Monday, June 4, 2018

Crew Comfort

A couple of recent discussions hit on a common theme – that being that WWII ships packed a lot more weapons and sensors/fire control in a given ship size than modern ships do.  One of the reasons suggested for that was the greater degree of crew comforts that modern ships offer.  I don’t think that’s the entire explanation but it’s certainly part of it.  Today’s berthing is larger and more comfortable.  Lounge areas are provided.  Sanitary and wash facilities are more extensive and expansive.  And so on.  These amenities require additional deck space and internal volume.  I also suspect, but don’t know for sure, that food storage spaces are larger today.

Why do today’s ships have larger crew comfort facilities?

The common answer, which is generally given as an article of faith, obvious to anyone but an idiot, is that today’s sailor has to have greater comforts or else the Navy couldn’t meet its manning needs in a volunteer navy.  Sailors just wouldn’t put up with any less comforts than are currently provided.

Is this true?  Were yesterday’s sailors tougher?  Are today’s sailors softer and unable to withstand the harsher aspects of life at sea?  Are comforts the only way we can entice young men to a life at sea?

Are we missing something in this little story?

I think we are.  What we’re missing is deployments. 

Today’s deployments run 6-12 months with 8-10 being quite common.  In the not very distant past, deployments ran 2-6 months with 6 months being the extreme maximum.

Interestingly, “deployments” during WWII were generally very short because, as we discussed, they weren’t deployments – they were missions (see, "Deployments or Missions?").  Ships would go out on a mission, execute the mission, and return home.  Missions would typically be a few weeks.  Even submarine patrols were only 4-8 weeks or so.

Do you see where this is going? 

People can put up with a lot for a relatively short period.  The problem arises when we ask people to put up with a lack of comforts for months on end, pushing a year.

The solution, of course, is to execute missions not deployments.  A mission is 1-4 weeks.  A 1-4 week mission doesn’t need all the comforts of an 8-12 month deployment.  Sailors will put up with some crowding and discomfort for a short period especially when they’re doing something worthwhile, like a specific mission.  It’s when the ship simply sails endlessly in circles on a deployment that the crew recognizes as worthless, that comforts become increasingly important.

There’s another aspect of modern deployments that impact crew comforts and that is adventure.  The old slogan was, “Join the Navy and see the world”.  This included some epic and memorable liberty calls around the world.  Sailors could put up with cramped conditions while they relived and recovered from the last liberty and eagerly anticipated the next.

Today, however, liberty opportunities have been curtailed.  Many ports are off limits.  Those that are available are strictly supervised.  Sailors are encouraged to keep a low profile, exercise moderation and, preferably, participate in volunteer school building rather than engage in the type of liberty that becomes the stuff of legend.  In fact, it goes well beyond “encouragement” to the point of threats and punishment.  Heaven help the unfortunate sailor who overindulges or has a run-in with local police.  Ship’s Captains are judged on how meek and mild their crews are during liberty.  That’s a sad commentary.  Let’s loosen the reins and let sailors enjoy the world and liberty calls.

There’s also a practical aspect to crew comforts.  More expansive crew comforts require more internal ship’s volume, more infrastructure for networks and entertainment cabling, electronics, and power.  In short, the greater the crew comforts, the larger and more expensive the ship must be.  Now, let’s be realistic, the increase, while real, is not terribly significant compared to the overall size and cost of the ship but it does add up.

Consider the ship and crew size of the LCS versus the WWII Fletcher. 

The Fletcher class was 380 ft long, 2500 ton displacement, and had a crew of 329.

The Freedom class LCS with a crew of only 65-80 (with module and helo detachment) would, you’d think, be a fraction of the size of the Fletcher and yet it’s the same 380 ft long and, incredibly, has a displacement over 50% greater at 3900 tons.

I’m not saying that the LCS’ greater size relative to the crew size is just due to crew comforts but it is a part of it.  More to the point, it illustrates that the Fletcher was able to operate with a crew size around five times greater than the LCS because it didn’t go on endless, nearly year long deployments.  The crews would put to sea, execute a mission that they clearly saw as important, and return to port.


Fletcher - Five Times the Crew

Okay, you say, all this may be true but, really, where’s the harm?  Well, aside from the impact on ship size and cost, admittedly not all that great compared to the overall size and cost, the lethal consequences of crew comforts were made abundantly clear during the recent McCain and Fitzgerald collisions.  The reports painted a vivid picture of survivors trying to battle their way through loose debris to escape flooding berthing compartments and having to fight through an obstacle course of lockers, couches, exercise bikes, TV screens, game consoles, etc.  Every physical comfort added to a ship is a potential life-threatening obstacle in a damage/rescue scenario.

One of the things that ships used to do was to strip down for battle when war was declared.  All the loose items were removed from the ship and nothing was left that wasn’t essential for combat.  The problem today is that we’re always a split second from combat even though we aren’t, technically, at war.  We’ve had ships blown up in port, attacked with missiles while on patrol, run aground, and severely damaged in collisions.  Given that environment, our ships should be stripped for battle all the time.

The conclusion from this discussion is that we can design less comforts into a ship and, thus, a smaller ship if we would simply limit the deployments to more reasonable lengths or, as suggested in the recent post, no deployments – just missions.

56 comments:

  1. I would also guess that the extreme deployment length does much more to dissuade potential recruits than any sort of perceived comforts. And, if anything, deployments should be kept even shorter during peace-time (which we are in as far as the Navy should be concerned) whenever possible. People will tolerate a lot more hardship if they are actively involved in warfighting and not just aimlessly zigzagging through shipping lanes.

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    1. "I would also guess that the extreme deployment length does much more to dissuade potential recruits than any sort of perceived comforts."

      Perceptive. I think you're on the money!

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  2. It seems to me, we've adopted Britain's pre-WW2 naval model with a focus on commerce protection from raiders and flag showing at the "Empire's" various outposts. While they used economical disposable light cruisers, i.e. Leander class, that had an emphasize on long range endurance and crew comfort, at the expense of firepower, armor. We're using 1.8 billion do-everything ships that we're having problems even maintaining. It would seem more logical to develop a cheaper, simpler alternative to do those secondary missions.

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    1. It seems more logical to everyone but the Navy!

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    2. You don't mean a largish frigate by any chance?
      A Spruance DDG type ship (perhaps with a lower power powerplant) that has growth potential.
      Lower spec that can have distributed Fleet systems (CEC) if required and could also be arsenal type ships added if required.These could also be used for non-Fleet tasks such as escorting amphib groups.
      The main point being that more officers will get command experience especially when deployed relatively independently, consider the British frigate captains that came good as command officers. I suspect that type of experience is lacking.

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    3. "You don't mean a largish frigate by any chance?"

      If the question is addressed to me, I certainly don't mean that! I've proposed in a previous post that we need a two-tier, peace-war force. The peace force would be small vessels built to commercial standards with minimal naval equipment and weapons since they're not meant to fight. Their only purpose is patrol, show the flag, port visits, hosting dignitaries, etc. You don't need a naval vessel for any of that and having one would be a waste of money.

      Command opportunities will come from building many smaller combat vessels instead of a single gazillion dollar mega-ship.

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    4. We already have that LCS was designed for the peacetime stuff as you said problem is they all stay stateside awaiting maintenance and repairs the Burkes and Ticks. Are the warships who are fired to cover for LCS shortcomings this increasing wear and tear on them and drives up cost of operations if LCS would have been done right then Bukes Ticos. and a lot of other ships would not be so stressed

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    5. ComNavOps, that was not addressed to yourself.
      A point of view, I am prepared to accept that we might not be talking about the same thing here.
      As mentioned by P.Calico the British used cruisers to maintain presence, sea lane patrol, showing the flag and gunboat diplomacy (I don't see the bit about the Leander class being considered disposable- we didn't have many). When grouped they were capable as shown at the River Plate.
      The point he did mention was endurance (is endurance rather than range the criteria for a cruiser rather than a destroyer?). Of course endurance is also a factor of crew comfort as per the title. The British have the Type 23 frigates that have a nominal range of 7000nm, quite long legged for a North Atlantic design but barely useful for a Pacific scenario which has now become the USN front yard. Therefore, to be universally useful a patrol or oceanic escort vessel that is relevent to the USN is larger, I know that the OHP were smaller but were they autonomous to some degree? Could they escort an amphib group across the Pacific whilst the fleet was away doing fleety things?
      Also, gunboat diplomacy is still relevent even when visiting allies (Philipines) in the face of a potential threat. The British used the County class cruiser for this and size (presence)does count sometimes.
      You commented about having a "peace force", the vessel you described seems to be a LCS - still too small for crew comfort on extended deployments.
      The USA does not have the finance that it appeared to have in the Cold War, so having a two-tier fleet is a good idea and these vessels could be built by shipbuilders not normally used for first-rate vessels.
      Anyway, a hotch-potch of loosely connected ideas from an ex-gravel-belly.

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    6. "You commented about having a "peace force", the vessel you described seems to be a LCS - still too small for crew comfort on extended deployments."

      A peace force would consist of commercial vessels and would have no need of large crews. They could be built to any comfort standard we desired because they would be so cheap. For example, a very large commercial tanker can be built for $100M. With no threat of combat, it would only need a very small crew. They could have individual cabins, swimming pools, spas, tennis courts, or whatever! Plenty of room and very cheap. However, more realistically, I'm thinking about a commercial mega-yacht size ship/boat that costs around $30M (with the luxury amenities stripped out) and has a crew of 15 or so. They can visit ports, host dignitaries, show the flag, run down the occasional pirate, and irritate the Chinese. If war appears imminent, they run for home and let the combat fleet take over.

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    7. In regards to the Leander class, D. Wolfy, it was an excellent ship built upon the preceding classes of British light cruisers. That said, it main purpose was commerce protection. Out of the 8 built, 3 were lost and the renaming 5 received various degrees of damage. All warships are inherently disposable if the risk is worth it. The battle of river plate illustrates that point quite well.

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    8. The US barely even has a merchant marine to protect in the first place, and while we have more essential seaborne imports than we did in 1941 we have a lot fewer than Britain did in 1939 (or 1914). There would be some issues with import substitution (as there was even in 1941 with respect to tin and rubber) and oil rationing in the loss of seaborne imports, but nothing fatal.

      Are we protecting the large merchant marines of our treaty allies Norway, Greece, and Japan? If so perhaps we ought to have dedicated ASW platforms (P-8 doesn't count--has no MAD) and numerous frigates and corvettes optimized for convoy defense.

      I don't think the Navy's ongoing budget scam should be dignified by pretending there's an actual strategy.

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  3. Hm. Some good points, but I would demur on the "Deployment length" part, at least the part about wartime. At least in the Pacific, tin cans ran with the carriers and were gone for years. They never went "Home" unless one considers Ulithi Atoll a "Home". The Atlantic was somewhat less demanding, but still had strenuous deployment (or "Mission" if you prefer) schedules. Of course it was wartime, and we did not have to accommodate women aboard ships (except AHs). Concur comments about "Liberty" )or whatever PC term replaced it) today, as well as habitability aboard. impedimenta

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    1. You may be misunderstanding the difference between deployments and war time missions. On a deployment, you're on the ship the entire time with a few port calls that are strictly supervised and limited. During war, you execute a mission and return to base for days or weeks of replenishing, retraining, and maintenance. A WWII destroyer might spend most of its career in the Pacific but the ship was mostly in port and crews enjoyed extended port time. Yes, some of the port time might be a sparsely inhabited island but, even then, you could get off the ship, have a beer, enjoy the beach, play baseball, etc. The ships routinely rotated back to Pearl Harbor which, for a 20 year old, was better than being home!

      For example, my father spent two years on an attack transport in the Pacific and participated in three assaults. However, the vast majority of his time was spent in Australia, playing tennis, and Pearl, having the time of his life. Despite being overseas for two years, it was the farthest thing from a modern deployment.

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  4. 3 thoughts:

    a. LCS isn't any good at doing anything other than "cruising"
    b. Ignore a. as LCS can not go for more than 4 weeks without breaking down and returning to port.
    c. I think you are flogging a dead horse with your "Mission" idea.Not that it is a bad idea, just the navy won't do it.

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    1. "I think you are flogging a dead horse with your "Mission" idea.Not that it is a bad idea, just the navy won't do it."

      I bet someone said the same thing about the introduction of steam or the airplane or ...

      I'll keep harping on it until the Navy bends to my will.

      Besides, SecDef is already talking about drastically altering how the Navy conducts deployments in order to try to achieve a more ready force. I can only assume he's been reading this blog!

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  5. Comparing modern ships to historical ships is only half the story, you also need to compare historical and modern civilian employment.
    A 1920s battleship is a pretty miserable place, but so is a 1920's farm, mine or factory.
    The last factory I was in had an automatic bean to cup cappuccino maker in the break room*, really swish places will have a barrista.

    I think the big change really came about with nuclear propulsion, especially of submarines.
    Protecting Reforger meant tracking the soviet submarines at all times, they had to be picked up before they crossed the GIUK and kept under surveillance until they crossed back, or for as long as possible.

    *Thats always my first recommendation to turn a place around

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  6. There's more to comfort on WW2 warships that should be mentioned.

    Some British destroyers were considered outright unsuitable for Pacific warfare because the comfort was atrocious; no or only partial sun sail, no climate control, no highly reflective paint, insufficient ventilation, oil lamps instead of electric lighting, cramped crew quarters.

    Many WW2 submarines (and especially Japanese submarines)had impressive technical endurance (up to ten thousands of nm at 10 kts), but couldn't really exploit it because the crew's performance was degraded by the poor conditions onboard after a few weeks. They were still out there, but of little to no use and too easily surprised by threats.


    I do like the general direction of the blog post, though. Personally, I think the USN should be divided into a trade lane securing force and a battlefleet. And that battlefleet should train as such all year, and and rather mover forward for a few weeks of campaigning than to stupidly patrol forward all the time.

    Also, I blogged myself about the role that one world cruise per career could play in recruitment of naval personnel (but that cruise should be done with purpose-rebuilt training ships).

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    1. A/c wasnt in US Fletcher class and before either.
      https://www.navyhistory.org/2013/07/life-on-a-fletcher-class-destroyer-1950s/

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    2. The typical measure against too hot crew quarters in that era was to use a sun sail, and if possible keep some insulating spacing between boiler rooms and crew quarters.

      Example for sun sails:
      https://i.pinimg.com/originals/46/1d/02/461d02bcfc64cd224518ccc5df7c37bd.jpg

      A light grey painting helped as well, as it reflects more of the solar radiation and absorbs less than darker colours (or dark wooden decks).

      There's next to no hope to push below deck temperatures below water temperature (~27 °C at the equator) without A/C, of course.

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    3. James Fahey secretly wrote a diary about his time on the light cruiser USS Montpelier (CL-57) from when they left for the Pacific in 1942 to the end of the war. It was published in "Pacific War Diary: 1942 - 1945, The Secret Diary of an American Sailor".

      If you want to get an idea of a seaman's life, he was on a 40mm gun mount, through the Soloman Islands and more this is the book to read.

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  7. For the US, WWII lasted less than 4 years. You're essentially calling for a perpetual wartime posture for the Navy. How do we maintain that kind of mission mentality for 40, 50 years, or longer? I can't imagine many sailors wanting to make 5 or 6 patrols a year.

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    1. "You're essentially calling for a perpetual wartime posture for the Navy."

      Huh? Where did you possibly get that? Go back and reread the post and the linked post.

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  8. I agree this a big factor in soaring ship costs with a reduction in weaponry. We can still forward deploy, but can spend twice as much time in port overseas than cutting circles in the ocean. Do ships really need barbers and barbershops and ships stores with sales clerks? This article addresses this issue.

    http://www.g2mil.com/Devo-Amphibs.htm

    The last half of this article covers this topic, with pictures! Amphibs in particular don't need to cruise about. He shows modern amphibs are twice as big as those in WW II, but carry less than half of much!

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  9. i wonder if you could expand this crew comfort issue to cover other allied navies (Aus/Jap/SK/UK/FR/GR) and compare USN crew comfort with those navies ?

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    1. That's a great idea but I simply don't have access to detailed ship designs for foreign navies or detailed descriptions of their shipboard life.

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  10. These historical USN videos look at improving shipboard living conditions.

    The first examines the issues onboard USS Saufley after WW2. New electronic equipment was installed at the expense of the crew's living space. There were also problems with berthing spaces being inaccessible during meal times.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8RHcz1KS7F8

    I am guessing these were less problematic in previous years; but as bunks replaced hammocks and bulky (pre-microchip) electronics were added, the space became tighter.

    Perhaps immediate post-war era was a high point in "crampedness". The number of extra systems had increased, but the benefits in automation leading to a reduction in crew size had not yet come into effect.

    This next video shows some improvements being made. There is a good level of detail, even down to the arrangement of bunks and position of the queue for food.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pVk3pHcfPVQ

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  11. That pic isn't of a Fletcher...USS Bristol DD-453 was an even more cramped Gleaves class.

    She was sunk by a single torpedo fired by a U boat off Africa.

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  12. Habitability was a big deal in the immediate post Vietnam years...The OHPs and Spruances in particular were considered relative Taj Mahal's

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  13. How would this work for ships that are part of carrier and expeditionary strike groups? It wouldn't be practical to cycle carriers and amphibs for 6 to 8 week patrols. Those ships spend months just preparing for a single deployment.

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    1. Did you read the linked post on missions versus deployments?

      In theory, our entire military is supposed to be ready to fight with no notice. The current reality, however, as you point out, is that the Navy spends weeks gearing up for a deployment and, at the end of it, allows its readiness to evaporate.

      The entire concept of missions is that each ship and crew are always combat ready because they spend the vast majority of their time home-based, conducting training. When an individual ship goes into drydock for overhaul/upgrade/maintenance, that ship is, of course, no longer combat ready until it finishes but the crew remains combat ready and simply transitions to shore training.

      Deployments have cycles. Missions have no cycles. It's just constant training and continuous readiness. Also, why do we need such intense "shutdowns" at the end of a deployment? It's because we kept the ship and crew in constant use for several months. Things wear out and break. The crews degenerate.

      With missions, the ships are operated close to home, rack up far fewer miles/hours, are continuously maintained, and the crews are always fresh.

      It's an eminently more logical way to operate especially as there is no evidence that forward presence accomplishes anything.

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    2. But, we have commitments in the Middle East and the Western Pacific where it could take a week or more just to reach the patrol area. At the same time, is it efficient to operate a carrier or amphib for a couple of months at a time? I don't know, but I doubt it is.

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    3. "But, we have commitments in the Middle East and the Western Pacific ... At the same time, is it efficient to operate a carrier or amphib for a couple of months at a time?"

      Boy, you are just not getting this. I'll try again.

      Regarding commitments, no we don't. What specific commitment do we have? We have presence missions that we've OPTED to commit to - AND CAN OPT OUT OF JUST AS EASILY. We have Combatant Commander requests that are nearly universally worthless and exist only to enhance the power and prestige of the CC. Is there any treaty or international law REQUIRING our presence in the form of a ship? There might be one somewhere but they would be few, bordering on none.

      So much for "commitments".

      Is it efficient to operate a carrier for a couple of months? I'll repeat, did you read the post AND THE LINKED POST? If you didn't, you're wasting my time. If you did and still don't understand the core concept, I'll try one more time.

      With a mission approach to operations, we operate the carrier ALL THE TIME. The vast majority of the time, it's doing training exercises in home waters. On occasion, if warranted, it goes and executes a specific mission for a brief period and then returns home to continue training.

      Let me say it again: EVERY SHIP IN THE FLEET OPERATES CONTINUOUSLY (barring drydock periods). That's as efficient as you can get. The carrier, crew, and air wing are combat ready 365 days a year instead of just for several months out of a multi-year cycle - THAT'S INEFFICIENT.

      Do you understand the concept, now?

      Here's an analogy. You operate your car continuously (always combat ready). You don't drive non-stop for a few months and then put it in the garage. Yes, you occasionally take it to the mechanic (drydock) for and oil change or repair but, once done, it goes right back into full time service.

      Do you understand the concept now?

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  14. There are three, complementary solutions to "crew comfort" during peace time:

    1) Admit up front that sea duty is hard and compensate sailors financially for it.

    2) Stop the silliness of these endless deployment cycles. The pre-WW2 USN was better suited for combat in every way than our current fleet (allowances for technology): better planning (validated by unscripted fleet exercises!), better doctrine, better training, better supply (imagine escorts for fleet logistics ships!) - all because the fleet was free to experiment with plans/organization/training.

    3) Create a 21st century recreation barges for sailors to live off the ship on liberty. Provide sailors with a single state room, state of the art gymnasiums, spas, good mess halls (the US Army does these right!), game centers, large storage locker (Public Storage type)for long-term access to personal effects like clothes, sporting goods, and motorcycles + MWR programs. Provide a contracted 24/7 transport to major sports arenas, theaters, malls and so forth.

    CNO and posters have touched on several related points, but the point is that the current system stinks. It is unfair, expensive, inefficient, does not promote unit cohesion, and does not train our fleet for war. We can reduce the hamper of our ships, and provide better support for our sailors.

    GAB

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  15. ComNavOps in regards to your statement about crew comfort on foreign ships I just read about the Fremm (Italin) in the Defense news they spent 3 days on her last week she looks to be comfortable has 5 espresso machines 4 man staterooms etc. of course you know I'm biased towards her I only want 20 of them but would settle for 50 or so

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  16. Mr Lewis, The coffee may be good, however when it came to fighting. Recently the 1st French Fremm failed to launch it's missiles at Syria so they had to use a second. But the coffee was good! lol

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    1. I know fur from what I here FREMM only 3 SCALP missiles of course it was the first one that couldnt/didn't launch oh well like you say the coffee is good though

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  17. The basic problem is that the Navy's core mission is no longer seapower. The Navy these days is a mafia run for the benefit of senior officers and defense contractors. Officers are interested in maximizing the number of flag ranks, and defense contractors in maximizing cost. Mutual synergy exists in that retired flag officers "work" for defense contractors. Career officers unlikely to make flag rank are incentivized to never challenged the system owing to the military's promotion (up-or-out, officer evaluations) and pension (need 20 years) systems.

    The censorious coward but excellent milblogger Sven Ortman had an interesting post about the Navy's endless deployments all over the world: http://defense-and-freedom.blogspot.com/2018/04/narratives-as-sustainers-of-excessive.html

    Endless deployments create a "need" for more ships, which increases the number of flag ranks along with profits for defense contractors. Mission accomplished!

    The ships themselves also have questionable design choices. Why do our carriers need to be refueled so often for instance? Our submarines don't since they use highly enriched fuel. Carriers undergoing "refueling" (which for some reason always takes far longer than refueling civilian nuclear powerplants.

    The Navy also does its best to scrap ships as soon as they're retired rather than mothballing them. This guarantees future orders for ships.

    In short this is a political and cultural problem and as such will be very difficult to solve. Not only are politicians themselves typically also dependent on defense contractors to get (re)elected, but the end of conscription along with elite abandonment of military service means that increasingly few politicians have relevant experience and knowledge to supervise the Navy (or other armed services). You can see this in how President Trump effusively praises the military, probably partly out of a guilty conscience at not having served in Vietnam.

    R&R at port is likewise a cultural and political problem. In the era of #MeToo and the continuing absurdity of allowing women in the armed forces (now including submarines and Marine infantry!), what would happen to the career of a CNO who issued new R&R friendly orders?

    It seems to me that the problem is hopeless and not likely to be resolved without defeat in war.

    Assuming the political and cultural problems are resolved (ha), it seems to me that the only routine long range patrols ought to be for intelligence and diplomacy. Most of the fleet ought to be home ported (which could include treaty allies, but definitely not insane basing locations like Sasebo) and should be conducting rigorous training exercises in home waters.

    Not only should R&R be allowed (and even encouraged) when calling on other ports, but the Navy should operate some of its own entertainment venues in order to reduce the threat of espionage or drunk sailors getting into trouble. Perhaps these entertainment venues could be jointly operated with the rest of the DoD, the intelligence agencies, and the State Dept. I wouldn't go so far as to ban visiting other venues (except where the espionage risk is great), rather the government-operated venues would be available and cheap.

    Long-term there's the matter of ship design. My understanding is that our warships, surprisingly, are less automated than Russian warships. Looking at submarines as an example, the Yasen-class has a crew of 90 compared to 134 on the Virginia-class. Smaller crews save hull space. I don't know what food the Navy serves, but my experience in the wilderness has taught me there's a lot of space to be saved with proper food planning.

    The Prussian army that beat France in 1870 marched on erbswurst. No reason we can't develop "Navy sausage" to eliminate galleys entirely if needed.

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    1. David, I don't quite know what to make of your post. You have a few half-truths, a number of repeats of previous posts, and a questionable premise or two. Or, I may be misunderstanding your point(s). Let's look at a few specifics and see what you're thinking.

      " Why do our carriers need to be refueled so often for instance? Our submarines don't since they use highly enriched fuel."

      This is not really true. Nuclear plants are only viable for a limited time due to nuclear embrittlement and other issues. Carriers have a 50 yr life and we have not yet developed a reactor that can go 50 yrs on its original fueling. Submarines, by contrast, have only a 30-35 yr life (limited by cumulative dive stress and fatigue) and for that we do have life-of-ship reactors now. I refueling in a 50 yr carrier life seems quite reasonable given the limits of current technology.

      "which for some reason always takes far longer than refueling civilian nuclear powerplants."

      Unlike civilian power plants, nuclear ships have their plants buried deep within the ship and access is difficult. Also, the Navy combines refueling with comprehensive overhaul/upgrades. Whether the refueling or the overhaul is the driving force for the time frame, I don't know. I suspect it's both. I'm guessing that, by and large, the refueling and the overhaul are mutually exclusive. You probably don't want contractors and welders, for example, running around while you're conducting refueling.

      "You can see this in how President Trump effusively praises the military, probably partly out of a guilty conscience at not having served in Vietnam."

      Trump obtained deferments while in college which was commonly and legally done. I have no idea what Trump's views on the war were. He was subsequently medically evaluated as unfit for service after graduation. He attended a private military academy during his earlier years which probably instilled much of his respect for the military. If you're suggesting that he was equivalent to a draft dodger of the time, you're incorrect.

      " Most of the fleet ought to be home ported ... and should be conducting rigorous training exercises in home waters."

      I just recently wrote an entire post on this and I assume you've read it.

      "Navy should operate some of its own entertainment venues"

      That's an interesting idea but it completely contradicts the "Join the Navy and See the World" appeal of naval service. Prospective sailor recruits are unlikely to be swayed by supervised entertainment which they can probably access much higher quality versions of, and greater variety in, in civilian life.

      "Smaller crews save hull space."

      This is true but is an extremely unwise approach to warship design. Warships, unlike civilian ships, need large crews for damage control, casualty replacement, attrition redundancy, combat watchstanding, etc. We've discussed this extensively. Real world examples where only large numbers of crew kept damaged ships afloat include the Enterprise and Forrestal conflagrations, Stark missile attack, Cole bombing, and Roberts mine explosion, etc.

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    2. "This is not really true. Nuclear plants are only viable for a limited time due to nuclear embrittlement and other issues. Carriers have a 50 yr life and we have not yet developed a reactor that can go 50 yrs on its original fueling. Submarines, by contrast, have only a 30-35 yr life (limited by cumulative dive stress and fatigue) and for that we do have life-of-ship reactors now. I refueling in a 50 yr carrier life seems quite reasonable given the limits of current technology."

      I had in mind for some reason that our carriers were refueling every 2-3 years, like civilian reactors. Looks like I was wrong: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Refueling_and_overhaul

      25 years for the Nimitz class.

      "Unlike civilian power plants, nuclear ships have their plants buried deep within the ship and access is difficult. Also, the Navy combines refueling with comprehensive overhaul/upgrades. Whether the refueling or the overhaul is the driving force for the time frame, I don't know. I suspect it's both. I'm guessing that, by and large, the refueling and the overhaul are mutually exclusive. You probably don't want contractors and welders, for example, running around while you're conducting refueling."

      Fuel rod assemblies aren't that big. Remember we used to have to coal warships. Probably it's the "overhaul" that takes a lot of time.

      "Trump obtained deferments while in college which was commonly and legally done. I have no idea what Trump's views on the war were. He was subsequently medically evaluated as unfit for service after graduation. He attended a private military academy during his earlier years which probably instilled much of his respect for the military. If you're suggesting that he was equivalent to a draft dodger of the time, you're incorrect."

      I'm not suggesting that President Trump broke the law. I've noticed that a lot of civilians who never served in the armed forces are very hesitant to criticize the armed forces. I think partly this is due to a guilty conscience.

      As to my personal views on the matter I think it's shameful the way the American elite largely abandoned military service at that time, but at an individual level I fully understand the choice. I'm a millennial who was in high school during 9-11, and I didn't volunteer for our colonial wars in the Middle East.

      "I just recently wrote an entire post on this and I assume you've read it."
      Nope. Got a link?

      I've been aware of your blog for a long time via Sven Ortman, but have not been a regular reader. Nothing personal, just one of those things you forget about.

      "This is true but is an extremely unwise approach to warship design. Warships, unlike civilian ships, need large crews for damage control, casualty replacement, attrition redundancy, combat watchstanding, etc. We've discussed this extensively. Real world examples where only large numbers of crew kept damaged ships afloat include the Enterprise and Forrestal conflagrations, Stark missile attack, Cole bombing, and Roberts mine explosion, etc."
      If the Navy really cared about this they wouldn't put women on ships. The Cole bombing is of course a case in point.

      One could automate systems to reduce normal crew requirements and then add dedicated damage control crew who would train for that role when the ship is not in combat.

      Might of course be that the existing way is best, but then why did the Russians pursue more automation? It's not like the USSR lacked manpower. Do you know what other navies are doing on this front?

      On a different note can you please enable the BLOCKQUOTE HTML tag? Makes blog comments a lot more elegant.

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    3. Note: I forgot to discuss the venues that you objected to.

      Sailors engaged in R&R are likely to engage with what we can euphemistically call women of low character. The honeypot is a well known espionage technique, and just telling sailors they're not allowed to engage with such women is unlikely to work (or do much for morale). Of course one can imagine the howls of outrage the neo-Puritan vinegar drinking feminist scolds would have for that.

      I am also a supporter of conscription which eliminates the recruitment problem, at least for enlisted sailors.

      Granted, the espionage issue might not be a big problem given the limited information conveyed to enlisted men.

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    4. "Fuel rod assemblies aren't that big."

      I'm not a nuclear expert and I don't know the dimensions of the fuel assemblies used in carrier nuke plants but I assume they're on the order of several feet long. You don't seem to be aware of just how cramped the spaces and passages on a warship are. I'm assuming that they have to cut their way through many decks to reach and refuel the reactor.

      ""I just recently wrote an entire post on this and I assume you've read it."
      Nope. Got a link?"

      This blog is the best there is on naval matters and, as such, I expect more from my readers. Much of this is outlined on the Comment Policy page. You, the reader, need to do your homework and part of that is reading searching and reading the archives. They will provide you with much knowledge and many hours of entertainment. I'll give you this one as a freebie. Here's the link to the post on deployments versus missions.

      Deployments or Missions?

      "I've been aware of your blog for a long time via Sven Ortman, but have not been a regular reader."

      Then you haven't been availing yourself of the best source of naval analysis available! I expect you'll correct that now.

      "One could automate systems to reduce normal crew requirements and then add dedicated damage control crew who would train for that role when the ship is not in combat."

      We've done posts on this, too. You cannot surge a modern warship crew. Even something as "simple" as damage control requires a great deal of knowledge, technique, and training in the modern age. A damage control specialist has to know explosive effects, fire effects, toxic gas chemistry and the effect on biology (humans), metallurgy, load/stress distributions, hydraulics, a host of mechanical device operations, and endless training. You can't surge this capability.

      It gets worse as the jobs become more technically demanding. Radar operators, for example, require months/years to become proficient.

      A warship's crew is either present on day one of combat or they won't be augmented for many, many months or years.

      "why did the Russians pursue more automation? "

      I don't know that they did. The Russians have, historically, had very low quality recruits. Making this worse is that they have very little money to pay crews and their food/housing is abysmal by our standards. If you see small crews, it's probably due to an inability to recruit/retain personnel combined with the very low abilities of the personnel so automation may be the only way they can accomplish some tasks.

      As I said, I've never seen anything that suggests that Russian ships are more automated than Western ships. It's an interesting thought. Why don't you find some authoritative sources to prove/disprove that and come back and share it with us? Do your part to contribute to the quality and usefulness of this blog!

      Delete
    5. "On a different note can you please enable the BLOCKQUOTE HTML tag?"

      Blogger is quite limited. Blockquote is enabled in the post but comments are limited to five tags: anchor, bold, italics, and two others that I don't recall offhand. If there's a way to enable blockquote in comments, I'm unaware of it.

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    6. A fuel rod assembly for a reactor can fit through a "hatch" in a normal warship. I've toured some of the older museum ships still afloat. As I noted earlier, we used to have to COAL warships. In any case this isn't really a sticking point as you already showed me to be wrong about refueling frequency.

      I read your deployments vs. missions page, and other than your foreign policy views I am in full agreement.

      I wasn't suggesting surging crew, but having dedicated damage control crew on-board at all times.

      I assume the authoritative sources on Russian naval capabilities are largely in Russian, which I do not speak. You might want to look up Andrei Martyanov, who is a former Soviet naval officer now resident in Colorado who has lectured at the Naval War College. He has some kind of technical background as well which could be helpful.

      I wouldn't consider this an authoritative source (they'll let anyone publish), but it does mention automation: http://nationalinterest.org/blog/the-buzz/the-us-navys-worst-nightmare-super-advanced-russian-14203

      I don't buy the line that Russia has had low quality recruits. There's nothing wrong with the average Russian. The USSR furthermore had conscription, and so does the Russian Federation today (though it's being phased out). Living standards are of course lower in Russia than here, but that's something they've all grown up with.

      There must be some other reason they chose to increase warship automation. I've heard our navy considered more automation in the 60s, but it was rejected as costing more than manpower at the time (baby boom plus conscription).

      Moving beyond the Russians I see that the Royal Navy's Astute-class SSN is around the same size as the Virginia-class, but has a quarter fewer men--just slightly more than the Yasen-class.

      Likewise the Type 45-class destroyer has more than one-third fewer men than the Arleigh Burke class destroyer.

      On the other hand Japan's Atago-class destroyer has a complement of around the same size as the Arleigh Burke.

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    7. "Likewise the Type 45-class destroyer has more than one-third fewer men than the Arleigh Burke class destroyer."

      We can absolutely design a warship with a crew of only a dozen men. Heck, we can build an unmanned warship. However, with 100% certainty, we'll lose every one of them to the first damage they take in combat. You might want to read "Missile Inbound" by Jeffrey Levinson. It's about the attack on the USS Stark. It paints a clear and convincing picture that the only thing that can save a warship that has been hit, is a large crew.

      You have a misconception about damage control. Unlike any other naval job, damage control is a requirement for every sailor because when damage occurs, every sailor becomes a damage control person. Again, read about the Enterprise and Forrestal conflagrations.

      "I don't buy the line that Russia has had low quality recruits."

      Whether you "buy" it or not does not change the fact. The Soviet, and now Russian, Navy uses Michman rank to perform tasks the US Navy would assign to low level sailors because Russian sailors simply don't have the education, knowledge, and skills to operate modern warships. This has been extensively documented.

      By the way, have you considered the possibility that some navies/ships, like the Type 45, are minimally manned not because it's a good idea but because they either can't recruit enough personnel or because they simply don't have the budget to pay them? The US (and Japan?) has access to a very large labor pool and can afford to pay for personnel to the levels demanded by combat.

      You need to do some serious catching up on damage control history and concepts if you want to continue commenting on this. You appear to be working off vague impressions rather than actual data and information. This is not the blog for vague impressions. This blog is based on data and logic. Do the research. You'll find it fascinating and enjoyable if you have any interest in naval matters (I assume you do or you wouldn't be here).

      Delete
  18. If the Type 45 were manned at Arleigh Burke levels the incremental crew costs would take two centuries to reach the price of just one Type 45 destroyer (one billion pounds).

    Are you telling me the same dweebs behind the EMALS scandal just happen to have gotten optimal manning right?

    Unlike the USN, the RN in living memory actually fought a serious naval war. The Type 42, despite being half the size of the Type 45, had a larger crew. Seems the main lesson they took from the Falklands was not to build warships out of aluminum (hello LCS) and that serious air defenses are required on all ships.

    Russia didn't start developing a professional NCO corps until 2008, and even today relies still on one year conscripts (and two years in the Soviet era) to man part of its armed forces. Meanwhile the shortest period you can enlist in the USN is two years, which comes with a four year reserve requirement.

    I doubt very much that the raw material going into our Navy is any better to begin with, they just serve longer. The requirements relating to intelligence/education consist of a high school diploma (which anyone with a pulse can acquire) and a 35 on the ASVAB (a double digit IQ). Note that I'm not disparaging the requirements or the sailors, there's no need for enlisted men to be rocket scientists.

    I have heard the damage control argument many times, and it certainly seems superficially true. Do you have examples of undermanned ships that were sink for lack of crew to do damage control?

    I've heard the Navy considered more automation in the 60s, but decided to skip it as manpower was cheap (conscription plus the baby boom). Path dependency.

    You have to admit it's fairly mysterious that the Soviet Union, a less technologically developed country with a larger labor force and universal two year conscription, chose to pursue more automation. Obviously they had a doctrine behind that. What was that doctrine?

    Perhaps you would point out that unlike the USN, the Soviet Navy didn't develop much combat experience during WW2.

    I'll also note that if the Navy really cared about keeping ships afloat, they'd armor them. I've used your line "armor sustains combat" in discussions with others before.

    My general position is that our Naval leadership is primarily motivated by bureaucratic concerns than devotion to seapower. Of course, the same thing is probably true in many foreign navies.

    I'm reminded of something George Soros said about his time working with Jim Rogers. Soros said that Rogers started out with the premise that everyone else was wrong. Soros agreed with Rogers, but thought that they might also be wrong.

    And to answer an earlier point, yes I will read your blog regularly from now on.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. "If the Type 45 were manned at Arleigh Burke levels the incremental crew costs would take two centuries to reach the price of just one Type 45 destroyer (one billion pounds).

      Are you telling me the same dweebs behind the EMALS scandal just happen to have gotten optimal manning right?"

      You completely lost me. I'm not even sure if these two sentences are meant to go together.

      I'll offer a couple thoughts and then you can tell me what you really meant.

      I have no clue what point you're trying to make about crew costs and ship costs, if any. Try again?

      "Optimal manning" was originally called "minimal manning" in the US Navy. The name was later changed to sound better after the magnitude of the disaster became clear. Kind of like "rightsizing" sounds better than "downsizing" which sounds better than "layoffs" even thought they all refer to the same action.

      The first thing that was found when the Navy implemented minimal manning, which was back around 1990 or so (I'd have to check my actual dates), was that maintenance standards degraded markedly. The crews were overworked maintenance suffered badly.

      One of the associated aspects of minimal manning was crew swaps to enable ships to stay deployed longer. Human nature being what it is, they quickly found that each crew put off maintenance for the next crew to do and the ships quickly wore out and many had to be retired early due to poor material condition.

      I can write posts about the ills of minimal manning - and have!

      So, no, the Navy did not get minimal manning right - not even close. I'm not sure what you're really asking about that. Even the Navy admits today that it was wrong about minimal manning.

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    2. "I doubt very much that the raw material going into our Navy is any better to begin with, they just serve longer."

      The average American naval recruit is head and shoulders above the Russian. You need to do some research. The actual recruits that Russia gets are much less educated. Ethnic bigotry is rampant. And so on. You'll have to research this on your own. No one who has critically compared Russian and US crews believes that they are even remotely comparable.

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    3. "And to answer an earlier point, yes I will read your blog regularly from now on."

      It will improve your life. Your friends will think better of you and you'll find yourself invited to more parties.

      Most readers compile the posts into books that they carry with them for quick reference.

      As you read this blog, remember that Tom Clancy had this to say, "Fantastic!" *

      *Not about this blog but he did say it.

      Delete
  19. My original point was that more automated warships, simply by virtue of having smaller crews, would have fewer issues with crew comfort. Then we dove into the weeds about damage control, and now maintenance.

    You suggested the Britain had a smaller complement as a cost-cutting or labor-saving measure on the Type 45, and I point out that's silly in light of the cost of the Type 45 itself (one billion pounds).

    I will ask Andrei Martyanov to comment about Soviet and Russian crew quality. He's biased since he's a Russian nationalist (...living in America), but as a former Soviet naval officer he might be able to provide some insight.

    The average IQ of Russia and America are broadly similar, so I don't see why the average American recruit would be better than the average Russian one. In education America has better PISA results but Russia has better TIMSS results. Unless the Russians are scraping the bottom of the barrel to save money.

    Does Britain have maintenance problems caused by under-manning on its new classes of warships? Automation is something you need to design for from the ground up, it's not something you can just implement on the fly, as Tesla learned recently.

    Ethnic bigotry is a double-edged sword. Let's say you had a warship with the entire crew consisting of Great Russians. In that case ethnic bigotry would improve cohesion and solidarity as the sailors drink vodka and boast of how they're so much better than Chechen swine or whatever.

    ReplyDelete
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    1. "My original point was that more automated warships, simply by virtue of having smaller crews, would have fewer issues with crew comfort. Then we dove into the weeds about damage control, and now maintenance."

      And you seem to be slowly grasping the concept of crew size. If the goal is to have the most comfort or the least cost, we can build warships with a crew of a dozen (or none and make it unmanned). However, if the goal is to have a warship that can fight, inflict damage, take damage, and continue to fight, then large crews are mandatory. No one has yet figured out an automated way to shore up a bulkhead or fight fires - and before you respond that automated firefighting systems are available, do some research. You'll find that automated firefighting systems inevitably fail because the triggering event (an explosion) destroys the firefighting system(s) at the point of explosion. Further, the type of fires experienced on naval vessels simply don't lend themselves to being extinguished by automated firefighting systems. Again, I'll leave it to you to do the research on this.

      The point is that the demands of SUCCESSFUL combat dictate large crews.

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    2. "silly in light of the cost of the Type 45 itself (one billion pounds)."

      You don't grasp how manning is paid and accounted for. Consider that a Type 45 costs $1B (pounds and dollars are not the same but I'll assume they are to save me from having to do conversions - it doesn't change the overall point). Now, consider if it were manned at the level of a Burke which Wiki lists as 323. Each sailor costs the government around $125,000 per year in salary, benefits, pension, etc. For a crew of 323 that equals $40,375,000 per year. Over the course of the 35 year life of the ship (that's the Burke's life span and I assume the Type 45 would be similar) that equals $1.4B which is more than the cost of the ship itself.

      Manning costs are, indeed, quite significant. Minimal manning is the Holy Grail of the US Navy but that quest is tempered by the need to engage in combat.

      Even using the Wiki listed crew of 191, that equates to $23.9M per year and, over the 35 year life span of the ship, that equals $836M, nearly the cost of the ship. I have no idea where your "two centuries" number comes from.

      Consider that the US Navy has around 300,000 personnel on active duty. That equates to $37B manning costs per year which is twice the shipbuilding budget! You can understand why the Navy is intensely interested in reducing manning. The problem is that they're attempting to reduce ship manning when they should be reducing staff and support manning instead.

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    3. "silly in light of the cost of the Type 45 itself (one billion pounds)."

      You don't grasp how manning is paid and accounted for. Consider that a Type 45 costs $1B (pounds and dollars are not the same but I'll assume they are to save me from having to do conversions - it doesn't change the overall point). Now, consider if it were manned at the level of a Burke which Wiki lists as 323. Each sailor costs the government around $125,000 per year in salary, benefits, pension, etc. For a crew of 323 that equals $40,375,000 per year. Over the course of the 35 year life of the ship (that's the Burke's life span and I assume the Type 45 would be similar) that equals $1.4B which is more than the cost of the ship itself.

      Manning costs are, indeed, quite significant. Minimal manning is the Holy Grail of the US Navy but that quest is tempered by the need to engage in combat.

      Even using the Wiki listed crew of 191, that equates to $23.9M per year and, over the 35 year life span of the ship, that equals $836M, nearly the cost of the ship. I have no idea where your "two centuries" number comes from.

      Consider that the US Navy has around 300,000 personnel on active duty. That equates to $37B manning costs per year which is twice the shipbuilding budget! You can understand why the Navy is intensely interested in reducing manning. The problem is that they're attempting to reduce ship manning when they should be reducing staff and support manning instead.

      Delete
  20. Just type "GBPUSD" into a search engine. Current one pound is $1.34.

    Very good points by you.

    On the other hand, RN personnel costs are probably lower.

    Take a look here: http://www.armedforces.co.uk/royalnavypayscales.php

    In the UK many benefits that the Pentagon provides are already part of the welfare state and thus not part of the MoD budget. No need for Tricare when there's the NHS for instance.

    Is our Navy actually interested in reducing manning? More sailors means more officers.

    I suppose the FAILED Zumwalt-class says that they are.

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  21. I got this response from Martyanov about the Russian Navy:

    "Not the case and IQ has very little to do with it–public schools, however, do. Amount of instruction in math, physics, chemistry or, what is commonly known as precise and natural sciences, average Soviet recruit was and is receiving today is much-much larger than it is the case with American schools. Now per modern Russian Navy–most of it is professional, especially submarine forces, and has no “recruits” per se. Most of non-officer corps serving on ships and submarines of modern Russian Navy are so called “contarctniks”–that is professional seamen. And the level is very high–one of the best in the world. As per offcer corps–the level was always superb for a number of reasons, including much longer academic and practical training for Soviet/Russian officer corps."

    I'll take that with a grain of salt in light of his patriotism.

    American schools are also better at math and science than a lot of people (foreign and American) realize. In the most recent TIMSS results Russian 8th graders were #6 in the world in math and #7 in science. But American 8th graders were #10 in each.

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