Wednesday, May 18, 2022

Scrap Two Carriers – Part IV - New Airfields in the Pacific

Continuing his series, guest author Carlton Meyer returns to discuss Pacific basing and war operations for land based naval air wings.  Enjoy !


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In previous blog posts, I suggested that operating eleven supercarriers has become so expensive that it left our Navy imbalanced, with too few aircraft and surface combatants. This could be corrected by downsizing to nine carriers (see, “Scrap Two Carriers! – Part 1”), which will probably occur anyway because of the flawed USS Ford program. I suggested this loss could be offset by establishing two shore-based overseas Carrier Air Wings (see, “Naval Air Wings, Scrap Two Carriers – Part 2”). These could be called Naval Air Wings (NAW) and absorb Marine Corps aviation assets to support Navy sea control missions from existing American airbases. There are several basing options for a NAW in the Mediterranean as explained in a past blog post (see, “A Naval Air Wing in the Med, Scrap Two Carriers – Part 3”). However, there is only one main useful airbase in the Central and South Pacific – Anderson Air Force Base on Guam.[3]

 

It will take at least four months for the US Navy to form a huge naval task force in the Pacific to confront China. Meanwhile, American airbases within range of Chinese fighters and short-range missiles will be destroyed within the first couple days. China’s primary concern is keeping sea lanes open for its commercial ships to Africa and the Middle East. The obvious strategy is to quickly dispatch a huge naval task force to seize Guam, which then turns south to clear threats in northern Australia, perhaps causing that nation to seek peace. This may seem ambitious, but the Japanese successfully conducted a similar campaign in 1942 that led to a disastrous Allied defeat known as the Battle of the Java Sea.[1]

 

The mission of a Pacific NAW is to combat a Chinese fleet. The US Navy can instantly create a Pacific NAW by redesignating Carrier Air Wing 5 at MCAS Iwakuni, Japan that could absorb the two Marine Corps Fighter-Attack squadrons at that same base. However, Iwakuni is in the northern Pacific among substantial Japanese and US Air Force bases and airpower. Okinawa, Japan has two American airbases but those will be destroyed by Chinese airpower the first day of a war. Anderson airbase on Guam is an ideal location where some Navy aircraft are already based, but the US Air Force has plans to surge squadrons to that base during wartime. Australia is a close ally and has offered use of some airfields. The Philippines allows access to several of its airfields, but most are too close to China and that nation may declare neutrality in a war. Here is a proposed laydown for a Pacific NAW.

 

NAF Atsugi – Leave the Navy HSM squadron here to support the four destroyers and help guard Tokyo Bay/Yokosuka from submarine incursions. The Navy already has an HCS squadron on Guam with 14 MH-60S that becomes part of the NAW, so the HSC at Atsugi is disbanded. During a war, these helicopters will disperse to other bases to conduct vital search and rescue of downed pilots.

 

NAF Anderson Air Force Base – The HCS squadron is already based here. This is the ideal location for the NAW headquarters. The Air Force has no airborne radar or dedicated electronic warfare aircraft on Guam, so should not object to hosting the VAW and VAQ squadrons that only add nine aircraft to the base. The Air Force should be supportive after space at MCAS Iwakuni is offered to Air Force squadrons.

 

MCAS Kaneohe Bay - Most of the Pacific NAW should move from Iwakuni to Hawaii to keep aircraft and families far from the danger of Chinese air and missile attack. These relocations will be expensive, but remember that billions of dollars will be saved by scrapping two aircraft carriers. The two Marine and two Navy fighter-attack squadrons can be based here, where a VMM squadron and VMGR (KC-130 squadron) already exist to support the NAW. The Marines will need to move the other VMM squadron stateside to make room. If more space is needed, perhaps squadrons can operate from new facilities at Hickam airbase or the Coast Guard airfield at Barber’s Point. 

 

Billions more dollars can be used to establish several austere Naval Air Facilities (NAF) in the Pacific to where NAW fighter squadrons can deploy once the smoke clears from the first week of missile bombardment. There are several civilian airports in the region from which naval aircraft can operate. They’ll need dispersed and protected fuel storage since existing fuel tanks may be destroyed during a war and fuel resupply may take months. They’ll need stocked munitions bunkers and military airfield support equipment, and access to housing, food, and medical care. Facility staff may include just a dozen servicemen and two dozen local civilians, but will need a surge plan to accommodate up to 500 additional military personnel during training exercises or war. Housing may be provided by local hotels, military barracks, or warehouses and tentage.

 

Airfield support squadrons should be formed to deploy to each NAF during wartime to provide more security, rapid airfield repair, and miscellaneous base support. This is ideal for US Marines who have embraced the idea of establishing austere forward bases. Some could be specially organized reserve units who deploy to their assigned bases for two weeks of training each year. Here are excellent sites for NAFs in the Central Pacific, see the map linked below.[2] All are American territory or secured via long-term base access agreements with reliable allies:

 

  • NAF Iwo Jima – Japanese military airfield
  • NAF Saipan – civilian airport in the Marianas
  • NAF Tinian - civilian airport in the Marianas
  • NAF Rota - civilian airport in the Marianas
  • NAF Agana - civilian airport on Guam that hosted a US Navy Air Station until 1995
  • NAF Palau - civilian airport whose government welcomes new US military bases[4]

 

There are three excellent NAF locations much further from China and beyond the range of its intermediate range ballistic missiles. These may be used as transit points, staging areas, or for combat operations should a Chinese advance prove successful. These bases should have a large naval magazine to resupply the forward NAFs and aircraft carriers.

 

  • NAF Darwin – Australian military airfield (already used by US Marines)
  • NAF Bucholz – US Army airfield, Kwajalein (Marshall Islands)
  • NAF Wake Island – US Air Force airfield (rarely used)

 

Should war with China become imminent, C-130s from Hawaii will fly Marine Corps airfield support squadrons to the NAFs and evacuate military families from Guam. Since Guam is a primary target for a Chinese missile barrage, NAW aircraft there will disperse to other NAFs. NAW fighters from Hawaii could deploy to NAFs, but it may be wise to deploy them only halfway, to Bucholz and Wake Island, until the initial missile barrage is over and maybe until the Chinese fleet deploys eastward. A Pacific NAW will present a major problem for the Chinese fleet and may be reinforced with more Navy and Marine Corps squadrons. Targeting NAFs with China’s limited number of expensive long-range missiles presents a problem. Currently, all can be directed at Anderson Air Force base, but including six NAFs makes the Chinese missile bombardment plan difficult. NAW fighters flying from NAFs may not stop the Chinese fleet, but will make operations bloody and complex during the first few months of a war.




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Carlton Meyer is a former Marine Corps officer whose writings appeared in the Marine Corps Gazette, Naval Proceedings, and the Navy Times. He became irritated when some articles approved by editors never appeared after the Marine Commandant’s office and the CNO’s office began to preview publications and block articles they didn’t like. This explains why their articles have become bland. He began posting his ideas at www.G2mil.com in 2000.

 

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[1]“Battle of the Java Sea”; short video; https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_oKLSVvRsQY

 

[2]Map of allied airbases in the western Pacific; http://www.g2mil.com/kadena1.jpg

 

[3]Fact Sheet about Anderson Air Force base, Guam; August 2021; https://www.andersen.af.mil/Portals/43/Documents/Base%20Fact%20Sheet%202021-Andersen%20AFB-20210805.pdf?ver=GU5mj9wrNr0fj_wiBBxOWQ%3d%3d

 

[4]“Palau: U.S. Welcome to build military bases”; Indo-Pacific Defense; February 22, 2021; https://ipdefenseforum.com/2021/02/palau-u-s-welcome-to-build-military-bases-amid-prcs-influence-push/


Monday, May 16, 2022

Plausible Deniability

Plausible deniability is one of the cornerstones of clandestine actions.  It means that you recognize that the targeted foreign government may know you were responsible for an action but you don’t leave them a ‘smoking gun’ of evidence to parade on the world stage.  In fact, you may even want them to know it was you … just as long as they can’t incontrovertibly prove it.  In fact, we did a story along these lines (see, “Mark VI – Gunboat Diplomacy Story”).

 

One of the common comments among naval analysts is the lament that our military forces can’t really do anything effective because then we’d risk …  *horrified whisper* … ESCALATION.  Aaghh!  Sorry, I frightened myself there.  I’ve got to go change into a dry pair of pants.  I’ll be right back.

 

        

 

Okay, I’m back and I’ve stopped shivering with fear.  I can go on now.

 

Is our military really that bound and helpless?  Well, by current policy we certainly are but are there actions we could take if we had a modicum of fortitude?  Let’s consider history as a prelude to answering the question.

 

 

History and Precedent

 

In the Cold War, our submarines routinely violated Soviet territorial waters, tapped communications, lingered just outside (maybe inside??) Soviet harbors, and tightly trailed Soviet subs.  We even stole a Soviet sub!!!!!  Our U2 flights routinely overflew Soviet territory.  If rumors are to be believed, we routinely engaged in assassinations and all manner of skullduggery. And that’s just the stuff we know about!

 

It would seem, then, that we most certainly have used our military aggressively, in the past, during times of ‘peace’.  Precedent exists and the world did not ESCALATE  * aagh!!!!!  sorry, I thought I was ready for that word but it still scares me *  into nuclear war.  So, if we could somehow muster the courage and will, are there any actions we could take, today, that would appreciably benefit our general geopolitical aims and still allow us to maintain plausible deniability?  I think there are! 

 

 

Actions

 

*Warning!* The following may be considered escalatory.  If you are timid and faint of heart, stop now and go sing nursery rhymes until you are relaxed and reassured.

 

Note that I’m not necessarily recommending these actions;  just noting what could be done.

 

Submarines

 

Let’s use our silent service the way they were intended to be used:

 

  • Lay some mines around the Russian naval forces operating near Ukraine.  Clearly, the Russian navy has little or no ability to detect or threaten our subs.  They’d never know we were there.  We can publicly claim the Russians hit Ukrainian mines.
  • Launch a few torpedoes into Russian ships and, again, publicly suggest the Russians hit Ukrainian mines.
  • Launch some Submarine Launched Mobile Mines (SLMM) into NKorean naval ports and sink a few ships … you know, like they sank the SKorean ship.  They’ll never figure out what it was.

 

SEALs

 

Let’s pull our SEALs off their land combat jobs and use them the way they were meant to operate … clandestinely, from the sea:

 

  • Sabotage port facilities in the Solomons that the Chinese attempt to use or build.
  • Sabotage the illegal Chinese artificial islands in the South China Sea.
  • Sabotage the Chinese port facilities in Sri Lanka.
  • Sabotage Iranian swarm boats and facilities.

 

Surface Navy

 

Let’s use our surface navy for something other than cruise ships:

 

  • Shoot down every NKorean test missile and claim that we projected the missile’s course to come perilously close to our ships or civilian shipping and had to shoot them down for safety.  It’s not without precedent since NKorea has shot missiles into Japanese territorial waters.
  • Let’s sail large groups into the South China Sea and ‘herd’ Chinese ships away, as they’ve done to us.  Maybe we’ll bump ships and realize that we ought to be building stronger ships!

 

General Military

 

Let’s use our general military:

 

  • Initiate electronic warfare against the Russians from international air, water, and friendly territories.  EW is impossible to prove on the world stage.
  • Let’s take down drones as other countries have done to us.  We haven’t protested when it’s been done to us so it’s apparently open season on drones.  Let’s join in!
  • Let’s buzz Russian ships as close as possible, on a non-stop schedule.  The Russians can’t protest because that’s exactly what they do to us.
  • Assemble an air armada and fly into Chinese Air Defense Identification Zones exactly as the Chinese did to Taiwan on 28-Nov-2021.

 

 

Shaping

 

What I’m really suggesting is that we start shaping events in the world instead of reacting to them - usually by cowering.  We all understand the concept of ‘shaping the battlefield’ so why aren’t we doing that?  The world is a battlefield.  We’re at war with China whether we want to acknowledge it or not.  We have enemies in Iran, Russia, and NKorea who are actively working against us.  So why aren’t we using our military to shape events in our favor?

 

 

Conclusion

 

While I’m not necessarily recommending the actions described herein, neither am I recommending against them.  I’ll leave the political aspect for other blogs.  What I am suggesting is that by purely reacting – invariably with appeasement ! – to events instead of shaping them, we’ve allowed our enemies to shape the battlefield and we’ve removed a useful and effective tool from our tool box.  We’ve lost the mindset to even consider plausibly deniable actions and that is a mistake.  We have a navy and yet we’re not using it to any positive effect while allowing it to physically degrade, shrink in size, and become hollow.  We need to relearn plausible deniability.

 

Friday, May 13, 2022

I’m Blind … Or Lying

The Navy is attempting to retire large numbers of ships in a misguided effort to increase funding for unmanned vessels and other nonsensical items.  In particular, the Navy has been trying for many years to retire the Aegis cruisers, the world’s most capable and powerful warships.  After being repeatedly rebuffed by Congress, the Navy settled on the ploy of allowing the ships to sit pier side and, literally, rust away and then claim that it would cost too much to upgrade them.  Now, the Navy is going a step further and outright lying to Congress.  CNO Gilday had this to say to the House Armed Services Committee about the Aegis cruiser retirement requests:

 

 “The older SPY radars can’t see the threat. If they can’t see it, they can’t shoot it down.”[1]

 

So, according to the admiral, Aegis/SPY-1 ‘can’t see the threat’.  Really?  Aegis originated the motto,

 

‘If it flies, it dies’.

 

Was that a lie? 

 

The threats haven’t changed all that much since Aegis/SPY was first introduced.  The threat was missiles back then and today the threat is … ah … missiles.  Yes, stealth has come along but that affects all radars not just Aegis/SPY radars.

 

Ah … here’s a thought … don’t the Burkes use the same SPY-1 radar, albeit a slightly different version (-D versus –A/B).  Is the version difference so great that Burkes are front line warships capable of seeing every threat and yet Ticonderogas are blind barges, unfit for even harbor patrol?  Or, is Gilday lying to get what he wants which is to retire the cruisers?

 

 

 

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[1]Breaking Defense website, “Decommissioned ship funds would go towards buying missiles, Navy says”, Aaron Mehta, 11-May-2022,

https://breakingdefense.com/2022/05/decommissioned-ship-funds-would-go-towards-buying-missiles-navy-says/


Thursday, May 12, 2022

Signing In With Google Account

Since the recent Blogger change to commenting, I've been unable to comment (on my own blog !) using my Google account name.  When I attempted to do so, it gave me an 'unable to sign in' error statement.  I've now found the source of the problem and the solution.  It's third party cookies being blocked in the browser.

If you've had the same problem trying to comment using your Google account, the solution is simply to allow third party cookies through your browser settings.  Each browser has a different menu path to the setting so I'll have to leave that part to you.  Change your cookie setting to allow third party cookies, save settings (if required), close out the browser, reopen the browser and you should be able to sign in as you would expect.

While this solves the problem, allowing third party cookies is not without drawbacks so you'll want to decide whether it's worth it or not.  You can always sign in using the 'Name' option without a URL (just name and continue) and that works just fine.  You just won't be able to edit or delete your comment as you can if you sign in through Google.

Hope this helps.

Wednesday, May 11, 2022

Wartime Production Plan

Over the last few decades, the US has meandered through a variety of military capability plans such as the original ‘2-1/2 wars’ plan[2] which was successively downgraded over the years and through various stages to the current ‘1 regional conflict and hold in another’[3].  The main factor in the successive downgrades was the recognition that the US was steadily losing military capability and, quite simply, couldn’t achieve the previous goals.  In other words, the strategic situations and absolute requirements didn’t change but the US military capability did and the downgrades were simple rationalizations of the reality that our military was growing steadily less capable.  This rationalization is absolute nonsense, of course.  If you believe that your national security depends on being able to win 2 wars and hold in another, you don’t downgrade the requirement just because you haven’t got the ability to achieve it – you keep the requirement and figure out how to achieve it.  You don’t rationalize away the requirement.  But, I digress …

 

What all those plans (and planners) failed to recognize is that they were all fundamentally flawed.  What was the fundamental flaw that rendered every plan invalid?  It was – and still is ! – wartime production.  It was the failure to recognize the fundamental truth that you don’t win a war with the capability you start with; you win a war with the capability you build during the war.  We won WWII with a 6,000 ship Navy but we started with just 233 carriers and surface ships and most of those were old, obsolete, and unfit for modern (at the time) combat.

 

Yes, you might win a small, single state conflict against a hapless foe, as happened in Desert Storm, with just existing forces (note, however, that we could not assemble the Desert Storm force today !) but not a war or even a real regional conflict.  Even existing forces may not be available.  For example, the 22 Marine MEU/ARG was unable to deploy in response to an urgent request early in the Russia-Ukraine conflict.[4]  The Marines, our crisis response force, was unable to respond to a crisis.

 

If you want to be able to win a full war, you need the capability to produce what you need in a very short time frame during the war … while the need is still relevant.

 

Thus, the previous goals stating a desire to be able to win X number of wars should have been a goal to be able to produce enough to win X number of wars.

 

Here’s a truism that planners fail to recognize:

 

The equipment you start the war with is, by definition, largely obsolete.

 

You need the ability to quickly produce modern, relevant, combat effective equipment.  Again, those Pennsylvania class battleships that we were so proud of the day before the war were already obsolete on December 7th.  Now, that doesn’t mean that you can’t get some temporary, desperate service out of the existing equipment … you’ll likely have to!  But, it means that the equipment you win the war with won’t be what you start the war with.

 

In WWII, the United States was not the ‘Existing Army of Democracy’, it was the ‘Arsenal of Democracy’, in recognition of the country’s vast industrial capacity which is what actually won WWII. 

 

Frankly, our unceasing efforts to build large standing fleets of aircraft and ships are somewhat silly and ill-directed.  A mindless pursuit of larger fleets is counterproductive beyond a point.  We could have built 50 Pennsylvania battleships prior to the war but that would have just given us 50 obsolete BBs instead of the 15 or so we had and we would have had a lot less cash for the war. Every ship you build before a war is one more obsolete ship to start the war.

 

Existing equipment serves only to buy time for industry to gear up.  Thus, we should be sizing our existing military not for winning a war(s) but for buying adequate time to allow industry to gear up.  Of course, hand-in-hand with that is that we should be producing viable wartime production plans.  It’s pointless to buy time if you still can’t produce what you need.

 

As we contemplate wartime production, consider this:  today, we totally lack the rare earths needed for all of our sensors. We won't be able to make ANY sensors when war comes. Our computer chip supply is severely limited and we won't be able to make ... well ... anything when war comes because almost everything depends on chips.  And so on.  Worse, war inevitably brings on additional raw material shortages.  I have severe doubts that we can build much of anything during a war.  We simply lack too many critical items and raw materials.

 

If we'll need 6000 ships to win a war, the answer is not to build them before the war, it's to build our supply lines and industrial capacities while developing simple, easily produced, ready to go, ship/aircraft designs. We need F6F Hellcat designs ready to go, not some complex hybrid battlecruiser-helicopter ships with COGASDIESELWARP infinitely cross-connected propulsion drive that will fail every ten feet and that are going to soak up all our funding that should be going to supply line development.

 

Think I’m being overly dramatic about this?  Consider this current example of wartime production problems (and we’re not even in a war!):  having supplied a quarter of the US Stinger air-to-air missile inventory to Ukraine[5], we are now finding out that we can’t produce any replacements.[1]

 

Raytheon Technologies this week announced that it will take multiple years before the company is able to manufacture new Stinger missiles due to "a very limited stock of material.[1]

 

You don’t win a war with the Stingers you have on hand, you win with the tens of thousands of Stingers you produce during the war.  Unfortunately, having no wartime production plan, we now have no capability to produce more Stingers.

 

Similarly, for Javelins,

 

The U.S. already has provided at least 7,000 Javelins, about one-third of its stockpile, to Ukraine, according to an analysis by Mark Cancian, a senior adviser with the Center for Strategic and International Studies international security program.[5]

 

And these are just partial supplies to an ally (Ukraine is not really an ally, they’re more an enemy of my enemy).  We’re not even in a war!

 

The Navy, and many naval observers, are focused on ever bigger and more multi-function ships such as the Burke flight 27 or whatever it’s at now, Ford, and Zumwalt.  Aside from all the problems inherent in those programs, the worst characteristic, arguably, is that they cannot be produced during a war in any useful time frame.  Even if they all worked perfectly, they’re unbuildable in any useful time frame.  Throw in the inevitable shortages of rare earths, computer chips, etc. that would occur during war, and it’s quite likely that we can’t produce any new ships.

 

In contrast, recall that we produced 157 Fletchers during WWII (laid down and commissioned during the war).  By comparison, it takes an average of about 4 years to produce one Burke.

 

One of the issues that we’ve all identified is the lack of shipyards in the US.  Without a doubt, that’s a problem and we need more.  However, the number of shipyards is a much lesser problem compared to raw materials, rare earths, computer chips, and other supply issues.  We could have a hundred shipyards but without large, assured supplies of raw materials, rare earths, computer chips, etc. those shipyards couldn’t produce a single ship.

 

 

Summary

 

We need to stop our obsession with quantifying how many wars we want to win and how big we can make our fleet and armies and start planning for how we’ll produce our way to victory.  We lack many critical raw materials and, worse, have no coherent plan to secure our raw material supply lines.  Now, during peace, is when we should be building our industrial capacity and supply lines.  We need to end our dependence on China for rare earths.  It’s beyond insane to depend on your number one enemy for your number one raw material !

 

Hand in hand with production capacity is the need for simple, basic ship and aircraft designs that have been prototyped, proven, and are ready to go.  All the raw materials and industrial capacity in the world is pointless if it takes us five years or more to produce a single ship due to its complexity.  We need Hellcats and Liberty ships, not Fords, Zumwalts, Burke Flt 27s, and next-generation-warp-capable-invisible-drones.

 

Yes, we need a standing fleet, and a highly capable one, but its purpose is not to win a war but to hold the line until production can gear up.

 

 

 

 

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[1]Newsmax website, “'Years' Before New Stingers Made”, Theodore Bunker, 27-Apr-2022,

https://www.newsmax.com/newsfront/raytheon-stinger-missiles-supply-defense/2022/04/27/id/1067459/

 

[2]This set as an objective the ability for the US military to simultaneously win two wars and while holding in another, smaller, regional conflict.

 

[3] This set as an objective the ability for the US military to win a single smaller, regional conflict while holding in another regional conflict.

 

[4]Defense One website, “‘We Should Have Been There’: Marine General Laments the State of the Amphib Navy”, Caitlin M. Kenney, 29-Apr-2022,

https://www.defenseone.com/policy/2022/04/we-should-have-been-there-marine-general-laments-state-amphib-navy/366314/

 

[5]Newsmax website, “Push to Arm Ukraine Putting Strain on US Weapons Stockpile”, 2-May-2022,

https://www.newsmax.com/newsfront/russian-ukraine-war-biden/2022/05/02/id/1068140/

 

Monday, May 9, 2022

Illustrative Examples From Ukraine

While I have emphatically warned about drawing lessons from the Ukraine-Russia war, there are still some illustrative examples to be had.  These are illustrative in the sense that they describe a lesson without requiring complete and accurate data.  In other words, the points and lessons can be discerned whether all the facts are known or not.  Let’s take a look at a couple of illustrative examples.

 

 

Vertical Assault

 

At the onset of combat, Russia launched a massive helicopter assault to seize the Hostomel air base which is just 6 miles outside Kiev.  Reports suggest that 20-30+ helicopters (Mi-8 escorted by Ka-52) were used and that the airfield was quickly secured. 

 

History has demonstrated, repeatedly, that helo operations over contested battlefields are costly and this held true in this case.  The initial attack was costly with videos showing several helos shot down during their approach to the airfield.

 

The Russian’s initial success did not last, however.  Reports indicate that the 4th Rapid Response Brigade of the Ukraine National Guard counterattacked and partially or completely reclaimed the airfield.  The brigade’s nominal composition was:

 

  • Brigade HQ
  • 1st Infantry Battalion
  • 2nd Infantry Battalion
  • Tank Battalion (T-64BV tanks)
  • Artillery Battalion
  • Anti-aircraft Missile Battalion
  • Support units (drones, etc.)

 

The Russian force consisted of purely light infantry and lacked any armor to counter the Ukraine tanks.  They had to rely on a few Su-25 strike aircraft which were, in turn, countered by Ukrainian anti-air and air support.

 

Control of the airfield then appeared to switch back and forth.  Russia appears to have attempted to reinforce its Hostomel forces with only limited success.  At this point, reports become unreliable and events are unclear.

 

The lesson from this illustrative example is one that history has already taught us.  Airborne assault using light infantry cannot succeed without rapid reinforcement from heavier units.  In addition, airborne assault will, by definition, result in an isolated and surrounded force.  Rapid reinforcement from heavier ground forces is mandatory.  Russia failed to quickly link up an armored relief force with the airborne infantry and, thus, failed in their objective to quickly secure the airfield as an operational hub and springboard into Kiev.

 

The US military, and the Marines, in particular, are counting heavily on vertical assault despite extremely heavy historical losses and without any realistic exercises to demonstrate the viability of the concept.  We desperately need to re-examine our vertical assault operational concepts and doctrine and prove/disprove it with realistic field exercises.  History suggests that the concept is not viable against a peer enemy.


 


Self-deception

 

It appears that the Russian military may have suffered from a case of self-deception about the degree of expertise of their soldiers and units.  Without needing any actual data or proof, it is also an absolute certainty that Putin was being told what he wanted to hear regarding capabilities and readiness.  Passing on only positive news to your boss is simply an ingrained bureaucratic and human tendency.  When your boss is a despotic dictator who will kill you if he doesn’t like what you tell him, the already overwhelming tendency becomes an absolute certainty.

 

We can see the exact same thing happening to the US military, today, if perhaps not to the exact same degree (though likely not much different).  As evidenced by their impossibly optimistic statements about our capabilities and readiness, our leaders are either repeating the end result of being fed falsely positive assessments or they’re out and out lying.  I’ll give them the benefit of the doubt and assume that they’re being fed falsely positive assessments.

 

 

Summary

 

As noted and cautioned, the details of the examples may not be completely correct but the generalized lessons stand and the Ukraine examples illustrate the lessons.  Ukraine is a priceless opportunity for the US military to re-examine and refine/eliminate many of its concepts and beliefs.  We absolutely must start injecting reality into our concepts and our training.  We need to stop lying to ourselves about the magnificence of our weapon systems and start testing them realistically and evaluating them through the ruthless and unforgiving lens of life or death combat.


Friday, May 6, 2022

Sorry, Can’t Do It

The Marine Corps, our national crisis response force, couldn’t respond to an emergency deployment request to deal with the Ukraine-Russia war.

 

As Russia prepared to invade Ukraine, the head of U.S. European Command asked for a Marine Expeditionary Unit and Amphibious Ready Group to deploy early to Europe as a hedge against the conflict expanding.

 

But the Marine Corps couldn’t meet the request, Lt. Gen. Karsten Heckl, the deputy commandant for combat development and integration, told the Senate Armed Services seapower subcommittee today.[1]

 

The Marines couldn’t respond?!?!  Isn’t that their entire reason for existence?  Isn’t that why we have them around? 

 

According to Marine Lt. Gen. Karsten Heckl, the deputy commandant for combat development and integration, crisis response is the Marine’s responsibility.  As he stated,

 

“Within force design is our ongoing requirement as a Marine Corps and by law to be the crisis response force for the nation.”[1]

 

So what happened?

 

According to Heckl, U.S. European Command chief Gen. Tod Wolters asked that the 22nd Marine Expeditionary Unit and the Kearsarge Amphibious Ready Group “sortie early to be on station as the Ukrainian situation evolved, or devolved. And we were not able to sortie the ship[s].”[1]

 

So, according to the Marine general, the blame lies with the Navy.  He further states,

 

The 22nd MEU was already prepared to go. However, the maintenance status of the three warships of the Kearsarge Amphibious Ready Group was “so bad” they were not prepared to leave then or after the invasion, Heckl told Defense One on Thursday.[2]

 

On March 16—a month and a day after the orders came down—most of the MEU departed Naval Station Norfolk, Virginia, aboard the amphibious assault ship Kearsarge (LHD 3) and the amphibious transport dock Arlington.  The rest left aboard the dock landing ship Gunston Hall about a week or so later, Heckl said.[2]

 

The Navy owns 31 amphibious ships and the Navy and Marines are telling me that they couldn’t even muster 3 functional amphibious ships during a crisis?  If the three ships designated for the 22nd MEU weren’t functional, are you telling me that the Navy couldn’t pick three other ships out of the remaining 28 amphibious ships in the fleet?  Is our amphibious fleet in that bad a shape that we can’t find 3 functional ships out of 31?  Or, is our Navy/Marine force so inflexible that only the three designated ships could be used for the 22nd MEU and no other ships could be allowed to take their place?

 

If the Navy can’t even keep 3 amphibious ships out of 31 functional, why would we give the Navy any more new ships?

 

Whatever the answers are to the various questions, it looks very bad for the Marines and Navy.

 

Here’s what the Marine general had to say about the Navy’s readiness,

 

Navy’s Optimized Fleet Response Plan, … assumes the ships have an 80 percent readiness rate, Heckl said Thursday.

 

“The 10-year running average for the amphib Navy is 63 [percent]. Last month, it was 46 [percent],” he said. “So the number is only valid if the readiness rates are achieved and maintained, which today is simply not the case.”[2]

 

The general threw the Navy under bus, big time.  The question is whether it was with good reason or not.  This is one side of the story – the Marine’s side.  We don’t know the Navy’s side.  Was it 100% the Navy’s failure, as the general claims, or were the Marines also not ready?  Unknown.

 

Regardless, this is a very bad incident.

 

The Navy’s vaunted and much hyped Optimized Fleet Response Plan (OFRP), which was supposed to solve the entire Navy maintenance and readiness problem and which failed instantly with the first aborted carrier deployment, by the way, was intended to prevent exactly this kind of scenario.  The OFRP has been a dismal failure.  The Navy has failed utterly and completely at ship maintenance.  Having ships ready to go is kind of like your only job, Navy.  You had one job and you failed.

 

 

Recommendations

 

Here’s my recommendations as a result of this embarrassing and humiliating fiasco:

 

  • Cut the Marines down to one MEU.  Get rid of all the rest.  There’s no point having a bigger force that can’t be deployed.  There’s also no point maintaining a purely defensive, light infantry force – we’ve got the entire Army that can do that job better.
  • Cut the Navy shipbuilding budget to zero until the Navy can prove that they can keep the ships they have functional.

 

 

 

_____________________________________

 

[1]USNI News website, “Marines Couldn’t Meet Request to Surge to Europe Due to Strain on Amphibious Fleet”, Mallory Shelbourne, 26-Apr-2022,

https://news.usni.org/2022/04/26/marines-couldnt-meet-request-to-surge-to-europe-due-to-strain-on-amphibious-fleet

 

[2]Defense One website, “‘We Should Have Been There’: Marine General Laments the State of the Amphib Navy”, Caitlin Kenney, 29-Apr-2022,

https://www.defenseone.com/policy/2022/04/we-should-have-been-there-marine-general-laments-state-amphib-navy/366314/

Wednesday, May 4, 2022

Battleship Delivery

Here’s a quick, fun item …

 

How many battleships did the US build during WWII?  Several, maybe a dozen?  This may shock you but the answer is zero.  We didn’t produce a single battleship during WWII.

 

What???  That can’t be true!  We built the North Carolina, South Dakota, and Iowa classes, right?  Wrong!  Only 8 battleships were commissioned during WWII and all of them began building (laid down) before the war started.  In other words, we were unable to start and finish a single battleship during the war.

 

Following is a list of the BBs commissioned during the war.  Note that they were all laid down pre-war.

 

 

 

Laid Down

Commissioned

South Dakota

5-Jul-1939

20-Mar-1942

Indiana

20-Sep-1939

30-Apr-1942

Massachusetts

20-Jul-1939

12-May-1942

Alabama

1-Feb-1940

16-Aug-1942

Iowa

27-Jun-1940

22-Feb-1943

New Jersey

16-Sep-1940

23-May-1943

Missouri

6-Jan-1941

11-Jun-1944

Wisconsin

25-Jan-1941

16-Apr-1944

 

 

 

We only started (laid down) 2 battleships (Illinois and Kentucky) during the war.  Neither was finished and both wound up being scrapped prior to completion when the war ended.

 

In contrast, 19 fleet carriers commissioned during WWII and 16 of those were laid down during the war.

 

No particular point to this post, just a fun fact!


Monday, May 2, 2022

F-35C Reality Check

Well, here’s a tidbit of information about the initial F-35C carrier deployment that you likely won’t see publicly acknowledged again.  Referring to the F-35C’s deployment aboard the USS Vinson, VAdm. Whitesell had this to say about the aircraft’s availability (readiness) rates.

 

“For that generation five fighter [ed. the F-35] to be fully full-mission capable, what was the percentage rate – which right now looks on paper starkly low, but now, what systems were not up? And how did it really affect – if we had to go into conflict, what would that be? And then what do we have to do to fix it?” Whitesell [Vice Adm. Kenneth Whitesell, Commander, U.S. Naval Air Forces] said.[1] [emphasis added]

 

As you recall, the F-35C just completed its first deployment aboard the USS Vinson.  Apparently, to no one’s surprise but the Navy’s, the F-35 had ‘starkly low’ availability.  The admiral did not offer a numerical percentage but given that the target full mission capable percentage is horrifyingly low (around 50%), ‘starkly low’ must be in the 20-30% realm.  That’s putrid and means the aircraft were barely operational.

 

What is the admiral going to do about the ‘starkly low’ availability rates?  Well, for one thing, he’s going to check on how spare parts impacted the situation.  Read this carefully,

 

“With our international coalition partners flying the platform too, when we ask for a part, did we lose out to another country when we were on deployment? Where were we on the pecking order? Right now, it looks like we fared well, but I need to talk to Lockheed Martin since they run the ASP [ed. Afloat Spares Package] and the global spares program – [Hybrid Product Support Integration],” he said.[1]

 

Did you catch the part about having to talk to Lockheed Martin ‘since they run the ASP and global spares program’?  So, it’s not the Navy that controls spare parts allocation for its aircraft … it’s Lockheed Martin. 

 

… GAO claims that “the government still has very limited control over the F-35 supply chain, including ordering, part procurement, and inventory,” with defense officials telling the GAO that Lockheed still maintains “substantial control” over areas like parts storage and transport, and maintainers describing constraints that keep them from repairing parts that are proprietary.[3]

 

How did we get ourselves into a situation where a civilian contractor controls whether or not a deployed carrier aircraft gets spare parts?  Having near monopolistic control over parts availability, Lockheed would never manipulate and restrict F-35 parts availability to subtly influence future production prices in their favor, right?  Right?  Still, does this sound like the way to run a war … hoping that Lockheed favors our deployed aircraft with parts?  On a related note, what if China cyber-hacks Lockheed and messes up the parts distribution system?  They could put our carriers out of action just by hacking the parts distribution computer program!  Is having Lockheed run the parts program really a good idea?

 

We’ve given up onboard maintenance ability to contractors and now we’ve given up spare parts management to a contractor?

 

In addition to spare parts shortages, here’s another one of the problems the F-35 encountered:

 

During the recent deployment, the F-35C squadron found that some seals on the aircraft did not function as planned in the at-sea environment.

 

“There’s already [a] new design coming out of Lockheed Martin for the new seals,” he said. “So there’s some learning that’s been done.[1]

 

The Navy declared IOC (Initial Operating Capability) for the F-35C on 28-Feb-2019.  That’s three years ago and we’re just now finding out that basic seals for a carrier deployed aircraft are a problem?  I guess that IOC wasn’t really operational, was it? 

 

On a related note, the seals issue once again highlights the difficulty in adapting a land based aircraft (which is what the F-35 is) to maritime use.  So many people want to point to some land weapon system and say, just bolt it to the deck of a ship.  Well, it’s a lot harder than that and this is yet another example of why most such efforts fail.

 

From the Navy’s announcement about the F-35C IOC,

 

The Navy added in its statement that “in order to declare IOC, the first operational squadron must be properly manned, trained and equipped to conduct assigned missions in support of fleet operations. This includes having 10 Block 3F, F-35C aircraft, requisite spare parts, support equipment, tools, technical publications, training programs and a functional Autonomic Logistic Information System (ALIS).[2]

 

I guess proper seals weren’t a requirement.  We also know that ALIS has never functioned properly.  Apparently, spare parts availability isn’t an assured thing.  So … how could the Navy have declared IOC?

 

The F-35C first flight was Jun-2010.  In the intervening 12 years, no one thought to test a carrier aircraft at sea or in a simulated saltwater environment to check things like seals?  They could have simply parked an F-35C on the deck of a deployed carrier, exposed to the elements, and then checked the condition at the end of deployment.

 

I know the Navy has never met a test they didn’t want to bypass but sometimes tests are good and necessary.

 

So, ‘starkly low’ F-35C aircraft availability persists and yet the Navy wants to get more F-35s into the air wings?  I think we need to back the availability truck up (and hopefully run over some F-35s!) and work on the readiness rates before we commit to placing the F-35 into the air wings and wind up further reducing our already hollow carrier force even more. 

 

Do we really want carriers going to war with aircraft that have ‘starkly low’ availability rates?

 

 

 

__________________________________

 

[1]USNI News website, “A Generational Change in Naval Aviation Has Begun Amidst Tight Budgets, Fighter Gaps”, Mallory Shellbourne, 24-Mar-2022,

https://news.usni.org/2022/03/24/a-generational-change-in-naval-aviation-has-begun-amidst-tight-budgets-fighter-gaps

 

[2]USNI News website, “Navy Declares Initial Operational Capability for F-35C Joint Strike Fighter”, Megan Eckstein, 28-Feb-2019,

https://news.usni.org/2019/02/28/navy-declares-initial-operational-capability-for-f-35c-joint-strike-fighter

 

[3]Breaking Defense website, “Pentagon wants $500M to get data to manage F-35 parts”, Valerie Insinna, 29-Apr-2022,

https://breakingdefense.com/2022/04/pentagon-wants-500m-to-get-data-to-manage-f-35-parts/