Sunday, January 25, 2015

China Sabotages US Navy

ComNavOps has highly placed sources within the Chinese military.  One such source has reported the existence of a Chinese plot to undermine the US Navy and has managed to relay a recording of a top level planning group discussing sabotage of the US fleet.  Here is the transcript of that meeting.


Esteemed Admiral:  Comrades, our decades long plan to infiltrate the American Navy leadership has finally succeeded.  We have placed an agent in a very high position of authority and are ready to begin the sabotage of the cursed US Navy dogs.  It is the job of this group to come up with ways to slowly break their navy from within.  We must come up ideas that will damage their navy but without being so obvious that it would give away the presence of our agent.  So, who has an idea?

Minions:  We could have them idle their Aegis cruiser fleet under the guise of modernizing them?

Adm.:  That’s excellent.  It’s very risky for our agent.  Any US commander would instantly see it as utter foolishness but it’s worth the risk.  Let’s do it.

Admiral’s Aide:  I shame myself to mention this, sir, but the US Navy has already announced plans to do exactly that.

Adm.:  You’re kidding?!  They’re retiring the most powerful warships in the world?  Well, that will save us some effort.  All right, what else can we do?

Minions:  We could have them change their doctrine to move their amphibious assault forces 50 miles off shore?

Adm.:  I like it!  Then they would have no way to get their troops ashore in fighting shape and their round trip times would be too long to sustain an assault.  Again, the risk to our agent is great because of the obvious stupidity of the idea but let’s do it!

Aide:  Many pardons and abject apologies, sir, but the US Navy and Marines have already done that.

Adm.:  Really?  How do think they can conduct an assault from that far away?  Oh well.  I need more ideas.

Minions:  The Americans are going to build a new ballistic missile submarine.  What if we have our agent reduce its effectiveness by cutting the number of missile tubes in each sub by one third, delete the ship’s torpedoes so it can’t defend itself, and we could have them build a couple less new subs instead of replacing them one-for-one!

Adm.:  Yes, although our agent would be at great risk suggesting something so obviously unwise.  Nevertheless, I approve it.

Aide:  Would that I could kill myself rather than speak, sir, but it is my duty to tell you that the Americans have already included all that in their SSBN design.

Adm.:  This is very difficult to believe.  I suppose we must come up with even more damaging and outlandish ideas.

Minions:  The Americans are building a new AMDR radar system.  We could have them build it too small to meet the requirements and have them place it on a ship that has insufficient power and utilities to run it and has no room for future growth?

Adm.:  That may be too far.  They would recognize the idea as the height of foolishness and see our agent for what he is.

Aide:  May I and all my descendents be cursed forever, sir, but the Americans are already planning to do exactly that.

Adm.:  That is not possible!  Not even the Americans would intentionally build their main radar of the future too small to meet its requirements.  Enough of this!  If the Americans are this foolish, we must come up with the most outlandish idea we can.  Give me an idea that is utterly idiotic.

Minions:  We could have them replace a third of their powerful combat fleet with the weakest ship they have?

Adm.:  Now that’s the kind of extreme idea I’m looking for.  There is no possibility that our agent could implement such an idiotic idea but the very thought might cause disruption.  Let it be done!

Aide:  When we are through here I will rocket myself into space, never to return to the shame of having to say this but I must report that the Americans have already started doing this using their LCS patrol boat.

Adm.:  Well, it appears we’re wasting our time.  Tell our agent that he may as well come home.  The US Navy is doing a better job of sabotaging themselves then we could!

Saturday, January 24, 2015

LCS Update

ComNavOps was going to do a summary of the LCS status based on the DOT&E report but what’s the point?  Seriously, you all know the problems.  Sure, there’s some new ones like cracking of support beams after exposure to heavy weather but at this point, what’s a few more problems?

Given that the ship has been in development and under construction for nearly a decade, now, the status of the ship, itself, is horrible.  Worse, is the status of the mission modules.

The ASuW module is impotent with 30 mm guns that have on-going reliability problems and a 57 mm gun that is inoperable at speed (well, it operates – it just can’t hit anything due to excessive vibration).

The ASW module has been scaled back to existing technology (none of the promised revolutionary technology), has no ship-mounted ASW weapons, and because of the ship’s self-noise will be ineffective.

The MCM module simply doesn’t work.

If you really want to read all the gory details, check out the 2014 Annual Report from Director, Operational Testing & Evaluation.

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Ford Update

The 2014 Annual Report from Director, Operational Testing and Evaluation (DOT&E) has been released.  As a reminder, this is the gold standard for what works and what doesn’t as opposed to manufacturer and Navy claims.  This is the straight story when it comes to weapon and system performance.  We’ll be taking a look at several systems in the near future.  Today, we’ll start with the new aircraft carrier, the Ford.

According to the report, the Navy has reneged on its plan to conduct shock testing.  Shock testing (Full Ship Shock Trial – FSST) was to have been performed on CVN-78, however, the Navy has postponed that testing until CVN-79, at the earliest.  As the report states it,

"The original Alternative Live Fire Strategy prepared by the Navy and approved by DOT&E on December 9, 2008, stated the FSST would be conducted on CVN-78. The Navy unilaterally reneged on the approved strategy on June 18, 2012."

You’ll recall that the Navy has opted not to perform shock testing on the LCS, at all.  This is a standard test that has been performed on every ship.  The suspicious among us might suggest that the Navy is trying to avoid shock testing because the construction and acquisition standards have slipped to the point where shock testing would be embarrassing and Navy ships are no longer capable of passing the tests.

The report discusses the new EMALS catapult and Advanced Arresting Gear (AAG) systems,

"Reliability for the catapult and arresting gear systems have not been reported on in over a year. Before the Navy stopped tracking/reporting on catapult and arresting gear performance, both systems were performing well below their projected target to achieve required reliability."

Now what do we make of that?  The Navy has stopped reporting reliability data??  I guess that’s one way to avoid looking bad.  This kind of action combined with the refusal to perform shock tests sure suggests an attempt to cover up bad news rather than report it and correct it.

Here’s some more EMALS news.

"The testing discovered excessive EMALS holdback release dynamics during F/A-18E/F and EA-18G catapult launches with wing-mounted 480-gallon EFTs. Aircraft dynamics are considered excessive if they exceed stress limits of the airframe, internal, or external stores. This discovery, if uncorrected, would preclude normal employment of the F/A-18E/F and EA-18G from CVN-78. There is no funding at this time to correct this deficiency."

No funding?!  It’s kind of a big deal to leave unfunded.

It’s not just advanced technology that is suffering.  The ship has been found to have insufficient berthing for the crew!

"The ship will not be delivered with sufficient empty berthing for the CVN-78’s Service Life Allowance (SLA)."

Come on, now!  Who messed up with a simple count of the crew and a corresponding count of the berths? 

One of the major selling points for the new carrier was that it would supposedly increase sortie rates significantly.  This was always a dubious claim and of highly questionable value given that carrier ops aren’t sortie rate limited and that shrinking air wings make sortie rates irrelevant.  The report had this to say,

"It is unlikely that CVN-78 will achieve its Sortie Generation Rate (SGR) (number of aircraft sorties per day) requirement.  The target threshold is based on unrealistic assumptions including fair weather and unlimited visibility, and that aircraft emergencies, failures of shipboard equipment, ship maneuvers, and manning shortfalls will not affect flight operations."

Reread that last sentence.  It’s clear that the sortie rate claim was never valid and was a fraudulent attempt to promote the program.  The Navy’s honesty and integrity are taking some serious hits over the last decade or two.

You’ll recall that we’ve repeatedly discussed the pitfalls of concurrent development and production.  Here’s an example regarding the ship’s Dual Band Radar (DBR).

"The Navy planned to begin testing in January 2013; however, the testing has slipped repeatedly, and to date, no live testing with the full production DBR has been completed."

So, we’re going to install a radar system that is untested. 

Here’s an interesting tidbit that is undoubtedly budget driven.  JPALS [the automated landing system] has been deferred until the F-35 or unmanned aircraft require it. 

"The Joint Precision Approach and Landing System (JPALS) is no longer funded for CVN-78."

The Ford is a clear cut case study for how not to run a new construction program.  Of course, so was the LCS and the LPD-17 and he Navy failed to learn any lessons from those so I doubt they’ll learn anything from this one, either.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Major AirSea Battle Development Announced

Let me clearly state up front that this is not another of ComNavOps’ famous and much beloved humor pieces.  As I’ve said repeatedly, I can’t make up stuff as funny and ludicrous as what the Pentagon routinely comes up with in their “reality”.  That said, you’re going to love this one.

After years of debating what the AirSea Battle concept is and how it might be implemented, the Pentagon has finally made a major advance.  They’ve announced that they’re changing the name from,

AirSea Battle


Joint Concept for Access and Maneuver in the Global Commons (JAM-GC).

As I said, this is real and is being widely reported across the Internet.  Check it for yourself.

Seriously, this is what passes for military thought today – changing the name.  I wonder how many man-hours went into this major development?  Based on the increase in the number of letters in the title, this new version is just over four times better than the previous one.  I guess I have to grudgingly acknowledge that a 4x improvement is pretty significant by anyone’s standard.  I, therefore, salute the Pentagon and say, “Well done!”.

No word, yet, on Chinese reaction to this development but they are undoubtedly already at work developing a new wave of ships, aircraft, and tanks to counter this major advance by the Pentagon.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Carrier Shortage

There is a future carrier shortage looming that has, thus far, escaped notice.  Well, ComNavOps has noticed it and will now explain it.  First, it’s necessary to absorb a little background.  For starters, here are commissioning and decommissioning dates along with the number of service years for all the modern carriers that have served and been retired.

                                    Comm.           Decomm.       Years
Forrestal                       1955               1993                38
Saratoga                      1956               1994                38
Ranger                         1957               1993                36
Independence               1959               1998                39
Kitty Hawk                   1961               2009                48
Constellation                1961               2003                42
Enterprise                    1961               2012                51
America                       1965               1996                31
Kennedy                      1968               2007                39

                                                            Average =      40

So, we see that the average service life of a carrier is 40 years.

Next, we note that the Navy’s carrier force level goal is 11 carriers.  We’ll ignore that the Navy has made an effort to early retire one of the current carriers.  Thus, in order to sustain an 11 carrier force with an average service life of 40 years, we need to build a new carrier every 3.6 years.  Are we doing that?  Well, here’s the data for all the carriers from the Nimitz, on.  We see the commissioning date, the service life thus far, and, the important piece of data, the build frequency in years since the previous carrier’s commissioning.

                                    Comm.           Years              Frequency
Nimitz                           1975               40                      7
Eisenhower                   1977               38                      2
Vinson                          1982               33                      5
Roosevelt                      1986               29                      4
Lincoln                          1989               26                      3
Washington                   1992               23                      3
Stennis                         1995               20                      3
Truman                         1998               17                      3
Reagan                         2003               12                      5
Bush                             2009               6                        6
Ford                              2016*              0                        7
CVN-79                         2023*              0                        7
CVN-80                         2027*              0                        4

*anticipated delivery dates rather than commissioning dates – commissioning dates will be longer

What we see is that from the Nimitz through the Truman, the frequency was 3.75 years – just about the 3.6 years that is required.  However, and this is the big however, from the Reagan on, the frequency is 5.8 years which translates to a carrier force of 6.9 – well, call it 7 carriers. 

There it is.  A build frequency of 5.8 years can only sustain a carrier force of 7 carriers.

You’ll also note that the Ford class dates were delivery dates and that the commissioning dates, to keep the data comparable, will be longer than that by a year or two each.  Thus, the build frequency will be longer than calculated, here, and will probably produce a calculated carrier force level of 6.  But hey, there’s no need to quibble.  The point is valid regardless so we’ll use the higher number just to please the Navy.  ComNavOps bends over backward to be fair!

We see, then, that we’re retiring carriers faster than we’re building them.  There’s a carrier shortfall coming and a rather significant one.  I’ve been saying for some time that the carrier force is going to decrease to 9 (8 active) in the relatively near future and this simply demonstrates why it’s inevitable. 

I’ve also been saying that carriers are pricing themselves out of existence and this, again, is the proof.  The Fords are being stretched out because of cost - no other reason.  They’ve become so expensive that we’re attempting to deal with the yearly budget hit by stretching out the acquisition period.  Yes, that does lessen the yearly hit but it increases the total cost and, eventually, impacts the total force level.

Of course, there are a couple of things we can do to mitigate this problem.  One obvious solution is to take better care of our carriers and keep them around longer.  If we increased the service life to 50 years, we’d only need a new carrier every 4.5 years.

Another fairly obvious solution is to stop making each carrier bigger – hence, more expensive - than the one before it.  I’ve pointed this out before.  The Ford is significantly larger than the Nimitz despite the fact that the air wing will be half the size of the Nimitz’s original wing.  The air wings are getting smaller but the carriers are getting bigger.  Anyone see a disconnect there?  We’ve noted that a carrier the size of an old Midway could operate a modern air wing and yet we’re supersizing our carriers.  Until the air wings show signs of growing, why not build smaller carriers, proportionally sized, and save some money so that we don’t have to stretch out the acquisition period?  Pay attention – I’m not advocating “escort” or “light” carriers as replacements for full size ones.  I’m advocating making the full size no bigger than what’s needed and that’s a Midway size.  If the air wings ever grow (does anyone realistically believe that’s going to happen?) then we can grow the carriers, again.

Not only is the Navy trying to pass off the fantasy of a 300 ship fleet but they’re hiding the fact that there are shortfalls coming in submarines, destroyers, cruisers, and, now, carriers.  On the plus side, we’re firmly committed to 52 LCS’s!

Sunday, January 18, 2015

War and Isolation

ComNavOps has seen a spate of comments in the last few months, both on this blog and others, that have highlighted a major problem that both the military and commenters suffer from: we've forgotten what war is. In a war, people die and planes and ships get destroyed. We've been conducting police actions and limited actions against third rate opponents for so long that we've forgotten what real war is.  

A consequence of forgetting what real war is, is that along the way we've adopted a zero-loss mentality about war.  If the mere theoretical possibility of one of our planes being shot down is enough to push us to standoff roles only, then we're not very serious about the conflict.  If the mere theoretical possibility of a ship being hit by a missile is enough to push our amphibious assaults out to 50 nm or more than we aren’t very serious about the objective.  If the mere theoretical possibility of a carrier being hit by an anti-ship ballistic missile is enough to push us back beyond a 1000 nm A2/AD zone then we don’t have a compelling reason to enter the zone. 

War is about attrition and war is about the balance between risk and reward.  If the objective is worthwhile then it’s worth some losses.  Too many of our recent military interventions have not been worth the losses which tells us that the reward wasn’t very compelling and we should have seriously questioned our involvement.  In these kinds of scenarios, prevention of losses is often the main objective rather than any military goal.

Because we’ve forgotten what war is, too many people have taken to evaluating weapons and systems in isolation.  We’ve forgotten that weapons rarely (never) operate in isolation against an opposing weapon.  For example, the A-10 doesn’t fly alone against an isolated SAM system as if it were a target drone.  The A-10 operates with supporting ECM, supporting ground forces, AWACS and spotters, helos, anti-radar missiles, etc.  It also operates as part of a squadron whose other aircraft provide mutual support, spotting, and suppression.  The A-10 also doesn’t operate in a clearly unfavorable situation.  The A-10 is not tasked with penetrating the heart of an enemy’s capital city.  That’s someone else’s job.

An LST (if we had one) doesn’t attempt to land all by itself against the entire arrayed enemy force.  Of course, it wouldn’t survive that!  It lands as part of an overall effort that attempts to support and maximize the LST’s chance of survival and mission accomplishment.

And so on …

Unfortunately, as we argue for and against various weapons and systems we tend to pick and choose individual matchups which support our contention instead of making realistic assessments of how a weapon or system would actually be used in combat.  That’s tactics, people!  Arguing without an understanding of the tactics relevant to the weapon under discussion is just arguing for the sake of arguing.  We don't fight in isolation (one A-10 versus one AAW system) yet we persist in discussing these things in isolation to prove our points.

The fact that an A-10 might be shot down doesn't render it obsolete. If we're not willing to face the possibility of losses then we should be looking very closely at our rationale for being there (wherever and whatever there is). Jumping into zero-loss police actions at the drop of a hat may not be the wisest policy. But, I digress...

This post is not about the A-10 or any particular weapon system.  It’s about the reality of war and the flawed basis of isolated arguments.  It applies equally to any weapon or system.  By all means, let’s continue our discussions and continue weighing the pros and cons of systems and weapons but let’s do so with the totality of the item’s usage kept firmly in mind.  Yes, that makes the discussions more complex and may require more thought and research but that is, after all, the point of this blog – to raise the level of discourse.  Have at it!

Saturday, January 17, 2015

LCS PR Ramps Up!

I’ve pointed out that the Navy will engage in a PR blitz to cover the fact that the “improved” LCS is a very minor tweak, indeed.  We’ve seen some of the PR examples and they’re impressive in their unreality.  Well, here’s the latest.

As reported by Breaking Defense website (1), Navy Secretary Ray Mabus claims that the LCS will now be “worthy of the frigate designation” and added this bit of fantasy.

“ ’If you list the attributes of a frigate and then list the attributes of [an improved LCS], we’re actually more capable than a normal frigate is,’ Mabus told reporters after his remarks to the Surface Navy Association conference.”

I’m not even going to bother listing all the ways this vessel falls woefully short of being a “normal frigate”.  This statement has one of three possible interpretations:

  1. He believes his statement in which case he’s an idiot.
  2. He knows his statement is false in which case he’s a liar.
  3. He has no idea whether the statement is true and he’s just repeating what he’s being told in which case he’s simply incompetent.

There it is.  Mabus is either an idiot, a liar, or incompetent. 

Using his naval expertise and analytical mindset, Mabus goes on to identify the main problem with the LCS.

“They don’t look like traditional Navy ships sometimes, and I think that’s one of the issues that traditionalists have …”

Well, I feel foolish.  I thought I didn’t like the ship because it was underarmed, underarmored, structurally weak, too loud, short legged, and suffered from a host of other shortcomings.  Instead, I now realize that all of my negative feelings stemmed from the ship’s appearance.  You know, I think he’s right.  Now that I realize the true source of my negative feelings, I suddenly see that everything that I thought was bad about the ship is actually good.

The PR is really ramping up!

LCS:  “Don’t be about it, talk about it.”

(1) "What’s In A Name? Making The LCS ‘Frigate’ Reality", Sydney J. Freedberg Jr., 16-Jan-2015,