Wednesday, April 8, 2020

The Battle Of Lepanto (1571)

We’ve examined some historical naval battles and studied the lessons they provide.  It’s been striking to realize that even though the technology has substantially changed over the years, the lessons appear timeless. 

Today, we’re going to go even further back in naval history and look at a battle from the time of rowed galleys and the introduction of naval artillery, the Battle of Lepanto on 7-Oct-1571.(1, 2)  The battle was fought between the Christian Holy League alliance and the Ottoman Empire and occurred just west of Lepanto, Greece. 

As we go further back in history, drawing lessons is a challenge due to the lack of detailed knowledge about the battle.  For example, without some understanding of the battle plans of the commanders (their intent) and a detailed accounting of the battle itself, it’s very difficult to draw conclusions and formulate lessons.  Still, we’ll take a look and see what, if anything, we can learn.

The Holy League fleet, under the Spanish Don John of Austria, had been assembled to confront the Ottoman threat to the eastern Mediterranean and had sailed eastward from Sicily.  The fleet consisted of 206 galleys and 6 galleasses (large galleys with substantial artillery).  Manpower consisted of 40,000 sailors and oarsmen with 20,000 combat troops.

The Holy League fleet was an alliance/assembly of several countries/factions including the Spanish Empire, the Republic of Venice, the Genoese fleet, the Papal States, the Order of Saint Stephen and the Grand Duchy of Tuscany, the Duchy of Savoy, and the Knights of Malta.  Don John’s control was less than ironclad and required a great deal of negotiation and cumbersome consensus to act.

The Ottoman fleet, under Ali Pasha, had sailed west from Lepanto to intercept the Holy League fleet.  The fleet consisted of 222 war galleys and 56 galliots (a small, half oar/half sail vessel with several small caliber cannons).  Manpower consisted of 13,000 sailors and 37,000 oarsmen, mostly slaves (many captured Christians) with 34,000 combat troops including 10,000 Janissaries.

Example Of A Galley

While both sides intended to confront the other, the location and timing of the engagement was somewhat of an accident in the sense that the two fleets stumbled across each other rather than engaging in a scouted and planned meeting.  The Ottoman fleet had a potential initial advantage in that the Christians were spotted by black-painted ‘stealth’ spy ships from the Ottoman fleet who reported that the Christian fleet would be no match for the Ottoman fleet.  So, the Ottoman’s secured an initial advantage through scouting but wasted it by incorrectly interpreting the ‘data’.

At the onset of the battle, both fleets were arrayed in mirror formations of three groups across, a center, right, and left.  As they advanced and met, the Ottoman right tried to turn the Christian left flank but were pinned against the nearby shore with many ships being abandoned.  Thus, the Christian left group secured its localized victory.

Lepanto Battle Formations

The opposing fleet commanders, in the center, met in a battle of pure attrition which the Christians eventually won.  There is some suggestion that shipboard artillery played a major role but the reports are far from definitive on the point.

On the Christian right, commanded by Genoese Admiral Giovanni Andrea Doria, who had been a reluctant participant and vocal critic of the decision to engage, the Christian group was slow to take position and wound up moving far to the right, away from battle, which allowed the Ottoman left group to flank the Christian center for a time.  Doria eventually returned which solidified the Christian center.  Doria’s actions and reluctance to engage were heavily questioned after the battle and many of his ship captains were angered by his actions.

The final result was a major victory for the Christians with the Ottoman fleet losing 170 ships, 33,000 dead, and 10,000 captured along with 10,000 Christian slaves freed against 7,500 dead for the Christians.  Although clearly a major defeat for the Ottoman Empire, the Empire was able to quickly rebuild its fleet.  Within six months, 250 new ships were built including 150 galleys and 8 galleasses and the new fleet resumed action.  Further, the Holy League failed to capitalize on their victory and regained no territory.

Painting of the Battle of Lepanto

So, what lessons can we learn from an engagement between rowed vessels that amounted to a land battle carried out on floating platforms?

Scouting.  The Christians stumbled into the battle while the Ottoman fleet secured an initial advantage but badly misinterpreted their scouting ‘data’.  Even the Ottoman scout ships, while attaining the initial contact, were so close to the main fleet – due to communication distance limitations – that there was little time for pre-battle maneuvering or preparation even if they had correctly assessed the Christian fleet. 

The lack of warning (scouting) meant that one side or the other could have been at a potential huge disadvantage, numerically.  As it turned out, the sides were evenly matched but if either side had been somewhat understrength compared to their opponent, it could have been a disaster - well, it was anyway but at least they began the battle on pretty even terms.  The importance of scouting and knowledge of the enemy’s location and strength is a timeless lesson.

Closely related to scouting is communications.  It does no good to scout but be unable to communicate the findings back to command.  This is what limited the ‘reach’ of the Ottoman scout ships.  While ancient scouting was hindered by the lack of communications distance, modern scouting is likely to be equally challenged to communicate their findings due to the electronic warfare impact – jamming, disruption, cyber attacks, loss of satellite relays, etc.  It will do no good to penetrate into enemy territory, spot the enemy, and then be unable to successfully transmit the data.

Scouting is not just limited by communication range but also by accurate interpretation of what is seen/sensed.  Inaccurate scouting reports have been a constant throughout the history of warfare on land or sea.  The use of electronic sensors is not going to magically solve the problem.  There will always be conflicting reports, incomplete reports, inaccurate reports, and ambiguous reports.  A frustrated police officer once remarked to me that the only thing worse than no eye witness to a crime was an eye witness because their reports are invariably wrong and send the police off on many wild goose chases.  So it goes with scouting.  Inaccurate scouting reports can lead a commander to draw the wrong conclusions and make wrong decisions.

‘Maneuver Warfare’.  Lepanto was a land battle fought on water - no deception and little maneuver.  Both sides simply merged and engaged in pure attrition combat.  Beyond rudimentary flanking attempts, there was no effort to employ maneuver to attain localized superiority and the results showed it in the casualty figures.  It was pure attrition warfare. 

This is an area that modern navies seem to have forgotten or ignored.  I’m aware of no exercises or wargames involving naval maneuver warfare.  Some of the classic Guadalcanal naval battles should be intently studied by modern commanders to understand squadron and fleet level maneuver and the guiding principles must be practiced.  Exercises such as RIMPAC are nearly worthless as far as exercising and maneuvering on squadron and fleet levels.

Allies.  The Christian fleet was an impressive coalition but was hampered and hamstrung by allies with differing agendas.  The Christian fleet was betrayed by their right flank which refused to engage because the commander of that group had a different agenda, priorities, and objectives.  This phenomenon of unreliable allies has repeated itself throughout history.  Recall the extensive efforts and disagreements among the allies in WWII?  This same weakness applies today.  We’ve repeatedly seen supposed allies deny us overflight and basing use during operations because of differing agendas.  We’ve seen ships we’ve trained and integrated into a carrier group pull out when the time for action came because their country had a different agenda.  And so on. 

Production.  One of the most striking aspects of the Battle of Lepanto was the fact that despite losing 170 ships out of 280 or so, the Ottoman fleet was rebuilt, and a bit more, within six months.  The value of cheap, easily produced vessels is glaringly obvious.  Attrition will occur in naval battles and the ability to rebuild in a timely manner is critical.  The US Navy lost many ships during the first year or so of WWII but we were able to rebuild and replace those losses within a very short time.  We have completely forgotten that lesson today.  Modern ships are so complex that build times even for smaller ships require several years.  While we might speed that up a bit in a war, there is no way to build a modern ship in any useful time frame to deal with attrition.  We absolutely must change our approach to ship design and ship construction.

Unity of Command.  The Holy League was a barely held-together assembly of countries/factions, each with their own commander, motivations, and objectives.  The fleet required a consensus to act.  We saw this just recently when the Spanish frigate left the Lincoln carrier group at a moment of heightened tension with Iran.  The lesson is obvious.  Once put to sea, there can be only one commander and his authority must be absolute.  It is better to not have allies than to have allies that are unreliable.

Well, how about that?  Even for a battle between fleets of rowed galleys we can identify lessons that are applicable today.  Apparently, there are lessons that are timeless and independent of the level of technology.  We ignore these lessons at our own peril.


(1)Wiki, “Battle of Lepanto”,


  1. you appear to prefer naval history to recent events like the former secnav flying to guam to bark at the carrier's skipper (removed and sick with the virus)

    1. I pay attention to all naval events and I post when I can offer some value-added analysis. Feel free to offer your thoughts on the SecNav situation as long as you avoid politics.

    2. well first of all how came hundred plus sailors on board of a supercarrier became infected in march while everyone watching tv would've known about the virus since january huh

    3. You're going to have to be a bit clearer. Are you suggesting that the Navy is to blame for allowing the infection to occur? That seems a bit unreasonable, if that's what's bothering you. Ships put into port all the time and people are constantly coming and going from the ship. To expect no infection is a bit unrealistic and once it starts, it spreads like wildfire through a crowded, cramped ship. Submarines experience this phenomenon at the start of every cruise.

      The other aspect of this is that the rate of serious symptoms among under-30 year olds, which is the bulk of the crew, is very low - almost non-existent - so an infected crew is nothing more than a minor inconvenience.

      Short of having the carrier steam around in circles, never touching land, there's no way to prevent infection. Even if you did that, the moment the carrier did, eventually, return to port they'd be exposed and the infection would begin then.

      I'm really not sure where you're going with this. You seem upset about something but I'm not sure what, exactly, it is. Try explaining it again. I'm happy to listen and discuss.

    4. Our current hospital ships are optimized for treating wound casualties as opposed to dealing with diseases. Having another two specifically optimized for disease treatment and quarantine might be useful. In other situations it should be able to flex for trauma patients.

    5. Not going to go into politics and I brought it up recently about how I thought this virus is showing some problems with US forces, even military is ill prepared and slow reacting BUT more importantly for warships, we have a problem of how to deal with a virus onboard. We have supposedly NBC protections but this virus pretty much got onboard and took out a carrier! I'm not a conspiracy theorist, not saying China did it on purpose, not saying that, I'm saying the virus is almost like a dry run of what we could face one day for real or in a somewhat different form. It's an enemy that has stealth, quantity and tough to kill. There's a bunch of vulnerabilities being exposed by Covid, we should draw some lessons...Dutch, Russians and French SSNs have encountered problems, I'm sure other countries are experiencing difficulties with their military.

    6. " took out a carrier!"

      No. No, it didn't. WE took out a carrier voluntarily. This virus has an almost non-effect on people <30 yrs old. We could have an entire carrier crewed by people with active virus and they'd still be able to operate just fine. Worst case, some of the crew would have low grade fevers (<101 deg). I played a high school basketball game with a low grade fever!

      In this case, the carrier had one or two hundred cases out of a crew of 4500 or so. That's hardly 'taking out' a carrier. The Captain either didn't understand the medical aspects of this or he just panicked and acted stupidly. If the former is true, I fault the Navy for not educating and supporting him with actual information. If the latter is true then he isn't fit for command.

      "We have supposedly NBC protections but this virus pretty much got onboard"

      It got onboard because we weren't trying to stop it. The ship's NBC is designed to stop a threat being deployed against it at sea. We brought the virus aboard through our own crew members coming and going from the ship with no hard quarantine in place. It's like a cold or flu getting on board - it's gonna happen short of a quarantine.

      Every nuclear sub that puts to sea for a deployment goes through a sick period for a couple weeks because any illness that anyone has will get transmitted to everyone else in the close confines of the sub. It's just an accepted part of the job. You put up with some crew illness for a couple weeks and then you're fine for the rest of the cruise.

      In the case of the carrier, if the virus had gone through the crew, few would have had any significant symptoms and in a few weeks it would be over.

    7. "No. No, it didn't. WE took out a carrier voluntarily. This virus has an almost non-effect on people <30 yrs old"

      That is not completely clear yet. The study is many cases reliant of china and their number are suspect.

      We have no anti body evidence of any note are you immune for a few weeks or a year or more. Also of course ts not just the death rate but the rate requiring ICU and that age rage is much larger but it an under 30 is more likely to pull through. Deaths of otherwise health ICU works under 30 point the repeated exposure can more likely percentages of death. For the individual. but again we need really good data out of China and I suppose Italy if they can compile it and are honest Italy I imagine so China not so much.

    8. "That is not completely clear yet."

      It's quite clear. Here's statistics on death rates as reported by the CDC:

      0-19 yrs = 0%
      20-44 yrs = 0.1%
      45-54 yrs = 0.5%

      and so on.

      Among the age group that makes up the bulk of a carrier crew, there is almost no risk of death. Severity of symptoms follows death rate statistics as they relate to age. Again, for the carrier crew age groups the infection produces mild symptoms, at worst, with low grade fever that lasts 4-5 days being the common complaint.

      In the carrier crew age group this virus is no more than an annoyance. If you care to dispute it, you'll have to talk to the CDC.

    9. Again that is deaths out of infections irrespective of treatment. Is that US data with appalling testing or China where I don't trust it? I would appreciate the CDC report link you are using.


      Something to point out, hospitalization rate for 20-44 yrs old is 20%

    11. Re ComNavOpsApril 8, 2020 at 1:28 PM

      You're going to have to be a bit clearer ... etc.:

      I wouldn't have thought to be possible for the usn to get a supercarrier sidelined in april by ignoring the virus for three months; now you: had someone told you this in, say, february, what would've been your reaction?

    12. " hospitalization rate for 20-44 yrs old is 20%"

      Which doesn't apply to a carrier crew. The hospitalizations in that age group are almost exclusively due to underlying medical conditions like asthma or diabetes. Such conditions would preclude service on a carrier. So, with a crew with no underlying medical conditions the hospitalization rate would be far lower, approaching non-existent.

      Further, the hospitalization and death rates are significantly overreported due to lack of widespread testing. The vase majority of people in that age group either show no symptoms or very mild symptoms and don't get tested. Thus, the infection rates should be much higher and the death/hospitalization rates much lower.

      As I said, for a carrier crew the virus is a nuisance, not a serious medical problem.

    13. "had someone told you this in, say, february, what would've been your reaction?"

      Are you reading the comments? I've explained that the carrier wasn't sidelined - we voluntarily and unnecessarily sidelined it. I've explained that the virus is no threat to a carrier crew. Reread the comments and let me know if you have any questions.

    14. Most of the available numbers are not reliable because they are not a percentage of the number of people that are infected, but expressed as a percentage of number of people who tested positive. The two may seem the same but they are not. The second adds a condition that skews the results, namely the choice of who to test and when.

      Most countries do not test the population at large but only those showing symptoms, and in some, like here in the Netherlands, only when you show serious symptoms. This is why the mortality rate looks relatively high here. We almost exclusively test those who are already ill!

      The best statistical data looks to be coming from Germany for now. They are one of the few countries that has been conducting widespread tests among the overall population. Their mortality rate is very low (0.05%, which is comparable to a mild flu season) with equally low rates of hospitalisation in general and ICU care in particular.

      There is another factor to consider which is relevant to the topic of the virus on naval ships. Not only are younger people far less likely to suffer serious consequences when infected, those of a younger age that do get seriously sick, are nearly all obese. In dutch ICU's, 90%+ of patients are obese. Similar numbers are coming out of other European countries. So what percentage of US sailors is at risk from being obese?

      Furthermore, a recent statistical analysis by a german scientist (who works at a US university I believe, can't recall where exactly i read this) showed that countries which did not have an extensive campaign in the past to vaccinate against TB (tuberculosis), using a specific vaccine, have infection and mortality rates that are ten times as high as those of countries that did. Note that Italy and the US did not have such a campaign while Germany and China did. So numbers which are true for one country may not be relevant for another (I know this somewhat contradicts what I said above, but the big problem here is that governments seem to be mostly reaction blindly to media hype instead of generating scientifically reliable data upon which to base their responses).

    15. Sorry, different anonymous regarding the European statistics and TB


    16. "Most of the available numbers are not reliable …"

      Excellent comment and spot on!

      The US reaction is purely media-frenzy/panic driven. We should have gone about our normal business, instead of destroying the economy, and just implemented targeted isolation for high risk people and locations.

    17. Re ComNavOpsApril 9, 2020 at 6:15 AM

      "had someone told you this in, say, february, what would've been your reaction?"

      Are you reading the comments? I've explained that the carrier wasn't sidelined - we voluntarily and unnecessarily sidelined it. I've explained that the virus is no threat to a carrier crew. Reread the comments and let me know if you have any questions.

      Q1: Would you say the same if some CVN-71 sailor(s) died in relation to the virus? (Y/N)
      Q2: Do you think the Pentagon should issue earlier instructions of the type described in ? (Y/N)

    18. People die every day from all manner of things. There is certainly the possibility of a death from the virus but from what we know of it there is no reason to react with extreme measures just because of the mere theoretical possibility of death. People die on flight decks every year due to accidents and negligence but we still conduct flight ops. People die in training flights every year but we still conduct them. People die from automobile accidents every day but we don't shut down the roads. Life has a certain degree of risk. You do what you REASONABLY can to minimize it but then you get on with life and accept the risk. According to CDC, some 24,000 people in the US have died from the regular flue so far this flue season (and do so every year) and yet we haven't shut down the country and gone into isolation over it. I'll repeat, the carrier was never at risk for any significant medical problems.

      As far as testing and treatment procedures, we started out with little information and very limited supplies of test kits. We've modified our procedures as we've learned more and as tests have become more widely available. We can always nitpick in hindsight but I have no problem with the military's actions thus far especially given that the military is far less at risk than the general population.

      You seem to have some grievance against the military's handling of the situation. Either spell it out or move on.

    19. According to this morning news cycle, the USS Roosevelt currently stands at 416 confirmed infected and has had its first sailor sent to the ICU.

      I agree with you, this isn't the Spanish flu. I disagree with you however, that this is just the flu.

      We're learning new things every day about this virus. We need to flexible with our responses to it, preferably be over-cautious about it.

      Litterally, if everyone had PPE and started be over-cautious sooner, this would have been done with minimal damage.

      Instead, here we are...

    20. "Litterally, if everyone had PPE and started be over-cautious sooner, this would have been done with minimal damage."

      No, that's not how a virus works. Had we gone into total isolation from day one, we'd only have delayed the inevitable. Sooner or later you have to emerge from isolation (or die of starvation because no one has a job to earn money to buy food!) and when you do, the virus will start right back up. It's not possible to 100% eliminate a disease from the population. Look at things like measles and chicken pox that we thought we had eradicated and yet they're back. So, isolation only prolongs the inevitable. The only good thing isolation does is spread out the impact which might allow the medical community to deal with it without being overwhelmed.

      We've had 24,000 deaths from the regular flu this season and that's fairly typical every year. So, do yo propose going into total isolation every year for the flu? If not, why the special reaction to the Coronavirus?

    21. "We've had 24,000 deaths from the regular flu this season and that's fairly typical every year. So, do yo propose going into total isolation every year for the flu? If not, why the special reaction to the Coronavirus?"

      Cause 24k in year versus 15k in less then a month is big difference. This not the flu, when we first discussed this on march 17th, we were at 100 dead...

      My comment about being over-cautious and wearing PPE was not about isolation. It was about the CDC and the WHO actively saying false information such as "masks make this worse" and "COVID19" dosen't spread person-to-person. My comment means dont "do Mardi gras" or "lick subway handles."

      Furthermore, why are we still referencing China's data? They are not to be trusted.

    22. Re ComNavOpsApril 9, 2020 at 7:55 AM

      first part "People [...] problems."

      Q: Do you consider US deaths in April from the COVID-19 (about twelve thousand) preventable? (Y/N)

      second part "As [...] population."

      Q: Do you think the Office of Naval Intelligence (with the CIA feed) did a good job this year? (Y/N)

      third part "You [...] on."

      Q: How big a number of infected US troops you'd consider as disturbing (as of now it's about one thousand)?

    23. Is there a point you wish to make? I've already explained the situation and I'm not going to answer an endless string of repetitive questions. Make your point, if you have one.

    24. Re ComNavOpsApril 9, 2020 at 10:14 AM

      My point is in your blog you've been "pounding" USN Admirals for years, but now you don't see an inability of several institutions to prepare for pandemics (plus you don't seem to appreciate consequences of the pandemics: significant number of sick military personnel and of dead civilians; economic damage to affect the Pentagon's budget)

    25. When did I ever say that the US military has properly prepared for a pandemic?! Never! They are woefully unprepared. The saving grace is that this is not a terribly serious illness for military age personnel in better health than the population at large. If the entire military got magically sick today, they'd be perfectly healthy in 1-2 weeks with almost no deaths and very little serious illness. This virus is heavily skewed against the elderly and those with underlying medical conditions. The military has relatively little of either. In fact, those most at risk are the flag ranks due to their age. The crews and troops are almost completely safe.

      If you want to criticize me, make sure it's over something I've actually said. Nothing irritates me more than criticism over something I did not say. Go back and reread the comments.

      As pandemics go, this is nothing. Research the 1918 Spanish Flu to see what a serious pandemic is.

      So far, the only thing you've said that has an ounce of value is your note about economic damage affecting the Pentagon's budget and that is a great observation. I'll give you complete recognition and credit on that one! The future impact of the trillions of dollars we're spending in stimulus packages alone has the potential to wreak havoc on the military budget in future years if Congress attempts to make compensatory cuts in future budgets. That is an absolutely tremendous point. On the other hand, Congress may well continue funding the military to the same levels and the Pentagon budget may go unaffected. We'll have to wait and see.

    26. The use of personal protective equipment is not as effective a control measure as it would seem, especially in a confined environment like a ship/cruise ship. PPE cannot be worn while sleeping and eating without great difficulty and the PPE has to be designed to allow it. This virus seems to have some droplet transmission but also fomite transmission (picking up the virus from objects). The virus is stable on surfaces for days and without continuous high level decontamination of all surfaces on the ship and high levels of air exchange, transmission of the virus is likely. Just eating in the galley likely would spread the virus on the ship.

      The individuals that have a heightened immune response to the virus seem to be the most at risk.
      "The cytokine release syndrome (CRS) of severe COVID-19 and Interleukin-6 receptor (IL-6R) antagonist Tocilizumab may be the key to reduce the mortality."
      We are currently testing for SARs-Cov2 and Interleukin-6 in most of our hospitalized patients to stratify them based on their risk of developing acute respiratory distress syndrome. Patients with high levels of Interleukin-6 seem to get into trouble quickly.

      The easiest way for ships to mitigate the risk is with sanitation of surfaces and the air with Far UVC radiation. Ultraviolet radiation in the 207 nm to 222nm range is lethal to viruses and bacteria but has been shown to be harmless to humans since the light is rapidly absorbed by the stratum corneum layer of the skin. The stratum corneum layer is dead skin so there is no risk of cancer formation or sun burn. Infected sailors could be isolated with minimal transmission to other sailors since the air and surfaces would be continuously sterilized. The regulations about UV radiation exposure have not caught up with the science unfortunately. This technology could be used in all public areas, mass transit, and planes but the fear of radiation exposure will hamper its wide spread use.

    27. Stories about the virus surviving on surfaces are just that, stories based on anecdotal reports, not scientific evidence. Those anecdotal reports are most likely the result of contaminated samples or faulty procedures.

      In Germany houses of infected patients have been thoroughly searched and tested as part of an actual scientific research into exactly this, and in an environment that should have been teeming with the virus, they have, despite their best efforts, not been able to find a single instance where the virus survived on a surface. Their conclusion is that the virus can NOT survive for any significant amount of time outside a host.


    28. "The easiest way for ships to mitigate the risk"

      Good contribution. Thanks!

    29. "Stories about the virus surviving on surfaces are just that, stories based on anecdotal reports, not scientific evidence."

      Below is a link to a literature review study of 23 studies of coronavirus and similar viruses. They note survival periods of multiple days. If you would like to present a link to the study you refer to, it would be a good contrary study for consideration.

      Virus Survival

    30. That refers to studies done regarding other (corona)viruses, not the current one, and one cannot assume that the same results apply. As far as I'm aware this new one has not yet been definitely isolated and identified so no tests using the virus itself can be done.
      The german team set out to verify the survival of the virus of surfaces (among other things) by looking for the virus in places where there should be a lot of it.

      The research I referred has not yet been published as it is still ongoing. The lead researcher commented on findings so far on german television and in other media. Here is the link to the article the Telegraph:

      Note that they were not setting out to prove that the virus could not survive on surfaces, but were looking at for hard evidence on how long it could, to get a clearer picture on how easily the virus spreads (or not) by looking at places where they expected to find a lot of it (houses of infected people).


    31. It would be quite unusual for this particular strain of coronavirus to have completely different survival characteristics than similar, closely related ones. It's theoretically possible but highly unlikely. It's more likely that the researchers you mention failed to find/culture/identify the viruses even though present. As you suggest, a proper study would have to involve detecting purposely placed viruses on surfaces just to prove that they could even do so.

      A finding that this virus cannot survive for even moments in a household would be, frankly, stunning and completely at odds with the observed contamination/infection rates.

      Note, I have no 'stake' in whether the virus can or cannot survive on surfaces. My interest is strictly academic and my analysis of the scanty information on the subject strongly suggests that your researchers are wrong as does the observed infection/transmission rates.

      That said, I very much hope your researchers are correct!

    32. actual scientific evidence--- From the New England Journal of Medicine
      "Aerosol and Surface Stability of SARS-CoV-2 as Compared with SARS-CoV-1"
      The SARS-CoV-2 virus is similar to SARS-CoV-1.
      The most common route of transmission is likely droplet/aerosol transmission. Fomite and fecal contamination have not been excluded as routes of transmission but are likely much less common.

    33. "A finding that this virus cannot survive for even moments in a household would be, frankly, stunning and completely at odds with the observed contamination/infection rates."

      On the contrary, it would match the actual observed infection rates and not the hyped ones. The R0 of the virus is being gradually reduced and is now thought be between 2.0 and 2.5, which is not at odds with a virus spread through an exchange of bodily fluids (and which can survive for only a short duration in those fluids outside a body). As the article mentioned, a ski resort in Austria known for its parties where glasses were commonly shared during drinking games, is suspected as being one of the main outbreak centres in Europe.

      I have great respect for the overall thoroughness and attention to detail of german scientific research as for their tendency to downplay and nuance results. These researchers didn't just swab a few surfaces in search of a lucky hit. If they say there wasn't a virus present, I believe them.

      A far more likely problem than an error on their part lies with the covid-19 test. As I understand it, it doesn't test for the virus nor for antibodies made in response, but it looks for a sequence of genetic material in the blood, which is assumed to derive from the presence of the virus. It's possible this material does not survive on surfaces, where the virus itself might. On the other hand, this does not explain how those other (anecdotal) cases did find the virus on surfaces (they'd be using the same tests); unless off course it was those tests that were contaminated, which given the circumstances is more likely than the german researchers being at fault.

      What to me is most interesting about this german study, is that Germany seems to be the only major country where a genuine and scientifically sound effort is being made OPENLY to generate accurate and reliable data on what exactly we are dealing.

      Personally I find it beyond believe that no blind studies have yet been done (or at least finalised and published) all over the world on the actual presence and spread of this virus. It amazes me to see how real science seems to have been forced into the backseat during this entire crisis.

      A serious question for you, given that the germans have done the most widespread testing and their data looks to be the most reliable, how often are the German infection, mortality and hospitalisation rates mentioned in US media as a measuring stick for the danger of the virus, compared to say, the Italian numbers, (who have publicly stated that their number of COVID-19 deaths includes literally everyone who died and tested positive, irrespective of whether or not they had symptoms or it was a contributing factor to cause of death; and official advisor (and expert) to the Italian ministry of health said that at most just 12% of the official number actually died of the virus).


    34. "actual scientific evidence-"

      No, it isn't. It's a study into SARS, not this virus, so by definition it is NOT scientific evidence of the survivability of COVID-19 on surfaces. While viruses may be similar, it is exactly where they are NOT the same that makes all the difference between them!


    35. SARS-CoV-2 is the name of the virus that causes Covid-19 infection.
      SARS-CoV-2 = virus
      Covid-19 = disease

    36. Human Immunodeficiency Virus= virus
      Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome= disease.

    37. Late to the party, so if I'm repeating anything anybody said before, I apologize.

      My understanding is that they made a several days port call in Vietnam before heading to Guam. In hindsight that may not have been the wisest move, but I don't think anybody knew it at the time.

      As for the captain, I give him an "A" for caring about his crew, but an "F" for judgement and following navy regulations and information security. And a captain with "F" in those areas should be relieved.

    38. According to today's USNI News story,

      "As of Thursday, USS Theodore Roosevelt crew have been tested for COVID-19, with 416 positive cases so far and 3,170 negative results, the Pentagon said in a Wednesday statement. Of those that have tested positive, 187 were symptomatic and 229 were asymptomatic."

      The story noted that one sailor was hospitalized.

      So, 55% of those infected had no symptoms. The remainder presumably have mild fevers though that was not stated in the article. That's not exactly a crippling epidemic. As I stated in previous comments, a young fit crew has little to fear from this virus. The rate of infection seems quite high but the severity of the illness seems quite low for this age/health group.

    39. As far as the actual effects of the virus have yet to be fully determined. What we do know,

      Most people who get it show no symptoms.
      People who are very old or have compromised immune systems are at risk most.
      Virus seems to kill a lot with Heat attacks as it will when bad stress the cardiovascular system as they fight it,
      Also seems to get into the upper lungs and if it goes bad will cause permanent damage if not death. Almost all people who have to go on a ventilator will die.
      People who stress themselves and their bodies (Heavy drinking, drug use etc) also regardless of age seem to run a risk of severe symptoms.

      So yea not a huge risk to a fleet ship filled with 18-35 yr olds mostly.

      Also they left the ship there for two reasons.

      1) Figure out what to do and how to get another carrier or entire CSG (have we changed the kind of irrelevant title again) to the at that time and still the Chinese are desperate to get something started and throw their weight around in the region needing something to take their peoples minds off their rather bad disease starting powers.

      2) They simply aren't used to reacting quickly most of our government isn't. Hell most modern corporations aren't.
      Organizations today tend to be run by Data. So things are planned in advance or not at all and when something goes wrong....well then they have to think on their feet which most people who think well on their feet in these organizations dont do well.

  2. Chalk me up as a vote for the study of classic naval warfare and the enduring lessons taught therein.

    1. History is always the place to start learning. For unfathomable reasons, the Navy refuses to do so, believing they know better than the lessons of history - lessons which were hard won and paid for in blood, over and over.

    2. There is a certain kind of idiotic yet widespread mentality that considers history worthless and outdated, which means not worth learning.

      After all, doesn't America have all this fancy new tech and shining gizmos that allowed great victories such as Afghanistan and Iraq?


    3. "Dumbasses"

      Just to clarify, the proper term is "Admirals" but I take your meaning! :)

    4. Love this blog. :)

  3. Speaking of worthless 'excercises':

    I dont see much realistic value in flying a few 1950s & 70s planes at a modern carrier other than to validate that systems are functioning at a basic level. Further demonstration that unrealistic wargaming produces unrealistic conclusions & there doesn't seem to be (from available information) any official recognition that this does not constitute a real scenario.

  4. Almost 500 years later, we could end up with a Lepanto with all our fancy tech: USN putting all it's eggs into UAVs being shot down on first or second day of the war, lose some satellites on both sides, USN pitiful performance at basic maneuvers and navigation,etc and watch Chinese and USN just stumble around in the dark! At that point, whoever is in charge might go for basic simple tactics with little to no comms and general idea that everyone can follow probably wins the day!

    Awesome write up CNO!!!!

  5. "Unity of Command"

    A good counter example would be The Persian wars where Xerxes edge was so vast in ships and money pay for them defeat was impossible (and I mean the realistic numbers Persia had not the vastly inflated ones). But the Greeks had a unified command nominally Spartan at sea but they recognized they had no ideal how to run ships but thay had the authority (moral or legal or military)* to hold the alliance together and give effective overall command to Themistocles. Don't believe too much of the rancor in the Greek side from Herodotus it has the look of stuff the Athenians spun for him on the run up to the peloponnesian war when the old war alliance was broken. On the water however they the showed a unified command and force and benefited.

    Although that has its limits I mean if on the day the Persians backed water and decided it was a trap... and Themistocles order a reckless charge out of the prepared spot for victory well I think the group of other leaders would be right stand pat.

    * consider Aigina flirtation with leaving the Greek side got a Spartan garrison and hostages taken.

  6. Dale - They simulate sub sonic missiles mostly. Kath - That war has the only known female soldier (admiral) in ancient history - Note she was a survivor.

  7. Here's a song to "let it be" by a submariner I have been in resuscitation on christmas eve after 3 months of bushfire smoke. The rain came, the fires went out after months, the drought seemed to have broken, and straight into Coronavirus. Now I'm almost a prisoner, only allowed out for shopping and exercise.

    1. I'm sorry to hear that. Best wishes to you! Hang in there. This, too, shall pass!

      In the meantime, maybe think about authoring a guest post for the blog? Perhaps there's a particular topic that you'd like to expound on?

    2. "They simulate sub sonic missiles mostly."

      And they do a very poor job of it. About the only thing they can simulate is the speed. Beyond that, the shape, radar signature, IR signature, maneuverability, and EO signature are completely different from any missile. Further, a missile's onboard ECM, emissions, attack profile, and terminal maneuvers must be simulated in order to be of any value. While it might be possible to install electronic devices that could simulate those aspects (assuming we even know what they are!) I'm unaware of that having been done. Do you have any information about the degree of fidelity of the simulation by these aircraft?

  8. Another lesson to be learned:

    None of the christian nations could defeat the ottomans on their own. They needed to work together. The leadership failed to acknowledge though that in an alliance, interests never fully align, which almost spelled disaster.

    The lesson here is that when you do need your allies to defeat an enemy, you cannot simply impose your views and interests just because you provide the lion's share of the forces. You need to make room for those of your allies, which means you'll need to compromise or risk disaster. In an alliance, diplomatic skills are crucial.


    1. "In an alliance, diplomatic skills are crucial."

      While true, the flip side is that an alliance that depends on consensus is quite likely to be hamstrung by the differing agendas and may then fight at a disadvantage. For example, the coalition that was formed to conduct the Kosovo conflict had so many differing agendas that positive, forceful military action was rendered nearly ineffective and military objectives were subordinated to political ones. Only overwhelming superiority allowed a positive outcome to the extent that it was a positive outcome. Target lists had to be scrubbed through every member of the coalition. That's no way to fight a war!

      So, yes, diplomacy is needed to form and sustain a coalition but, at some point, a clear objective has to be reached and a single leader has to be appointed. WWII demonstrated this clearly. The Allies disagreed deeply about overall strategies but were able to come to a consensus and then turn the execution over to a supreme commander who had the authority to impose his commands.

    2. "and a single leader has to be appointed."

      That's not the issue. The issue isn't whether there's a leader or not, the issue is whether that leader (be it a person or country) is capable of acting in the interests of the alliance (meaning all its members and according to the reached compromise) or defaults to trying to achieve the goals of his own nation first and those of the alliance as a distant second.

      Interesting that you mentioned the Kosovo war because it is indeed the perfect example on how not to conduct operations as an alliance, but not for the reasons you mentioned. The Kosovo war is where NATO effectively died (yes it did, since then it's been going through the motions) because of how the US utterly betrayed its allies.

      Yep. It was the US who betrayed its European allies, not the other way around. Prior to the start of the hostilities there was a huge difference of opinion between alliance members whether action should be taken at all and if so, to what degree and under which conditions. (Starting a war in Europe between European nations is anathema to Europeans).

      A compromise was reached. NATO would conduct limited airstrikes, only in the area of Kosovo itself and exclusively against purely military objectives (as in, actual military assets, nothing else). I followed these events closely back in the day. I saw our Dutch prime minister, the Belgian one, the German one and many others declare exactly this before the cameras and before their parliaments the day before operations started. Even under these limitations, the operation was controversial and faced widespread opposition both among the people and the parliaments in Europe. Grudgingly, this compromise was accepted.

      And then that very night, US forces, in name of NATO began a widespread bombing campaign throughout all of Yugoslavia/Serbia and against targets that were nowhere near military. The US, and I blame Clinton personally in particular, By tossing the compromise, for which the European leaders had to make great political sacrifices just by agreeing to the limited operations, just like that, as if it didn't exist, the US made fools and liars of just about every allied government leader.

      I saw those very same prime ministers and heads of state give statements the day after (it helps to be fluent in four languages), with pure anger and even hatred in their eyes, all directed against their so-called allies. I remember it vividly because I had never seen them like that before, and I had never before seen such displays of hostility directed at the US from European NATO leaders. Believe it or not, but this was the day that NATO effectively died, and this was the real reason why shortly after this, the US got so little military support from the rest of NATO after 9/11.

      No one in NATO trusts the US anymore. I'm sorry, but that's the truth. Once you've betrayed your allies, especially when done so blatantly, there's no going back.


    3. Whether thats true or not, it shows that alliances that have a military component have to give up much of the various political squabbles. They must unite around a military leader, who has the alliances forces at his disposal, and can focus soley on the mission and bring it to a quick decisive end. The concessions and politics have no place in a use-of-force scenario. Get in, crush bad guys, get out... Without politicians creating target lists. Thats how wars are lost or become quagmires, and lives are wasted.
      You bring another point. After living under the protective umbrella that the US provided for a half century plus, its past time to let the Europeans handle their own problems and provide their own defense. They can only be counted on to act in their own self interests, and cast aside their roles in NATO when it suits them, even condemning US actions that ultimately benefit them. For the paltry contributions the EU countries make in comparison, its frankly not worth the efforts of the US to continue being tied to them. NATO may or may not be dead... Either way, the US shouldnt be part of it anymore. When the last brick of the wall, and the last hammer n sickle was pulled down, we should have walked away. We didnt, but tomorrow works. Better late than never....

    4. And you miss the point entirely. You are basically saying that everyone should do what the US wants to and completely disregard their own interests. In an alliance, the appointed leader should NOT be (from) the biggest and most powerful nation, exactly because if he is, he will abuse his power at the detriment of the allies. And without the compromise you talk about so disdainfully, there would be no alliance at all. Concessions and politics are fundamental to use-of-force scenarios because any such scenario is and needs to be imbedded in them. Use-of-force by nations is never the goal by itself but a means to a political end. If you ignore that you end up with forever wars without an exit strategy. Ohh wait....

      And you seem to imply that it is our choice to have American troops here. It isn't. We don't need them and we don't want them (aside from a few, mostly very small, eastern European countries who have their own selfish reasons for wanting to host US troops, and which the US should not mistake for 'friends') but it is the US that refuses to leave. American forces in Europe serve primarily as a means of control of the NATO countries they are stationed in, and their bases as points of power projection for the US, not NATO.

      You are right. You should have walked away when the cold war ended, but you didn't. It was your choice to stay, just as it your choice today, not ours, to remain here. As I said above, you're not trustworthy (anymore) and that applies to your military as much as to the rest. When Trump talks about leaving or dissolving NATO, it is in part because he recognises it's already dead. An alliance without trust is no alliance at all.


    5. I don't mind a discussion of NATO but let's steer clear of the purely political. Let's also recognize that none of us speaks for all of the US or all of Europe. There are strong factions within the US that want the US in Europe and those that don't. Similarly, there are factions in Europe that want the US there and those that don't. Every time the possibility of drawdowns from Europe have been floated, the various countries affected have publicly urged the US to stay. The point is that there is no monolithic European opinion on this. There's lots of perspectives and opinions.

      So, feel free to discuss NATO but skip the pure politics and recognize the reality that there are a whole range of views.

    6. "In an alliance, the appointed leader should NOT be (from) the biggest and most powerful nation, exactly because if he is, he will abuse his power at the detriment of the allies."

      I wasnt suggesting that should be the case, and apologize if i gave that impression. While historically it was often that way, its not a mandate. As far as abusing smaller allies, that just suggests an automatic dislike/distrust of American leadership (Im assuming thats what you meant). When a commander brings 2,4,or 10+ times the combat formations into a scenario as his allies, there's a tendancy to NOT use them as much, due to doubts/lack of understanding of capabilities, communications difficulties, etc.
      Im not saying that NATO or the EU nations should defer their interests to the US. Im saying they should be more sensitive to them in consideration of the lopsided contributions we've made to their existence for so long, and while they physically and financially cant (wont?) contribute to the military alliance at our level, at least be a bit more supportive of them. But with the mindset that US troops are in EU countries to "control" them,as you put it, thats not likely.
      Im not an isolationist, but I dont see armor pouring through the Fulda Gap as likely, so Im all for leaving Europe. Its overdue. But if we're ever needed again, Im sure we will answer the call...

    7. "In an alliance, the appointed leader should NOT be (from) the biggest and most powerful nation, exactly because if he is, he will abuse his power at the detriment of the allies."

      That's a ridiculous statement, unsupported by much, if any, historical evidence. Quite the contrary, the alliance benefits greatly from the supreme leader being from the country contributing the bulk of the forces since he'll know their capabilities better.

      The military leader does not set the political objectives, the alliance's representatives do that. The military leader simply executes those objectives.

  9. NATO began as a bribe. At Bretton Woods the USA made the following offer to Western Europe--1) your economies are destroyed, so we will give you preferential entry into ours so you can sell the goods you produce and make money, and 2) your military forces are destroyed, so our navy will protect your trade routes so you can develop supply chains to support making those goods; in return, 3) you have to support us in the Cold War. NATO grew out of that bribe. It actually worked very well--Western Europe prospered, we added Japan and they prospered, the US prospered, and WWIII never happened. The problem is that it worked too well. When the Berlin Wall fell, that paradigm was immediately outdated. As R notes, we didn't come up with a new one. We still haven't. The other problem is that we let China in on the trade parts, but China never got around to part 3).

    Ross Perot said something in 1992 that I had been thinking for some time before that, "In the post-Cold-War world, economic power will be more important than military power." We don't seem to get that. China does. They have created spheres of influence around the Indian Ocean with infrastructure deals, without one Chinese soldier spieling a drop of blood, while we have been getting Americans killed and maimed fighting a steady stream of winless wars in the same region.

    We need a new paradigm. Any thoughts about what it should be?

    1. I substantially agree with your comments, however, there are a couple of points to bear in mind.

      "without one Chinese soldier spieling a drop of blood"

      China's economic spheres of influence have been created through bribery, intimidation, illegal acts, and immoral, unethical maneuvers. While the end result (territory without bloodshed) is achieved, the means are despicable and deplorable, at best. This is not a model to emulate. That said, if we could achieve the same ends using fair and ethical means that would be well worth the effort and, to be fair, we are attempting that. It's just that without the unethical means the process takes much longer and is far less certain.

      "while we have been getting Americans killed and maimed fighting a steady stream of winless wars in the same region."

      The wars have been winnable, just not using the approaches we've used.

      While I deplore the frequency with which the US jumps into small, local conflicts, I would also invite you to consider the state of the world if we hadn't. If we hadn't gotten into Afg and set the Taliban back (though not decisively finished) what would that region look like today? If we hadn't stepped into the ISIS mess, what would that region look like today? If we weren't containing Iran, what would that region look like today? If Sadaam Hussein hadn't been dethroned, what harm would he have caused in the region? And so on.

      Now, consider the big picture. If none of those things had happened, what would the entire Middle East look like today?

      I'm not at all claiming that the US has turned the Middle East into a shining beacon of democracy, freedom, and prosperity - we most certainly haven't! But, had none of those evil elements been stopped, what would we be looking at today? An unbridled Iran vigorously exporting terrorism and threatening everyone with nuclear weapons? A Taliban state looking to expand and committing mass murder as they do? ISIS controlling vast swaths of the region and committing mass murder on an unimaginable scale? An Iraq committed to conquering its neighbors? And so on.

      I'm just saying that we need to keep the bigger picture in mind as we evaluate our actions. Certainly, we need to be more selective about what conflicts we jump into and, without a doubt, we need to have better and more realistic end games in mind when do but to sit back and do nothing is to ensure that we will someday be fighting terrorism and dictators on our own shores.

      Consider the current example of South America. We're doing nothing about the many problems there and what's it getting us? We've got caravans of illegal immigrants (and criminals and terrorists) invading our country. We've got China moving to fill the vacuums left by our non-presence in South America. We've got terrorism taking root on the continent. Someday, we're going to be actively fighting on our southern border because we've opted not to get involved today.

      Frequent jumping into conflicts for little reason is not the right approach but neither is total isolationism.

    2. 'China's economic spheres of influence have been created through bribery, intimidation, illegal acts, and immoral, unethical maneuvers.'

      Sorry to say this but the USA could be easily accused of the same behaviour. Just look at the history of Vietnam, South and Central American nations, Iran, Indonesia. Its not like the US is squeaky clean. If we had a truly functioning international court (the US does not recognize the International court), you would find that many of the senior leaders in the USA would be in Jail as well. It is really is the pot calling the kettle black. Look at the support of the CIA in assassinations, disappearances and murder through out the world. Just have to look at the CIA involvement in Argentina and Chile to realise that the USA is no saint. In contrast China has not kidnapped and murdered people ..... yet.

      The problem is that the USA was seen as a beacon of democracy and truth in 1945. It has since lost its moral compass. Since then that vision for the US as an agent for good has evaporated and the trust is gone. China is simply filling that void. The US needs to become an ethical country again where human rights are respected everywhere if it is going to claw back the support of the world.

      Rather than worrying that you are losing an arms race and diplomatic race with China, ask yourself why you are losing that race. The US is a declining power for many reasons. The US has turned into a country that threatens rather than leading.

    3. "USA could be easily accused of the same behaviour."

      To some extent, yes. However, there is a key difference. China's actions are aimed at empire building. The US has no such aspirations and its actions are aimed at either self-defense or assistance to other countries. The US tends to get involved and then leave as opposed to China who is focused on staying and expanding. Though often awkward and failing, the US actions are intended to help the people of other countries whereas China's actions are intended to help China.

      We're straying into pure politics here so feel free to have a final say and then we'll shut this discussion down and get back to naval matters.

  10. Don't want to be OT but heads up to CNO a link that demonstrates the value of armor in a modern setting out of a Vietnam friendly fire indecent between US ships and some F-4s

    If you prefer I will attach this kind of thing to an old on topic post in the future not sure what etiquette you want.

    1. I don't do frequent Open Posts so bringing up an off topic subject from time to time is fine. Now, how about some analysis? What do you take from the article beyond the obvious statement about armor?

  11. OK

    One. It highlights how easy the fog battle overwhelms supposed connectivity and the current story about massively connected war fighting systems are probably crap

    Second. But for luck the Hobart was almost sunk by just a couple light missiles. So much for post war no armor design.

    Third. Sure a big hyper sonic missile would have sunk the Boston, but I think had the boats hypothetically had a modern defense kit (CIWS) and it intercepted the missile close and so the did Hobart two different things would have occurred. The Hobart would still massively impacted by the fall out and the Boston would likely still be in fighting shape.

    1. Gotta agree. Your point about the fog of battle overwhelming connectivity is especially pertinent! Despite the seeming obviousness of that observation, we're pushing ahead just as fast as we can towards total battlefield connectivity with no though whatsoever as to what happens when it inevitably fails - also, no actual experimentation to prove it can work in an ECM contested environment. Sheer lunacy!

  12. This comment has been removed by the author.

    1. (Edited) Hi, long-term reader. I'm a jaded/cynical physician, so I rarely have pertinent naval experience, but can chip in a few things here. There are so many interesting/challenging/scary things about our current situation relevant to points discussed above. Here are a few.

      1. Estimated case fatality rate during an epidemic is always (and arguably inevitably) over-estimated. True rate may be closer to 0.5% overall, and very low in young healthy naval crew.

      2. It's not the number of deaths that is a threat to society. For example, Italy may lose 20-24k citizens to influenza every winter. But it's the mode of death and suffering that is new and challenging. As we have seen, no government can ignore it, and all are (eventually) forced to act. This culture of action affects decisions made in specific circumstances (eg naval ships), even if they are different.

      3. We construct models (or algorithms, call them what you wish) to help us make decisions. They are constructed for the routine, so they work in routine situations. But we tend to forget they are just models, not reality. When the new occurs, we make false assumptions. For example, influenza has high transmission (per unit time) but a short incubation period (time to spread before people notice and isolate). Coronaviruses has less transmission but a longer incubation period. This means it forms more clusters and less sporadic spread. The relevant implication is that it is more insidious, but more vulnerable to quarantine. Our models to manage pandemic influenza were not optimized for pandemic coronavirus.

      4. Estimated "survival" of viruses depends greatly on humidity, how much reduction in viral count counts as "virus has gone (enough for our purposes)", the initial viral load (most important), whether the surface is continually refreshed with virus (eg in an ICU), and the surface you are measuring, as well as what bit of the virus you are looking for. The correct answer is the one that suits your particular situation. Disinfecting gear at your home requires a different "solution" than cleaning surfaces in a 24-hour facility.

    2. Good discussion. Glad you chimed in. Don't hesitate to wade in on other topics. The only requirement is common sense!

      Do you have any thoughts on the Navy's hospital ships as regards future combat? Numbers of ships? Usefulness in a combat setting? Reality of being parked 50-100 miles from, say, an amphibious assault?

      Any comment about our military biological warfare defensive preparations?

      Any thoughts on our preparedness to cope with the inevitable diseases that arise during war (dysentery, malaria, etc.)?


      Re "Usefulness in a combat setting?"

      A hospital ship is a large target. It seems a point of vulnerability, packed full of potential hostages and targets. We all yearn to protect our people in uniform, and especially the wounded. I too feel the urge to wrap them up safe and sound inside multiple amphibious warships, surrounded by escort ships.

      However, a dedicated hospital ship allows us to split the hospital function from the aviation, amphibious and warship functions. The hospital ship can sail in the other direction, and move around independently playing hard to get within V-22 range rather than LCAC range of the beach. If we feel the enemy is likely to respect the Geneva convention, we can paint it white and sail it about in it's designated box. A hospital ship gives us options that we can use or not as we feel. If we want to get creative we can pair it with a requisitioned container ship carrying some avgas in containers. This container ship buddy can refuel our helicopters, and in dire need can park itself up-threat as a decoy, as was the fate of the Atlantic Conveyor during the Falklands conflict, and allows us to stage our hospital ship even further away.

      While trying to read up about this subject, I have seen reference to a US Navy study suggesting that taking casualties straight to a level 3 hospital leads to less Death of Wounds than going to a level 2 facility (eg on a LPD) first.

      Just like an aircraft carrier, hospital facility capacity increases exponentially with size. Size matters.

      If our limiting factor is clinicians and operative theatres on the frontline, then each clinician is more productive if they are given more physical space to work in, and patients are brought to and from them like a conveyor belt.

      Layout matters. Arrival, Decontamination, Triage/Waiting, Operating Theatre/Treatment, Recovery, Repatriation/Return. Ideally right next to each other in a horizontal plane, but going up and down lifts is acceptable (and universal in hospitals of a certain size). Running down corridors pushing trolleys should only exist in old hospital TV shows.

      The efficiency that layout and space gives us is why I wince when I read proposals to use the LPD-17, Expeditionary Sea Base or even the Spearhead-class as hospital ship-replacements. I look at those designs and see restrictions rather than possibilities. The LPD-17 in particular looks like a lot of warship for very little useable internal volume. The ESB looks like an expensive and slower way of duplicating the long usable spaces of a commercial RO-RO design (or something similar) that speak to me of efficiency, if we can accept the increased vulnerability. I do like the thought of placing our wounded inside a 78,000 tonne converted oil tanker that looks fairly resistant to sinking, but cost-effectiveness is important.

    4. Continued.

      If we want to shift the compromise in favour of greater protection, we don't need open vehicle lanes, we can subdivide the decks all we like, double-hull and put on as much EW and point-defence as we want. We surely don't need the LPD-17 if we want to spend money on more protection.

      More space means more ability to handle Biological/Pandemic threats. Optimising any healthcare facility for isolation means monstrous compromises in other functions and cost. It's a massive trade-off, as isolation rooms use a lot of space and sanitation/utilities.

      However, given recent events all new land and sea-based medical facilities will probably have more isolation facilities than those that came before. The acceptable compromises will shift. This trend will favour larger facilities, and thus probably favour land-based hospitals, and larger at-sea hospital facilities where these are needed, whether in dedicated hospital ships or large warships.

      Physical distancing matters, as current events are showing. More space means more physical barriers between patients, more doors, more space for subdividing ventilation spaces, more filters, the stronger pumps those filters need, the bigger powerplants those pumps need, the crewspaces those powerplants need, and so on, and so forth.

      So at present I can see a trend away from on-board treatment on warships towards larger at-sea hospitals and hospital ships, and away from hospital ships towards land-based field hospitals. Whether this trend will end up with hospital ships being more favourable or less I cannot see. However, I believe that a dedicated large hospital ship or ships will still be valuable.

    5. Again, great discussion of the subject!

      You mention the V-22 as, presumably, an aerial ambulance. The V-22 requires quite a bit of room to land/take off from a ship as witnessed by the size of the flight decks on our amphibs! The current Navy hospital ships have a flight deck sized and spec'ed for a single helo. Whether a V-22 could operate safely from that is unknown.

  13. As a programmer and IT admin by profession what worries me is the sense of MBA thinking. Everything is great in the best possible situation and you get all these cost savings... But the reality is unless you stress the under crewed ships and all this connectivity to max you are walking into a self made trap. This can work for Walmart or even Amazon they are not expected to fight wars or face somebody jamming their chain of supply communications. I really do not think its good logic for the navy

    1. As a CPA/attorney who has done a bit of bankruptcy work, I can assure you that it doesn't always work for businesses that aren't engaged in fighting wars. Stress the systems, and gaps show up. This is one reason why I am totally in agreement with ComNavOps (who I think is more sensible that that other CNO) that we need more realistic training. If you don't train hard enough to identify the gaps, then you aren't ready for them when they occur.

      Example right now from the CV-19 problem. Nobody trains to handle those on a regular basis. So we don't know where the gaps are until the balloon goes up, and we respond ad hoc. If we had someone tasked with actual response, instead of just management and administration, and if they trained regularly on setting up mobile hospitals to treat viral epidemics, they would realize that they were having to simulate masks because there were no masks available, so somebody would have figured out pretty quickly that we need a bunch more masks and other PPE. But as long as the plans exist only on paper, we don't find out those things.

    2. "So we don't know where the gaps are until the balloon goes up, "

      Quite right! Here's an amusing story on the subject …

      I once worked for a large chemical company at a plant that had many buildings and production facilities and a total of a few thousand employees on site. Being a chemical company, we had a hazardous chemical spill response plan and one part of it was to quickly evacuate all the non-responders at the site in the event of a spill. Over the years, each building or group would dutifully practice evacuating by clearing their rooms and floors and then the employees would assemble outside the building whereupon, since it was just a drill, they were told that if the event were real they would get in their cars and leave but, because it was a drill, they would just stand there for a few minutes until the 'all clear' was given and they could return to their spaces. Each building or facility (a couple dozen or so) did this and would routinely report a flawless drill to the emergency coordinator.

      Sure enough, it eventually came to pass that a real spill occurred and the evacuation was ordered. Within a couple minutes a few thousand vehicles all simultaneously headed for the exit. Unfortunately, what no one had considered was that for security reasons there was only a single
      exit from the plant and even that exit had barriers that you had to curve back and forth through and even then the traffic flow was regulated by a large, strong gate that had to slowly open and close for each individual vehicle. During the regular day, this worked because people came and went over the entire day rather than all at once. Because we had never practiced the actual evacuation, no one realized that we couldn't get the required number of vehicles off the site in any useful time frame. In short order, people just left their cars and ran out of the plant. Of course, this blocked all access and prevented emergency vehicles from getting on site to assist.

      As it turned out, the spill was small, not terribly hazardous, and was handled by the on-site HazMat responders.

      All that happened because the actual evacuation was 'hand waved' away rather than practiced because it was felt by management that an actual practice evacuation would be too disruptive.

      In the military, the amount of 'hand waving' that goes on in exercises is disturbing and is preventing us from finding the hidden flaws in our plans.

  14. Cheers. My initial thoughts.

    1. Having a hospital ship is better than not having a hospital ship. I am critical of the Mercy-class, but I am glad the USN has them, as opposed to something stuck in development or stuck in port. Unoptimized but able to function is better than doesn't exist or can't set sail.

    2. The Mercy-class are a small class (2 in-service) of large ships with old powerplants. Given the recent issues the USN has with specifying requirements and maintenance, my highest priority would be avoiding "Gapping" the hospital ship function. This would mean prioritising maintenance, and ideally starting a "current technology, good enough to do the job" design now.

    3. This is not a question you posed, but to give my opinion anyway. Any hospital ship would suffer severe limitations in the current Mercy-class deployment, being sent to large cities in their homeland that already have an abundance of land-based facilities and large structures with existing large-scale power/water/sanitation connections that could be converted into field facilities quickly. They are not optimized for that task, nor should they be. I would note that being able to dock and being close to the massive helicopter and watercraft resources of the homeland does resolve their patient transfer issue completely, however.

    4. To clarify, my main concern for the future is not optimising the function of specialised USN hospital ships, but losing it altogether in favour of a multifunction (ie non-optimized) design. The cost of operating the Mercy-class will continue to rise, and they will eventually "fail" or be removed from service. If nothing is ready to replace them, then I see something like an expensive LPD-17 based solution with hypothetical "modular plug-in solution", that never quite works out, being put into play quickly as an expensive suboptimal solution. This would essentially subsidise other functions at the expense of the mass casualty role.

    5. Seeing disaster/mass casualty preparation efforts redirected towards other, more fashionable, purposes is something I am well-used to seeing in my civilian land-based healthcare life. That is one military lesson from the current land-based pandemic experience. Public health and civil defence agencies were under-resourced, but also made poor choices with the resources they did have. Contingency preparations should be for contingencies, not used for routine day-to-day purposes or other functions. Likewise, I would argue a hospital ship should be valued for it's value in contingencies, not just it's value in routine deployment.

    6. It follows that the best argument I could make is an argument for a specialised hospital ship. I'm not going to write a thesis, but focus on a few points.

    7. What is novel in the modern age compared to our last mass-casualty war (for the western democracries at least) is the success of modern battlefield medicine. If an injury does not kill a soldier outright, they are very likely to survive. Even back in 1982 in the Falklands conflict, if anyone was alive when they made it to a british aid station, then they stayed alive (or were part of a very few deaths, depending on who you read).

    8. However, this depends on trained personnel, equipment and transportation being available. As we can see with ventilators and masks in the current pandemic, many of these resources are more difficult to have on-hand or make quickly than our planners may have assumed, and they are finite. They may be over-tasked many more times over than anyone likes to think about in a peer war. Avoidable mass death of our people in uniform is a very real prospect in the early stages of the next peer war.

    9. It follows that if we assume our resources will be very limited in a peer war, then we must plan to use them with the utmost efficiency.

    1. 10. At this stage I have not seen a sustained pattern of respecting the Geneva convention on hospital ships in likely peer opponents. To be fair, they haven't waged the sort of war that might involve the use of hospital ships yet. Painting a suitably unarmed ship white and declaring it a hospital ship can be done quickly. But we should think about how our ships function when both in haze gray and when painted white with a cross on the side.

      11. For example, the Royal Navy made the deliberate choice to use a gray-painted converted RO-RO container ship (RFA Argus) as their "hospital ship". It's called a Primary Casualty Receiving ship because the term hospital ship is reserved for suitably less-military ships so declared, but it's a hospital ship in it's primary function, and it is also used for other things. As a Falklands conflict veteran, this ship was inherited from the harsh decisions made in actual conflict, and has been a cost-effective choice for the UK's current routine military needs. However, it is not necessarily optimal, especially for the US, which has greater resources and responsibilities.

      12. It follows that a specialised design would get the most use-per-person out of our scarce trained people and equipment in a mass casualty event. I therefore propose that the US Navy keeps specialised hospital ships. Which means designing and building something now.

      All this is in answer to the question "as regards future combat". For "number", obviously I would like "as many as possible", but that's not a useful answer. I'll work on my own opinion on that and post it later.

    2. " If an injury does not kill a soldier outright, they are very likely to survive."

      You raise a very interesting point that has a huge caveat attached to it. In our modern conflicts, we've had the luxury of unhindered and uncontested immediate access to our wounded. In a peer war, that is unlikely to occur. Our ability to quickly find and transport wounded will be very limited. For example, helicopters are not going to be flying in and out of the battlefield to provide on-side pickup of wounded. The wounded will have to survive, if they can, until a sufficient lull in the battle occurs during which we can search for and extract those still alive. Of course, we'll make every effort to help the wounded immediately but our ability to do so will be quite limited. I wonder if our current military medical personnel have thought that through and planned how to deal with it?

      Now, your statement that if a person makes it to a medical station (field hospital, ship, whatever) their chance of survival is very good still holds true. It's just that many will not make it to a station in time.

    3. "Contingency preparations should be for contingencies, not used for routine day-to-day purposes"

      Outstanding observation! Couldn't agree more!

    4. " My initial thoughts.

      I have to say, you've offered a really good set of comments with a lot to think about. Thank you for the contribution!

    5. Wow, that whole medevac situation where it's US goal to get everybody to a hospital in an hour, the "golden hour" does that mesh with USMC new way of operating? If you are small and mobile, sounds great but eventually somebody gets hurt,right? how does USMC Commandant factor that in when he wants to operate inside enemy lines or close to them undetected ? That doesn't jiff with bunch o helicopters flying around...wonder how much that has been game planned!!!

  15. Thank you. You are correct, I had falsely assumed the squad medic and forward aid station to be interchangeable. That was a false assumption in a peer war. The best mitigation I can think of is what is already occurring. More tools are being put in the hands of the medics than ever before. I am reasonably sure that pressure dressings with procoagulants are in-service, and I am aware that injectable gels for internal injuries with promising results in testing are at the very least in prototype stage. Maximising the medic's ability to stop catastrophic blood loss and maintain circulation to give time for extraction.

    1. " injectable gels for internal injuries"

      I had not heard of that one. I'll have to educate myself! Thanks for the heads up.

      Another aspect of the battlefield treatment is time. Having the ability to stabilize a wounded man is great but if it takes too long to accomplish, other wounded will die waiting. Battlefield stabilization techniques need to be very quick to apply. In a peer battle, we're going to have LOTS of wounded and we can't spend too much time with any one individual, as cold as that sounds. It's all about saving the maximum number possible which means getting to them quickly. 'Hit and run' medical aid!

    2. A couple of products for penetrating injuries.


    3. "A couple of products for penetrating injuries."

      Absolutely fascinating! Thanks for the links.

  16. Regarding the Lepanto lessons of the ability of the modern navy to rebuild. If we took all merchant ships registered in Panama which I believe we can according to the treaty signed last century, why could we not strap on naval strike missiles to these ships and have an ability to have some reserve capability? The private sector would probably come up with something clever to beef up these huge ships and although they would be clunky they would be sooner available than waiting three years on our meager shipyards...
    Has anyone visited Planet labs? They have hundreds of cheap small
    disposable satellites that take pictures of everything. I can't help but think anything on the surface cannot hide and it might be a very short war of attrition after all. How can a modern surface fleet be survivable if they can always be seen?

    1. "strap on naval strike missiles to these ships"

      This idea keeps cropping up and I keep shooting it down. First, it's far more difficult than just 'strapping on' missiles. The missiles are useless without targeting data so you need sensors, either on the ship (a large cost) or offboard which means some kind of installed cooperative engagement software suite. You need some advanced comm gear for remote targeting data transmission and reception. You need data connectivity to the missiles prior to launch. You need some kind of command and control so you don't wind up shooting wildly at anything that moves. And so on.

      The next problem is that Naval Strike Missiles have a fairly limited effective range of 100-200 miles or so. No enemy is going to allow unidentified merchant ships to approach within a few hundred miles for precisely this reason. In a time of war, would we allow unidentified merchant ships to approach a carrier group? Of course not so why would the enemy allow it?

      As far as satellites, they are not the omniscient eye in the sky that so many people believe. They will also be high on the day one priority target list. Satellite detection of naval forces in a peer war will range from sporadic to non-existent.

    2. Plus, how many NSMs is USN buying? I doubt we are buying 1000s of them that we can just stick them anywhere...going to have be judicious where we plant them.

  17. I read your suggestion "Blind Mans Bluff". Highly recommend and it does read like a thriller. I understand that day one targets will be NTM oriented. There are so many satellites both legacy and private that its hard for me to see all of them out. I guess china could plink them with lasers?

    1. Glad you enjoyed the book.

      I highly doubt that every satellite will be destroyed but the remaining ones will be tasked with high priority surveillance like monitoring the other side's nuclear weapons. I don't think there will be much time-sharing for looking at vast empty oceans in the hope of spotting a ship.

    2. I also just finished it having read it on CNO's recommendation. Great read.

      Was interesting to see how vulnerable the diesel electric boats are to being forced to the surface.

    3. "I also just finished it having read it on CNO's recommendation. Great read."

      Glad you enjoyed it and I'm honored that you accepted my recommendation. I try to hold myself to a high standard when it comes to recommendations. Thank you!

  18. Read a book recently it was a scifi book. In it the most powerful "nations" Navy's are basically run on a program. There is a taught action for anything. Basically like a computer program. This works fine until people Know that program and exploit it or they encounter unknowns.

    Its feels like that is where our nations military's are headed. Not just the Navy but all of them. Hell, maybe a societal issue in fact.

    Problem is Many battles are won before the first shot. And if you know exactly what the play book calls for and those that would deviate from it are punished and driven out....


    Open-source documents state that the current USN hospital ships are not capable of landing a V-22. The Mercy-class are large ships, and I am certain that they could be modified with sufficient expenditure. How much that amount of top weight would mean sacrificing in other existing capabilities I do not know, but I will assume it would be non-trivial. At present I would advocate for a new design rather than modification of the existing ships to take a V-22.

    I have focused on hospital ships in general, but you have asked (or challenged me for) opinions about the current Mercy-class.

    Their most notorious limitation is patient transfer. They have a single helicopter spot and hangar. I do not know if they can refuel. They can transfer patients from the pier (like any ship) in port. They have their own small boats, and can transfer from small watercraft in calm seas. In a peer war they may be limited to either being in a friendly harbour, or a floating large city hospital at sea serviced only by a single helipad. I suspect their design was focused on peacetime roles rather than a peer war.

    The US Navy acknowledges this limitation, and various open source documents list various specifications for a replacement, including 2 V-22 spots, with or without a well dock.

    The novel development is our current pandemic. In a sense it seems to be the first Biological threat the US Navy has actually had to face that has affected it's ability to perform it's core tasks. To be fair, no-one really prepared for this particular blend of threat, dangerous enough that it cannot be ignored (by society as a whole at least), but not lethal enough to be over with quickly, so that it goes on for longer than we really expected. For example, Ebola is really really lethal, but it's SO lethal that it doesn't spread far and can be contained.

    I grant your point that the danger to a warship's crew is small, and it may well cause fewer deaths than accidents. However, whether for political reasons or an abundance of care and caution, it is affecting the way navies operate.

    The Mercy-class is focused on the mass casualty role, and I suspect it has very little isolation capacity, and rudimentary decontamination capacity (I have seen reference to being able to wash or shower at the small boat entry). Just like we have seen with cruise ships, for the period of this pandemic, and possibly on an ongoing basis if this coronavirus becomes a seasonal epidemic, our ability to operate ships at sea will be challenged. To be frank, deploying the Mercy-class ships to the homeland for pandemic support looks like a mainly symbolic deployment rather than a practical one. Field hospitals inside existing structures (as has already been done) would be a more practical way of deploying equipment and personnel, especially with access to the vast logistical capabilities of the homeland.

    In this case, it may be prudent to wait 12 months before finalising the design of any hospital ship replacement. Will this be yet another pandemic that goes away, or will this be an ongoing seasonal epidemic? Either way, our response has already changed our healthcare system for the long-term, as well as how we provide healthcare at sea.

    For example, there will likely be increased focus on transporting land-based field facilities to support deployed naval forces. Or, as discussed above, we can design a ship to handle isolation patients. But it will be a big ship and carry far fewer patients and personnel. Perhaps we will need far more than two hospital ships in the future.

    1. Outstanding Mercy class discussion! I'd invite you to do a guest post but you've essentially done it and I thank you for the time and effort you're putting into this.

      "deploying the Mercy-class ships to the homeland for pandemic support looks like a mainly symbolic deployment rather than a practical one."

      Yes! Kudos for recognizing that.

      "Their most notorious limitation is patient transfer. They have a single helicopter spot …"

      Consider the amphibious assaults of WWII or any significant battle, for that matter. The number of casualties needing to be transferred to the hospital ship far exceeds the capability of a single helo operation model. A battle could easily generate the need for hundreds of patient transfers per hour whereas the flight deck can, optimistically, handle perhaps one helo landing every ten minutes with, maybe, a couple of patients per helo. This seems hugely at odds with the concept of a MASS casualty treatment ship. I'm not sure anyone has really thought this through.

    2. "The Mercy-class is focused on the mass casualty role,"

      As you know, mass casualty events (battles) are few and far between. It would be nice to get some use out of hospital ships in between times. Good will port visits where the ship acts as a floating clinic generate enormous good will. This, however, bumps up against the design intent. Combat injuries are, generally, quite different from the kind of medical conditions encountered in a clinical port visit. Can the two functions be combined in one design without compromising the main intent of mass casualty treatment? I don't know.

      I could almost see a case where the Navy builds a mass casualty treatment ship but turns the ship over to govt/civilian medical teams for port clinical visits when the ship isn't needed for Navy missions/exercises.


      You are quite correct. I have focused on the peer war role, but that is not to say that peacetime roles are not valuable enough to justify a ship. The following is my further thinking on the matter. It is not truth, but I believe it is getting closer to some useful truths.

      My personal thinking has evolved as I have thought about this issue. Currently, I believe that the situations where our battlefield medical capability is currently less than potential demand are:

      1. The next mass casualty war.

      As discussed above, in my opinion our success in keeping wounded soldiers alive is dependant on a highly sophisticated chain of trained personnel and equipment, that cannot be scaled up quickly. The current-day analogy is trying to scale up ventilators and ICU nurses.

      2. Deployable individual isolation during a future worse epidemic ie one that forces healthy young military personnel into isolation, while trying to maintain military readiness. We don't need a lot of it, we have plenty of suitable hardware and transport capacity, and are developing this capability quickly at the current time. However, in my opinion we are not quite there for a worse case scenario in terms of our understanding and willingness to act.

      I am focused on the peacetime situation where we choose to isolate overseas to protect both the homeland and the personnel that might be used for repatriation. In a war situation we would probably repatriate the infected and deal with the consequences.

      This is distinct from our current situation. In that the current situation, isolation prevents suffering of our people in uniform and so is a goal we can balance vs operational need, but is not needed to prevent mass death of our people in uniform.

      The homeland has a need for more ICU beds at present, but our deployable military forces do not so long as they retain the ability to evacuate patients on ventilators to the homeland.

      As a side note, an ICU bed is any space that contains a ventilator and staff able to run it. However as per my earlier point, a larger space and one fitted out for the ICU role is more efficient, which is a particularly important point when staff are your limiting factor. A larger space optimised for one role means your limited staff can do more. This is relevant for the mass casualty role, when I believe trained surgical teams and operating theatres could be in critically short supply.

      There is a very distinct different between isolating individuals, and quarantining ships. Quarantining ships protects those on land very effectively, but allows the disease to follow it's natural history on the ship. The recent experience of cruise ships is a very powerful example to make.

      Historically, isolating individuals during epidemics was a non-starter, they just didn't have the capability to do so. Nor do current-day cruise ships. To be more precise, the affected cruise ships could have achieved a better standard of individual isolation if they were suitably supplied and modified at speed, but it would have involved expenditure and inconvenience that wouldn't have been worth it. Getting doctors to do infection control properly is a thankless task, so I wouldn't have wanted to be the one trying to get grumpy cruise ship passengers and crew to follow proper procedures while folks in hazmat suits are doing welding and hammering around them.

      Putting a bunch of hastily-modified containers on barges would probably have been more effective than modifying the cruise ship itself. More spaces is good. It is always hard to get across to managers and people not in healthcare just how powerful and useful additional spaces (and space within those spaces) can be. From a Japanese government perspective this would also have avoided the political challenge of letting the passengers on shore.

    4. Continued

      Any force structured to face the above two contingencies would be capable of handling peacetime hospital ship visits. The peacetime role involves more non-surgical contacts, and the surgical contacts are different, for example more eye and ear/nose/throat surgery than in wartime. I agree that deploying a hospital ship overseas is a cost-effective way of providing assistance to multiple locations in peacetime. The main compromise I see between the war and peace roles is force numbers, ie having enough at home for wartime or homeland contingencies while we are deployed overseas.

      For the mass casualty role, we want our capacity as close to the point of injury as our ability to prevent enemy interdiction will permit. Closeness here being in terms of time, which translates to distance and capability. The V-22 is starting to look rather handy at present.

      For the isolation role, I am focused on the most difficult scenario which is maximising the ability to maintain deployed military forces. This is less time critical, as warships have or can create some isolation capacity, it is just finite and limits the operational role beyond a certain point (eg the point where you start putting tents around weapons systems and on the helideck). We can use land-based facilities if a nearby host nation permits it, or there is nearby national territory. Guam is looking more valuable by the week. Space is good. Shifting patients once is good. For waterborne isolation we don't need a fast ship, or even a ship. As per my discussion above, barges are good enough, if we are at peace. These can be towed rather than relying on airlift/road deployment for land-based field hospitals. And the barge option may help with host nation acceptability. This is starting to look a lot like the WW2 logistics effort during WW2 in the western Pacific, and for good reason.

    5. Continued

      I have given thought to the role of medical ferries both in war and peace. One possible future is one where increased sense of epidemic risk means that port visits are more challenging, either because the US Navy is concerned about catching something from the visited country, or the host country is concerned about catching something from the US Navy. For current day analogy is the USS Theodore Roosevelt and it's port visit in Vietnam that may have been the source of it's issues. I would also note that this CVN subsequently docked in Guam, which is national territory. This may have been the closest suitable location, but even if it was not, other ports eg Japan would probably have been reluctant to play host. It is possible that repair at sea, and logistical support less dependent on a host nation, may become more important, even if to reassure allies that we can handle contingencies. This also has geopolitical consequences, if it requires more national effort to deploy military force to the Western Pacific.

      This is a novel consideration for us, but our forebears had centuries of experience deploying ships worldwide despite a far greater threat of infectious disease, and I suspect that looking over our history would provide useful lessons. This is something worthy of further consideration.

      A more recent historical solution is using smaller ships as ferries, to give the option of not using scarce airlift capacity or host nation airfields for air evacuation, or for when this is not possible. During the Falklands conflict two smaller ships, that each had their own intrinsic but lesser medical capacity, were used to shuttle patients from the hospital ship to the nearest neutral port. I must apologise for constantly harking back to the Falklands conflict, but it's the one I have studied carefully. These smaller ships could also be used to provide peacetime medical assistance. They would be less efficient than a larger ship, at productivity-per-doctor, but more cost effective at productivity-per-total personnel if we are avoiding using a large ship for a small task. Having a wartime ferry/peacetime visiting clinic also means there is the option of retaining the larger ships at home for contingences.

      The current Mercy-class deployment is an example of over-capacity, although this is a bit unfair as it's severe limitations for that role mean that in my opinion they shouldn't have been sent.

      There is overlap between war and epidemics, of course. As you have referred to above, epidemics often follow war. And many of these can be attributed to the international movement of military forces. From the influenza pandemic of 1918 to the cholera outbreak attributed to UN Peacekeepers in Haiti in 2010. This is not an argument against deploying military force when required, as the US typically acts after someone else has started moving military forces internationally (ie via invasion or attack). Overall the risk of epidemic is less than that of accepting an unjust peace. However, it is a predictable consequence of war that can be mitigated, especially if we are not in a war of national survival. This is something worthy of further consideration.

    6. "our forebears had centuries of experience deploying ships worldwide despite a far greater threat of infectious disease, and I suspect that looking over our history would provide useful lessons."

      Great insight and suggestion!

  20. Incidentally, from reading this blog I have learnt that having a clear Concept of Operations focused on a worst-case scenario is useful. This lesson helped a lot when it became apparent that this pandemic was going to be a thing. Few other people seemed to be doing so when this pandemic seemed a plausible contingency rather than an imminent threat, and we prepared earlier than most. You have helped our clinic prepare for a "peer pandemic", and we have enough respiratory protection because of that.

    1. I'm gratified that I could be of some small aid to your efforts.

      "Concept of Operations"

      Yes! Obviously, you know that CONOPS (or lack thereof) is one of my pet peeves. This is how the Navy winds up with ships that have no purpose and designs that seem ill-suited to any useful function.

      A new design hospital ship would need a CONOPS prior to design. A CONOPS would tell us what the ship will do, specifically, and the design falls logically out of the CONOPS as opposed to just inserting random elements and capabilities and hoping they'll be useful. We need to get you on the hospital ship CONOPS team!

  21. Have posted before that I believed china has bad geography and that they are limited by the first island chain to being in what I called a bathtub. CNO took issue with that. According to the SCMP the Liaoning and china's version of a CSG just went through Kerama Gap last night. On the surface of course. I wanted to check to see if a sub could drift from the SCS through the gap without power and stay more undetected. I am no mariner. It looks like the there are strong flows from the Pacific through the gap making the drift maneuver unrealistic. The SCS still looks like a bathtub to me. Shoot away.

    1. " limited by the first island chain to being in what I called a bathtub."

      Without attempting to repeat previous discussions, how are they 'limited'? During peacetime, they can come and go freely to/from the South China Sea. During war, it works both ways. If you believe that the chain somehow keeps China bottled up then you must also believe that it somehow keeps the US from entering. The logic has to work both ways, equally.

      Now, consider the concept of the 'bathtub'. Is it a confined prison or is it a secure, highly defensible bastion from which to launch powerful strikes out into the surrounding regions? One could equally well describe it either way. I see it as the latter.

      Finally, consider what China wants in the region? Their long term plan is to annex/conquer/acquire the surrounding countries and their resources. Well, guess what? The surrounding areas of interest ARE the first island chain. The areas are, essentially, served up on a platter for China to slowly gobble up. So, the 'bathtub' contains everything China wants in the near to mid future, all within easy reach.

      Lastly (I know, I said 'finally' in the preceding paragraph), consider the assets China has near the first island chain. They can bring almost all their military to bear. In contrast the US has some basing in Japan (if Japan were to enter a war and allow the US to use them) and … uh … Guam a few thousand miles away. Which country can amass localized superiority when and where they want? I'll give you a hint: it's not the US!

      How's that for 'shooting away'?

      Now, make your case by spelling out how the first island chain prevents China from acquiring the regions countries and expanding out into the Pacific? This is a good topic and key to formulating war strategies so I sincerely would like to see you assemble and present a solid body of logic and evidence to support your position. It'd be wrong but it would make for great reading! :)

      If you can assemble a strong enough argument, I'd be happy to have you present a guest post on the topic. Think about it.

  22. Thank you for the reply. I may have simplistic views because I lack
    knowledge of unknown factors. I believe the US is already at war with china, not because of US intent but CCP ambition which is clear to any who choose to see. I don't believe the US can control the SCS, its too big at 400x1000 miles. Controlling the Strait of Malacca appears doable. Placing assets on the Cocos islands might get US forces away from the overwhelming Chinese land missile force. I hope the key line sosus like listening array outlined in "the tools of owattasumi" are real and would help us in the containment strategy we appear to be using to reinforce the "bathtub". If US forces are able to keep PLAN forces close to their shore that would be great.

    1. "I don't believe the US can control the SCS"

      The US has no interest in controlling the SCS, just in denying China control of it. The US view is that it's international waters bounded by many countries and the international community should have free use of the waters subject to the international rights of the surrounding countries. China views it as theirs and theirs alone with surrounding countries subject to China's dictates (until such time as China gets around to conquering them).

      Containing China within the 'bathtub' give China total access to the surrounding countries. Therein lies the flaw in your bathtub concept.

  23. If the B-21 Raider ever gets out of its hanger in California and we produce 35 of them I would be much more optimistic! It appears to be much smaller than the B-2 due to its smaller under carriage but we will see...


Comments will be moderated for posts older than 7 days in order to reduce spam.