Sunday, February 14, 2016

Aircraft Cost Update

Here’s some updated aircraft costs taken from the proposed budget documents submitted to Congress (1).  The numbers are self-explanatory.

F/A-18E/F      2016  qty=5                $350,000     ($70,000 ea)

F-35C             2015  qty=4                $927,568     ($231,892 ea)
                       2016  qty=6                $1,062,542  ($177,090 ea)

F-35B             2015  qty=6                $1,287,605  ($214,600 ea)
                       2016  qty=15              $2,291,599  ($152,773 ea)

Those F-35 costs are a bit more than the numbers that F-35 supporters like to throw around.  It’s hard to imagine the costs dropping to $80M ea or less as has been recently claimed.


(1)Department of Defense Fiscal Year (FY) 2017 President's Budget Submission, Feb 2016 Navy Justification Book, Volume 1 of 4, Aircraft Procurement, Navy Budget Activity 01−04

Navy Again Trying To Retire Aegis Cruisers

ComNavOps is highly critical of Navy leadership but one thing I have to give them credit for is their sheer refusal to accept legislative direction.  Now, when I say that I give them credit, it’s akin to giving a bank robber credit for pulling off a successful robbery – it’s against the law but they showed determination in flouting the law.  Similarly, the Navy doesn’t even blink at Congressional mandates and things as silly as actual laws.

You’ll recall that the Navy previously tried to early retire several Ticonderoga class Aegis cruisers and Congress slapped them down.  Undeterred, the Navy then opted for the completely transparent ploy of “idling” the cruisers for “upgrades”.  Eleven cruisers were to be “modernized” for several years and then would re-enter the fleet.  No one, Congress included, bought that fairy tale.  Instead, Congress imposed a 2/4/6 rule whereby the Navy could only idle 2 cruisers per year, the modernization had to be completed in 4 years, and there could be no more than 6 cruisers undergoing modernization at one time.

Now, the Navy wants to retire modernize 7 additional cruisers for a total of 9.  The cruisers would be idled for an unspecified period of time and be brought back into the fleet only on a one for one basis to replace retiring cruisers (1). 

Aside from ignoring Congress’ legislative directive, that would have the effect of early retiring 9 cruisers since they would only return to the fleet as replacements for future cruiser retirements.  Of course, that assumes you believe the Navy would actually bring them back.  Can you seriously see the Navy bringing back ships that, at that future point, would be ten or fifteen years older?  Of course not!  The Navy will argue that the ships are outdated and should just be left idled.  This is nothing but another transparent early retirement ploy designed to bypass Congress’ law and intent.

It doesn’t matter whether you believe early retirements for the cruisers is a good idea or bad.  The point is that the military is run by the civilian government.  That’s what makes our country unique.  The Navy’s willful disregard for civilian authority is breathtaking.  This is just one more reason Navy leadership needs a wholesale housecleaning.  Fire them all.

Friday, February 12, 2016

Navy Wants To Deactivate Air Wing

ComNavOps has long been saying that the carrier force is on a steady downward trajectory and that we are headed for a 8-9 carrier force.  Here is further proof of the trend, as reported by USNI News website (1).  The Navy is asking Congress for permission to deactivate Carrier Air Wing 14 which would reduce the number of air wings to 9.

Absorb that number:  9 air wings.

That means that, regardless of the number of carriers we have, we can only ever deploy 9.  By law, the Navy is required to have 11 carriers even though we only have 10 now since Enterprise was retired and Ford won’t be commissioned for a few years, yet.  The Navy obtained a Congressional waiver for this period.  By law, the Navy must maintain 10 air wings.  Ten air wings was one less than the number of carriers and recognized the reality that one carrier is always in extended overhaul and unavailable for combat.  Thus, 10 deployable carriers and 10 air wings.  Now, the Navy is claiming that two carriers will always be in extended overhauls so only 9 carriers are deployable and, therefore, only 9 air wings are needed.

This is simply paving the way for a permanent reduction from 11 carriers to 10.  Eventually, the Navy will make the argument that with only 9 air wings, it makes no sense to maintain 11 carriers and they’ll propose eliminating a carrier, probably the next one slated for a mid-life nuclear refueling.

We’ve repeatedly noted that the air wings of today are far smaller than the air wings when the Nimitz class first commissioned and yet we’re building bigger carriers.  Some people have suggested that this is not a problem and, in fact, is a good thing since it allows us to surge aircraft to the carriers in the event of war.  My response to this nonsensical notion is, where will these surge aircraft come from?  We only have 9 air wings.  Each will be deployed in war.  Where are these extra surge aircraft?  There aren’t any and dropping another air wing is only going to make the situation worse.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, the Navy is so desperate to build new ships, whether useful or not, that they’ll sacrifice anything to do so.  Now, it’s an air wing.  Next it will be a carrier.

We’re pivoting to the Pacific, supposedly, an area that is lacking airbases and the Navy is trying to drop air wings and carriers?  What kind of sense does that make? 

(1)USNI, “FY 2017 Budget: Navy Asks Congressional Permisson to Shutter Carrier Air Wing”, Megan Eckstein, February 9, 2016,

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

You Can't Make This Stuff Up

Just when you think you’ve seen it all, our military leadership shows that they can accomplish new lows.  From the Washington Times comes this,

“A new Pentagon report says that climate change is an “urgent and growing threat to our national security” and blames it for “increased natural disasters” that will require more American troops designated to combat bad weather.

The Pentagon is ordering the top brass to incorporate climate change into virtually everything they do, from testing weapons to training troops to war planning to joint exercises with allies.

To four-star generals and admirals, among them the regional combatant commanders who plan and fight the nation’s wars, the directive tells them: “Incorporate climate change impacts into plans and operations and integrate DoD guidance and analysis in Combatant Command planning to address climate change-related risks and opportunities across the full range of military operations, including steady-state campaign planning and operations and contingency planning.” (1)

So, don’t worry about new Russian heavy tanks and infantry fighting vehicles.  Don’t worry about Russian expansionism.  Don’t worry about Russian and Chinese stealth fighters.  Don’t worry about Chinese expansionism.  Don’t worry about the massive buildup of Chinese military forces.  Don’t worry about N.Korea’s nuclear ambitions.  Don’t worry about Iran’s nuclear program, their state sponsored support of terrorism.  Don’t worry about any of that.  Climate change is our real enemy.

Ignoring that there are as many or more scientific studies that debunk climate change as support it and that the bulk of climate change studies have been shown to be flawed or outright falsifications, it’s not the job of the military to be concerned about climate change.  The military exists to fight wars.  It’s that simple.  Everything else, whether it’s social engineering, diversity, gender equality, humanitarian assistance, or whatever, just takes away from that.

Where are the military leaders who are willing to resign in protest over the emasculation of our armed forces?

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

LCS Range Downgraded Again

The LCS’ range has, again, been downrated.  According to the 2015 DOT&E Annual Report,

“Based on fuel consumption data collected during the test, the ship’s operating range at 14.4 knots (the ship’s average speed during the trial) is estimated to be approximately 1,960 nautical miles (Navy requirement: 3,500 nautical miles at 14 knots) …”

That’s 1960 nm at 14 knots.  Well, that gets the ship clear of the harbor, I guess, before it has to turn around to refuel.

Distributed Lethality

I used to watch my beloved Detroit Red Wings hockey team back when they were derisively referred to as the “Dead Wings” due to their inept play.  I recall one game where I watched the Wing’s only decent player, a center, flit about the ice going from corner to corner, always out of position, and accomplishing nothing.  Finally, a fan several seats away stood up and yelled, “Hey, [player’s name], pick a position!”  I chuckled about that and never forgot it because it illustrated a life lesson.  You can’t accomplish much if you’re trying to accomplish everything.

Similarly, the Navy seems unable to pick a position.  They’ve jumped from Hi-Lo to SC-21, the 21st Century Family of Surface Combatants, to the Zumwalt, the mandatory future of naval warfare which quickly gave way to being unwanted, to littoral combat, to AirSea Battle, to Pacific Pivot, to Third Offset Strategy, to UCLASS – no UCLASS, and so on – each the guaranteed future of naval warfare and each abandoned in short order.  Every year or so the Navy throws out another game changing, future of naval warfare concept and tries to sell us on it.

The current concept du jour is distributed lethality.  This concept envisions anti-surface (and land attack?) missiles on everything that floats, according to the Navy.  This will greatly complicate the enemy’s strategy, operations, and targeting since they will have to account for every floater in the Navy, so the story goes.  Let’s look a bit closer at this concept.

Attack missiles on every ship.  That’s the fundamental concept.  Okay, what ships are floating today?

The combat fleet, meaning Burkes, Ticonderogas, carriers, and amphibious ships constitute around 190 ships.  Burkes and Ticonderogas already have Tomahawks, Harpoons, and Standards (anti-ship mode) to varying extents.  Thus, those already have distributed lethality.  The carriers don’t need distributed lethality since they already have aircraft that far out range likely missiles.  That leaves amphibious ships.

Are we really going to load anti-ship missiles on our amphibious ships, loaded with Marine troops and equipment and send them on anti-ship attack missions in forward areas?  Remember, these ships have no credible self-defense capability.  Will we risk amphibious ships and entire Marine units to launch a handful of bolt-on Harpoon missiles?  Not unless we’re dumber than a roomful of Admirals.  So, there’s nothing to be gained from attempting to modify the 190 combat ships.

Well, what about the remaining 100 or so ships in the fleet?  These are the tankers, and various replenishment ships, LCS, JHSV, hospital ships, MLP/AFSB, MCM Avengers, and the like.  Are we going to risk the tankers and replenishment ships, the key to fleet operations, in an attempt to mount and launch a few Harpoons?  I certainly hope not!  Are we going to risk the 2-4 MLPs, the key to offshore basing, in an attempt to launch a few Harpoons?  No way!  Hospital ships are out for obvious reasons.  Are we going to risk MCM Avengers, our only functioning mine countermeasures ships, trying to engage in some misbegotten attack mission?  I hope not.  That only leaves JHSV and LCS.  The JHSV is, by law, prohibited from front line combat since they are crewed by civilians.  They also have absolutely no self defense capability.  That leaves the LCS. 

The LCS could accommodate Harpoons and the newer version might be able to accommodate Tomahawks depending on the VLS cell size.  The problem with the LCS is that the weapons far outrange the ship’s sensors.  Thus, the LCS must have an off-board platform supply targeting data.  During combat, in an electromagnetically challenged environment, this may prove problematic.  If the LCS attempts to close with the enemy to the point where they can employ their own sensors, the LCS will likely not survive since it has little effective AAW capability.

Thus, the much touted distributed lethality concept being pushed by the Navy amounts to putting Harpoons on LCSs and hoping to find a way to get them close enough to a target, with actual targeting data, to be useful.  Given the LCS’ extremely limited range/endurance, the need to put back into port every two weeks for scheduled maintenance, and the need to put back into port every 4-6 weeks for extensive maintenance, the odds on the LCS being a useful strike platform are poor.

I’ve read that the Navy has conducted wargames that demonstrate the tactical validity of distributed lethality.  Specifically, the games involved LCSs with (Harpoons?) involved in some type of fleet action and the remarks from Navy spokesmen claim that the ships cause immense problems for the enemy.  What is not discussed are any details.  How did the short-legged LCS arrive in the battle area?  How did they get there undetected and undestroyed since they have no significant AAW?  How did they manage to stay on station long enough to strike given their lack of endurance?  How did they acquire targets given that their weapons outrange their sensors?  Are you getting an inkling of the likely wargame scenario – that the game started with the LCS magically in place and with targets acquired?  Well sure, in a scenario like that the LCS (or a rowboat with a Harpoon, for that matter) would constitute a threat.  In a real world scenario, the odds on achieving that kind of pre-strike arrangement is near zero.  But the Navy wouldn’t conduct a rigged wargame, you say?  Answer – Millenium Challenge 2000 which we recently described.

Distributed lethality appears to be just another Navy marketing ploy to entice Congress to allocate more money.  I wish the Navy would “pick a position” as my fellow hockey fan put it.  I wish they would pick a strategy and approach that is consistent with their core mission and stick with it rather than grasping at new fads every year.  Of course, that assumes that the Navy understands what their core mission is and, horrifyingly, there is no indication that current leadership has any grasp of what that is which probably explains the desperate flailing around as they try to find a justification for existence. 

I wonder what the next revolutionary Navy concept will be?

Monday, February 8, 2016

How's That For Congressional Oversight?

The Senate Armed Services Committee chairman, John McCain, and the ranking Democrat, Jack Reed, sent a letter to SecNav Mabus and CNO Richardson which absolutely rips the LCS program and the Navy’s lies concerning it.  Yes, there is no other way to characterize the Congressmen’s take on the Navy’s statements other than to call them lies.

I’ve been unable to obtain a copy of the letter in a format from which I can cut and paste to present selected passages but, honestly, you need to read the entire letter.  Here’s the link.

                         McCain/Reed LCS Letter

The letter is self-explanatory.  What I’d like to comment on is not the myriad issues – those are well known.  Instead, I’d like to point out the tone of the letter.  Clearly, Congress is getting fed up with the Navy’s games and lies and is tired of waiting for non-existent technology to mature.  Of course, one could wonder where the corresponding outrage over the F-35 is but, I digress.

The Navy has completely used up any stockpile of goodwill that it ever had and needs to immediately begin dealing honestly and openly with Congress if they are to have any hope of moving from an adversarial relationship to one of cooperation.