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Wednesday, January 31, 2018

No Crazy Like Iran Crazy: Iran Says "Speedboat Harassment Down Because U.S. Behavior Change"

USNI News report Iran: Speedboat Harassment Down Because U.S. Behavior Change by Ben Werner
An Iranian admiral now says the country’s slow-down in sending small patrol boats to harass U.S. Navy ships in the Persian Gulf was spurred by what he describes as a change in U.S. behavior but doesn’t address the uptick in Iran’s drone flights in the region.

Rear Admiral Ali Ozmaei of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards said the U.S. Navy is now following international regulations and is avoiding approaching the Iranian coast, according to news reports.

Ozmaei’s comments came a week after U.S. Navy officials stated harassment from small Iranian patrol boats seems to have stopped in the congested Persian Gulf region, according to a story first reported by the Wall Street Journal.
Well, but
U.S. Navy officials, though, told USNI News there has been no change to naval operations in the region. Currently, the Theodore Roosevelt carrier strike group is operating in the region, as part of Operation Inherent Resolve. Led by USS Theodore Roosevelt (CVN-71), the strike group includes Carrier Air Wing 17, guided-missile destroyers USS Sampson (DDG-102), USS Preble (DDG-88), USS Halsey (DDG-97), and guided-missile cruiser USS Bunker Hill (CG-52).

Meanwhile, as the number of incidents involving small Iranian patrol boats approaching U.S. Navy ships has diminished, Iran appears determined to increase the number of unmanned drone aircraft sent to surveil U.S. Navy ships.
Perhaps the Iranian Navy is getting ready for its announced foray into "the Gulf of Mexico" - announced back in November 2017 Iran to Send Naval Forces to Gulf of Mexico: Commander:
Speaking in his first press conference after taking the office, Navy Commander Rear Admiral Hossein Khanzadi said Iran’s naval forces will soon go to the Atlantic Ocean, visit some South American countries, and wave the Iranian flag in the Gulf of Mexico.
Better load up food for their friends in Venezuela . . .

Or perhaps carry along their "stealth fighter" which is now, after 5 years of development, ready for "fast taxiing" - Iran’s Advanced Stealth Fighter Jet Undergoing Pre-Flight Tests:
Speaking to the Tasnim News Agency, Brigadier general Dehqan pointed to the development process of Qaher and said the fighter jet has been designed to conduct close air support missions.

It has been undergoing pre-flight tests, he said, adding that one of the tests the aircraft should undergo is fast taxiing.

Taxiing is the movement of an aircraft on the ground, under its own power, in contrast to towing or push-back where the aircraft is moved by a tug.

The former defense minister went on to say that the Qaher fighter jet is currently conducting fast taxi runs.
As you might recall, there is some - well, a whole bunch - of skepticism about this aircraft as noted Iran’s Fake Qaher F-313 Stealth Fighter Is Back:
A new version of Iran’s ridiculous Qaher F-313 stealth fighter has made an appearance complete with a video of the aircraft performing taxi trials. While Iran’s latest effort shows improvement over the last iteration of the Qaher, this new version of the alleged stealth fighter is probably just a model.


Saturday, January 27, 2018

Saturday Is Old Radio Day: Heroes of the Merchant Marine "Capt Carl William Janeke Master Mariner" (1945) and "The Story of SSGT Douglas T Brown" (1945)




On Midrats 28 January 2018 - Episode 421: Sealift, Logistics, & MSC with Salvatore Mercogliano

Please join us at 5pm EST on 28 January 2018 for Midrats Episode 421: Sealift, Logistics, & MSC with Salvatore Mercogliano:
It feeds, fuels, and makes everything a fleet does possible - we're talking logistics for the full hour with returning guest, Salvatore Mercogliano.

Sal sailed with MSC from 1989 to 1992, and worked MSC HQ as Operations Officer for the Afloat Prepositioning Force 1992-1996.

He has a BS Marine Transportation from SUNY Maritime College, a MA Maritime History and Nautical Archaeology from East Carolina University, and received his Ph.D. in Military and Naval History from University of Alabama.

Moving to academia, he's taught at East Carolina University, Methodist University, UNC-Chapel Hill, & the U.S. Military Academy.

Currently an adjunct professor at the US Merchant Marine Academy teaching a graduate course on Maritime Industry Policy and an Associate Professor of History at Campbell University in Buies Creek, NC teaching courses in World Maritime History, Maritime Security, and American Military Experience.

Recently published “We Built Her to Bring Them Over There: The Cruiser and Transport Force in the Great War,” in the Winter 2017-18 issue of Sea History; author of Fourth Arm of Defense: Sealift and Maritime Logistics in the Vietnam War, published by the Naval History and Heritage Command in 2017, and 2nd Prize winner in the 2015 US Naval Institute Naval History Contest with Semper Sealift: The U.S. Marine Corps, Merchant Marine, and Maritime Prepositioning.

He also serves as a Captain on the Northwest Harnett Volunteer Fire Department and currently working on a history of military sealift during the First World War.
Join us live if you can or pick the show up later by clicking here. Or you can also pick the show up later by visiting either our iTunes page or our Stitcher page.

U.S. Navy photos. Upper by U.S. Navy photo by MC3 James Vazquez, lower by MCSN Morgan K. Nall.

Sunday, January 21, 2018

On Midrats 21 January 2018 - Episode 420: Surface Readiness; History, Causes, & Cures with Kevin Eyer

Please join us at 5pm EST on 21 January 2108 for Midrats Episode 420: Surface Readiness; History, Causes, & Cures with Kevin Eyer:
After the events of the last year in WESTPAC, there is general agreement that there is
U.S. Navy photo by Lt. Aaron Van Driessche
something wrong with our surface force. There have always been "incidents" involving warships - including tremendous loss of life. This time, things seem different - and we are still only in the beginning of a general reassessment of what needs to be done to make our surface navy better.


Our guest this week to explore these and related issues will be Kevin Eyer, CAPT USN (Ret.). As a starting off point, we will review his JAN 2018 article in the US Naval Institute, Proceedings, What Happened To Our Surface Forces?

Kevin is a retired Surface Warfare Captain and the son of a Surface Warfare Captain. He graduated from Penn State, after which he served in seven cruisers, ultimately commanding three; Thomas S. Gates, Shiloh and Chancellorsville. He has served on the Navy Staff, the Joint Staff, and he attained his masters degree from the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy, at Tufts University. Captain Eyer is a frequent contributor to Proceedings Magazine, and a regular commentator on Navy issues.
Join us live if you can or pick the show up later by clicking here. Or you can also pick the show up later by visiting either our iTunes page or our Stitcher page.

Saturday, January 20, 2018

Saturday Is Old Radio Day: Crime Photographer "Hot New Years Party" (1948)

About
Flashgun Casey, the character, was first penned by former
newspaperman and advertising executive, George Harmon Coxe, Jr., in the March 1934 issue of Black Mask, the legendary--and influential--early Pulp magazine. Coxe relates that he had read and enjoyed the fiction exploits of reporters, but couldn't help wondering who was most at risk during these exploits--the reporter or his cameraman. "So why not give the cameraman his due? If the reporter could be a glamorous figure in fiction, why not the guy up front who took - and still does take - the pictures?"
***
Crime Photographer's backdrop hints at the Boston area. Jack Casey and Ann Williams are reporters for the fictional Morning Express. The selection of an overnight edition newspaper in a city large enough to present an endless variety and range of late night crime, helps drive the sub-plot of many of Casey's scripts. The atmosphere of the setting is anchored by The Blue Note Café, a late night lounge where musicians--and Morning Press denizens alike--hang out.




Thursday, January 18, 2018

If You Aren't Inside the OODA Loop, You Might Be in a Bad Place

Great read Here’s How to Stop Squelching New Ideas, Eric Schmidt’s Advisory Board Tells DoD from Defense One
“Our adversaries in the 21st century are now continually disrupting us,” Blank said. “We have multiple adversaries moving at a speed faster than we are. Tools and tech that DoD used to own, drones and crypto was stuff we used to own, that’s not the case anymore.”

“China is now Apple. Not us.”
Yep.

Monday, January 15, 2018

Somewhere Deming is Nodding - Maybe: "Navy Looking to Add Rigor to SWO Candidate Training Ahead of Assignment to Ship Crew"

Back in the day (1984 or so), the U. S. Navy decided to bring Dr. Deming to the fight.

For those of you unfamiliar with Deming's work, you can read about his work in Total Quality Management here (the Navy called it "Total Quality Leadership') and many other places. However, as with many such initiatives, a new leadership team or two caused the Navy to adandon Deming.

I'll look at Deming's theory in depth later, but one pertinent point is that every business is a customer to some other business and the customer has to seek to improve the quality of the material it receives from its suppliers so that it will spend less time and effort trying to fix or return defective material it receives as it uses those materials to make it own products.

Here's video in which Deming discusses a couple of his 14 Points - starting about 1:38, Deming notes that "finding what's wrong is not improvement of the process ... that managing defects, not looking at the system that produces the defects . . ."



With that as a lead-in, here's what the Navy has set out as a plan:

  1.   After finding a defect (junior officers who are "defective" in their watchstanding and professional skills);
  2.   actually took a look at the system that sends these officers to enter the fleet;
  3.   developed a plan to correct or eliminate those defects before they get to the customer - the customer being the fleet, the supplier being the Navy's personnel and training command.


So, is it a systemic fix or  a plan for a fix? Or putting out fires?

Navy Looking to Add Rigor to SWO Candidate Training Ahead of Assignment to Ship Crew
Adm. Phil Davidson said that, after leading a 60-day effort to compile the Comprehensive Review of Recent Surface Forces Incidents after several surface ship collisions last year, he is dedicated to adding more rigor to individual and unit-level assessments – with a particular eye on the seamanship and navigation training and assessments for SWO candidates.

“If you don’t have the underpinning foundation across the board – SWO candidates, your qualified SWOs on the ship, department head, [executive officer], [commanding officer] – then you’re short of an element of the team,” Davidson told reporters after giving a keynote speech at the annual Surface Navy Association symposium.
“My assessment of the team assessment, and SWO candidate training especially, it’s not sufficient enough when it comes to seamanship and navigation. You end up with conning officers and JOODs (junior officers of the deck) who [don’t] have sufficient depth to be part of the team from the outset, and that’s what we want to get to. JOOD is a role, conning officer is a role. They have to be competent in those roles when they step aboard a ship, and to have them be students aboard those ships is too much of a burden.”

This need for young officers to be proficient from their first day on an operational ship’s crew was highlighted by the fatal collision between destroyer USS John S. McCain (DDG-56) and a merchant ship last summer. At the time of the collision, Davidson said during his speech, “there were only two ranks on watch: the CO, and ensigns.”

As a result, Davidson said SWO candidate training would be lengthened and would include more rigorous training and assessment on seamanship and navigation, damage control, risk assessment and other fundamentals.
Okay, so far as it goes.

Deming has 14 points, as you've seen, they are all inter-related. Will the Navy be bold enough to adopt all 14? Or is this just an effort to fix one piece of a larger problem withour addressing the other parts of the "system" that are in need of continuous improvement?

Here's an interesting piece from when it became apparent that the Navy was giving up on Deming, Imminent Demise of Deming in the Navy:
How do we make Quality/Deming theory relevant to warfighting ON THE BATTLEFIELD? To address this, we need to demonstrate links between Quality/Deming theory and military theory. We need to be able to use military history to empirically demonstrate the effectiveness of Quality/Deming theory in enhancing COMBAT-EFFECTIVENESS (we are addressing a group of (understandably) empirical people). Nothing else can impress our target audience. We are presently unequal to this task because it requires knowledge of military theory and history that is almost universally lacking among us, even those of us who are in the military. We can not hope to win unless we adopt this approach. In its absence, the military is right to reject Quality, Deming, and theory as irrelevant.
Some would look to the Boyd OODA loop as being akin to Deming's "Plan, Do, Check, Act" (PDCA) but others note differences:
The P-D-C-A cycle or loop is primarily an analytical approach that can be used with great success in a completely internal manner. One does not need to consult the external environment or adjust to unfolding circumstances to make the P-D-C-A loop work. P-D-C-A can be used with great success on the shop floor with the data that is available. Analysis which involves the use of a more or less complete data set to reach a conclusion. We use the data to make a decision about how to proceed, we than check and act to confirm or reject the hypothesis that our analysis has led us to.

O-O-D-A is more concerned with synthesizing an action out of an incomplete data set. Since we can never recognize all of the variables that we are forced to deal with in any environment, we must be able to make a decision that we believe will give us the highest probability for success. The synthesis of an action from the observation and orientation of a complex and mysterious environment, subject to frequent and unpredictable change, is the essence of the O-O-D-A loop.
Hmm.  I agree that PDCA can be internal - but the process also calls for going "outside" to partner with "suppliers:"
Even today many organizations treat suppliers as adversaries to beat at the negotiating table. Dr. Deming explained that the organization was a system that included the suppliers and customers. You need to manage and continually improve that entire system.

And to do so most effectively you need to partner with your suppliers over the long term. You need to treat them as partners. Saying they are partners is nearly worthless. What matters is how you operate. . .
If your "supplier" is providing personnel - isn't it vital that the supplier knows what traits you need in your workers, or in the case of the Surface Navy, what the traits are that make a good "surface warfare officer?" Can these traits be tested for? Can the desired traits be taught?



U. S. Navy Office of Naval Intelligence Worldwide Threat to Shipping (WTS) Report 11 December 2017 - 10 January 2018 and HORN OF AFRICA/GULF OF GUINEA/ SOUTHEAST ASIA: Piracy Analysis and Warning Weekly (PAWW) Report for 4 - 10 January 2018



Tuesday, January 09, 2018

There's Crazy and Then There's Iran Crazy: "Certain powers funding Somalia pirates to undermine Iran economy"

Well, a paranoid government blaming its sucky economy on pretty much everyone else reaches down into the barrael of crazy and blames "Somali pirates" and their alleged sponsors. Really. From the "Mehr News Agency" Certain powers funding Somalia pirates to undermine Iran economy"
Iran’s Navy Commander Khanzadi deemed Somalia piracy as a kind of terrorism formed
in 2007 by proxy in a bid to undermine the Islamic Republic’s economy.
Navy Commander Rear Admiral Hossein Khanzadi made the remark on Sunday in a welcoming ceremony for the return of the 49th fleet after 67 days of voyage on open seas, adding “there was a tremendous attempt at depicting the presence of piracy off the coast of Somalia as something natural, but the acts of piracy reveal certain coordinators and perpetrators behind this new phenomenon in the 21st century.”

Khanzadi went on to add that certain powers are supplying Somalia pirates with intelligence and equipment, and funding them in a bid to undermine the economy of the Islamic Republic of Iran.

The Iranian Navy has been conducting anti-piracy patrols in the Gulf of Aden since November 2008 to safeguard the vessels involved in maritime trade, especially the ships and oil tankers owned or leased by Iran.
Right.

Too bad the secret is out now, since Somali piracy  has been heavily supressed by "certain powers" including NATO, the EU, China, Japan, the U. S., Denmark, Germany, the UK, India, France, and many other countries that have contributed ships, aircraft and personnel to supress the pirates. Not to mention the effect of shipping using private security teams. What a clever plan that involves all those entities spending their national assests and treasure to secure the sea lines of communication that Iran needs to use to market its oil and gas.

Well, I guess it's a refreshing change from their usual misrepresentations about their Navy's success in fighting Somali pirates through its "flotillas."

Monday, January 08, 2018

Protecting the Military Sea Logistics Stream

In an important but largely overlooked speech back in November 2017, the head of  U. S. Transportation Command discussed some of the real problems facing USTRANSCOM in its sealift role, as reported in SEAPOWER Magazine Online:
Military Sealift Command (MSC) is sailing in “contested waters” today and the military needs to consider changing the way it operates, such as relearning how to conduct armed escort missions as it did in World War II, the commander of the U.S. Transportation Command (TransCom) said Nov. 15.

TransCom also is in discussions with the Navy on how it could replace the badly aged ships in the sealift and prepositioning fleets, possibly by buying low-cost used merchant ships, Air Force Gen. Darren McDew said.
Damage to UAE operated vessel Swift after missile attack off Yemen

Speaking at an Air Force Association breakfast at the Capitol Hill Club, McDew was asked about the concerns of Vice Adm. Dee Mewbourne, commander of MSC — which is part of TransCom — that the growing threats from potential adversaries, such as China, Russia, Iran and North Korea, means that his ships will be sailing into “contested waters.”

“They doing that now,” McDew said, possibly referring to the missile attacks against two MSC ships operating off of Yemen earlier this year.

And the contested environment “doesn’t start when they get under way. It starts before they leave port,” he added, repeating his earlier warnings about the threat all of his command faces from cyber attacks and disruption of the space-based navigation systems.
***
McDew compared the potential threat to the MSC vessels to the horrific losses inflicted
"Armed Escort" FFGs in 1982
by German submarines on the Merchant Mariners crossing the Atlantic in World War II. Those civilian seaman “died at the highest rate of any U.S. force” in the war he said.


To help counter that threat, “in World War II, we had armed convoys,” he noted. “We haven’t had to worry about that since then. Maybe we have to look at what armed escort looks like.”

The general suggested that today’s cyber threats could equal the danger from World War II submarines.

The military will have to think differently because “those lines of communications will be contested.”
***
Asked about Mewbourne’s concerns about the advanced age of his sealift and prepositioning ships, McDew said he was in discussions with the Navy on how to modernize the sealift fleets.

He said the National Defense Authorization Act, which may be approved by Congress by the end of the month, has language that “would allow us to buy used vessels. There are ships on the market now that would cost one-half or one-third as much as new ships, and are available for pennies on the dollar.”

Those ships could be modernized and modified in U.S. shipyards, so “everyone wins,” he said.
McDew noted that he is “the largest owner of steam ships in the world,” but does not want that distinction, adding that virtually all the world’s commercial vessels have diesel engines, which are cheaper and require fewer Sailors.
Okay, let's look at the issues:


  1.  The threat environment has changed so that, at the very least, near shore sealift shipping is threatened by both state and non-state actors. This is true because of the proliferation of anti-shipping cruise missiles that can be transported by truck and operated with ease (see War Is Boring To Threaten Ships, the Houthis Improvised a Missile Strike Force ). While the most recent example is that of the cited missile attacks off Yemen, the issue has been very ripe since 2006 when Hezbollah, apparently aided by Iran, fired a C-802 missile at an Israeli warship. The threat of such missile attacks by state actors has, of course, been around much longer  (also Iran: Silkworm on the Hormuz).
  2.  The "sealift fleet" is old and too small. See Not Sexy But Important: "IG launches review of Military Sealift Command readiness problems".While it may be possible to modernize the sealift fleet by buying more modern used ships and refurbishing them for military use, there are issues in protecting those newer (and the current) ships both from cyber and sea-going threats. General McDew notes the need for "armed escorts." The U. S. Navy retired its last "designed to convoy" escort Perry-class FFG-7 frigates without replacements in 2015. Now the Navy is looking for a new FFX to fill the gap - and in seeming recognition that the Littoral Combat Ship is not a suitable vessel for the task - which it was never intended to perform.
  3. Underlying all of the above is the sound recognition that "sea control" in today's world is far more complex than it was in the time of a couple of near peer navies. With the land-based anti-ship cruise missiles, the safe haven of being "offshore" has moved much further from land than it used to be. Using a putative fisherman having a hand-held GPS and a radio, or using small drones flown from the beach, the targeting of shipping offshore does not really require expensive shore based or aerial targeting radars to launch missiles with their own target seeking capabilities.
  4. As a result, all those "chokepoints" so vital to sea lines of communication are threatened as never before. While the U. S. has long relied on "out-teching" adversaries, the speed with which technology changes to counter such tech is worrisome and requires both more hardware both of a counter-battery nature and defense to be spread to more vessels, including to those combat logistics force ships now operated by MSC as unarmed, mostly civilian manned units. It may be time, under the rules that govern arming such ships to return to the day when mnay such ships were manned by Navy officers and sailors, or at least to return to the days of "Navy Armed Guards" but with very modern weaponry to counter these threats. 
The most important point is to start now to address these issues. It is apparent that General McDew "gets it" - and the the Navy is moving to act - but Congress needs to understand th problems and find funding for the needed fixes now, before it's too late. 

    U. S. Navy Office of Naval Intelligence Worldwide Threat to Shipping (WTS) Report 4 December 2017 – 3 January 2018 and HORN OF AFRICA/GULF OF GUINEA/ SOUTHEAST ASIA: Piracy Analysis and Warning Weekly (PAWW) Report for 28 December 2017 – 3 January 2018




    Saturday, January 06, 2018

    Saturday Is Old Radio Day: Night Beat "A Case of Butter" (1950)

    About:
    Frank Lovejoy
    Frank Lovejoy starred as Randy (originally "Lucky") Stone, a reporter who covered the night beat for the Chicago Star, encountering criminals and troubled souls. Listeners were invited to join Stone as he "searches through the city for the strange stories waiting for him in the darkness."




    Friday, January 05, 2018

    Friday Film: "Nuclear Propulsion in Space"

    Background:
    The Nuclear Engine for Rocket Vehicle Application (NERVA) was a U.S. nuclear thermal rocket engine development program that ran for roughly two decades. NERVA was a joint effort of the U.S. Atomic Energy Commission (AEC) and NASA, managed by the Space Nuclear Propulsion Office (SNPO) until both the program and the office ended at the end of 1972.

    NERVA demonstrated that nuclear thermal rocket engines were a feasible and reliable tool for space exploration, and at the end of 1968 SNPO certified that the latest NERVA engine, the NRX/XE, met the requirements for a human mission to Mars. Although NERVA engines were built and tested as much as possible with flight-certified components and the engine was deemed ready for integration into a spacecraft, much of the U.S. space program was cancelled by Congress before a manned mission to Mars could take place.

    NERVA was considered by the AEC, SNPO and NASA to be a highly successful program; it met or exceeded its program goals. Its principal objective was to "establish a technology base for nuclear rocket engine systems to be utilized in the design and development of propulsion systems for space mission application". Virtually all space mission plans that use nuclear thermal rockets use derivative designs from the NERVA NRX or Pewee.


    Wednesday, January 03, 2018

    Not Sexy But Important: "IG launches review of Military Sealift Command readiness problems"

    Logistics, logistics, logistics. The ability to sustain a fleet at sea and to deliver and sustain forces in the field is a vital need of any navy, but especially for the U.S. Navy. Recent reports indicate that that "not sexy but important role" has some glitches as reported by the Navy Times J.D. Simkins in IG launches review of Military Sealift Command readiness problems
    The Defense Department’s Inspector General will be taking a close look at the glaring readiness shortcomings at Military Sealift Command that were the subject of another government report last summer.
    citing this GAO report:



    No surprises really, given that maintaining the combatant fleet has also suffered from insufficient funding for years that the "unsexy" logistics force would also suffer. However, not being surprised is not the same as being prepared . . .

    Higfhlights:
    The capability to rearm, refuel, and re-provision Navy ships at sea is critical to the
    USNS Arctic (T-AOE 8)
    Navy’s ability to project warfighting power from the sea. MSC’s combat logistics force consists of 29 auxiliary ships that provide logistics resupply to Navy combatant ships—aircraft carriers, destroyers, and amphibious ships, among others—at sea during underway replenishments. Doing so enables Navy combatant ships to stay at sea as long as needed during both peacetime and wartime, rather than requiring the ship to pull into port to refuel and resupply. The combat logistics force provides virtually everything that Navy ships need, including fuel, food, ordnance, dry cargo, spare parts, mail, and other supplies. According to MSC, in 2015, combat logistics force ships transferred more than 8.2 million barrels of petroleum products and over 90,000 pallets of dry cargo and ordnance during underway replenishments.

    ***
    The readiness of the surge sealift and combat logistics fleets has trended downward since 2012. We found that mission-limiting equipment casualties—incidents of degraded or out-of-service equipment—have increased over the past five years, and maintenance periods are running longer than planned, indicating declining materiel readiness across both fleets.
    ***
    We found that the readiness of the combat logistics force, like that of the surge sealift fleet, has trended downward in fiscal years 2012 through 2016. Specifically,
    Operational availability has declined: Operational availability measures the amount of time that a ship can get underway and execute a mission as required. MSC’s goal is for each combat logistics ship to be available for missions 270 days a year, devoting the rest of its time largely to maintenance and training. However, the fast combat support ship (T-AOE) and the fleet replenishment oiler (TAO) ship classes are not meeting this target and have seen declines in annual operational availability from 289 to 267 days (8 percent) and from 253 to 212 days (16 percent), respectively, over the past 5 years.32 These declines were due primarily to increases in unscheduled maintenance, according to MSC officials.
    ***
    The Navy has not assessed the effect that implementing widely distributed operations will have on the number and type of combat logistics ships required to support the fleet. As early as January 2015, senior Navy leaders outlined a new warfighting concept calling for widely distributed operations, referred to by the Navy as “distributed lethality.” In January 2017, the Navy released its new surface strategy, Surface Force Strategy: Return to Sea Control, which includes concepts for more widely distributed operations through distributed lethality. According to the strategy, the security interests of the United States are increasingly challenged by near-peer competitors, among others, and the Navy must adjust to this changing security environment. Implementing the distributed lethality concept is critical to maintaining the Navy’s maritime superiority and requires employing its fleet in dispersed formations across a wider expanse of territory to increase both the offensive and defensive capabilities of surface forces. According to the Navy, these concepts complicate enemy targeting by dispersing larger numbers of platforms capable of offensive action over a wide geographic area. According to Navy and MSC officials, a greater reliance on distributed operations and the lethality provided by a widely distributed fleet will require resupplying ships that are
    USNS Big Horn (T-AO 198)
    farther apart and generally increase the demand on the combat logistics force. This stands in contrast to the Navy’s traditional concept of operations, in which Navy combatant ships operate in task group formations—such as carrier strike groups or amphibious ready groups—and, to support these formations, combat logistics force ships transit with them and replenish them with supplies as needed.  In June 2016, the Center for Naval Analyses’ modeling found that spreading combatant ships, such as carrier strike groups, out over larger regions would put more stress on the combat logistics force, because additional ships would be needed as the groups spread out and also because distributing supplies to the individual ships would take longer.  Additionally, combat logistics force ships might need to operate independently in small groups—or even alone—which could put them at risk in contested environments, according to Navy officials. Another effect of widely distributed operations is that ships operating further from ports might require more underway replenishments (see fig. 6), which could affect the number and types of combat logistics force ships required to support the Navy fleet. Under current concepts, Navy carrier strike groups and other ships can typically stay at sea as long as needed, because they have the ability to be replenished either in port or while underway with fuel, ammunition, and stores transported by the combat logistics force. Under distributed operations, geographicallyseparated ships may not be able to be replenished in port during peacetime, or it may be too far or too dangerous in wartime for them to go 
    into port, according to Navy officials. (footnotes omitted)
    Really, you should read the report and consider the impact of a weak or too small logistics train on Navy operations, especially in contested water.

    Unmentioned in the report but also vital is an adquate escort force for the logistics train. More on that topic later, along with look at the effect of the size of the U.S. flagged merchant shipping fleet on the U.S. role in the maritime world.