Saturday, March 25, 2017

Russian Shipyard Fires

One of the biggest challenges facing Russian shipyards seems to be keeping the ships from burning.  I was reminded of the fire that effectively destroyed the USS Miami in Portsmouth Naval Shipyard in May 2012 and decided to see what the Russian experience had been with shipyard fires.  An Internet search turned up the following catastrophic fires over the last several years.  I’m sure there were many additional, smaller fires that are not reported and this does not include fires at sea – this is only shipyard fires.

30-Dec-2011  K-84 Yekaterinburg (Delta IV SSBN)
16-Sep-2013  K-150 Tomsk (Oscar II SSGN)
17-Mar-2014  K-148 Krasnodar (Oscar II SSGN – decommissioning)
4-Nov-2014    Kerch (Kara class missile cruiser)
7-Apr-2015    K-266 Orel (Oscar II SSGN)
7-Dec-2015   RaisKorfou (Koni II frigate for Algerian Navy)
7-Jun-2016    Project 12700 Georgiy Kurbatov (Alexandrit-class minsweeper)
17-Jan-2017  Ossora (Trawler)

Yikes!  That’s a lot of lost or seriously damaged shipping, there.

Orel, Oscar II SSGN Burning

No point to this post, just a bit of interesting information.

Thursday, March 23, 2017

Pick A Number, Any Number

The Navy’s latest fleet size target is now 355 ships.

“The Navy needs potentially as much as $150 billion over current budget plans to “jump-start” shipbuilding and get on a trajectory for a 355-ship fleet, the vice chief of naval operations [Adm. Bill Moran] said on Wednesday.” (1)

355????  Wasn’t our goal 305 or thereabouts a month or so ago?  Has our strategy and, therefore, our operational requirements changed in the last month?

As you know (because ComNavOps preaches it relentlessly), force structure and size is intimately tied to strategy which, in turn, determines operational needs which set fleet size.  Without a coherent strategy, you’re just making up arbitrary numbers for fleet size and composition and hoping for the best.  “Hope” is not a strategy or, at least, not a winning one.

So, I guess our strategic and operational needs now dictate 355 ships? … or maybe not.  Apparently, 355 isn’t an exact number.

“I’m not here to argue that 355 or 350 is the right number. I’m here to argue that we need to get on that trajectory as fast as we can. And as time goes on you start to figure out whether that number is still valid – 10 years from now, 20 years from now 355 may not be the number,” Moran said today at the annual McAleese/Credit Suisse “Defense Programs” event.” (1)

“As time goes on”??????  As time goes on you’ll figure out whether your fleet size number is valid?  This is the best our professional naval warriors can come up with?

So, apparently 350 is an okay number, too.  Presumably 360 would be okay.  Or, maybe 345 or 365.  I’m getting a sense that the latest fleet size target might not be tied to a strategy and operational requirements.  In fact, I’m getting the sense that the Navy has no strategy and doesn’t care what size the fleet is.  I’m getting the sense that all the Navy cares about is more budget.

The exact size of the future fleet doesn’t matter right now, but rather the Navy just needs to start boosting its investment in shipbuilding quickly – which means buying many more Virginia-class attack submarines, Arleigh Burke-class destroyers and Ford-class aircraft carriers in the next few years, he said.

“Our number, give or take, to get to 355, or just to get started in the first seven years, is $150 billion. That’s a lot of money.” [emphasis added] (1)

So, the Navy’s position is that the actual fleet size number doesn’t matter as long as they can get more money.

Let’s take a pause and look back at the various fleet sizes that have been targeted in recent years.

President Reagan targeted a 600 ship fleet in the 1980’s against the backdrop of countering the Soviet Union.  That, at least, was tied to a Cold War strategy, however tenuously.

Remember the 1000 ship fleet?

"The 1,000-ship navy is a fleet-in-being of nations willing to participate in global maritime partnerships. “ (2)

To be fair, the 1000 ships were not all US Navy ships.

More recent fleet size targets have been in the 303/305/308 range.

“The Navy’s new 30-year shipbuilding plan projects a fleet of 292 ships in 2046 — a fleet that is short of the service’s 308-ship goal …” (3)

Recent Navy 30 year shipbuilding plans have targeted fleet sizes anywhere in the low to mid 300’s, depending on what plan and what year.

For the last few years, our fleet size target has been around 280 because that’s what we’ve been at and no Navy leader has objected.  Therefore, with no objections, that fleet size must be meeting our needs.  In fact, Navy leadership has stressed that our fleet is fully capable of meeting requirements.

Now, we see a sudden change to a fleet size of 355 ships.

“Tossing overboard the budget constraints that have weighed down the US Navy’s attempts to grow its fleet, the world’s most powerful sea service is embarking on the biggest proposed expansion since the early 1980s, upping its goals from today’s 308 ships to a whopping 355 ships – beyond even the incoming Trump administration’s stated 350-ship goal.“ (4)

Has there been a sudden change in strategy that would dictate a change in fleet size?  No.  Our strategy (we don’t actually have one) hasn’t changed.  What, then, has changed?  The only thing that has changed is that the Navy sees an opportunity, with the new Administration, to grab more money.

This is a pure and simple money grab by the Navy.  There is no tie between fleet size and any coherent strategy.  There is no operational need that is tied to any particular fleet size.  This is pure money grubbing.  Forgive me, I’m going to have to pause a moment.  I’m starting to get choked up with pride in my professional Navy.

Okay, I’m back.  Sometimes I just feel so proud of my Navy and the leadership, in particular, that I just have to take a moment to stand up, offer a silent and unseen salute, and recover my emotional equilibrium.  It’s okay, I’m good now. 

Where were we?  Oh yes, we were talking about the link between fleet size and strategy.  Of course, not only are fleet size numbers tied directly to strategy/ops but so is force structure.  The relative numbers of types of ships are a direct function of what the strategy/ops call for.  Do you need more carriers or less?  More subs or less?  And so on.  Well, it depends on what the strategy/ops call for.  So, what does the Navy think about the careful force structure balance?

“We definitely wanted to go after SSNs, DDGs and carriers … So the numbers I will give to you are reflective of those three priorities, because those are the big impacters in any competition at sea,” he told USNI News.

“Amphibs come later, but I’m talking about initial, what are we building that we can stamp out that are good. We know how to build Virginia-class, we know how to build DDGs.” (1)

Rather than design and build ships that match the strategic and operational requirements, the Navy just wants to “stamp out” ships.  How’s that for professional evaluation of strategic and operational needs and resulting force structure planning?  That’s the mark of a professionally led and professionally competent naval leadership, huh?  I’m starting to get choked up with pride again.  No wait, it’s okay.  I’m alright.   ….  ……..  but the Navy isn’t. 

“Stamping out” ships rather than professionally designing a coherent naval force is how we got to the current state where we have no anti-ship missile, no mine countermeasures capability, almost no offensive mining capability, no viable amphibious assault capability, no naval gun support, etc.  Despite these shortcomings, the Navy is happy because we’ve been able to “stamp out” lots and lots of Burkes.

Aside from the money grubbing aspect of this, the Navy is just floundering around with no strategy, no operational plan, and no vision beyond trying to grab more money.  When war comes, we’ll have a Navy whose ship types and numbers are not matched to the strategic and operational needs.  That’s a recipe for defeat. 

While it’s impossible to know for sure what China’s strategic and operational needs are (although they’re making them pretty clear, as documented repeatedly on this blog), China sure seems to have a pretty clearly defined force structure plan that they’re working towards.  They’re planning to take on the US and are assembling the force to do it.  The US, in contrast, is just building whatever they can and hoping it may prove useful down the road.

Our lack of professional leadership is paving the path to defeat.  We’re making China’s job easier.

What fleet size do we need?  Who knows?  Pick a number, any number.  Your guess is as good as, and quite likely better than, the Navy’s.


(1)USNI News website, “Moran: Navy Needs As Much As $150B Extra to ‘Jump-Start’ Path to 355 Ships; Would Buy Mostly DDGs, SSNs, Carriers”, Megan Eckstein, 22-Mar-2017,

(3)Politico website, “New 30-year shipbuilding plan falls short of Navy goal”, Austin Wright, 05/09/16,

(4)Defense News website, “US Navy’s New Fleet Goal: 355 Ships”, Christopher Cavas, 16-Dec-2016,

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

That's An Expensive Gun You've Got There

Here’s another stunning contract.

Northrop Grumman Systems Corp., Bethpage, New York, is being awarded a $68,786,952 firm-fixed-price, cost-plus-fixed-fee, and cost-only contract for the production of Littoral Combat Ship gun mission modules, including support for basic outfitting assembly installation, interim deport level maintenance, engineering support and sustainment.  This contract includes options which, if exercised, would bring the cumulative value of this contract to $812,000,000.”

I have no idea what, exactly, this includes or, indeed, what it is even referring to.  The LCS only has two guns.  If it refers to the main gun, the Mk 110 57 mm gun, that’s supposed to be included in the construction contract cost.  If it refers to the 30 mm guns, we’re only purchasing around 24 or so for the ASuW modules.  That works out to $34M per gun for a glorified machine gun.  That’s absurd raised to the power of absurd (absurd squared, for you math geeks). 

I’m truly baffled about this one.  Anyone got any ideas what this is about? 

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Lockheed Strikes Back

Here’s the latest stunning contract award for highly questionable work.
Lockheed Martin Mission Systems Sensors … is being awarded an $80,556,000 cost-plus-fixed-fee contract modification to a previously-awarded contract (N00024-16-C-5103) for additional Aegis implementation studies for future foreign military sales … expected to be completed by November 2019. 

This one is wrong on multiple levels.

We’re paying the company that produces the Aegis system to sell their product????  Isn’t that what the company is supposed to do on their own?  Would you pay Ford Motor Company to study how to sell cars?

How much study does the producer of Aegis really need to do to be able to answer questions about possible future sales?

How about that dollar amount?  That’s $80M over 20 months.  That’s $4M per month.  If there were 100 people dedicated to nothing but this (a ridiculous number of people but what the heck) and their time was charged at $100/hr, the cost would be $1.7M for a month’s work.  That leaves us short $2.3M per month!!!!!

You know Lockheed doesn’t have 100 people working full time on this.  I’d be surprised if they have 10.

Lockheed is raping the government which means they’re taking my tax dollars.  How is the Navy being a good steward of my tax dollars on this?

Is this Lockheed’s response to the unilateral contract imposition on the F-35 program?

Monday, March 20, 2017

The Day To Day Navy

Hand in hand with the previous post on promoting warriors (see, "Promoting Warriors"), the Navy needs to shift from its current “presence” deployment mindset to a readiness mindset.  “Presence” is a very questionable concept and long deployments that accomplish nothing but sailing in circles and hosting dignitaries from small countries are nearly pointless and produce far more wear and tear on equipment and personnel than can be justified.  Yes, there is a degree of training but it’s a repetitive, routine type of training that does little to foster operational and tactical expertise.

The Navy needs to be mainly “at home” training and maintaining – ensuring readiness.

Let’s briefly look at the concept of presence.  The theory is that because we have ships in a region, the local bad actors will behave.  The problem is that there is very little evidence to support this and a lot of evidence to the contrary.  Our presence in the South China Sea certainly hasn’t deterred China’s behavior.  They’ve built illegal islands, made illegal territorial claims, used their “Coast Guard” to bully other nations, trespassed into Philippine waters, flagrantly harassed the US Navy, and made ridiculous claims about ownership of other nation’s land.  Our presence in Europe hasn’t stopped Russia from annexing Crimea and invading Urkraine.  Our presence in the Middle East hasn’t stopped terrorism, Iranian nuclear ambitions, Iranian seizures of RN and USN naval craft and personnel, or general Iranian harassment of commercial and military ships.  And so on.

So, if presence isn’t gaining us anything, why do it?  Why send ships, aircraft, and sailors on endless deployments that accomplish next to nothing?  Why accumulate wear and tear on equipment for no gain?  Why separate sailors from their families for months on end to no good purpose?  Why prematurely age our ships if they can’t accomplish anything?  Does conducting naval exercises with some tiny country whose biggest “warship” is a patrol boat really enhance our national security?

Okay, if our current deployments aren’t accomplishing much, what should the Navy be doing?  The answer is obvious.  The Navy should be maintaining and training … full time.  The fleet needs to be “home based” – more on that in a bit.  Instead of deploying for months at a time, ships need to conduct relatively short combat training exercises and then return to port for maintenance.  While in port, crews need to be conducting simulator training, classroom training, attending the various schools, and conducting tactical wargame exercises.

Having the bulk of the fleet in concentrated locations will also allow us to conduct larger, more realistic exercises.  It’s way past time to conduct actual multi-carrier exercises.  We need to conduct realistic exercises and learn how to execute the Navy’s vaunted “distributed lethality” concept (or find out that it’s a garbage concept and drop it).  We need to see what a surface action group can do.  And so on.

If you’re not training, you’re maintaining.  Those are the only two options for a peacetime Navy.

Now, let’s discuss that “home basing” concept.  There’s no problem with having several “home bases” with concentrations of ships and aircraft.  In addition to the obvious east and west coasts, places like Pearl Harbor, Guam, and the like offer possibilities for home basing as well as enhanced realism training.  For example, ships based in Guam can take advantage of the South China Sea to conduct realistic training in the actual geography that they would fight in.  If Guam’s facilities are inadequate for the maintenance needs then ships can rotate through Guam for exercises and return to a maintenance facility when exercises are finished.  As an added bonus, some of the locations offer the side benefit of a degree of “presence” though those types of missions should never be done for their own sake.

Caveat:  Here’s the exception to what I’ve just said.  If we’re willing to conduct presence missions that include a willingness to use force, then presence can have an effect.  For example, if we had sunk the Iranian boats that seized our craft and sailors, that would have sent an actual message.  If we had shot down the Russian aircraft that buzzed our ships at a distance of 30 ft, that would have sent a message.  If we prevented the Chinese from building illegal artificial islands, that would be a worthwhile use of presence.  If we would have shot down the Iranian ballistic missiles that were recently tested, that would have sent a message.  If we used our ship-based BMD (ballistic missile defense) capability to shoot down NKorea’s ballistic test missiles when they enter international airspace and become, thereby, a general threat, that would send a message.  Lacking the willingness to exercise a forceful presence, we’re just wasting time and need to adopt the training and maintenance regimen I’ve just described.

Thursday, March 16, 2017

It Has To Work Both Ways

You’ve all heard about the Marine Corps uproar over nude photos of female personnel.  That’s not the kind of subject I cover and that’s not the point of this post, at least not directly.  CNO Richardson recently issued a message to Navy commanders that the Navy shares the same root problems with regards to its treatment of women.  Here’s some of what he had to say (1).

"But we get reminders of it every day, when we disrespect women by crude jokes, wisecracks, sexual harassment, and in its worst manifestation, sexual assault -- a serious violent crime," he wrote in the message. "Despite a steady effort to get after this, we're not making progress."

He gets it.  Well, part of it.  We’ll get to the part he doesn’t get in just a bit.  He’s describing the tip-of-the-iceberg phenomenon.  The faulty behavior that we see – the photos – is just the tip of the iceberg.  As he notes, there are hundreds of other behaviors, less “serious”, that support and build towards the identified problem which is the photos.  These lesser problems are what grow the larger ones.

Now, here’s where CNO Richardson begins to reveal that he has no idea what the real root cause of the problem is.

“He called on rank-and-file sailors to "become intolerant" and openly denounce sexist and degrading behavior, and do what they could to put a stop to it when they observed it. Commanding officers and other leaders, he wrote, should challenge their command leaders at the small team level to discuss what respect for fellow troops means in every setting, including online.”

Did you pick up on the key phrase in the passage?  Here it is:

“…discuss what respect for fellow troops means in every setting …”

I’ll analyze that in a moment but let’s look a bit deeper.  Here’s additional statements from Richardson that show that he has absolutely no idea what the problem is.  He is totally ignorant and he’s a hypocrite.

"Make it clear that individuals who can't live up to our professional standards in competence and character are not welcome in our Navy," he wrote. "Make it clear that our standards call us to a higher commitment than the law -- we are better than that."

Did you pick up on the key phrase?  Here it is:

“… individuals who can't live up to our professional standards in competence … are not welcome in our Navy.”

Now, let’s pull this all together.

Women are being disparaged on a daily basis, according to Richardson.  No doubt there is an element of oversensitivity (feminization) at play, here, as well.  Good natured ribbing is a normal aspect of human interaction but when directed at a female is used as an example of disrespect.  On the other hand, there is, without doubt, genuine disrespect directed towards women on a daily basis.  I’m not here to debate the frequency.  I’m here to analyze the “why”. 

Why are women being disrespected?  The answer is blindingly obvious to all but Navy leadership and here is the answer:

You disrespect people you have no respect for.

Take a moment and absorb the utter simplicity and truth in that.  In fact, say it again.  You disrespect people you have no respect for.

Why don’t service personnel - Marine, Navy, or whoever - respect women?  Again, the answer is blindingly obvious.  It’s because they aren’t held to the same standard of performance.  No one respects another who is accorded preferential treatment.  No one respects another who is given benefits without earning them.  I’m not even going to bother to recite the entire litany of reduced standards that women are accorded but the men see it on a daily basis.  Whether it’s reduced physical training standards, preferential selection for assignments or promotions, retries at training that are not generally accorded men (Kara Hultgreen, for example, or ranger training), unofficial quotas that allow women preferential assignments, benefits that men can’t enjoy (pregnancy reduced duties and leave), or any of the hundreds of other daily biases that favor women, the net result of all that preferential treatment is what grows the resentment that leads to the disrespect the men display towards the women.

Every sensitivity training session just breeds more resentment.  Every time a male soldier is forced to carry a female’s pack it just breeds more resentment.  When a general stares at the instructors and announces that a woman WILL pass Ranger school, it just breeds resentment.  When the Marines conduct experiments proving that women, either as a group or in mixed groups, cannot perform as well as men and the results of the experiment are ignored, it just breeds resentment.  Every time a male Marine is doing pull ups while watching a female simply hang from the bar, it breeds resentment.  And the list goes on.

Now, let’s reexamine CNO Richardson’s comments.

“…discuss what respect for fellow troops means in every setting …”

He said, “respect for fellow troops IN EVERY SETTING”.  Those settings have to include training, physical performance testing, etc. or it’s just hypocritical and the men will see right through it.  You can’t demand respect for women unless you treat them exactly the same and hold them to the exact same standards.

“… individuals who can't live up to our professional standards in competence … are not welcome in our Navy.”

He said, “individuals who can't live up to our professional standards … are not welcome in our Navy”, and yet the women, who demonstrably cannot meet the same standards as men are not only still welcome in “our Navy” but are accorded preferential treatment!  That’s the height of hypocrisy.  No wonder the men have no respect for women.

It has to work both ways.  You can’t force respect for a group that is not earning respect.  If you want respect, earn it.  You also have to respect the men who have had to earn their way and meet higher standards.  You respect them by not disrespecting them by according women special privileges and benefits that the men don't get.  It has to work both ways.

Update:  Reader "DJF" made an absolutely astute observation that leads me to this addition. This is yet another example of the differing standards for men and women.  The military is fired up about the lack of respect and judgement shown by the men who post and view nude photos of women and will do everything they can to prosecute/persecute the guilty but no Marine/Navy leader has mentioned the incredible lack of judgement and self-respect demonstrated by the women involved.  If the women don't want nude photos spread around, they shouldn't take, or have taken, nude photos.  Who is holding the women to account for their part in this?  If the women want respect they have to earn it.  This does not earn it.

CNO Richardson is demonstrating utter ignorance on the subject and is merely parroting the political correctness line of propaganda.  He is demonstrating his complete absence of intelligence, integrity, and moral courage.

CNO Richardson, you are not living up to our professional standards and you are not welcome in our Navy.


(1)“ website, “Navy's Top Officer to Commanders: 'We Have a Problem'”, Hope Hodge Seck, 14-Mar-2017,

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Aegis Test Ship

This idea has come up repeatedly.  The Navy’s main AAW weapon system, Aegis, is completely untested under any realistic conditions.  Further, the system’s combat resiliency is unknown.

Regarding function, the Aegis system has never been tested against the very threat it was designed to handle, saturation missile attacks.  We have no idea what its capabilities are and yet we’re betting the protection of our fleet on it.  We need to know how the system will actually function in combat.

Regarding resiliency, you’ll recall that when the Port Royal gently nosed aground at one or two knots, and rocked gently for a day or so until it could be freed, it left the system out of alignment and possibly inoperative, depending on what report you care to believe.  I think the fact that the Port Royal was the Navy’s first choice for early retirement of the Aegis cruisers is quite telling – this despite the Port Royal being the newest Aegis cruiser and fitted with the much valued ballistic missile defense modifications (BMD).

This does not bode well for the Aegis system’s combat resiliency.  If an entire Aegis system could be incapacitated by gently rocking for a while, what will happen when an anti-ship missile hits and whipsaws the entire ship?  We need to know.  Are Aegis ships one-hit mission kills or can they stay in the fight?

So what can we do about this?  How can we get answers?

As we’ve documented, the Navy has tried multiple times and in multiple ways to early retire the Aegis cruiser class.  Congress has rebuffed the Navy.  Even so, the Navy has managed to de facto retire six cruisers under the so-called modernization plan.  Be that as it may, if the Navy is so eager to retire a cruiser, why not let them?  Let’s retire a cruiser, automate it for remote control, put it out in the middle of the ocean, launch a saturation attack against it while it defends in full auto mode, and see what happens.  That will tell us how it functions in combat and whether it can take damage and keep fighting.

USS Paul F Foster - Self Defense Test Ship

It would cost next to nothing to automate the ship.  We’re not talking about artificial intelligence – just basic helm controls to position the ship.  Remember, the Aegis system, itself, already has a full auto mode – set it, leave the ship, and watch what happens.  We’d want to add in some extensive recording equipment to monitior the results.  We’re talking, what, a few million dollars?  That’s round off error in the Navy’s accounting ledgers. 

Aegis Cruiser - Aegis Test Ship Needed

Lest anyone believe the idea is not feasible, recall that the Navy maintains exactly such a remote controlled weapons test ship, the USS Paul F. Foster, a Spruance class destroyer converted to act as the Navy’s Self Defense Test Ship.  Given that the bulk of the Navy’s surface fleet carries the Aegis AAW system, it is long past time for a dedicated Aegis self defense test ship.