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Friday, March 23, 2018

So, you might never has asked, what does an older, retired gentleman (by act of Congress) do on a relatively nice Friday afternoon when rain or worse is forecast for the weekend?

I take my new toy out and play with it, of course! The throaty roar of an MG and the glory of a ragtop on a sunny afternoon in the spring-

1974 Midget. When my younger son retrieved his 1968 MGB from my garage, there was a hole that needed filling. My favorite driving companion, with whom I shared a 1969 MGB in the days before children, approved the transaction.

Revisiting A Less Expensive Path to Growing the Navy: Great Things Come in Small Packages

Orignally posted 17 Dec 2015, but still relevant today as we discuss growing the U. S. Navy:

The U.S. Navy's newly designated "frigate" (nee "Littoral Combat Ship") is not a dead program, but it ain't all that healthy, either, as set out in Pentagon Cuts LCS to 40 Ships. This has set off some "I was right and you were wrong -ism".

Really, the FF/LCS is not the first Navy ship design that proved to be - uh - less than optimal.

It probably won't be the last.

Let's suppose we ask the question that underlies the size of our fleet: What do we plan to do with it?

If the answer is long-range standoff missions, then it would seem aircraft carriers and their assigned air wings are one part of the answer.

If the answer is killing submarines that might threaten our country or those aircraft carriers, it should be clear that ASW attack submarines are a large part of the answer, along with long-range maritime patrol aircraft and real honest to goodness ASW destroyers.

If the answer is support of forces ashore, then perhaps the new Zumwalt-class destroyers are part of the answer.

USS Pegasus (PHM-1)
If the answer is local sea control in contested waters in narrow straits, inshore, then the answer probably is a force deigned to go into harm's way in those waters. As set out in this 2001 Wall Street Journal article by Greg Jaffe describing a 2000 war game:
The U.S. is at war with China, and U.S. Navy commanders are using a new breed of ship called Streetfighter to sail perilously close to the Chinese coast.

There, the small, fast, inexpensive warships -- designed to go into harm's way and, if necessary, be lost -- hunt down Chinese subs and missile launchers hidden among fishing boats and cargo ships. Some Streetfighters are sunk by enemy fire, and casualties are high, but they help the U.S. win earlier than the military pros had projected.
The Streetfighters existed only on paper. But their performance in that mock battle was enough to convince the war college's director, Vice Adm. Arthur K. Cebrowski, that a fleet of Streetfighters could give any foe fits -- provided the Navy is willing to endure casualties.

"Streetfighter is alive, well and an inevitability," he crowed.
Even then, there were "cautious" voices, like a now former CJCS,
Some top Navy commanders have grave doubts. "I look at the Streetfighter concept and worry that we are saying, 'It's OK to lose ships,' " says Vice Adm. Michael Mullen, commander of the U.S. 2nd Fleet in Norfolk, Va. Others question whether sailors in an all-volunteer force would sign up to serve on the ships, or whether Congress would approve the money to build them.
Yeah, well, the FF/LCS is a lot of things, but it does not appear to be so robust that if confronted by a threat it wouldn't be "expendable." More from Cebrowski:
The 58-year-old admiral immediately homed in on one of the most vexing weaknesses in the current fleet. In the past 10 years, the proliferation of cruise missiles and cheap diesel subs has made it easier for enemies to strike U.S. vessels. A recent General Accounting Office report concluded that the Navy's ability to deal with the threat posed by cruise missiles and diesel subs in coastal regions was "marginal" and that nothing the Navy is currently buying will "provide adequate protection against improved versions of these weapons."

To protect its precious ships and crews, the military leadership is pushing them farther and farther out to sea, where they are safer but not nearly as effective. "We've become risk-averse," Adm. Cebrowski says.
Re-read Adm Mullen's comment again to see what Adm. Cebrowski was speaking about.
The idea of building a new class of small ships had been kicking around at the Naval War College and the Naval Post Graduate School, where retired Navy Capt. Wayne Hughes, one of Adm. Cebrowski's former commanding officers, had been playing with some concepts. Adm. Cebrowski had been thinking about the need for a new class of small ship as well. So he and Capt. Hughes put the concept on paper.

Because Streetfighters would be cheap -- one design would cost only about $70 million a ship, compared with as much as $1 billion for a new destroyer -- the Navy would be able to buy hundreds for the price of one 10-ship carrier battle group. The ships would operate along crowded coastal waters, hiding in coves and springing out to destroy enemy subs, hunt down mines and disrupt enemy missiles that could more easily target larger, slower ships.

After a few days or weeks of heavy fighting, the bigger ships would move in and take over the fight. Some Streetfighters would be lost, and some sailors would die. "Streetfighters must be designed to lose," Capt. Hughes wrote at the time. "If the ships become too costly or too heavily manned, commanders will be unwilling to put them at risk."
I am not sure in this age of near real time satellite imaging that "hiding in coves" might still work, but there is that "quantity has a quality all of its own" thing.

The fun one can have imagining a fleet with a combination of large capable ships and small, fast "sea-going fire ants" boiling out of hiddie holes is immense. Capt Wayne Hughes' The New Navy Fighting Machine: A Study of the Connections Between Contemporary Policy, Strategy, Sea Power, Naval Operations, and the Composition of the United States Fleet suggests:
The “New Navy Fighting Machine” promotes a wider mix of ships, in a more numerous fleet, with better-focused capabilities, to meet a range of scenarios in green and blue water environments. The new fighting machine does this within an affordable SCN (Ship Construction Navy) budget ceiling, because the U.S. defense budget already dominates defense spending in the rest of the world.

The fleet’s new component is a green water force of small vessels to fulfill the three sea service chiefs’ maritime strategy of collaboration and support of theater security operations now manifested in Navy global fleet stations. The green water force also includes coastal combat forces, and additional reconnaissance for the land and sea side of a littoral. These capabilities are achieved with 10% of the SCN budget.
How many "green water ships? Hughes suggests 240 (+400 inshore patrol craft). Hughes rightly compares the need for a new command to drive developing this green water component of naval power to that that developed Naval Aviation in its infancy. Hughes:
We also show, in rough outline, that the new fighting machine is better suited than the present projection-heavy 313-ship1 Navy to support regional conflicts and, if it should become necessary, to constrain Russian ambitions.

Submarines in greater numbers are central to the maritime strategy, but within a constrained budget the larger force cannot be exclusively nuclear powered. We find that diesel submarines with air-independent propulsion not only allow twice as many submarines, but they also nicely complement the SSNs in the critical scenario.

Because the United States has not conducted an opposed amphibious landing in nearly 60 years, the new fighting machine emphasizes amphibious lift rather than amphibious assault. We stress the unparalleled success of national sealift in timely delivery of ground forces where needed, when needed, and for as long as needed. It is a national treasure that has received too little attention. We assiduously maintain this strong sealift component in the new fighting machine.

The study does not eliminate high-end warships, the individual capabilities of which are unmatched by any other nation in the world. To do so would end America’s maritime superiority. On the other hand, a Navy of only large, multibillion dollar warships will result in a smaller and smaller force that cannot fulfill its roles around the world. Some of those roles, maritime interdiction operations and coastal patrol for example, can be handled by smaller ships in greater numbers.
That 313 number above has now shrunk to 272.

Some are going to debate the building of new frigates or corvettes to boost ship numbers. I suggest instead building the "green water" force using technology that already exists. Further, I suggest building up a corps young officers to drive these new toys hard with some LCDR and CDR supervision.

If you don't think there are some young people who like this idea, see this from 2012 New Navy Fighting Machine in the South China Sea by a couple of then Lieutenants, Dylan Ross and Jimmy Harmon:
This thesis advocates fleet growth as articulated in Hughes' New Navy Fighting Machine (NNFM) study. Comparisons of the NNFM, the U.S. fleet, and the PRC fleet demonstrate both the disparity facing the American surface forces, and the near parity obtained in the NNFM. CT through unmanned surface vehicles (USVs), and naval obscurants provide American surface forces increased staying power and tactical advantage. Scouting and communications networking through a theater wide constellation of airships provide the American fleet with persistentsituationalawareness of the battle space, tactical communications with subsurface forces, and improved emissions control (EMCON) measures for surface forces. The distributive properties of the NNFM, combined with this study's CT [counter-targeting] and scouting findings, offer American surface combatants success over the PRC Navy in the SCS scenario.
And who wouldn't like to drive one of these:

or be the a squadron CO of 8 or 10 of these:

We could do worse than building a few of these.

In fact, we have done worse. Too bad the PHMs like Pegasus were killed. We could have had 38 years of experience with small fast, heavily armed war ships by now. "Coulda, shoulda."

Friday Film: Harbor Security - British Maunsell Forts During World War II

Homeland defense, British style, with artificial island fortresses:

Background here

Saturday, March 17, 2018

Saturday Is Old Radio Day: Now Hear This "USS Philadelphia" (1951)

On Midrats 18 March 2018: Episode 428: Battleflags, Korean Battles, and the Joys of Unexpected Archeology

Please join us at 5pm EDT on 18 March 2018 for Episode 428: Battleflags, Korean Battles, and the Joys of Unexpected Archeology:
Put yourself in the shoes of a museum curator. You have the funds to conduct some much needed preservation on battleflags captured by the US Navy from the War of 1812. To do
USNI News Photo
that, you have to remove them from their home for almost a century.

What happens when you all of a sudden find they are not alone? They are covering something else?

No, this isn't another "National Treasure" sequel, but things that actually unfolded last year at the US Naval Academy. For naval history buffs, this was an exciting time and an opportunity to explore some relatively unknown chapters from our history.

For almost all Americans, when you mention American forces coming ashore to do battle on the Korean peninsula, they think of Inchon and 1950.

Well, we came ashore earlier and fought another battle, in 1871.

When you hear about the American navy vs. pirates, you think about the waters off the Horn of Africa in this century. What about off China in the 1850s?

Join us Sunday to discuss the history and the battleflags of pirates and forgotten kingdoms with returning guests, BJ Armstrong, CDR USN and Claude Berube, LCDR USNR.

BJ Armstrong, PhD is an Assistant Professor of War Studies and Naval History with the History Department of the U.S. Naval Academy. He holds a PhD in War Studies from King's College, London.

Claude Berube is the director of the Naval Academy Museum and recently completed his doctoral dissertation through the University of Leeds on Andrew Jackson’s Navy.
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.

Monday, March 12, 2018

U. S. Navy Office of Naval Intelligence Worldwide Threat to Shipping (WTS) Report 5 February - 7 March 2018 and HORN OF AFRICA/GULF OF GUINEA/ SOUTHEAST ASIA: Piracy Analysis and Warning Weekly (PAWW) Report for 1 - 7 March 2018

Of particular note this week from the WTS:
(U) MEXICO: On 1 March, the U.S. embassy in Mexico issued a travel alert for a popular tourist destination in southeast Mexico. This came a little more than a week after an explosion on a ferry in Playa del Carmen injured more than 20 people, some of them U.S. citizens. The alert was issued the same day as another explosive device was found on another ferry owned by the same company in Cozumel, another tourist hub in the area. According to the alert, which advised U.S. travelers to exercise caution, purchase travel and medical-evacuation insurance, and contact the nearest embassy or consulate for assistance. (;

Though it seems to defy logic, the Mexican government is denying that this is a "terrorist" act as set out in Mexico: Crude bomb caused ferry blast; terrorism ruled out:
Prosecutors said they believe there is no motivation for a terrorist group to have carried out the attack and also think criminal gangs would not have done it, knowing it would draw unwanted attention and increased security.

"Responsibility by terrorist organizations or organized crime has been ruled out," Deputy Attorney General Arturo Elias Beltran said at a news conference.
He added that the bomb "had a very limited capacity" and "was not intended to do major damage."

The Feb. 21 explosion ripped through the upper section of the ferry as it was moored to the dock at Playa del Carmen, leaving a gaping hole in the side of the vessel.
As a result of the investigations, it can be concluded that the remnants of the explosive artifact (in the Feb. 21 incident) show similarity to the one discovered days earlier, and it is clear that it was a rudimentary or homemade artifact," the office said.

On March 2, another object said to be a possible bomb was found attached to the underside of a ferry belonging to the same company whose boat was bombed earlier. That vessel was anchored about 500 yards (meters) off Cozumel. There were no passengers aboard at the time, and authorities said it had been out of service for over 10 months.

Investigators are pursuing multiple lines of inquiry but have not made any arrests or advanced a definitive theory about a motive for the explosion.
I guess it could be some sort of labor dispute, but the definition of terrorism is not stretched by calling the planting of even "rudimentary or homemade" devices to influence actions by some party. As even Wikipedia has it,
Terrorism is, in the broadest sense, the use of intentionally indiscriminate violence as a means to create terror, or fear, to achieve a financial, political, religious or ideological aim.
I suppose, though, that using that word might shake up the local tourism industry a tad.

Important Strategic Input: "U.S. Navy Carriers: Strike Range Expansion Is Critical"

If you are going to influence shore based powers, you need to be able to reach out touch them if need be.

This is addressed by Jerry Hendrix in this National Review piece, U.S. Navy Carriers: Strike Range Expansion Is Critical
The United States Navy needs to make some hard choices if it wishes to remain relevant in the Anti-Access/Area Denial (A2AD) security environment that lies ahead of it. It must begin to adjust its strategy as well as its accompanying shipbuilding and aircraft-procurement plans to enable it to fight and win within the emerging great-power competition. This new environment, at last recognized in President Trump’s National Security Strategy and the Secretary of Defense’s National Defense Strategy, requires the Navy to strike enemy capitals and other vital centers of gravity from range, but the Navy’s decision to bypass a carrier-based strike asset, and now even to push off its acquisition of an unmanned mission tanker, suggest that it is not taking A2AD great-power competition seriously. Its decisions place the future relevance of the entire maritime service, at least as it is presently composed, at risk.
We also discussed this on Midrats on 11 March 2018 - and Dr. Hendrix joined us - the discussion rolls through the show, but especially beginning around the 44 minute mark:

Sunday, March 11, 2018

On Midrats 11 March 2018: Episode 427: Midrats March Madness ... well, mostly Navy talk

Please join us at 5pm EDT on 11 March 2018 for Episode 427: Midrats March Madness ... well, mostly Navy talk:
Now that we're near the end of 2QFY18, it's time for another Midrats Free-For-All!

Just Sal from the blog CDR Salamander and Eagle1 of EagleSpeak covering the latest developments on the maritime and national security front.

If you have topics you would like us to address, send them to us on twitter at @cdrsalamder or @lawofsea, join the chatroom while the show is live ... or even call in.
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.

Tuesday, March 06, 2018

National Energy Security: Self Inflicted Energy Wounds That Hurt Taxpayers But Benefit Speculators

Here's a little known tale of how the "environmental" crowd dips into the pocketbook of ordinary Americans while doing little or nothing to improve the environment. You may never have hear of RINS, but here's a lttle background from the EPA to set the table for what follows:
The Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) program was created under the Energy Policy Act of 2005 (EPAct), which amended the Clean Air Act (CAA). The Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007 (EISA) further amended the CAA by expanding the RFS program. EPA implements the program in consultation with U.S. Department of Agriculture and the Department of Energy.

The RFS program is a national policy that requires a certain volume of renewable fuel to replace or reduce the quantity of petroleum-based transportation fuel, heating oil or jet fuel. The four renewable fuel categories under the RFS are:

- Biomass-based diesel
- Cellulosic biofuel
- Advanced biofuel
- Total renewable fuel

The 2007 enactment of EISA significantly increased the size of the program and included key changes, including:

- Boosting the long-term goals to 36 billion gallons of renewable fuel
- Extending yearly volume requirements out to 2022
- Adding explicit definitions for renewable fuels to qualify (e.g., renewable biomass, GHG emissions)
- Creating grandfathering allowances for volumes from certain existing facilities
- Including specific types of waiver authorities

The Clean Air Act provides EPA authority to adjust cellulosic, advanced and total volumes set by Congress as part of the annual rule process.

The statute also contains a general waiver authority that allows the Administrator to waive the RFS volumes, in whole or in part, based on a determination that implementation of the program is causing severe economic or environmental harm, or based on inadequate domestic supply.
Here's a handy chart that shows what Congress thinks is a good idea for the total volume of "renewable fuels" in our future:

The Congressional Budget Office prepared a 2017 report on "Issues for the Renewable Fuel Standard"

What may you take from that report?

  1. Transportation fuel costs will increase'
  2. Minimal effect on greenhouse gas emissions (GHG) (absent some "technology development")
  3. While the goals of the Energy Security and Independence Act is to reduce "dependence on foreign oil and reducing GHG emissions" no part of the Act refers to the impact of technology such as fracking that could allow the U. S. to cease needing "foreign oil"
  4. The EPA issues, for qualifying fuels (defined in slide 6), a "renewable identification number (RIN) attached to each gallon. These RINs are required to be submitted by fuel suppliers "on the basis of their use of petroleum-based fuels"
  5. "RINs can be traded and banked"
  6. The guesstimates made by the planners in putting together this program did not anticipate that technology might make vehicles more fuel efficient thus creating issues. See slides 9 and 11.
  7. EPA decision makers can affect the price of food and transportation fuesl. (slide17) Note that on slide 19 that "Ethanol accounts for 40% of the corn produced in the U.S. 
  8. Slide 23: "for each 100 gallons of gasoline or diesel they sell, suppliers are required to submit  - 1.6 biomass-based diesel RINs                                                                                                    - - 3.4 additional advanced biofuels RINs                                                                                        - - 8.3 additional renewable fuel RINs (met with corn ethanol) 
  9.  CBO's renewable RIN price estimate for 2017  was $1.55 to $2.10                                                                                                                                                                        

Yeah, exciting stuff. But here's what happens in the real world, the trading of RINS is putting American refineries and refinery workers at risk - which has a potentially serious effect on national security - because without refineries and their workers, where will we get fuel for our aircraft, ships and military vehicles? Senator Cruz of Texas (of course) has taken up this issue as reported by the Oil & Gas Journal in
Time has come to overhaul RINs, Cruz tells Philadelphia refinery workers
US Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.) called for a cap on the price of renewable identification numbers (RIN) to halt speculation and preserve jobs at refineries. "We're here because the jobs, and the men and women whose livelihoods and families depend on those jobs, are at risk from a broken government regulation system that isn't working, and that we have to fix," he said a Feb. 21 rally at Philadelphia Energy Solutions (PES).

PES cited dramatically higher prices for the renewable fuel credits the Environmental Protection Agency administers when the refiner declared bankruptcy nearly a month earlier (OGJ Online, Jan. 23, 2018). "In the year 2012, this refinery-the largest refinery on the East Coast-paid about $10 million for RINs. Then the RINs market broke. The price skyrocketed from 1-2¢ each to as high as $1.40 each," Cruz said.

"This means that last year, in 2017, this refinery spent $218 million buying RINs. That is more than double the payroll of the men and women sitting here," Cruz said. "Now, how many think the refinery should be wasting money on government licenses that don't pay a damned thing rather than paying your salaries? It doesn't make any sense. It is nuts."
"Here's the crazy thing: Of the $218 million [PES] paid for RINs, do you know how much ended up in the pockets of Iowa corn farmers? None. The money doesn't go to the corn farmers, and it doesn't go to the ethanol producers. Instead, billions [of dollars] are being made by Wall Street speculators and giant integrated companies that are earning a windfall on this broken regulatory system," Cruz said.
It's been a problem for a while. Here's a NYTimes report from 2016, High-Price Ethanol Credits Add to Refiners’ Woes:
Stiff competition, heavy regulation and high operating costs make for some of the lowest profit margins in the petroleum industry. And in the last year, profits have been even harder to come by because of the global fuel glut that has translated into bargain-basement prices for the gasoline and diesel that refiners produce.

But lately, the game has been tougher still for people like Jack Lipinski, chief executive of CVR Energy, an independent operator of two refineries in Oklahoma and Kansas. The problem involves a soaring cost that is outside of his control.

This year, on top of everything else, CVR Energy will have to spend as much as $235 million on credits for renewable fuels. That is nearly double what the company spent last year on the credits, and it exceeds the company’s total labor, maintenance and energy costs.

Mr. Lipinski blames the federal program that requires CVR to buy the credits, but he also suspects a role by unknown market speculators who may be driving up the costs of the credits.
Finally, it is worth noting who ultimately pays the price for cost increases to refiners - it's the American public, to whom the costs are passed on with higher gas and diesel prices at the pump.

By the way current retail gas price hikes are related to the refineries performing maintenance and shift over to producing different blends of gas for the warmer season to come.

Friday, March 02, 2018

On Midrats 4 March 2018: Episode 426: An Eye on the Fleet with Chris Cavas

Please join us at 5pm EST on 4 March 2018 for Midrats Episode 426: An Eye on the Fleet with Chris Cavas:
With a new administration well over a year in and a clearer view of the direction our Navy is headed, now is a great opportunity to check in with one of the most knowledgeable observers on the maritime scene, Chris Cavas.

Join us this Sunday from 5-6pm Eastern for an hour-long broad-ranged discussion of national and international naval issues.

Chris was the naval warfare correspondent for Defense News from 2004 to 2017 and is a former managing editor of Navy Times . He has reported on Navy issues across the globe, including aboard USSPonce in the Fifth Fleet and aboard National Security Cutters.
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.

Friday Film: "Sea Dragon, Unde the Ice"