Friday, April 29, 2016

Rationalize Survivability

All too often, today, requirements are downgraded and then rationalized to explain why the downgrade wasn’t actually a downgrade.  Wake up!  Yes, it was a downgrade.  Of course it was a downgrade.

Consider the highest level military requirement that sets the priorities, force structures, acquisition programs, etc. for the services.  Originally, after the collapse of the Soviet Union, the requirement was to be able to fight and win two major regional wars simultaneously.  That has since been watered down to being able to win one regional conflict and holding in another.

The 1997 Quadrennial Defense Review put it this way,

“As a global power with worldwide interests, it is imperative that the United States now and for the foreseeable future be able to deter and defeat large-scale, cross-border aggression in two distant theaters in overlapping time frames, preferably in concert with regional allies. Maintaining this core capability is central to credibly deterring opportunism—that is, to avoiding a situation in which an aggressor in one region might be tempted to take advantage when U.S. forces are heavily committed elsewhere… “

Despite that straightforward statement, we have downgraded the requirement to fighting one regional conflict and holding on in another and have rationalized that it’s a good thing.  Why did we downgrade the requirement?  It wasn’t because the threats decreased.  It was simply because our military spending was becoming greater and providing less return than in the past.  Since we could no longer afford the force structure required to simultaneously fight and win two major regional wars we opted to change the requirement rather than change our procurement and spending habits.

Or, consider the Navy’s carrier requirements.  After the Cold War, the requirement was for 15 carriers.  It has subsequently worked its way down to 11 with serious discussions about permanent reductions to 8-10.  Our need hasn’t changed.  What’s changed is that carriers are pricing themselves out of existence, slowly but surely.  Each step of the way, the Navy rationalized the reductions.

Or, consider the Marine’s requirement for amphibious lift.  Depending on the source, the requirement is as high as 54 amphibious ships.  Another common number is 38.  The Marines have “bargained” with the Navy and settled on 33-34 as sufficient.  The actual number is 30 ships.  The Marines and Navy have rationalized the reductions every step of the way.  Again, the requirements didn’t change – only our ability to meet them changed so we rationalized our acquisition failure.

The point is that downgrades are imposed by outside factors, budget being chief among them although stupidity is also right up there, and then rationalization is applied to make the downgrade seem palatable or even beneficial and preferred.  Rationalization does not, however, change the underlying facts of the matter or the requirements.  If we needed 15 carriers, we probably still do.  If we needed to be able to fight and win two major regional conflicts at the same time, we probably still do.

Well, that sets the stage for our discussion of survivability.

By the end of WWII, we pretty thoroughly understood what ship survivability meant and how to achieve it.  BuShips set the standards and ensured that new construction met those standards.  Now, BuShips is gone and accounting trumps survivability.

For decades, survivability has been defined by a very concise and crystal clear document, OpNavInst 9070.1, issued from the CNO’s office on 23-Sep-1988.  It is a remarkable document characterized by fundamental, concise, and obvious statements of requirement.  For example, the basic need is acknowledged by the statement,

“Survivability shall be considered a fundamental design requirement of no less significance than other inherent ship characteristics, such as weight and stability margins, maneuverability, structural integrity and combat systems capability.”

Clear.  Simple.  Obvious.  So, too, is this statement.

“Ship protection features, such as armor, shielding and signature reduction, together with installed equipment hardened to appropriate standards, constitute a minimum baseline of survivability.” [emphasis added]

The document goes on to define three levels of survivability in short, simple, and unambiguous terms.

Level I (lowest) represents the least severe environment anticipated and excludes the need for enhanced survivability for designated ship classes to sustain operations in the immediate area of an engaged Battle Group or in the general war-at-sea region. In — this category, the minimum design capability required shall, in addition to the inherent sea keeping mission, provide for EMP and shock hardening, individual protection for CBR, including decontamination stations, the DC/FF capability to control and recover from conflagrations and include the ability to operate in a high latitude environment.

Level II (middle) represents an increase of severity to include the ability for sustained operations when in support of a Battle Group and in the general war-at-sea area. This level shall provide the ability for sustained combat operations following weapons impact. Capabilities shall include the requirements of Level I plus primary and support system redundancy, collective protection system, improved structural integrity and subdivision, fragmentation protection, signature reduction, conventional and nuclear blast protection and nuclear hardening.

Level III (highest) the most severe environment projected for combatant Battle Groups, shall include the requirements of Level II plus the ability to deal with the broad degrading effects of damage from anti-ship cruise missiles (ASCMS), torpedoes and mines.

The document even defines which ships shall have which level of survivability.

Ship Type                                                       Level

Aircraft Carriers                                               III
Surface Combatants                                       III
Frigates and Amphibious Warfare                   II
Underway Replenishment Ships                      II
Patrol Combatant and Mine Warfare                I
Strategic Sealift                                                 I
Support Ships                                                    I
All Other Auxiliary Ships/Craft                           I

Clear.  Simple.  Obvious. 

This should be the end of the story.  However, the Navy ran into a little problem:  the LCS.  The LCS was designed with a sub-Level I survivability.  The Navy claimed that it was designed with some made up Level I+ survivability but we already totally debunked that.  The Navy flat out lied about that.  In any event, because they made the claim of survivability that was untrue and because the ship was designed with sub-Level I, the Navy received much criticism and bad publicity.  They fought the negative perception (the reality, actually) for years but could not overcome the criticism especially because their own policy, OpNavInst 9070.1 contradicted their claims and showed that the LCS should have been built with Level II.

Eventually, after fighting a losing battle for many years, the Navy decided that if they couldn’t defend their claims, the easiest solution was to change the survivability standards so that the LCS would meet the new, downgraded standards and the conversation would end.  To that end, the Navy made up a new survivability “standard” which is documented in OpNavInst 9070.1A and was issued by CNO Greenert on 13-Sep-2012.

The new document takes a previously simple, clear, straightforward, and logical requirement and turns it into a nearly incomprehensible mishmash of generic and interlocking statements that offer no specific guidance or requirements.  It has reduced a very specific process to a vague collection of “feelings” about survivability.  That was, I believe, its intended purpose – to so obscure the survivability issue that the Navy can now claim the LCS meets the “standard”.

The document incorporates aspects that have nothing to do with survivability.  For example, it introduces cyberwarfare as an element of survivability.  Cyberwarfare and cyber vulnerabilities may affect a platform’s ability to accomplish its task but it is not a survivability issue.

Even the very definition of survivability is flawed.  Read it.

“Survivability. A measure of both the capability of the ship, mission critical systems, and crew to perform assigned warfare missions, and of the protection provided to the crew to prevent serious injury or death.”

This definition is incorrect and has nothing to do with survivability.  The measure of the ability to perform missions is not survivability.  Ability to perform missions is effectiveness.  Even the protection for the crew is only somewhat related to survivability.  Survivability is, pure and simple, the ability of the ship to remain afloat in the face of combat and damage.  The Navy can’t even define survivability!

The document then goes on to list three principal disciplines of survivability: susceptibility, vulnerability, and recoverability.  The subsequent definitions of these disciplines are as flawed and irrelevant as the definition of survivability.  I won’t even bother quoting them.  You can read the document if you’re interested.

Ultimately, the document goes on to offer tables and flowcharts of survivability, none of which offer any concrete requirements.  Everything is fluid.  Survivability can be anything you want it to be.  This takes today’s “feel good” movement and codifies it in Navy documents. 

We’ve taken a perfectly simple, logical, and useful survivability requirement, downgraded it to the point of uselessness, and rationalized it under some all-encompassing assessment that has little to do with survivability.  Why?  Because the Navy got tired of continually defending an expensive and non-survivable ship. 

If you can’t change the survivability of the ship, change the definition of survivability!  A typical Navy solution.

Thursday, April 28, 2016

Sonar Fails - Navy Orders More

DOT&E has panned the sonar that the LCS MCM module was trying to use.  So, what does the Navy do?  Order more of them, of course!  From the website,

“Raytheon Co., Portsmouth, Rhode Island, is being awarded a $20,406,692 modification to previously awarded contract (N00024-14-C-6302) to exercise options for the procurement of four AN/AQS-20A sonar, mine detecting sets.”

So, the AQS-20A sonar which doesn’t meet specifications, costs $5.1M each.  Seems like a wise use of taxpayer money.  I cannot believe how screwed up Navy procurement is.

The AQS-20A sonar was the small sonar that was to be towed by the now cancelled (or maybe not cancelled) RMMV which has, itself, failed miserably.  You can read any DOT&E report for details on the sonar’s failings, if you’re interested.

MV-22 Multi-Spectral Sensor

I really do not understand the thinking behind many of the new weapon and sensor systems.  The latest is a sensor addition to the Marine’s MV-22 as explained in a Flightglobal website article (1).  US Naval Air Systems Command (NAVAIR) has issued a request to industry for an 18-inch gimbaled multispectral sensor that can be lowered from the MV-22’s cargo hold well.  The new sensors will give the aircraft the ability to target enemies from afar and provide similar situational awareness and precision targeting capabilities as the MQ-9 Predator UAV.   It’s unclear whether this will impact the available cargo space or not, so that’s one concern.

The other concern is under what circumstance does this sensor and capability make sense?  Are the Marines trying to create their own Predator?  Are we really going to risk our most valuable general purpose aircraft (according to the Marines, not me!) performing high risk battlefield surveillance?  Isn’t mitigating that risk exactly why we’ve developed the Predator?  What’s the thinking, here?

I note that the Predator is intended to fly quite high while the MV-22 is limited to under 10,000 ft, if I remember correctly.  That means the area it can cover is quite limited and the danger from the proximity to all manner of anti-air weapons is quite severe.  The aircraft will have limited survivability.  Why are we doing this?

The MV-22 is already equipped with an APQ-174 multi-mode radar and AAQ-27 forward-looking infrared turret so what does this extra sensor gain us?

I’m completely missing the tactical usefulness of this.  It seems like we so often develop and tack technology onto platforms just because we can rather than because it will serve a useful purpose.

Is this just more floundering around trying to come up with uses for an otherwise limited usefulness aircraft?

Feel free to take a shot at explaining this because I have no explanation!


(1) Flightglobal website, “DOD explores multispectral sensor options for V-22 Osprey”, James Drew, 25-Apr-2016,

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

COD Mods

The Navy has selected the V-22 as the next carrier delivery (COD) aircraft.  Bell-Boeing has been given a $151M contract to design the COD version of the plane, as described by a USNI website article (1).

The funding, adding onto an existing contract with Bell-Boeing, covers non-recurring engineering costs to add extended range, high frequency beyond line-of-sight radio and a public address system to the baseline MV-22 used by the Marine Corps. 

The cost of this is absolutely appalling.  Bell-Boeing wants $151M to add a radio, a public address system, and extended range modifications?  It ought to take about ten thousand dollars of design work to add a radio.  A public address system?  Seriously?  That should cost about a thousand dollars of design effort.  That leaves almost the entire $151M for extended range modifications.  Here’s the thing, though, the Air Force’s CV-22 is already an extended range V-22.  The extended range engineering has already been done.  The CV-22 has extra wing fuel tanks and three auxiliary cabin tanks can also be added.

The Navy’s unrefueled range requirement for the V-22 COD is 1150 nm (2).

The Air Force fact file lists a combat radius for the CV-22 of 500 nm with one internal fuel tank.  That means a one way range (which is what a COD flight profile is) of 1000 nm.

The NavAir Navy fact file lists a range for the CV-22 of 2100 nm with internal fuel tanks (number unspecified). (3)

Wiki lists an MV-22 range of 879 nm and a ferry range of 1940 nm with internal auxiliary tanks.

Wiki cites the existing C-2 Greyhound COD as having a range of 1300 nm, for comparison.

Thus, the CV-22 already has an unrefueled range that’s almost 1000 miles greater than the Navy’s requirement.  Of course, the max ferry range requires internal fuel tanks which take away from the cargo capacity of the aircraft but the CV-22 meets the range requirement with a single internal fuel tank.  Presumably, the CV-22’s wing tanks offer sufficient range with no need for internal fuel tanks.  The point is, the engineering has already been done.  Why are we giving Bell-Boeing $151M to engineer something that has already been done?



(1)USNI News website, “NAVAIR Awards Bell-Boeing $151 Million To Begin Navy-Variant V-22 Design”, Megan Eckstein, April 1, 2016,

(2)USNI News website, “NAVAIR Details Changes in Navy V-22 Osprey Variant”, Megan Eckstein, April 2, 2015,

Monday, April 25, 2016

F-35 Cost Update

The F-35 program is hideously expensive and yet supporters continue to claim that sub-$80M F-35s are just around the corner.  The reality, however, is quite different as shown in this Defense News website article.

“Meanwhile, the Navy asked for $270 million for two additional carrier-based F-35Cs, and the Marine Corps requested $759 million to procure two each of the F-35Cs and F-35Bs.” (1)

Some quick arithmetic gives a cost of $135M for the F-35C’s and $244.5M for the F-35B’s.  Well that’s a bit different from the supporter’s claims!


(1)Defense News website, “House Armed Services Committee Markup Will Restore 11 F-35s”, Lara Seligman, 21-Apr-2016,


Anecdotally, the Navy unofficially sanctions the practice of cannibalization as a means of meeting short term readiness and inspections.  Intuitively, this is wrong – badly wrong – because the readiness of one unit is obtained at the expense of another.  Worse, the practice masks readiness and supply issues that should be dealt with by the chain of command, thereby providing a false sense of readiness.

The Navy defines cannibalization as the removal of parts from an active unit or piece of equipment to another unit in order to enable the readiness or meet inspections.  In addition to cannibalization, the Navy also recognizes and defines another type of parts swapping called cross-decking.  The difference is that cross-decking involves the swapping of parts from the inventory (non-active) of one unit to another in order to enable readiness or meet inspections.

Does the Navy actually recognize and condone cannibalization or is ComNavOps just being sensationalistic?  Well, unbelievably, the Navy has an official policy defining the practice and establishing rules for its use.  Ironically, the policy condemns the practice while simultaneously establishing procedures for doing it!

“Cannibalizations between active fleet units shall not be a normal peacetime practice and will be considered an acceptable option only after all other logistics support alternatives have been exhausted.” (4)

So, in a typically Navy form of insanity, the practice is “banned” and yet procedures are established to regulate it and metrics have been set up to monitor it!

Anecdotal evidence aside, how pervasive is the problem?  Do we have any data?  Here’s some old data from a Dynamics Research Corporation report. 

“… reports show that in FY 1996-2000, the Navy and Air Force performed 850,000 cannibalizations requiring over 5 million maintenance man-hours—which translates to between 154,000 and 176,000 cannibalizations a year (and this does not even include the Army, and the Navy reportedly understates its data by as much as 50%) (Government Accountability Office, 2001)” (1)

The degree of underreporting of data may be significant, according to a GAO report.

“The Air Force and the Navy, however, do not report all cannibalizations, and how much the Army uses cannibalizations is not known because it requires that only very selected cannibalizations be reported. As a result, total Servicewide figures may be considerably higher than those officially reported.” (2)

“During the 5-year period under study (fiscal years 1996-2000), the Navy reported approximately 468,000 cannibalizations, or on average, about 94,000 a year. … However, according to recent studies, the actual number of cannibalizations may be much higher. In fiscal year 1998, a Navy group noted that as many as half of all Navy cannibalizations may go unreported. In April 2000, the Navy Inspector General also confirmed that cannibalizations were being consistently underreported and that commanders were concerned that cannibalization was becoming an accepted maintenance practice.”

Much of the above data is for aircraft.  How are ships doing?

“In four consecutive quarters in 2010 the USN reported a rate of so-called “cannibalization” of components between ships of on average twice the current allowable maximum allowed limit (MAL) of about one instance per four ships (.28), according to the data.

Across the fleet in 2010, the USN saw an average rate of cannibalization of .48, or about one instance per two ships across the entire year. “ (3)

We see, then, that the Navy allows a cannibalization rate of one instance per four ships and that the actual rate is about every other ship.  According to this data (likely vastly underreported), every other ship in the fleet is not currently mission ready.  If we apply the 50% underreporting factor that GAO suggests, the cannibalization rate becomes 0.96 which is almost every ship in the fleet!

What’s the Navy’s response to the apparent severe problem?  Here’s the salient excerpt from the then CNO.

“… the supply system is performing at or above goals,” read the USN statement.” (3)

So, the Navy would have us believe that the supply system is functioning at or above goals and yet the practice of cannibalization is widespread.  Seems like a contradiction, there.  Even faced with hard documentation (set aside the fact that the problem is vastly underreported) of a serious problem, the Navy claims all is well.  Outstanding!

Commanders are fired on a regular and frequent basis for “loss of confidence” in their ability to command.  Where are the firings of the CNO and other upper leaders of the Navy for failure to provide the parts and ensure actual readiness of the ships under their command?  I don’t know about you but I’ve lost confidence in their ability to command.


(1)Dynamics Research Corporation, “Cannibalization in the Military: A Viable Sustainment Strategy?”, Peter Bogdanowicz, 2-Apr-2003,

(2)GAO, “MILITARY AIRCRAFT Services Need Strategies to Reduce Cannibalizations”, GAO-02-86, Nov 2001,

(3)DoDBuzz Website, “Report: Parts-swapping is common across Navy”, Philip Ewing, 19-Jul-2011,

(4)OPNAVINST 4440.19F N4, 5 Jun 2012,

Saturday, April 23, 2016

F-35 or Next Generation?

Consider the following seemingly unrelated points – or maybe they are related?

  • The F-35 won’t be fully combat ready for several more years, if even then.  When ready, the F-35 will only be a mediocre aircraft with much of its technology obsolete or easily matched by other aircraft due to the extremely protracted develop period.

  • A few lessons have been learned even by the military.  The Air Force has stated publicly that they have no interest in initiating another multi-service aircraft project.  The Navy has strongly suggested that an overemphasis on stealth may be inappropriate. 

  • The next generation fighter has been under conceptual development for a year or more.

  • We just recently discussed the concept of a five year development/production cycle and found it to be achievable if certain rules were rigidly followed.

Do you see the connection and the logical conclusion?

If we should be able to develop an aircraft and have it production ready in five years and the F-35 is still five-plus years away from being combat ready, logic suggests that if we terminated the F-35 today, we could still have a combat ready, useful, next generation aircraft ready in the same time frame as the F-35 or even a bit sooner.

Of course, the key is the definition of “next generation”.  If we do as we’ve been doing and try to make the next generation aircraft an anti-gravity, invisibility, laser armed, telepathic controlled fantasy wonder weapon then, no, it can’t be ready for production in five years.  But, if we thoroughly understand the aircraft’s mission, narrowly focus on just that role, use only existing technology, define our requirements well, insist on no change orders, limit the aircraft to just the Navy, and manage the project as I’ve described in previous posts (see, "Five Years or You Didn't Know What You Wanted") then there’s no reason we can’t have a formidable, reasonably priced, combat ready aircraft in five years.

We can still pursue the fantasy technology but only in the R&D world, not in production.

Think about it.  We could have a carrier combat aircraft that is superior to the F-35 in production in five years.  The F-35C will probably not be fully combat ready in five years and, even if it is, it won’t be suited to what the Navy really needs.

“… what the Navy really needs.”  That’s the next key, isn’t it?  It’s clear that the Navy doesn’t even know what it needs because it hasn’t got a guiding strategy that would tell it what kind of aircraft is needed.  Recognizing the Navy’s inability to define what it needs, ComNavOps has obligingly told the Navy what it needs.  The Navy needs a long range air superiority fighter and a long range attack plane with the fighter being the top priority.  Of course, there’s no reason the Navy can’t develop both aircraft simultaneously.  We’ve done it in the past and we can do it again by following the guidelines I’ve laid out.  That’s not really the point of this post, though.

The point of the post is that in the same time frame we’re looking at getting the F-35C combat ready, we can have a new and superior aircraft in production – one whose technology isn’t already obsolete after two decades of development.

Thursday, April 21, 2016

ALIS in Wonderland

ALIS (Autonomic Logistics Information System), the software that controls the F-35’s maintenance, parts, and mission planning, is the heart and soul of the F-35 as we’ve been told repeatedly.  Of course, it’s also been a monumental failure so far.  An anonymous commenter alerted me to this latest bit about the system.   Thanks for the heads up!

“And now, in a surprising twist, General Bogdan is saying ALIS is not really critical after all, insisting the F-35 can fly without it for 30 days.” (1)

Follow the link below and go read the article.  It’s short but packed with goodies.  There’s nothing I can add that the article doesn’t already cover quite nicely.  Check it out.


(1)Project On Government Oversight, “F-35 Chief: Critical Logistics Software Not Really That Critical”, Dan Grazier, 20-Apr-2016,

Do It For Real

ComNavOps has long advocated realistic training and large scale training.  For example, if the Navy/Marines claim to be able to conduct MEU/MEB scale amphibious assaults then actually do one every year.  It’s one thing to sit at a tabletop wargame and casually wave your hand and say we just landed a Marine division but the reality of doing that is another thing entirely.  The former is useful for conceptual planning but proves nothing about your actual capability and, worse, deludes you into thinking you can do something you can’t.  The latter is where you find out all the things that you don’t know, all the techniques that you’ve lost or forgotten, all the deficiencies in equipment and procedures that you thought you knew but didn’t. 

The Navy’s answer to this is to do one event of something and then extrapolate it to fleet wide, world wide applications.  For example, the Navy believes if you can launch a single AAV from an amphibious ship then you can perform an entire assault and there’s no need to actually do the entire exercise.  Or, if you can launch a single Standard missile and intercept a drone (which does not even accurately represent a realistic threat missile, by the way!) then you can handle a saturation attack and there’s no need to do the large scale event.

Well, over at SNAFU website we see why you have to actually practice a technique.  SNAFU has posted a video of a practice airdrop of Humvees that resulted in three out of a dozen or two crashing straight into the ground (1).  That’s exactly the kind of capability that gets hand-waved during typical training and yet clearly needs to be practiced as the video proves.  Go check it out.  It’s a fascinating video.

This Is Why You Practice The Real Thing

We think we can unload and transfer a MEU/MEB worth of equipment and supplies through a couple of sea base MLPs (Mobile Landing Platform)?  Fine, prove it.  I’d bet anything we can’t.

We think Aegis can handle saturation anti-ship cruise missile attacks?  Fine, prove it.  Put one of those Aegis cruisers that the Navy is so desperate to get rid of out in the middle of the ocean in full auto mode and launch 50-100 Harpoons at it and see what happens.  The Harpoons are at the end of their shelf life so we might as well get some use out of them.  I’m willing to expend an Aegis cruiser to see what it can really do.

We think our naval cooperative engagement capability and networking is going to give us the edge we need?  Fine, prove it.  Have the Air Force attack a carrier group with full ECM support and see if we can handle it.  I bet our networks fail miserably.

We think an LCS can handle a swarm?  Fine, prove it.  Send a swarm of drone boats at an LCS in a live fire exercise and see what happens.  I know that'll be an embarassment.

Isn’t it better to fail and learn during an exercise than in combat?  The cost of such exercises is high but far, far less than the cost of finding out about our deficiencies in combat.


(1)SNAFU website, “173rd forgets how to airborne? Nope, but you watched careers and Humvees crash on that drop zone.”, Solomon, 21-Apr-2016,

I Actually Hate The F-35

I was reading a comment by an F-35 supporter on another blog – yes, there’s still a few F-35 supporters left despite all the evidence – and my reaction was pure visceral hatred of the F-35 program and, later, I wondered why I had that reaction.  I’ve seen other weapon systems that had major problems and they didn’t elicit that kind of emotional response.  The F-14, for example, started life with woefully underpowered engines that plagued it for much of its life and yet I fully supported the program while being disappointed in the engine development.  I was never a fan of the F-18 Hornet and yet it never produced a gut reaction like the F-35.  I think the Ford class is a colossal waste of money and effort but I have no particular emotional reaction.  What’s different about the F-35?

After much thought, I believe I have an answer.  I viewed other programs as inanimate, mechanical entities as, indeed, they are.  By that, I mean that they were simply machines and, like all cutting edge machines, they had teething problems to overcome.  I could live with that.  Problems eventually get solved.  No big deal.  Even the F-18 Hornet, which I believed to have been a bad design that failed to acknowledge the realities of the strategic and tactical setting it was intended for was still just a machine that, over time, came to fit as well as it was able to into the role it was given.

The F-35, on the other hand, has become a living entity to me.  It has lied to me, deceived me, and manipulated me – hence, my visceral hatred of the program just as I would hate any person who treated me that way.

I’m not going to go through the litany of technical issues.  Those are well known and are just mechanical issues.  I’m not going to go through the litany of strategic and tactical design failures.  Those, like the F-18, are simply shortcomings that we will have to make the best of.

What I want to list is the personal animosity the program has towards me (and you!).  For starters, the program was presented to me as if I was the dumbest person in the world and would blindly accept the host of magical level, fantasy capability promises that made up the F-35 concept.  This is insulting beyond belief.  It’s as if I walked into a car dealer and the salesman tried to tell me that the car would only need one tank of gas during its entire lifetime and might even produce extra fuel that I could siphon off and sell back to the oil companies.  That’s utterly absurd and yet that’s almost the level of lies that the F-35 was based on.

Next, the accounting costs have been nothing but lies from day one and continue to the present day.  General Bogdan claims the F-35 will cost under $80M in the very near future despite the actual budget numbers that show around $150M-$250M per aircraft.  Again, that’s just a slap in the face to my intelligence.  Browse the Internet and you’ll find constant stories about potential cuts in production numbers that program officials claim will only cause a 1% increase in price, if even that, and yet stories about some country potentially ordering five extra aircraft (out of a total planned production run of 2500 or so) contain claims of 10%-20% drops due to economies of scale.

The Marines declaring IOC when their own staged and manipulated test demonstrated less than 50% aircraft availability was just the program thumbing their nose at me and saying they flat out didn’t care what I thought or what the data showed.

The clearly manipulative ploy of the manufacturer setting up facilities in every state and most countries so as to make cancellation of the program politically impossible is abhorrent and, again, personally insulting.

I could go on but you get the idea.  This program has lied to me, deceived me, manipulated me, and insulted me.  This is why I hate the F-35.

How about you?  Is the F-35 just another piece of equipment to you or do you have an emotional connection, good or bad, towards it?

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

FY17 Budget Markup

The House Armed Services Committee and its subcommittees offered its markup on the FY17 proposed budget and it was a mixed bag for the Navy.  Here’s some specifics.

  • Increases the Navy’s shipbuilding budget to $20.6B
  • Adds a destroyer, amphibious ship, and LCS
  • Denies the Navy’s request to idle 7 additional Aegis cruisers while they await “modernization” and prohibits the Navy from inactivating the cruisers.  Modernization funding is withheld until the contracts are signed.
  • Denies the Navy’s request to disestablish a carrier air wing
  • Transfers funding into the National Sea-Based Deterrent Fund (SSBN funding outside regular Navy shipbuilding accounts)
  • Calls for building carriers every four years instead of the current five+
  • Calls for the Navy to increase submarine construction rates
  • Doubles Tomahawk production
  • Prohibits further retirement of Avenger class MCM vessels

As I said, this is a mixed bag. 

On the plus side, I like that Congress is asserting its oversight responsibility and, in many cases, ignoring the Navy’s ill-conceived wishes.  On the minus side, some of their changes are highly suspect.

An additional LCS is absurd and is just throwing good money after bad.  The LCS is a proven failure of near-epic proportion.  I have no idea what Congress is thinking.

Congress has clearly seen through the Navy’s ploy to early retire the Aegis cruisers.  Well done, Congress!

Congress is as concerned as I am about the Navy’s attempts to retire another carrier and air wing.  Again, well done.

Calling for increase submarine construction is well and good but I’m not certain that it’s physically possible in terms of yard capacity.  I’ve read reports suggesting that we can’t increase production very much.  I would also like to have seen Congress mandate that the Navy keep existing Los Angeles class subs for their full service life instead of retiring them early as they are currently doing.

Banning the Navy from retiring the Avenger MCM vessels is good but it would have been even better to mandate upgrades.  It will be years before the Navy fields an effective LCS MCM capability, if ever.

All in all, I’ll give Congress a, “Well done,” on this one.  Of course, this is only a markup by one committee.  Much could change before this budget becomes law.

(1)Defense News website, “House Seapower Markup Restores Ship, Aircraft Cuts”, Christopher Cavas, 19-Apr-2016,

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Well, That Didn't Take Long

Well, that didn’t take long. 

“Retired Adm. Jon Greenert, a former chief of naval operations, has been named to the board of directors of BAE Systems Inc, the company announced this morning.” (1)

We’ve decried the practice of recently retired Admirals taking positions in the very defense industry companies that they previously had a business relationship with.  Now, we learn that recently retired CNO Greenert has taken a position on the board of directors of BAE Systems, Inc.  This stinks of kickback and impropriety.  While it’s possible that there is no quid pro quo at work here, the conflict of interest and the appearance of cooperation having been bought is impossible to ignore.  In these kinds of cases, the appearance of impropriety is as damning as the reality.  It calls into serious question every decision Greenert and the Navy, at his direction, made regarding BAE Systems during his tenure.

Regular readers know my opinion of CNO Greenert was about as low as it could get and this merely solidifies that opinion.

This practice has got to stop.


(1)Defense News website, “Former CNO Greenert Named To BAE Board”, Christopher Cavas, 19-Apr-2016,

Monday, April 18, 2016

Naval Gunfire Reminder

ComNavOps has often lamented the loss of institutional memory from WWII regarding the conduct of amphibious assaults.  On a closely related note, ComNavOps has also noted that our military has forgotten what real war is and just how destructive and indiscriminately destructive it is.  As a reminder, here is what appears to be a detailed, contemporary report of the Iwo Jima assault after action report and lessons learned for the naval gunfire support component of the assault (1).  The source is not listed but the report seems clearly to be a headquarter’s after action report.

As a brief reminder, the preparatory bombardment of the island lasted for 70 days and included the expenditure of 6800 tons of bombs and 22,000 shells.  The Marines assaulted with three divisions (70,000 men) against around 20,000 Japanese.  The invasion fleet consisted of around 500+ ships of all types.

Here is a partial list of major ships that provided bombardment support for the assault and the quantities of shells fired on D-1 (the day before the assault landing), alone.

Tennessee BB (14”)    249
Nevada BB (14”)          112
Idaho BB (14”)              215
Texas BB (14”)             242
New York BB (14”)        261
Arkansas BB (12”)        357
Tuscaloosa CA(8”)       431
Salt Lake City CA(8”)    344
Pensacola CA(8”)         227
Chester CA(8”)             223
Vicksburg CL(6”)          225

Over 1400 14”-12” shells were fired, 1400 6”-8” shells, and around 5400 5” shells in just one day of pre-assault bombardment – and this is just a partial list of participating ships.  Several other battleships and cruisers also participated.  The immediate pre-assault bombardment lasted three days and the post-bombardment lasted for the rest of the ground combat.  So, in just one day and in just a partial listing, the Navy fired over 1400 large caliber, high explosive shells.  Given that each shell is loosely equivalent to a Tomahawk missile, the Navy expended the equivalent of a third of our total inventory of Tomahawk missiles in just one day of one island invasion and this is only a partial listing!

Here’s some data for a few of the bombardment ships for the three day period immediately prior to the invasion.  Note the totals and note that those are for main battery rounds only.  

Nevada                              467
Tennessee                          812
Idaho                                 656
New York (one day only)    582

Total ...                             2,517

The report offers some interesting observations and conclusions about naval gun support.

a)     Average expenditure for target destruction, at short ranges (under 3,500 yard's) = 9 rounds

b)     Average time necessary to shift fire at short ranges from one target and identify the next target = 09 minutes

c)      Average time for target destruction at short ranges (under 3,500 yards) = 15 minutes

d)     From (b) and (c) above it may be concluded that a ship can execute maximum of 2.4 destructive missions per hour against sizeable material targets (blockhouses and pillboxes) at short ranges (under 3,500 yards).

The report also directly and indirectly discussed various fire support missions.  We’ve forgotten exactly what fire support was supposed to accomplish.  We’ve come to think that fire support is only a highly precise targeting of specific, known, clearly identified targets.  That’s nice when it can happen but that’s not the main purpose of naval gunfire support as this report makes clear.

Night Harassment.  Fire support was used to disrupt enemy night activities and prevent respite by enemy forces under the cover of darkness.  Here is a sample of such a mission for the cruiser Santa Fe.

Santa Fe given harassing mission for the night by 4th Marine Division. Fire to be delivered on 234, bivouac area on road net, and cliffs in 216; 10 rounds main battery per hour.”

Area Coverage.  We’ve completely forgotten the value of area fire.  Most targets are not readily detectable and area coverage with large caliber shells is required to destroy unseen targets, remove covering features, reshape terrain, and strip camouflage.

“It is realized that most of the firing on DOG MINUS THREE Day was directed toward area coverage because of lack of visibility, but such area coverage was of value to strip camouflage, a requirement in any preliminary bombardment.”

Night Illumination.  Naval guns supplied vital night illumination.

"The old problem of demand exceeding supply in star shells was again prevalent.”

Suppression.  Suppressive fire was conducted as the landing force approached the beach.  Nothing keeps an enemy’s head down like 16” shells!

Reading reports like this makes us aware of just how much we’ve forgotten about amphibious assault conduct, in general, and naval gunfire support, specifically.  The tiny handful of 5” guns on today’s surface ships are completely inadequate to support combat operations ashore.  Even the Zumwalt’s few hundred 155 mm rocket shells are woefully insufficient to support ground combat in addition to the fact that they are intended as precision strike weapons rather than being large caliber, high explosive area munitions. 

The Navy urgently needs to rethink its entire amphibious assault doctrine and reconsider the role that naval gunfire plays. 


Sunday, April 17, 2016

More Russian Harassment

The Russian harassment of US assets continues.

“ ‘On April 14, a U.S. Air Force RC-135 aircraft flying a routine route in international airspace over the Baltic Sea was intercepted by a Russian Su-27 in an unsafe and unprofessional manner,’ said Navy Capt. Danny Hernandez.

“ ‘More specifically, the SU-27 closed within 50 feet of the wing-tip of the RC-135 and conducted a barrel roll starting from the left side of the aircraft, going over the top of the aircraft and ended up to the right of the aircraft,’ he said.” (1)

Two comments, here.

1. Clearly, unilateral restraint (appeasement) on our part is accomplishing nothing and, worse, is encouraging the Russians to perform ever more aggressive acts of harassment.  It’s just a matter of time until a Russian pilot misjudges a maneuver and a US ship or plane is damaged or destroyed and US lives are lost.

2. When will the US begin providing escort for high value assets?  We’ve seen the Chinese and Russians repeatedly harass these assets and the Chinese have already forced down and seized an EP-3.  We’re going to lose another high value asset if we don’t start providing protection for them.  This is a failure of leadership.

We need to shoot down the next Russian aircraft that attempts an unsafe act or we need to abandon the Baltic to the Russians.  What we’re doing makes no sense and is accomplishing nothing.


(1)The Washington Free Beacon website, “Russian Jet Threatened U.S. Recon Aircraft”, Bill Gertz, 16-Apr-2016,

Friday, April 15, 2016

Russia To Militarize Kuril Islands

Well, it was bound to happen.  After observing the lack of response by the US to China’s militarization of the disputed first island chain, Russia has announced that it intends to militarize the disputed Kuril Island chain.

Russia will deploy a range of coastal missile systems on the far-eastern Kuril islands, claimed by Japan, as part of its military build-up in the region, Russian Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu said Friday.”

"The planned rearmament of contingents and military bases on Kuril islands is under way. Already this year they will get Bal and Bastion coastal missile systems as well as new-generation Eleron-3 unmanned aerial vehicles," Shoigu said during a ministry meeting.” (1)

The Kuril Island chain forms an arc of islands extending 800 miles and connecting northern Japan to the Russian Kamchatka Peninsula.  The island chain bounds the Sea of Okhotsk.

Kuril Island Chain

As with the East and South China Seas and the first island chain, the Kuril Islands form a natural extended defensive buffer ring around much of the eastern coast of Russia.  Militarizing the islands will create a greatly extended anti-access/area denial (A2/AD) zone and will complicate and threaten US air and naval operations in the northern Pacific and Alaskan area.

No one outside of high level Russian leaders can say for sure but it seems obvious that the lack of response from the US toward China’s militarization of the first island chain provided the reassurance for Russia that its military moves would not be challenged.  This is what happens when you establish a policy of appeasement. 

Our appeasement of China and Russia is going to make future military clashes much more difficult for us.  We’re losing future battles before they’re even fought.


(1)Defense News Website, “Russia To Deploy Missile Systems on Kuril Islands, Defense Minister Says”, Agence France-Presse, March 25, 2016,

Thursday, April 14, 2016

Russian Simulated Attacks on US Warship

Appeasement encourages more aggression.  History has demonstrated that repeatedly.  The latest proof is this incident involving Russian aircraft and a US ship (1).

“In one of the most aggressive actions in recent memory, Russian warplanes conducted “simulated attacks” on the a U.S. Navy vessel in the Baltic Sea on Tuesday, repeatedly flying within 30 feet of the ship, according to a defense official.

Sailors aboard the destroyer Donald Cook said the aircraft flew low enough to create wake in the sea waters surrounding the ship, and the ship’s commanding officer said the incident was “unsafe and unprofessional,” the defense official said.

“This was more aggressive than anything we’ve seen in some time,” according to the defense official …”

There may also be a legal aspect to this.

“The nature of the overflight as a “simulated attack” may violate a 1973 treaty between the U.S. and Russia that specifically prohibits this type of maneuver, the defense official said.”

For you Russian apologists out there, this was not an isolated incident, misunderstanding, or act of a rogue pilot.

“The maneuver was one of several aggressive moves by Russian aircraft on Monday and Tuesday.”

Russian Aircraft Overflying USS Cook - Now That's Close!

Russia has observed our utter lack of response to Chinese provocations and Russia’s own seizure of Crimea and invasion of Ukraine and concluded, rightly, that we aren’t going to respond.  There are a couple of logical conclusions to draw from this.

  1. Our lack of response will only encourage further and escalating acts by Russia (and other countries).  It is only a matter of time until Russia demands that we vacate the Baltic Sea as a Russian “territory”.  Don’t believe it?  China has seized the South China Sea and all but formally declared it to be sovereign Chinese territory, warning the US to stay out of the area.  Why would Russia hesitate to do less?  Closure of the Baltic Sea to US naval forces would be a logical precursor to the annexation of Latvia, Lithuania, and Estonia.

  1. Our forces are being needlessly wasted in the Baltic Sea.  If we won’t stand up to Russian aggression, why have ships there?  What purpose do they serve?  We may as well bring them back to the US and save wear and tear on the ships and crew as well as saving money on operating costs.

On the other hand, we could respond to flagrant Russian aggression with our own aggression.  An “accidental” shootdown of a Russian aircraft by a Phalanx or RAM undergoing “maintenance” would go a long way to discouraging future Russian acts of aggression.  Accidents happen.  That’s why aircraft shouldn’t conduct passes unsafely close to warships.

I can already hear the wailing and gnashing of teeth among the appeasement fans.  We can’t upset Russia.  They won’t like us.  They’ll get mad at us.  They have nuclear weapons.  Hey, Turkey shot down a Russian aircraft and nothing happened except that the Russian’s probably steered clear of that area from then on.  Amazing how that works.

Seriously, if we aren’t going to use our Navy then bring them home.

I hope the Russians are prepared for a sternly worded note of protest from the US with, possibly, a hint of disapproval.  I wouldn't want to be in Putin's shoes when he gets our note!


(1)Defense News website, “Russian attack aircraft just flew within 30 feet of a U.S. Navy ship”, Andrew Tilghman, 13-Apr-2016,