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Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Fast, Heavily Armed Littoral Combat Ships

Sometimes you kill a platform too soon. Sometimes you don't.

Take the patrol hydrofoil ships that the Navy once had, for example. Fast, well-armed anti-surface ship hydrofoils meant to play in the littorals. Pretty reliable, too, and minimally crewed. Four officers, 17 enlisted. Eight Harpoon missiles, small gun (76mm) up front, 48 kts (55 mph). See here.

The downside? Well, according to this Popular Mechanics piece, When the U.S. Navy Had Tiny Hot Rods That Flew Over the Sea:The Pegasus class hydrofoils were a ship in search of a mission.
The six ships of the Pegasus class—Pegasus, Hercules, Taurus, Aquilla, Aries, and Gemini—could certainly sink big ships. But the Navy soon realized that was pretty much all they could do. They couldn't operate with the rest of the fleet, hunt submarines, shoot down enemy aircraft, or do all the other things corvettes, frigates, and destroyers could. Pegasus was a one-trick pony, and her trick could be done by other platforms, including missile-carrying aircraft that the U.S. Navy already had in the hundreds.

Couldn't do ASW? Couldn't do AAW? Perhaps not in the days the PHMs were designed, but they weren't designed for those mission. Nothing in the rule book says that you couldn't lay patterns of sonobuoys from a PHM and receive signals from them in an "ASW-configured" PHM with some torpedo tubes. Nothing said you couldn't provide anti-air missiles on "AAW-configured" PHMs. You could probably even have other platforms that could operate helicopters or unmanned aircraft from their decks. And perhaps have PHM tender lurking about to do the work that tenders used to do in the absence of shore bases.

A counter-argument to the PM piece from the Christian Science Monitor in 1983 The US Navy's daring new ship: Will six be enough?:
''They [the PHM vessels] can be a better use of resources,'' enthuses retired Capt. Gil Slonim, now president of the Oceanic Education Foundation in Falls Church, Va. ''Should the Navy assign a 3,000- to 10,000-ton ship costing $500 million plus to carry out a task which could be accomplished by a 250-ton ship costing $100 million and with far fewer people? In that context, there is a place for hydrofoils.

''You can't just think single-purpose ships. You have to think mission, the total fleet mission of controlling the seas and projecting power overseas for our island nation,'' Mr. Slonim continues. ''Hydrofoils point the Navy toward 21 st century technology.''

Nothing said you couldn't have squadrons of these things operate together in teams consisting of ASW, ASUW, and AAW units working together depending on the perceived threats in littoral and archipelago areas. Like, say, the Philippines . . . From Navysite:
The PHM project was started in early 1970 by CNO Admiral Elmo Zumwalt in an effort to increase the Navy's number of surface combatants. The project called for a cost-effective hydrofoil boat designed to operate in coastal waters and equipped to fulfill the missions of destroyers and frigates in those areas so that these larger ships could be deployed to areas where they are needed more. These missions included surface surveillance as well as immediate responses (SSM missiles for example) to any hostile actions conducted by enemy navies. (emphasis added)

Lack of imagination, I suppose, coupled with the aviation bias and big gray hull bias of "Big Navy." At any rate, instead of modifying the design to change "one trick" into "several tricks," PHMs died.

Too soon.

So 40 years later we screw around with much bigger, far more costly hulls which still await technology that will allow them to be AAW, ASUW and ASW competent, except for their main weapon system, the attached helicopter/Fire Scout detachment.

Too late.

Nice PHM history article at Hydrofoil World.

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Geography and National Strategy: Russia and China

If you listened to our discussion on Baltic Security with Dan Lynch and Bruce Acker (embedded below), you heard a great deal of talk about geography and the challenges faced by countries in confronting the realities that geography forces on them, especially in terms of national strategy and employment of forces.

In that vein, it seems useful to review some geographic challenges faced by some major countries. Dr. George Friedman had a nice article up on the Forbes website, back in February 2016, 10 Maps That Explain Russia's Strategy, which I commend to your reading.
Many people think of maps in terms of their basic purpose: showing a country’s geography and topography. But maps can speak to all dimensions—political, military, and economic.

Dr. Friedman uses maps to discuss Russia's issues:
  1.  Russia Is Almost Landlocked;
  2.  Europe Controls Russia’s Access to the Oceans;
  3.  The Western Border is Critical to Russia’s Infrastructure;
  4.  Russia Has Lost Its Buffer Against the West;
  5.  Now Russia Has Nothing to Lose;
  6.  Difficulties Unite the Russians;
Dr. Friedman compare Russia to Sparta and Athens comes down on the side that declares Russia is more akin to Sparta:
Therefore, Russia can’t be Athens. It must be Sparta, and that means it must be a land power and assume the cultural character of a Spartan nation. Russia must have tough if not sophisticated troops fighting ground wars. It must also be able to produce enough wealth to sustain its military as well as provide a reasonable standard of living for its people—but Russia will not be able to match Europe in this regard.

So it isn’t prosperity that binds the country together, but a shared idealized vision of and loyalty toward Mother Russia. And in this sense, there is a deep chasm between both Europe and the United States (which use prosperity as a justification for loyalty) and Russia (for whom loyalty derives from the power of the state and the inherent definition of being Russian).
All of this gives the Russians an opportunity. However bad their economy is at the moment, the simplicity of their geographic position in all respects gives them capabilities that can surprise their opponents and perhaps even make the Russians more dangerous.

Dr. Friedman also penned another Forbes piece, 5 Maps That Explain China's Strategy, in which he undertakes a review of China's geographic challenges:
In effect, China is an island in Eurasia. It can move money around and sometimes technology, but not large modern armies. Therefore, China is not a threat to its neighbors, nor are they a threat to China. China’s primary strategic interest is maintaining the territorial integrity of China from internal threats. If it lost control of Tibet or Xinjiang, the PRC’s borders would move far east, the buffer for Han China would disappear, and then China would face a strategic crisis. Therefore, its goal is to prevent that crisis by suppressing any independence movement in Tibet or Xinjiang.
The core strategy of China is internal. It has only one external strategic interest—the seas to the east.
China has vital maritime interests built around global trade. The problem is the sea lanes are not under its control, but rather under American control. In addition, China has a geographic problem. Its coastal seas are the South China Sea, south of Taiwan, and the East China Sea, to its north. Both seas are surrounded by archipelagos of island states ranging from Japan to Singapore with narrow passages between them. These passages could be closed at will by the US Navy. The US could, if it chose, blockade China. In national strategy, the question of intent is secondary to the question of capability. Since the US is capable of this, China is looking for a counter.

One counter would be to establish naval bases elsewhere in Asia. However, isolated by a US blockade from these bases, this would be of little use besides shaping regional psychology. Ultimately, the Chinese must create a force that would make it impossible to block access to the Indian and Pacific Oceans.
China’s stop-gap measure is its large number of anti-ship missiles. These missiles are designed to push the United States back from crucial choke points in the seas surrounding China. The problem with these missiles is that the US can destroy them. The US can’t close the choke points while the missiles are there, but the US has the capability to map China’s anti-ship network and attack it before moving into the choke points. China then must control at least some of these strategic passages from air, sea, and land on the islands of the archipelago. And the key island, Taiwan, is beyond China’s ability to seize.
China, therefore, has three strategic imperatives, two of them internal and one unattainable in any meaningful time frame. First, it must maintain control over Xinjiang and Tibet. Second, it must preserve the regime and prevent regionalism through repressive actions and purges. Third, it must find a solution to its enclosure in the East and South China Seas. In the meantime, it must assert a naval capability in the region without triggering an American response that the Chinese are not ready to deal with.

The Chinese geopolitical reality is that it is an isolated country that is also deeply divided internally. Its strategic priority, therefore, is internal stability. Isolation amidst internal disorder has been China’s worst case scenario. The government of President Jinping Xi is working aggressively to avert this instability, and this issue defines everything else China does. The historical precedent is that China will regionalize and become internally unstable. Therefore, Xi is trying to avert historical precedent.
You should read the whole thing.

You may disagree with Dr. Friedman's assessments, but the underlying discussion of geography and its relation to national strategies is invaluable.

UPDATE: Nice reminder of the need for strategists (or would-be strategists) to revisit geography, in David Hansen's The Immutable Importance of Geography from 1997:
Misunderstanding or misusing geography can confuse our thinking and thwart our best efforts at developing effective national security strategy. Knowledgeably and sensibly applied, however, geography is a discipline that can clarify strategic issues and increase the chances of success in any political, economic, or military endeavor.

Monday, August 29, 2016

U.S. Navy Office of Naval Intelligence Worldwide Threat to Shipping (WTS) Report 26 July - 24 August 2016

A look at such crimes for 2016 from the excellent ICC Commercial Crimes Services International Maritime Bureau's Live Piracy Map:


Hotspots -
 Gulf of Guinea:

Southeast Asia:

The good news is that the IMB reports Sea piracy drops to 21-year low:
Piracy and armed robbery at sea has fallen to its lowest levels since 1995, despite a surge in kidnappings off West Africa, according to a new report from the International Chamber of Commerce's International Maritime Bureau (IMB).

IMB's global piracy report shows 98 incidents in the first half of 2016, compared with 134 for the same period in 2015. When piracy was at its highest, in 2010 and 2003, IMB recorded 445 attacks a year.

In the first half of 2016, IMB recorded 72 vessels boarded, five hijackings, and a further 12 attempted attacks. Nine ships were fired upon. Sixty-four crew were taken hostage onboard, down from 250 in the same period last year.

"This drop in world piracy is encouraging news. Two main factors are recent improvements around Indonesia, and the continued deterrence of Somali pirates off East Africa," said Pottengal Mukundan, Director of IMB, whose global Piracy Reporting Centre has supported the shipping industry, authorities and navies for 25 years.

"But ships need to stay vigilant, maintain security and report all attacks, as the threat of piracy remains, particularly off Somalia and in the Gulf of Guinea," he said.
Despite global improvements, kidnappings are on the rise, with 44 crew captured for ransom in 2016, 24 of them in Nigeria, up from 10 in the first half of 2015.

"In the Gulf of Guinea, rather than oil tankers being hijacked for their cargo, there is an increasing number of incidents of crew being kidnapped for ransom," said Captain Mukundan.
Kidnapping off the Philippines is on-going, too, as a means of funding self-identified ISIS affiliate Abu Sayyaf.

Sunday, August 28, 2016

On Midrats 28 August 2016 - Epsiode 347: Baltic Security with Bruce Acker and Dan Lynch

Please join us at 5pm (EDT) for Midrats Episode 347: Baltic Security with Bruce Acker and Dan Lynch
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 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.
Due to the location of our guests, the show was recorded earlier today. Listen to the show to at 5pm or pick it up later by clicking here. You can also get the show later from our iTunes page or from our Stitcher page.

Saturday, August 27, 2016

Saturday Is Old Radio Day: Adventure Ahead! "The Biscuit Eater" (1944)

Honoring National Dog Day, here's a tale of a boy and his dog from the series Adventure Ahead!, which seems to have specialized in tales meant to inspire the youth of the day:

More on the series here:
Adventure Ahead! was a brilliant Summer feature for 1944. Comprised of fourteen stirring adventure novels and stories from among America's greatest fiction writers, its somewhat more masculine orientation may have kept some of the young females of the era listening to Frank Sinatra that summer instead of Adventure Ahead!.
That having been said, each of these literary choices did have a uniting theme--defending Freedom, domestically and abroad. To be fair to NBC's programmers, there were several jingoistic, over the top, almost fascist 'public service programs' geared toward every facet of the domestic population at one time or another during the World War II years and the Cold War Years that followed....

Friday, August 26, 2016

Friday Film: "Saga of USS Franklin"

Aircraft carrier pummeled but . . .

UPDATE: Yes, it's a rerun here, but it's a great story.

UPDATE2: Here's fresh meat (from 1943), an Army/Chuck Jones/Mel Blanc cartoon about spies. This was before people just hacked into unsecure servers . . .

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Iran's Fingers in the Many Middle East Puppets

Interesting insight into Iran's proxies in the various Middle East messes from Amir Toumaj at The Long War Journal's IRGC commander discusses Afghan militia, ‘Shia liberation army,’ and Syria:
Discussing Iran’s military commitments, Falaki noted that Iran’s proxies are fighting on three major fronts: Syria, Iraq, and Yemen.

“One front of this army is in Syria, the other in Iraq, and another in Yemen,” he stated.

The first two are well known, though the claim about Yemen reflects the IRGC’s ultimate goal more than facts on the ground. The Houthis are known to be militarily and politically supported by the IRGC, though the Guard may not exercise full control over the Houthis. The IRGC’s objective is to use the Houthis as a foothold in the Arabian Peninsula, on Saudi Arabia’s southern border. The suspicion of the Houthis being a full Iranian proxy is precisely the reason the Saudis and allies have launched a war in Yemen.

The Houthis, however, are not IRGC proxies like the Fatemiyoun and Iraqi militias. Houthi leaders have publicly complained about IRGC claims of full support. A senior Houthi official in March lashed out at a senior IRGC commander who claimed that the Guard would support the Houthis anyway it could, criticizing Tehran for “exploiting” the Yemeni file.

The Houthis exercise some measure of independence, and do not presently appear to be inclined to serve as the IRGC’s proxy in a perpetual fight against Saudi Arabia, as noted by Yemen scholars.

What is clear is the IRGC’s strategy to exploit the war in Yemen, primarily to be a thorn in Saudi Arabia’s side. They want to perpetuate the perception that Houthis are full Iranian proxies to elicit harsher Saudi reactions. The IRGC hopes that the continuation of conflict will leave the Houthis no choice but to fight and fully embrace the IRGC in order to survive.
Recommended reading, just like Long War Journal always is.

Good thing we have paid so much money to Iran to advance their peaceful intentions.

Sometime it seems we forget how relatively small an area we are dealing with in the Middle East. Here's a nice U.S. government map I liberated from here that might help put things in some perspective:

A Musical Interlude

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

North Korea Threatens Preemptive Suicide If It Doesn't Get Its Way

Well, it's not so much what the headlines say (as in "DPRK warns of preemptive strikes as U.S.-South Korea war games kick off" or "Pyongyang threatens pre-emptive nuclear strike on US-South Korea military drill",) but more what the effect of such strikes would be on the brutal dictatorship of the current Kim-in-Power (KIP).

As the International Business Times reports here:
North Korea has yet again threatened to mount a pre-emptive nuclear strike on the US-South Korea joint military exercise, which is set to kick off on 22 August. Tens of thousands of South Korean and American troops are already in the Korean peninsula to take part in the two-week-long annual drill.

Pyongyang views the military exercise termed Ulchi Freedom Guardian as a rehearsal for an actual attack on the North. It said that a nuclear war may "break out any moment" given the volatility in the Korean peninsula.

"They should properly know that from this moment the first-strike combined units of the KPA keep themselves fully ready to mount a preemptive retaliatory strike at all enemy attack groups involved in Ulchi Freedom Guardian," Pyongyang's state-run Korean Central News Agency (KNCA) said in its latest dispatch.

It added that Washington and Seoul "should bear in mind that if they show the slightest sign of aggression on (DPRK's) inviolable land, seas and air ..., it would turn the stronghold of provocation into a heap of ashes through Korean-style preemptive nuclear strike".
Perhaps Kim is looking for more aid to feed his ever hungry population and is, once again, resorting to nuclear blackmail. Whatever his reasons, he undoubtedly knows any act on his part will spell the doom of both his country and, more to the point, of him and all his minions.

Gotta love KIP in the cockpit trying to pretend like he has any idea of what he's looking at. Sort of an analogy . . .

U.S. Navy Office of Naval Intelligence Worldwide Threat to Shipping (WTS) Report 19 July - 17 August 2016

Saturday, August 20, 2016

On Midrats 21 August Episode 346: "The Farsi Island Incident – Is the Navy a Learning Institution?"

Please join us at 5pm (EDT) for Midrats Episode 346: The Farsi Island Incident – Is the Navy a Learning Institution?
The thankfully bloodless embarrassment that was the Farsi Island Incident is still making news after the January 12, 2016 seizure of 10 U.S. sailors by Iranian forces. Especially for our Surface Warfare community, there are a lot of hard, cold lessons here not just about the incident itself, leadership and professionalism – and institutional lessons about how conditions are set and organizations are sub-optimized to a degree that an incident - in hindsight – was just a matter of “when” vice “if.”

Using his recent article at CIMSEC on the topic, our guest for the full hour to discuss the background leading up to the Farsi Island incident, its aftermath, and the lessons we should be taking from it will be Alan Cummings, LT USN.

Alan is a 2007 graduate of Jacksonville University. He served previously as a surface warfare officer aboard a destroyer, embedded with a USMC infantry battalion, and as a Riverine Detachment OIC. The views expressed in the article and on Midrats are his own and in no way reflect the official position of the U.S. Navy.
Join us live if you can by clicking here. You can also pick the show up later at that link, or by visiting our iTunes page or our Stitcher page.

Saturday Is Old Radio Day: "Standby for Crime"

A radio newscaster as a hero who gets tips from a lieutenant in the police
department . . .

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Sea Piracy of Various Forms and the U.S. Navy Office of Naval Intelligence Worldwide Threat to Shipping (WTS) Report 12 July - 10 August 2016

Classic piracy as reported by the Maritime Herald Product tanker Ad Matsu attacked by pirates in South China Sea
The asphalt and bitumen product tanker Ad Matsu was attacked by pirates in South China Sea on 15 nautical miles north off Tanjung Berakit, Indonesia. The vessel was en route from Singapore to Hai Phong, Vietnam, but near the island Pulau Bintan was reached by fast boat from the starboard. Six armed men succeeded to board
Box is general area of attack
the vessel and took control of the tanker. The crew was locked in the mess room, while pirates robbed the vessel and stole all the cash and valuables of the seamen. After robbery the pirates abandoned the vessel and fled away to Malaysia. There were no injured seamen from the product tanker Ad Matsu during the piracy attack. The crew reported about the accident and vessel returned in operations.

The Indonesian Navy found and arrested one of the pirates in large scale anti-piracy operation. The young man was arrested and will be investigated and judged for piracy according to the Indonesian laws.

Fishing "piracy" off Somalia seems to be back as reported by the Australian Broadcasting Corporation in As piracy is contained, Somali fishermen again compete with illegal vessels in their waters:
When the horn of Africa's infamous pirate gangs first emerged two decades ago, they were Somali fishermen arming themselves to fight off illegal fishing boats from other parts of the world.

International patrol vessels now guard Somalia's coastline making the waters relatively safe. The pirates are gone but that's created the opportunity for illegal fishing activity by Asian and European interests. Once again these high seas trawlers are competing with the locals and there are fears tensions could again escalate.
Not so sure the "pirate gangs" were all that innocent in the old days . . . on the other hand some Somali warlords were licensing fishing boats to operate in Somali waters to the detriment of Somali fishermen. See The Two Piracies in Somalia: Why the World Ignores the Other? by Mohamed Abshir Waldo:
In arrangements with Somali warlords, new companies were formed abroad for bogus fishing licensing purposes. Jointly owned mafia Somali-European companies set up in Europe and Arabia worked closely with Somali warlords who issued them fake fishing “licenses” to any foreign fishing pirate willing to plunder the Somali marine resources. UK and Italy based African and Middle East Trading Co. (AFMET), PALMERA and UAE based SAMICO companies were some of the corrupt vehicles issuing such counterfeit licenses as well as fronting for the warlords who shared the loot.

Among technical advisors to the Mafia companies – AFMET, PALMIRA & SAMICO - were supposedly reputable firms like MacAllister Elliot & Partners of the UK. Warlords Gen. Mohamed Farah Aidiid, Gen. Mohamed Hersi Morgan, Osman Atto and Ex-President Ali Mahdi Mohamed officially and in writing gave authority to AFMET to issue fishing “licenses”, which local fishermen and marine experts call it simply a “deal between thieves”. According to Africa Analysis of November 13, 1998, AFMET alone “licensed” 43 seiners (mostly Spanish, at $30,000 per 4-month season. Spanish Pesca Nova was “licensed” by AFMET while French Cobracaf group got theirs from SAMICO at a much discounted rate of $15,000 per season per vessel.

Monday, August 15, 2016

Following up on our radio show, "Episode 345: Fisheries as a Strategic Maritime Resource"

UN FAO report - The State of World Fisheries and Aquaculture 2016:
Contributing to food security and nutrition for all
Fisheries and aquaculture remain important sources of food, nutrition, income and livelihoods for hundreds of millions of people around the world. World per capita fish supply reached a new record high of 20 kg in 2014, thanks to vigorous growth in aquaculture, which now provides half of all fish for human consumption, and to a slight improvement in the state of certain fish stocks due to improved fisheries management. Moreover, fish continues to be one of the most-traded food commodities worldwide with more than half of fish exports by value originating in developing countries. Recent reports by high-level experts, international organizations, industry and civil society representatives all highlight the tremendous potential of the oceans and inland waters now, and even more so in the future, to contribute significantly to food security and adequate nutrition for a global population expected to reach 9.7 billion by 2050.
Yes, it's 204 pages of pdf, but well worth looking through.

Lots of good info:
The state of the world’s marine fish stocks has not improved overall, despite notable progress in some areas. Based on FAO’s analysis of assessed commercial fish stocks, the share of fish stocks within biologically sustainable levels decreased from 90 percent in 1974 to 68.6 percent in 2013. Thus, 31.4 percent of fish stocks were estimated as fished at a biologically unsustainable level and therefore overfished. . .

China is the world's largest consumer of fish. On the other had, it is also the leader in aquaculture, in 2011 it produced 61.6% the world total in aquaculture. The U.S. in the same year produced 0.8%. (FAO numbers)

The U.S. imports 90+% (in value) of its seafood, of which about 1/2 is from aquaculture (mainly shrimp). Interestingly,
". . . NOAA Fisheries data shows that a significant portion of this imported seafood is caught by American fishermen, exported overseas for processing, and then imported back to the U.S."

The 2014 NOAA report "Fisheries of the United States" can be found here. This report discusses

In 2013, estimated freshwater plus marine U.S. aquaculture production was 653 million pounds with a value of $1.38 billion, an increase of 59 million pounds (10%) in volume and 145 million (12%) in value from 2012. Atlantic salmon was the leading species for marine finfish aquaculture, with 41.6 million pounds produced essentially unchanged from 2012. Atlantic Salmon produced was valued at $105 million (up 36%). Oysters have the highest volume for marine shellfish production. (35 million pounds, up 1%) The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) estimates that nearly half of the world’s consumption of seafood comes from aquaculture. Globally, Asia is the leading continent for aquaculture production volume with 89 percent of the global total of 70.2 million metric tons. The top five producing countries are in Asia: China, with 62 percent of the global total; India, 6 percent; Indonesia, 5 percent; Viet Nam, 5 percent; and Bangladesh 3 percent. The United States ranks fourteenth in production.
Over 15 U.S. states are producing trout via aquaculture with the leader in that field being Idaho which produces about 75% if U.S. "farmed" trout according to the United States Trout Farming Association.

The U.S. needs to push for more aqualculture, both for the food production aspect and also for the jobs that such production can produce. It's also a national security issue in terms of safe-guarding our food supply.

Saturday, August 13, 2016

On Midrats 14 August 2016 - Episode 345: Fisheries as a Strategic Maritime Resource

Please join us for a live show at 5pm EDT (US) on 14 August 2016 for Midrats Episode 345: Fisheries as a Strategic Maritime Resource
We live in a crowded world with limited resources. What happens when this meets modern technology's ability to shorten the time/distance equation and increase the ability to know of what lies below the waves?

What complications do we fine when the above two points meet up with the eternal search by growing nations to reach for the seas to support their homeland's growing needs?

As populations demand more protein in their diets as per capita incomes rise, many nations see the open seas as the best place to fill that demand. With more competing for shrinking resources, can fishing be seen as a security threat? How does it impact coastal states' economic, food, and environmental security? What are the roles of transnational organized crime and state power in this competition. Is international law being strengthened to meet this challenge, or is the challenge undermining the rule of law? More than last century's quaint "Cod Wars," does this have the potential trigger to broader, more serious conflict?

Our guest to discuss this and more will be Scott Cheney-Peters, LT, USNR.

Scott serves as a civil servant on the staff of the Chief of Naval Operations, and is the founder of the Center for International Maritime Security (CIMSEC).

Scott's active duty service at sea included the USS Fitzgerald (DDG 62) and USS Oak Hill (LSD 41). His shore duty before leaving active service was in Washington, DC, where he served as the editor of Surface Warfare magazine.

Scott graduated from Georgetown University with a B.A. in English and Government and holds an M.A. in National Security and Strategic Studies from the U.S. Naval War College. Scott researches issues affecting Asian maritime security and national security applications of emerging technology.
Join us live if you can (or pick the show up later) by clicking here. You can also pick the show up later (along with previous epsiodes) from our iTunes page here or from our Stitcher page here.

Saturday Is Old Radio Day: The Sealed Book - "Devil Island"

About The Sealed Book:
The Sealed Book was a radio series of mystery and terror tales, produced and directed by Jock MacGregor for the Mutual network. Between March 18 and September 9, 1945, the melodramatic anthology series was broadcast on Sundays from 10:30pm to 11:00pm.
Each week, after "the sound of the great gong," host Philip Clarke observed that the mysteriously silent "keeper of the book has opened the ponderous door to the secret vault wherein is kept the great sealed book, in which is recorded all the secrets and mysteries of mankind through the ages, Here are tales of every kind, tales of murder, of madness, of dark deeds strange and terrible beyond all belief."
From that short-lived series, here's "Devil Island" -

Friday, August 12, 2016

Friday Film: "Story of a Naval Gunfire Mission" (1968)

Heavy gun cruiser USS Newport News (CA 148) uses its 8" guns in a fire support mission off Vietnam circa 1968. Posted on YouTube by Dexter Goad.

Newport News had the call sign of "Thunder" which was very appropriate. Seemed like they always had some guy with a deep voice on the radio answering your call by saying "This is Thunder, over." James Earl Jones had nothing on those guys.

USS Pyro (AE-24) rearmed her any number of times following the "Easter Invasion" of 1972. There was a special effort made to make sure that ammo for the big guns was kept near the gun line - so ammo ships (AEs, AORs and AOEs) carrying it always transferred it to another ammo ship before or during transiting back to Subic Bay.

Sadly, during that year there was an explosion in her #2 turret and 20 young lives ended. Nice article behind the USNI paywall at 2012's "Fire in Turret Two! "commemorating the 40th anniversary of the incident:
A complete inquiry, conducted by retired Vice Admirals K. S. Masterson and L. M. Mustin a month later, identified the cause of the explosion to be a defective auxiliary detonating fuse, which had prematurely fired. The fuse’s manufacturer, the Bermite Powder Company, and the commands responsible for quality control and testing—the Defense Contract Administration Services and Naval Ordnance Systems Command—were named as responsible parties. The investigation report noted that the Navy’s diffused organizational structure at the time vested authority and accountability for ordnance in multiple commanders, and the authors recommended that the Naval Ordnance Systems Command be given subsequent control over all ordnance matters, including design, procurement, testing, and life-cycle technical control. The authors also criticized the standard practice of inspection sampling and recommended 100-percent inspections at several successive phases of manufacture and assembly.

Thursday, August 11, 2016

UAVs for Everyone: Navy Deploys Small UAV to Ships

Seapower magazine reports U.S. Navy Deploying Newly Designated RQ-20B AeroVironment Puma AE:
The U.S. Navy has tested and deployed the AeroVironment RQ-20B Puma small
AeroVironment image
unmanned aircraft system (UAS) aboard a Flight I Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer, the company announced in an Aug. 11 release. Some of these exercises included the use of AeroVironment’s fully autonomous system to recover the aircraft aboard a ship. The U.S. Navy issued a report on Aug. 3 from the Arabian Gulf describing how Puma AE is also being utilized on Navy patrol craft.

Following completion of a Puma AE intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance mission, the AeroVironment Precision Recovery System provides for the autonomous on-board recovery of the aircraft, without interrupting the ship’s operations. Because the Puma AE is also designed to land and float in water, operators can choose to recover it from the ocean, should mission requirements dictate.

The AeroVironment Precision Recovery System occupies a small footprint and can be managed and operated by members of a ship’s crew, as opposed to requiring external contractors. It is transported in tactical packaging that can be hand-carried aboard and readily transferred from one ship to another.

“Our Precision Recovery System expands the capability of Puma AE to support maritime operations,” Kirk Flittie, vice president and general manager of AeroVironment’s Unmanned Aircraft Systems business segment, said in the release. “This solution also builds on AeroVironment’s extensive operational experience with small UAS to provide the Navy with a low-cost, hand-launched capability optimized for contested environments. Puma AE’s ability to operate from a wide variety of surface vessels ensures rapid response reconnaissance capabilities that help our customers operate more safely and effectively and proceed with certainty.”
More info from the manufacturer:
The Puma AE (All Environment) is a small unmanned aircraft system (UAS) designed for land based and maritime operations. Capable of landing in the water or on land, the Puma AE empowers the operator with an operational flexibility never before available in the small UAS class.

The Puma AE is durable with a reinforced fuselage construction, man portable for ease of mobility and requires no auxiliary equipment for launch or recovery operations. The system is quiet to avoid detection and operates autonomously, providing persistent intelligence, surveillance, reconnaissance and targeting data (ISRT).

The Puma AE delivers 3.5+ hours of flight endurance, with versatile smart battery options to support diverse mission requirements. Its powerful propulsion system and aerodynamic design make it efficient and easy to launch, especially in high altitudes and hotter climates. A plug and play power adapter is provided for easy integration of future extended endurance options, such as, solar and fuel cell solutions.

It carries both an electro-optical (EO) and infrared (IR) camera plus illuminator on a lightweight mechanical gimbaled payload, allowing the operator to keep “eyes on target.” For increased payload capacity, an optional under wing Transit Bay is available for easy integration of 3rd party payloads such as communications relay, geo locations, or laser marker to meet the diverse needs of military or civilian applications.

The precision navigation system with secondary GPS provides greater positional accuracy and reliability of the Puma AE. The UAV is operated from AeroVironment’s battle proven ground control station (GCS) with a communications range of 15 km.
MShip image
A 15km range seems short for ship ops. On the other hand . . . it might meet certain needs in other ops. As in this interesting bit from here:
The UK tested ISR packages compatible with the Puma AE on board the M80 Stiletto trials ship in November 2014 under Capability Demonstration 15-1.

Biden's Opinion on Where U.S. Foreign Affairs Stand

The least relevant voice in an out-going administration calls the future "Building on Success" of the Obama foreign policy:
The next administration will take the reins of American foreign policy in a world that is more complex than at any point in our modern history, including the twilight of the Cold War and the years that followed the 9/11 attacks. But it is also the case that despite the proliferation of threats and challenges—some old, some new—by almost any measure, we are stronger and more secure today than when President Barack Obama and I took office in January 2009. Because of our investments at home and engagement overseas, the United States is primed to remain the world’s preeminent power for decades to come. In more than 40 years of public service, I have never been more optimistic about America’s future—if only we continue to lead.
I would like to think this is true, but I find myself more in agreement with former SecDef Robert Gates in his book Duty as set out in the WaPo
...[F]ormer defense secretary Robert Gates, in his memoir “Duty,” lashed out at Vice President Biden as being “wrong on nearly every major foreign policy and national security issue over the past four decades.”

But, you know, read the Biden piece and decide for yourself.

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

South China Sea: Vietnam Moves to Protect Its Interests

If you are shocked by this, you haven't been paying attention.

Reuters reports Exclusive: Vietnam moves new rocket launchers into disputed South China Sea
Vietnam has discreetly fortified several of its islands in the disputed South China Sea with new mobile rocket launchers capable of striking China's runways and military installations across the vital trade route, according to Western officials.

Diplomats and military officers told Reuters that intelligence shows Hanoi has shipped the launchers from the Vietnamese mainland into position on five bases in the Spratly islands in recent months, a move likely to raise tensions with Beijing.
Nature and threatened states will move to fill a vacuum. I guess Vietnam lacks confidence that the recent arbitration ruling concerning the SCS has any kind of enforcement mechanism.

I expect China will counter with its own equipment escalation.

Plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose

Tuesday, August 09, 2016

Returning from Vacation

I don't know about you, but to me the worst working day of the year is the day you get back from vacation. So many things to catch up with. So many things people seem to think you ought to care about . . .

Meanwhile, in your mind there is that simple place in the woods where those "big city" daily cares seem to vanish as the sun and stars appear and disappear as the the earth revolves without any demand input from us. Birds, bees, cows and playing in the stream . . . fog and rain in the mountains as a backdrop. Twenty degrees cooler up there, too. Wondering about the toughness of our ancestors and their quality of life in those days gone by.

Of course, pining for the "olden days" ignores the modern miracles that keep most of us alive and healthy.

Still, there is something about a rocking chair on the front porch that calls to me.

There is that Keith Urban/Monty Powell song "Days Go By,"

Days go by
I can feel 'em flying
Like a hand out the window in the wind as the cars go by
It's all we've been given
So you better start livin' right now
'Cause days go by

So, how are you spending your days?

Saturday, August 06, 2016

Saturday Is Old Radio Day: Tom Corbett, Space Cadet "Trial in Space" (1952)

Tom Corbett is the main character in a series of Tom Corbett — Space Cadet stories that were depicted in television, radio, books, comic books, comic strips, and other media in the 1950s.
The stories followed the adventures of Corbett, Astro, originally Roger Manning and later T.J. Thistle, cadets at the Space Academy as they train to become members of the Solar Guard. The action takes place at the Academy in classrooms and bunkrooms, aboard their training ship the rocket cruiser Polaris, and on alien worlds, both within the solar system and in orbit around nearby stars.
Here's two parter, "Trial in Space"-

Part 1

Part 2

Inspirational music:

I should note that Heinlein's Space Cadet, which seems to have been, in some part, a source for the show was probably my favorite book when I was a kid.

Monday, August 01, 2016

Do-It-Yourself Strategic Analysis: Sun Tzu and the South China Sea

Here's your chance to see if you can play strategist - a "do-it-yourself" strategic analysis, if you will.

The question before you is, "What is the applicability, if any, of Sun Tzu's The Art of War to the events unfolding in the South China Sea?"

The link contained in the question will take you to a good translation of Sun Tzu's work.

Of some interest to you might be the following, but there may be others that you may find more interesting to discuss:

[2.08] ". . . I have heard of military campaigns that were clumsy but swift, but I have never seen military campaigns that were skilled but protracted. No nation has ever benefited from protracted warfare.
[03.02] Therefore, to achieve a hundred victories in a hundred battles is not the highest excellence; to subjugate the enemy's army without doing battle is the highest of excellence.

[03.03] Therefore, the best warfare strategy is to attack the enemy's plans, next is to attack alliances, next is to attack the army, and the worst is to attack a walled city.
[04.04] One takes on sufficiency defending, one takes on deficiency attacking."
[05.14] Therefore, those skilled in moving the enemy use formation that makes the enemy respond.

[05.15] They offer bait that which the enemy must take, manipulating the enemy to move while they wait in ambush.
[05.14] Therefore, those skilled in moving the enemy use formation that makes the enemy respond.

[05.15] They offer bait that which the enemy must take, manipulating the enemy to move while they wait in ambush.
[06.01] Generally the one who first occupies the battlefield awaiting the enemy is at ease; the one who comes later and rushes into battle is fatigued.

[06.02] Therefore those skilled warfare move the enemy, and are not moved by the enemy.

[06.03] Getting the enemy to approach on his own accord is a matter of showing him advantage; stopping him from approaching is a matter of showing him harm.
[06.12] Therefore, if we want to do battle, even if the enemy is protected by high walls and deep moats, he cannot but do battle, because we attack what he must rescue. If we do not want to do battle, even if we merely draw a line on the ground, he will not do battle, because we divert his movements.
[06.17] If the enemy prepares to defend many places, then his forces will be few in number.

[06.18] Therefore, if the enemy prepares to defend the front, the back will be weak. If he prepares to defend the back, the front will be weak. If he prepares to defend the left, the right will be weak. If he prepares to defend the right, the left will be weak. If he prepares to defend everywhere, everywhere will be weak.

[06.19] The few are those preparing to defend against others, the many are those who make others prepare to defend against them.

[06.20] Therefore, if one knows the place of battle and the day of battle, he can march a thousand kilometers and do battle.

[06.21] If one does not know the place of battle and the day of battle, then his left cannot aid his right, his right cannot aid his left, his front cannot aid his back, and his back cannot aid his front.

[06.22] How much less so if he is separated by tens of kilometers, or even a few kilometers.
08.09] Therefore, subjugate the neighboring rulers with potential disadvantages, labor the neighboring rulers with constant matters, and have the neighboring rulers rush after advantages.
[11.17] Ask: If the enemy is large in number and advances, what should be the response? I say: Seize what he values, and he will do what you wish.
Another useful short version of this advice at Eric Jackson's Sun Tzu's 31 Best Pieces Of Leadership Advice:
When strong, avoid them. If of high morale, depress them. Seem humble to fill them with conceit. If at ease, exhaust them. If united, separate them. Attack their weaknesses. Emerge to their surprise.

All warfare is based on deception. Hence, when able to attack, we must seem unable; when using our forces, we must seem inactive; when we are near, we must make the enemy believe we are far away; when far away, we must make him believe we are near.
You might also consider how the development of anti-ship ballistic missiles (ASBM)("carrier killers") affects strategy. Are they like mine warfare? Along the lines of, "How many mines does it take to close a port? Answer: Perhaps none because the threat of a mined port may be enough to delay or deny its use." How much time, money and planning is required to counter the threat of ASBMs? Is that a strategic weakness?

Other possible questions: Alliances and allies? What about the strength of the Chinese economy in the region? What are the limitations of China's resources both in food and fuel? Who has greater issues with time and distance?

Just some things worth pondering. Have fun with it.