Thursday, April 21, 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,


  1. On point ComNavOps, as usual!!!

    Not only have they proved it and failed, which is OK but hopefully, they have NOT REPLACED those 3 HUMVEES and have to go for the rest of the exercise with 3 less vehicles FOR REAL!!! How many times do you take "losses" in practice and then, by magic, they "reappear"? Not this time!!!

  2. awfully frivolous with your young sailors lives aren't you there CNO?

    There aint no such thing as full auto and leave a 2 billion dollar asset out on the water by itself. These things only work because 100's of humans all do something simultaneously. I suspect you know this, as you are one forever decrying the uselessness of tiny crews (largely correctly).
    Firing live ammo at a ship only proves how many people die when shit goes boom.

    Sure, saturation testing costs a motsa, hence is seldom done. Should that be rectified? Sure. Can computer modelling substitute? Maybe, I'm pretty sure IDF didnt launch 100 katyushas simultaneously at the first iron dome interceptor battery, yet under its first live fire scenario under full combat conditions, it worked.
    I suspect US and Israeli aero industries will have similar testing. So, take from that what you will.

    1. Huh???? You can't think I'm suggesting we put a manned ship in a live cruise missile attack? That would be insane. I'm talking about using an unmanned cruiser and simply testing Aegis in full auto with no one on board.

      What kind of maniac do you think I am?

    2. Computer modelling is a useful tool but is no substitute for actual testing. As the video graphically demonstrated, all kinds of things go wrong that computer simulations don't account for. A computer simulation won't predict humvees plunging into the ground, for example.

    3. Nate, I'll have to check, but my understanding was that the Aegis portion of it does actually have a full auto mode. At some point, its theoretically faster and better to let the servers triage the raid.


      "he engagement of air targets was conducted through a separate unit, the Mk.99 Fire Control System, which employed four Mk.80 directors (illuminators) used mainly in the final intercept phase. The four illuminators could cover each direction and allowed for simultaneous multi-mission firing.
      The total engagement process was therefore automatic. In fact, the whole Aegis ship could be put on automatic mode and intercept aircraft without human intervention but in practice only semi-automatic modes were employed. In most cases, employment of the system dictated increased alert zones in the directions from which an attack would most probably be launched against the battle group; here the highest degree of autonomy and automation was given to the system (save for firing approvals), while semi-automatic zones were preset according to a carrier’s flight paths to prevent the interception of incoming and outgoing CAPs. (combat air patrols)"

  3. I saw the video of the air drop and at first I thought it was kind of funny. But, a lot of hands and eyes are involved in rigging a Humvee for a drop. Aside from the loss in tactical mobility, the loss of three Humvees is not a trivial sum of money. Somewhere along the line the process broke down and those responsible need to held accountable. Imagine losing 3 vehicles in a scout platoon or the ability to move light artillery on the battlefield.

  4. The Russians have done a full salvo launch from their SSBNs, first attempt revealed a problem so they tried again 2 years later

  5. Here is a political problem with testing. In a sane world, you would test a weapon system at increasing levels of realistic stress until it fails, then work on the failures. After some improvement, you would come back and do it again.

    In the highly politicized world we actually live in, the early failures would lead immediately to Representatives and Senators demagoguing the issue, claiming "this expensive system does not work!" and demanding cancellation of the program (which will help establish their reputations as budget watchdogs who are protecting the taxpayers).

    Just as we live in a society that finds all risk unacceptable, we live in a society that finds all "failure" unacceptable. So, the next time we criticize the Navy for not daring to conduct a realistic test of some system, consider the demagogues who would call for immediate cancellation of the entire project if a realistic test uncovered a need for improvement.

    1. Your thought is interesting but I honestly don't think it's true. If Congress hasn't cancelled the LCS or F-35 with all their failures then I don't think they'd turn on a system being tested especially if the Navy announced that the purpose of the test was to find problems.

    2. Maybe the problem is the demagoguing, but the demagogues do not usually succeed in actually cancelling the programs. They just make the DoD look bad for a bit. Then again, it could be nothing more than the age-old problem that the services want all budget devoted to buying new weapons, not to testing, training, maintenance, ammunition reserves, and other such boring things.


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