Tuesday, January 15, 2019

Sea Dragon 2019 ASW Exercise

Well, there appears to be a common theme in the Pacific theatre regarding ASW :  we aren’t very serious. 

We just discussed the joint Japanese, Royal Navy, US ASW exercise in which the US sent a single P-8 and one sub.  Now, for the annual Sea Dragon ASW exercise, we’re sending four P-8s and one Los Angeles class sub. (1)   The exercise begins on 14-Jan and ends 25-Jan.

On the plus side, that’s four times the commitment for the other joint exercise but, on the negative side, it’s a measly four P-8s – not much of an ASW commitment in a theatre in which ASW will play a major role in the event of war. 

Again on the plus side, they’ll get to work against a live submarine.  On the negative side, they’ll get to work a little bit against a live submarine and the rest of the time against a simulated sub, whatever that means.  Seriously, we can’t even make an exercise that small an all-live exercise?

Slated to run 11 days, the exercise is “an exciting opportunity to ... focus on building anti-submarine warfare proficiency and increase warfighting lethality,” Capt. Brian Erickson, Commander of Task Force 72, was quoted as saying in a 7th Fleet news release. (1)

Capt. Erickson, can you tell me how an exercise with only four P-8s are going to build ‘anti-submarine warfare proficiency and increase warfighting lethality’?  Is this an example of Navy officers who are so out of touch with reality that they really think exercising four P-8s will build our Pacific Fleet ASW capability or is the good Captain simply parroting what he’s been told to say, thereby demonstrating an utter lack of integrity and credibility?

I’ll ask the same question I asked in the previous ASW exercise post:  what is the rest of the fleet so busy with that they can’t participate in training for, arguably, the most important aspect of Pacific theatre naval warfare?

This is becoming a recurring embarrassment.

CNO Richardson, are you even aware of what your fleet is and is not doing on a daily basis?


(1)Washington Post website, “Recent developments surrounding the South China Sea”, Christopher Bodeen, 14-Jan-2019,


  1. Probably reading WAYYY too much into this BUT a thought did occur here about the continual use of the P-8s and not really much ship ASW presence....is USN slowly moving away from ship borne ASW to eventually just going full airborne ASW? Since we got rid of the Spruances and Burkes are really more AAW dedicated, (no need to bring up LCS) is USN really interested in ship borne ASW anymore? Sure doesn't look like it to an outside observer....

    Considering that USN has a hard time navigating! and how training intensive ASW is, has a discrete decision been made to NOT really bother anymore with surface ASW?

    1. Good question. There are simply too few P-8s to supply round the clock, war ASW coverage for the Navy. Also, P-8s attempting ASW inside the Chinese first island chain are going to have a very short life so are we conceding the submarine war?

      One could imagine the Navy adopting a [unwise] strategy of rear area ASW by P-8s and forward ASW by submarines with surface ships having no real role, as you suggest.

      You're correct that, to the outside observer, the Navy seems to have no interest in surface ship ASW. If that's the case, why are we still building ASW into ships? There's a logical inconsistency at play, here.

    2. Another blog I frequent talks about the BPONE: The Black Pit of Negative Expectations.

      I'm about there with the Navy.

      The logical inconsistencies seem to be all over the place; unless you come to the conclusion that the Navy's real, if unstated, mission is, as you have stated before, to protect it's budget slice.

      That seems to infer that the real mission is for the Admirals and higher ups to protect their jobs.

      Then things seem to fall into place.

      Does the Zumwalt work? Who cares? It demands a high price.

      Does the Ford Work? Ditto.

      LCS? Doesn't matter. It gets hulls into the water. Mission modules aren't vital to the main mission.

      Looking at the Fort report even basic seamanship gets sacrificed to the real mission. You don't need to worry about professional training if you don't really intend on using the Navy as a fighting force anyway. But make sure you have your Sexual Assault Prevention and Response training up to snuff, because you don't want to anger Congress.

      To the admirals way of thinking, If over worked undertrained sailors bend a DDG that's bad.

      But if a sexual assault is asserted that's a disaster.

      Sorry if this is overly negative.

    3. Agree Jim Whall.

      History tells us that a broken military gets "fixed" only one way: getting it's ass kicked so hard all the old lessons have to be relearned the hard way....

  2. Are Burke ASW capabilities considered self defence fits ?
    Is the new Frigate intended to be a USN Type 23 ?

    1. All ASW is defensive though it may be conducted, ultimately, to support offensive movements.

      No one, including the Navy, knows what the new frigate is supposed to be/do. The Navy is simply building mini-Burkes in response to the failures of the LCS.

  3. Why arn't say the Japanese and ROK being invited to aggressively play red team for sub warfare In the Pacific. The cost saving of canceling all planed LCS hulls would easily pay for some large scale games/exercises. It would seem imperative to know if the all Burke fleet can actually find a subs and do something about them. The best Subs the Japanese and ROK build are still better than China's. Maybe assembling the fleet is hard, but why not fly different crews in for several weeks. It would add to chaos - ie realism to have to suddenly run a ship that was not one you sailed on all the time.

    1. Your general desire for more/larger exercises is good. The idea of using Japanese/ROK subs is good. Flying in crews is not productive. The crews would spend all their training time trying to learn the new/different equipment rather than being able to focus on the nuances of actual ASW. A better approach would be to simply rotate ships through the area with ASW training being a constant activity and just new ships coming and going as they complete the training.

    2. It does seem incredible that USN can find the time to fly the flag in dog and pony shows but can't find 1 Burke to participate in a rare real live ASW exercise? Leveraging Japan and SK subs is another no brainer....

      I'm afraid ASW is being shipped out of manned ships and just become the province of airborne assets and some future networked unmanned ship/drone that will perform miracles....

    3. Do we have an exchange program with Japan or South Korea with our submariners embedded with their submarine crews? If not, I suggest we have one to provide our Navy with more insight and knowledge of the capabilities of conventional submarines. If we're not willing to have our own conventional subs, we ought to do more than just ASW exercises with our allies.

    4. That's a very good idea. It could also be applied to Burke ASW crew. Letting them see the ASW fight from inside a sub ought to give them some insight into the sub's tactics.

  4. I there a possibility that larger exercises are conducted in secret (i.e. without media coverage)?

  5. Anyone see this it looks like new reporting on the Fitzgerald


    Maybe the navy needs more sailing lessons and more commanders flat out fired (and the Admirals who failed to fire them as well) before trying a real big training exercise

    1. I saw that when the article appeared and I considered doing a post but what is there to say that I haven't already said, over and over? It would just be repetitive. If there's some new aspect you think I should address, let me know.

    2. I guess the more I poke around... Its the failure rate on the basic test scores. I have seen a more than few comments on Coast Guard and Merchant Marine sites pointing out 90% is consider the pass fail grade point for that kind of test (those that noticed the story).

      But consider nobody scored a passing grade of 85% percent that is typically required to get your driver license. Beyond that multiple officers excused themselves.

      It seems to me this is congressional hearing material and significant news that should not be just buried in a few topical web sites and military news. I am starting to think maybe nobody on the ship ever took the test without notes or cheat sheet.

  6. From the bottom of the article

    "About three weeks after the ACX Crystal disaster, Fort’s investigators sprang a rules of the road pop quiz on Fitz’s officers.

    It didn’t go well. The 22 who took the test averaged a score of 59 percent, Fort wrote.

    “Only 3 of 22 Officers achieved a score over 80%,” he added, with seven officers scoring below 50 percent.

    The same exam was administered to the wardroom of another unnamed destroyer as a control group, and those officers scored similarly dismal marks.

    The XO Babbitt, Coppock and two other officers refused to take the test, according to the report."

    Maybe Navy rules are different but in my experience 59% is a fail - you should have taken the incomplete. Only 3 scores over 80%. That looks like the grades for a college football team w/o their minders on the English 101 test.

  7. Yeah, saw that report yesterday. It's really bad. How can USN Leaders say with straight face we are ready to fight and win against a peer when so many can't score above 50% on a test they should ace? How well can they operate AEGIS?!? Forget operating ASW gear, they can't navigate!

    1. So true.... Navigation shouldnt ever be a "lost art"!!! I read thru the report and its disgraceful... The level of acceptable incompetence at all levels is unreal... I love the ideas that cross this blog. Ship plans, fleet structure, etc..., But if we dont fix our competency issues, we might as well have an all LCS Navy!!!

  8. I believe that in the UK RN submarine commanders usually end up as drivers of ASW frigates, that seems to have been a normal process.(They can also end up as fleet commanders that involve air and amphibious operations).
    I don't know if it is still the case, it does seem rather sensible.
    Does any other navy utilise this pool of appropriate skill in this way?


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