Monday, November 16, 2015

Sunday Globe Specials: Setting Sail With the U.S. Navy

A global force for good, from what I've seen, so posting this seemed like a good Idea too let the Globe be your guide:

"Rough seas ahead for the US Navy" by James Holmes Globe correspondent  November 08, 2015

He's going to use the War of 1812 as example, and that's where I hit the wall.

First of all, sea power is no longer all about fleets. Armies and air forces are arms of sea power as well. Land-based weaponry — warplanes, antiship missiles, short-range submarines, and patrol craft — can increasingly shape events far offshore. Since the Navy operates off foreign coasts, these are menaces it will confront.

Today’s Navy task forces of ships must operate off distant shores — chiefly Eurasian shores — to accomplish the goals entrusted to them by presidents and Cabinet officials. To strike targets on enemy shores, for instance, an aircraft-carrier task force must draw to within about 700 miles of those targets. That’s the combat range of the F-35C stealth fighter, the workhorse jet of 2025. And the farther inland the target, the closer the carrier has to get.

Cruising close to land also means dangers from an enemy fleet — cruisers or destroyers roaming the surface, or subs prowling the deep — comprise the most obvious threat. But gee-whiz missile technology compounds that threat. Take China. In September, China’s military staged a massive military parade through Beijing. On display, alongside other armaments, were two new types of antiship missiles. These revolutionary weapons, the world’s first, can reportedly hit moving ships at sea far from Asian shorelines — at least 900 and at least 1,800 miles away, respectively. (A missile based in Boston, for instance, could hit a moving ship off the coast of Greenland.) China’s army, meanwhile, not its navy, operates this ballistic-missile force.

What that means in practical terms is this: Until the US Navy builds effective defenses, commanders can choose to stay beyond missile range and see their missions fail. They can cross hundreds of miles of ocean under fire from Fortress China and suffer serious damage. Or they can accept a prolonged war in which time is on China’s side — say, if Beijing orders a lightning assault against nearby Taiwan. Taiwan might fall before US forces could break into the Western Pacific. Couple the missile threat with that posed by other shore-based antiaccess weaponry like missile-armed warplanes, and you have a forbidding tactical problem indeed. 

All of a sudden we are told the world's most powerful military is nothing of the sort, despite the trillions and trillions of spending all these years, and we will lose a war to China.

Engineers are pursuing remedies to the antiaccess quandary. Prototypes of shipboard lasers and electromagnetic railguns already exist, for instance. These might help American ships ride out enemy attacks. Lasers could play havoc with enemy arsenals, and railguns could sling projectiles over 100 miles at Mach 7 — taking down incoming projectiles. Heartening stuff. But such exotic armaments are years from being ready for prime time.

Moreover, US mariners and aviators find themselves outranged by competitors’ weaponry — even apart from the antiaccess problem. In sea warfare as in boxing, an advantage — a hefty one — goes to the pugilist with longer reach.

Now flip that around and assume the US Navy’s adversaries hold the edge in long-distance strikes. As indeed they do. In a sense, the Navy took a quarter-century-long strategic holiday following the Cold War. The Soviet Navy’s demise removed America’s chief rival from the world’s waterways. Why go to the trouble and expense of developing new armaments to fight nonexistent foes?

This is worthless. Then were did all the money go?


And indeed, such reasoning seemed to hold sway. Sea-service leaders proclaimed that there was no one left to fight for command of the sea, the primary purpose of any navy. They turned their attention to projecting power from safe waters. They concentrated on refining land-attack weapons, while new weapons for dueling enemy ships languished.

For example, the entered service in the 1970s. Harpoons can strike at shipping roughly 77 miles distant. Contrast that with the Soviet-built Sunburn missile, one found in the Chinese and Russian naval arsenals, has a range estimated at double the surface Navy’s workhorse Harpoon antiship missile’s 155 miles. That means enemies can start shooting — and meting out damage — long before our ships can.

American ships and crews may be superior to their opponents, but that may not matter if enemy fleets and air forces can unleash massed missile barrages. So defense firms are hastily developing a new long-range antiship missiles, which could restore American dominance. Whether they mature in the next decade — and whether the new missiles can be fielded in adequate numbers — will furnish a second yardstick for US naval fortunes.

This so flies in the face of everything I've been told, and $mells like a push to increase military budgets.

As ever, the future of the Navy also depends on the human factor.

Yeah, blame the troops for losing the war.

There’s no reason to think today’s naval mariners are less stalwart than their forebears from the age of sail, but the skills and habits of mind needed to prevail in high-seas combat have atrophied since the Cold War. Why wouldn’t they? For instance, with no Soviet submarines to hunt, crews seldom practice the difficult yet crucial art of antisubmarine warfare. Or, many of the surface fleet’s latest guided-missile destroyers carry no antiship missiles for battling enemy surface fleets. Their crews, consequently, have little practice using their principal weaponry in action. Combat is a poor time for learning basic skills.

Or heck, navigators have grown dependent on GPS to steer their ships safely. Celestial navigation — using the stars to plot a vessel’s position on the chart — was a time-honored method for finding one’s way from point A to point B until the 1990s. In this satellite age, however, a black box spits out the ship’s current position. Which is fine until some enterprising opponent does the obvious thing and knocks out the satellites — leaving US naval forces floundering.

Just this year, the Navy announced that it will resume training youngsters to steer by the stars. Charles Stewart would be appalled to hear it ever stopped.

But regaining the combat edge demands more than tinkering with machinery. It takes time and determined leadership to restore a culture. The Navy must undergo what literary gadfly Tom Wolfe styles a “great relearning” to regain its past dominance by 2025. Wolfe recounts a 1968 visit to San Francisco’s Haight-Ashbury district, a mecca of hippiedom. Doctors at the district’s Free Clinic were “treating diseases no living doctor had ever encountered before, diseases that had disappeared so long ago they had never even picked up Latin names, diseases such as the mange, the grunge, the itch, the twitch, the thrush, the scroff, the rot.”

Damn hippies!

Why? Because ’60s youth “sought nothing less than to sweep aside all codes and restraints of the past and start out from zero.” They rejected timeless precepts — including basic hygiene. The hippies had to either put up with the rot or relearn common sense. Similarly the Navy tried to start from zero in the early 1990s. The leadership declared fighting for control of the sea — navies’ uppermost mission — passé. They made the Navy into the Haight-Ashbury of sea combat, a force that forgot eternal verities.

The US Navy’s great relearning must proceed — quickly — to assure its fitness for battle a decade hence. 

I don't think they have that long, war-planner.

Charting this dimension of naval warfare is harder than the others. Judging the human factor is harder than gauging widgets. Short of wartime, evaluating combat readiness involves evaluating the type, amount, and quality of technical training provided to officers and enlisted sailors; the education in strategy, politics, economics, and other disciplines that senior personnel undergo as they ascend the ranks; and the types, scope, and ambition of the maneuvers the Navy conducts to ready itself for battle.

That’s a subjective process, but there’s no escaping it. After all, the finest weapon is no better than the seafarer wielding it. If the US Navy measures up to likely antagonists in hardware terms, the skill and élan of aviators, surface-ship crews, and submariners will make the difference when it matters, just as it did 200 years ago on the high seas of the Atlantic.


"Charting a new course for the US Navy" by James A. Winnefeld   November 08, 2015

The Obama administration made an important statement in recently authorizing the Pentagon to order a warship, the USS Lassen, to transit close to an island constructed by China on a submerged reef in the contested South China Sea. Key US interests served include protection of the global economic system, the security of our allies in the region, and preserving the rules-based international order that has maintained peace in the Asia-Pacific region for decades.

We have reached a point where the delusional drivel is no longer worth it, folks. Sorry. 

Aware of this, China has thus far been restrained in its protestations. It has also refused to acknowledge a ruling by the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague that the court has jurisdiction to hear competing maritime claims in the area. US partners and allies are likely, though more privately, pleased to see a more overt, though prudent, challenge to the Chinese claim. As such, the event is a setback for China’s model of “new great power relations” — code language for its desire that the United States cede its influence in the Asia-Pacific region.

It remains to be seen how — and how frequently — the United States continues to reinforce international norms in the area. But because neither nation will benefit from a direct confrontation, both civilian and military diplomacy are already occurring to soothe this necessary friction between the two nations.

In any case, South China Sea tensions have once again raised the profile of the US Navy and its global mission.


It helped PUSH the AGENDA FORWARD, huh?

Yet, laboring under the shadow of deep uncertainty over future budgets, the Navy is grappling with important and long-lasting decisions over how it will prepare to deter and, if necessary, win future conflicts.

Nowhere is the Navy’s future course more important than in the Western Pacific. While for the last decade the US military has focused on Iraq and Afghanistan, China has been strengthening its own military capabilities. Moreover, it is rapidly developing asymmetric capabilities intended to limit our ability to project power in the Pacific, including advances in countering surface ships, air power, space, and cyberwarfare.

While the US Navy still holds the upper hand, the traditional advantages in size and quality on which it has relied to overmatch China’s relative advantages in distance and initiative are rapidly eroding. As a result, new ways to deter Chinese aggression against our allies and partners — which are available — should be developed.

For any navy on the seven seas, near-term decisions have long-term effects. While the projected US fleet is generally positioned well to support these new concepts, the Navy should keep seven factors in mind now as it balances impending investments in capability, capacity, readiness, and people:

First, it is time to recognize how hazardous it has become to venture “in harm’s way” on the surface of the ocean. Today the “finders” have major advantages over “hiders.” More and more space and volume are being required to defend surface ships against relatively low cost, highly capable antiship systems, which detracts from their other capability. There is still great utility for the Navy’s impressive surface fleet, from smaller littoral combat ships to the larger cruisers the service is attempting to refurbish, as well as aircraft carriers. But all of these ships are more likely in the future to operate outside dangerous waters.

As a result, and second, the Navy will need to invest more in asymmetric weapons, such as smart mines, nonlethal methods of stopping ships, cyberwarfare, highly capable standoff weapons, and a full range of electronic warfare.

All okay when "we" do it, and WTF is the Navy doing in the cyberwarfare realm?

Moreover, the service must continue increasing its investments in a full range of electronic warfare, which have languished for far too long. Unfortunately, the communities within the Navy that advocate for these systems are not traditionally highly empowered, which means senior leaders will need to provide extra support. The burden of these investments may demand a slightly smaller fleet.

Third, the Navy and Congress should ditch the simplistic benchmark of overall numbers of ships, under which an aircraft carrier counts the same as a frigate. This metric places unhelpful pressure on the Navy to build increased numbers of low-end ships that, while certainly very useful in certain scenarios, will not perform well in a highly contested environment. We need the right combination of vessels, and this requires a far more sophisticated discussion than merely counting ships.

Fourth, due to the political near-impossibility of stationing more of its warships overseas, the Navy will need to make difficult trade-offs between the forward presence intended to deter conflict and the surge capability required to win it. Creative thinking regarding how presence is actually executed could provide additional leverage in this area.

Fifth, the service will need to maintain its longstanding advantage in both offensive and defensive undersea warfare. Advances in a number of technologies will enable greater use of undersea autonomous systems, and it is encouraging to see the Navy investing in this area.

RelatedNew sub USS Massachusetts critical to growing fleet

Must be a stealth sub because it never made print.

Also see: Globe Sunk Your Battleship 

They were outdated in WWII. 

Sixth, the Navy must keep its vital partnership with the US Marine Corps in mind. While a major amphibious landing in a conflict with China seems unlikely, there are ample scenarios that could call for the Marines’ expeditionary prowess.

Seventh, Navy senior leaders, led by Chief of Naval Operations Admiral John Richardson, well understand the many challenges facing the service and the need for innovation. Their greatest obstacles are fiscal pressures imposed by a divided Congress and old-fashioned institutional resistance to change, with the former amplifying the latter.


"The Senate overwhelmingly approved the bill, 91-3, on Tuesday just days after the House passed the measure, 370-58."

Divided Congre$$, yup.

Sam Palmisano, former CEO of IBM, said of companies in financial crisis, “You spend more time arguing amongst yourselves over a shrinking pie than looking to the future, so you miss the big turn.” While there are promising signs that the Navy is pursuing innovative ideas, it is vital to our nation’s ability to protect its national security interests that the service avoid missing the big turn this time around.


Time to make port.


"US Navy ship visits China in wake of recent tensions" Associated Press  November 17, 2015

BEIJING — A US Navy destroyer docked in Shanghai on Monday in a sign that contacts between the United States and Chinese militaries are continuing despite tensions over the South China Sea.

The visit by the USS Stethem follows Chinese protests over the sailing last month of the guided missile destroyer USS Lassen within 12 nautical miles of disputed Subi Reef.

The reef has been transformed by Beijing into an island over the objections of other claimants.

The United States maintains that such human-made islands do not qualify for territorial waters.

The Stethem’s commanding officer, Harry Marsh, told reporters that US freedom of navigation operations were routine and shouldn’t complicate relationships with the armed forces of other countries.

‘‘Sometimes countries might have some disagreements, yet our navies are able to operate safely at sea,’’ Marsh said.

The visit by the Arleigh-Burke class destroyer to China’s financial center followed a stop in the northern port of Qingdao. The two countries are also planning a combined search and rescue exercise at sea.

President Obama traveled to Asia after attending the Group of 20 Summit in Turkey, and is due to arrive in Manila on Tuesday morning.

The terrorist attacks in Paris threatened to overshadow Obama’s tour to the Philippines and Malaysia to tour his administration’s progress in expanding ties in the region.

He's already weary of the pre$$, and who saw that coming?