Wednesday, August 31, 2016

CNO Goes Salamander on LCS?

Well, he didn't go full Salamander - just part Salamander.

You never go full Salamander.

I'm reviewing over at USNIBlog. Come visit and let me know what you think.

Monday's post is over 600 comments, let's see what we can generate over at USNIBlog.

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

National Security Welfare Queens Ask for More Benefits

The audacity of the entitled and spoiled.

There are two NATO nations who, in living memory, were not only under Russian (Soviet) occupation, but they were invaded by the same Soviets even while they were ostensively allied with them. These nations are Hungary and Czech Republic.

One would think that since they threw off the Communist yoke, joined the club of democratic Western nations and even NATO, that this memory would have them focused on a robust defense. Sadly no.

NATO sets a goal of defense expenditures at 2% of GDP for members. Only the USA, GRC, GBR, EST, and POL meet that minimum.

Of the 27 nation NATO members, CZE and HUN ranked 21st (1.04%) and 22nd (1.01%). Almost the very bottom. In the great alliance effort in AFG, neither nation contributed more than a token force, caveat laden and ineffective.

Amazing, but here they go again - demanding others do what they won't do themselves;
The leaders of the Czech Republic and Hungary say a "joint European army" is needed to bolster security in the EU.

They were speaking ahead of talks in Warsaw with German Chancellor Angela Merkel. They dislike her welcome for Muslim migrants from outside the EU.

Hungary's Prime Minister Viktor Orban said "we must give priority to security, so let's start setting up a joint European army".
I am not sure what is going on - but sometimes nations behave like children poorly raised by irresponsible parents.

No one owes you a living folks. If you want help from others, at least show an effort you are doing all you can with what you have available. Look at plucky Estonia. Want goodies? See that EST kid? Be like that kid. Everyone in the neighborhood wants to help that kid. You?

Spoiled brat behavior will most likely get spoiled brat results.

Also remember; if people didn't at their core like you, they wouldn't try to give you good advice.

Monday, August 29, 2016

LCS: Icon of a Failed Era of Procurement Hubris

It is, as with most things, best in French;
"Personne n'est corrigé; personne n'a su ni rien oublier ni rien appendre".
Via the great diplomat, we have this beautifully borrowed phrase that wasn't actually his. The above quote is the original form he borrowed, it is believed, from a 1796 letter to Mallet du Pan by French naval officer Charles Louis Etienne, Chevalier de Panat.

The phrase was borrowed by better, so why not by a fellow naval officer today?

Let's translate this for our STEM buddies, as it is just about perfect when it comes to the LCS battles of the last decade plus;
"Nobody has been corrected; no one has known to forget, nor yet to learn anything."
LCS, the icon of a failed era of procurement hubris, provides us another opportunity to remind all who will listen what a millstone we have put around our Fleet and its leaders for the next few decades. The more I think about it, the more our procurement decisions from the last decade were of a Bourbon mindset. The dynasty, not the medicine - well, perhaps both.

After DivThu, I think I despise posts on LCS for the same reason; they are facts fighting against emotion. It is rare that one side will even listen to the other. My facts trump your feelings, and the excuses are beyond stale.

First thing; the "first in class" excuse no longer applies. This ship is over 1/3 of the way through its service life and the serial, sub-optimal performance only reinforce the facts at the pier and drydock.

Second, this is another in a huge pile of examples of how detached from operational reality this ship is from what it was designed to address. It can barely perform in peacetime conditions. War? Child please.

Is it the people, the equipment, or the process? With LCS, you always have to go in reverse order; always start with the process.

The process that brought this snake-bit concept to displace water brought a bag of equipment poorly suited for the job, and forced it on the Navy via a toxic command climate. The process that ignored centuries of evolution about how Sailors and their warships remain at sea and keep each other going. The process that, in spite of all clear and unbiased opinion outside the Iron Triangle, continued with a class of ship that eight years after commissioning Hull-1, still cannot successfully find a single mine, a single submarine, or engage any other warship of similar size with any chance of victory.

So there - we have the usual LCS tirade. Now, to the latest news.

Two articles that will get you started on the latest "of course" series of LCS rake-stepping, and the pull quotes below come from, are by Chris Cavas at Defense News and San LaGrone at USNI News;
In yet another blow for its seemingly perpetually-troubled littoral combat ship program, the US Navy revealed Sunday that one of two main propulsion diesel engines on the San Diego-based Freedom has been damaged so badly it either has to be completely rebuilt or replaced.

It’s the third time since December that a Freedom-class LCS has suffered a serious malfunction.
...
Word of Freedom’s casualty comes as USS Fort Worth (LCS-3) is in transit to San Diego following a separate propulsion causality in which operator error caused extensive damage to the LCS’ combing gear – the complex mechanism that links the output of the ship’s main propulsion diesels and the gas turbines to the ship’s water jets.
...
The Freedom’s latest problems began July 11 when a sailor noted a drain leaking into the bilge from a seawater pump seal attached to the ship’s No. 2 main propulsion diesel engine as the LCS was operating off Southern California. Sources familiar with the incident told Defense News the leak was plugged using a damage control plug.

Seawater then entered the engine’s lubrication oil system, said Lt. Rebecca Haggard, a spokesperson for San Diego-based Naval Surface Forces (SURFOR), but the ship continued to operate.

In a statement, SURFOR said Freedom returned to San Diego on July 13 on her own power to conduct repairs on a separate, unrelated issue and, while in port, carried out procedures to decontaminate the lube oil system of seawater. The Freedom then got underway on July 19 for more than a week of Rim of the Pacific Exercises off Southern California, returning to San Diego July 28.

But back in port, an investigation of the engine on Aug. 3 “found significant damage to the engine caused by rust and seawater,” SURFOR said. So many engine components were damaged that, SURFOR added, the engine “will need to be removed and rebuilt or replaced.”
...
The Navy’s top leadership is known to be especially unhappy with this latest incident.

“Given the engineering casualties on USS Freedom and USS Fort Worth, I believe improvements in engineering oversight and training are necessary," Rowden said in the SURFOR statement.

“The recently-completed LCS Review of manning, design, and training looked at a number of sailor performance and ownership factors, to include crew rotation, size and proficiency. From this work, I believe we will be able to make immediate changes to help reduce chance for future operator error. I am fully committed to ensuring that our ships and the sailors who man them have the proper tools and training they need to safely and effectively operate these ships.”

...
One naval analyst told USNI News on Sunday the casualty comes at a difficult time for the LCS program.

“Regardless of the cause, however, it comes at a sensitive time for the LCS program which still remains controversial both within the Navy and inside DoD,” Eric Wertheim, the author of the U.S. Naval Institute’s Combat Fleets of the World, told USNI News on Sunday.

“Eight years since the first unit of the class entered service, proponents and opponents on each side are still trying to figure out what the future of the LCS fleet will hold, how many ships should be built, where they should operate, and what types of missions they can perform. With all those questions still up in the air, any issues that arise can have an outsized impact on the future of the program.”
Bingo. These problems were identified over a decade ago here an other places. Why in 2016 are we only now getting to it? See Shipmate Etienne's quote above and the fallen nature of man.

We neither understand the concept of "sunk cost" or "opportunity cost" and as such we are building a fleet of vanity, buttressed by hope, spin, and the promise of post-retirement food troughs.

The world's largest navy awaits a new group of leaders that will clearly break with the errors of the past, return us to a solid foundation of fact based leadership, and demand a mastery of the fundamentals. 
Succisa Virescit

UPDATE: Host note: I cannot keep up with all the LCS fail around us this week. I have a paying gig to maintain. Consider this post the LCS free swim now that we have an even-numbered hobbled mid-Pacific. Imagine what it will be like when we have a fleet full of these Little Crappy Ships.

Sunday, August 28, 2016

Baltic Security with Bruce Acker and Dan Lynch, on Midrats



With a resurgent Russia, the security environment from former Soviet Republics to the traditionally neutral nations of Finland and Sweden has changed dramatically.

What are those changes and how are they changing how these nations see their place in the larger Western security infrastructure? We’re going to look at how thing are changing in how they work and see each other, NATO, and what they need to do to provide for both their and collective defense.

Our guests for the full hour Sunday from 5-6pm Eastern will be Colonel Bruce Acker, USAF (ret) and Captain Dan Lynch, USN (Ret).

Bruce is currently a Defense Strategy Consultant in Stockholm Sweden. He spent 30 years on active duty starting as a Air Defense Weapons flight test engineer upon graduation from the Air Force Academy, and subsequently served in Space, Missile Warning, and Missile Launch operations culminating as a Minuteman ICBM squadron Commander. Following staff tours managing future Air Force and Defense Space systems programs, he broadened to political military assignments as the US Air Attaché to Malaysia and as the US Defense Attaché and Senior Defense Official in Stockholm. Col Acker has published articles on regional security issues in the Swedish Royal Academy of War Sciences journal as well as leading National daily newspapers.

Dan is currently beginning his fifth year on the maritime faculty of the Swedish Defense University in Stockholm. He spent over 35 years on active duty starting as an enlisted Marine and upon graduation from the Naval Academy selected Naval Aviation where he commanded a VP squadron and a patrol and reconnaissance wing. Following major command, he served on the staff of the US ambassador to NATO in Brussels and retired after his last tour as the Naval Attache to Stockholm.

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, August 26, 2016

Fullbore Friday

A man of my father's generation, this path sounds familiar;
Following high school graduation, Kettles enrolled in Michigan State Normal College (now Eastern Michigan University), where he studied engineering. Two years later, Kettles was drafted to the Army at age 21. Upon completion of basic training at Camp Breckinridge, Kentucky, Kettles attended Officer Candidate School at Fort Knox, Kentucky, and earned his commission as an armor officer in the U.S. Army Reserve, Feb. 28, 1953. Kettles graduated from the Army Aviation School in 1953, before serving active duty tours in Korea, Japan and Thailand.

Kettles returned in 1956 and established a Ford Dealership in Dewitt, Michigan, with his brother, and continued his service with the Army Reserve as a member of the 4th Battalion, 20th Field Artillery.
He answered the call to serve again in 1963, when the United States was engaged in the Vietnam War and needed pilots. Fixed-wing-qualified, Kettles volunteered for Active Duty. He attended Helicopter Transition Training at Fort Wolters, Texas in 1964. During a tour in France the following year, Kettles was cross-trained to fly the famed UH-1D “Huey.”

Kettles reported to Fort Benning, Georgia, in 1966 to join a new helicopter unit. He was assigned as a flight commander with the 176th Assault Helicopter Company, 14th Combat Aviation Battalion, and deployed to Vietnam from February through November 1967. His second tour of duty in Vietnam lasted from October 1969, through October 1970.
Sublime.

Then there was that moment that solid, ordinary men find themselves in extraordinary circumstances and a measure is taken.
During the early morning hours of May 15, 1967, personnel of the 1st Brigade, 101st Airborne Division, were ambushed in the Song Tra Cau riverbed by an estimated battalion-sized force of the North Vietnamese army with numerous automatic weapons, machine guns, mortars and recoilless rifles. The enemy force fired from a fortified complex of deeply embedded tunnels and bunkers, and was shielded from suppressive fire. Upon learning that the 1st Brigade had suffered casualties during an intense firefight with the enemy, then-Maj. Charles S. Kettles, volunteered to lead a flight of six UH-1D helicopters to carry reinforcements to the embattled force and to evacuate wounded personnel. As the flight approached the landing zone, it came under heavy enemy attack. Deadly fire was received from multiple directions and Soldiers were hit and killed before they could leave the arriving lift helicopters.

Jets dropped napalm and bombs on the enemy machine guns on the ridges overlooking the landing zone, with minimal effect. Small arms and automatic weapons fire continued to rake the landing zone, inflicting heavy damage to the helicopters. However, Kettles refused to depart until all reinforcements and supplies were off-loaded and wounded personnel were loaded on the helicopters to capacity. Kettles led them out of the battle area and back to the staging area to pick up additional reinforcements.

Kettles then returned to the battlefield, with full knowledge of the intense enemy fire awaiting his arrival. Bringing reinforcements, he landed in the midst of enemy mortar and automatic weapons fire that seriously wounded his gunner and severely damaged his aircraft. Upon departing, Kettles was advised by another helicopter crew that he had fuel streaming out of his aircraft. Despite the risk posed by the leaking fuel, he nursed the damaged aircraft back to base.

Later that day, the infantry battalion commander requested immediate, emergency extraction of the remaining 40 troops, and four members of Kettles’ unit who were stranded when their helicopter was destroyed by enemy fire. With only one flyable UH-1 helicopter remaining, Kettles volunteered to return to the deadly landing zone for a third time, leading a flight of six evacuation helicopters, five of which were from the 161st Aviation Company. During the extraction, Kettles was informed by the last helicopter that all personnel were onboard, and departed the landing zone accordingly. Army gunships supporting the evacuation also departed the area.

Once airborne, Kettles was advised that eight troops had been unable to reach the evacuation helicopters due to the intense enemy fire. With complete disregard for his own safety, Kettles passed the lead to another helicopter and returned to the landing zone to rescue the remaining troops. Without gunship, artillery, or tactical aircraft support, the enemy concentrated all firepower on his lone aircraft, which was immediately damaged by a mortar round that damaged the tail boom, a main rotor blade, shattered both front windshields and the chin bubble and was further raked by small arms and machine gun fire.

Despite the intense enemy fire, Kettles maintained control of the aircraft and situation, allowing time for the remaining eight Soldiers to board the aircraft. In spite of the severe damage to his helicopter, Kettles once more skillfully guided his heavily damaged aircraft to safety. Without his courageous actions and superior flying skills, the last group of Soldiers and his crew would never have made it off the battlefield.
Attention to CITATION:
OFFICIAL CITATION

The President of the United States of America, authorized by Act of Congress, March 3, 1863, has awarded in the name of Congress the Medal of Honor to

MAJOR CHARLES S. KETTLES
UNITED STATES ARMY

For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty:

Major Charles S. Kettles distinguished himself by conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity while serving as Flight Commander, 176th Aviation Company (Airmobile) (Light), 14th Combat Aviation Battalion, Americal Division near Duc Pho, Republic of Vietnam. On 15 May 1967, Major Kettles, upon learning that an airborne infantry unit had suffered casualties during an intense firefight with the enemy, immediately volunteered to lead a flight of six UH-1D helicopters to carry reinforcements to the embattled force and to evacuate wounded personnel. Enemy small arms, automatic weapons, and mortar fire raked the landing zone, inflicting heavy damage to the helicopters; however, Major Kettles refused to depart until all helicopters were loaded to capacity. He then returned to the battlefield, with full knowledge of the intense enemy fire awaiting his arrival, to bring more reinforcements, landing in the midst of enemy mortar and automatic weapons fire that seriously wounded his gunner and severely damaged his aircraft. Upon departing, Major Kettles was advised by another helicopter crew that he had fuel streaming out of his aircraft. Despite the risk posed by the leaking fuel, he nursed the damaged aircraft back to base. Later that day, the Infantry Battalion Commander requested immediate, emergency extraction of the remaining 40 troops, including four members of Major Kettles’ unit who were stranded when their helicopter was destroyed by enemy fire. With only one flyable UH-1 helicopter remaining, Major Kettles volunteered to return to the deadly landing zone for a third time, leading a flight of six evacuation helicopters, five of which were from the 161st Aviation Company. During the extraction, Major Kettles was informed by the last helicopter that all personnel were onboard, and departed the landing zone accordingly. Army gunships supporting the evacuation also departed the area. Once airborne, Major Kettles was advised that eight troops had been unable to reach the evacuation helicopters due to the intense enemy fire. With complete disregard for his own safety, Major Kettles passed the lead to another helicopter and returned to the landing zone to rescue the remaining troops. Without gunship, artillery, or tactical aircraft support, the enemy concentrated all firepower on his lone aircraft, which was immediately damaged by a mortar round that shattered both front windshields and the chin bubble and was further raked by small arms and machine gun fire. Despite the intense enemy fire, Major Kettles maintained control of the aircraft and situation, allowing time for the remaining eight soldiers to board the aircraft. In spite of the severe damage to his helicopter, Major Kettles once more skillfully guided his heavily damaged aircraft to safety. Without his courageous actions and superior flying skills, the last group of soldiers and his crew would never have made it off the battlefield. Major Kettles' selfless acts of repeated valor and determination are in keeping with the highest traditions of military service and reflect great credit upon himself and the United States Army.
First person, spoken word. What a man.



A final selfish note after seeing that short video, reminds me of my father at his best, a lot, who passed away the year after I finally left active duty and came home for good. I think I'll ruminate on that for the rest of the day.

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

The "T" in T-AKE stands for "Toothy"

This is a 100% Salamander endorsed effort. If we are going to discuss "Distributed Lethality," then let's also discuss "Distributed Risk."

Spreading assets around different platforms does more than just mitigate some risk, it also expands a Commander's options and complicates an enemy's targeting.

Via Lance M. Bacon over at MarineTimes;
Military Sealift Command is making Marine-driven changes to its nontraditional fleet to give amphibious forces a greater edge on an ever-evolving battlefield. The developments promise to advance the Corps’ use of alternative platforms for everything from maritime security and riverine missions to disaster response and flight operations.

The MV-22 is also key to this new concept.
...one key conversion will enable dry cargo and ammunition ships to stow an MV-22 Osprey.

MSC dedicated two dry cargo and ammunition ships (the two oldest) to the Marine Corps pre-positioning fleet: Lewis and Clark, and Sacagawea. They provide ammunition, food, repair parts, stores and small quantities of fuel — but the aft flight deck is a highlight among Marine strategists who have used ships from the T-AKE class as alternate command, control, operational and logistics platforms in recent exercises.

Landing an Osprey is not enough. The Corps has asked for a converted hangar that will allow an MV-22 to be folded and stowed. Sacagawea will receive these modifications during a regular overhaul planned to run from October through January, ...Dry cargo and ammo ships aren’t the only ones slated for an amphibious upgrade. Two expeditionary fast transports — Spearhead and Trenton — have upgraded cranes that allow boats and personnel to launch from the mission bay. That modification will eventually be added to all EPF ships, Thackrah said.
There are some issues to quibble - but let's not let the good and doable lose to the perfect and unattainable;
Because it is a USNS ship, rather than USS, it cannot conduct “belligerent acts.” While the shallow-draft catamaran can quickly move troops deep into littoral areas, it has no mounted guns or defense systems. And a reasonable explosion would likely tear through the commercial-based aluminum vessel.

In fact, its weak structure requires the ship be delivered to theater and remain there.

“They do not do well in rough seas,” Thackrah said. “They are a ship based off the design of a commercial ferryboat. There is a safe operating envelope for the ship, and they are proving that if you violate the safe operating envelope, you can wrinkle them up. But this is not an open-ocean vessel. This is a near-shore, high-speed vessel.”

Many hulls have cracked and been damaged by strong seas. This was evident when Fall River, the fourth ship in the class, was sidelined by one rogue wave off the coast of Florida. MSC has since started reinforcing the bow structure.
...
“What we do have to say no to is trying to put too many ideas on the same boat. We have run into that,” he said. The ships have been used to do “anything and everything you can dream of. What these guys are thinking of is just fascinating.”
It is good to hear this is getting people excited - and the fact that we are having to pull people back instead of kicking them forward tells you something.

There is "there" there.