Friday, April 29, 2016

Rationalize Survivability

All too often, today, requirements are downgraded and then rationalized to explain why the downgrade wasn’t actually a downgrade.  Wake up!  Yes, it was a downgrade.  Of course it was a downgrade.

Consider the highest level military requirement that sets the priorities, force structures, acquisition programs, etc. for the services.  Originally, after the collapse of the Soviet Union, the requirement was to be able to fight and win two major regional wars simultaneously.  That has since been watered down to being able to win one regional conflict and holding in another.

The 1997 Quadrennial Defense Review put it this way,

“As a global power with worldwide interests, it is imperative that the United States now and for the foreseeable future be able to deter and defeat large-scale, cross-border aggression in two distant theaters in overlapping time frames, preferably in concert with regional allies. Maintaining this core capability is central to credibly deterring opportunism—that is, to avoiding a situation in which an aggressor in one region might be tempted to take advantage when U.S. forces are heavily committed elsewhere… “

Despite that straightforward statement, we have downgraded the requirement to fighting one regional conflict and holding on in another and have rationalized that it’s a good thing.  Why did we downgrade the requirement?  It wasn’t because the threats decreased.  It was simply because our military spending was becoming greater and providing less return than in the past.  Since we could no longer afford the force structure required to simultaneously fight and win two major regional wars we opted to change the requirement rather than change our procurement and spending habits.

Or, consider the Navy’s carrier requirements.  After the Cold War, the requirement was for 15 carriers.  It has subsequently worked its way down to 11 with serious discussions about permanent reductions to 8-10.  Our need hasn’t changed.  What’s changed is that carriers are pricing themselves out of existence, slowly but surely.  Each step of the way, the Navy rationalized the reductions.

Or, consider the Marine’s requirement for amphibious lift.  Depending on the source, the requirement is as high as 54 amphibious ships.  Another common number is 38.  The Marines have “bargained” with the Navy and settled on 33-34 as sufficient.  The actual number is 30 ships.  The Marines and Navy have rationalized the reductions every step of the way.  Again, the requirements didn’t change – only our ability to meet them changed so we rationalized our acquisition failure.

The point is that downgrades are imposed by outside factors, budget being chief among them although stupidity is also right up there, and then rationalization is applied to make the downgrade seem palatable or even beneficial and preferred.  Rationalization does not, however, change the underlying facts of the matter or the requirements.  If we needed 15 carriers, we probably still do.  If we needed to be able to fight and win two major regional conflicts at the same time, we probably still do.

Well, that sets the stage for our discussion of survivability.

By the end of WWII, we pretty thoroughly understood what ship survivability meant and how to achieve it.  BuShips set the standards and ensured that new construction met those standards.  Now, BuShips is gone and accounting trumps survivability.

For decades, survivability has been defined by a very concise and crystal clear document, OpNavInst 9070.1, issued from the CNO’s office on 23-Sep-1988.  It is a remarkable document characterized by fundamental, concise, and obvious statements of requirement.  For example, the basic need is acknowledged by the statement,

“Survivability shall be considered a fundamental design requirement of no less significance than other inherent ship characteristics, such as weight and stability margins, maneuverability, structural integrity and combat systems capability.”

Clear.  Simple.  Obvious.  So, too, is this statement.

“Ship protection features, such as armor, shielding and signature reduction, together with installed equipment hardened to appropriate standards, constitute a minimum baseline of survivability.” [emphasis added]

The document goes on to define three levels of survivability in short, simple, and unambiguous terms.

Level I (lowest) represents the least severe environment anticipated and excludes the need for enhanced survivability for designated ship classes to sustain operations in the immediate area of an engaged Battle Group or in the general war-at-sea region. In — this category, the minimum design capability required shall, in addition to the inherent sea keeping mission, provide for EMP and shock hardening, individual protection for CBR, including decontamination stations, the DC/FF capability to control and recover from conflagrations and include the ability to operate in a high latitude environment.

Level II (middle) represents an increase of severity to include the ability for sustained operations when in support of a Battle Group and in the general war-at-sea area. This level shall provide the ability for sustained combat operations following weapons impact. Capabilities shall include the requirements of Level I plus primary and support system redundancy, collective protection system, improved structural integrity and subdivision, fragmentation protection, signature reduction, conventional and nuclear blast protection and nuclear hardening.

Level III (highest) the most severe environment projected for combatant Battle Groups, shall include the requirements of Level II plus the ability to deal with the broad degrading effects of damage from anti-ship cruise missiles (ASCMS), torpedoes and mines.

The document even defines which ships shall have which level of survivability.

Ship Type                                                       Level

Aircraft Carriers                                               III
Surface Combatants                                       III
Frigates and Amphibious Warfare                   II
Underway Replenishment Ships                      II
Patrol Combatant and Mine Warfare                I
Strategic Sealift                                                 I
Support Ships                                                    I
All Other Auxiliary Ships/Craft                           I

Clear.  Simple.  Obvious. 

This should be the end of the story.  However, the Navy ran into a little problem:  the LCS.  The LCS was designed with a sub-Level I survivability.  The Navy claimed that it was designed with some made up Level I+ survivability but we already totally debunked that.  The Navy flat out lied about that.  In any event, because they made the claim of survivability that was untrue and because the ship was designed with sub-Level I, the Navy received much criticism and bad publicity.  They fought the negative perception (the reality, actually) for years but could not overcome the criticism especially because their own policy, OpNavInst 9070.1 contradicted their claims and showed that the LCS should have been built with Level II.

Eventually, after fighting a losing battle for many years, the Navy decided that if they couldn’t defend their claims, the easiest solution was to change the survivability standards so that the LCS would meet the new, downgraded standards and the conversation would end.  To that end, the Navy made up a new survivability “standard” which is documented in OpNavInst 9070.1A and was issued by CNO Greenert on 13-Sep-2012.

The new document takes a previously simple, clear, straightforward, and logical requirement and turns it into a nearly incomprehensible mishmash of generic and interlocking statements that offer no specific guidance or requirements.  It has reduced a very specific process to a vague collection of “feelings” about survivability.  That was, I believe, its intended purpose – to so obscure the survivability issue that the Navy can now claim the LCS meets the “standard”.

The document incorporates aspects that have nothing to do with survivability.  For example, it introduces cyberwarfare as an element of survivability.  Cyberwarfare and cyber vulnerabilities may affect a platform’s ability to accomplish its task but it is not a survivability issue.

Even the very definition of survivability is flawed.  Read it.

“Survivability. A measure of both the capability of the ship, mission critical systems, and crew to perform assigned warfare missions, and of the protection provided to the crew to prevent serious injury or death.”

This definition is incorrect and has nothing to do with survivability.  The measure of the ability to perform missions is not survivability.  Ability to perform missions is effectiveness.  Even the protection for the crew is only somewhat related to survivability.  Survivability is, pure and simple, the ability of the ship to remain afloat in the face of combat and damage.  The Navy can’t even define survivability!

The document then goes on to list three principal disciplines of survivability: susceptibility, vulnerability, and recoverability.  The subsequent definitions of these disciplines are as flawed and irrelevant as the definition of survivability.  I won’t even bother quoting them.  You can read the document if you’re interested.

Ultimately, the document goes on to offer tables and flowcharts of survivability, none of which offer any concrete requirements.  Everything is fluid.  Survivability can be anything you want it to be.  This takes today’s “feel good” movement and codifies it in Navy documents. 

We’ve taken a perfectly simple, logical, and useful survivability requirement, downgraded it to the point of uselessness, and rationalized it under some all-encompassing assessment that has little to do with survivability.  Why?  Because the Navy got tired of continually defending an expensive and non-survivable ship. 

If you can’t change the survivability of the ship, change the definition of survivability!  A typical Navy solution.

Thursday, April 28, 2016

Sonar Fails - Navy Orders More

DOT&E has panned the sonar that the LCS MCM module was trying to use.  So, what does the Navy do?  Order more of them, of course!  From the website,

“Raytheon Co., Portsmouth, Rhode Island, is being awarded a $20,406,692 modification to previously awarded contract (N00024-14-C-6302) to exercise options for the procurement of four AN/AQS-20A sonar, mine detecting sets.”

So, the AQS-20A sonar which doesn’t meet specifications, costs $5.1M each.  Seems like a wise use of taxpayer money.  I cannot believe how screwed up Navy procurement is.

The AQS-20A sonar was the small sonar that was to be towed by the now cancelled (or maybe not cancelled) RMMV which has, itself, failed miserably.  You can read any DOT&E report for details on the sonar’s failings, if you’re interested.

MV-22 Multi-Spectral Sensor

I really do not understand the thinking behind many of the new weapon and sensor systems.  The latest is a sensor addition to the Marine’s MV-22 as explained in a Flightglobal website article (1).  US Naval Air Systems Command (NAVAIR) has issued a request to industry for an 18-inch gimbaled multispectral sensor that can be lowered from the MV-22’s cargo hold well.  The new sensors will give the aircraft the ability to target enemies from afar and provide similar situational awareness and precision targeting capabilities as the MQ-9 Predator UAV.   It’s unclear whether this will impact the available cargo space or not, so that’s one concern.

The other concern is under what circumstance does this sensor and capability make sense?  Are the Marines trying to create their own Predator?  Are we really going to risk our most valuable general purpose aircraft (according to the Marines, not me!) performing high risk battlefield surveillance?  Isn’t mitigating that risk exactly why we’ve developed the Predator?  What’s the thinking, here?

I note that the Predator is intended to fly quite high while the MV-22 is limited to under 10,000 ft, if I remember correctly.  That means the area it can cover is quite limited and the danger from the proximity to all manner of anti-air weapons is quite severe.  The aircraft will have limited survivability.  Why are we doing this?

The MV-22 is already equipped with an APQ-174 multi-mode radar and AAQ-27 forward-looking infrared turret so what does this extra sensor gain us?

I’m completely missing the tactical usefulness of this.  It seems like we so often develop and tack technology onto platforms just because we can rather than because it will serve a useful purpose.

Is this just more floundering around trying to come up with uses for an otherwise limited usefulness aircraft?

Feel free to take a shot at explaining this because I have no explanation!


(1) Flightglobal website, “DOD explores multispectral sensor options for V-22 Osprey”, James Drew, 25-Apr-2016,

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

COD Mods

The Navy has selected the V-22 as the next carrier delivery (COD) aircraft.  Bell-Boeing has been given a $151M contract to design the COD version of the plane, as described by a USNI website article (1).

The funding, adding onto an existing contract with Bell-Boeing, covers non-recurring engineering costs to add extended range, high frequency beyond line-of-sight radio and a public address system to the baseline MV-22 used by the Marine Corps. 

The cost of this is absolutely appalling.  Bell-Boeing wants $151M to add a radio, a public address system, and extended range modifications?  It ought to take about ten thousand dollars of design work to add a radio.  A public address system?  Seriously?  That should cost about a thousand dollars of design effort.  That leaves almost the entire $151M for extended range modifications.  Here’s the thing, though, the Air Force’s CV-22 is already an extended range V-22.  The extended range engineering has already been done.  The CV-22 has extra wing fuel tanks and three auxiliary cabin tanks can also be added.

The Navy’s unrefueled range requirement for the V-22 COD is 1150 nm (2).

The Air Force fact file lists a combat radius for the CV-22 of 500 nm with one internal fuel tank.  That means a one way range (which is what a COD flight profile is) of 1000 nm.

The NavAir Navy fact file lists a range for the CV-22 of 2100 nm with internal fuel tanks (number unspecified). (3)

Wiki lists an MV-22 range of 879 nm and a ferry range of 1940 nm with internal auxiliary tanks.

Wiki cites the existing C-2 Greyhound COD as having a range of 1300 nm, for comparison.

Thus, the CV-22 already has an unrefueled range that’s almost 1000 miles greater than the Navy’s requirement.  Of course, the max ferry range requires internal fuel tanks which take away from the cargo capacity of the aircraft but the CV-22 meets the range requirement with a single internal fuel tank.  Presumably, the CV-22’s wing tanks offer sufficient range with no need for internal fuel tanks.  The point is, the engineering has already been done.  Why are we giving Bell-Boeing $151M to engineer something that has already been done?



(1)USNI News website, “NAVAIR Awards Bell-Boeing $151 Million To Begin Navy-Variant V-22 Design”, Megan Eckstein, April 1, 2016,

(2)USNI News website, “NAVAIR Details Changes in Navy V-22 Osprey Variant”, Megan Eckstein, April 2, 2015,

Monday, April 25, 2016

F-35 Cost Update

The F-35 program is hideously expensive and yet supporters continue to claim that sub-$80M F-35s are just around the corner.  The reality, however, is quite different as shown in this Defense News website article.

“Meanwhile, the Navy asked for $270 million for two additional carrier-based F-35Cs, and the Marine Corps requested $759 million to procure two each of the F-35Cs and F-35Bs.” (1)

Some quick arithmetic gives a cost of $135M for the F-35C’s and $244.5M for the F-35B’s.  Well that’s a bit different from the supporter’s claims!


(1)Defense News website, “House Armed Services Committee Markup Will Restore 11 F-35s”, Lara Seligman, 21-Apr-2016,


Anecdotally, the Navy unofficially sanctions the practice of cannibalization as a means of meeting short term readiness and inspections.  Intuitively, this is wrong – badly wrong – because the readiness of one unit is obtained at the expense of another.  Worse, the practice masks readiness and supply issues that should be dealt with by the chain of command, thereby providing a false sense of readiness.

The Navy defines cannibalization as the removal of parts from an active unit or piece of equipment to another unit in order to enable the readiness or meet inspections.  In addition to cannibalization, the Navy also recognizes and defines another type of parts swapping called cross-decking.  The difference is that cross-decking involves the swapping of parts from the inventory (non-active) of one unit to another in order to enable readiness or meet inspections.

Does the Navy actually recognize and condone cannibalization or is ComNavOps just being sensationalistic?  Well, unbelievably, the Navy has an official policy defining the practice and establishing rules for its use.  Ironically, the policy condemns the practice while simultaneously establishing procedures for doing it!

“Cannibalizations between active fleet units shall not be a normal peacetime practice and will be considered an acceptable option only after all other logistics support alternatives have been exhausted.” (4)

So, in a typically Navy form of insanity, the practice is “banned” and yet procedures are established to regulate it and metrics have been set up to monitor it!

Anecdotal evidence aside, how pervasive is the problem?  Do we have any data?  Here’s some old data from a Dynamics Research Corporation report. 

“… reports show that in FY 1996-2000, the Navy and Air Force performed 850,000 cannibalizations requiring over 5 million maintenance man-hours—which translates to between 154,000 and 176,000 cannibalizations a year (and this does not even include the Army, and the Navy reportedly understates its data by as much as 50%) (Government Accountability Office, 2001)” (1)

The degree of underreporting of data may be significant, according to a GAO report.

“The Air Force and the Navy, however, do not report all cannibalizations, and how much the Army uses cannibalizations is not known because it requires that only very selected cannibalizations be reported. As a result, total Servicewide figures may be considerably higher than those officially reported.” (2)

“During the 5-year period under study (fiscal years 1996-2000), the Navy reported approximately 468,000 cannibalizations, or on average, about 94,000 a year. … However, according to recent studies, the actual number of cannibalizations may be much higher. In fiscal year 1998, a Navy group noted that as many as half of all Navy cannibalizations may go unreported. In April 2000, the Navy Inspector General also confirmed that cannibalizations were being consistently underreported and that commanders were concerned that cannibalization was becoming an accepted maintenance practice.”

Much of the above data is for aircraft.  How are ships doing?

“In four consecutive quarters in 2010 the USN reported a rate of so-called “cannibalization” of components between ships of on average twice the current allowable maximum allowed limit (MAL) of about one instance per four ships (.28), according to the data.

Across the fleet in 2010, the USN saw an average rate of cannibalization of .48, or about one instance per two ships across the entire year. “ (3)

We see, then, that the Navy allows a cannibalization rate of one instance per four ships and that the actual rate is about every other ship.  According to this data (likely vastly underreported), every other ship in the fleet is not currently mission ready.  If we apply the 50% underreporting factor that GAO suggests, the cannibalization rate becomes 0.96 which is almost every ship in the fleet!

What’s the Navy’s response to the apparent severe problem?  Here’s the salient excerpt from the then CNO.

“… the supply system is performing at or above goals,” read the USN statement.” (3)

So, the Navy would have us believe that the supply system is functioning at or above goals and yet the practice of cannibalization is widespread.  Seems like a contradiction, there.  Even faced with hard documentation (set aside the fact that the problem is vastly underreported) of a serious problem, the Navy claims all is well.  Outstanding!

Commanders are fired on a regular and frequent basis for “loss of confidence” in their ability to command.  Where are the firings of the CNO and other upper leaders of the Navy for failure to provide the parts and ensure actual readiness of the ships under their command?  I don’t know about you but I’ve lost confidence in their ability to command.


(1)Dynamics Research Corporation, “Cannibalization in the Military: A Viable Sustainment Strategy?”, Peter Bogdanowicz, 2-Apr-2003,

(2)GAO, “MILITARY AIRCRAFT Services Need Strategies to Reduce Cannibalizations”, GAO-02-86, Nov 2001,

(3)DoDBuzz Website, “Report: Parts-swapping is common across Navy”, Philip Ewing, 19-Jul-2011,

(4)OPNAVINST 4440.19F N4, 5 Jun 2012,

Saturday, April 23, 2016

F-35 or Next Generation?

Consider the following seemingly unrelated points – or maybe they are related?

  • The F-35 won’t be fully combat ready for several more years, if even then.  When ready, the F-35 will only be a mediocre aircraft with much of its technology obsolete or easily matched by other aircraft due to the extremely protracted develop period.

  • A few lessons have been learned even by the military.  The Air Force has stated publicly that they have no interest in initiating another multi-service aircraft project.  The Navy has strongly suggested that an overemphasis on stealth may be inappropriate. 

  • The next generation fighter has been under conceptual development for a year or more.

  • We just recently discussed the concept of a five year development/production cycle and found it to be achievable if certain rules were rigidly followed.

Do you see the connection and the logical conclusion?

If we should be able to develop an aircraft and have it production ready in five years and the F-35 is still five-plus years away from being combat ready, logic suggests that if we terminated the F-35 today, we could still have a combat ready, useful, next generation aircraft ready in the same time frame as the F-35 or even a bit sooner.

Of course, the key is the definition of “next generation”.  If we do as we’ve been doing and try to make the next generation aircraft an anti-gravity, invisibility, laser armed, telepathic controlled fantasy wonder weapon then, no, it can’t be ready for production in five years.  But, if we thoroughly understand the aircraft’s mission, narrowly focus on just that role, use only existing technology, define our requirements well, insist on no change orders, limit the aircraft to just the Navy, and manage the project as I’ve described in previous posts (see, "Five Years or You Didn't Know What You Wanted") then there’s no reason we can’t have a formidable, reasonably priced, combat ready aircraft in five years.

We can still pursue the fantasy technology but only in the R&D world, not in production.

Think about it.  We could have a carrier combat aircraft that is superior to the F-35 in production in five years.  The F-35C will probably not be fully combat ready in five years and, even if it is, it won’t be suited to what the Navy really needs.

“… what the Navy really needs.”  That’s the next key, isn’t it?  It’s clear that the Navy doesn’t even know what it needs because it hasn’t got a guiding strategy that would tell it what kind of aircraft is needed.  Recognizing the Navy’s inability to define what it needs, ComNavOps has obligingly told the Navy what it needs.  The Navy needs a long range air superiority fighter and a long range attack plane with the fighter being the top priority.  Of course, there’s no reason the Navy can’t develop both aircraft simultaneously.  We’ve done it in the past and we can do it again by following the guidelines I’ve laid out.  That’s not really the point of this post, though.

The point of the post is that in the same time frame we’re looking at getting the F-35C combat ready, we can have a new and superior aircraft in production – one whose technology isn’t already obsolete after two decades of development.