Launch Sequence

Launch Sequence

Saturday, May 19, 2018

Saturday Is Old Radio Day: Have Gun WIll Travel "Bad Bert" (1960)

Probably not this Bert.

On Midrats 20 May 2018 - Episode 437: Fighting the Great War at Sea, with Dr. Norman Friedman

Please join us at 5pm EDT on 20 May 2018 for Midrats Episode 437: Fighting the Great War at Sea, with Dr. Norman Friedman
As we approach the 100th Anniversary of the end of the First World
War, it is good to reflect back on the impact of WWI on the growth of our modern navy, and the echoes it has to the present day.

For the full hour our guest to discuss this and related issues will be Dr. Norman Friedman. As a starting point of our discussion will be some of the perspective brought out in his 2014 book from Naval Institute Press, Fighting the Great War at Sea: Strategy, Tactics and Technology.

As described in the review at Amazon, “While the overriding image of the First World War is of the bloody stalemate on the Western Front, the overall shape of the war arose out of its maritime character. It was essentially a struggle about access to worldwide resources, most clearly seen in Germany's desperate attempts to counter the American industrial threat, which ultimately drew the United States into the war.”

Dr. Friedman has had a long career in weapon and system analysis for
the U.S. Navy, DOD, and industry. He has authored numerous histories of naval weapons and platforms with a concentration on the connection between policy, strategy, and technology. With over 40 published books, he also has lectured extensively and served as an adviser at the highest levels of government and think tanks.

His Fighting the Great War at Sea won the Lyman prize awarded by the North American Society of Oceanic Historians. He recently published a history of fleet air defense, Fighters Over The Fleet, and is about to publish a history of the British battle fleet during the Victorian era.

He received a Ph.D. in solid-state theoretical physics from Columbia University.
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.

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

Better Late . . .

The Freedom variant littoral combat ship USS Milwaukee (LCS 5) conducted a live-fire missile exercise off the coast of Virginia May 11.

The Milwaukee fired four longbow hellfire missiles that successfully struck fast inshore attack craft targets.

During the evolution, the ship's crew executed a scenario simulating a complex warfighting environment, utilized radar and other systems to track small surface targets, simulated engagements and then fired missiles against the surface targets.

"The crew of the USS Milwaukee executed superbly and the test team ran the event seamlessly, both were critical in making this event successful," said Capt. Ted Zobel, LCS Mission Modules program manager.

This marks the completion of the first phase of the Surface-to-Surface Missile Module (SSMM) Developmental Testing (DT) for the LCS Mission Modules (MM) program. This was the first integrated firing of the SSMM from an LCS. Additionally, this was the second at-sea launch of SSMM missiles from an LCS. SSMM leverages the U.S. Army's Longbow Hellfire Missile in a vertical launch capability to counter small boat threats. Initial operational capability (IOC) and fielding of the SSMM is expected in 2019.

Tuesday, May 15, 2018

Rest in Peace, Tom Wolfe

The world is a little colder as Tom Wolfe has died.

I'm pretty sure I read him first in my teen-age "car phase" somewhere around 1965, when The Kandy-Kolored Tangerine-Flake Streamline Baby, his first collection of essays came out in book form. I think that some of his style might have rubbed off on writers at Car and Driver during those heady days. On me, too. Just as some aspiring writers copied Hemingway's style, I strove to emulate Wolfe. Most of my high school English teachers seemed to have missed the level of my success in accomplishing my goal. On the other hand, my mother was a professional writer whose short stories had sold in various major magazines of the day, and she both read and enjoyed Wolfe and, I came to understand, she didn't find my adoptions of his style to be too . . . outre'.

When studying sociology, I found his Radical Chic and Mau-Mauing the Flak Catchers, to pretty much cover the area of what we now call "political correctness" as well as make "peer pressure,"  "in crowds," and similar ideas come to life. In short, I still laugh at those people he skewered (and at those who have followed them in kind). As written about in Commentary magazine by  Joseph Epstein in 1971 here:
For the essence of Radical Chic is precisely that it is devoid of content. At the moment in America it runs much lower down the social scale than the Leonard Bernsteins of Park Avenue. At least in part, it is behind such phenomena as the radical professors (those guerrillas with tenure, in Irving Howe’s phrase), closet revolutionists working at high salaries for large corporations, and upper-middle-class students in search of a political high. What the Bernsteins’ evening accomplished, with the indispensable aid of Tom Wolfe, was, by exaggerating an already bizarre phenomenon, to show it up for the foolish, misguided, and ultimately self-destructive tendency it really is.

I was fortunate that in my senior year in college, Mr. Wolfe came to my English class and spoke with us about writing and life. I have never forgotten his polite kindness to us.

Rest in peace.

Monday, May 14, 2018

U. S. Navy Office of Naval Intelligence Worldwide Threat to Shipping (WTS) Report 9 April - 9 May 2018 and HORN OF AFRICA/GULF OF GUINEA/ SOUTHEAST ASIA: Piracy Analysis and Warning Weekly (PAWW) Report for 3 - 9 May 2018

Note that the WTS report refers to a U. S.- Computer Emergency Readiness Team (U.S.-CERT) Alert Russian State-Sponsored Cyber Actors Targeting Network Infrastructure Devices:
... FBI has high confidence that Russian state-sponsored cyber actors are using compromised routers to conduct man-in-the-middle attacks to support espionage, extract intellectual property, maintain persistent access to victim networks, and potentially lay a foundation for future offensive operations.

DHS, FBI, and NCSC urge readers to act on past alerts and advisories issued by the U.S. and U.K. Governments, allied governments, network device manufacturers, and private-sector security organizations. Elements from these alerts and advisories have been selected and disseminated in a wide variety of security news outlets and social media platforms. The current state of U.S. network devices—coupled with a Russian government campaign to exploit these devices—threatens the safety, security, and economic well-being of the United States.

The purpose of this TA is to inform network device vendors, ISPs, public-sector organizations, private-sector corporations, and small office home office (SOHO) customers about the Russian government campaign, provide information to identify malicious activity, and reduce exposure to this activity.

Thursday, May 10, 2018

"A Fleet Must Be Able to Fight"

A Fleet Must Be Able to Fight by Admiral Scott Swift is a need to read look into the the thinking of the Commander of the U. S. Pacific Fleet on preparing to fight a fleet.
A fleet is the Navy’s essential fighting element, our central contribution to the joint fight and to the nation’s defense. Forming a fleet into a coherent fighting organization brings an inherently integrated multi-domain warfighting structure. The natural synergies enjoyed by the surface, subsurface, and air domains are obvious and speak to our current day-to-day warfighting organization. Deliberate inclusion of the organic Fleet Marine Force and Naval Expeditionary Combat Command expeditionary capabilities enhance the fleet organization into one that can fight a highly mobile, maneuver-focused naval campaign sustained in austere locations over time. As we contemplate peer-level maritime adversaries, we need to recall the Navy’s foundational strength and resiliency. In response, we have focused the Pacific Fleet into full-spectrum and multi-domain numbered fleets within theater-level warfighting organizations capable of overmatching any adversary. Careful focus at the operational level of war is necessary to craft and wield this force
The cautionary part of the piece points to a lack of preparation of flag officers to carry out the mission of "fighting the fleet" -
But after what will be five years in command of two fleets, I find myself making similar observations as Admiral Willard: There is no classroom instruction and little doctrine or guidance for fighting a fleet.
The article then lays out Admiral Swift's observations on "...the fleet as a combat formation."

It has been about 73 years since the U. S. Navy fought as fleets. Admiral Swift's thoughts are timely indeed.

Very much worth the time to read and contemplate.

Wednesday, May 09, 2018

Warning Shot: "[T}he rapid depletion of the U.S. commercial fleet size" and a shortage of civilian mariners as threat to National Security

The unique role of the U.S. Merchant Marine in peace and war remains grossly misunderstood by the public at large. The industry’s role during every crisis the nation has faced since its founding days is well documented, but it is either rarely recognized or often forgotten by the citizenry. Its increasingly vital national security role remains a complete enigma to the populace. That part of the Merchant Marine mission and its strategic role in global force projection, along with the maintenance of national security interests worldwide, must become much more widely known and recognized.
This warning from Dr. Sashi Kumar in the paywall protected USNI Proceedings article2018 U.S. Merchant Marine and World Maritime Review is timely and important.
The need for a U.S. merchant marine “capable of serving as a naval and military auxiliary in time of war or national emergency” was further emphasized in the Merchant Marine Act of 1936, and later in the National Security Directive 28 implemented on 28 October 1989. To fulfill this mandate, 61 commercial ships are maintained on five-day readiness status by a skeleton crew at the behest of the U.S. Transportation Command through the Maritime Administration (MarAd) and the Military Sealift Command.  These vessels constitute the logistics backbone for troop mobilization and force projection.
Losing from the current fleet any more than two commercial ships and the mariners they employ will impact significantly the Ready Reserve Force’s (RRF’s) capability. Given the voluntary nature of mariner services and the likelihood of all future mobilizations being in a contested and hazardous operating environment, the assumption that all qualified mariners will report when called upon is simply unrealistic. A recent report to Congress identified the need for 13,607 qualified mariners for sustaining the mobilization and commercial operations concurrently under highly optimistic assumptions of no loss of life or property. The identified pool of mariners will therefore provide three to four months of force projection support at best, taking into account the necessary crew rotations.
We have a shortage of civilian Mariners and a shortage of U.S. commercial hulls.

Here's the report prepared by a working group, "U.S. Maritime Transportation System National Advisory Committee
(MTSNAC) and the MWWG in consultation with Coast Guard Merchant Marine Personnel Advisory Committee (MERPAC)and the Committee on Marine Transportation Systems (CMTS)

The MWWG estimates that 11,768 qualified mariners with unlimited credentials as described above are available to crew the Ready Reserve Force. The number of mariners required to activate the entire
surge fleet as well as operate the commercial fleet concurrently is 11,678 and is documented within this Report. Thus, MWWG estimates that there are sufficient mariners working in the industry to activate the surge fleet if the entire pool of qualified United States citizen mariners identified by MWWG are available and willing to sail when required. This assumption is of paramount importance given the
voluntary nature of mariner service. Should the need for mariner services be prolonged through concurrent sustained sealift and commercial fleet operations, it will necessitate crew rotations and
accordingly, increased demand for additional qualified mariners from the identified subset. Currently the estimated demand for mariners with unlimited credentials under such operating conditions is
13,607. Thus, the Report documents a deficit of mariners with unlimited credentials to meet the national security and force projection needs. The deficit will escalate if actively sailing qualified mariners
from the identified base are unable or unwilling to continue sailing during times of national emergency. It is to be noted that the willingness to sail either commercially or as part of the surge sealift fleet during such times is presently unknown and beyond measurement . . .
Well worth the read, and something to talk to your elected representatives about.

For those of you interested in such matters, a USNI membership is vital. An "online" membership is only $39 a year, and you can find info here.

Saturday, May 05, 2018

Saturday Is Old Radio Day: The Astronaut

On this day in 1961, then CDR Alan Shepard became the first U.S. astronaut in space

Before that, there was, in the days before political correctness took over, a little humor in the space world

On Midrats 6 May 2018 - Episode 435: STEM and the Education of a Navy Leader

Please join us at 5pm EDT on 6 May 2018 for Midrats Episode 435: STEM and the Education of a Navy Leader
The majority of our officers come from two sources, NROTC and the
United States Naval Academy. The Navy has a policy a bias towards STEM majors (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) to the point where 65 percent of USNA Midshipmen major in STEM.

Is this in the best interest of educating future officers of our modern Navy and Marine Corps so they can effectively lead Sailors and Marines at war and peace?

To discuss this and related issues for the full hour will be USNA Midshipman First Class Kirk Wolff. We will use his recent Proceedings Today article, Rethinking the Naval Academy Curriculum as a starting off point.

Kirk is origionally from Morristown, Tennessee. He majored in
Political Science at USNA and will serve as a surface warfare officer upon commissioning on May 25, 2018.
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.

Thursday, May 03, 2018

Fun with Russia: Ukraine Proposal - Danube River Exclusion of Russian Shipping Due to "Terrorism Threat"

Reported as Ukraine Threatens to Block Russian Shipping on the Danube
Yury Lavrenyuk, Ukraine’s deputy infrastructure minister, announced that his agency had “appealed to the National Security and Defense Council regarding the prohibition of the entrance of Russian ships into the domestic waterways of Ukraine because of the high level of terrorist threats” such ships allegedly present. Allowing such ships to pass, he said “is impermissible” because there is “critical infrastructure” along such waterways. His words drew support from other Ukrainian ministries and agencies.
In response to Moscow’s threat to bottle up Ukrainian shipping within the shared Azov Sea, the Ukrainian government is currently considering a plan to block Russia’s use of the Danube River. Ukraine’s infrastructure ministry has proposed closing to all Russian shipping the canal in the extreme southeast border region of Ukraine, which vessels use to pass the Danube delta, from the Black Sea to the upstream Danube proper. Such an action would affect relatively small numbers of ships. Nonetheless, Russian officials are clearly worried it could reduce their ability to supply countries in the Balkans. At present, however, the possibility of such a ban is only a threat. And it is likely part of a complex implicit negotiation between Kyiv and Moscow about free passage through the Kerch Strait, across which Russia is building a bridge to occupied Crimea (see EDM, February 12, 22), and about the use of ports in that occupied Ukrainian peninsula by Russian shipping.
About the Azoz Sea threat, see Jamestown Foundation's Paul Goble's Russian Navy Preparing to Bottle up Ukrainian Shipping in Sea of Azov:
From Moscow’s point of view, its loss of control over much of the Black Sea littoral and ports as a result of the disintegration of the Soviet Union is a serious problem, one that Russian moves first in Abkhazia and then in Crimea were intended to help solve. Indeed, even before the Crimean annexation in 2014, Russian commentators talked about depriving Ukraine of its access to the sea by creating a new “Novorossiya” state that would extend to the borders of Moldova and possibly even include Transnistria .... Now, in the wake of Ukraine’s seizure of two vessels for violating its territorial waters (see below), Moscow officials are openly suggesting that the Russian Navy could limit or even block the transit of Ukrainian ships, civilian and military, through the Kerch Straits. This would effectively make the Sea of Azov an internal Russian waterway, something officials in Moscow had hinted at in the past, in discussions about the supposed need to defend President Vladimir Putin’s Crimea bridge from attack ..
On March 25, the Ukrainian border guard service detained the Russian-flagged fishing vessel Nord, which was operating in Ukrainian waters, in the Sea of Azov. The boat, registered in Crimea, and its ten crew members were escorted to the Azov Sea port of Berdiansk (, March 26). They are currently awaiting trial in Ukraine. Then, on April 10, Ukrainian authorities arrested a Russian dredger ship, temporarily docked in the Odessa-region port of Yuzhny, for allegedly carrying out illegal sand extraction works in occupied Crimea (TASS, April 10).
So much fun, so much positioning.

On the map, circle to the left is the Danube area and the one to the right is the Sea of Azov and the Kerch Strait.