Good Company

Good Company
Good Company

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Senator McCain at the Naval Academy

Addressing the Middies, laying out the honor, duty and, yes, rewards of seriving the American people. Senator John McCain:
“You will be asked to defend America’s interests overseas, and thereby to defend the ideals that encompass and transcend those interests. You will protect the international order that American politics, with all its inefficiencies and human frailties, has done so much to create.

“Many of you will risk everything for your country. You will make sacrifices for your fellow Americans, who won’t be asked to make sacrifices for you. That’s your calling. Thank you for accepting it. I promise, there will be compensations for the hard times you endure. You will have lives of adventure. You will have the best company. And you will know a satisfaction far more sublime than pleasure.
“I know what you will risk and what you will receive in return. I know America is lucky to have you, and that you will think yourselves lucky to serve America. Even in the worst of times – and they come for most of us – you’ll know that to serve this country is to serve its ideals – the ideals that consider every child on earth as made in the image of God and endowed with dignity and the rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. It is a noble cause. It is your cause, and it’s worth living and dying for.
Active Duty, Reserves, National Guard, and the various Auxiliaries, it is indeed a calling.

It's also one of the reasons I tend to look on with pity at those people who, when they learn that I served and that my sons serve now, react with "Aren't you scared of what might happen to them?"

My response,"No, I worry what would happen to our country and the world if young men and women like them didn't step up and 'risk every thing' for the ideals our country" ends a lot of conversatiions.

Recommended reading Lessons from the Hanoi Hilton: Six Characteristics of High-Performance Teams discussed on Midrats 3 years ago:

Monday, October 30, 2017

What It Was, Was Baseball

Sleep deprivation for a long-time Astros fan living on the East Coast last night.

My word, what a game, what a series!

Astros-Dodgers World Series Game 5: The moments that made us lose our damn mind

The Astros and Dodgers broke the game of baseball into a million pieces:
Words fail. Analogies go limp. A common refrain for a game like Game 5 of the 2017 World Series is that baseball is drunk. Baseball is not drunk. Drunk people don’t fall up the stairs, through a window, and explode upon contact with the moon. This is not a movie. Movies have plots, logical progressions from A to B. This is not an avant-garde movie, either, where the director was trying to be weird. Both the Dodgers and Astros really, really, really wanted to be normal, and they absolutely could not.

I admire the Dodgers, too.

This is just one of those events where both teams show "never say die" isn't just a slogan.

Thank goodness today is a travel day.

U.S. Navy Office of Naval Intelligence Worldwide Threat to Shipping (WTS) Report 25 September - 25 October 2017 and HORN OF AFRICA/GULF OF GUINEA/ SOUTHEAST ASIA: Piracy Analysis and Warning Weekly (PAWW) Report for 19 - 25 October 2017

Saturday, October 28, 2017

A Book Review Worth Reading: A Forgotten Part of Fleets

B.J. Armstrong, PhD, reviews A Hard Fought Ship: The Story of HMS Venomous in War on the Rocks' A Forgotten Part of Fleets and makes the point oft taken up here for the small ship navy:
There are also, of course, questions that must be asked about the limits of the value of ships like the Venomous. Today small combatants are seen as being too limited in the combat capabilities they can bring to modern conflicts. There are also valid questions to be asked about survivability in the modern battle. And we must also recognize that because they do not fulfill the Navy’s self-image as a large ship, battlefleet force, some officers may not see their value.

Still, the low cost of small combatants relative to other warships and their ubiquitous use in the fleets of prior global naval powers remind us of their enduring value. It may be worth considering that for the price of one of today’s multi-mission destroyers (a destroyer in name but a modern capital ship in design, size, and cost), a flotilla of smaller ships could be built. And while only a very small number of shipyards build the ships of today’s U.S. Navy, a much wider number in the United States can, and do, build small combatants including the Coast Guard’s new patrol cutters and missile boats for foreign markets. The vast majority of the missions that are cited as the baseline for a 355-ship fleet, from freedom of navigation operations and naval diplomacy to littoral combat and broader patrols, are missions that small combatants have excelled at in the past.

On Midrats 29 October 2017 - Episode 408: NavyCon: Science Fiction's Important Role in National Security

Please join us at 5pm EDT on 29 October 217 for Midrats Episode 408: NavyCon: Science Fiction's Important Role in National Security
This Sunday we're going to convice you to make plans to be in Annapolis next month.

Coming up Saturday, Nov. 18, from 12 - 5 p.m. Eastern, our friend Claude Berube is husbanding the Naval Academy Museum's latest effort in what promises to be a very original and entertaining conference, NavyCon.

NavyCon has a great line up to discuss how fleet forces have been portrayed in science fiction, in comparison to our Navy today.

It kicks off with former NASA astronaut and Naval Academy Class of 1981 graduate, Capt. Kay Hire, on “NASA Today and Tomorrow.” Other speakers include the current Director of the Defense Strategies and Assessments Program at the Center for a New American Security, Dr. Jerry Hendrix, the former Program Manager of the U.S. Navy’s DDG-51 program, Captain Mark Vandroff, and “Service, Citizenship and ‘Starship Troopers,’” will be delivered by Congressman Mike Gallagher, who served as a Marine in Iraq. The concluding address will be given by the author of the best-selling “Honor Harrington” science fiction series, David Weber.

We will have Midrats regulars USNA Museum Director Claude Berube, LCDR USNR - Senior Fellow at CNAS Jerry Hendrix, CAPT USN (Ret) - and Mark Vandroff, CAPT USN, CO of NSWC Carderock and former DDG51 Program Manager to come on to discuss their part, do a little geek’n on Midrats time, and generally get you ready for NavyCon. ...and no, that isn't too much Navy for you. You can never have too much Navy.

We’ve got them for the full hour, don’t miss it!

Join us live if you can or pick the show up later by clicking here. Or you can also pick the show up later by visiting either our iTunes page or our Stitcher page.

Saturday Is Old Radio Day: Battle Stations "The Battle of the Atlantic" (1943)

As we close out the month celebrating the birth of the U.S. Navy (Oct 13, 1775), here's a WWII show, Battle Stations - Episodes 1 and 2 about the longest continuous campaign of the war The Battle of the Atlantic which was still in progress, at the time of these shows:

Part 1:

Part 2:

Friday, October 27, 2017

Cushing Day: Sink the Albemarle!

Reposting of a piece from 2007

October is a great month in the history of the United States Navy.

The U.S. Navy was founded on October 13, 1775.

USS Constitution, "old Ironsides", still in commission, was launched in October 1797.

The "greatest sea battle" of all time was fought in and around the Philippines - the Battle of Leyte Gulf was fought from October 20, 1944 (it began with the allied landings on Leyte) and ran through October 26. And saw the end of any real Japanese surface navy threat and the rise of the kamikaze air attacks. And every surface line officer knows that it was probably the last time that "crossing the T" was done to bring all guns to bear on an enemy fleet.

And in October 1962, the world was about as close to full out nuclear war as it has ever come, as the Soviets and Cubans attempted to place nuclear tipped missiles on Cuban shore and the U.S. responded with a naval blockade of Cuba and brinksmanship made both sides blink- during the Cuban Missile Crisis".

These great events sometimes overshadow the smaller stories of men at war, hiding the stories of individual actions and personalities that form themselves in courageous acts.

One such act took place on October 27, 1864. The Confederate states were themselves being blockaded by the Union Navy, which was tasked to keep military supplies from flowing into the South and Southern trade goods from flowing out. The success of the blockade was limited by shortages of ships and by daring "blockade runners." As set out here:
A vital link in the serpentine chain with which the Union government was slowly squeezing the life out of the Confederacy was the thousand-mile blockade of the southern coast line. If this were broken, permitting the Confederacy access to the outside world, the Union cause would inevitably fail.
Among the tools the Confederate Navy tried to use to defeat the blockade were its newly developed ironclad ships. These ships were designed to withstand shelling by the Union Navy ships and ram the relatively fragile hulls of wooden blockade ships, sinking them and ending the blockade.

One such iron clad ram was the Confederate ram Albemarle , which was stoutly armored for her day:
The Albemarle was built on the Roanoke River in 1863. She was of light draught, but of considerable length and width, her hull above the water-line being covered with four inches of iron bars.
Her early action is described here:
...built upriver in eastern North Carolina in William Ruffin Smith, Jr's cornfield on the edge of the Roanoke River near Scotland Neck...

The CSS Albemarle was commissioned on Sunday, April 17, 1864.

Her captain, Commander James W. Cooke, was ordered to immediately begin her trek downstream. Cooke, who previously held the responsibility of overseeing the construction of ironclads built in North Carolina, had been appointed as her captain in January.

Despite the fact that the Union Navy command in New Bern had been warned by spies that the Albemarle was on her way downstream, Cooke managed to successfully maneuver around Union-laid obstacles including a gauntlet of sunken hulls, pilings, torpedoes and cannon shot.

Two days after leaving the Edwards Ferry yard, the ironclad Albemarle, with her tender ship the Cotton Patch following close behind, arrived offshore of Plymouth.

At 4:07 a.m. on April 19, Cooke ordered the Albemarle's gun crew to load solid shot and standby. Through the misty twilight he had spotted two approaching Union vessels.

As the enemy grew closer he could see that the two ships were linked together with "hawsers and chains."

It quickly became obvious that the Union captains planned to snare the Albemarle with their chains trapping her between their vessels so the ironclad could be boarded and possibly captured.

Cooke ordered the Albemarle "all ahead full," sending the 376-ton ironclad straight for the space between the bows of wooden hulled Union vessels.

Heavy guns from the two Union ships, the USS Southfield and USS Miami, pounded the Albemarle with shot.

In a few seconds, the Albemarle had traversed the river, feinted at the last moment and rammed the Southfield hard at her port bow.

The Albemarle's ram crashed 10 feet inside the Southfield's hull, causing the Union ship to start sinking immediately. The Southfield suddenly listed to starboard, causing the Albemarle's bow to become jammed in the hull.

Cooke ordered "all astern full," hoping that full reverse thrust would relieve the Albemarle's bow and ram from the sinking Southfield.

To his horror, the Albemarle's ram remained stuck.

The ironclad began to sink with the Southfield, her bow depressed under the sinking ship. The Albemarle's forward deck was depressed so low that water rushed into her forward port.

Crewmen on the Southfield were abandoning ship. Some were attempting to lower small boats. Others were leaping into the chilly water.

The normally quiet morning twilight was filled with un-muffled shouts, screams and curses of Union sailors abandoning ship.

With the Albemarle stuck fast to the Southfield, the Miami's Captain, Lt. Commander Charles W. Flusser (also the Senior U.S. naval officer at Plymouth) ordered several broadsides fired into the ironclad's port casemate.

The shots ricocheted off the iron plates of the Albemarle, careening harmlessly into the water.

Flusser became enraged.

He jumped behind the Miami's bow-mounted XI-inch Dahlgren cannon, and personally fired the big gun pointblank at the Albemarle from a range of about 30 feet.

The shell slammed into the ironclad's casemate, ricocheting back and exploding directly over Flusser, killing him instantly and wounding several of the gun crew.

Cooke, still unable to use the big guns of the Albemarle because of her unfortunate predicament of being stuck to the Southfield, ordered his crew to climb to the top of the casemate where they engaged the Miami's crew in a brief but brisk small arms skirmish.

Finally, the Southfield's hull hit the bottom of the river. She rolled slightly, releasing her death grip on the Albemarle.

Cooke quickly reversed out and maneuvered the Albemarle for an attack on the Miami.

The Miami, however wanted no more of the Albemarle. She reversed her engines, then retreated at full speed.

By 5:11 a.m., as the sun began to cast rays over the waters of the Roanoke River at Plymouth, the Albemarle's first battle was over. She had suffered only one casualty - a crewmember identified only as "Harris." That unlucky Confederate received a pistol shot from a sailor on the Miami when he succumbed to curiosity and took a peek out of one the ironclad's gun ports.

Cooke navigated the victorious Albemarle to a point one mile below Plymouth where he dropped anchor and allowed the crew to recover and prepare their ship for another battle.

His "iron sharpshooter battery" and tender ship, the Cotton Plant, which had remained above Plymouth while the Albemarle engaged the enemy, was now anchored close by the ironclad.
Plymouth, North Carolina in those days was strategic port, located on the Roanoke River, and the site of vigorous military action:
During the War Between the States, Plymouth became a focal point for both the Union and the Confederacy because the Federal naval blockade tightened it's hold on the Confederacy with each passing year of the war. Being a strategic port, Plymouth gained added significance. It was believed to provide the easiest access to the vital Wilmington & Weldon Railroad. This crucial rail link which ran from Wilmington, NC to Richmond, VA was the "lifeline of the Confederacy", supplying Lee's Army of Northern Virginia. By 1864 the Federal fleet had closed all of the significant Southern ports except Wilmington, NC, which was guarded by the "Confederate Goliath", Fort Fischer. Therefore, this vital railroad became the focus of the Union and the Confederacy.

Plymouth, being occupied by the Federal Army and Navy since 1862, was a jumping off point for attempts to cut Lee's supply line, the Wilmington & Weldon Railroad.

Confederate Fort Branch located at Rainbow Bluffs above Williamston on the Roanoke River effectively blocked the river route. Numerous unsuccessful attempts to reach the railroad bridge at Weldon were made by the Plymouth based Federals.

Finally, in early 1864 Robert E. Lee agreed to spare his trustworthy Brigadier General, Robert F. Hoke, from service in Virginia to rid the coast of North Carolina of Union occupation. Hoke was on a tight timetable because Lee needed him back in Virginia before the summer campaign. With 13,000 troops and the promised support of the ironclad ram, the CSS Albemarle, Hoke began his attack on Plymouth late in the afternoon of April 17, 1864. Plymouth was defended by approximately 3,000 Federal troops under the command of Brigadier General Henry Wessells. The army was supported by the Federal Navy under the command of Charles Flusser.

After a full day of hard fighting on April 18th, some of the Confederate troops were becoming demoralized due to the heavy beating they were getting by the Federal Navy's gunboats and the stiff resistance from the well entrenched Federal Army defending Plymouth. Then in the early hours of April 19th the CSS Albemarle came to the rescue, steaming down the Roanoke driving the Federal Navy from the river. Commander Flusser was killed and the USS Southfield was rammed and sunk. The Federal army was surrounded now on land and river, but held out until 10:00 a.m. on April 20th, when General Wessells surrendered.
With the ironclad Albemarle controlling the river, the vital port could be kept open for the Confederacy.

But the death of Commander Flusser angered one his friends, Lt. William Barker Cushing.

Lt. Cushing, commander of the Union ship Monticello vowed to avenge his friend and devised a plan to sink Albemarle:
The plan was approved, and the Lieutenant withdrawn from the Monticello to perform this special service. Since that date Admiral LEE has been succeeded by Admiral PORTER, who has signalized his assumption of command by the destruction of the ALBEMARLE. After the conception of his plan Lieutenant CUSHING came to New York, and, in conjunction with Admiral GREGORY, Captain BOGGS, and Chief Engineer W. W. Wood, applied to one of the new steam-pickets a torpedo arrangement and returned to the Sound.
And the plan was executed:
The Albemarle was moored some eight miles from the mouth of the Roanoke River, at the wharves of Plymouth. On the night of October 27, 1864, a pitch-dark rainy night, Cushing slipped away from the blockading fleet on his perilous and desperate errand. Cushing went up-stream with the utmost caution, as the success depended upon silence and surprise. By good luck he passed unnoticed a Confederate lookout below the ram. The Albemarle was protected by a great boom of logs thrown out about thirty feet from her, on purpose. to prevent such an attack as Cushing had in view. Feeling his way cautiously he finally made out the boom of the Albemarle, and at once drove at her. But as they neared the landing the barking of a dog aroused the sentry. The shots were singing around him, as he stood erect guiding his launch. The noise of the great guns could be heard as they were made ready.

The second attempt to reach the ram was successful. As the boat slid forward over the boom he brought the torpedo full against the side of the powerful ram, and instantly exploded it, within ten feet of the muzzle of the hundred-pounder, which was depressed as rapidly as possible to blow Cushing and his boat out of the water. The explosion and the discharge of the Albemarle's gun was simultaneous. The ram at once settled, and the launch sinking at the same moment, Cushing and his men threw off their coats and plunged into the water, striking out for the middle of the river. From river to swamp and woods, and finally swimming besides a small, square-ended boat out of the sound into the sea, when coming within the hailing of our ships, Cushing gave the "ship ahoy," and was picked up by the Valley City. Cushing's whole career shows him as a man of great courage and energy and, as Admiral Farragut said, " While no navy has braver officers than ours, young Cushing was the hero of the war."
Cushing's report of the attack is here, and contains some sign of the courage of the men involved in the attack:
The light of fire ashore showed me the ironclad made fast to the wharf, with a pen of logs around her about 30 feet from her side.

Passing her closely, we made a complete circle so as to strike her fairly, and went into her bows on. By this time the enemy's fire was fairly severe, but a dose of canister at short range served to moderate their zeal and disturb their aim. Paymaster Swan, of the Otsego, was wounded near me, but how many more I know not. Three bullets struck my clothing, and the air seemed full of them.

In a moment we had struck the logs, just abreast of the quarter port, breasting them in some feet, and our bows resting on them. The torpedo boom was then lowered and by a vigorous pull I succeeded in diving the torpedo under the overhang and exploding it at the same time that the Albemarle's gun was fired. A shot seemed to go crashing through my boat, and a dense mass of water rushed in from the torpedo, filling the launch and completely disabling her.

The enemy then continued his fire at 15 feet range, and demanded our surrender, which I twice refused, ordering the men to save themselves, and removing my own coat and shoes. Springing into the river, I swam, with others, into the middle of the stream, the rebels failing to hit us.

The most of our party were captured, some were drowned, and only one escaped besides myself, and he in another direction.
Lt. Cushing was much honored in his day.

Fittingly, the U.S. named a motor torpedo boat (TB-1) after Cushing. In addition, a number of destroyers have borne the Cushing name, one of which (DD-376) was lost off Guadalcanal in 1942. DD-797 saw action in both WW II and Korea. The fifth USS Cushing, a Spruance class destroyer, was decommissioned in 2005.

A small salute to a naval hero and the men who took up his challenge to engage the enemy.

Click on the pictures to enlarge them.

Friday Film: "The Broad Fourteen" Royal Navy Light Coastal Forces in WWII (1945)

Thursday, October 26, 2017

U.S. Navy and Marines: It's Payloads, Not Platforms (Again)

A flat spot on a deck and an ampphibious ship becomes a missile platform capable of supporting operations ashore, as set in this PACOM and Expiditionary Group 3 press release

Anchorage Conducts High Mobility Artillery Rocket System Shoot during DB17 by PO3 Abigail Rader:
U.S. Navy Photo by PO2 Matthew Dickinson
The High Mobility Artillery Rocket System (HIMARS) was fired from the flight deck of the San Antonio-class amphibious transport dock ship USS Anchorage (LPD 23) during Dawn Blitz 2017, Oct. 22.

The HIMARS is a weapons system made up of the M142, five-ton chassis vehicle and can carry either a launcher pod of six rockets or one MGM-140 Army Tactical Missile System (ATACMS).

It enables Marines to engage targets within minutes after firing and features an advanced targeting system that strikes with an extremely high accuracy rate. The system also features a greater range than traditional artillery, allowing smaller units to cover a larger area.

The demonstration on Anchorage consisted of HIMARS engaging a land-based target with a Guided Multiple Launch Rocket System Unitary (GMLRS-U).

“We had two training objectives for today’s shoot,” said Army Maj. Adam Ropelewski, I Marine Expeditionary Force (MEF), lead planner for sea-based expeditionary fires. "The first training objective was demonstrating this capability, and second, we wanted to have good effects on the target. We achieved both objectives. We destroyed the target at 70 kilometers while at sea."

Developing sea-based fires alternatives such as the HIMARS afloat and proving them to be effective provides an opportunity for our Navy and Marine Corps team to evaluate, refine, and improve processes to be ready for the future fight.

“In an environment where we are operating in contested waters, we are finding a way to be able to support the land force with deeper strike capabilities,” said Capt. AJ Kowaleuski, an artillery officer with I MEF.

This ability provides flexibility while the Navy and Marine Corps are supporting each other in combined operations.

This portion of Dawn Blitz validated the commander’s ability to integrate HIMARS with ships to conduct a sea-based strike.

“What we demonstrated not only was its capability, but we further demonstrated capabilities from the blue-green team and Amphibious Force Three,” said Ropelewski. “They performed very well, and were able to come together and work hard to make the mission successful.”

While offered up in a slightly different context, this post from 9 years ago is relevant about getting creative in doing what our Navy is supposed to do or so it seems to me. I've edited it slightly:
Ain't no need for a Navy if it can't do the job.

If you don't have the resources, send a couple of fleet lieutenants and some crusty old
The "Whatever It Takes" Fleet
chiefs on a mission to "kludge" the pirates. (insert "build a strong enough presence force")

Don't send a "clean hands" Lieutenant - send that guy who hates the bureaucracy and his buddy.

The kind of LT who uses cans of coffee to smooth shipyard wheels- if you get my drift. (Here's another hint - if he offers to do a Power Point presentation- he's the wrong guy...)

Send a supply guy along with a check book and a willingness to stretch a few rules. Don't ask too many questions, just tell them to "stop the d*mn pirates!" (insert "payloads, not plaforms")

They''ll find a way.

If they ask, tell the Washington crowd that operational conditions mandate "thinking outside the box." Or, perhaps, tell them you are :
Leveraging the littoral best practices for a paradigm breaking six-sigma best business case in the global commons, rightsizing the core values supporting our mission statement via the 5-vector model.
To steal a phrase.

Deterring lightly armed pirates in small boat (insert "bullies") is not that tough. But you have to quit thinking like a cruiser skipper and start thinking like a pirate. If I were a pirate (insert "bully") I would hate to see lots of armed fast support vessels escorting ships (insert "hanging around/training local forces").

Of course, I reckon duty on "pirate patrol" in the escort  (insert "the micro") fleet I envision probably won't punch the important SWO tickets. It would just get the job done, unlike tying up a half dozen expensive gray hulls watching a captured ship from a safe distance.

And it would help the Navy do its mission of keeping those sea lanes open. You know that mission from the new Maritime Strategy that Charlie Dragonette quoted:
"The creation and maintenance of security at sea is essential to mitigating threats short of war, including piracy."

See also Department of Crazy Ideas: How about a cheap inshore fleet?, Psst.Psst. Wanna Distribute Your Lethality on the Cheap?, A Blast from the Past - Department of The Expendable Ship Division : "How to Make the Navy Bigger, Sooner, Cheaper" Revisited, CHEAPER CORVETTES: COOP AND STUFT LIKE THAT, Micro Force: Small Combatants for the Littorals

U.S. Naval Research Lab Good Stuff: Multiple Unmanned Air Systems Launched By U.S. Navy

New Unmanned Air System tested on USS Coronado
USNRL photo
“Nomad, is a low-cost rotary wing vehicle in which researchers can test remote control, autonomous flight control, station keeping and safe coordinated flight supporting any number of possible future payloads,” says co-principal investigator Steve Tayman, senior aerospace engineer with NRL’s Vehicle Research Section (VRS). “The unique form factor provides compact, light-weight storage in an integrated launch tube, and allows for storage in a ready-to-use condition for quick reaction deployment.”

The Nomad is a highly affordable expendable design, allowing for execution of its mission without concerns for returning to the ship. This new upgrade retains the original affordable expendable design, but now has a recovery feature that allows operators to retrieve and reuse the Nomad vehicles multiple times in support of development, testing, training, and potentially future operational missions.
The system now has multi-launch capability, deploying multiple Nomads in quick succession instead of singularly, while retaining the system’s safe CO2 ejection system design. Tayman states that this creates an equally safe launching mechanism that can support a higher quantity of Nomads.
The Nomad test on Coronado marks the first time this multi-launch and retrieval technology has been tested on a U. S. Navy ship. “We’re excited to demonstrate this technology utilizing forward deployed fleet personnel and assets, testing one of our newest technologies on the Navy’s newest class of ships,” says co-principal investigator Aaron Kahn, a senior Guidance, Navigation, and Control researcher also with the VRS.

“During this test we were able to show multiple Nomads can safely operate in the same airspace and fly in a coordinated fashion. The ability to retrieve Nomads back onboard the ship opens up future opportunities for testing and fleet training with more expensive payloads – an aspect of affordability that can easily be overlooked” says Kahn.
But wait, there's more - how about a Nomad that flies to a location and then turns into a "swimmer?" Behold the "Flimmer" --

100+ mile range, several days or "weeks" of endurance, maybe.

A flying sensor that is expendable like a sonobouy.

Monday, October 23, 2017

Monday History Movie "The Secret Land" (1948)

The Secret Land is a 1948 American documentary film about an American expedition code-named "Operation High Jump" to explore Antarctica. It won the Academy Award for Academy Award for Best Documentary Feature.

This documentary, filmed entirely by military photographers, recounts the U.S. Navy's 1946-47 expedition to Antarctica, known as Operation High Jump. The expedition was under the overall command of Admiral Richard E. Byrd, no stranger to the Antarctic. This was a large undertaking involving 13 ships and over 4000 thousand men. The fleet departed from Norfolk, Virginia traveling through the Panama canal and then southward to their final destination. The trip through the ice pack was fraught with danger and forced the submarine that was part of the fleet to withdraw. The trip was a success meeting all of its scientific goals. The film is narrated by three Hollywood stars, all of whom served in the US Navy: Robert Taylor, Robert Montgomery and Van Heflin.
It should be noted that there are enough "conspiracy theorists" who view Antarctica as something "special." This includes questioning why Byrd had over 4000 men in his force - however, if you think about the number of crew members of 13 ships, plus scientists, it's not all that hard to figure out where that number some from.

In any event, this documentary is history in the raw - and points out the very real risks undertaken by the men of the operation some 69 years ago.

I don't know if the opening with Admiral Nimitz could have been more awkward, but it's nice to see that none of the leaders were as "media savvy" as some are today.

RADM Byrd was about 58 when this expedition was set up. There appear to be some questions about his health.

Saturday, October 21, 2017

Friday, October 20, 2017

Friday Film: "Vertical Assault"

Produced by Sikorsky with U.S. Marine Corps cooperation:

Update: My guess is this was produced in the later 1950's, pre-Vietnam.

Thursday, October 19, 2017

Micro Force: Small Combatants for the Littorals

We need a bigger U.S. Navy - but the fleet can be grown in many different ways. One way is to develop a "micro Navy" (as opposed to "Big Navy" gray hulls) buidling on the lessons learned and discarded from U.S. and allied patrol torpedo boat operations in WWII.

Update these boats with anti-ship missiles, mines, and unmanned drone vessels to be deployed from the boats - you've created a potentially deadly small combatant force for use in the littoral for a faction of the cost of larger ships.

More on this later.

Monday, October 16, 2017

U.S. Navy Office of Naval Intelligence Worldwide Threat to Shipping (WTS) Report 11 September - 11 October 2017 and HORN OF AFRICA/GULF OF GUINEA/ SOUTHEAST ASIA: Piracy Analysis and Warning Weekly (PAWW) Report for 5 - 11 October 2017

Australia ‘wait and see’ on China's "Belt and Road" Fantasy - ur - Initiative? Akbar's Warning

Interesting piece from the Aussie Lowy Institute's "The Interpreter" Belt and Road: The case for ‘wait and see’
. . . BRI raises bigger questions about the kind of regional economic and security order we would like to see in the Indo-Pacific. It is telling that BRI is organised on a 'hub-and-spokes' model, despite Chinese claims that it is somehow 'multilateral' in form. The 'One Belt' and 'One Road' run back to One Capital – Beijing – and joining BRI would require signing a bilateral memorandum of understanding with China rather signing up to some kind of internationally negotiated, rules-governed, multilateral institution. This speaks volumes about China's ambitions under Xi, particularly the desire for a Sino-centric economic order in which Beijing decides who gets trading and financial privileges from China, and who does not.
Sounds a lot like flypaper.

Or, as Admiral Akbar put it:

It all makes sense if you think of China as the "Middle Kingdom" and the rest of the world as tribute-paying barbarians.

Saturday, October 14, 2017

Saturday Is Old Radio Day: Dimension X "The Professor Was A Thief" (1950)

L. Ron Hubbard ( yes, that guy) wrote this.

On Midrats 15 October 2017 - Episode 406: America's First General Staff, with John Kuehn

Please join us at 5pm (EDT) on 15 October 2017 for Midrats Episode 406: America's First General Staff, with John Kuehn
The General Board of the Navy existed for the first half of the 20th Century. In his latest
book, America's First General Staff: A Short History of the Rise and Fall of the General Board of the U.S. Navy, 1900-1950, our guest Dr. John T. Kuehn describes how the Board, a creature of its time born from a defined need following the "last war," became the organization that drove the growth of a world class navy and brought together the best in naval thought and strategic thinking.

For the full hour we'll examine its rise and fall, successes and failures, as well as the lessons it may teach us today.

Dr. Kuehn is the General William Stofft Chair for Historical Research at the U.S. Army Command and General Staff College. He retired from the U.S. Navy 2004 at the rank of commander after 23 years of service as a naval flight officer in EP-3s and ES-3s. He authored Agents of Innovation (2008) and co-authored Eyewitness Pacific Theater (2008) with D.M. Giangreco, as well as numerous articles and editorials and was awarded a Moncado Prize from the Society for Military History in 2011.

His previous books include Napoleonic Warfare: The Operational Art of the Great Campaigns and A Military History of Japan: From the Age of the Samurai to the 21st Century as well as numerous articles and editorials. He was awarded a Moncado Prize from the Society for Military History in 2011.
Join us live if you can or pick the show up later by clicking iTunes page or our Stitcher page.

Thursday, October 12, 2017

U.S. Navy Has a Coastal Mine Detection System

U.S. has a coastal mine detection system reports Megan Eckstine at USNI News
The Navy completed the first phase of its initial operational test and evaluation on the AN/DVS-1 Coastal Battlefield Reconnaissance and Analysis (COBRA) airborne mine detection system and is awaiting Littoral Combat Ship availability to complete the remaining testing.

COBRA is a sensor payload that operates onboard the MQ-8B Fire Scout and can detect beach zone mines in the daytime to help plan amphibious landings. An eventual block upgrade would add nighttime and surf zone detection capabilities.
Using air vehicle operators and mission payload operators from Air Test and Evaluation Squadron (VX) 1, maintainers from Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron (HSC) 21 and operators from USS Independence (LCS-2) and the LCS Squadron (LCSRON) 1, the LCS program proved to the Operational Test and Evaluation Force that COBRA can effectively and reliably meet its mission requirements.

“Right now, in order for us to do the kind of reconnaissance you need in advance of an amphibious landing, you’ve got to put sailors and Marines, you’ve got to put somebody in there with eyes on target to see what’s there, see if there’s any obstacles. People are involved in it,” Taylor said.
“With this capability, you’re able to go from the LCS with an unmanned vehicle, you’re able to recon a whole line of beach – not just one or two areas, you can look at the whole beach, you can look at all the lanes that are possible without putting somebody there – which allows you to come back and look at that and choose which lane or lanes are available and which are not.”
COBRA aircraft component (U.S. Navy photo)

More on COBRA here:
The COBRA airborne payload will be carried on the MQ-8 Fire Scout unmanned air system. This allows operators and other personnel to remain at a safe distance from the mine and obstacle belts and enemy direct and indirect fire. COBRA will be embarked in the Littoral Combat Ship (LCS) as part of the mine countermeasures (MCM) mission package (MP).
Wonder who will protect the LCS at its "safe distance." And what is that distance in today's battlespace?

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

U.S. Oil and Gas Building National Security

The good news - Lower Costs, Shale Growth Restrict Oil Price in Long Termfrom FItch Ratings:
Lower global production costs, considerable U.S. shale growth potential and shale's ability to quickly respond to changing market conditions should keep average annual oil prices below USD60 a barrel in the long term, Fitch Ratings says. But oil prices will remain volatile and could periodically exceed our assumptions.
We remain sceptical about the effectiveness of OPEC's production cuts to rebalance supply and demand in the near term, as well as to materially reduce crude stocks given the exclusion of Libya and Nigeria (both producing at higher levels since the cut), weak enforceability, and poor track records of adherence. OPEC's average compliance rate slipped to 75% in July from almost 100% at the beginning of the year, according to the International Energy Agency. It improved to 82% in August, but overall we expect average compliance rates in 2H17 and beyond to be weaker than in 1H17.
So relatively low fuel prices should continue, keeping more money into the U.S. economy.

But more good news from the Oil and Gas Journal of Oct 9, 2017, reporting on remarks by Interior Secretary Zinke commenting on efforts to help U.S. oil and gas producers:
“Regulations should be ground in science—not a political agenda,” the secretary indicated. “This is why we’re reviewing and possibly revoking rules that are overly punitive. We’re trying to find the quickest way to get to ‘yes’ without sacrificing our environmental and other responsibilities. With our joint model, we’ll make sure that agencies from many parts of the federal government can work together and involve states, tribes, and other stakeholders earlier in the process.”

Zinke said that more federal oil and gas resource development will improve US security and provide more jobs and economic growth. “I don’t want to see our country held hostage by a foreign oil producer or US troops sent into combat to protect supply routes,” he maintained. “Every drop of US oil that’s produced supplants one from Iran. That’s effective leverage.”
There is an interesting issue that lurks behind efforts to reduce or ban the use of petroleum powered vehicles- well posed by BOb Tippee of the Oil and Gas Journal:

The greenest means of efficient and large elecrical power generation is nuclear, not wind or geothermal or solar or water current.

See Electric Cars Are Not Necessarily Clean: Your battery-powered vehicle is only as green as your electricity supplier and Electric car growth sparks environmental concerns: Mining of raw materials and recycling of lithium-ion batteries in spotlight.

Of course, if the goal is reducing CO2, I guess other types of environmental concerns melt away.

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Disaster Relief (and Other Uses) "Flying Cell Phone Towers"

"Flying Cell Phone Towers Go Mainstream" says Martin UAV and Fenix Group:

Fenix Group, a private VA based technology firm, has partnered with Martin UAV, a Texas based manufacturer of rugged utility drones to launch the world’s first drone capable of providing fully functional 4G cell phone service.

The feat may be a world’s first, and the company sees huge potential for government and industry with the flying cell phone tower, weighing in at under 55 pounds.

“When we first conceived the project, we knew we had to make it a priority,” said Dave Peterson, Fenix Group’s President & CEO.

“The market is just there for this right now and Martin UAV immediately understood that.”

“Beyond tactical closed networks for DoD at huge cost savings over what is currently being fielded, the marriage of unmanned systems with LTE core networks is representative of what Google was trying to do with their Loon program.”

“We beat Google at something, for very little money, and that feels great.”
In addition to providing a coverage area on the ground, the payload is also able to stream encrypted video from the drone’s camera system to anyone on the network.

In the future, soldiers, search and rescue teams, and first responders will have access to drone video from their phones. The Fenix team even went so far as to enable Internet access so that command centers could access the feed from anywhere in the world.

Yes, it's advertising, but the tech idea is great.

Monday, October 09, 2017

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

U.S. Navy Office of Naval Intelligence Worldwide Threat to Shipping (WTS) Report 4 September - 4 October 2... by lawofsea on Scribd

U.S. Navy Office of Naval Intelligence HORN OF AFRICA/GULF OF GUINEA/ SOUTHEAST ASIA: Piracy Analysis and W... by lawofsea on Scribd

China and It's "Greater East Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere" Clone Plan

Well now, it seems the gloves, if not coming off, are being tugged at. Bonnie Glaser notes in a tweet about the following South China Morning Post artice:
Chinese oceanographic researcher says this part of an effort to breach the Second Island Chain.
Breaching the second island chain? Why?

Andrew Ericson and Joel Wuthnow explain in Why Islands Still Matter in Asia: The Enduring Significance of the Pacific “Island Chains”:
The extensive chains of Pacific islands ringing China have been described as a wall, a barrier to be breached by an attacker or strengthened by a defender. They are seen as springboards, potential bases for operations to attack or invade others in the region. In a territorial sense, they are benchmarks marking the extent of a country’s influence.

“It’s truly a case of where you stand. Perspective is shaped by one’s geographic and geostrategic position,” said Andrew Erickson, a professor with the China Maritime Studies Institute at the Naval War College.

“Barriers is a very Chinese perspective,” said Erickson. “It reflects a concern that foreign military facilities based on the islands may impede or threaten China’s efforts or influence.” …
An excellent discussion of China's island "layers of active defense" at Jon Solomon's Potential Chinese Anti-Ship Capabilities Between the First and Second Island Chains which includes a posting of this U.S. Navy Office of Naval Intelligence graphic:
and this:
The sea lanes in question pass through the waters between the First Island Chain and the line stretching from Hokkaido through the Bonins and Marianas to the Palaus (e.g, the “Second Island Chain”). I’ve recently written about the PLAAF’s effective reach into the Western Pacific, and it’s been widely understood for years that late-generation PLAN submarines possess the technological capability to operate for several weeks in these waters before having to return to port. China would be hard-pressed to achieve localized sea control anywhere within this broad area; its own surface combatants and shipping would be just as vulnerable to attack. It wouldn’t need sea control, though, to achieve its probable campaign-level objectives of bogging down (or outright thwarting) an effective U.S. military response, or perhaps inflicting coercive economic pain upon one or more embattled American allies. The use of PLA submarines and strike aircraft to pressure U.S. and allied sea lines of communications would be entirely sufficient. And as Toshi Yoshihara and Martin Murphy point out in their article in the Summer ‘15 Naval War College Review, these kinds of PLA operations would be consistent with the Mao-derived maritime strategic theory of “sabotage warfare at sea,” albeit at a much greater distance from China’s shores than the theory originally conceived. Such operations have been widely discussed in Chinese strategic literature over the past two decades
That link regarding the "first island chain" goes to a Wikipedia piece:
The first island chain refers to the first chain of major archipelagos out from the East Asian continental mainland coast. Principally composed of the Kuril Islands, Japanese Archipelago, Ryukyu Islands, Taiwan, the northern Philippines, and Borneo; from the Kamchatka Peninsula to the Malay Peninsula. Some definitions of the first island chain anchor the northern end on the Russian Far East coast north of Sahkalin Island, with Sahkalin Island being the first link in the chain.[1] However, others consider the Aleutians as the farthest north-eastern first link in the chain.[2] The first island chain forms one of three island chain doctrines within the Island Chain Strategy.

The first island chain has its purpose in Chinese military doctrine. The People's Republic of China views the first island chain as the area it must secure and disable from American bases, aircraft and aircraft-carrier groups, if in defending itself it must tactically unleash a pre-emptive attack against an enemy. The aim of the doctrine is to seal off the Yellow Sea, South China Sea and East China Sea inside an arc running from the Aleutians in the north to Borneo in the south.[3] According to reports by American think tanks CSBA and RAND, by 2020, China will be well on its way to having the means to achieve its first island chain policy.[4]
The Yoshihara and Martin article (pdf here) notes China's Mao inspired concept of "active defense"
At length, in March 1956, the Central Military Commission issued military strategic guidance under the rubric of “active defense, defend the motherland.” “Active defense,” a concept that Mao developed and refined in the 1930s, called for the employment of offensive operations and tactics to achieve strategically defensive goals. The navy’s role was to support the army and the air force against the enemy on land. Under active defense, the PLAN’s missions were to conduct joint counter landing operations with ground and air forces; wreck the enemy’s sea lines of communications, severing the supply of materiel and manpower; weaken and annihilate the enemy’s seaborne transport tools and combat vessels; jointly operate with ground forces in contests over key points and locations along the coast; guarantee the security of our coastal base system and strategic locations; support ground forces in littoral flanking operations; act in concert with ground forces to recover offshore islands and all territories

For years China was not a true naval power, so it turned to the lessons it had learned from the guerrilla war its new leaders had fought and won. The leader of the PLAN, an army general, reached back:
After consulting Mao Zedong’s military writings from the 1920s and 1930s and those of Soviet experts, Xiao articulated the operational concept of “sabotage warfare at sea” (海上破袭战). Confronted with better-armed enemies, he understood that China was in no position to fight them head-on. Drawing on his own battlefield experiences, the admiral reasoned that inferior Chinese forces had to “use suddenness and sabotage and guerilla tactics to unceasingly attack and destroy the enemy, accumulate small victories in place of big wins, fully leverage and bring into play our advantageous conditions, exploit and create unfavorable conditions for the enemy, and implement protracted war.” Mao would have instantly recognized these ideas as his own.

Four key features characterized Xiao’s sabotage warfare at sea. First, it called for the use of all available weaponry to deliver all possible types of attacks against the enemy. Second, it emphasized covert action and sudden surprise attacks to overpower unsuspecting or unprepared adversaries, so as to seize the initiative. Third, it required offensive campaigns and tactics to assault unceasingly the effective strength of the enemy. Fourth, it demanded the agile use of troops and combat styles to preserve one’s own forces while annihilating the opponent. Xiao essentially codified what his forces had practiced out of sheer necessity in previous years. In contrast to a “naval strategy” as such, seeking to align available means with larger political aims, the admiral furnished a concept that was largely operational and tactical in nature. Xiao, in essence, identified methods for winning battles
This thinking breeds maritime militia, anti-ship ballistic missiles and a rapid expansion of a navy.

All this being prelude to the bit Ms. Glaser points to in this innocuously titled article,
US spy planes kept eye on Chinese scientists during research expedition near Guam
Xu Kuidong, a lead researcher with the mission who is affiliated with the Institute of Oceanology, Chinese Academy of Sciences in Qingdao, Shandong, said the scientists on board were “well aware” of the area’s sensitivity.

“It is all about the Second Island Chain,” he said, referring to a series of archipelagos that stretches from the eastern coast of Japan to the Bonin islands, to the Mariana islands, to Guam and the island country of Palau.

The US-controlled islands initially served as a second line of defence against communist countries in East Asia during the cold war. Today they are regarded as a major constraint on China’s rapidly expanding marine power and influence in the Pacific Ocean.
The team’s findings would be shared with the Chinese military and other interest groups in government, Xu said.
“There are many efforts going on to breach the Second Island Chain, this is part of them,” he said.
According to Tom Matelski, a US Army War College Fellow at the Daniel K. Inouye Asia Pacific Centre for Security Studies in Hawaii, China was seeking to build a military base in Micronesia.
Micronesia, with a population of about 110,000, has received a large amount of aid and investment from China since 2003. The money helped build some of the nation’s largest farms, schools, bridges and power plants, as well as the residence for the president and other senior government officials.
Since Micronesia lacked its own military, it had “outsourced” its defence to the US since the end of the second world war. But in 2015 Micronesian lawmakers introduced a resolution to end the exclusive partnership with the US as early as 2018.

If the Chinese military got a foothold on a Micronesian island, “the US could potentially lose their access to the strategic lines of communication that connect the Pacific Ocean to the vital traffic of the East and South China Seas”, Matelski wrote in an article published on the website of The Diplomat magazine in February last year.
Possession of portions of the Second Island Chain would give China a “springboard against foreign force projection,” he said.
So, China - currently through obstensibly peaceful means - seeks to do what the Japanese tried to do before the start of WWII - developing bases on trade routes, expanding their presence, developing what amounts to a clone of the Japanese Greater East Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere

Or, more accurately:
As noted here by Andrew Ericson:
“Back when imperial Japan was trying to gain control of the first, second and even a third chain – the Aleutians – there was a concern that if Japan didn’t control the Philippines, Guam and Hawaii the Americans would, to Japan’s geostrategic detriment,” said Erickson. “At the outset of World War II, Japan made an extraordinary effort to use part of the chains as a springboard, and they were indeed benchmarks of Japanese military progress. That was only halted then the US turned island-hopping in the other direction.”

“Today, Japan is concerned about Chinese attempts to influence and control areas and to develop weapon systems vis-a-vis these island chains,” Erickson added. “And there’s a lot of Japanese concern about ongoing Chinese efforts to penetrate the chains using increasingly powerful and complex groups of naval vessels. I think Japan feels very much connected to these island chains. As China looks to the chains and aspires to do things, I think Japan feels very targeted by that, it feels it very acutely.” …

“Many Chinese sources emphasize their view of Taiwan’s status as a key node on the first island chain,” Erickson said. “Some Chinese sources see this not only as a springboard against mainland China, but a number of sources express aspirations of eventually [bringing the island] under mainland control, perhaps in a very robust fashion that would allow for some form of Chinese-controlled military facilities. We see discussion of ports, particularly on the east coast of Taiwan, allowing for China to conclusively break out of the confines of the first island chain once and for all.”

“I see no other part of an island chain that is really in the category of what some Chinese strategists ultimately aspire to control and own themselves,” Erickson said. “That definitely sets Taiwan apart.”

And while most attention is focused on the first island chain running south along the eastern edge of the South China Sea, the significance of the second chain, which includes the US territory of Guam, could grow.

“A number of Chinese sources see this as a rear staging area for US and allied forces,” Erickson said.

“But the second island chain will grow in China’s geostrategic thinking. As China continues to send naval forces afield, it will be a benchmark.”

Over time, he added, “China can do more to hold Guam and other parts of the second island chain at risk.”
Not just the "second island chain" either, as James Holmes points out in Island Chains Everywhere: Some Chinese strategists see Hawaii as Asia’s ‘third island chain.’ What does this view say about US-China ties?
At least some Chinese strategists think of Hawaii as an appendage of Asia rather than a geographic feature of the Pacific Ocean, placed closer to the Americas than to the Chinese coastline. The concept of first and second island chains is familiar to Asia specialists, but the concept of a third island chain, positioned only 2,400 miles from San Francisco, is a novel one. It appears on a map of the Pacific found in a recent translation of Capt. Alfred Thayer Mahan’s The Influence of Sea Power upon History, 1660-1783—the same translation whose front cover blares, ‘Does China Need an Aircraft Carrier?’

For Hawaii to fit the island chain template, however, it would need to be (1) a very long series of islands that (2) runs north-south fairly close to Asian shores, (3) encloses the Asian mainland, and (4) is inhabited by a prospective rival or rivals of China able to project military power seaward. Hawaii meets the last test but fails the first three miserably. We may as well describe the Americas as Asia’s fourth island chain. That the island chain metaphor sounds outlandish to American ears when applied to Hawaii, while many Chinese take it seriously, nonetheless reveals something discomfiting about US-China relations.

As Chinese naval proponents see it, the first and second island chains complicate their nation’s nautical destiny so long as they remain in potentially hostile hands—as they will in the case of Japan, to take the most obvious example. Japan’s combination of geographic position, multiple seaports suitable for military shipping and resources makes it a permanent factor in Chinese strategy. Forces stationed along the island chains can encumber the Chinese navy’s free access to the Western Pacific while inhibiting north-south movement along the Asian seaboard. How to surmount or work around these immovable obstacles understandably preoccupies scholars and practitioners of naval affairs in China.

But what about Hawaii? That the archipelago commands enormous strategic value for the United States has been axiomatic for American strategists for over a century. For example, Mahan—whom the Timesof London colorfully dubbed the United States' ‘Copernicus’ of sea power—lauded its geopolitical worth. Unlike their forebears from the age of sail, steamships could defy winds and currents, but they also demanded fuel in bulk to make long voyages. Accordingly, he exhorted a United States with commercial interests at stake in Asia to forge a ‘chain’ of island bases to support the transpacific journeys of steam-propelled merchantmen and their guardians, armoured men-of-war.
Taken to extremes, Beijing’s habit of appraising Pacific and Indian Ocean geography through the island chain lens—that is, seeing geographic features as an adversary’s defense perimeter that must be punctured, or a wall that must be fortified for defense—could misshape Chinese maritime strategy. Prodded by such conceptions, the Chinese leadership could take an unduly pessimistic view of the strategic surroundings, needlessly straining relations with the many seafaring powers that ply the Western Pacific and China’s near seas.
The game is afoot.

It's why we have a Navy to limit this before it gets out of hand. But we need a bigger force, one well thought out to insure international trade routes stay free.