Tuesday, July 1, 2014

I Believe!

I believe!  Say it with me, brothers.  I believe!

I believe that simulators provide all the training I need and that chaos, shrapnel, smoke, power outages, and noise are just stories told to frighten the untrained.  Say it, brothers.  I believe!

I believe that GPS will be with me always, to comfort and guide me.  Say it, brothers.  I believe!

I believe that air superiority is my birthright.  Let the Air Force bear witness.  Say it, brothers.  I believe!

I believe that minefields can be cleared through the Power of Point and True Belief.  Wish with me, that we may pass untouched!  Say it, brothers.  I believe!

I believe that although I jam the heathen’s electronic systems, their jamming shall pass me by.  Say it, brothers.  I believe!

I believe that manufacturer’s claims are true and right.  So sayeth Lockheed.  So sayeth Raytheon.  So say we all.  Say it, brothers.  I believe!

I believe that stoutness of heart will armor my ship.  The purity of Aluminum will transcend damage.  Steel is the Devil’s Material.  Say it, brothers.  I believe!

I believe that the Accountants of Optimal Manning will be my strength and my Damage Control.  Praise be the Minimal Crew.  Say it, brothers.  I believe!

I believe that “F” is the Holy Letter and “35” is its Number.  Long has my faith been tested as I have awaited its coming and though it be longer still till I shall see it serve, I remain steadfast in my belief.  Say it, brothers.  I believe!

Finally, and most importantly, I believe that, though all else be lost, I will still build new ships as shrines to the Gods of Acquisition.  Let me not blaspheme by walking the false paths of Upgrade or Maintenance.  Keep me true to the Way of the New Build.  Say it, brothers.  Say it with faith and fervor.  I believe!  I belieeeeve!


OK, fine, I’m mocking the culture of blind faith that all too often substitutes for objective and analytical thinking in the Navy.  Blind faith is only way to explain so many of our obvious shortcomings and capability gaps.  As you ponder various Navy matters, continually ask yourself if they are grounded in logic and reality or, instead, blind faith.


  1. I see where you're going, but from an Aviation perspective, I think you will find many that have fallen from that faith.

    There was a flirtation with simulators as the new norm in the early to mid 2000s. The Army and Marine Corps were expanding, and the Navy's share of the budget was static. Almost all training and readiness funds were being diverted to OCO. Result: a squadron returns from 10 months in 5th Fleet, and parks all the jets. Sequestration brought some of that back, but CNAF has been fighting to restore the funding above "tactical hard deck." It is absolutely not an article of faith that simulators can replace flight hours. Quite the opposite.

    We regularly train to GPS denied, opposed (ground-based and air) threat scenarios. That's what Fallon, Nellis, Eielson, Yuma, etc. are there for. Jamming is a requirement. We could do more comm jamming, but there's only so much training you can get when it's full up.

    Aluminum, carbon fiber, and titanium... Steel is for landing gear.

    I don't know anybody from the non-designated Airman to CNAF that is saying "please, give me less manpower."

    Contractors often over promise and under deliver. But I've also recently had some great tools show up that we're pretty Gucci.

    I know of hardly anyone in NAVY Aviation that is gushingly supportive of F-35. We're wed to this because of the USAF and USMC. N98 and CNO have noted that F-35 stealth is not the end all capability that some claim. The Navy has the youngest TACAIR force, and only 11 remaining legacy Hornet squadrons that would be replaced by Lightning II. That's an average of one F-35 squadron per active airwing - hardly canonical devotion.

    Some times you have to build new things. Intruders, Tomcats, and Prowlers were all worn out. The legacy Hornets almost are. We need to determine what role our Navy is to have in National Strategy, identify gaps, and determine which gaps need evolutionary or revolutionary solutions.

    1. Trons, this is aimed equally (or a bit moreso) at the non-aviation side of the Navy.

      Regarding simulators, I've not read anything that leads me to believe that simulator usage will decrease. In fact, just the opposite. I constantly read articles suggesting that simulator usage will increase in response to tightening budgets. The surface Navy, in particular, seems fixated on simulators over at sea training.

      GPS denied training? Really? Tell me more, and I mean that sincerely. I've never heard of any realistic GPS denied training. Given the reliance of so many of our weapons on GPS, how do we envision operating? Port Royal ran aground because they lost their GPS. The Marines are concerned that GPS dependence has cost them their basic map reading and dead reckoning skills. And so on. I'd love to hear a bit more description of any GPS-denied training that we're engaging in.

      The steel issue is for ship construction.

      Regarding manpower, reducing manpower is the Holy Grail of the Navy including far beyond the point of negatively impacting watchstanding, maintenance, damage control, combat, etc. Witness the LCS and Zumwalt as prime examples. Ford will probably be the next. Optimal manning programs ravaged fleet maintenance for over a decade and has cost us many ships to forced early retirement.

      The new construction point is for the surface Navy who have early retired entire classes and continue to do so in an effort to buy new ships. That might even be a tiny bit acceptable if the new ships could perform even as well as the legacy ships they replace. LCS, LPD-17, America, and so on.

      "We could do more comm jamming, but there's only so much training you can get when it's full up." Isn't that the whole point? We need to train to the level that we expect to see in combat. If we expect to see "full up" comm jamming then we need to learn to deal with it and operate under it. If we can't successfully train because the jamming is too severe, then we need new equipment, new tactics, or whatever. We can't bypass aspects of training because they're too hard. That's the whole point!

  2. I'm pretty positive on simulations as adjuncts to real world experience. Sims allow initial familiarization training, the ability to experience maneuvers too dangerous to execute in real life, or conduct tactical maneuvers that I would rather keep private within an isolated range environment. Virtual Flag is an example of distributed advanced tactical to operational simulated war fighting. Check it out. But again, sims are not a direct substitute for real world experience.

    Regarding GPS disruption - there has been extensive testing by DoN, DAF, and others. It is not a non-issue, but a known issue that is incorporated into strike planning. There is, of course, a difference between the elimination of the constellation versus target area surface interference. Remember, aircraft and aircraft weapons are GPS "aided", and the aided feature can be deselected. The amount of power required to jam the GPS on an aircraft that is 4-6 miles above the surface also creates a really good target.

    Regarding GPS dependence - we can't really blame that on the FO/GOs or the acquisition corps. Atrophy of basic seamanship skills is a training issue that rests squarely on everyone from the Skipper/XO, DHs, and DIVOs, down to the most junior LPOs. When I graduated flight school a few years back, I could launch from Florida and find a target in West Texas the size of a mailbox +/- 30 seconds planned time using only a clock, chart, and the ground/radar. I was not nearly the top of my class, that was just the required standard. I'm betting 1stLts were getting lost during land nav when Al Gray was Commandant, and Captains were running aground when Ernest King was in charge. They just didn't have GPS failure to blame it on. We are all the keepers of the standards. Train them. Hold your crew accountable. Still have that sextant?

    The fact that we have dozens of GMT requirements that seem to interfere with training to those basic war fighting skills... well, that's on senior leadership.

    I'm very much in favor of presenting high fidelity military threat training, but it must be realistic. The Aggressor mindset vice a Red Team. An aggressor uses the best intel, exploitation of adversary gear, known tactics, and even cultural anthropology to develop a threat replication that accurately represents what an adversary would likely do. Red Teams probe all known vulnerabilities, and how well they are defended. So it goes with the comm jamming issue. If you are using your frequency hopping systems correctly, you are likely ahead of the game, if not, you'll get owned in training, and possibly killed in combat.

    If you're saying we need more and harder training scenarios, I'm with you. I just don't think all our leaders have swallowed quite as much kool-aid as you have presented in your satire.

    BZ! Keep it up.

  3. This does bring up a good point, CNO. I'm curious, in your opinion, what is the Navy doing right?

    I was trying to think the other day from the other perspective. If I'm China, say, what is it about the US Navy that makes me worry? I have some impressive long range strike aircraft in the pipeline, but do I have the same concerns that the US does? (I.E. are there holes in the J-20 that the US could exploit?) I doubt we'd hear about the J-20's flaws the same way we've heard the potential failures of the F-35C, for example.

    Its hard because of our open press. Even though alot of our programs are secret, there is still alot of knowledge and open discussion out there. Not so much from what I've seen of the PRC dialogues about their equipment. So sometimes I think it seems that we are the kid in kindergarten constantly gluing his crayons to his forehead, while the Chinese are sage go masters whose every move is brilliant.

  4. Speaking of War Games...

    Can the Navy try to practice war games for a large, long range Naval strike against a peer with a severe A2/AD? Or are the war games more like 'Within this bases airspace we will strike X...'

    I'm thinking along the lines of would we ever line up the Lincoln X hundred miles away from an inland target and try to make it work against an OPFOR trying to stop them the whole way, and subs with torpedos and aircraft with simulated Brahmos trying to hunt the CVN, and have the strike force make it back and trap on the deck again?

    Or maybe the Bluewater game; where we have some ships with simulated missiles with the range of the nasty stuff out there trying to kill our CVN's?

    Have they ever done an Aegis exercise where they launch a ton of sea skimming supersonic drones at it to see how mny it can pick off? I was thinking the other day of the claims of PATRIOT vs. its actual success and it made me wonder about Aegis.

    Do they do stuff like that in RIMPAC?

    Or are exercises like that too expensive/unrealistic/not needed?

    1. Jim, that's a lot of questions with a lot of answers. Here's a few.

      Instead of conducting large scale exercises of the type you're talking about, we break it down into tiny pieces, test those, and assume the whole will be equal to the sum of the parts. For example, if we want to know whether we can stand up to a BMD threat as we penetrate an A2/AD zone, we'll launch a single drone and see if a single Standard missile can intercept. If successful, we conclude that a carrier group can operate in a ballistic missile threat environment. Of course, we haven't tested the intercept in the context of large numbers, uncertain target identification, enemy jamming, loss of comms, etc. So how realistic are the tests? Not very.

      Some would say that the type of testing you're talking about is too expensive. That's true for the Navy as it operates currently. On the other hand, if we stopped screwing around with worthless, non-warfighting missions we'd have lots of money to spend on combat training. For example, instead of sending the LCS-1 to Singapore for a worthless PR exercise, we could have taken that money, bought a swarm of Meggitt Hammerhead USV drones, and tested the LCS in a live fire swarm exercise to see what it could really do and give the crew some training that is as close to combat as possible. Or, if we'd stop spending time and money on humanitarian missions we'd have more money for training. And so on.

      Several Aegis cruisers have been retired. Many people have suggested placing one of them in a patch of open ocean and launching swarms of actual missiles at it to see what Aegis can do in full auto mode. On a relative basis, it would be a very cheap exercise. I don't know why the Navy won't do that other than a reluctance to face bad news if the results aren't what the Navy has been claiming they would be for years.


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