Eyes of the Fleet

Eyes of the Fleet

Friday, March 31, 2017

Friday Fun Film: "The Powers of Congress"(1947)

Seems like a good time to show this old Coronet film:

They thought this was surrealistic back in the day.

I sorta think Congress is surrealistic today.

Thursday, March 30, 2017

What's Faster than "Hypersonic?"

Scary headline: Russia creates 'unstoppable' hypersonic Zircon missile with Navy destroying 4,600mph speed but the remainder of the article refutes the "unstoppable" part:
Russia claims to have created a devastating hypersonic missile that travels five times faster than the speed of sound and could rip through navy warship defences because it's too fast to stop.

The Kremlin's Zircon missile has been called "unstoppable", "unbeatable" and "undefendable" with a 4,600mph speed that only one defence system in the world can destroy – that system is owned by Russia.
So, it can be stopped - but only if you have the Russian "system" - I'm sure U.S. engineers and scientists can dope that out.

By the way, you know what's faster than "hypersonic?"

Frickin' laser beams.

Of course, there might be glitches:

UPDATE: US Navy Develops Laser Weapon Prototypes for Destroyers, Cruisers (and Maybe Carriers). Zap.

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Oil Prices - A Russian Vulnerability?

Recent days have seen the reports of new discoveries of oil and gas, including off-shore UK:
Explorer Hurricane Energy has declared the “largest undeveloped
discovery” of oil on the UK Continental Shelf.

The Godalming-based group said well tests had confirmed its view that the Lancaster and Halifax reservoirs west of Shetland are actually a single resource.

Analysts have previously speculated that a single reservoir could hold more than one billion barrels of oil equivalent, although Hurricane did not make such a claim when announcing the discovery.
In Alaska, reports of a huge find, Massive Oil Discovery in Alaska Is Biggest Onshore Find in U.S. in 30 years:
Some 1.2 billion barrels of oil have been discovered in Alaska, marking the biggest onshore discovery in the U.S. in three decades.

The massive find of conventional oil on state land could bring relief to budget pains in Alaska brought on by slumping production in the state and the crash in oil prices.

The new discovery was made in just the past few days in Alaska’s North Slope, which was previously viewed as an aging oil basin.

Spanish oil giant Repsol and its privately-held U.S. partner Armstrong Energy announced the find on Thursday, predicting production could begin as soon as 2021 and lead to as much as 120,000 barrels of output per day.

The oil resources lie in a well, called Horseshoe, that’s 75% owned by Denver-based Armstrong. Repsol owns the rest of this well.
The existing U.S, oil wells have created a surplus of oil, forcing prices lower:
U.S. commercial crude supplies have risen for nine straight weeks, reaching a record 528.4 million barrels last week, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration. That was an increase of 8.2 million barrels from a week earlier.

“The rising crude inventory levels in the US to new all-time highs has been the No. 1 reason why prices have been unable to move further higher,” Fawad Razaqzada, market analyst at Forex.com, wrote to investors Wednesday.
Recent price show crude trading at about $47 barrel and decreasing in price.

All of which suggests continuing trouble for countries whose economies are -um- very dependent on high oil prices to do all the things they want to do to, say, regain their empires.

As in Russia, which last year was having some issues, as Bloomberg noted in January, 2016, "How Cheap Oil Is Squeezing Russia's Economy"
Russia, which relies on oil and natural gas for almost half its fiscal revenue, ran a budget deficit of 2.6 percent in 2015, the highest in five years. It's now at risk of topping that level as prices drop even further, Finance Minister Anton Siluanov warned the government.

This year's budget was initially planned around oil averaging $50 a barrel and a deficit of 3 percent of gross domestic product. Belt-tightening measures totaling 1.5 trillion rubles ($18.9 billion) are needed to avoid a shortfall of over 6 percent of output this year, Siluanov said.
As cheap oil weakens the Russian economy, it also causes its national currency, the ruble, to depreciate. That means Russian consumers have to shell out more rubles if they want to maintain their consumption levels.

Geopolitical tensions have added to the ruble's weakness. The currency has nearly halved in value since Putin's annexation of Crimea in March 2014 and the U.S. and the European Union imposed sanctions against Russia.
Now, there are reports that Russia is preparing its economy for $40/barrel oil, as in this Bloomberg report from 4 days ago, OPEC Be Warned: Russia Prepares for Oil at $40:
As the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries and its allies prepare to meet for a review of their production cuts this weekend, the central bank of the world’s biggest energy exporter is hunkering down for years of oil near $40 a barrel.
Policy makers in Moscow said on Friday they see Urals at an average of $50 a barrel this year, but falling to $40 at end-2017 and then staying near that level in 2018-2019. As the central bank honed its forecasts, it also gingerly resumed monetary easing, pointing to the “uncertainty” in the oil market as a factor for its “conservative” forecasts.

Russia’s Finance Ministry similarly highlighted the $40 level in January when it announced that the central bank will start buying foreign currency on its behalf when crude exceeds that level in order to insulate the exchange rate from oil volatility. The price of $40 is additionally being used to calculate the country’s budget in 2017-2019.
Forecasting oil is no game for the Bank of Russia. Its 65 percent plunge in 2014 and 2015 battered the nation’s currency, forced an emergency rate increase in the middle of the night and pushed Russia into recession. The share of oil and gas revenue was at 36 percent of budget income in 2016.
Now, there's another little bit of information that the Russians might find discomforting - with the U.S. having a excess inventory of crude, it's exporting more oil to new places, as set out here:
In 2016, U.S. crude oil exports averaged 520,000 barrels per day (b/d), 55,000 b/d (12%) above the 2015 level, despite a year-over-year decline in domestic crude oil production. Even though oil exports have increased, growth in U.S. crude oil exports has slowed significantly from its pace from 2013 to 2015, when annual U.S. crude oil production grew rapidly.
Following the removal of restrictions on U.S. crude oil exports in December 2015, the United States exported crude oil to 26 different countries in 2016, compared with 10 countries the previous year. In 2015, 92% of U.S. crude oil exports went to Canada, which was exempt from U.S. crude oil export restrictions. After restrictions were lifted, Canada remained the top destination but received only 58% of U.S. crude exports in 2016.
Aside from Canada, European destinations such as the Netherlands, Italy, United Kingdom, and France rank high on the list of U.S. crude oil export destinations. The second-largest regional destination is Asia, including China, Korea, Singapore, and Japan. In 2016, the United States exported to eight different Central and South American destinations, including Curacao, Colombia, and Peru.(emphasis added)
Is the U.S. liberating market share from the Russians? What impact does this have on the Russian economy?

Which country can ride out a "price war" without crippling 36 or 40% of its economy? The oil and gas industry in the U.S. is below 4% of its GDP.


Tuesday, March 28, 2017

China's Century of Humilation

It is important to understand the history of a rising power, especially one seeking its "proper" place in the world - a place denied it for over 100 years - when its long history indicated it was the central focus of all human endeavor - the "Middle Kingdom."

Nice presentation here on China's "Century of Humiliation" and the role that plays in China's "national narrative" which really ought to be read in toto:
 First, the “Century of Humiliation” – a period between 1839 and 1949 when China‟s government lost control over large portions of its territory at the hands of foreigners – is a key element of modern China‟s founding narrative.
 Second, the Century of Humiliation is thought by many Chinese today to provide historical lessons that are taken as indicative of how strong Western powers tend to behave toward China.
 Third, the intellectual debates about the nature of international relations that took place during the Century of Humiliation underpin similar elite debates that are taking place in China today.  Concerns with the nature of interstate competition, with the possibility for equality among nation-states, and with the question of whether the international system might evolve into something more peaceable in the future, remain salient topics of discussion and debate in China today.
 Fourth, although the PRC government maintains that the Century of Humiliation ended when the CCP won the Chinese civil war and established itself as the ruling regime, there remain several vestiges of that period that, in the minds of many Chinese, must be rectified before China‟s recovery will be considered complete. The most important of these – and perhaps the only one that is non-negotiable – is the return of Taiwan to the mainland.
 Fifth, there is significant lack of consensus among present-day Chinese elites about what the lessons learned from the Century of Humiliation mean for China‟s future trajectory in the global arena. The Century of Humiliation provides key frameworks through which Chinese intellectuals and policy-makers may view China‟s place in the world, but there is significant variation in their interpretations. We should be cautious about assuming that one path will definitely be chosen.
Despite China‟s recent successes, deep-seated suspicions of Western intentions linger, and are stoked by the CCP‟s continual employment of the Century of Humiliation narrative. CCP and PLA writings still present China as the perpetual and innocent victim of Western nations‟ continued determination to subjugate it. Recent PLA publications on martial strategy, for instance, assert that Western nations are fundamentally rapacious, greedy, and aggressive, having grown historically out of “slave states [that] frequently launched wars of conquest and pillage to expand their territories, plunder wealth, and extend their sphere of influence.” Such writings often add that China, by contrast, is by nature a “peace-craving and peace-loving” nation. In this view, because the West has not fundamentally changed, China must seek peace, but prepare for war. Hence President Hu Jintao, in a 2004 speech laying out the new “historic missions” of the People‟s Liberation Army, warned that “Western hostile forces have not yet given up the wild ambition of trying to subjugate us.”
(footnotes omitted and emphasis added)
Okay a couple of quick videos to drive home the point:

Monday, March 27, 2017

U.S. Navy Office of Naval Intelligence Worldwide Threat to Shipping (WTS) Report 20 February - 22 March 2017 and Horn of Africa/Gulf of Guinea/ Southeast Asia: Piracy Analysis and Warning Weekly (PAWW) Report for 16 - 22 March 2017

Yes, two reports from the U.S. Navy Office of Naval Intelligence- because its the time of year when conditions for piracy might be expected to be good and because of indicators that the "pirates of Somalia" might be attempting to stage a comeback.

China's Naval Militia

Very interesting read from Andrew S. Erickson and Conor M. Kennedy for the U.S. Naval War College's Chinese Maritime Studies Institute on China’s Third Sea Force, The People’s Armed Forces Maritime Militia: Tethered to the PLA (pdf):
Photo source: Tankler News
Amid growing awareness that China’s Maritime Militia acts as a Third Sea Force which has been involved in international sea incidents, it is necessary for decision-makers who may face such contingencies to understand the Maritime Militia’s role in China’s armed forces. Chinese-language open sources reveal a tremendous amount about Maritime Militia activities, both in coordination with and independent of the People’s Liberation Army (PLA). Using well-documented evidence from the authors’ extensive open source research, this report seeks to clarify the Maritime Militia’s exact identity, organization, and connection to the PLA as a reserve force that plays a parallel and supporting role to the PLA.
Like a tetherball, the PAFMM may be sent in many different directions when contacted by different players in the Chinese security space, but is often directed by the PLA and always remains tied to the PLA.
Read it, download it and think about it.

China is a power using asymmetric tools in a world they want to change to be more China-centric.

More good stuff from James Kraska on The Law of Naval Warfare and China’s Maritime Militia:
China operates a vast network of fishing vessels that form a maritime militia equipped and trained to conduct intelligence, communications, and targeting support for the People's Liberation Army Navy. Fishing vessels normally are exempt from capture or attack in the law of naval warfare unless they are integrated into the naval forces, but distinguishing between legitimate fishing vessels and maritime militia during naval warfare is virtually impossible.
You can download a copy at the link, but the key is that China continually is walking that narrow lawfare line.

Sunday, March 26, 2017

Somali Pirates Go Hunting, Grab a Dhow to Use for Longer Range Operations

Let's suppose you are at Somali pirate "High Command" and for 5 years you've been doing some "lessons learned" review and trying to decide how to make a comeback. You know that NATO forces will tire of patrolling the long pirate-less waters of the Arabian Sea and will save their countries money by going home. You know that smaller shipping companies, always watching their bottom line, will cease paying for expensive armed guards as soon as they make the decision that the cost/benefit ratio swings in favor of saving money over the cost of ship security.

With some time on your hands you contemplate how to repeat the old "happy times" of taking ships at sea using low cost, entirely expendable labor. You plan, you plot, you wait. NATO forces do leave. The EU group's mission is not "high seas piracy" but convoying food to your failed state homeland, so you will leave the food ships alone. You wait. You put out some small groups into the waters and watch for reactions. They get reported, but no one chases them down, so you grow bolder.

You find a cheesy little tanker (love that low freeboard) and you dispatch a team to take her. Your spokesman revives the old "protecting our fishing grounds" routine, which can be applied to any vessel seizure, regardless of whether or not the seized vessel has any connection to fishing or not, because it sounds so ... justifiable? It helps that there really are bad guys out there illegally fishing in what would be Somali waters if Somalia was a real nation instead of a geographic area full of warring tribes and power seeking goobers.

In any event, you've proven that piracy can done again. You return the test case vessel without seeking ransom. Now you move on to phase 2 - expanding the potential range of your workers - by hijacking a "Mother Ship":

In an advisory notice issued Friday, the United Kingdom Maritime Trade
Operations (UKMTO) warned that pirates had hijacked a dhow in the vicinity of Eyl, a city in northern Somalia that was once a hub for maritime piracy. Local authorities suggest that they may intend to use the small vessel for hijacking a merchant ship further offshore.

"Some crew have been put ashore and the [dhow] is now proceeding to sea; course, speed and destination unknown. Vessels are advised to exercise extreme caution," UKMTO warned.

Residents of Eyl told Reuters that local pirates were seeking a target. "We understand that pirates hijacked the fishing vessel to hijack a big ship off the ocean," said Abdirahman Mohamud, head of maritime police forces in Puntland. He added that the pirates had kept the dhow's captain, cook and engineer on board.
If little players like the tanker have given up on armed security teams just off the Somali coast, you think, then there may be some ripe picking of bigger ships out there - where the owners figure the risk of piracy is now low enough to start cutting corners on ship protection. And there's not NATO lurking about to send planes and helicopters and nasty little boats full of armed boarding teams.

The waiting game seems to be over.

Saturday, March 25, 2017

Saturday Is Old Radio Day: Philo Vance "Cheesecake Murder Case" (1949)

About Mr. Vance:
Philo Vance is a fictional character featured in 12 crime novels written
by S. S. Van Dine (the pen name of Willard Huntington Wright), published in the 1920s and 1930s. During that time, Vance was immensely popular in books, movies, and on the radio. He was portrayed as a stylish, even foppish dandy, a New York bon vivant possessing a highly intellectual bent. The novels were chronicled by his friend Van Dine (who appears as a kind of Dr. Watson figure in the books as well as being the author).
Three radio drama series were created with Philo Vance as the title character.[4] The first series, broadcast by NBC in 1945, starred JosĂ© Ferrer. A summer replacement series in 1946 starred John Emery as Vance. The best-known series (and the one of which most episodes survived) ran from 1948 to 1950 in Frederick Ziv syndication and starred Jackson Beck. "Thankfully, the radio series uses only the name, and makes Philo a pretty normal, though very intelligent and extremely courteous gumshoe. ... Joan Alexander is Ellen Deering, Vance's secretary and right-hand woman.”[5]

No sound effects? More organ music!

Friday, March 24, 2017

On Midrats 26 March 2017- Episode 377: Too Many SWOs at Sea?

Please join us at 5pm on 27 March 2017 for Midrats Episode 377: Too Many SWOs at Sea?
When is there ever too much of a good thing? Is our officer manning policy in the Surface Warfare Community resulting in too many JOs chasing too few hours of experience actually performing one of their most important professional duties, the safe and effective maneuver of a ship at sea?
U.S. Navy photo MC2 Jeremy Graham

Do we have our numbers, policies, and priorities right to ensure we are giving out Surface Warfare Officers the opportunity to master the fundamentals of any respected leader at sea?

Building off his article in the March 2017 Proceedings, Too Many SWOs per Ship, our guest for the full hour will be Lieutenant Brendan Cordial, USN.

We will not only discuss the issues he raises in his article, but will cover the experiences, responsibilities, and future of our surface forces from the Fleet LT perspective.

LT Cordial is a native of Beaufort, South Carolina. He graduated from the University of Notre Dame in 2011 and commissioned through the NROTC Program. During his division officer tours, he served in USS Iwo Jima (LHD 7) and USS San Jacinto (CG 56), both home-ported in Norfolk, VA. He is currently assigned to NROTC units at The George Washington University."
Listen live if you can or pick the show up later by clicking here. Or you can pick the show up later by clicking that link or by visiting either our iTunes page or our Stitcher page.

Friday Movie: "Land the Landing Force" (1967)

Once upon a time:

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

From the Department of Cheaper War Fighting: "A Ship that Still Isn't a Frigate" - byThink Defence

A while ago, Think Defence took on the task of thinking through what sorts of uses could be made of ships built for trade by an armed force that wanted to save its multi-billion dollar real warship hulls for doing what they were meant to do - patrolling the sea against threats from submarines and things like that.

Think Defence expanded on an idea I proposed in The Department of Cheaper Pirate FIghting with an interesting post titled A Ship that Still Isn't a Frigate:
One of the first multi part series on Think Defence was called a Ship
that is not a Frigate, so called because it was a few thoughts on how the Royal Navy could create a class of vessels that could operate in the area between the RFA logistics support vessel and the frigate or destroyer, specifically on a range of non-war-like tasks.

Taking inspiration from Mark Tempest I expanded the concept from re-purposing surplus offshore supply vessels and creating a larger, more flexible ship, utilising an offshore construction vessel as a base.

Since then, and before, I have written about the general concept a few times so this is a continuation and consolidation of those various blog posts and longer series.

The reason I called it ‘not a frigate’ because it was not intended to be a frigate on the cheap, or a surrogate frigate, and to emphasise the point so that people would not get carried away by adding medium calibre guns and cruise missiles.

The reason this article is notionally called ‘still not a frigate’ is because that still stands.

If one wants a Frigate (light or global) ask those nice chaps at BAE or BMT to design and build one for you.

So why bother, the simple point, the whole raison d’ĂȘtre for this, is one of cost, trying to squeeze the maximum utility from the smallest pot of cash. A class of ships that fulfils a plethora of roles that are less than high intensity combat, and might use some notional future budget for an Argus and Diligence replacement, and perhaps with a nod to future mine countermeasures and survey budgets.
Yes! Despite the crazy English spelling, TD has it exactly right. If you need more ships, figure out which missions are best performed by "not a frigates" and get going on building a force of such vessels to take on things like . . .piracy patrols, or the the list TD suggests:
- Training and Defence Engagement
- Salvage, Repair and Firefighting
- Medical support
- Experimentation and Systems Development
- Survey
- Mine Countermeasures
- Ship to Shore Logistics Support
- Maritime and Littoral Security
- Special Forces Support
- Disaster Relief
- Submarine Rescue
- Aviation Support
The U.S. Navy already has a number of normally unarmed vessels it uses for some of these purposes. You can see the list at the Military Sealift Command site.

Now, what, as I have suggested before we alter the equation by adding some armament? By placing hard-charging young officers out there in command of the modern equivalent of armed schooners? Let them get their feet wet in command.

Why? Let me refer you to an article in the March 2017 U.S. Naval Institute Proceedings, "Too Many SWOs per Ship which points out that too many of our
surface officer youngsters are going to waste because they have too few opportunities to do the one fun thing about being a surface warfare officer - driving ships:
Inequalities in experience are exacerbated by the sheer numbers of division officers assigned to surface combatants. An afloat SWO training program seeks to enhance the baseline knowledge learned during the Basic Division Officer Course and help ensigns to achieve their SWO qualification. Nothing is more important to the quality of those qualifications than watch-standing experience, particularly during special evolutions. Given a finite number of special evolutions, large wardrooms result in fewer watchbill assignments per officer. Watchbills either become bloated with under-instruction watch standers—often to the detriment of the watch team’s overall cohesion—or junior officers simply are not given more than a handful of opportunities to directly participate in special evolutions.
Solution? More, cheaper ships doing real missions that can fully engage the hearts and minds of our future admirals. On smaller ships, experience comes at you fast.

Give them "Not a Frigates."

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Fun with North Korea: Again with the "Sea of Fire"

A video put out by the NORKS (uploaded to YouTube by ZeroHedge) "demonstrating" (nice word that, since it attempts to "demonize" the U.S.) how the great forces of the latest Kim-in-Charge will demolish any threat to the Hermit Kingdom and prove the superiority of "juche" over - well, over whatever the U.S. represents to the repressive regime in Pyongyang:

Long term readers may recall that the NORKS have been threatening the world with a "sea of fire". See also here, here, here, and here. Such threats may be annual events, I quit tracking them after a few years.

In any event, the NORK leadership is perpetually ticked off about something (perhaps having to live in North Korea?) and, for the most part, their blustery ways have spooked the better off places in the world into offering food, medicine and the like that prevent the place cratering around the ears of the current Kim. Yes, we prop up this family of nutjobs.

Now, however, the NORKs may have some weapons to threaten the world around them and it seems time to tell the would-be neighborhood mini-bully to grow up. As was touched on during Sunday's Midrats (starting about 52:00), the U.S. and its allies (and the Chinese, neighbors and sometime protectors of the NORKs) need to quit being nice to the current Kim and let him know that his rantings have outrun their usefulness and that, as a rising nuclear power, he is playing with . . . fire when he and his regime make threats.

As my sailors were wont to say, "Paybacks are a ". . ."

Here's hoping that some give Kim a clue that, if he's not in the big leagues, he's nudging up against the self-protection rights of other countries. That has real consequences.

Monday, March 20, 2017

U.S. Navy Office of Naval Intelligence Worldwide Threat to Shipping (WTS) Report 13 February - 15 March 2017

Of special interest this week -
1. the first ship hijacking off Somalia since 2012 (but note that last week there were reports of small boats with armed men in the vicinity of Somalia);
2. A Yemeni coast guard vessel apparently hit a sea mine and sank with a loss of 8 crew;
3. An attack on a ship off the coast of Nigeria

Much more in

And, as a by the way, an interesting report from Channel NewsAsia that there's a demand from Somali "secuirty forces," Somali security forces that freed pirated ship say NATO must do more:
Somali officials whose forces freed a hijacked oil tanker and its eight Sri Lankan crew said on Sunday that NATO ships must do more to prevent the illegal fishing that locals say sparked the latest attack.

Monday's hijacking was the first time that Somali pirates had successfully hijacked a commercial ship since 2012. Unlike previous hijackings, the ship was freed swiftly and with no ransom paid after the Puntland Maritime Police Force intervened.

The intervention reassured shipping companies concerned that resurgent pirates could once again threaten one of the world's most important shipping lanes.

Officials from the semi-autonomous region of Puntland blamed local anger over illegal fishing by foreign vessels for the attack. They warned that more hijackings might happen unless the problem was tackled.

"We requested NATO warships to tackle the illegal fishing, but they replied it was not their mandate," Abdihakim Abdullahi Omar, the vice president of Puntland, told reporters at Bosasso port.
Perhaps those "security forces" should be patrolling their own waters . . . or working to get someone in whose "mandate" it is.

Saturday, March 18, 2017

Saturday Is Old Radio Day: The Mel Blanc Show "The New Radio" (1946)

You imagine that some genius thought it was a wonderful idea to put the "man with a thousand voices" into a radio situation comedy in which he played "fix-it" shop owner.* Which it was for about
9 months.

*Back in the day, instead of throwing out things that broke, we'd take them to a guy whose skill was fixing such things in his "fix-it shop" almost always for a lot less than buying something new.

Friday, March 17, 2017

On Midrats 19 March 2017, Episode 376: WESTPAC's Progress with Toshi Yosihara

Please join us at 5pm EDT on 19 March 2017 for Midrats Episode 376: WESTPAC's Progress with Toshi Yosihara
While a new American President, Russia, and ongoing operations against the Islamic State continue to absorb attention, the Western Pacific from Japan, Korea, China, to Australia continues forward.

Our guest to discuss all the latest developments will be Toshi Yoshihara.

A prior guest on Midrats, Dr. Yoshihara is a Senior Fellow at CSBA. Before joining CBSA he held the John A. van Beuren Chair of Asia-Pacific Studies at the U.S. Naval War College where he taught strategy for over a decade.

He is co-author of Red Star over the Pacific: China's Rise and the Challenge to U.S. Maritime Strategy, which has been listed on the Chief of Naval Operation’s Professional Reading Program since 2012. Translations of Red Star over the Pacific have been published in China, Germany, Japan, South Korea, and Taiwan.

He has also co-authored Indian Naval Strategy in the Twenty-first Century and Chinese Naval Strategy in the Twenty-first Century: The Turn to Mahan. He is co-editor of Strategy in the Second Nuclear Age: Power, Ambition, and the Ultimate Weapon and Asia Looks Seaward: Power and Maritime Strategy. His articles have appeared in Journal of Strategic Studies, Asian Security, Washington Quarterly, Orbis, World Affairs, Comparative Strategy, Strategic Analysis, Journal of the Indian Ocean Region, and Naval War College Review. The Naval War College Review awarded him the Hugh G. Nott Prize for best article of 2010.

He holds a Ph.D. from the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy, Tufts University, an M.A. from the School of Advanced International Studies, Johns Hopkins University, and a B.S.F.S. from the School of Foreign Service, Georgetown University.
Listen live if you can or pick the show up later by clicking here. Or you can pick the show up later by clicking that link or by visiting either our iTunes page or our Stitcher page.

Friday Fun Film: "Mr. Push-a-Button" (1961)

Well, I personally can attest that few months in the world of the "Inactive Ships Maintenance Facility" world is more that enough.

Those mothballed ships did serve a purpose, though, and some were recalled to active duty for Vietnam. Some battleships made to Desert Storm.

But this is film is about the "modern" missile Navy of the early 1960's - and not the older ships tied up alongside the piers in the opening sequence. Enjoy!

Thursday, March 16, 2017

Somali pirates let go the tanker they "caught"

Fox News and AP report Somali pirates who seized oil tanker release it without conditions"
Pirates who seized a Comoros-flagged oil tanker released the ship Thursday without conditions, according to a Somali official.

Security official Ahmed Mohamed told The Associated Press the pirates have disembarked the ship, which is now heading to Bossaso port, the region's commercial hub.

Mohamed said the release occurred after negotiations by local elders and local officials with the pirates, who seized the tanker on Monday and held eight Sri Lankan crew members hostage.
Apparently there might also have been some gun play, as set out here:
A Somali official says pirates who seized an oil tanker have opened fire on naval troops from the semiautonomous state of Puntland, sparking clashes between the two sides.

Ali Shire Mohamud, the commissioner of Alula district where the ship is being held, says clashes started after naval forces tried to stop a boat carrying reinforcement pirates to the ship.
Seems to me that the pirates may have recognized that if the "athorities" knew where pirate reinforcements were, that this situation could have gotten into one of dual sets of hostages, one group of innocent sailors and the other of pirates.

I would think the "elders" might have pointed that out.

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

They're Back! Somali Pirates Grab Ship, Make Demands

I think we've seen this failed state/"everybody is robbing us" movie before. VOA report Seized Oil Tanker with 8 Crew Anchored Off Somalia Coast
VOA photo

The hijackers who seized an oil tanker and its eight-man crew off Somalia are demanding “compensation” for a rise in illegal fishing in Somali waters.

VOA’s Somali service spoke by phone to one of the hijackers Tuesday, a day after men boarded and seized the ship about 30 kilometers off the Somali coast, then anchored off Alula, a town in Somalia’s Puntland region.

The hijacker said seven men took part in the raid. He asserted that he and his colleagues are fishermen, not pirates.

“We have decided, as local fishermen, to resist illegal fishing. We have taken arms to defend ourselves, and we will continue,” said the man, who declined to give his name and did not suggest any dollar figures.

Asked about the crew, he said: “It’s not our principle to kill them. They are healthy. We looked after them. We are after the people who sent them, to make sure they never return.”
Because we all know oil tankers are engaged in illegal fishing.

Saturday, March 11, 2017

Saturday Is Old Radio Day: The Life of Riley "The Bread Shortage (1946)"

About Riley:
The Life of Riley, with William Bendix in the title role, is a popular
American radio situation comedy series of the 1940s that was adapted into a 1949 feature film, a long-running 1950s television series (originally with Jackie Gleason as Riley for one truncated season, then with Bendix for six seasons), and a 1958 comic book.
The reworked script cast Bendix as blundering Chester A. Riley, a wing riveter at the fictional Cunningham Aircraft plant in California. His frequent exclamation of indignation—"What a revoltin' development this is!"—became one of the most famous catchphrases of the 1940s. It was later reused by Benjamin J. Grimm of the Fantastic Four. The radio series also benefited from the immense popularity of a supporting character, Digby "Digger" O'Dell (John Brown), "the friendly undertaker." Brecher told Brown, "I want a very sepulchral voice, quavering, morbid, and he got it right away."

Here's a show with Mr. Bendix in the lead:

Friday, March 10, 2017

On Midrats 12 March 2017, Episode 375: Strategic Discipline & the Building of a New National Strategy with Frank Hoffman

Please join us a 5pm EDT (remember to "Spring Ahead") on 12 March 2017 for Midrats Episode 375: Strategic Discipline & the Building of a New National Strategy:
We are in the second month of a new President who is building a new national security
team. He and his team come to their positions with a very different view of the world and America's place in it than their predecessors had.

What direction will they take our nation? What role should realism, alliances, and the requirement to anchor all to a strategic discipline focused on the long term interests of our nation have on the decisions they make?

What do his initial steps and the people so far on his team tell us about where we are going? How may we may have to rethink the basic organizing concepts for America’s role in the world?

Our guest for the full hour to discuss this an related issues will be Frank Hoffman.

Frank is a Distinguished Research Fellow at the Institute for National Strategic Studies, National Defense University.

He formerly directed the NDU Press operations which includes the journals Joint Force Quarterly and PRISM. From August of 2009 to June 2011, he served in the Department of the Navy as a senior executive as the Senior Director, Naval Capabilities and Readiness. He started at National Defense University in 2011 and became a Distinguished Research Fellow in December 2016.

He retired from the Marine Corps Reserve in the summer of 2001 at the grade of Lieutenant Colonel. He has authored one book (Decisive Force; The New American Way of War, Praeger, 1996), over 100 essays and articles, and frequently contributes to Orbis, Joint Force Quarterly, the Journal of Strategic Studies, Parameters, the Naval Institute Proceedings and Marine Corps Gazette.
Listen live if you can or pick the show up later by clicking here. Or you can pick the show up later by clicking that link or by visiting either our iTunes page or our Stitcher page.

Friday Films: City Fire Fighters (1947) and Basic Fire Fighting Aboard Ship (1960)

Fire can be your friend, but it can be a deadly enemy -


Thursday, March 09, 2017

Disaster Aid from Air: Edible Drones

Delivering disaster aid to areas stricken with violence or impassible roads or other reasons for inaccessibility is a problem. One company, Windhorse Aero, has a proposed solution - unpowered drones that can deliver food and other supplies and in some forms, be food and fuel for those in trouble on the ground.
For the first time ever, aid will be delivered accurately to those in desperate need with this use of a revolutionary and unique Unmanned Air Vehicle (UAV).

There were over 125 natural disasters last year, add this to areas of conflict and the number of people starving as a result gets to breath taking levels.

Access to the people affected can be restricted due to the loss of infrastructure and many other dangers. Also, traditional methods of deploying aid can be ineffective, inaccurate or just impossible to use.

Windhorse has developed a specialist UAV called POUNCER™ that will be loaded with appropriate food, transported to the disaster area and fly independently to its pre-planned destination and land accurately into the selected landing zone, avoiding all infrastructure problems, corruption or hostile groups while saving time, money and more importantly lives.

POUNCER™'s pre-formed shell can be reused to provide shelter, the frame can be burnt safely to cook food, and the payload, which is food and water, provides life saving nutrition.

Windhorse Aerospace from Windhorse Aerospace on Vimeo.

Windhorse lays out some interesting scenarios here.

I assume that some sort of small comms package goes along with these things to allow people on the ground to talk to the aid agencies about what help is needed such as medical needs and the like.

Hat tip to Aviation Week

"Maritime Civil Affairs?" What's that?

Sailors from USS George H.W. Bush (CVN 77) at a community relations project at the Chania Daily Center Orphanage in Crete. (U.S. Navy photo MC2Spencer Fling/Released)
Interesting read at Small Wars Journal on Maritime Civil Affairs (footnotes omitted):
While each military service is required to maintain a civil affairs capability, the US Navy recently divested itself of its only civil affairs capability, the Maritime Civil Affairs and Security Training Command (MCAST). This policy required each of the Services to maintain civil affairs capabilities and directed the Secretary of the Navy to “provide for civil affairs personnel and units in the Navy and Marine Corps military force structure.” While it may be disputable whether the structure of MCAST (a headquarters that would assemble CA teams when requested) fully satisfied the formal requirement for civil affairs units, it did provide a niche capability that was in clearly in demand by the Geographic Combatant Commands, particularly SOUTHCOM, AFRICOM, and PACOM. Its participation in efforts like Community Watch on the Water—a campaign conducted in collaboration with the Kenyan government, local law enforcement, and local citizens to build trust and reduce crime and violent extremism—proved its value as a member of the civil affairs community despite its small size and short lifespan.
But implicit in this policy is that the Navy will provide maritime-specific civil affairs capabilities rather than generalized civil affairs capabilities, such as those found in the U.S. Army and Marine Corps. Thus, in order to support the Navy position on civil affairs, some definition of maritime civil affairs is required. However, to date, no comprehensive definition or description of maritime civil affairs has been promulgated by the Navy, in joint doctrine, or in Department of Defense policy guidance. Without such a definition, it is impossible to assess whether the Navy is achieving the standards it has set for itself, or to inform the other services and interagency partners what support they may be able to expect.
The author of the piece offers up a definition of sorts:
“Those military operations that enhance the relationship between military forces and civil authorities in localities where maritime forces are present; require interaction and consultation with other maritime interagency, intergovernmental, and non-governmental organizations; indigenous maritime populations and institutions; and the maritime private sector; and which involve application of maritime functional skills to problems that normally are the responsibility of civil government to enhance the conduct of civil-military operations.”
but notes
A fact sheet from the Navy Expeditionary Combat Command (NECC) described MCA as “an enabling force working directly with the civil authorities and civilian populations within a Combatant Commander’s maritime area of operations to lessen the impact of military operations imposed during peacetime, contingency operations, and periods of declared war.”
Of course, the time, talent, money and personnel to form such a group are at a premium in the Navy - and it is doubtful that most surface warfare officers or aviators would survive in their communities if they fell out of the normal career pattern to pursue expertise to specialize in something like "Maritime Civil Affairs" regardless of the fact it is a mandated by DoD.

It might be a useful career path in the reserve force, however, and if I were to suggest a place for this expertise to be developed and nurtured it would be in reserve centers and not the active force.

Wednesday, March 08, 2017

Fun with Truth Challenged Iran: U.S. Ship Changed Course to Close on IRGC swarm - according to Iran

Iranian disinformation U.S. ship changed course toward Iranians on Saturday: Iran commander
A commander of the Islamic Revolution Guards Corps Navy blasted the recent change of course by a US warship towards the IRGC vessels in the Persian Gulf, and warned of the dire repercussions of such "unprofessional" actions by Americans. (what follows in blue is a quote from Reuters here (emphasis added)):
"A US warship of the US-British fleet, which was sailing through the traffic zone of the Strait of Hormuz, derailed from the international way and changed its course towards the IRGC Navy vessels present in the region at 10:20 to 11:00 of March 4 morning and it approached our vessels from a 550m distance in an unprofessional move with simultaneous warnings," Commander of the warship of the Zolfaqar 112 combat brigade of the IRGC Navy's first zone Admiral Mehdi Hashemi said on Wednesday.

Noting that deployment of the US and British vessels in the Persian Gulf and the Strait of Hormuz has endangered security of the strategic region which is deemed as the world's energy lifeline, he said, "Their unprofessional moves have provoked tension and insecurity and can have irreparable consequences."

His remarks came after a US official claimed on Monday that multiple fast-attack vessels from the Iranian Islamic Revolution Guard Corps came close to a US Navy ship in the Strait of Hormuz on Saturday, forcing it to change direction.

"The official, speaking on the condition of anonymity, said the IRGCN boats came within 600 yards of the USNS Invincible, a tracking ship, and stopped. The Invincible was being accompanied by three ships from British Royal Navy and forced the formation to change course," Reuters claimed in its report.
Yep, nothing spells threat to IRGC small boats like an unarmed missile tracking ship that can speed along at 11 knots.

U.S. version of incident presented by Sam La Grone of USNI News here:
A U.S. Navy surveillance ship was harassed by an Iranian fast attack craft while entering the Persian Gulf on Saturday, a defense official confirmed to USNI News on Monday.

USNS Invincible (T-AGM-24) was transiting the Strait of Hormuz in the early morning on March 4 with three other coalition ships when the ships were approached by several Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps Navy fast attack craft, the official told USNI News.

One of the IRGCN craft maneuvered 600 yards in front of the 2,300-ton Invincible and “went dead in the water,” the official said.

The IRGCN boat became a hazard to navigation and forced the ship to steer around the boat to avoid a collision. Exacerbating the already dangerous maneuver, a commercial ship was at the same moment attempting to overtake the formation in the narrow entrance to the Persian Gulf.

Given the hazard, the Navy categorized the interaction as “unsafe and unprofessional,” the official said.

Arming the LCS with Real Weapons

USNI News reports on the effort to arm the Littoral Combat Ship with something to fend off attacks by $500 boats armed with RPGs and such. VIDEO: Navy Tests Anti-Swarm Boat Missile on Littoral Combat Ship USS Detroit
The Navy conducted its first test of a short-range missile system designed to protect a Littoral Combat Ship against swarming threats, Naval Sea Systems Command announced on Tuesday. The Feb. 28 test, off of Norfolk, Va., tested the Surface-to-Surface Missile Module (SSMM) aboard the Freedom-class Littoral Combat Ship USS Detroit (LCS-7), firing multiple Lockheed Martin AGM-114L Longbow Hellfire missiles.
The attached helicopter detachment is, in my opinion, still the main weapon system of the LCS.

I assume up-gunning the LCS involves major issues of weight and balance. We certainly don't need to add "tipsy" to the already unimpressive resume of the LCSs of either type.

I suppose the good thing about LCS speed is that Sir Robin would approve (no reflection the LCS crews, who I know are typically outstanding sailors driving a ship they didn't design):

I recall that at one time we followed a management guru who thought the main function of management was to make sure workers had the proper tools to do their job. Here area couple of his points:
3. Cease dependence on inspection to achieve quality. Eliminate the need for inspection on a mass basis by building quality into the product in the first place.
7. . . The aim of supervision should be to help people and machines and gadgets to do a better job.

Monday, March 06, 2017

U.S. Navy Office of Naval Intelligence Worldwide Threat to Shipping (WTS) Report 30 January - 1 March 2017

In addition to the execution of a German sea kidnap victim by a Philippine terrorist group, note:
Red Sea, Bab-el-Mandeb Strait and Gulf of Aden Commercial vessels in the region of the Red Sea, Bab el Mandeb Strait and the Gulf of Aden should operate under a heightened state of alert as increasing tensions in the region escalate the potential for direct or collateral damage to vessels transiting the region. These threats may come from a variety of different sources such as missiles, projectiles or waterborne improvised explosive devices. Houthi rebels claimed responsibility for an 01 October attack on a UAE vessel. Vessels in the region should report hostile activities immediately and contact coalition naval forces via VHF bridge to bridge radio

Saturday, March 04, 2017

Russians vs. Sons of the Prophet - an old song

Update: Song background here:
"Abdul Abulbul Amir" is the most common name for a a music-hall song written in 1877 (during the Russo-Turkish War) under the title "Abdulla Bulbul Ameer" by Percy French, and subsequently altered and popularized by a variety of other writers and performers.

Saturday Is Old Radio Day: The Clock "Angel with Two Faces" (1947)

The Clock:
"Sunrise and Sunset, Promise and Fulfilment, Birth and Death, The whole Drama of Life
is played out in the Sands of Time"

Thursday, March 02, 2017

Attacks on Shipping in Southern Philippines Grinds Shipping to a Halt

Report: Piracy halts vital ARMM port

The usually robust port serving as an international gateway to and from the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) has been immobilized due recent attacks by pirates on international cargo ships.

According to Polloc Port manager Hexan Mabang, maritime trade has come to a standstill after pirates waylaid several cement and cargo vessels along the Sulu Sea.

ARMM Regional Board of Investments (RBOI) chair Ishak Mastura noted that the recent attack on a Vietnamese ship headed to Polloc Port was more like the last straw that forced companies to defer operation.

“We are deeply concerned that the bane of piracy in the Sulu Sea has affected our international trade leading to revenue losses for the ARMM regional government, which owns and operates Polloc Port,” said Mastura.

The bulk carrier Giang Hai was attacked by ASG in the Sulu Sea, about 20 nautical miles north of Pearl Bank in Tawi-Tawi province, which is part of ARMM.
The Philippine government has approached a number of other nations to assist in patrolling the area.