Monday, May 30, 2022

Adaptive Engines

One of the programs that’s causing excitement among military aircraft observers is the adaptive engine (AE) effort which is intended to be applied to the F-35 and the next generation aircraft.


What kinds of benefits are being sought?  From Wikipedia,


The AETP [Adaptive Engine Transition Program] goal is to demonstrate 25% improved fuel efficiency, 10% additional thrust, and significantly better thermal management.[1]


From Wiki, here’s a brief description of the technology and hoped for benefits:


The XA100 is a three-stream adaptive cycle engine that can adjust the bypass ratio and fan pressure to increase fuel efficiency or thrust, depending on the scenario. It does this by employing an adaptive fan that can direct air into a third bypass stream in order to increase fuel economy and act as a heat sink for cooling; in particular, this would enable greater use of the high speed, low altitude part of the F-35 envelope. The increased cooling and power generation also enables the potential employment of directed energy weapons in the future.  When additional thrust is needed, the air from the third stream can be directed to the core and fan streams. In addition to three-stream adaptive cycle configuration, the engine also uses new heat-resistant materials such as ceramic matrix composites (CMC) to enable higher turbine temperatures and improved performance. According to GE, the engine can offer up to 35% increased range and 25% reduction in fuel burn over current low-bypass turbofans.[1]


Currently, the F-35A has an unrefueled range in the region of 1,350 miles, which would be increased to around 1,800 miles with the new engine. [ed. 33% increase][2]


So, to sum up, what are the benefits?  From the above description, we see claims of :


  • 25% fuel efficiency
  • 35% increased range
  • 10% additional thrust
  • Better thermal signature management


On the other hand, what do we know about developmental programs?  Well, with 100% historical certainty, we know that developmental programs always overpromise and underdeliver.  Thus,


  • Costs always increase
  • Schedules always slip
  • Claimed capabilities are never met
  • The new technology will be vastly more complex and less reliable then the preceding technology


In addition, the claimed benefits are obtained only under perfect conditions.  For example, the claimed increase in range is only if the engine is used under ideal conditions for the entire distance.  In reality, no aircraft is going to cruise under perfect, maximum economy conditions for an entire mission.  Therefore, the increase will be significantly less than claimed.


So, combining the three factors of claims, historical reality, and realistic operating conditions, what would more realistic benefits be?


  • 15% fuel efficiency
  • 20% increased range
  • 5% additional thrust
  • Slightly better thermal signature management



Even those are likely on the optimistic side!


We don’t know the costs but, like any cutting edge technology, they’ll be eye-watering.  Now, let’s combine the more realistic benefits with the massive costs, greater complexity, and lower reliability that goes hand-in-hand with greater complexity and ask ourselves, are the benefits worth the cost, complexity, and lower reliability (reduced aircraft readiness/availability)? 


Given that aircraft readiness rates are already in the toilet, is introducing an even more complex and less reliable engine really a step in the right direction?


Are we sure this isn’t a case of pursing a technology for its own sake rather than for any actual gain in combat effectiveness?  In fact, let’s think about combat effectiveness.


Fuel efficiency is a cost savings but is not a direct improvement to combat effectiveness.  Similarly, increased range may offer some improvements in flexibility of operational planning or loiter time but is not really a direct improvement to combat effectiveness.  Thrust, on the other hand, can enhance combat effectiveness but not significantly in the small amount we’re talking about.  Thermal signature reduction also offers a direct improvement to combat effectiveness but the degree of improvement is unquantified and will likely be minor.


Without a doubt, gains in thrust (even small gains), fuel efficiency, and range are all nice to have.  No one would argue with them or turn them down … if they were free.  However, as with any new, cutting edge technology, they most certainly will not be free in terms of dollars, time, or reliability.  There will be staggering prices to be paid.


Consider the examples of the LCS, Zumwalt, F-35, and Ford.  All promised huge gains but the reality is that the gains have been non-existent to minimal and, in some respects, have resulted in decreases in combat effectiveness while incurring horrific costs and massive schedule delays.  Do we really think that never before done adaptive engines will be the breakthrough technology that will achieve all its goals and do so affordably?  Only a fool would believe that.


So, again, is it worth it?


I would suggest, no.





An adaptive engine will, without a doubt, result in staggering costs, increased complexity, decreased aircraft readiness and minor improvements mainly financial and logistic in nature.  Are the improvements worth the cost and problems?  K.I.S.S. rules the battlefield.  Is a more complex and less reliable engine the way to follow the K.I.S.S. mandate?


We also need to consider the implication for war.  When the war with China comes, we’ll need lots of engines.  The more complex the engine, the fewer we’ll be able to produce and the longer they’ll take to make.  During war, it’s better to have a simpler engine that meets 80% of the performance needs and can be quickly and easily produced than to have complex engines that are difficult to make and cannot be produced in the required quantities.


China is coming for us and we need to reorient our thinking to wartime production requirements instead of long, drawn out, unaffordable, complex peacetime requirements.  The adaptive engine appears to be more of a business case than a combat case.






[1]Wikipedia, “General Electric XA100”, 14-Apr-2022,,fighter%20program%2C%20the%20Next%20Generation%20Air%20Dominance%20%28NGAD%29


[2]The Drive website, “F-35s Could Get New Engines As Soon As 2027”,Thomas Newdick & Joseph Trevithick, 11-Dec-2021,

Friday, May 27, 2022

Army LCUs and Marine LAWs

Naval News website has an absolutely fascinating article on Army Landing Craft Utility (LCU) vessels and Marine Light Amphibious Warships (LAW).[1]  The article is an interview/feedback from Army LCU Vessel Masters (I guess that’s what the Army calls a ship captain?) with their comments about the Marine LAW.


The Army LCU can transport 350 short tons of cargo over a range of 6,500 miles at 12 knots without refueling.[1]


… the Army LCU can carry up to five M1 Abrams tanks, and all the other vehicles listed above; however, they are not meant for troop transport.[1]


Army LCU


Here’s some points that jumped out from the article/interview:


Purpose – The LCU is not a combat vessel.  It is purely a logistic asset.  The two functions are radically different and should not be confused or conflated.  This is exactly the risk the Marine LAW concept runs.  The Marines seem to be heading down a path that wants to utilize the LAW as a maneuver/combat asset and that will only lead to failure.  As the Army Vessel Masters state,


The LCU is not a maneuver asset; it is a logistical asset for moving large quantities of supplies and materials to include equipment.[1]


If the Marines desire a maneuver/combat vessel then they need a vessel designed for that purpose.  For example, such a vessel would need speed, stealth, extensive sensors, and defensive armament, among other requirements.  Fast APDs (see, “High Speed Transport”) would be a much better model for the role than a slow, unarmed LAW.



Weather – We’ve foolishly and naively come to believe that our technology has allowed us to rise above the effects of weather.  We assume that our sensors, our people (seasickness!), our aircraft, and our ships are immune to the ravages of weather.  Nothing could be further from the truth.  Small vessels are still susceptible to wind and wave and the LCU and LAW are small vessels.  We forget this at our peril.  If the Marines envision using the LAW to clandestinely dart (you know, at 14 kts as specified for the LAW transit speed) from island to island, totally befuddling the Chinese, then we need to account for, and factor in, weather.  What happens when it’s time to ‘dart’ and the sea is not calm?  As the Army warns,


The Army LCU … relies heavily on the weather to cooperate; these vessels can handle 10ft waves on the bow and stern, but only 5ft waves on the beam.[1]


I can say from experience that 12ft waves in an LCU is not fun and is really hard on the crew.[1]


Helicopters – ComNavOps has repeatedly criticized the Navy’s obsession with helicopters on every vessel from carriers to canoes.  Placing a helo on a LAW is a bad idea for so many reasons not the least of which is that helo facilities consume huge amounts of space on board the ship, to the detriment of the main function of the ship.


From what I can tell looking at the model drawings, the overall LAW design is good; however, with a landing pad it will limit what the “LAW” can carry as far as containers and may be limited to vehicles.[1]


Complexity – As this blog has repeatedly demonstrated, complexity is the enemy of reliability and, in combat, you desperately want reliability.  The LAW should be simplest possible design.  Landing vessels that utilize complex bow designs are failures waiting to happen.  Mechanical monstrosities where the nose of the ship lifts up and over, or some such, as some of the LAW designs envision, can’t help but be prone to failure.  This was one of the criticisms of the Newport class LST with their over-the-bow, swinging ramp design using two derricks.


From the drawings and models, there are two very different concepts, one with a stern ramp [Sea Transport Solutions] and the other with the LSV design “Kuroda class” enabling the nose of the vessel to be lifted and a ramp to unload vehicles along with other cargo [Austal’s design]. I think that it is best for the vessel master to be able to see the payload while maneuvering the vessel to ensure proper placement on a beachhead or port ramp. It is a lot easier to control the vessel moving forward than while backing in.[1]


Just to show that the Army is not perfect, either, consider this tidbit:


The biggest issue that we [the Army] have is the inability to communicate with Navy vessels on a non-civilian maritime frequency. These vessels are built for commercial operations and all of the communications equipment is set up for that purpose.[1]



Ironically, the Army seems to have a much better handle on what a LAW is and is not than the Marines do.




[1]Naval News website, “U.S. Army Japan’s LCU Vessel Masters Discuss U.S. Navy LAW”, Peter Ong, 23-Apr-2022,


Wednesday, May 25, 2022

Ambassador Class Missile Boat

The Ambassador Mk III class missile boat (sometimes referred to as Ambassador IV or Ezzat class) was a group of three (eventually, four) missile boats built by VT Halter Marine in the US, for Egypt.  The cost for the first three vessels was $1.05B ($ 2009) which gave a unit cost of $350M.[1]  A fourth vessel was added for a separate, incremental cost of $240M ($314M in $2022).[1]


Ambassador Mk III

The vessel is a stealthy design, around 210 ft long and 600 tons displacement.  Maximum speed is 41 kts and range is 2000 nm at 15 kts.  Crew is around 40.  It is heavily armed for its size, as listed below:


  • 1x 76 mm gun
  • 1x RAM
  • 1x CIWS
  • 8x Harpoon in two quad canister launchers
  • 2x 7.62 MG


Ambassador Mk III


Before we go any further, let me just make the obvious statement and get it out of the way.  At ½ to 1/6 the size, the Ambassador class puts the LCS to shame in almost every respect except aviation.  It has more and better weapons (though if the Navy follows through on arming LCS with the Naval Strike Missile, that comparison would become a bit more even), higher speed, significantly lower cost, smaller crew, and is stealthier.  With that out of the way, let’s examine the Ambassador class in more detail.


The Ambassador class is a territorial waters missile boat and is, thus, defensive by nature.  As a territorial waters vessel, its limited range is not a problem as friendly ports will never be far away. 


With 8 anti-ship missiles per vessel, a squadron could muster a very strong anti-surface strike.


The class’ sensors are as good as can be hoped for[a] in a vessel of this size and the anti-ship capability can be greatly enhanced by off-board sensors which, given the territorial waters regime, can be provided by land based helos, radar, over-the-horizon radar, aircraft, UAVs, etc.  With off-board sensor support, the Ambassadors could remain emission-silent (EMCON) and conduct strikes without ever radiating and being detected.




[a]Sensors include:


Thales MRR-3D NG G band air surveillance radar

Thales Scout (I/J band) surveillance radar;  low power, low probability of intercept radar

Thales STING-EO Mk2 fire control radar;  dual band radar plus electro-optical (EO) sensor




The Ambassador Mk III is truly an impressive vessel for territorial waters operations but could an Ambassador provide any effective capability for the US fleet?  The answer is, clearly, yes, it could provide effective firepower but the real question is could the vessels be effectively supported in a US fleet role?  This is the problem that the LCS is facing. 


For better or worse, the US Navy operates on a forward deployed basis and the reality is that vessels with limited range are very difficult to support in an operationally relevant location.  We just don’t have many forward bases.  There are a few regions in the world where small vessels can operate and be supported but those are the exception.  The Middle East is the obvious example.  We have enough bases or support arrangements that Ambassador class vessels could effectively operate there, at least during peacetime.  In that region, they would make effective counters to Iranian naval assets since their weapons cover the spectrum from long range anti-ship missiles to close in weapons.  These vessels would be highly effective against Iranian UAVs, swarm boats, or corvette/frigates.


If this sounds suspiciously like the role the LCS was supposed to have filled, it is!  The only difference is that the Ambassador class works and the LCS doesn’t.


Ominously, however, the Navy has operated two other small vessel classes that could have been highly effective in the Middle East region and yet were not:  the Cyclone and MkVI patrol boat classes.  Both were well armed for their size and could have been effective as regional patrol boats but, due to timid policies and rules of engagement, were rendered toothless and ineffective and two vessels were captured by two nearly unarmed Iranian small boats with a grand total of three crew.


They could have, but were not allowed to, ride herd on Iranian small boats that terrorize and disrupt commercial and naval vessels. 


They could have, but were not allowed to, prevent Iranian mining of commercial ships. 


They could have, but were not allowed to, destroy Iranian UAVs that operated in an unsafe manner.


Given the demonstrated, historical refusal of the US government/Navy to take justified forceful action against a terrorist nation, or even exercise the inherent right of self defense against boarders, there would appear to be no precedent or justification for Ambassador class missile boats;  we simply would not utilize them in an effective manner.


In a war in the Middle East, the Ambassadors could operate as distant screening vessels, supported by other surveillance assets and air cover although, at that point, they would be somewhat redundant as we would have more than sufficient air power to accomplish the same things the Ambassadors could.


Similarly, the Ambassadors could be highly effective against Chinese Coast Guard vessels and fishing fleets that routinely trespass into other country’s territorial waters.  They could also be useful for providing on-site surveillance of illegal Chinese artificial islands.  Again, however, policy prohibits all this.





Without a doubt, the Ambassador class missile boats have potentially useful firepower which, combined with their small size and small cost, ought to make them effective patrol vessels during peacetime.  They could be very useful in the Middle East for controlling Iran or the South China Sea for countering China but only if we are willing to forcefully confront those countries when their behavior crosses the line.  Lacking that willpower and fortitude, the Ambassador class is of no use to the US Navy and would simply be yet another logistic support burden that provides no beneficial return - as is currently true of the entire Navy!


Outstanding vessel … no role in the US Navy.






[1]Wikipedia, “Ambassador Mk III missile boat”, retrieved 9-Feb-2022,

Monday, May 23, 2022

Another Nail In The LCS Coffin

The LCS has failed on so many levels that it’s no longer even noteworthy when new failures are identified.  However, I’d like to document one more new failure, not because of the failure itself, but because of lessons behind it.



The Failure :   It’s Loud !


The failure is the ASW capability of the LCS.  As you know, the Navy has officially abandoned the LCS ASW effort (see, “Stunning LCS News”).  Without revisiting the entire sordid history of the LCS ASW module development effort, suffice it to say that the initial ASW module concept was totally abandoned and then subsequent versions attempted to fill the void, with no success.  Now, we hear that LCS ASW efforts were doomed to failure by an inherent characteristic of the LCS ship, itself.  From CNO Gilday,


First of all, the ASW Modules just didn’t pan out; the VDS [Variable Depth Sonar] didn’t work as it should.  LCS is as noisy as an aircraft carrier and so there are some big challenges there that we should have [picked] up on way earlier.[1]


This is saying that the LCS self-noise is so loud that it negated the successful use of ship sonars, whether towed, hull mounted, or variable depth (VDS).  Where is the noise coming from?  The water jets, of course!  This is not something new.  I’ve been pointing out that the LCS is a deafening acoustic beacon for years.


What did you say?  I can't hear you!

Was this really a surprise to Admiral Gilday?  Apparently so.  He says that the Navy should have picked up on this ‘way earlier’.  Come on, admiral.  Are you really so ignorant about ASW that you didn’t realize that deafening water jets would be a detriment to ASW operations?  You and all the CNOs before you should be ashamed that you allowed this pile of hot, steaming LCS to continue.  You knew better and yet you went right along with it.  You’re complicit along with the rest.  If you had any integrity, you’d resign in shame.  But you don’t … and you won’t.





Okay, so much for beating up the LCS about yet another problem.  I mentioned that I wanted to highlight this because of the lessons underlying the problem.  Those lessons are:


Foresight / Hindsight – It’s far too easy to excuse the LCS personnel for not seeing the various problems except in hindsight.  This, however, is completely false.  Almost every LCS problem was readily recognizable from day one.  In this specific case, anyone contemplating ASW operations for the LCS should have stopped the development effort on day one and pointed out that water jets were problematic.  Hindsight is not an excuse.  Foresight was readily available and there was no end of naval analysts pointing out these problems. 


The lesson is that we need to listen to foresight.  Again, almost every LCS problem was readily apparent on day one of the program.  If the Navy is too inept to see the problems with foresight then they should listen to the crowd … the large, deafening crowd that saw all this from the start.


Modularity Versus Optimization – ComNavOps has long decried the concept of modularity (see “The Myth of Modularity”), as attempted by the LCS.  The very concept is fundamentally and foundationally flawed.  Modules cannot compensate for a platform that is not exquisitely integrated and optimized for whatever the function is and this is a perfect example.  No ASW module can compensate for a host ship that is, inherently, a deafening acoustic beacon.  Modularity, by definition, produces sub-optimal, mediocre platforms.  Modularity is a fool’s dream born of a business case rather than a combat case.



The LCS should have died at the napkin stage.





[1]Naval News website, “Admiral Gilday Explains LCS ASW And MCM Module Decisions”, Peter Ong, 5-May-2022,

Saturday, May 21, 2022

Zumwalt First Live Fire

Naval News website reports that the USS Zumwalt conducted its first ever live fire exercise (ESSM and Standard) on 14-Apr-2022.  Okay, that’s nice but what’s noteworthy about a routine live fire exercise?


Well, it’s the fact that the Navy commissioned the Zumwalt on 15-Oct-2016 which means that it’s taken around five and a half years to get from commissioning to the first live fire exercise.


How many crew and captains have come and gone from the ship, never having fired a weapon?


Is a single live fire exercise every 5-1/2 years sufficient to establish and maintain combat proficiency?


Is 5-1/2 years really our standard for getting a combat system up and running after commissioning?  Shouldn’t a ship be combat ready the day it’s commissioned?


Zumwalt First Live Fire
Note the cameras set up around the deck to record the momentous event.


This is embarrassing and humiliating for the Navy.






[1]Naval News website, “USS Zumwalt Conducts Live-Fire Missile Exercise”, Staff, 1-May-2022,

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 !


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.


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.



[1]“Battle of the Java Sea”; short video;


[2]Map of allied airbases in the western Pacific;


[3]Fact Sheet about Anderson Air Force base, Guam; August 2021;


[4]“Palau: U.S. Welcome to build military bases”; Indo-Pacific Defense; February 22, 2021;

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! 





*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.




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.




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.





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?





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?






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

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.





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.







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


[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,


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