Thursday, January 12, 2017

Kwajalein Raid

At the onset of WWII, the Navy found itself short of ships and saddled with a defensive mindset.  Adm. Halsey and the USS Enterprise corrected the latter problem, at least, by conducting the Marshal Islands raid on Kwajalein, Taroa, Wotje, and Roi.  The following description comes from the website (1) and Steve Ewing’s book about the Enterprise (2).

Initially, in late December 1941, Admiral Ernest J. King, Commander In Chief, US Fleet directed Admiral Chester Nimitz, Commander in Chief, Pacific Fleet, to protect US shipping between the United States and Australia.  While arguably prudent, this was a defensive posture.  Nimitz advocated strikes against the Gilbert and Marshal Islands.  However, there was strong opposition to this plan due to fear that the carriers would be lost in addition to the battleships that had just been lost at Pearl Harbor.

On 7-Jan-1942, Enterprise and Halsey arrived at Pearl Harbor.  Halsey immediately demanded that the Navy take the offensive and his opinion carried the day.  Enterprise would meet up with Yorktown to escort reinforcements to Samoa, then proceed to raid Japanese bases in the Gilberts and Marshalls while Lexington hit Wake Island.  The Navy would conduct its first offensive operation of the war.

Enterprise quickly reprovisioned and left Pearl Harbor January 11.  Enterprise was escorted by:

  • Northampton CA-26
  • Salt Lake City CA-25
  • Chester CA-27
  • and six destroyers

This meager escort was not an operational choice but, rather, an operational necessity due to the lack of available ships.  Escort groups later in the war would be much larger and more powerful.

By January 25, the escort mission was completed and Enterprise and Yorktown moved to conduct their raids.  On January 31, 1830 hr, the Enterprise group began its run in to Kwajalein and surrounding targets at 30 kts.  At 0430 hr, Enterprise began launching aircraft for the planned coordinated strikes at 0700 hr.  It is interesting to note that the cruisers were integrated into the strike plan with Northampton and Salt Lake City bombarding Wotje and Chester and several destroyers hitting Taroa.

USS Enterprise, CV-6

Throughout the day, the group hit the various targets.  Pilots flew several missions each.  Airfield facilities were destroyed, the fields were bombed, aircraft were destroyed on the ground and in the air, a transport and two smaller ships were sunk, and several ships were damaged.

Around 1330 hr, five twin engined bombers attacked the Enterprise group but failed to hit their targets, causing only minor damage from a near miss.  One of the bombers, intentionally or not, appeared to attempt to dive into the Enterprise but missed and struck the tail of an aircraft parked on deck and caused no damage to the ship.  Throughout the rest of the day, a few straggling enemy aircraft appeared but did no damage.

Clearly, the attacks on the airfields had the desired effect of suppressing enemy aerial counterattacks.

By 1902 hr, the last of Enterprise’s aircraft were recovered and the group retired at high speed, returning to Pearl Harbor on February 5.  The raid cost the Enterprise one Wildcat and five SBDs.

Wotje Atoll During the Kwajalein Raid

 Regarding the impact of the raid on the overall war effort, website notes,

“The real significance of the raid was not found on the balance sheet of damage inflicted and suffered, but in the lessons learned. Halsey's action report repeatedly notes the poor performance of the ship's anti-aircraft batteries, stating:

‘The inability of the 5" AA battery to knock down the formation of enemy twin-engine bombers ... is a matter of grave concern. ... AA Gunnery Practices [should] be scheduled when opportunity offers, with ship steaming at not less than 25 knots. If adequate safeguards can be introduced, ship should be required to make radical changes of course.’

In their first encounter with their Japanese counterparts, the Air Group came away less than impressed, noting the Japanese fighters seemed easily discouraged when faced with two or three SBDs working together defensively. Both the Air Group and the ship's company gained valuable combat experience, making them much better prepared for the carrier-vs-carrier brawls that would mark the late spring and fall of 1942. And though hardly enough to stall the Japanese offensive, the raid served notice to both sides that the striking arm of the U.S. Navy was not lying broken on Pearl Harbor's muddy bottom.” (1)

This raid offers lessons for us, today.

1. Offense wins wars, not defense.  An offensive mindset is vital to an effective military.  The US Navy, today, has completely lost that mindset.  Our weapons and platforms are mostly defensive in nature.  Our most powerful surface ship, the Burke class, is primarily defensive.  Our air wings have shrunk and attack range and lethality has diminished.  Our vaunted LCS has no offensive capability whatsoever.  We must regain an offensive mindset.

2. Combat leaders must be bold and willing to take calculated risks.  This goes hand in hand with the previous point about having an offensive mindset.  Currently, our leaders are selected using criteria that have nothing to do with combat performance.

3. Carrier based aviation is a potent weapon when equipped and used properly.  The mobility of the carrier allows the ability to mass localized and temporary superior force.

4. Risk must be accepted in order to accomplish anything.  Carriers that are too expensive to risk are useless.

5. Large caliber naval gunfire is a powerful weapon.  The cruisers in the raid were able to accomplish as much as a carrier when used properly.  Today, we completely lack the ability to apply cheap, effective firepower from ships.

6. Losses in the air wing are a part of combat and must be accepted.  This means that we should not be building aircraft that are too expensive to replace.  F4F Wildcats and SBDs were highly effective and lethal and were easily and cheaply replaced.  Losing trained aircrew is, of course, another issue.  In WWII, we were able to produce hundreds of aircraft per day.  Today, we would struggle to produce a hundred aircraft in one year.

7. As Halsey noted and recommended, extensive and realistic training is needed to ensure success in combat.  The more realistic, the better.  Today’s set piece, utterly unrealistic training borders on worthless.  We need to establish highly stressful, realistic training even at the expense of a degree of risk to equipment and personnel.

8. Weapon systems must be tested extensively and realistically.  As the raid revealed,

“The first occasion under fire was memorable for reasons other than just being a first.  The event called attention to the inadequacy of both the antiaircraft guns in use at the time (eight 5-inch-.25 caliber, sixteen 1.1 inch “Chicago Piano’s”, and numerous .50 caliber Browning machine guns) and the marksmanship of the gunners.” (2)

Despite having the means and opportunity to thoroughly test the antiaircraft weapons pre-war, the Navy failed to adequately do so and, thus, found itself insufficiently equipped to counter the aerial threat.  Today, we are still failing to adequately and realistically test our weapon systems.

History “exists” to teach us about the present and future.  Another way to express it is the old adage,
“Those who will not learn from history are doomed to repeat it.”

The Navy’s first raid of WWII offers plenty of lessons for us, today, if we will but heed them.


(2)USS Enterprise (CV-6), The Most Decorated Ship Of World War II, Steve Ewing, Pictorial Histories Publishing Company, Missoula, Montana, 1982, ISBN-0-933126-24-7


  1. Even though the raids long term strategic impact was limited, there was a positive effect on morale. The US at the time was still recovering from Pearl Harbor and losing the Wake Islands.

    Regarding the cruisers, it makes you wonder if they could have done even more damage had they had battleships. The Japanese lost 3 small ships and just 18 aircraft, with a few more ships being damaged.

    It also forced Tokyo to realize that the US was not in a defensive posture (which they assumed they would be for 6 months after Pearl Harbor).

    Also, the other is that having accurate pilot gunners is very important. The plane pales in comparison to a good pilot.

    1. You're quite right about morale. Enterprise returned to a hero's welcome in Pearl Harbor - a welcome totally out of proportion to the actual damage inflicted - which is what the armed forces needed at that moment.

      The other major benefit of the raid was the experience gained, lessons learned, and tactics developed.

      The disappointing aspect of this as regards today is the complete failure to heed these lessons. We should be exercising large scale attacks against China, Russia, and Iran on a regular basis and finding out now what works and what doesn't.

    2. I remember my Mom saying how much the Doolittle raid made an impact on her, even as a small child. She said the impression was we'd just been losing and finally we got a hit in. The morale impact was far in excess of the real results.

    3. Jim, you're quite right about the impact of morale. Morale drives the factory worker, motivates sacrifice by the populace, and inspires enlistments.

      Consider the morale of our general populace, today. Our boats and crews are seized without a shot in defense, we trade terrorists for deserters, we send pallets of money to Iran instead of confronting them, we back out of the South China Sea, we watch the Russians seize Crimea and invade Ukraine. Where's our heroes? What morale building events to we accomplish? What, we plinked another pickup truck? That'll inspire the nation!

      Morale is important in peacetime, too, and we don't have much right now. That's one of the reasons Trump was successful. Agree or disagree with his policies but note that he struck a chord with people who wanted to be inspired again and wanted to be proud of America again. Morale.

    4. Morale does have a multiplier effect. A smaller force with a lot of morale can often defeat a larger one.

      This isn't really a politics blog, but I hope that Trump does replace Gilmore with someone honest and competent or gives him another 4 years. It's tradition for people to offer their resignations with a new administration.

    5. Politics aside, Gilmore and his group have been the only thing ensuring even a modicum of effectiveness from our weapon systems. I, too, hope he stays.

  2. We worry so much today about the technology and capability of our weapon systems that we forget that all those systems are just junk if the officers and sailors aren't ready to go on the offense and take some losses. If we just stand back and wait, letting the other guy decide when and where to attack, we are doomed no matter how good our weapons are....I'm afraid we have forgotten the hard learned lessons of the past.

  3. Spot on Post!

    It leads to the question, how do we fix the selection process? How do we get warfighters up to the top so they can foster the next generation? Who in the Current flock of Admirals do we see as a warfighter? Do we have to pick at the Captain level?

    I believe that this radical a change (unfortunate that it is radical) has to come from outside. Therefore I propose that only by getting a new SecNav that gets the need for warfighters is our only hope. I see similarities with Jim Webb and General Gray here.

    1. It's easy to identify warriors. They're the ones that get in trouble due to their aggressive natures. They're the ones that make mistakes because they're willing to take risks and try things. They're the ones that have a general lack of respect for authority. They're the ones who have had conflicts with peers and superiors and don't care. They're probably the ones who have gotten into bar fights. Sadly, they're also the ones who don't get promoted.

      Identifying warriors is easy. Building an organization that is willing to promote them is not. The Marines were able to do it once upon a time but have now abandoned their warrior ethos.

    2. I've thought that too, CNO. But... there are other types. John Glenn was, unquestionably, a warrior. (I believe his nickname was 'old magnet butt' because he would take second passes on AAA batteries if he didn't get them the first time. He took alot of flak. Literally).

      But from what I can tell he was a straight shooter in life. Similarly, Armstrong was a very gifted pilot (and, from what I've read, described by Yeager as a bit of a pratt), but when push came to shove in apollo very effective.

      I think there might be a third category of no BS straight shooter who generally goes by the rules. But I don't think they always rise too high either for whatever reason.

    3. A warrior is someone who is looking for a fight or at least isn't afraid of getting into one. A person can be a "straight shooter", follow the rules, even stand up for his principles but still not be a fighter.

      For example, there are a lot of bodybuilders who have the discipline to work out, are strong, follow rules, and are people of integrity but who have no desire to get into a mixed martial arts fight even though they possess all the physical and most of the mental traits to do so. They lack the warrior mentality. Not everyone has it. In fact, relatively few have it.

      We're not only looking for fighters but also fighters who can lead others in a fight. That's an even rarer person.

      So, to your comment, yes there can be people such as you describe who also are warriors but the qualities you describe, alone, are not sufficient. You can be the world's gutsiest test pilot, living on the edge, but not be a combat pilot.

      At the core of it, you have to be a fighter. All the other characteristics are nice but pointless if you're not a fighter, first.

    4. I don't disagree but only caution that an army of Patton's would not go very far, it takes a mix of people with different levels of warriorism.

      Back to my original point, can the Navy change from within or does it have an external catalyst?

    5. "can the Navy change from within"

      Realistically? No. At this point, barring the appointment of a SecNav who starts by firing every single Admiral and totally revamping the entire leadership selection process, which has a zero percent chance of happening, the only thing that will change the leadership is war, as happened at the outset of WWII. Absent war, there is simply no motivation to change.

    6. Well perhaps there is hope for an outsider from ths administration. The latest rumored SecNav candidate (Bilden). Served in the Army but has 2 sons in Service.

      Like the SecArmy nominee, perhaps they are looking at people that served a short time but then showed accomplishment elsewhere. I keep thinking of Ross Perot who after the academy realized that advancement was based solely on time in grade/service/no black marks and got out.

      Does 20-30 years officer time corrupt or beat innovation out of folks?

    7. Without getting into the politics of it, it appears that Trump may be looking at placing people in charge of the various govt organizations that have experience running large financial groups as opposed to having extensive experience in the subject matter. For the Navy, one can make a reasonable argument that we have plenty of subject matter experts but that money handling, accounting, and ruthless financial restraint our the weak point and that a money expert might be of more value than a "sailor".

    8. I actually felt that General George Patton and Douglas MacArthur were the most overrated of the Allied Generals. On the German side, I'd say Erwin Rommel was very overrated.

      Keep in mind that the Germans were in very weak shape by the time he fought. The other is that the Allies had pretty overwhelming superiority. They had total air superiority, numbers, and manufacturing on their side.

      Patton got his legend because he was a mediocre general who was ruthless and aggressive, but happened to be at the right place. A lot of Patton has unfortunately, been shaped up by the namesake film rather than real history.

      - The 3rd Army was much stronger than the opposition in Tunisia and North Africa as a whole.
      - He struggled against the Germans in Italy when they defended Messina and Eisenhower was almost ready to send him home, despite having superior force.
      - In France, when in Lorraine and finally against serious opposition, he suffered over 80000 casualties after exploiting Bradley's Cobra operation.

      He had his good points. He was organized at the tactical level, sometimes was effective at motivating men, and very good at the pursuit. His weakness was his impatience, his inability to get along with others (that nearly cost him his command), and his poor performance against well prepared defenses. He also did not do a good job of managing his logistics. His contempt for the Russians could have provoked a major incident.

      He was frequently fooled by an enemy that was much weaker, but knew how to wage an effective defense. General Hermann Balck especially was ingenious in this regard. In the Ardennes, when relieving Bastogne, he resorted to using frontal assaults that resulted in heavy casualties with limited tactical gains.

      After the penetration, he was able to cross the Rhine and penetrate, but by then all of the Allied forces were.

      None of this makes Patton a great general though I'd say. Against a better equipped force, his record is not good at all.

      There are generals who are aggressive and who have been able to maintain decent relations with others. Balck on the German side is a good example.

    9. Agree with your other point though that people who show initiative are often punished. A man like Balck would never get very far in the American system.

      What's needed is:
      1. Initiative orientation
      2. Able to lead others well and inspire
      3. Able to work well with others

      3 also means being able to tell someone that something cannot be done and having the moral courage to speak up, which many people don't have.

  4. CSO, Is there a way to private message you?

    1. There is but I'd first like to know, at least in a general way, why you want to contact me. I'm sure you can understand why I'm careful about releasing personal contact info.

    2. No problem. I was actually asking if there was a way I could message you through your blog as opposed to email. I enjoy the blog and sometimes have more general questions or suggestions for topics that seem out of place in specific posts (like this one). A couple times as well I find information sources or articles I thought you might be interested in. For instance:

      If you prefer I can just keep everything in the comments section even if slightly off topic.

    3. I have no problem with occasional off topic comments. Heck, some of them inspire new posts! Similarly, I have no problem with readers offering references. Often, I've already seen them but sometimes I find a gem that way so I don't discourage it.

      The specific link you cited is one I've glanced at but not thoroughly digested. My initial impression is that it's a collection of buzzwords and garbage. Maybe you'd like to write up an analysis for a guest post? Agreement with my opinion is not a requirement for a guest post! If you have any interest let me know.

  5. Another lesson:

    Ships in port and aircraft in airstrips are very vulnerable to surprise attack.

    Hardened aircraft hangars can help, but the runway has to be serviceable or off road capability must be possible.

    For submarines, it may be worth looking into the hardened sub pens the Russians have.

    1. "Ships in port and aircraft in airstrips are very vulnerable to surprise attack."

      With today's better and longer ranged sensors (satellite, OTH radar, SOSUS-like arrays, AWACS, UAVs, etc.) as well as more mundane things like 24/7 news coverage around the world, do you still think surprise attacks are still a major threat? Or, do you think it's become impossible to replicate the kind of surprise attacks we saw in WWII?

      Even the WWII surprise attacks weren't all that much of a surprise. Pearl Harbor, Normandy, etc. were generally pretty well anticipated. What was lacking, on both sides, was adequate preparation for the attacks. Yes, there were some surprise attacks achieved but not that many.

      What do you think about today?

    2. Submarine launched attacks are still a possibility. An IRBM strike on Washington, D.C., was always a concern during the Cold War. And, though our defenses are better, I wouldn't discount the possibility of another 9/11 type of attack either.

      An attack on the continental US is probably unlikely, but our forces deployed world-wide are more vulnerable.

    3. I'd say yes. Something like an Ohio class SSGN could in theory, get into a position and launch.

      Another option might be conventionally armed ballistic missiles. They lose the element of surprise once they get the shots off, but if they unload at key targets quickly enough, that could still do a lot of damage.

      Another might be to try to use aircraft at low velocity. Low velocity at low altitude as to stay under the horizon and to not set off IR sensors until close.

      Finally, there needs to be a discussion about defending against large scale attacks that are not a surprise.

    4. "needs to be a discussion about defending against large scale attacks that are not a surprise."

      You could not be more right about this. The Air Force, in particular, has not had to fight to defend its bases in ages. A war against China, for instance, will see the AF fighting desperately just to keep bases operational. The AF has gotten so used to having protected bases and conducting leisurely strikes that they've completely forgotten (if they ever knew) how to defend a base while trying to conduct offensive ops. Guam will be a rude awakening because I can't imagine China allowing us to operate from Guam unopposed. Is Guam even viable as a base in a China war? Tease: I've got a post coming on this.

      Absolutely brilliant point!

    5. There are 2 types of attacks:

      1. Small to medium sized raids that often rely on the element of surprise.

      2. Large scale attacks that cannot be hidden.

      The problem with fixed air bases is that they are visible to everyone. They've been around for a very long time.

      China for example has been hardening its air bases:

      One of the reasons why I favor lots of small Boyd sized aircraft is because they can operate off an airbase and on ordinary roads.

    6. Surprise attacks/raids were sometimes successful in WWII because detection was visual and limited to daylight hours. Today, with radar, satellite, etc. and 24/7 coverage, surprise attacks/raids are unlikely.

      Even the extreme case of an SSGN is somewhat unlikely. If we're allowing subs to approach closely enough to launch cruise missiles then we aren't doing our ASW job starting with attacks at the sub's base and all along the transit route. Even if the sub does manage to reach a firing position undetected and launch, a single sub just doesn't carry enough missiles to cause truly serious damage to a base that is on a general wartime alert footing. So, while a degree of surprise could be achieved, the results would likely not be too severe.

      Surface ships, aircraft, and ballistic missiles just seem unlikely to be able to achieve surprise. Of course, if the defending base is in a relaxed posture (Germans at Normandy) or, inexplicably, unprepared for the threat (US at Pearl Harbor) then even a less than surprise attack can be successful.

    7. "One of the reasons why I favor lots of small Boyd sized aircraft is because they can operate off an airbase and on ordinary roads."

      I'm not sure any modern US aircraft can do that because of FOD. Our aircraft are just too delicate. Maybe we need to consider the Soviet philosophy of designing and building a bit more rugged aircraft with looser tolerances and accept the somewhat reduced performance?

      Also, if I'm understanding your suggestion correctly, you're advocating a dedicated base defense aircraft (small Boyd aircraft) that would have limited use in any other role. In the Pacific, for instance, such an aircraft might make a good Guam base defender but would be unable to engage in combat over the South China Sea or Taiwan. It just wouldn't have the range under combat loads without needing many refuelings which becomes logistically and, for the pilot, physiologically unfeasible.

      On the other hand, such an aircraft in the Middle East or Europe might prove quite effective due to the shorter distances.

    8. You could also use such an aircraft against the Russians or swarm them against a weaker opponent.

      Keep in mind such an aircraft is designed to be cheap and easy to maintain.

      When Sweden designed their Gripen, they insisted on off-road as well and being able to maintain the aircraft with conscripts:

      Anyways the demands were:
      - Take-off from snow covered landing strips in 800m (about 2625 feet)
      - Able to get 5 conscripts with 10 weeks training + 1 technician
      - Fast turnaround time in combat of 10 minutes to refuel and re-arm

      The reason why is because look at the location of Sweden (and for that matter Finland). In a shooting war with Russia, the Russians know where their airbases are. Day one, the Russians are going to blow those airbases to pieces.

      Actually that reminds me, China is likely to flatten Kadena in the even of a large scale war in short order. Everyone knows where the base is and how vital it is.

    9. The F-18 can. The Finns have been doing it.

      Russian aircraft can as well. You need wide tires and FOB shields.

      It would actually be modifiable for carrier use as well if you wanted it to be. Just strengthen the airframe and add an arrestor at the back.

      And yes, you could make it have long enough range. Just up the fuel the fraction to >0.40. That would mean a very austere design, but for air superiority that's what you want.

      I've seen such a proposal. With subsonic cruise and combat, a high enough lift-drag ratio, you are looking at a 750 mile combat radius, more if you want drop tanks. If you want supercruise, that drops to about 300 miles though. It would be even cheaper than the Gripen.

      For a comparison, the F-22, has 9817 pounds of fuel. At a supercruise of Mach 1.5, at 30000 feet, you're looking at about ~260 miles. It's a bigger airplane, which helps, but the fuel fraction isn't too good 0.29.

      When it comes down to range, the Brueget equation reigns supreme.

      - Lift/drag ratio
      - Fuel fraction
      - Specific fuel consumption versus fuel capacity

      Actually that reminds me that the F-35 will probably do not so well either in its final configuration. It may have a good fuel fraction, but the lift/drag ratio isn't too good (look at how big the fuselage is) and the DOT&E reports suggest high fuel burn rates.

    10. "China is likely to flatten Kadena in the even of a large scale war in short order."

      I'm sure one of China's major political objectives would be to keep Japan out of a China-US war. I doubt they would be successful but you never know.

      Besides, we're slowly abandoning Okinawa so China may not need to attack the base!

    11. "And yes, you could make it have long enough range."

      I'm going to comment on this, somewhat indirectly, in a soon to come post that I'll be eager to hear your thoughts on. Stay tuned!

    12. "I'm not sure any modern US aircraft can do that because of FOD. Our aircraft are just too delicate."

      It seems the Republic of Singapore Air Force worked out the details in Exercise Torrent.

    13. "It seems the Republic of Singapore Air Force worked out the details in Exercise Torrent."

      The article you cite proves my point. Unless we have the capability to vacuum the road, it can't work. Here's the quote from the article.

      "Finally, trucks designed to suck up tiny bits of garbage and junk that could be lethal to turbofan engines came over from Tengah Airbase, a quarter-mile away, and gave the new airstrip a good vacuuming."

      This was not a case of operating quick and crude from an available road on no-notice. This was a concerted effort (you read the article and saw all the other things they did to the road to prepare it for use!) to turn the road into a runway. Modern aircraft can't just use any old road as a runway.

    14. You're original post expressed doubt about operating US aircraft from roadways because of FOD. The RSAF and other air forces regularly practice doing just that. The Finns have just done that with their Hornets and the Swedes with their Gripens. None of these aircraft have the ability to close off the main inlets and feed their engines with auxiliary intakes like the MIG-29 and other Russian aircraft have. So, FOD is always going to be a concern. Besides, it's always going to take some time and preparation to turn a roadway into a runway. The fact is the RSAF pulled this off in 2 days, not a bad feat. I wonder if we could do the same.

    15. Dumb Question:

      Don't the F-35B or AV-8B have some sort of FOD shields if they are planning on flying them from external 'lilly pad' bases? A 'cement pad' (I know its more than that) in Kandahar or Kuwait at the very least would have a crap load of dust/sand in the air.

      As an aside, is it possible to fly *any* aircraft from rough fields for any decent length of time? Even a MiG -29 that is designed for it isn't a Wildcat of the Cactus airforce. I'm imagining anything with modern avionics/fly by wire/relaxed control (Hi F-16) etc. is going to have a pretty substantial logistics footprint.

      I'm not against the idea, just wondering if a plane can be designed that is both tough and robust as well as effective against another modern fighter.

    16. "You're original post expressed doubt about operating US aircraft from roadways because of FOD."

      And my statement stands. Now, if we're willing, and have the capability, to repave a road, vacuum it, add mile markers, add a control tower, bring in large quantities of fuel, store munitions, and provide hangar and maintenance space then, sure, we can use roads as runways. Of course, at that point, we've built an airbase, haven't we? But, the ability to divert aircraft to random roads scattered across the countryside and effectively operate them, which is the common scenario people associate with this idea, is just not possible.

      It took the RSAF a couple of days to be able to land/launch an aircraft. That's a pretty poor sortie rate and without all the other stuff (computers for diagnostics, power, fuel, munitions, spare parts, maintenance, mission planning, etc.) they couldn't maintain it for more than one or two sorties. There's a reason we build actual airbases! This is a gimmick idea.

    17. @Jim

      F-35B is longer designed to be able to take off from lily pad bases. Much like the 'module' plan for the LCS, that's not happening.

      You are correct about logistics. That's why I call for a small aircraft. It's going to have to be small, even smaller than the Gripen when empty and probably about similar in mass (due to the extra fuel to achieve a good enough fuel fraction).

      As far as attacking an airbase, the ideal would be to destroy the airplane. But previously in war, that hasn't been needed. You just need to crater the runway. There have even been cases where attackers didn't damage the aircraft because they were in a hangar, but jammed the doors so the aircraft could not fly.

      The other reason why it has to be small is that it's easier to hide a small aircraft. The aircraft have to be dispersed and hidden when they are on the ground in order to survive.

      You'll still lose some, but not nearly as much as bunching them together in a fixed base. Plus, only a small aircraft can take off from a highway or even a grass field.

    18. "F-35B is longer designed to be able to take off from lily pad bases."

      I don't think anyone but F-35 fanboys and program PR types ever believed that a highly sophisticated, delicate, sensitive aircraft that requires constant attention, careful maintenance, computerized mission packages, etc. was ever going to be able to operate from austere bases for more than one sortie!

    19. Good point.

      The more complex, the harder it would be for a front line base, much less an rough field type of base.

      For that, you'd need an A-10 like aircraft or something smaller.

  6. CNO -- Thought I'd take you up on your flexibility regarding off-topic comments ... Paul Craig Roberts stated the following regarding the in-port status of our aircraft carriers ... wondered what your take would be ... true or false?

    "According to what I have been told by former(?) intelligence officers, the aircraft carriers are in dock so that their copper wiring can be replaced by fiber optics. Apparently, the Russians have the capability to shut down the operating systems of our ships and aircraft that are copper wired. In behalf of this conclusion, there were news reports that a missile ship Washington sent to impress the Russian naval base in Crimea had all its systems shut down by the overflight of one Russian jet. According to another news report, two Israeli US jet fighters were sent to express disobedience to Russia’s controlled airspace in Syria. The Russians asked the Israelis to leave, and when they did not, the Russians shut down the fire control and communication systems of their aircraft."

    1. I've heard the claims about a Russian aircraft shutting down a destroyer but I've found no corroborating evidence and I note that the Russians are famous for making exaggerated claims, to put it mildly. Honestly, I find it highly unbelievable that the Russians have that kind of capability. I have no doubt that they extensive ECM capability, probably more than we do, as demonstrated in Ukraine, and are capable of causing a degree of disruption but hardly a complete shutdown of a ship or plane.

      As far as replacing copper with fiber optics, industry and military has been doing that for some time. It's just a good idea. Would it offer any benefits as far as mitigating Russian ECM? Possibly, but I highly doubt that's the primary motivation.

      All that I said is pure speculation on my part.

    2. CNO, are you familiar with microwaves effects upon electronics?

    3. I am, at least in general terms. There has been research on non-nuclear EMP pulse weapons which can include microwave components. The problem with these is that they are generally pretty short ranged in effect.

      Also, my vague understanding of such phenomena is that the effects are generic. It is not possible to produce a focused effect that would, say, disable only fire control and communications systems but leave basic flight instrumentation and flight control computers intact and functioning. Thus, the story related in the early comment seems patently impossible unless the Russians are light years ahead of the rest of the planet in this field. Similarly, "shutting down" a destroyer, if it could actually be done would leave it floating, unable to move and that's not what happened, if anything even happened.

      Another reader may know more about this than me.

  7. Speaking of which, the DOT&E annual report is out.

  8. CNO, what do you think they damage would be if a large cargo vessel rams a carrier?

    I feel we are focusing on large scale military operations in regards to surprise attacks when I feel any surprise attacks will be a combination of symmetrical and asymmetrical to maintain the element of surprise for as long as possible with large scale military assaults constituting the final stages of the attack.

    1. That's getting pretty far-fetched. Sure a single vessel could unexpectedly ram a Navy ship in a crowded shipping channel but that would be just one damaged ship. It wouldn't be a destroyed fleet or base.

    2. It would neutralize 10 percent of our carrier fleet and fix it to one geographically location if the attack is successful enough.

  9. Keep in mind that air and naval raids are not the only threat. Commando style attacks can be done with highly trained special forces.

    Even the Taliban have tried this, with some degree of success:

    Let's think about this for a moment. What if that had been F-35s? WE don't know how much they will cost, but let's say $200 million a plane.

    The Taliban raid destroyed 6 aircraft and heavily damaged 2. That's 8 aircraft.

    One of the comments in the article says:

    "They are done. I have seen them"

    That's $1.6 billion right down the drain. Worse, if you cannot get replacement aircraft when you need them in, then that could be very bad. More if the airbase assets were damaged and if the base itself is partially not usable.

    Anyways 2 brass officers were forced into retirement.

    OT, but this is disturbing:

    Now, back on topic, here's a question. This was the Taliban we are talking about. IN a modern war, with an enemy with surveillance assets, they are going to try something very similar. Even more so because the cost of modern aircraft is a lot more than in WW2 and the numbers have gone down, making losing them a lot more painful.

    1. Oh and apparently that was 8% of the Harrier fleet the USMC had.

      Interestingly this one claims the aircraft were repaired. Would have to look into that, but at the very least, they would have had to undergo some major repairs.

    2. The original comment that I think you're referencing deals with surprise attacks and whether they're possible today. I was talking about fairly major attacks like a Pearl Harbor, Normandy, or some such. In a major war, a commando raid that destroys a half dozen aircraft has zero impact. Of course a surprise attack at that low level is possible but it's meaningless in the big picture.

    3. The point I was trying to make is that airbases are going to be vulnerable, which is why off road is so critical. Even the Taliban can attack fixed airbases, so we can expect very heavy attacks from a nation state with good quality troops and weapons.


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