Monday, August 21, 2017

USS McCain Rammed - Distributed Lethality Sinking

You all know about the recent USS Fitzgerald collision with a merchant ship that heavily damaged and nearly sank the destroyer.  Now, another collision has occurred between the USS McCain and a merchant tanker.  Several sailors are reported missing or injured.  Damage appears to have been severe.  No further details are available at this time.


What I would like to comment on is the Third Offset Strategy and the Navy’s much-hyped distributed lethality plan.  Both depend on absolute and extensive knowledge of enemy activities and locations.  Somehow, almost magically, we’ll know where all of their assets are and what they’re doing while remaining hidden, ourselves.  That sounds great on paper but is going to fail miserably in war.  How do I know?  Because we can’t even keep track of giant merchant ships that sail right up to us and ram us!!!!!!!  So, how are we going to find and track small, stealthy military assets that are using intentional deception, stealth, electronic warfare, jamming, and decoys?  We aren’t!!!!!!!!!  Our offset strategy and distributed lethality plans are idiotic and we’re being rammed with proof of that on a recurring basis.

18 comments:

  1. To be fair the issue is endemic training and command failures, not technology.

    When you cant look out the window to spot a CBDR situation, you have something very very wrong.

    Now I know I may be simplifying, it was dark and in a very congested sea lane, but really ......

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    1. With all the satellites, UAVs, radar, EO/IR, GPS, and old fashioned lookouts, no one saw a giant merchant ship approaching. Why would you/we think we'll see stealthy assets that are trying to hide? If we aren't trained enough to see a big ship approaching why do you think we're trained enough to spot enemy assets?

      Or am I misinterpreting your point?

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    2. Pretty Much. I really want to see the detail on this ( although Im sure it will remain classified ).

      But there have to be at least 4 different independent types of sensor \ systems and procedures I can think of that should have stopped this happening.

      As you say, this incident involved neither a stealthy platform, a "fast mover" or indeed deployment of weapons.

      The really bad bit is the message this is sending to do with technological "on paper" capability vs actual manned capability.

      This kind of PR can be enough to trigger actual aggressive incidents, based on a belief the enemy will get away with any attack without responce.

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    3. Yup. I can go out and buy a commercial boat radar that can detect large merchant vessels. This isn't a technology issue, but a human one.

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    4. Its pretty obvious that the cause of this was poor coordination between ships or a mix up on the comm channels.

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  2. I'm surprised and appalled that this has now happened twice to the 7th fleet. What is it about this fleet in particular that is driving these accidents. Bad training, over extended crews, faulty equipment?

    Are crews attempting to outdo Captain Schettino of the Costa Concordia for some sort of informal prize. Sailors are dying and the Admirals need to find out why ASAP.

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  3. Maybe it is the new Video Generation of Sailors that have an attention span of 0.5 secs and think they can just hit reset in the game.

    Or maybe they think it is Grand Theft Navy and you get points for hitting things. Opps that can't be it because they got T'd (see picture on Wash Post).

    If I were the Squadron Cmdr, the 7th Fleet CO, the ComNavForPac, and the Cmdr PACOM, I'd be dusting up my Resume. This CinC likes to fire people and needs a win that looks Presidential. With 10 sailors missing I'd have to agree with firing the lot.

    Back to your point, if objects really are going to look smaller than they actually are, we are toast. Oh don't worry the Technologists will outsource situational awareness to AI engines like Dr. Watson.

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  4. I don't know what happened to these particular destroyers, but I do think the Surface Navy took a real hit when the Navy decided to stop training prospective SWOS before sending them to the fleet. I was a JO when the transition occurred and helped implement the new plan. The computer based training concept was garbage (especially for JOs with a full time job already), and what you are left with is mostly word of mouth that gets watered down with each generation. This persisted for nearly a decade. Re-starting the Division Officer's course was a big step in the right direction, but I worry that it will take a long time to re-learn the lost institutional knowledge.

    Excellent article on this topic: http://cimsec.org/circles-surface-warfare-training/24050

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    1. Thanks for the link to an excellent article.

      What do you think about the current system?

      How does the current system compare to the original SWOS, in your opinion?

      What else would you still do differently, now?

      You make an excellent point about lost institutional knowledge.

      Good comment!

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    2. The original SWOS Division officer course (at least as of the early 2000s) had a fair amount of fluff, but a lot of the individual segments were pretty good (the advanced gas turbine curriculum was excellent, as I recall). It did give everybody a baseline in navigation, contact management, rules of the road, moboards, etc. There were also some pretty good case studies for "when things went wrong" scenarios that shed a lot of light on how a series of small mistakes can compound to cause dangerous situations. I think the course took a lot of flack because they spread 3 months of work over about 6 months of time, for many people. Also, it was lacking in most "hands on" training. But rather than correct this by tightening up the course, or adding content, or adding practical training, the Navy just killed the whole thing and sent people to ships with nothing but whatever they learned in ROTC or Naval Academy courses (that memory was often pretty stale, and wildly variable -- I remember a Naval Academy grad showing up with almost no ability to use a moboard). The computer-based training modules didn't really help much.

      I don't know much about the new program, but I think it is great that they restored pre-operational training. The Surface Navy should be doing this for everybody. For example, there is no reason for new topside Sailors to show up at their first command without weapons quals and basic security training -- could easily be handled some state of pre-arrival training. Otherwise we just set ships and people up for failure.

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  5. Four odd incidents this year, all 7th Fleet, all surface combatants by their lonesome.

    http://www.cnn.com/2017/08/21/politics/navy-ships-accidents/index.html?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+rss%2Fcnn_allpolitics+%28RSS%3A+CNN+-+Politics%29&utm_content=Yahoo+Search+Results

    Could some advanced power in the Pacific be causing navigational problems with spoofing or hacking to confuse radar or GPS at targeted ships? But this doesn't explain why watchstanders didn't correct the problem. But if there is another soon!

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  6. Offtopic, i ran on this article on the awiationweek website and at the end this four-star general tells some interesting things on US weapons procurement :

    The four-star general says the U.S. military is being outpaced and is not innovating fast enough. Developing new weapons systems costs much more and takes far longer than it did during the Cold War and Space Race.

    Hyten wonders when the U.S. stopped being willing to take risks in the pursuit of new technologies and why some critical programs only conduct flight tests every 18 months or so. He says the U.S. government and lawmakers seem to expect that every test must go flawlessly, otherwise programs should come under intense scrutiny. However, the most valuable lessons often come when things do not go as planned.

    “We have an unhealthy relationship with failure,” Hyten says.


    http://aviationweek.com/missile-defense/how-north-korea-developed-missiles-so-quickly

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    1. Very good comment. China, Russia, and NK are all outpacing us in their rate of development.

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  7. You may have hit 2-3 nails in the head here first 1. Training in a computer may be realistic and cheaper but it's has zero substitute for at sea on the job training and experience 2.the navy's misguided and total commitment to high tech distributed lethality is only good till the the bullets fly just like all other theories that automatically assume the enemy will act in a certain way 3.please answer this I have heard of the possibility the ship lost steering due to cyber attack if true this could spell a complete and total disaster for the entire fleet resulting in many more dead sailors Lord I hope this isn't true

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    1. Regarding cyber attack, that seems incredibly unlikely for many reasons. Even if it were true and the ship lost steering (presumably, they still have manual backup?) there are longstanding procedures for advertising this condition to other ships (signals, lights, flags, etc.) so as not to have a collision. Plus, the ship regained propulsion and steering shortly after the impact - if it ever lost them. So, no, this is not credible.

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    2. Thanks for the reply I tend to,agree with the steering backup don't think it would fly also heard one possible explanation is that our ships and aircraft are simply getting overused and extended and this results in them being worn down and in need of more frequent repairs of this I think a lot of us can agree on certainly looking at the accidents from this year this may be a very valid concern

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  8. Interesting comments from our Chinese "friends" and it does look like Chinese navy actually did look at ramming tactics! I'm sure they will look at it again now with the evidence that USN seamanship isn't what it used to be!

    http://www.theepochtimes.com/n3/2285630-chinese-navy-admiral-cheers-uss-john-s-mccain-collision/

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    1. Either that or the captains are not looking at their radars.

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