Wednesday, May 22, 2013
I know, you think you're reading a repeat of earlier posts but I kid you not, USS Freedom, LCS-1, has broken down again due to another lube oil failure, this time from sediment in the oil. The Navy Times website reported the story today. USS
Drydock Freedom is giving the off-board maintenance concept a real work out, at least. As you recall, Freedom lost power three times on the way to Guam and twice, now, in Singapore. Quite a cruise, so far!
Tuesday, May 21, 2013
There has been a trend over the last decade or two by the military to say whatever serves its purpose. Kind of a vague statement, I know. Let’s look at a few specific examples. Maybe that will make my meaning clearer.
The LCS was originally sold to Congress and the public as a kick-butt littoral combat vessel that could conduct ASW, ASuW, and MCM without needing help from anyone else. Why, a single LCS could win a war all by itself, it was claimed! Later, after many failures, and with Congress showing signs of balking at additional purchases, the story changed to a much more limited mission set with the LCS being described as operating around the periphery of a conflict and under the protective umbrella of Aegis ships and carrier aviation. Why are we committing a quarter of our future combat fleet to a ship that can only function around the periphery of combat? But, I digress …
The Zumwalt DDG-1000 started life as the absolutely vital ship of the future, the Navy claimed, before suddenly being cast off as obsolete on the modern battlefield in the most amazing and abrupt change of story I’ve ever witnessed in the annals of weapons procurement. Astoundingly, though, the Navy is building three of these obsolete ships and now claims that the ship is the wave of the future, maybe. Yes … No … Well, let’s build it and then we’ll figure out what to do with it. But, I digress …
You get the idea.
In similar fashion, AirSea Battle (ASB) started life as a way to defeat an adversary (
, though no one will say it out loud) who had the technology to implement an Anti-Access/Area Denial (A2/AD) strategy. The original CSBA AirSea Battle document described a war of attrition resulting in the rollback of China ’s A2/AD capabilities as a prelude to offensive operations. Now, according to CNO Greenert and General Welsh (1), Chief of Staff of the Air Force, ASB is more of a defensive concept aimed at breaking the enemy’s kill chain, meaning the ability to stop an enemy weapon from hitting us by disrupting one of the steps (location, targeting, launch, impact) in the chain that leads to a weapon impact on target (US forces being the target). China
As a secondary goal, ASB also encompasses a fantasy wish list of anything-can-do-anything capabilities such as using submarines to defeat airborne threats (in some mystical, unspecified manner), having F-22s retarget Tomahawk missiles (when, how, and why would an F-22 ever have better targeting information than the Tomahawk possessed upon launch?), having Army land units guide Navy surface-to-air missiles (when would they ever be in position to do that better than the Navy could?), and so on.
In short, ASB is morphing into something very different from what it started as. Now, this alone is not necessarily a bad thing. We should constantly be examining our weapons and strategies and changing them when necessary. However, there is a difference between changing for valid military reasons and changing for political reasons.
I see the latter happening with ASB. What started out as a valid, though poorly articulated, military concept seems to be changing to support procurement wish lists of the Air Force and Navy.
Disturbingly, I also see a movement away from the original generalized combat philosophy document and towards a gold-plated, fantasy procurement wish list that bears a remarkable resemblance to the LCS technology wish lists that crashed and burned so badly. Failing to learn from the LCS debacle, this latest offering from Greenert and Welsh calls for a host of non-existent, technically complex capabilities that are unlikely to be achieved in any relevant time frame and have little practical use that I can see, even if they could be achieved.
I’m firmly convinced that, whatever it started as, ASB is now just a marketing tool for the Navy and Air Force to pressure Congress into giving them more toys. Keep a close eye on ASB and let’s see where it goes. My bet is nowhere useful.
Monday, May 20, 2013
The Navy has been firmly committed to the hard kill option of the Aegis/Standard Anti-Air Warfare (AAW) system as the main line of defense against attacking planes and missiles. Additional hard kill elements include a variety of shorter range missiles and guns such as RAM, SeaRAM, CIWS, and various rapid firing guns in the 3”-5” range. A secondary, soft kill system of decoys and electronic countermeasures (ECM) is also used but has not been developed and upgraded with the same attention and priority as Aegis and the various hard kill components. For example, the Navy’s main ECM system, the SLQ-32, is well behind the times, bordering on obsolete, and the Navy is only just now beginning to look at upgrading it.
|SLQ-32 - Not Enough Love?|
We’ve already discussed the historical data regarding anti-ship missile attacks on passively defended (soft kill) vessels. The data shows defensive success rates of around 80%.
To the best of my knowledge, Aegis/Standard has never been fired in combat in the AAW role so there is no direct data to examine.
We’ve also discussed from time to time that Aegis is such a complex system that it has fallen into a fleetwide state of reduced performance and readiness. The Navy has had to implement special programs in an attempt to bring Aegis back up to standard but the system remains degraded across the fleet. The complexity of the system largely precludes on-board repairs by the crew and, in fact, makes it virtually impossible for the crew to even spot degraded performance.
What do all of these bits and pieces tell us?
One obvious conclusion is that soft kill methods have a far better performance record than hard kill. That’s probably not all that surprising given the difficulty of trying to guide an AAW missile on to an incoming, high speed, maneuvering target. To be fair, that conclusion is drawn with no data input from the Aegis/Standard system. Will Aegis perform markedly better than Sea Dart? My guess, based on nothing, is that Aegis will perform better but nowhere near the 80% success rate demonstrated by soft kill systems.
Another point to consider is that any AAW system works best in a fully automatic mode. Unfortunately, commanders are reluctant to operate that way for fear of unintended mishaps. Indeed, there have been numerous such incidents. For example, Sea Sparrow has fired on friendly ships during exercises and CIWS has fired on friendly chaff and helos with each example causing damage and casualties. Contrast that to soft kill systems operating in automatic mode. There is no danger. Soft kill systems can be left on continuously, EMCON considerations not withstanding.
Further, consider the cost of upgrading the capabilities of hard and soft kill systems. Hard kill systems require software upgrades, which are relatively easy to implement, and hardware (the missiles) upgrades. The Navy has spent a great deal of money upgrading the Standard missile from Block 1 through the various versions to Block 6. Soft kill system upgrades, by comparison, are almost exclusively software based, again relatively easy, and the hardware upgrades are far less expensive. Thus, soft kill systems can be more easily kept up to date and responsive to the ever-changing threats.
Next, consider the real estate required for hard kill and soft kill systems. Missiles and their launchers require enormous amounts of deck space and internal ship’s volume. Soft kill hardware requires very little space. The result is that the smaller the ship, the less hard kill defense capability it has. To a large extent, soft kill systems are independent of ship size.
Finally, consider the danger that hard kill systems pose to themselves. The missiles represent a source of internal explosions in the event of a hit on the defending ship. Soft kill systems present little self-threat.
It’s clear, then, that soft kill systems offer historically superior performance, easier upgrade paths, can be operated more freely, require little space, and present no threat to friendly forces or the defender. The Navy should be much more focused on soft kill systems than they currently are.
Why, then, is the Navy so focused on hard kills? Well, for one thing, hard kills are dramatic, definite, and occur at some distance away from the defender. Soft kills tend not to show a definite result until the missile has approached quite closely and passed the defender. It’s a lot more reassuring to see missiles disappear at a distance!
What’s the takeaway from this discussion? I’m not suggesting that the Navy abandon hard kill systems, so half of you can take your itchy fingers off the keyboard where they were preparing to lambaste me. What I’m suggesting is that soft kill systems are part of a layered AAW defense, along with hard kill systems, but that they should be given much higher priority than they have historically received from the Navy. As stated, soft kill systems are more effective, cheaper, easier to maintain and upgrade, and safer to operate. You would think those characteristics would garner far more attention than they do. C’mon Navy, pay attention to what works even if it isn’t the “sexy” approach. Soft kill provides more bang for the buck – stop ignoring it!
Thursday, May 16, 2013
Internet commentators constantly call on the US Navy to buy whatever their favorite foreign ship or weapon system is, claiming that foreign buys are better, cheaper, and faster. ComNavOps, too, is not above the occasional suggestion to look at foreign sources. I’ve also pointed out on multiple occasions that there are very real difficulties associated with foreign purchases that make the prospect far less appealing than it seems on the face of it.
Austal, manufacturer of the LCS-2 version, has been entering into partnerships with Asian shipyards to provide service and maintenance for the LCS as detailed in an Austal media information release (1). Austal has partnered with shipyards in
, Singapore , and Thailand . Viet Nam
Does anyone else see a possible problem with this arrangement? The US Navy is going to be dependent on Austal for support services (remember, the LCS is not designed or crewed to provide on-board maintenance and support and the Navy does not operate tenders or have bases in much of the Asian region) and Austal is going to, in turn, be dependent on countries that are suspect, at best, as regards their long term availability. That makes the Navy dependent on
, Singapore , and Thailand . Viet Nam
If circumstances arise in which
decides to put pressure on those countries do we really think those shipyards will remain available to us? China can exert much more intense economic, political, and military coercion than the China can, especially given US ’s physical proximity to those countries. Those tiny countries are going to be forced to placate China if it comes down to it and that leaves the Navy without support facilities for the LCS. I’ve said it before, but I REALLY don’t think the Navy has gamed out the support concept for the LCS. China
Monday, May 13, 2013
The current issue of Proceedings (May 2013, “U.S. Navy in Review, Truver and Holzer) contains a stunning revelation about the state of mine warfare, specifically mine countermeasures (MCM), in the fleet. Discussing the 2012 MCM exercise billed as the largest international MCM exercise ever conducted, IMCMEX 12, the article states that of the 29 simulated mines dropped in the water, only half or less were found.
I’m sorry, what was that? The largest international collection of MCM experts and equipment ever assembled, under relaxed peacetime conditions, and knowing exactly where to begin looking, couldn’t even find half the exercise mines??? That does not bode well for actual combat MCM operations.
Fortunately, the LCS and its MCM module will solve all the problems, right? By the way, the LCS and its MCM module were conspicuous by their absence from the exercise. What does that tell you about the mighty LCS and the spectacularly successful (according to the Navy’s press releases) MCM trials? I would have thought the Navy would have been chomping at the bit to let the LCS show off its MCM capability. Perhaps it’s not as successful as the press releases suggest?
Setting aside the LCS, the Navy is clearly behind the curve in mine warfare which is hard to understand since mines are the number one threat to the fleet. C’mon Navy, wake up and start focusing on mines.
Friday, May 10, 2013
OK, here's where ComNavOps runs the risk of coming across as a nutcase.
Having established that there are more than adequate grounds for tension between
and the China (more so, from their point of view), we now look for actual examples of war. Remember that they consider warfare to encompass all actions, not just the violent ones that we consider as war. Given that this type of not-always-violent war is, by definition, hard to spot or prove, we must look for an ongoing, repeated pattern of acts that, in their totality, could be taken as evidence of war. Is there such a pattern? Yes, more than enough. The examples can be grouped into a few broad categories as described below. US
Military. There is a clear, repeated, and long established history of military incidents that go beyond the realm of simple posturing. The 2001 forcedown and seizure of an EP-3 and the subsequent stripping of its classified gear constituted an actual act of war as defined by international law, though we chose not to respond (!?!). Ships are routinely harassed such as in the March 2009 incident with the USNS Impeccable or the June 2009 incident with the USS McCain. There have been routine and repeated military incidents and I won’t bother citing or discussing them further.
Another aspect of the ongoing military actions is the hacking of computer networks in the
. I’m not talking about the run of the mill viruses and worms that are all over the Internet but rather hacking attacks on military and economic institutions. US has been directly implicated in several incidents that have been made public and I’m sure there are others that our government has not publicized. Just recently, computer attacks have been traced to a specific Chinese military unit in a specific building! China
Geopolitical. Establishment of the “territorial” version of the EEZ has allowed
to claim virtually the entire SCS as theirs and they are disrupting the right of passage, at least as far as US military planes and vessels are concerned. They have publicly stated that the presence of US carriers in the SCS is provocative, unacceptable, and should be eliminated (this alone is justification enough to continue building carriers – your enemy will tell what they fear most, if you listen!). China
More disturbing is
’s policy of state sponsored emigration whereby Chinese citizens are being sent to neighboring small countries such as the China , Philippines , Solomons, Marshalls , and other small island nations. When racial/cultural clashes inevitably occur, New Guinea has stepped in to ensure the safety of their citizens along the lines of the China actions in US and other places. To date, Grenada has rarely employed overt military force in these incidents but has recently served notice that it will begin providing military protection, if necessary. Setting aside the potential military aspects, the effect of this massive emigration policy is that the nearby, small nations are seeing a shift in population from predominately native to predominately Chinese with a corresponding surge in Chinese domination of the local economies. Thus, countries are being slowly but surely annexed “peacefully”. Again, China takes the long view. China
Economic. You are undoubtedly aware that
is engaged in a policy of routinely buying up China debt. It has gotten to the point that US political actions are now being run through the filter of “how will this affect our ability to continue borrowing from US ”. China
There are thousands more examples of “acts of war” that I haven’t got the space to list. Any of the above examples, taken in isolation, prove nothing. Only when the overall pattern is seen in combination with
’s cultural fear (security) does one come to the realization that China has, for quite some time, been at war with the China . OK, so maybe you don’t consider that as war. Fair enough, but in the end is there any difference between a short physical war and a long drawn out series of non-violent actions that result in the US being dominated to the point where China controls our actions and policies? After all, isn’t that the point of a “real” war? US
We need to recognize the situation and begin responding. The most important response should be to increase our tariffs to the point where it’s cheaper for US companies to manufacture in the
than in US . That will bring the jobs home (there’s your job creation policy!) and begin to eliminate the debt issue. Of course, the response to China is a subject that could fill a book so I’ll leave it at that. China
Finally, let’s specifically address the argument that
would never risk war with the China because we’re their major trading partner. That argument is based on simple self-interest and cost/benefit assessment. If the benefits to peace and trading outweigh the benefits to war, then peace will likely prevail. However, US sees the benefits to war as being greater than the benefits of the current peace. War, as we’ve defined above, will eventually gain China complete economic domination over the US, physical control of a great deal of additional islands and land around the East and South China Seas, control over Taiwan, greater security, domination over surrounding countries with the US influence eliminated, and status as the undisputed most powerful country in the world. China will gladly forfeit its trade with the China to gain all that. Besides, once they’ve gained all that they can simply resume trading with the US – it’s what we did with US and Japan after WWII. Germany
So, am I a nutcase or do I have at least the possibility of a valid concern? Does all of this at least make you stop and reconsider?
Setting aside whether you agree or not, now you know why I’m always harping on the
scenario in our discussions. I absolutely believe that armed conflict with China is inevitable. China
Have at the comments!
Thursday, May 9, 2013
This is a short post and can only barely cover the main points in the briefest of detail. Hence, I’ll make a number of statements without backing them up. Bear in mind that I’ve been studying Chinese military and political writings for a long time and that my conclusion that we’re at war came about only slowly and with great doubt. That said, I’ll also acknowledge that I’m the farthest thing from an expert on Chinese culture and politics.
invasion of the Pacific and seizure of US Guam, Wake, etc., using the Spanish-American War as an excuse invasion of US N. Korea invasion of US N. Viet Nam provocation regarding US Taiwan economic domination of the world which allows the US to dictate behavior to other countries US military conquests using flimsy excuses ( US , Granada, Panama , Libya , Iraq , etc.) Afghanistan
sees the China as all too willing to use its military to further its imperialistic aspirations. The only way US can ensure its continued survival is to subjugate the China . Chinese culture does not recognize co-existence as a political solution as we do. The strongest country will always seize the weaker, given time. Remember that Chinese history going back thousands of years absolutely supports this belief. US has been invaded repeatedly and believes that the only long term security is to defeat all other countries. This is a belief embedded in their cultural psyche. China
Of course, all of the above apply not just to the
but to US , India , Japan (and all the newly formed Russian states), and all other countries in and around the South China Sea (SCS). Russia
Is fear (meaning the desire for absolute security) the only reason for war? No. Natural resources are also a reason.
lays claim to virtually the entire China South China Sea and, in particular, the undersea resources including fishing and ocean bed minerals. believes they have an historical claim to every island (most of them just points of rock protruding above the surface) in the SCS (as an example, read up on the Spratleys for more info). Remember that in addition to the 12 mile territorial limit that goes with ownership of land, there is also a 200 mile Economic Exclusion Zone which gives the owning country exclusive resource rights in the area. By claiming pieces of rock as inhabitable land, it allows China (in their view) to extend the 200 mile EEZ limit around every “island” in the SCS. Viewed that way, the Chinese EEZ covers virtually the entire SCS. Further, China claims that the EEZ gives them territorial rights within the 200 mile limit, meaning that no other country can fly or sail through their EEZ. This, of course, contradicts international law but is the reason why China routinely harasses our ships and planes. China
So, are fear (security) and resources the only reasons for war? No. The desire to maintain simple power (meaning political, physical, societal, etc.) is also a reason. The Chinese government has seen the
wage unceasing war on communism since WWII and views the US as a threat to that power. The US is continually criticizing China’s civil rights policy, lecturing China on the treatment of its citizens, fomenting revolution via calls for democracy, undermining government control of its citizens by the introduction of technology such as the Internet, attempting to limit China’s trade (particularly, weapons sales), and destabilizing China by recognizing the breakaway state of Taiwan. US
All of the above presents fairly compelling evidence for the existence of tension between
and the China but tension is not war. Are we actually at war? Well, first it must be understood that US carries the long view of history; understandable since they’ve been a country for thousands of years and will be for thousands more, in their view. China views war as the totality of all actions, not just violent ones. Thus, actions such as economic manipulation, emigration, political maneuvering, etc. are all acts of war. China has no problem with working slowly over many decades to achieve their ends. Witness their handling of the China situation. Taiwan
Are there any examples that
is conducting “warfare” with the China ? Yes. Lots, in fact, if we view them objectively. I’ll cover them in Part 2. US