Thursday, March 31, 2022

Atlanta/Juneau Anti-Aircraft Cruiser

The WWII Atlanta/Juneau classes of anti-aircraft (AA) cruisers were a fascinating development.  In the initial design discussions, the ships were intended as flotilla leaders but they were quickly optimized for the anti-aircraft role as war established the primacy of aircraft.  Based on additional combat experience, the initial Atlanta class was further optimized as the follow on Juneau class.


USS Juneau, CL-119

Typical later war weapon fits are listed in the table below.




5”/38 dual

40 mm quad

40 mm dual

20 mm dual

20 mm single

Atlanta Class

6 (12 barrels)


8 (16 barrels)


16 (16 barrels)

Juneau Class

6 (12 barrels)

6 (24 barrels)

4 (8 barrels)

8 (16 barrels)




Atlanta class had 30 gun mounts with a total of 44 gun barrels of various types.

Juneau class had 24 gun mounts with a total of 60 gun barrels of various types.


The Atlanta/Juneau classes were extremely efficient and effective anti-aircraft platforms, for the time.  Battleships, of course, had far larger anti-aircraft weapon fits but they were extremely expensive and we only had a handful of those ships.  The AA cruisers offered a cheaper, yet still effective, supplement to the battleships.


The anti-aircraft cruisers had what was, for the time period, a complete fit of long range (5”), medium range (40 mm), and close in (20 mm) weapons providing total coverage and, most importantly, they had large numbers of each.


USS Spokane, CL-120

Atlanta/Juneau and Burke Comparison


Weapon Distribution – In comparison to the Atlanta/Juneau weapon densities noted above, a modern Burke has just three defensive mounts (2x VLS clusters, 1x CIWS).  Admittedly, a direct comparison of ‘mounts’ is meaningless but it does offer an impression of the density of weapon mounts on a WWII warship versus today’s barely armed ships.  The number of mounts is meaningful.  A single hit on one of the Burke’s two VLS clusters would eliminate 1/3 or 2/3 of the ship’s total weapons, depending on whether the forward or aft cluster was hit, and just two hits could eliminate the ship’s entire weaponry.  This is unconscionable in a warship design.


More importantly, the WWII ships had a balanced and heavy distribution of long, medium, and short range defensive weapons.  Contrast this to Burkes which have good fits of long (Standard) and medium (ESSM) range weapons but almost no short range (CIWS) weapons – a shocking deficiency for an anti-aircraft ship.


Armor – The Atlanta/Juneau classes had armor appropriate for their size with nearly 4” side armor and 1-3/4” deck and turret armor. 


As in the larger cruisers, the belt armor was split into a wide band over machinery spaces with narrower underwater sections fore and aft over magazines.  The inner bottom extended up the side to the (flat) protective deck.  Magazines would be separated from the ship’s side by fuel oil aft and by a wiring passage or cofferdam forward.[1, p.233]


In contrast, the Burke class has only scattered Kevlar spall liner protection.  There may be some armor surrounding the below deck VLS space, presumably intended not as protective armor but to direct VLS explosions upward rather than inward.  I’ve been unable to verify this.


The obvious observation is that the WWII ships were built to stand and fight and were intended to be able to fight hurt, stay in the fight, and remain effective for as long as possible.  Burkes are bordering on one-hit mission kills, if not outright sinkings, and have little hope of staying in a fight and fighting hurt.  In fact, the experience of the Port Royal Aegis cruiser grounding strongly suggests that the radar array and VLS alignments are so delicate that a single low intensity vibration (explosion shock … or gentle grounding) is enough to render the equipment unusable.  See, “Port Royal Grounding Lessons”.


Survivability – As noted, both the presence of significant armor and the weapons density offered a much greater chance of ship survival than the Burke’s nearly non-existent armor and only three weapon mounts.  The sheer number of weapon mounts, fire control directors, and local backups on the WWII cruisers guaranteed that the ship could continue fighting effectively even after absorbing multiple hits.  In contrast, a single hit on either of the Burke’s VLS clusters will likely render the entire cluster unusable resulting in the instantaneous loss of 1/3 or 2/3 of the ship’s weapons, depending on whether the forward or aft cluster was hit.


On a related note, testing the effects of a typical anti-ship cruise missile on a VLS cluster is one of the many realistic tests the Navy desperately needs to conduct to get a handle on the true combat-worthiness of today’s ship designs.


Conceptual Design – The AA cruisers were the epitome of a focused, single function ship.  They were intended to shoot down aircraft and that was all.  As the war progressed, extraneous equipment such as depth charges, sonar, and torpedo tubes were generally removed and replaced with additional guns.  In comparison, the Burkes are the epitome of do-everything design with the attendant corollaries of do nothing well and cost a lot.  In a sense, the Burkes are the epitome of a failed and flawed, unfocused design philosophy.



Conceptual Anti-Aircraft Ship


Let’s take the lessons of the Atlanta/Juneau anti-aircraft cruiser and apply them to a modern, conceptual anti-aircraft ship design and see what we get.


First, what is the job of an anti-aircraft ship?  This is not a trick question.  The answer is simple … it’s anti-air warfare!  It’s not anti-submarine.  It’s not land attack or deep strike.  It’s not helo operations.  It’s not amphibious attack or logistics or harbor tug.  It’s anti-air warfare.  Pure and simple.  One function.  Do it and do it exquisitely well.  Be optimized for it. 


With that single function focus firmly in mind, here’s the weapons and sensors such a ship would have:


  • 4x 16-VLS clusters (disperse the risk) with 32 quad packed ESSM (128 total ESSM) plus 32 Standard
  • 6x SeaRAM
  • 8x CIWS
  • 4” side and 2” deck armor[2]
  • 2x main fire control radars (TRS-4D or similar)
  • 4x backup fire control radars (SPQ-8B or similar)
  • Electro-optical back up fire control systems


This conceptual design provides long, medium, and short range anti-air weapons and offers the ability to stand and fight, even when hurt.  It emphatically addresses the flaw (well, one of the flaws) in the Burke class which is the near total lack of close in defensive weapons.


There would be no flight deck and hangar as AAW does not require aviation capability.  On the Burke, for example, aviation facilities comprise a solid third of the ship’s length (!) and represent significant size, weight, and cost.


There would also be no hull mounted sonar, stern towed array sonar, or ASW function.  Eliminating those functions further reduces the size, weight, and cost of the ship.


Being physically smaller, the ship can’t help but be stealthier and some judicious shaping and repackaging (à la Visby) could make it even more stealthy which would make it more survivable and effective in its role.  You see how easy ship design should be?  All you have to do is pick a primary function, stick with it (and only it !), and the rest is easy.  But, I digress …


So, our conceptual anti-aircraft ship will be 2/3 the length of a Burke, have more weapons, and cost a third less!  What’s not to like?






[1]Friedman, Norman, “U.S. Cruisers, An Illustrated Design History”, Naval Institute Press, Annapolis, Maryland, 1984


[2]Armor recommendation is for whatever a modern equivalent to WWII armor thicknesses would be.

Tuesday, March 29, 2022

Massive FY23 Ship Retirements

The Navy just announced that it wants to retire 24 ships next year (FY23).


The Navy wants to decommission 24 ships in the upcoming fiscal year to save $3.6 billion over the next five years, the service announced today.[1]


The planned retirements are:


  • 9x Freedom-class Littoral Combat Ships
  • 5x Ticonderoga-class cruisers
  • 2x Los Angeles-class submarines
  • 4x Landing Dock Ships
  • 2x oilers
  • 2x Expeditionary Transfer Docks.


We noted in the previous post that the LCS were being retired in large part because of the now official failure of the ASW module.


“They also do happen to be Freedom class, which also happens to have the drive train challenge. But if I were to be completely transparent, that drivetrain fix isn’t an exorbitant amount of money,” Gumbleton [Navy deputy assistant secretary for budget Rear Adm. John Gumbleton] added, referring to the 9 LCS. “But when you target your savings at one variant, there’s savings programmatically instead of having to sustain two different lines. So, collectively, ASW [and] drive train, led us to this.”[1]


And yet,


Asked about decommissioning the 9 LCS, Meredith Berger, who is currently performing the duties of the under secretary of the Navy, said doing so allows the Navy to “free ourselves of some really costly repairs and maintenance.”[1]


Are the Admiral and the Under Secretary on the same page?  One says that the drivetrain fix isn’t that expensive and the other says it will be really costly.  Get your stories straight, people!  You’re looking like the morons you are.


Are all those 24 ships past their service lives and ready for retirement?


Sixteen of those 24 ships have not yet reached the end of their service lives, meaning the Navy will need to ask for waivers, Gumbleton noted.[1]


What is with this insane pattern of early retiring ships?  I hope all you naval observers who keep calling for 40+ year service life ships with future proofing and upgrade capabilities built in are grasping this.  All you people who keep arguing against my proposal to build ships with a 10-20 yr service life need to reconcile this reality with your fantasies.


The Expeditionary Transfer Docks are the former Mobile Landing Platforms which the Navy assured us were absolutely vital to amphibious assaults.  There are two MLPs, the Montford Point and John Glenn, and they completed trials in 2013 and 2014, respectively, which makes them 10 yrs old and 9 yrs old in 2023.  Another nail in the coffin of amphibious assault.  Which begs the question, why are we continuing to build America class amphibious assault vessels and why are we continuing to operate amphibious assault ships?


Didn’t we just do a post that discussed the Navy’s belief that we will have a war with China in the next 8 years?  And we’re still retiring ships as fast as we can?  That’s more insanity!


In FY23, we’re retiring 24 ships but we’re only building 9.[1]  Can anyone do the math on that?  It’s over my head and, apparently, the Navy’s!


Here’s the Navy’s new construction request for 2023:


  • 2x Arleigh Burke class Flight III destroyers
  • 2x Virginia class submarines
  • 1x Constellation class frigate
  • 1x San Antonio class amphibious transport dock
  • 1x America class amphibious assault ship
  • 1x John Lewis class oiler
  • 1x Navajo class towing, salvage and rescue ship


Ignoring counting the tugboat as a warship, that’s 8 new ships while retiring 24.


Again, tell me why we’re early retiring the Mobile Landing Platforms while building America  and San Antonio class amphibious ships?  Are we in the amphibious assault business or not?


We retire two oilers and build one.  Again, someone do the math on that.


The Navy’s own projections call for a decrease in fleet size from 297 ships in 2022 to 280 in 2027.  Ah … is that the direction we want to go when we’re expecting a war with China in the next 8 years?  Also, bear in mind those numbers hold only if Congress gives the Navy everything it wants for new construction.  Any markdowns will make the drop in fleet size even more pronounced.


Regarding budgets and fleet size,


Gumbleton said the request accounts for inflation, with five percent “real growth” for the Navy … [1]


So, a five percent real growth in the Navy budget results in a 5.4% drop in fleet size.  The budget goes up and the fleet size goes down.  Ah, Mr. Gumbleton, are you sure you’re getting your money’s worth from the budget? 


Before we close this bit of insanity theater out, there’s one more entry:


For personnel, the Navy projects cutting about 10,000 sailors between FY 2023 and FY 2027.[1]


Didn’t we just do a post about the Navy being short several thousand at-sea billets?  Yes, we did!  See, “At-Sea Billet Gaps”.  So, the solution is to cut 10,000 sailors?  Math, please … anyone?


The Chinese could not do to our Navy what we’re doing to it ourselves.


Some of you think I’m too hard on our Navy idiots leaders.  Still think so?






[1]USNI News website, “FY 23 Budget: Navy Wants to Shed 24 Ships for $3.6B in Savings Over Next Five Years”, Mallory Shelbourne, 28-Mar-2022,

Monday, March 28, 2022

Stunning LCS News!

I don’t know how this slipped by me but here’s some stunning LCS news.


The Navy has officially abandoned the LCS ASW module!


Apparently related to this (in the Navy’s mind), in FY23,


… the Navy plans to decommission 9 Freedom-class Littoral Combat Ships,…


Explaining the LCS decommissionings, Navy deputy assistant secretary for budget Rear Adm. John Gumbleton cited the service’s decision to abandon the anti-submarine warfare mission package for the LCS class because the Constellation-class frigate will have that capability.


“And the ASW variant – mission module – huge challenges, not going to work.”[1]


There it is.  The Navy is officially acknowledging that the ASW module is a failure. 


How many times did ComNavOps and others describe the unsolvable problems associated with the LCS and ASW?  Ignoring us – and reality - , how much time and money has the Navy wasted on this?  Someone absolutely has to be court-martialed over this.  This is far beyond a simple mistake.  This is fraud, negligence, incompetence, and waste on a criminal scale.  Navy officials lied about this program for years.  Someone must pay.


If CNO Gilday had an ounce of integrity, he’d resign    but he doesn’t.






[1]USNI News website, “FY 23 Budget: Navy Wants to Shed 24 Ships for $3.6B in Savings Over Next Five Years”, Mallory Shelbourne, 28-Mar-2022,

Port Seizure Example

ComNavOps has stated that the Marine’s primary mission should be port seizure.  The Ukraine-Russia war has provided an illustrative example of exactly that mission so let’s take a look and see what we can learn from it.





Russia had seized the port of Berdyansk and was using it as a logistics and resupply point.  However, on 24-Mar-2022, Ukraine struck a Russian Alligator class amphibious landing ship (reportedly, the Orsk) while it was docked in Berdyansk along with two other amphibious ships.[1]  Satellite photos confirm the ship has sunk. 


Sunken Ship and Damaged Facilities


After the attack, the other two Ropucha-II class landing ships were observed quickly leaving the port.  Some reports suggest that one or both also suffered damage from the attack.  In addition, facilities on the dock were damaged, as confirmed by satellite photos.


It is unknown whether the Orsk was loaded and, if so, what the cargo/troops was.  The Orsk can carry 1000+ tons of cargo or around 400 troops and vehicles.  Presumably, since it was docked, it was in the process of unloading though, if so, to what degree it had completed its unloading is unknown.


The weapon used was speculated to be an OTR-21 Tochka (SS-21 Scarab) which, depending on the version, has a range of 43-70 miles, an accuracy (CEP) of 229-490 ft, and a thousand pound HE or fragmentation warhead.  The Tochka missile is unguided and uses inertial navigation.


It is hard to believe that an inertial guided missile with a CEP of hundreds of feet could hit a single ship which is only 370 ft long and 50 ft wide.  Of course, that ship may or may not have been the intended target.  Regardless of the delivery method, the Orsk suffered some type of major explosive attack.





Berdyansk is a port city of about 100,000 people and is located along the northwestern shore of the Sea of Azov.  The port is some fifty miles or so directly across from Russia territory and ports on the eastern side of the Sea of Azov.  Berdyansk fell to the Russians sometime around 27-Feb-2022, shortly after the start of the invasion.


Berdyansk Location



This incident demonstrates both the vital importance of having a secure port to provide logistical support for ground forces and the extreme difficulty in securing said port and operating it under combat conditions.  One of the consistent reports from Ukraine concerns the apparent lack of logistical support for Russian ground troops with reports of shortages of food, ammo, fuel, and parts.  Thus, a port such as this is mandatory for successful sustained ground operations.


It shouldn’t need to be said but let me say it clearly and forcefully, anyway:  it is not possible to logistically support a significant ground war by air.  A secure and functional port is an absolute necessity.


Russian state media reports that the Russian Navy is using the captured port of Berdyansk - located on Ukraine's Sea of Azov coastline - in order to funnel more arms, armor and ammunition to the front lines of the invasion of Ukraine.


Berdyansk is just 50 road miles west of the city of Mariupol, which has been encircled and besieged by the 8th Combined Arms Army and the Russian Black Sea Fleet. From the start, the operation has been characterized by heavy artillery bombardment, which requires extensive logistics support for sustainment. With relatively limited in-house trucking capacity, Russian maneuver units need to stay within about 90 miles of a supply stockpile or risk running out of ammunition, according to U.S. Army analyst Lt. Col. Alex Vershinin. The early seizure of Berdyansk has helped the invading force to meet this distance requirement for operations between Crimea and Mariupol.


According to Russian state-controlled outlet Zvezda, 10 ships are assigned to resupply runs from nearby Russian-controlled ports to Berdyansk.[2]


Clearly, the port is vital to Russian logistical support efforts.  Russia managed to seize the port but has, thus far, been unable to secure it, as demonstrated by this attack.  On the other hand, no matter how secure the port, a docked ship is at risk unless the port is out of range of enemy weapons.  Of course, if it is out of range of enemy weapons it is also probably quite far from the very ground forces that it is supposed to support. 


This incident suggests that we need to come to grips with the reality of combat losses when trying to operate a port while under fire. 


The incident also points out the need to have specialized rapid port repair capability for when the inevitable port damage occurs. 


In addition, there is a need to be able to clear sunken ships so that port operations can continue.



Port Seizure


We’ve discussed port seizure in previous posts (see, “Amphibious Assault – Port Seizure”).


As a reminder, here are some of the requirements to seize and secure a port facility:


  • Elimination of enemy forces from the immediate area
  • Establishment of C-RAM (Counter-Rocket, Artillery, Mortar) protection
  • Establishment of cruise and ballistic missile defenses
  • Establishment of long range attacks against enemy rocket, artillery, mortar, cruise, and ballistic weapons (best defense is a good offense)
  • Establishment of secure transportation routes out of the port to enable distribution of supplies to the ground forces


Since most (all?) ports are intimately associated with surrounding, built up, urban areas, eliminating enemy forces from the area will be difficult and will require a degree of urban fighting with all its attendant challenges.  This will require a very highly trained and specialized force, thoroughly familiar with the unique tactics of urban warfare.  This will also require a great deal of specialized equipment such as breeching equipment for anything from doors to smashing through reinforced walls.  Another example might be barricade erection machinery to provide a secure barrier for cleared areas.


Hand in hand with specialized tactics and equipment is the requirement for specialized rules of engagement.  Urban warfare simply cannot be fought with any regard for civilian casualties or collateral damage to structures.  To do so is to guarantee unnecessary friendly casualties.  In urban warfare, lots of people are going to die.  There’s no way around it.  The goal is to make sure that as few of the deaths are US soldiers as possible.  The only good thing about a war is ending it as quickly as possible and the way to do that, with as few deaths as possible, is to conduct the war with overwhelming force and violence.  If there’s a sniper in a building, you don’t do a floor by floor, room by room search which winds up with a dead sniper and a dozen of your own soldiers killed;  you demolish the entire building, with no friendly casualties, and move on.


Verticality is another consideration in port seizure and defense.  In most built up areas, tall buildings are a reality and they impose their own unique impact on both offense and defense.  For example, tall buildings may block lower arcing artillery, rockets, and missiles while allowing higher arcing mortars.  Buildings will block the field of fire of defensive weapons.  A C-RAM, for example, has to be placed where it has a clear field of fire and that will be a challenge to accomplish.  It may be that we would need an entirely new type of defensive weapon, one that is much more vertically oriented.





Port seizure is a highly specialized military action and requires dedicated, specially trained units to accomplish the mission.  Despite the difficulty, ports are a mandatory requirement to logistically support ground forces.  Currently, we have no forces trained or equipped to accomplish this mission.  The logical organization to take the mission is the Marines.  Unfortunately, they seem to have zero interest in the mission.  To be fair, no one in the entire US military seems to have any interest in the mission and I’m unaware of anyone having even spoken about it.  The US military seems to assume that free and easy access to ports is our birthright, just as we assume that we’ll have uncontested and unhindered use of air bases.  Unfortunately, when China comes knocking, we’ll find ourselves having to fight for ports and bases, if we want them.  We’re going to have to learn how to fight for ports and how to defend and operate them while under fire – something we haven’t had to do since Guadalcanal.


‘Conquest is easy, control is not’ and this adage certainly applies to port seizure.  Merely seizing a port is not enough.  The port has to be secured sufficiently to enable shipping operations with a reasonable degree of safety and the ability to deal with the damage from successful attacks, should they occur.






[1]Naval News website, “Ukraine Strikes Russia’s Alligator Class LST With Ballistic Missile”, Tayfun Ozberk, 24-Mar-2022,


[2]The Maritime Executive website, “Russia Uses Captured Port of Berdyansk to Resupply Southern Front”, 21-Mar-2022,

Thursday, March 24, 2022

Duplication and Budget Grabs

The Marines believe that the Navy abandoned them at Guadalcanal so they developed their own air force in a massive duplication of effort and overlap of responsibilities.


Today, the Army believes that the Air Force is not providing intelligence (ISR) quickly enough for the Army’s Long Range Precision Fires program and so they’re looking to develop their own ISR effort in a massive duplication of effort and overlap of responsibilities.


… Army leaders, which for decades have complained that they [do] not receive the battlefield-ready ISR it needs in a timely manner from either the Air Force or the Intelligence Community (IC), are now seeking to develop their own ISR satellite payloads that they can task for themselves. (1)


Key … to the Army’s overarching plan for high-speed future warfare, is the ability for taskable, over-the-horizon sensors that provide the intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) to enable targeting of the service’s developing arsenal of very long-range weapons, or in Army-speak, long-range precision fires. (1)


The Army is developing their own long range precision missile strike capability (out to 1000 km) which is the Air Force’s responsibility and will result in a massive duplication of effort and overlap of responsibilities.


The Marines, fearing budgetary irrelevance, have scrapped their main mission and equipment and are morphing into a small unit, light infantry, missile-shooting, coastwatcher organization and are demanding their own long range anti-ship missiles, private amphibious/logistics fleet, and some type of anti-submarine warfare capability in a massive duplication of effort and overlap of responsibilities with the Navy.


The Army has a massive navy of their own with Besson class landing ships (LSV – Logistics Support Vessels – 300 ft, 4000 tons), LCM landing vessels, and a myriad of other logistics ships, barges, and other support ships.  The Army operates around 90 large ships and hundreds of watercraft.



As we dig down, we find that the scope and scale of duplication between the services is breathtaking and, equally astounding, is increasing.  The end result is we’re slowly but surely developing four services that are complete duplicates of each other.  

  • We have four air forces.
  • We have three navies.
  • We have four long range missile strike forces.
  • We have four ground combat forces (Army, Marines, Navy SEALs/EOD/medical, Air Force Special Warfare).
  • We have four cyber forces.
  • We have four ISR forces.


This is unwise, inefficient, and unsustainable.  Each service is spending precious budget dollars duplicating the other service’s capabilities while their own core responsibilities suffer.  For example, the Marines have no significant mobile, armored, anti-air capability and yet they’re spending their money on anti-ship and ASW.  The Army lacks mobile, armored artillery vehicles and yet they’re spending their money on duplicating the Air Force’s deep strike.  And so on.


We desperately need a central, controlling authority to put a stop to this massively wasteful duplication of effort.  We have several levels of such authority (President, Secretary of Defense, Joint Chiefs) but none seem willing to do their jobs and just say no to the various services.


Everyone is trying to fight everyone else’s battle for no good reason other than budget grabbing.  For example, the Marines were in a panic about being rendered irrelevant by the China/Pacific scenario and have been frantically encroaching on the Navy’s mission in order to remain budget-relevant.


This must stop.  We need someone in higher authority to put a stop to this.  It’s costing us untold sums of money to duplicate capabilities.






(1)Breaking Defense website, “Project Convergence 2021 Kicks Off; Showcases 110 New Technologies”, Theresa Hitchens, 12-Oct-2021

Monday, March 21, 2022

Naval Air Wings (Scrap Two Carriers – Part 2)

Once again, we are honored to have a guest post from Carlton Meyer.  You may know him as username ‘G2mil’ and the author of many outstanding articles posted on his website at  Today’s post is the companion piece to his recent post, “Scrap Two Carriers”.  In today’s writing, he proposes an alternate use for the carrier air wings freed up by scrapping two carriers.  Enjoy!  



In a past blog post, “Scrap Two Carriers” I argued the US Navy’s fleet has become imbalanced and Admirals should scrap two supercarriers to free manpower and aircraft for the remaining nine carrier strike groups. This would also free billions of dollars each year for other Navy programs. I noted this will probably occur anyway because of the flawed Ford class carrier program. I suggested that two Carrier Air Wings (CAWs) could conduct sea control missions from existing American airbases overseas. This idea was considered in the past, calling them Navy Tactical Support Wings, a term still used for the Navy Reserve air wing. My proposal would incorporate Marine Corps squadrons and call land-based CAWs-- Naval Air Wings (NAW).


During World War II, most naval missions were flown from land bases, not from aircraft carriers. Since then, the US Navy has mostly refused to operate fighter squadrons from land bases, even though it has airbases at key sea control locations like in Sicily and Crete. NAWs will not require an ultra-expensive supercarrier, not require frequent resupply at sea, nor escort ships. On the other hand, large long-range precision guided missiles can blow big holes in fixed runways. However, such missiles cost at least $5 million to construct and require months to produce. If airfields are properly supported by rapid runway repair teams, they can fill a big hole in an hour and top it with gravel for emergency use. When a few hours can be spared, the team can top it off with quick dry concrete that can cure in four hours.


The composition of US Navy CAWs is always changing. The US Navy is short of needed aircraft, which explains today’s F-35C squadrons with just ten aircraft. This is the Navy's goal for future CAWs:


  • Two Navy Strike Fighter (VFA) Squadrons with 14 FA-18E/Fs each. Several aircraft are often tasked as refuelers.
  • One Marine Fighter Attack (VMFA) Squadron with ten F-35Cs.
  • One Navy Strike Fighter (VFA) Squadron with ten F-35Cs.
  • One Electronic Attack (VAQ) Squadron, with five EA-18G Growlers.
  • One Carrier Airborne Early Warning (VAW) Squadron, with four E-2D Hawkeyes
  • One Helicopter Sea Combat (HSC) Squadron of eight MH-60S Seahawks
  • One Helicopter Maritime Strike (HSM) Squadron of eleven MH-60R Seahawks, 3–5 are typically based on other ships of the carrier strike group.
  • A Fleet Logistics Support (VRC) Squadron Detachment of two CVM-22 Ospreys.


My proposed land-based NAW would consist of:


  • Two Navy Strike Fighter (VFA) Squadrons with 14 FA-18E/Fs each.
  • Two Marine Fighter Attack (VMFA) Squadrons with 16 F-35Bs each.
  • One CONUS based Marine VMGR Aerial Refueler Squadron with 15 KC-130Js tasked with support via rotational deployments, so perhaps four will be in theater to support the NAW with more during wartime.
  • One Navy Electronic Attack (VAQ) Squadron, with five EA-18G Growlers.
  • One Navy Carrier Airborne Early Warning (VAW) Squadron with four E-2D Hawkeyes
  • One Navy Helicopter Sea Combat (HSC) Squadron of eight MH-60S Seahawks based at several locations or aboard surface ships in the region.
  • One Navy Helicopter Maritime Strike (HSM) Squadron of eleven MH-60R Seahawks based at several locations or aboard surface combatants in the region.
  • A CONUS based Marine Fleet Logistics Support (VMM) Squadron of 12 MV-22 Ospreys tasked with support via rotational deployments, so perhaps three will be in theater to support the NAW with more during wartime.


The Marines should support this idea because Marine Aviation lacks a clear purpose in peer wars where amphibious operations will not be viable until the latter stage of a conflict. Marine Air lacks vital electronic warfare aircraft that Navy EA-18Gs provide, and lacks the long-range aerial radar that Navy E-2Ds provide. The Marines recently focused on support for expeditionary airfields during major wars. Supporting forward airfields for dispersed land based naval aircraft as part of NAWs fits perfectly. NAWs also can also support small dispersed units of Marines ashore. Finally, NAW staff will include many Marine Corps personnel and command should rotate between Navy and Marine aviators.


The Marines have provided squadrons to support US Navy carrier deployment for decades and currently provide four, hence the purchase of F-35C (Navy CTOL version) for four Marine VMFA squadrons. NAWs would each include two squadrons of F-35B (VSTOL) that can easily operate from shorter runways or those damaged from missile attacks. Modifying two CAWs into land-based NAWs with four Marine VMFA squadrons frees four Navy VFA squadrons to fill the gaps in other CAWs, or provides half the aircraft needed to form another CAW should the USS Ford finally become ready for a real deployment.

The basic mission of a NAW is sea control. This will involve support of CAW operations wherever possible with both combat aircraft and logistics support. A CAW may embark extra aircraft from a NAW or even an entire squadron. It may choose to swap types of aircraft depending on the threat and mission. The NAW can also supplement or swap aircraft with an LHA/LHD deployed in the region during smaller conflicts. Perhaps moving some helicopters ashore and adding F-35Bs, or the opposite.


NAW aircraft will be based at small Naval Air Facilities that will include medical and maintenance capabilities, thus ideal places to offload damaged CAW aircraft and sailors and acquire replacements. A CAW in combat with China may lose a dozen aircraft in a day! NAWs can instantly provide replacements. On the other hand, a heavily damaged carrier may need to transit stateside for months of repairs so her aircraft can continue to fight ashore as part of a NAW. In the early days of a war with China, cautious Admirals may keep their carriers “east of Guam” and out of range of Chinese submarines, long-range ballistic missiles, and bomber launched cruise missiles. Some of this reluctance is because our Navy will lack escorts for ships that supply underway carrier strike groups.


NAW and USAF airbases in WestPac may have been pummeled with strikes that continue every few days, but their airfields remain usable. The NAW in WestPac has fought varied engagements with the loss of many aircraft. Admirals may choose to use their supercarriers as home bases far from threats, deploying their squadrons forward to NAW airbases for days at a time to fight, then returning to their carrier for rest and replenishment. CAW aircraft may use battered NAW bases or forward Marine expeditionary bases as FAARPs (forward arming and air refueling points) to fly more sorties before returning to their carrier. These bases could also recover damaged aircraft or those low on fuel that can’t reach their carriers.


NAWs do not require the establishment of new airfields. The US military has dozens of airbases at key locations around the world for sea control.  NAWs will simply utilize existing airfields to conduct sea control missions and support CAW and Marine Corps operations in theater, although they could utilize wartime expeditionary airfields the Marines are keen to establish. One can criticize the lack of mobility of a NAW compared to a CAW, but it provides the same capabilities without a $15 billion Ford class carrier, without the worry that a carrier might be sunk, without the need for escort ships, and with a half of the support manpower. NAWs will require a few billion dollars to improve and expand existing airbases, but this costs far less than ships needed for a carrier strike group, without the massive annual operating costs for ship fuel and maintenance.


Moreover, overseas presence requires the rotation of three CONUS based aircraft carriers with their three CAWs to match what a single overseas based NAW provides! One can argue that naval aircraft can quickly deploy to overseas bases during wartime as needed, but it takes years to establish support facilities in the form of munitions stockpiles, ground support equipment, and aircraft spare parts blocks. Permanent overseas squadrons with regular peacetime interaction with allied forces will ensure better wartime cooperation. A major war will result in a rapid consumption of anti-aircraft and anti-ship missiles, and precision strike munitions that the Navy’s supply system cannot quickly replenish. CAW aircraft would soon draw upon the munition stockpiles at NAW bases ashore.


The Marine Corps traditionally publishes a very detailed “Marine Aviation Plan” each year, yet the last one was in 2019[1], probably because changes underway makes it difficult to plan.    The Marines tout the value of its forward-deployed MEUs, yet these require support from less than half the squadrons in Marine Aviation. Public literature indicates the Marines are unable to articulate a role for the remainder. The Department of Navy needs to find a role for Marine Air, and NAWs are part of the solution. Ideas for the exact basing of two NAWs will be addressed in a future blog post.





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 in 2000.





Friday, March 18, 2022

Lessons From Ukraine

What are the combat lessons from Ukraine?  There are no lessons from Ukraine!  Huh???


I didn’t want to do this post but the analysis from military observers is getting out of hand and we’re being fed a bunch of invalid conclusions and lessons that are beginning to take hold and that’s got to stop.  Everyone is spouting lessons they think they see from the Ukraine-Russia conflict but there are no valid lessons to be had.  Commenters on this blog have offered conclusions about the efficacy of UAVs, the demise of armor, and so on.  Now, the Marine Commandant seems to be doing the same thing.  From an interview he did,


The success of Ukrainian forces in countering Russian armored vehicle columns with missiles and rockets in the ongoing Russian invasion of Ukraine shows the vulnerability of tanks to missile-armed infantry, the Marine Corps commandant said, and seemed to reinforce his decision to shed tanks from the Corps as part of his Force Design 2030 concept.[1] 


Unless Berger has inside information direct from both Ukraine (unlikely but possible) and Russia (impossible), then he’s just speculating on largely public domain news bits just like the rest of us and, just like the rest of us, he’s lost sight of what that public information is.  It’s propaganda!  Whichever side is offering it, it’s propaganda.  As yet, there is absolutely no authoritative combat information in the public domain, that I’m aware of.  That being the case, how can he, or anyone, draw any valid conclusions?  Attempting to do so is a classic example of garbage in, garbage out!  Invalid information in, invalid conclusions out.


Here’s an example … I just watched a video on YouTube purporting to be a Ukrainian attack on a lone Russian tank.  The video showed an isolated tank with not another Russian unit visible within the quarter mile radius or so of the scene.  The tank was meandering along a road, in the open, by itself and it was hit by some weapon and blew up.  A tremendous individual victory for Ukraine and proof that tanks can no longer survive on the modern battlefield in the face of individual soldiers with anti-tank weapons.          Or is it? 


How do I know that the video wasn’t staged by Ukraine using a captured Russian tank and was intended as propaganda?  The mere fact that there was someone with a video camera in this remote, isolated area, in perfect position to capture this event clearly and cleanly on film strongly suggests that it was, in fact, staged.  So, now what’s the conclusion?  There isn’t any!  There’s no conclusion and no lesson to be had from this because it isn’t authoritative and verifiable.


In addition to the total lack of authoritative information, it also seems as if this is a very atypical ‘war’ for the following reasons:


  • Initially, Russia appears to have significantly restrained their firepower, presumably to avoid angering the populace that they hoped to eventually rule.
  • Multiple reports suggest that many Russian units did not even know they were in a combat situation and believed it was all part of an exercise.
  • Reports suggest that some Russian units have refused to fight.


Note:  Bear in mind my own warning:  these reports may or may not be accurate.  I’m looking at the pattern of the totality of reporting to discern broad truths but, again, they may or may not be correct.



All those videos showing Ukraine UAVs roaming freely over the battlefield and raining destruction on the Russians clearly demonstrates the power of UAVs and the ineffectualness of Russian anti-air systems, right?   Wrong.  For a variety of reasons, it is likely that the Russians weren’t even trying to operate anti-air systems during the period those UAV videos were made.  Again, no valid conclusion or lesson can come from that.


The atypical nature of the Russian’s conduct of the war was acknowledged by Commandant Berger:


During a live-streamed conversation with Washington Post columnist David Ignatius, Gen. David Berger said the Russian forces seemed to be ineffective in using a combined arms approach in that they were not using “maneuver to bolster your fires or using fires to set up your forces for maneuver. In both cases, one without the other … is very ineffective.”[1] 


So, Berger acknowledges that Russian forces were not using maneuver or firepower in a supporting manner as any semi-competent military would.  This lends credence to the reports that the Russians were initially restraining themselves to avoid civilian casualties and civil facilities destruction.  Despite this recognition of the atypical behavior of the Russian forces by Berger, he then proceeds to draw conclusions!


What other atypical indicators does Berger recognize?


Berger also said Ukrainian forces seemed to be effective at causing confusion among Russian forces by stripping away Russian reconnaissance — which he said parenthetically that U.S. Marines “were very, very good at.”[1]  


So, another atypical behavior by the Russians in that they apparently didn’t conduct reconnaissance in force or in a supportive manner and did not, apparently, operate screens or counter-recon forces.  Despite this recognition of the atypical behavior of the Russian forces by Berger, he then proceeds to draw conclusions!


Is there more atypical behavior?


The commandant also noted Russian forces seemed to have planned for a very short war and lost momentum with poor logistics planning. He said the Ukrainian forces seemed to be able to strike at the Russian “logistics backside.”[1]  


So, acknowledging that Russia seemed to have planned for a very short conflict and did not bring the necessary logistic support, he then proceeds to draw conclusions!


Berger’s invalid conclusions are not limited to the Ukraine war.


“Instead of tank-on-tank formations, I would say if you look at Armenia and Azerbaijan, Lebanon, or even right now in Ukraine, it’s pretty clear the top-down missile attacks on the top side of heavy armor makes [tanks] pretty vulnerable,” he said.[1]  


None of those regions saw armor deployed in doctrinally correct fashion.  Every report I’ve seen indicates that tanks were deployed piecemeal and unsupported by air or infantry.  The only valid conclusion is that stupidity is a good way to die on the battlefield.  I’m pretty sure China isn’t going to be that stupid.


As best I can tell from very questionable reports, Russia attempted to half-ass a war with Ukraine in an attempt to pre-emptively placate a populace that they would eventually control and want to have good (or at least not fanatically hostile) relations with when the fighting ended.  If true, that’s theoretically laudable but realistically stupid.  As we’ve harped on in this blog, ‘in it to win it, or don’t get in it’.  You can’t half-ass a war.


As far as attempting to draw conclusions and lessons, I’m pretty sure China is not going to half-ass a war with us like Russia seems to be doing in Ukraine so why are Berger and the rest of us drawing conclusions from an atypical war?


My fear and suspicion is that Berger is doing the same thing with the secret war games he claims to be using to reshape the Marine Corps.  I suspect that he’s generating invalid war games and, therefore, drawing invalid conclusions.  If he’s clearly doing it with the Ukraine lessons, why wouldn’t he do the same with his war games?


For the rest of us, be patient and withhold your judgment.  Lessons will eventually come from the Ukraine war but not yet.






Though not relevant to this post, Berger did make one baffling statement:


Berger noted that amphibious operations are very complex and the Russian forces seemed to unnecessarily delay their limited amphibious operations. He said amphibious operations remain very much the core mission of the Corps.[1]    


So, despite publicly and repeatedly stating that the Marines are out of the frontal amphibious assault business and saying that large deck amphibious ships were of limited value, Berger is now saying that amphibious ‘operations’ (he didn’t use the word assault but what other significant amphibious operation is there for Marines?) are the core mission of the Corps.  Wait, now.  I thought small unit, missile shooting was the core mission?  How many core missions do the Marines have?  By definition, you can only have one core mission.  That’s what the word, ‘core’, means!  Okay, Berger, which is it?  What is the Marine’s single, core mission?  If amphibious ‘operations’ is the core mission, why have the Marines shed their tanks and reduced their artillery? 


Does this guy have any idea what he’s doing?  It doesn’t seem like it.  He seems to be floundering and flinging everything he can think of at the budget wall to see what sticks and can get funded.






[1]Seapower Magazine, “Berger: Ukraine War Demonstrates Vulnerability of Tanks to Missile-Armed Infantry”, Richard Burgess, 16-Mar-2022,