Sunday, December 17, 2017

Year End Midrats Extravaganza!



Come join us live this Sunday from 5-6pm as we wind up our 7th year of Midrats. 

Just EagleOne and me covering WestPac to the former Caliphate; South China Sea to Sub-Saharan Africa; from LCS to our new SSN - plus anything else that pops in our head.

As always, our listeners are welcome to call in or ask us questions from the chatroom as look back at the year - and give a few ideas for what we see coming in 2018.

Join us live if you can, but if you miss the show you can always listen to the archive at blogtalkradio or Stitcher

If you use iTunes, you can add Midrats to your podcast list simply by clicking the iTunes button at the main showpage - or you can just click here.


Friday, December 15, 2017

Fullbore Friday

One of my favorite FbF from the archive. Enjoy it again - but make sure and go to the bottom of the post for an update that includes video from the recent movie, The King's Choice.

The war is about to begin. You are in command of your Navy's newest ship and are leading the attack on another nation's capital. Decades before others thought they had discovered such concepts as "Shock and Awe" and "Decaptitation Strikes" - you are on the tip of the spear of an attack that will seize the Head of State of the target nation before they even have a chance to resist.

Your opposition? A weak nation with a weak military - a nation you hold in contempt as the arrogance of their self-declared neutrality has lulled them into thinking they were beyond the reach of the most feared warriors the world has ever known. 
They are so weak that you are sailing right into their nation's capital. The only thing they oppose you with are obsolete, static defenses that even your Grandfather would dismiss. It is a great day for Victory.

Will your nation be able to stay out of this war? Which side will try to seize your capital? Will they keep to themselves? Your nation just wants to be left out of everyone else's wars. We have no claim on anyone's land or treasure. We insult no one. We just want to be left alone. 

You are old - well past you life expectancy. When you started your service, most ships were just getting steel warships, there were no cars, trains were a rare treat - and the only things that flew flapped their wings.
 

Your command is over a hundred years old, your weapons are older than the fathers of the raw recruits you have running around your battlements. Your main guns are 50 years old.

This is your Command though - your young sailors make up for their lack of experience by the bravery that comes from bravado and ignorance. That will be good enough.
 You have one trick though. One thing the enemy, whoever they are, do not know about. Thing is, your "secret weapon" is 40 years old. You feel old; but heck your secret weapons once belonged to an Empire that no longer exists - but that's OK - your people are known for keeping their equipment in good shape. You are worried. Even though the officer in charge of your secret weapon is out sick, you had a small boat pick up a retired Commander who, 31 years ago, once worked with them. He showed up last night. He will have to do - even though he looks like a museum ship in his old, ill-fitting uniform.

Sigh, you go to war with what you have - not what you wish you had.
You have no orders.

The approaching naval force already had forced their way past the outer forts and had received both warning shots and live rounds. As the vessels continue towards the capital, you make a decision; you consider them enemy warships and will engage them as such. Knowing your job, you turn to your men and state;

"Either we will become heroes or we will be court-martialled. Let's just do our duty for our country."
And so, it starts.
The total German naval attack comprised 1 heavy, 1 armoured and 1 light cruiser, 14 destroyers, 14 torpedo boats and miners and 41 freighters and tankers.

Hitler's planned to take the Norwegians by surprise and forcing them to surrender within hours (like he did in Denmark). But the first surprise he encountered was when the pride of his Navy, the brand new heavy cruiser "Blücher" - that was to spearhead the surprise attack on the nation's capital - at 4 AM, at full speed, no lights.
The heavy cruiser Blücher now moved slowly with darkened lanterns towards the old fortress built in 1847, obviously believing they could just sneak past. Erichsen stood at the main battery with his men to demonstrate that he as the boss was in the front line. As the German ships appeared from the darkness and morning fog, the loomed like giants ahead. A nervous, newly graduated lieutenant fiddled with the range finder and reported, "Distance 3,000 meter". "Nonsense!", Erichsen grumbled and shouted, "Distance 1,200 meter - Gun no. 1, Fire!" He never calculated to get off more than two shots with the museum-aged guns and his untrained men (some of them were the cooks!), so he had to get a hit!By sheer luck, the first 28-cm shell hit the Blücher's forward gunnery control station, effectively disabling the ship's forward guns. The second main battery round hit the aircraft hangar, destroying the ship's Arado Ar 196 reconnaissance seaplanes and igniting aviation fuel and infantry munitions stored on deck. There was only time for the main battery to fire these two rounds, due to their slow reload time. After losing its fire control system the Blücher was rendered unable to effectively respond to the fortress' bombardment. Blucher's main 20,3 cm guns never opened fire.

While fire was raging aboard the Blücher, the secondary Norwegian coastal batteries pelted her with guns ranging in calibre from the two small 57 millimetre pieces at Husvik, designed to protect the fortress' missing naval mine barrier, to the three 15-cm guns of the Kopås battery on the eastern side of the fjord. The larger guns wrought havoc on board the cruiser while the 57-mm guns were successful in suppressing the fire from her light artillery as the Blücher slowly slid past the fortress. All in all thirteen 15-cm rounds and about thirty 57-mm shells hit the German cruiser as it passed the guns of the fortress' secondary batteries.

After passing the line of fire of the fortress' gun batteries the cruiser was burning and severely damaged, but its captain still had hope of being able to save his ship. At this point, however, the Blücher entered the sights of Kommandørkaptein Anderssen and two of his three torpedo tubes at a range of only 500 meters. The torpedoes the retired officer was aiming at the pride of the Kriegsmarine were 40-year-old Whitehead weapons of Austro-Hungarian manufacture. These torpedoes had been practice-launched well over 200 times before being fired in anger, and no-one was certain if they would function or not. As Kommandørkaptein Anderssen pushed the firing mechanism the weapons showed themselves to work perfectly, first one and then another torpedo raced out of their tube at three meters below the surface towards the ghastly-looking burning warship. The first torpedo hit near the Blücher's forward (Anton) turret, and the second in the engine room, leaving her drifting out of control in the narrow fjord. The third torpedo tube was left loaded in case more ships were to follow close behind Blücher. After firing the two other tubes were reloaded and readied for the next target.

With all engines knocked out by the second torpedo hit, the cruiser anchored near the Askholmene islets to try and fight the ferocious fires raging throughout the vessel. The Blücher's torpedoes were also fired against land to avoid them being brought to explosion by the uncontrolled fires aboard. The crew's struggle would still prove hopeless when the fires reached the midship ammunition hold for the 15-cm guns and a huge gap appeared in the ship's side.
At 06:22 a.m. the Blücher sank bow first into the depths of the Oslofjord, taking hundreds with it below. After the ship had disappeared from the surface large quantities of oil floated up and covered the close to two thousand sailors and soldiers fighting for their lives in the freezing water. This oil rapidly caught fire, killing further hundreds of Germans.

All in all, some 800–1000 Germans died, going down with the ship or burning or freezing to death in the fjord.
That is it. You have done what you could. But there is still work to do.
While the Blücher had been sunk the remaining naval force destined for Oslo had long since turned around and retreated back down the fjord. Not knowing of the torpedo battery, the commander of the Lützow assumed the flagship had hit mines and at 04:40 decided to turn back and land the invasion forces out of range of Oscarsborg.

Before the force made its escape the fortress had managed to damage the Lützow,the 15-cm guns of the Kopås battery scoring three hits and knocking out the ship's forward ("Anton") 28-cm gun turret. After pulling out of range of the fortress guns the Lützow employed her remaining "Bruno" turret to bombard the defenders from a range of 9-10 kilometers down the fjord. The fortress was also subjected to heavy Luftwaffe bombing later on the same day, to which the fortress could only reply with two 40-mm AA guns, but again without Norwegian casualties. One of the anti-aircraft guns became unserviceable after only 22 rounds; the other gun kept up its fire until 1200 hrs, but to little effect. After a break in the attacks the Luftwaffe bombers returned at 1330 hrs and soon strafed the remaining Norwegian AA gun, forcing the crew to seek shelter in the nearby forrest at around 1400 hrs. In all, the fortress was subjected to around nine hours of air attack.
But you know that it is far from over. Your nation is small and weak - there is much more coming.
Although the naval attack on Oslo had been thwarted by the actions of Oscarsborg, the city was seized by forces that was airlifted in to Fornebu Airport. In light of the capture of the capital, and with news of German landings at the village of Son south of Drøbak, Colonel Eriksen decided that further fighting without adequate infantry support was in vain. The fortress was surrendered intact on the morning of April 10.
So old man; what did you and your old equipment buy for all your efforts? How will history judge you?
The effect of halting the German fleet was huge. On board Blücher were troops specially designated to capture the King, the Norwegian government, the Storting (Norwegian Parliament) and the national gold reserve. The delay made it possible for all these to escape from Oslo. If the King and government had been captured, it is most likely that Norway would have capitulated fairly soon to reach a deal with the German similar to that gained by the Danes. Instead, the Storting was able to convene at Elverum and give the government a wide authorization to continue until a Storting could again assemble. In fact, the Norwegian government was able to continue the defense of Norway until it had to go into exile in London.
Never assume the "old" can be dismissed. Do not discount old officers and inexperienced men who are fighting in their home waters. Do not assume away challenges with fairy dust and hopes.The Norwegians during the Battle of Drøbak sound.Fullbore.

UPDATE: From the 2016 movie, The King's Choice;



Thursday, December 14, 2017

Diversity Thursday

After a few weeks respite from reporting on this sordid little corner of Cultural-Marxist sectarian, time to poke are head in and find something positive ... and there it is.

Rejoice dear hearts, Chief Gunner's Mate Kyle Shafer, USN picks up on a cornerstone theme from DivThu.

Though it may be behind the paywall, read it all in the latest edition of Proceedings. Here are the operative bits;
...the segregation of celebrations—which are intended to build unit cohesion—creates division.
...
Sailors spend a month segregating one group of people at the exclusion of all other races.
...
Segregating some Sailors from other Sailors for a month at a time multiple times a year has negative consequences by creating doubts, confusion, and division. Moving forward, the Navy should stop celebrating specific demographics. Sailors are first and foremost Americans. We are not black, white, Filipino, Mexican, male, female, Hispanic, Asian-Pacific Islanders; we all are simply Americans. The Navy needs to recognize Sailors as Sailors, and the colors blue and gold.
Amazing, but such talk is considered radical. It will get you called names, but I don't think the Chief cares.

He loves his Sailors all the same, as we all should. The only people who could object to his opinion are the usual suspects we find in the Navy's wing of the diversity industry; paycheck hunting rent-seekers, race baiting grievance mongers, and others who prosper personally, financially, politically, or psychologically by keeping people divided and at each others throats.

Still a disgrace that our Navy continues to support sectarianism and division - but as that kind of seething cannot survive the light of day and fresh air - give our Navy time.

It may not be tomorrow, next year, or next decade - but eventually we will show these agents of division the door.

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Africa - coming to a future near you

In case you were feeling hopeful about a future relatively free of starvation, pestilence, war, and death - head on over to USNIBlog were I am doing my best to keep you depressed.

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Not that there isn’t time, it just isn’t a priority

Our friend John Kuehn wastes little time in his most recent Proceedings article. Right off the top rope:
The U.S. Navy is in violation of the law as regards Joint Professional Military Education (JPME). It is not in marginal or tangential violation—it is in full blown, egregious violation that thumbs its nose at the intent of the Goldwater-Nichols Act (GNA).
Professional military education is a subject that will always start an argument. There are so many valid opinions of what should be done, how it should be done, and who should do it, that any suggestion out there will be immediately countered with two or three other options. Some slightly better or worse depending on the weight you give the different variables.

Regardless of what you would want it to be, we have a system in place, as imperfect as it is, and few really seem to be happy with it. As John outlines, we are slow walking compliance almost as if by policy;
Why is the Navy having difficulty sending its mid-grade officers to professional military education at places like the Naval War College and the U.S. Army Command and General Staff College? 

…the Navy officer corps, quite simply, is too busy—and too small—to allow its key mid-grade officers to attend JPME.

As the law states in the OPMEP: “Seminar mix at Service ILCs [intermediate-level service colleges] . . . must include at least one officer from each of the two non-host Military Departments.” 8 Translation: At CGSC, the Air Force and Navy departments will provide one officer each to each seminar for the Command and General Staff Officer Course (CGSOC). 
The current requirement for sea service officers at CGSC is based on the following agreed-upon totals for 74 staff groups:
USMC: 28 students (fully manned)
USN: 44 students (23 short: only 21 Navy officers assigned this year)
USCG: 2 students (1 short: only one assigned this year)

The Navy must take care of the fleet it has, as well as focusing on the fleet it wants. The recent accidents and the shorting of bodies at JPME institutions both indicate that the service is too busy—too busy to get better and too busy to learn.
His critique points towards another option; PLAN SALAMANDER for JPME that predates my blog-life. Simple; no War College/JPME requirement until after CDR-Command. Full stop.

Let company and field grade officers master the Tactical level of performance their nation requires, and if they stay on in the military service, it will help inform their Operational and Strategic level staff work.

Before then, if possible for a few, then we can send officers off to civilian institution to get full-time graduate degrees. Not everyone, and not considered a career requirement. It will work for some, notsomuch for others – and that should be fine. We don’t want every officer to have the same professional experience and background. That narrow scope helps no one.

As for the larger question about why the Navy isn’t executing its nation’s laws? That is for the CNO to answer, not me.

Monday, December 11, 2017

SECNAV Spencer: Stow the Optimism, There Will be no Naval Renaissance

With apologies to The Bard;

Friends, Navalists, members of the Front Porch, give me your attention. I have come here to bury the 350 Ship Navy, not to plan for it. The evil that men do is remembered after the POM, but the good is often buried with the sequestor. It might as well be the same with NDAA. The noble SECNAV told you that a substantially larger Navy was ambitious. If that’s true, it’s a serious fault, and our Navy has paid seriously for it. With the permission of SECNAV and the others — for SECNAV is an honorable man; they are all honorable men — I have come here to speak at the 350 Ship Navy's funeral. She was my friend, she was faithful and just to me. But SECNAV says she was ambitious, and SECNAV is an honorable man. She brought many captives home to the E-ring whose HASC testimony brought wealth to the city.

There will be no reconditioned OHP's. 

There will be no license-built EuroFrigate.

If we are lucky we will get better focus on proper manning, training and equipping our Navy. Maybe all our DDG will get some OTH ASUW capability. That is about it. I have not totally given up hope that we may restructure the malformation of our Surface force, but that is looking to be losing headway as well. The revolution seems to have culminated at the first whiff of grapeshot at the first barricade.

The Swamp around the Potomac Flotilla has won.

Sometimes it is best to just be silent in mourning. After reading the latest from SECNAV Spencer, sadly I think this may one of those times.

Before we get there, we must Salamander a wee bit. 

Really, this should not be unexpected. One would have thought that if we had a realistic chance at growing to 350 ships or more, that once his mandatory SAPR training was complete, our new SECNAV and he band of merry men and women would be visiting every port and shire to get the word out so our politicians could feel the swelling support ... but no. You have not seen it. I have not seen it. Reports from the field from the last month or so have been sprinkled with meh leavened with some pumpkin spice feh.

As I am sure that the primary players have already seen a draft of the soon to be revealed strategy, you can assume that no one who would expect to retain credibility and self-respect would get too far over their skis - or better yet - regardless of their personal feelings, would start to set expectations around them in alignment with what will soon be behind door #3.

That is why, I believe, when you read from the link above, you get an extra helping from the output of the "Random SECNAV Speech Generator."
Rest assured, the Department of the Navy is dedicated to restoring readiness and increasing the capacity and capability of the fleet to meet the nation’s security needs. We are beginning to witness improvements in these three areas, and we expect to see the rate of improvement increase in the near future. We are committed to doing so in a way that works hand-in-hand with our partners in Congress and industry so we may deliver superior national defense at a value to the American taxpayers.
...
This administration is dedicated to rebuilding American military might and ensuring stability and certainty as we address global security demands. The future is challenging but bright as we lean forward to engage with our legislative and industry partners to guarantee that the Navy and Marine Corps team remains the world’s most ready and lethal forward-deployed fighting force.
...
The money we do have must be invested as efficiently as possible, which means we must attain greater budgetary certainty in order to fund our strategy. Having a clear line of sight to the necessary resources for growth will allow our partners in industry to invest for the future, which will in turn lower overall costs.
...
All of us in the national security enterprise ― the Pentagon, Congress and industry ― share the goal of supporting our current and future sailors and Marines so that they can be successful at conducting their missions.
There is one pull quote that I find of utility;
We will do this by streamlining our acquisition process and working with our congressional partners to secure steady funding commitments, which will encourage innovation, better manage risk and drive efficiencies.
Yes, yes, yes ... we all know that our acquisition process needs to go in to drydock to get all the accretions accumulated over the last few decades scrapped off, the hull reconditioned and painted ... but ...

When is it starting?
Who is doing it?
When will it be completed?

It is almost 2018 people.

If that is all we can do, then fine. That is actually an extremely valuable long term thing to do. Have it done properly and perhaps at some point we can design, commission, and deploy new warships that can actually fight a war. 

You know our track record this century; something besides the DDG-1000 white elephant we are trying to do anything with, or LCS that almost a decade after commissioning Hull-1, still is of no use in any front line wartime contingency. 

As we finish picking the last of the lint out of our belly button, the Chinese are in serial production of their Type-55 don't-call-it-a-destroyer-it-is-larger-than-a-TICO, the Russians have corvettes with more combat capabilities in all warfare areas than our larger, more expensive LCS. Nations with less than 2% of our population (DNK & NOR) are producing more modern and effective warships under 8,000 tons than we are.

So, if we can't get more money - then let's do the hard work of getting an acquisition process that supports the military, as opposed to having a military that supports the acquisition process.

Give the job to McGrath and Eaglen. They'll have it done ready for signature by the mid point of Q4FY18.

Oh, and about the critique of growing cynicism;
"Cynicism is the smoke that rises from the ashes of burned out dreams."
I'll take the Llama.

Friday, December 08, 2017

Fullbore Friday

This December 8th FbF, I want to quote a bit from a great combat leader most Americans have never heard about, Major General Aaro Pajari, Finland Army.

As a unit level leader during the Winter, Continuation, and Lapland wars of the late 1930s through the mid 1940s, his stories could take up months of FbF.

Then a LtCol in the 16th Regiment, his men faced the onslaught of the Red Army’s 139th Rifle Division.

His response in simple, clear, and direct language turned the desire to flee in to a drive to fight. As leaders, how do you take the very real and dangerous reality your men face in combat, and turn that towards motivation to fight?

From the book, Finland At War 1939-1940, let’s check in with Aaro on 08DEC39;
Upon their first inspection of the front, both Pajari and Talvela were mortified to see the demoralized state of the men. They heard of many instances where sheer panic had infected both veterans and new conscripts, spreading like a virus. On 8 December, as Baljalev’s 139th Rifle Division continues its attack at the Kivisalmi rapids, they witnessed for themselves defenders running away in terror. This in turn prompted Pajari to utter his dire warning to his battalion: “You can run, but you will only die tired!”
…Talvela realized that they needed some kind of victory in order to curb the panic, regain the initiative and show the men the the Soviets were not invincible. As he had earlier reasoned to Mannerheim; “In situations like this, as in all confused and hopeless situations, an energetic attack against the nearest enemy was and is the only way to improve the spirits of the men and to regain control of the situation.”
To paraphrase Peter Murphy; libraries are full of keys. Where’s your lock?