent activity, so some of the Sunni fighters have fled from Ramadi only a few kilometers East.  Another hot spot is Baqouba, in the Diyala Province.

They maneuver in squads, like the U.S. infantrymen they try to kill. One squad fires furiously so another can attack from a better position. They operate in bad weather, knowing U.S. helicopters and surveillance drones are grounded. Some carry GPS receivers so mortar teams can calculate the coordinates of U.S. armored vehicles. They kidnap and massacre police officers.

The Sunni guerrillas and extremists who now dominate this city demonstrate a sophistication and lethality born of years of confronting U.S. military tactics. While the “surge” plays out in Baghdad just 35 miles to the south, Baqouba has emerged as a magnet for insurgents from around the country and, perhaps, the next major headache for the U.S. military.

Some insurgents have moved into Baqouba to escape the escalation in Baghdad. But the city has been attracting insurgents for years, and particularly after U.S. officials in Baghdad proclaimed it and surrounding Diyala province relatively pacified more than a year ago and drew down their troop presence.

When 70 insurgents broke out of a Mosul jail last month, for example, escapees from Chad, Yemen, Syria and Afghanistan were apprehended here, the Iraqi police said. And Sunni fighters continue to heed calls by insurgent leaders to converge here.

It is impossible to say how many insurgents there are in Baqouba now. Some military officials put the number around at least 2,000, a nasty stew that includes former members of Saddam Hussein’s army and paramilitary forces, the Fedayeen; angry and impoverished Sunni men; criminal gangs; Wahhabi Islamists; and foreigners. That is similar to the number of insurgents in Fallujah in 2004, before a bloody Marine offensive to retake the city, said Lt. Col. Scott Jackson, deputy head of the provincial reconstruction team in Diyala, who fought in Fallujah.

As the insurgent ranks have swelled, attacks on U.S. troops have soared. The 5,000-strong brigade that patrols Diyala province has had 44 soldiers killed in five months, more than twice the number who died in the preceding year.

This account more clearly summarizes the current state of the insurgency than merely calling them al Qaeda.  U.S. forces are reponding to the increased insurgent activity in Baqouba, even if senior leadership still points to AQI as being the primary enemy.  “Soldiers with 5th Battalion, 20th Infantry Regiment continued their systematic attack on terrorist forces in Baqouba with another clearing operation in the city April 10.  In this latest effort, Soldiers of 5-20 Inf. Regt., 3rd Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 2nd Infantry Division, from Fort Lewis, Wash., spent three days clearing the neighborhood of Buhriz, described by Battalion Commander Lt. Col. Bruce Antonia as “al-Qaida’s battleground.”

The much-heralded tribal split with al Qaeda is a positive sign in the Anbar Province, but it must be remembered that even if AQI loses in this showdown, the insurgency is not defeated.  One side of the insurgency has merely gained supremacy over the other.  This modified schema of seeing the insurgency as being primarily borne on the shoulders of disaffected Sunnis is supported in this informative and interesting report by Michael Totten from Kirkuk (Patrick Laswell has an equally interesting report from Kirkuk).

“Most, if not all, the terrorists are the old Baath Party members,? Mam Rostam said. “They changed their names and became an Islamist party. But they are the same guys. They have unified with some Sunnis around the Southwest of Kirkuk because they are living in this area. They are making these attacks to make this democratic experiment after Saddam fail.?

This effects of the paradigm shift are obvious in the strategy being employed to quiet the Sunni population centers.  First, there is an increasingly important effort underway to reverse the Baathist purge in Iraqi politics and administration.  Second, there is an effort underway to isolate population centers from each other, relying on concrete walls to prevent cross-pollination of violence between religious sects.  Maliki has ordered a cessation of construction of the wall, and the outcome of this power stuggle to determine counterinsurgency strategy will be important.  But this strategy, if implemented, closely follows (whether intentionally or accidentally) that recommended by Nibras Kazimi over fourth months ago (see Notes on Counterinsurgency and De-Ba’athification).

Finally, in a stark admission of the degree to which sectarianism has infiltrated the Iraqi security forces and police, training Iraqi troops is no longer a driving policy of the U.S. effort.  The U.S. has acquiesced to the notion that if the insurgency is to be defeated, it will be the U.S. who does it.

Shamefulness Contrasted with Heroism

BY Herschel Smith
9 years, 10 months ago

From the Daily Mail:

The youngest of the Iranian hostages has been accused of embarrassing the Royal Navy after pictures emerged of him apparently poking fun at their ordeal while drunk.

Arthur Batchelor – who has already been condemned for selling his story – and the 14 other captured sailors and Marines have been on two weeks’ compassionate leave following their ordeal last month.

Instead of quietly recuperating, however, 20-year-old Batchelor was caught on camera at a nightclub in Plymouth staging a tasteless re-enactment of his treatment.

The Operator Mechanic said he had cried himself to sleep after his Iranian captors likened him to Mr Bean and stole his iPod.

But pictures taken by the club DJ show him blindfolded with a tea-towel and laughing as a friend pretends to hold him at gunpoint.

Another shows the 5ft 2in tall crewman pulling a face while a reveller holds a toy rifle under his chin.

In a third, he is seen wearing a nightie while he poses with three girls.

From Power Line (h/t Roger Barnett), we read this inspiring story of heroism that serves as a contrast to the pusillanimous behavior described above:

The recent episode of the British hostages in Iran brought to mind the late Adm. James Stockdale. He spent seven years in Hoa Lo Prison, a.k.a. the Hanoi Hilton. For his valor and leadership while captive he was awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor. Though tortured 15 times, though kept in leg irons for two years, though held in solitary confinement for four, he would not aid his captors. Refusing to be paraded in front of foreign journalists, he slashed his scalp with a razor blade and beat his face with a wooden stool, rendering impossible that disgrace. Few are capable of such feats of will — Admiral Stockdale was a student of the Stoic philosopher Epictetus — and we could probably not have expected such bravery from the British sailors and marines. Yet we must remember the standards our greatest warriors have set if we are to prevail in this and coming wars.

Extending Stockdale’s story, The New York Sun gives us this:

On the morning of the day he died, it has been said of a few individuals over the years, he was the greatest man alive, and among Americans this could well be said of Admiral James Stockdale, who died Tuesday at the age of 81. He won the Medal of Honor for his leadership of the American prisoners of war held in Hanoi during the years of the Vietnam War, and his death, coming as America is in the early years of a new war, offers much about which to think.

The Medal of Honor, which is impossible to alloy, is usually awarded for acts that disclose the courage of an individual in a few split seconds – in the time it takes to save the lives of one’s comrades by throwing oneself on a grenade, say, or by leaping from a foxhole to attack an enemy machine-gun nest. Such medals are worth no less for the fact that the character that won them was glimpsed in an instant.

Admiral Stockdale’s courage, however, was disclosed over and over again, and was sustained for the entire span of the seven and a half years he spent in the infamous prison known as the Hanoi Hilton and other dungeons, where he was held four years in solitary confinement and two with his legs clamped in irons. He was a prisoner of one of the most savage enemies America has ever fought. It was Stockdale who invented the code prisoners used to communicate, and he told other prisoners, as Los Angeles Times put it, to defy their captors at every turn and never act like helpless captives.

The Medal of Honor citation refers to Stockdale’s efforts at “self-disfiguration to dissuade his captors from exploiting him for propaganda purposes.” In plain English, what he did was use a wooden stool to beat his face to a pulp so he couldn’t be used in an enemy film. One reason that he is so admired by his fellow prisoners is that, when he inflicted what the citation calls “a near-mortal wound to his person in order to convince his captors of his willingness to give up his life rather than capitulate,” the enemy backed off in its torture and harassment of other Americans it was holding.

May God grant to America men like Stockdale.

Nuclear Middle East

BY Herschel Smith
9 years, 10 months ago

In an odd occurrence today, Defense Secretary Robert Gates argued that diplomatic efforts to resolve the nuclear standoff with Iran are working and should be given a chance to succeed.  This pronouncement comes on the heels of an announcement by General Peter Pace that Iran is supplying weapons and other support to insurgents in both Iraq and Afghanistan.

Iran is shipping arms and explosives to Afghanistan, in addition to providing deadly armor-piercing bombs covertly to Iraqi insurgents, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff said yesterday.

“It is not as clear in Afghanistan which Iranian entity is responsible, but we have intercepted weapons in Afghanistan headed for the Taliban that were made in Iran,” Marine Corps Gen. Peter Pace told reporters at a breakfast meeting …

A U.S. official with access to intelligence data confirmed that there are new signs of Iranian arms shipments to the Taliban in recent months. “We are concerned about Quds Force links to the Taliban, and there is reason to believe that shipments of rockets, mortars, small arms and other weapons are making their way from Iran to Afghanistan,” the official said …

“We know that there are munitions that were made in Iran that are in Iraq and in Afghanistan,” Gen. Pace said. He noted that members of the Quds Force are part of the IRGC, which is under the direction of Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei …

There are also reports Iran is stepping up support for Iraqi insurgents. Army Lt. Gen. Ray Odierno, commander of Multinational Corps-Iraq, told reporters Friday there are new signs that Iran is “not only providing support to Shia groups, but also Sunni insurgent groups.”

Just why Gates feels that whatever bargains are struck with Iran can be relied upon when Iran has denied a thousand times that they are involved in Iraq is not manifestly obvious.  But a far better indicator of the danger that lies ahead may be found the in reaction of Iran’s neighbors.  There appears to be a mad rush throughout the Middle East to go nuclear.

Two years ago, the leaders of Saudi Arabia told international atomic regulators that they could foresee no need for the kingdom to develop nuclear power. Today, they are scrambling to hire atomic contractors, buy nuclear hardware and build support for a regional system of reactors.

So, too, Turkey is preparing for its first atomic plant. And Egypt has announced plans to build one on its Mediterranean coast. In all, roughly a dozen states in the region have recently turned to the International Atomic Energy Agency in Vienna for help in starting their own nuclear programs. While interest in nuclear energy is rising globally, it is unusually strong in the Middle East.

“The rules have changed,? King Abdullah II of Jordan recently told the Israeli newspaper Haaretz. “Everybody’s going for nuclear programs? …

“One danger of Iran going nuclear has always been that it might provoke others,? said Mark Fitzpatrick, a senior fellow at the International Institute for Strategic Studies, an arms analysis group in London. “So when you see the development of nuclear power elsewhere in the region, it’s a cause for some concern? …

“If push comes to shove, if the choice is between an Iranian nuclear bomb and a U.S. military strike, then the Arab gulf states have no choice but to quietly support the U.S.,? said Christian Koch, director of international studies at the Gulf Research Center, a private group in Dubai.

The Persian pursuit of nuclear technology has, in fact, been called a threat to the security of the region by not only the U.S., but Iran’s neighbors.

NCRI – The announcement by the mullahs’ regime in Iran stating that they have in fact achieved industrial grade uranium enrichment process has the countries in the region concerned over the objectives of the Iranian nuclear program.

Samer Ali, Kuwait’s Deputy Chief for National Security described the Iranian regime’s nuclear program and its atomic power plants as a “threat to the security of the region.?

“Persian Gulf countries should acquire methods to deal with dangers of Iran’s nuclear program, in order to protect their own interests,? stressed Samer Ali, speaking at the Strategic Studies Seminar held at the University of Kuwait.

The Iranian nuclear threat to the region was also addressed by other speakers at the seminar.

A Kuwaiti Parliamentary delegation visiting Emirates and Bahrain also expressed grave concerns over Iran’s nuclear program.

Muslim ElBrak, an MP in the Kuwait’s parliament, said that during his trip with the Kuwaiti authorities to the Persian Gulf countries, he met with Parliamentarians from Emirates and Bahrain and warned them about the dangers of nuclear confrontations with Iran.

“We are asking all members of the Persian Gulf Council Cooperation to take steps toward dealing with Iranian regime’s nuclear plans,? said ElBrak.

In Egypt, Al_Ahram, the Egyptian official daily also commented that, “By announcing the production of industrial grade nuclear fuel, the Iranian regime is pushing the region in to a dangerous path of nuclear race.?

At this point the curious reader may ask, “what does a commercial nuclear power program have to do with a nuclear weapons program?”  First of all, having a commercial nuclear power program at least gives the appearance of needing enrichment plants for the purpose of commercial nuclear power rather than for weapons.  Of course, it is difficult to hide highly enriched Uranium from the IAEA without completely prohibiting access, but a commercial nuclear program buys time with the IAEA.  Second, it would be difficult to have an efficient nuclear weapons program without the aid of a commercial nuclear power program.  Simply having nuclear engineers who have gained experience in criticality calculations, safety precautions, and other aspects of nuclear science, is a benefit to a weapons program.

The world has tarried so long with Iran that its own neighbors have decided in favor of a nuclear program as a deterent to Persian nuclear ambitions.  They know that in spite of the fact that the more moderate population in Iran doesn’t exactly buy into all of the religious radicalism of the Mullahs, the nuclear program is separate from this.  For Iran, it is a matter of Persian pride.  To the Iranians, they have an inherent right to go nuclear.  But while Gates wants more time, the sentiments expressed by Victor Davis Hanson seem more appropriate to the dangerous times.

The idea of a nuclear Wahhabi State, nearby a nuclear theocracy in Iran, with nuclear Pakistan looking over their shoulders is horrific—especially when coupled with Western appeasement as evidenced by many European diplomats deploring the “militarization? of their continent by US offers to base an ABM shield in Eastern Europe, and the culturally relativistic arguments that if the Western powers are nuclear (US, France, UK, Israel), who is to say a Sharia-run Saudi Arabia or 7th-century Iran should not likewise be? The fact is that already we are confronted with the nightmare that the majority of nuclear powers in the world today is (with India) only democratic by a small margin, and the illiberal states are multiplying and may soon compose an antithetical majority—Russia, China, Pakistan, North Korea, Iran?.

We have the worst choice of leaving this mess to our children who will be faced with both oil and atomic extortion, or the bad one of dealing with it now when the will to is nearly nonexistent in the West. A 1939 all over again. When reading jihadist websites, one is struck not about their worries over the morality of preempting and using a nuclear device against a Western city but only the practicality of carrying it out.

Indeed.  Just so.

Can the Navy Afford the New Destroyers?

BY Herschel Smith
9 years, 10 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.

Rules of Engagement and Counterinsurgency Malpractice

BY Herschel Smith
9 years, 10 months ago

From The Australian:

AUSTRALIA’S defence chiefs are already reconciled to a long-term Australian military presence in Afghanistan.

Yesterday’s announcement of a return of special forces to Afghanistan confirms that that country remains at the centre of Australia’s military contribution to the global jihadist war.

The SAS and the commandos are essential to ensuring that our engineers and trade specialists can go about their civic rebuilding tasks with the support of localAfghans. The ground forces are sustained by headquarters, intelligence and logistics staff, as well as vital air support, bringing the total size of the force to at least 1000.

The experience of the past few months has shown that without aggressive, long-range patrolling and intelligence gathering by Australian special forces, the threat posed by Taliban insurgents in Oruzgan province will soon rebound. Tight rules of engagement for a number of NATO countries, including The Netherlands, inhibit their combat forces from taking on the Taliban in offensive operations

We will revisit this last sentence in a few moments.  In a recent article in Harper’s Magazine, defense policy expert Edward Luttwak weighs in on the current conflict in Iraq in an interesting article entitled Dead End: Counterinsurgency Warfare as Military Malpractice.   After recognizing that involvement of NGOs (non-governmental organizations) and effective political machinations are necessary for victory in any counterinsurgency, he makes the following observation that becomes seminal for his article.

Much more questionable is the proposition that follows, which is presented as self-evident, that a necessary if not sufficient condition of victory is to provide what the insurgents cannot: basic public services, physical reconstruction, the hope of economic development and social amelioration. The hidden assumption here is that there is only one kind of politics in this world, a politics in which popular support is important or even decisive, and that such support can be won by providing better government. Yet the extraordinary persistence of dictatorships as diverse in style as the regimes of

Cuba, Libya, North Korea, and Syria shows that in fact government needs no popular support as long as it can secure obedience. As for better government, that is certainly wanted in France, Norway, or the United States, but obviously not in Afghanistan or Iraq, where many people prefer indigenous and religious oppression to the freedoms offered by foreign invaders.

The very word “guerrilla,? which now refers only to a tactic, was first used to describe the ferocious insurgency of the illiterate Spanish poor against their would-be liberators, under the leadership of their traditional oppressors. On July 6, 1808, King Joseph of Spain presented a draft constitution that for the first time in Spain’s history offered an independent judiciary, freedom of the press, and the abolition of the remaining feudal privileges of the aristocracy and of the Church. At that time, abbeys, monasteries, and bishops still owned every building and every piece of land in 3,148 towns and villages, which were inhabited by some of Europe’s most wretched tenants. Despite the fact that the new constitution would have liberated them and let them keep their harvests for themselves, the Spanish peasantry failed to rise up in its support. Instead, they obeyed the priests, who summoned them to fight against the ungodly innovations of the foreign invader. For Joseph was the brother of Napoleon Bonaparte, placed on the Spanish throne by French troops. That was all that mattered to most Spaniards—not what was proposed but by whom it was proposed.

This observation bears close resemblance to those I have made concerning the political presuppositions upon which Operation Iraqi Freedom was based.  The naming of Paul Bremer to be U.S. administrator of Iraq and the reflexive push towards a parliamentary system of government informs us concerning the fundamental weakness of the theoretical framework upon which our planning was done: we relied on the supposed healing powers of democracy to form post-war Iraq, healing powers that do not exist.  The very system we implemented virtually ensured that the disaffected Sunni population was never “in play” in our attempt to win hearts and minds, while also ensuring that the single most powerful bloc, i.e., the Sadrists, could not be held accountable by a Prime Minister who owed his position to that bloc.

But if the answer was never the democratization of Iraq, then to what should we have turned?  Here is where Luttwak is at his best and most controversial, yet also perhaps his most innovative and daring.  Luttwak observes that to win a counterinsurgency, the occupiers must be willing to meet out harsher punishment than the insurgents.

Occupiers can thus be successful without need of any specialized counterinsurgency methods or tactics if they are willing to out-terrorize the insurgents, so that the fear of reprisals outweighs the desire to help the insurgents or their threats. The Germans also established secure and economical forms of occupation by exploiting isolated resistance attacks to achieve much broader demonstration effects. Lone German dispatch riders were easily toppled by tensed wires or otherwise intercepted and killed, but then troops would arrive on the scene to burn or demolish the surrounding buildings or farms or the nearest village, seizing and killing anyone who aroused suspicion or just happened to be there. After word of the terrible deeds spread and was duly exaggerated, German dispatch riders could safely continue on their way, until reaching some other uninstructed part of the world, where the sequence would have to be repeated.

Likewise in the Vietnam War, the Viet Cong and North Vietnamese were skilled in using terror to secure their pervasive territorial control and very ready to use any amount of violence against civilians, from countless individual assassinations to mass executions, as in Hue in 1968. The Communist cause had its enthusiasts, “fellow travelers,? and opportunistic followers, but Vietnamese who were none of the above, and not outright enemies, were compelled to collaborate actively or passively by the threat of the violence so liberally used. That is exactly what the insurgents in Iraq are now doing, and this is no coincidence. All insurgencies follow the same pattern. Locals who are not sympathetic to begin with, who cannot be recruited to the cause, are compelled to collaborate by the fear of violence, readily reinforced by the demonstrative killing of those who insist on refusing to help the resistance. Neutrality is not an option.

By contrast, the capacity of American armed forces to inflict collective punishments does not extend much beyond curfews and other such restrictions, inconvenient to be sure and perhaps sufficient to impose real hardship, but obviously insufficient to out-terrorize insurgents. Needless to say, this is not a political limitation that Americans would ever want their armed forces to overcome, but it does leave the insurgents in control of the population, the real “terrain? of any insurgency …

All its best methods, all its clever tactics, all the treasure and blood that the United States has been willing to expend, cannot overcome the crippling ambivalence of occupiers who refuse to govern, and their principled and inevitable refusal to out-terrorize the insurgents, the necessary and sufficient condition of a tranquil occupation.

Once again, this observation is eerily reminiscent of remarks I have made in earlier articles.  In Hope and Brutality in Anbar, I observed that “so-called ‘nonkinetic’ operations to win the hearts and minds of the population (candy for the children, reconstruction for the adults, pedialyte for infants) are ineffectual when violence and torture win the day.  A piece of candy can’t compete with a few holes put into your rib cage with a power drill because you cooperated with the Americans.”  The insurgents (e.g., disaffected Fedayeen Saddam), foreign fighters, AQI and AAS and other rogue elements, have used violence and terror as an exclusive-use procedure because it has not been necessary to transition to support of the population.  Terror has been enough to keep them in submission and out of play for the U.S. troops.  For this reason, Victor Davis Hanson cautions that the so-called “surge” alone is not enough.

There have been a number of anomalies in this war, as a brilliant American tactical victory in removing Saddam has not translated into quick strategic success. But one of the most worrisome developments is the narrowing of the recent debate to the single issue of surging troops, as if the problem all along has just been one of manpower.

It hasn’t. The dilemma involves the need to fight an asymmetrical war of counter-insurgency that hinges on what troops do, rather than how many are engaged. We have gone from a conventional victory over Saddam Hussein to an asymmetrical struggle against jihadist insurgents to what is more or less third-party policing of random violence between Sunnis and Shiites.

Our past errors were not so much dissolving a scattered Iraqi military or even de-Baathification, but rather giving an appearance of impotence, whether in allowing the looting to continue or pulling back from Fallujah or giving a reprieve to the Sadr militias.

So, yes, send more troops to Iraq — but only if they are going to be allowed to hunt down and kill vicious and sectarians in a manner that they have not been allowed to previously.

This surge should be not viewed in terms of manpower alone. Rather it should be planned as the corrective to past misguided laxity, in which no quarter will now be given to die-hard jihadists as we pursue victory, not better policing. We owe that assurance to the thousands more of young Americans who now will be sent into harm’s way.

The U.S. population would rightly recoil at the notion that the U.S. armed forces should “out-terrorize the terrorists.”  This notion is so fundamentally contrary to the Judeo-Christian tradition upon which America was founded that U.S. forces wouldn’t go along with such actions even if codified into law.  But Luttwak’s points are salient, and Hanson’s point about giving the appearance of impotence is correct.  The current rules of engagement prohibit the use of force for the protection of property, so when the Iraqi population looked to the U.S. to protect their belongings, no such protection was forthcoming and thus the population was shown in the most powerful picture possible that lawlessness was the order of the day.  It shouldn’t be any surprise that lawlessness continues four years after the seeds were planted by our rules of engagement immediately upon overthrow of the regime.

If the answer is not the democratization of Iraq, and the value system that underlies the American warrior prevents him from terrorizing the population in order to win a counterinsurgency, then in what strategy lies the answer?   Architectural assistant of the security plan currently underway in Iraq, Dave Kilcullen, answers in an interesting article at the Small Wars Journal.  After examining the conundrum that Luttwak puts us in, Kilcullen points out that the solution to the problem of counterinsurgency is outlined in the counterinsurgency field manual, FM 3-24, including all of its aspects (legitimate government, services, etc.).  Kilcullen continues by saying:

The methods Dr. Luttwak mentions are thus not a prescription for success, but a recipe for disaster. As he quickly admits, U.S. and Coalition forces would never consider such methods for a moment. And this is just as well, since this approach does not work. The best method we know of, despite its imperfections, has worked in numerous campaigns over several decades, and is the one we are now using: counterinsurgency. I admit (and have argued elsewhere) that classical counterinsurgency needs updating for current conditions. But the Nazis, Syrians, Taliban, Iranians, Saddam Hussein and others all tried brutalizing the population, and the evidence is that this simply does not work in the long term.

But this last statement seems clearly contrary to the facts.  The Afghans could not have overthrown the Taliban without the power of the U.S., the Nazis had complete domination of Europe (and were it not for a three front war, might possibly have won), Saddam Hussein had unmitigated power over Iraq, and the village brutality of the Viet Cong was pivotal in the war in Southeast Asia.

It is early to say what the effects of the security plan will be, but the rules of engagement have proven themselves to be a continuing impediment to the implementation of security.  In previous coverage I have summarized the effects of the ROE, and I have also noted a stunning example of insurgent mockery of U.S. troops by knowledge and use of the ROE against them, obviously by pre-staging weapons and dropping them because they know that U.S. forces cannot engage unarmed persons.  These instances will not be rehearsed here.  But it is clear that the ROE have not only failed adequately to protect U.S. forces, they have also become an impediment to offensive operations in Iraq and elsewhere.  Rules of engagement have become such an impediment to NATO forces – who are prohibited from offensive engagements with the Taliban – that Australia is increasing force size in Afghanistan to mitigate the effective loss of troops.

Setting up the choice between Luttwak and FM 3-24 as the only alternatives is false.  There is a middle ground that avoids intentional collateral damage while also encouraging robust offensive operations against the enemy.  Security is more important in a counterinsurgency than winning hearts and minds.  If the population knows that the U.S. forces will not shoot into a home (from which fire is coming) for fear of collateral damage, then they can never stand up to the insurgents, and the choice is clear.  The U.S. cannot or will not protect them and they must submit to the insurgents.  The presence of insurgents in their home or neighborhood becomes de facto security strictly because of the ROE.

Roger W. Barnett, Professor Emeritus of the Naval War College, points the way towards hard decisions in the future concerning ROE.

International law is clearly incapable of coping with situations where the law is exploited in order to create an advantage for the lawbreakers. In like manner, current international law cannot bring those responsible for genocide in Africa before the bar. Nor can it possibly find the means to cope with those who subsidize child soldiers or reward the families of suicidal terrorists. Neither can it deal with unwitting car bomb volunteers, the latest wrinkle in Iraq, where a carjacking occurs and during the process a wireless-activated bomb is attached. The car and driver are then released and remotely detonated later, at a place where casualties can be maximized.

The antiquated systems of doctrine, international law, and rules of engagement currently tilt the environment to the adversary’s advantage. My book Asymmetrical Warfare sets forth this thesis in detail, and argues that these systems and rules must change or, in the long run, we will forfeit our freedom.

Insurgent tactics have long ago far outrun just war theory.  The remaining question is whether we will advocate the necessary changes to ROE or let the lawyers write rules for war.



A Father Deploys His Son to War

BY Herschel Smith
9 years, 10 months ago

So this is how it all ends?  Boot Camp at Parris Island, leading to School of Infantry, leading to the fleet and all of the ranges and training, leading to … Iraq.

It is hard even to know how to begin to express my feelings.  My usually quick hand taps the keyboard in boredom and listlessness as I try to write this post.  My mind, usually capable of handling Alvin Plantinga and Paul Helm, darts from one disconnected thought to another, and my prayers have become literally childlike-simple, even utterances and mumblings and repitition.  Sleep comes very hard these days.  When trying to figure out how we felt, the only thing to which my wife and I could make a comparison with the deployment of our son was a recent death in the family.  The fatigue, the sickness on the stomach, the sadness; deploying him has been like enduring a death in the family.

The mere thought of silly and trite television viewing makes be sick, and I want more than anything else information about the war.  Not the biased and leftist information from the main stream media, nor the cheerleading sis-boom-bah reporting from the conservative web sites.  No, I want the truth … and frankly, I think I am entitled to it.

I have followed Operation Iraqi Freedom for a while, writing as often as I could to express both agreements and disagreements, make observations, and give my readers an alternative view of the things that are transpiring in Iraq.  In the time I have been writing I have had to learn about counterinsurgency, MOUT, snipers, EFPs, body armor, rules of engagement, nonkinetic operations, squad rushes and room clearing tactics, Iraqi geography and the differences between Sunni and Shi’a.  I have jettisoned my reading list and picked up the Small Wars Manual and the recently published Counterinsurgency Manual.  My favorite e-mails are from people discussing military matters – because nothing else much matters at the moment.

It is hard to know where to go from here.  I spend much time in prayer and some time in fasting.  But writing?  It has been too difficult, and I have not posted in some time.  I recall the counsel that Donald Sensing gives concerning writing on a web log: do it mainly for yourself.  If others benefit from your journal, then so much the better.  I suppose I will keep doing this, albeit at a slower pace.  My wife and daughter think I am driving myself crazy with my study of the war.  My other son Joshua thinks that if I don’t study and write I will drive myself crazy.  Perhaps they are all wrong and I am already crazy.  In the end, my son deserves to be mentioned in my journal, so as hard as it was to send him off, here it goes.

We showed up in Jacksonville, N.C., on Saturday morning to begin our last visit with Daniel before he deployed.  It was good to be with him.  Not good in the usual sense of the word.  Our words flow too quickly and without serious thought when we aren’t under duress.  No, it was really good to be with him.  The visiting actually started the weekend before when we met him at the beach, family and friends, to spend quality time together.

This time it was different than previous visits.  The stress was gone, and the preparations for what was going to happen were completed.  There was only the here and now, the time to sit at the beach and talk and play football, the opportunity to grill steaks and enjoy meals together.

But the weekend we saw him off things moved apace.  Backpacks and sea bags were packed, geared was stowed away, and weapons were checked out of the armory.  He and I did manage to slip in a movie, and along with a Corporal in his unit who stayed with his family, Daniel stayed with us in the hotel the night before he deployed.  Again, it was good to be with him.  We kept his truck, and getting up at 0430 hours to get him back to Camp Lejeune wasn’t exactly in the plan, but I adapted with the help of some caffeine.

When my wife and I went back later in the morning to the parking lot between the barracks and the New River, we arrived to a mountain of backpacks and sea bags, M16s, SAWs, cars and families seeing their sons or husbands off.  Daniel tailgated with us for a while, and we got in another meal with him at our car.  Pictures were taken, families huddled up, and hugs were frequent in the parking lot that day.  A truck showed up, and backpacks and sea bags quickly made their way via a chain of Marines to be loaded up.  Contrary to the predictions, the busses arrived as scheduled.

Seeing them get on the bus was the hardest part.  My wife cried, and as I turned to look at the mother of the Corporal who stayed in the hotel with us the previous night, she was crying as well.  [This was the Corporal’s third combat tour.  Note to self concerning subsequent deployments: this doesn’t get any easier.]  Wives were distraught, but the men were jacked up and ready to go.  The busses rolled out soon after arrival, and then it was over.

The long drive home was lonely.  The exhaustion and preoccupation the remainder of the week was debilitating, and remains so to some degree.  I guess I expected much of this.  What I really didn’t expect was the reaction of some people to my son’s deployment.  Perhaps I should have known.  I recall a fellow marine parent from Connecticut wrote me once and expressed surprise at the reaction of his ‘friends’ to his son’s deployment.  In Connecticut, he said, many people saw the war as criminal adventurism, and he and his wife literally lost friends due to his son’s involvement in the war.  My son Josh made an insightful observation about this, responding to me that this father didn’t really lose friends; he weeded out the worthless.

With us it hasn’t taken on quite as draconian a form as that.  It is more subtle.  At first my wife wondered why those strange people were giving her those strange looks and gestures, until she saw what they were looking at when they did those things: her USMC car tags and stickers – things that Daniel calls moto-gear (motivational stuff that he wouldn’t be caught dead sporting … his only moto-gear is a USMC tattoo in Old English down the back of his left arm).

But there is an even more subtle form of disrespect that has become apparent to us.  Ignoring us, our son’s service, and the cost to our family.  To be sure, some people at work mention it and tell me they’re praying for his safety.  Some people at church do as well.  Were it not for our small group fellowship at church, we probably couldn’t make it.  But for those long time ‘friends’ at work and (yes, even at) church who, after hearing us mention our son, fail even to say a word, much less say they will pray for us, it causes me to wonder how I could have ever considered those people friends.  How odd this seems to me.  How could my discernment have been so poor?

Now there is only the waiting, and hoping that a fateful phone call or visit doesn’t happen.  It is the not knowing and not hearing that makes this so hard.  All we can do is pray, write to him and pray some more. And lean on our true friends.  I would go to Iraq in a heartbeat to write and report, but don’t even know how to make such a thing happen.  For the time being, my body is at work every day, but my heart is in a place I’ve never been.  Iraq.



Just before the busses arrived, a pile of sea bags in the background, SAW in hand.

[Note: Nothing related to operational security has ever been or will ever be divulged on this web site.]

USMC Community: A Support Community for Marine Corps Family and Friends

BY Herschel Smith
9 years, 10 months ago

USMC Community: A Support Community for Marine Corps Family and Friends


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