Friday, September 15, 2023

U.S. Navy Office of Naval Intelligence Worldwide Threat to Shipping (WTS) Report, 16 August - 13 September 2023

Interesting section: 1. (U) (LATE REPORTING) YEMEN: On 25 August, an entity impersonating the United Nations Verification and Inspection Mechanism for Yemen (UNVIM) was directing merchant vessels in the vicinity of Aden Anchorage, near position 12:48N – 045:15E, to divert to Hodeidah Port in the southern Red Sea. (UKMTO; Clearwater Dynamics)

U.S. Navy Office of Naval I... by lawofsea

Friday Films: "Boilers and Their Operation" and "Deaerating Feed Tanks" (both 1955)

Getting ready to go to sea in the days before gas turbines in ships meant the snipes had to get up really early to light off the boilers to have enough steam for propelling the ship. Boiler Techs did not work in quiet air-conditioned spaces. But they often worked miracles.

Tuesday, August 29, 2023

U.S. Navy Office of Naval Intelligence Worldwide Threat to Shipping (WTS) Report, 26 July - 23 August 2023

Interesting starter, calling out China (which deserves it, by the way):
A. (U) U.S. Maritime Advisory 2023-009-Woldwide-Foreign Adversarial Technological, Physical, and Cyber Influence Issued on 23 August 2023. This advisory seeks to alert maritime stakeholders of potential vulnerabilities to maritime port equipment, networks, operating systems, software, and infrastructure. Foreign companies manufacture, install, and maintain port equipment that poses vulnerabilities to global maritime infrastructure information technology and operational technology systems. This advisory references U.S. Government documents published over the past few years, illuminating the risks associated with integrating and utilizing the People’s Republic of China’s (PRC’s) state-supported National Public Information Platform for Transportation and Logistics (LOGINK), Nuctech scanners, and automated port cranes worldwide.

U.S. Navy Office of Naval I... by lawofsea

Sunday, August 13, 2023

Bombarding the Kerch Bridge - It's all about logistics . . . Russian Logistics

Russia asserts the smoke is part of their defense of the Kerch Bridge. That it needs defending points to Ukrainian successes

Ukraine keeps pounding on the Kerch Bridge as asserted Bridge Attack: Chilling Moment Ukraine Launches Missile Attack On Crimea Bridge In Front Of Stunned Holidaymakers :

The Kerch Bridge stretches for 12 miles across the Kerch Strait. It is considered an important route for Russian soldiers fighting in Ukraine.

The Crimean Transport Ministry reported to The Wall Street Journal that the bridge currently is open to cars, but not heavy trucks. A rail section of the bridge remains open.

Stunned? Really? The bridge is a key logistics link to Russian forces in the field and a symbol of Russian power.

As this war has worn on, the Russian logistics effort has been targeted repeatedly. Troops in the field need ammunition, food, and other supplies. Hindering their logistics effort is key to grinding the Russian forces down.

Very good commentary piece from Bradley Martin of Rand's National Security Supply Chain Institute from February 2023 Will Logistics Be Russia's Undoing in Ukraine?:

Russia's experience in Ukraine one year in is an example of what happens when a nation tries to fight a war without fully considering the logistics and sustainment that go alongside such a fight. The war in Ukraine has shown that familiar concepts of economic mobilization, as well as the thorough alignment of operations with the necessary resources, continue to be central to not simply planning but sustaining a war. The consequences for failing to fully consider these concepts drove Russia into a prolonged conflict, one for which it was already ill-prepared a year ago, and one with increasingly dire consequences for its future.

Ukraine, by attacking the Russian logistics system, seems to be patiently squeezing the Russian field forces.

Expect them to keep hammering that system while holding the lines they have.

Wednesday, July 19, 2023

Remember When We Were Protected from Oil Price Increases Because We Were Basically Petroleum Energy Independent?

Reuters headline Saudi Arabia, Russia deepen oil cuts, sending prices higher
Saudi Arabia and Russia, the world's biggest oil exporters, deepened oil cuts on Monday, sending prices higher despite concerns over a global economic slowdown and possible further interest rate increases from the U.S. Federal Reserve.

Oh. gosh, was it only a few years ago that the US was mostly petroleum independent? Well, Reuters has an article that declares that the US was not really energy independent, because, well, it depends on how you define "independence"


For Andrew Campbell, Executive Director of the Energy Institute at Berkeley Haas ( here ) “energy independence” is a “political slogan, not an economic or technical concept with a clear definition” often used by politicians to “imply that a country is insulated from global energy markets”.

“This is rarely the case,” he said.

“If a country produces all of the energy that it consumes, does not participate in international trade in energy, does not import energy-intensive products and does not send energy-related pollution to its neighbors or the atmosphere, then I would consider it energy independent. I don’t think any country meets that definition.”

Harrison Fell, a Senior Research Scholar at the Center on Global Energy Policy at Columbia University SIPA ( here ) said “energy independence is a tricky concept” and said it was often quantified by comparing energy production to energy consumption, but cautioned that the implications of this may be misunderstood.

So, we pass laws making it virtually impossible to build new refineries, which means we ship crude offshore to be refined, and that means we can't ever be energy independent?

Reuters also reports the EPA is screwing around small refiners by denying exemptions from a ridiculous law, which means lower output of gasoline and other products - which will raise the price of gasoline to consumers U.S. EPA denies nearly all biofuel blending exemption petitions

President Joe Biden's administration on Friday denied almost all outstanding petitions from oil refiners asking to be exempted from mandates that require them to mix biofuels into their fuel.

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), which has the authority to issue the exemptions, denied 26 petitions from 15 small refineries who applied for waivers for the 2016-2018 and 2021-2023 compliance years, the agency said on Friday. There are still two pending petitions.

The agency also disclosed which oil refiners submitted petitions in July 2022 or later, as well as which oil refiners are participating in an alternative compliance schedule that allows them flexibility in complying with biofuel blending laws.

Under the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS), oil refiners must blend billions of gallons of biofuels into the nation's fuel mix, or buy tradable credits from those that do. The EPA can, however, award exemptions to some small refiners if they prove that the obligations cause them undue harm.

I keep being reminded of the old Walt Kelly comic in which Pogo announces who is responsible for problems, which when it appeared in 1971, was directed at the problem of pollution. Now we find the "cure"- when carried too far - is no piece of cake either. Moderation in all things.

Sunday, June 25, 2023

Please join us at 5pm on 25 June for Midrats Episode 659: Keeping the US Undersea Advantage, with Bryan Clark

For generations, a great comparative advantage the United States has enjoyed at sea is the superiority of its submarine force.

It has become simply an assumption in our war planning to the point it is treated as almost a natural part of the environment.

Of course, nothing stands still in war. Time and technology usually finds a way to blunt any advantage, leverage any vulnerability.

As the challenge at sea grows, what can the US do to maintain the comparative advantage under the sea?

Returning to Midrats this Sunday is Bryan Clark, Senior Fellow at the Hudson Institute.

The starting point for our conversation will be the recent report he co-authored with Timothy Walton this month at Hudson’s Center for Defense Concepts and Technology, Fighting into the Bastions: Getting Noisier to Sustain the US Undersea Advantage.

If you do miss the show live, you can pick up this episode and others and add Midrats to your podcast list simply by going to you use Apple Podcasts here. Or on Spreaker. Or on Spotify.

Saturday Is Old Radio Day (even on Sunday): "Pretty Cousin Amy" from The Clock (1947)

Sunday, June 18, 2023

Father's Day

“I believe that what we become depends on what our fathers teach us at odd moments, when they aren’t trying to teach us. We are formed by little scraps of wisdom.” —Umberto Eco

Not a day goes by when I don't recall a lesson learned from those odd moments. 

Thanks, Dad!

Friday, June 16, 2023

Revisiting the DARPA "Sea Train"

About 3 years ago, I posted the following about a DARPA research project involving the transit of unmanned vessels across long ocean distances. I can envision the use of such vessels in a sustainment role for remote forces, as I will discuss later.

A recent CIMSEC thought piece by CDR Todd Greene has some interesting thoughts along these lines THE NIGHTTRAIN: UNMANNED EXPEDITIONARY LOGISTICS FOR SUSTAINING PACIFIC OPERATIONS:

Supplying widely distributed EABs of varying size, composition, and organic capability presents two sets of challenges – long-range transits across thousands of miles of contested open oceans, and last-tactical-mile delivery over an unimproved shoreline and into the hands of stand-in forces. Today’s systems mainly focus on one or the other, but there is nothing that can do both well.

Innovation must be directed at designing connectors that can bridge capability between these two distinct challenges. They must be able to transit oceanic spaces that feature hostile environments stemming from the open ocean environment and adversary capability. After traversing these many miles, the same system must somehow get supplies across a beach and into the hands of the stand-in force. Innovative connectors are necessary to provide the vital link between the stand-in forces and seabases or logistics hubs.

I think the good CDR is correct, but I also think the innovation connectors are being worked on today:

(Begin quote from my 2020 post)

[Back in 2000], the DoD's Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency announced the concept of a "Sea Train":

The Sea Train vessels independently depart a port under their own power to reach a sortie point notionally 15 [nautical miles, or nmi] from the pier. The four independent vessels then begin the Sea Train mission by assembling in Sea Train configuration and completing a notional 6,500 nmi transit through varied sea state conditions that might require re-routing to optimize travel times or vessel seakeeping. The Sea Train then arrives at a disaggregation point, where the four vessels begin independent yet collaborative operations consisting of transits, loiters, and sprints in varied sea state conditions. The vessels then arrive at a sortie point to begin the aggregation process and conduct a Sea Train sprint from the operational area. The Sea Train then returns to normal transit speed for the remainder of the transit in varied sea state conditions, disaggregates outside of port and the vessels self-navigate to a pier.
There has been research in this area as set out here (pdf) in a paper by Igor Mizine and Gabor Karafiath:

A sea train is an arrangement of multiple hulls connected together to form a longer assembly of vessels. The sea train configuration takes advantage of fundamental hydrodynamic principles to reduce the drag of the assembled train below that of the individual components proceeding separately. In some circumstances the sea train arrangement can also offer operational advantages.

What if we develop large numbers of these "sea train" modules, including several loaded with generators, sensors, and "missiles in a box," they can serve as "accompanying assets" to a battle force. Such vessels, arriving in an area of interest could decouple, spread themselves out over a wide area and allow for a very wide distribution of lethality. 

Other "Sea Trains" may be equipped with machine shops, cranes, additive manufacturing equipment, or replenishment munitions or fuel. These units could be held in "safe havens" and brought to the fleet as needed. None of them need be manned which makes them far less expensive to construct. Each could carry sufficient habitability containers to provide comfort for technicians or other personnel needed to operate equipment at their needed destination. 

 The larger the number of sea train modules, the great the the likelihood of needed components reaching the fleets on a timely basis. With enough units, even the expanse of the Pacific can be "shrunk."

As with WWII merchant shipping, some elements of a sea train could contain self-defense detection and weaponry, remotely monitored, but capable of self protection when authorized by a "human in the loop." Such equipment might include ASW-capable drones, or ASuW assets. 

Further, the use of unmanned but armed surface and subsurface could take the place of manned convoying ships.


A key issue in discussing using unmanned vessels in the manner described above is communicating with those vessels to direct their positioning and, in the case of combat. controlling their weaponry. 

Obviously, with the towed missile barge such communications could be done through a cable connection piggy-backing on the tow line. 

With vessels within line of sight of the controller ship, the comms may be done through lasers or line of sight radios.  It is also conceivable that light weight fiber optic lines could connect units even several miles distant.

In certain environments, satellite links may be available. If those are blocked, manned or unmanned aircraft may serve as relay platforms. Indeed, the concept of solar powered high-altitude communications air systems placed to create an continuous link along the projected sea routes is not far-fetched. AeroVironment, among others, has been working along these lines for almost four decades. 

Explained in their video concerning their HAPS project - which could obviously be modified for military use, if needed:

The point is that we currently have the technology to distribute lethality at a much lower cost than the cost of new ships. We just need to get moving on experimenting with these technologies to find the right mix to provide the tools needed by our Navy and Marine Corps. 
UPDATE: DARPA "Sea Train" concept image:

DARPA offers up contract bid info here:
The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) Tactical Technology Office (TTO) seeks to enable extended transoceanic transit and long range naval operations by exploiting the efficiencies of a system of connected vessels (Sea Train). The Sea Train will demonstrate long range deployment capabilities for a distributed fleet of tactical Unmanned Surface Vessels (USVs).
(End quoted post)

UPDATE 2023: DARPA has continued its Sea Train work. Technology and software is being worked on DARPA’S SEA TRAIN TO MAKE WAVES WITH TEXTRON SYSTEMS AUTONOMY ENGINE AT THE HELM

If these "No Manning Required Ships" are developed, their configuaration is up to the Navy, not DARPA, see DARPA Updates On Its Sea Train And NOMARS USVs:

DARPA: “NOMARS is not a barge; it is a MUSV [medium-sized unmanned surface vessel]. However, to the other part of your question, we are attempting to develop a next-generation MUSV class that has significantly higher reliability and availability, and carry significant payload for its size. Leveraging any existing design would defeat the purpose of the DARPA program.”

Ultimately what payload the US Navy would have future generations of USVs carry is part of their decision space, but there is nothing unique to the NOMARS philosophy that makes it more compatible with warfighting payloads vs. logistics payloads.”

As set out in Expeditionary Autonomous Transports, the Navy is experimenting with developoing an automous Expeditionary Fast Transport. Though the EFT is not "Sea Train," the technology is not all that different.

There is no reason not to develop "sea trains" composed of various sized units which can contain feature that would meet the two challenges CDR Greene discusses above - including an asset to cover the proverbial "last mile"delivery. If the need is there, a tool can be found to make it work.

Friday Film- "A Ship Whose Time Has Come" (1977)

Perhaps its time will come again.

Wednesday, June 14, 2023

One Reason We Can't Afford the Ships We Need for the U.S. Navy - "The Great Grift" of the COVID-19 Panic

Do you feel like your pocket has been picked? You should. In the rush to get money out for COVID-19 relief, we rang up the US debt levels and, maybe, $280 billon of that money ended up in payments based on fraud, The Great Grift: How billions in COVID-19 relief aid was stolen or wasted

An Associated Press analysis found that fraudsters potentially stole more than $280 billion in COVID-19 relief funding; another $123 billion was wasted or misspent. Combined, the loss represents 10% of the $4.2 trillion the U.S. government has so far disbursed in COVID relief aid.

That number is certain to grow as investigators dig deeper into thousands of potential schemes.


“I think the bottom line is regardless of what the number is, it emanates overwhelmingly from three programs that were designed and originated in 2020 with too many large holes that opened the door to criminal fraud,” Gene Sperling, the White House American Rescue Plan coordinator, said in an interview.

“We came into office when the largest amounts of fraud were already out of the barn,” Sperling added.

Plenty of blame to go around here, even if most of it happened before the current administration came in, some of it happened afterwards. In any event, the taxpayers are on the hook for the loans required to fund this debacle.

Even half of $280 billion would fund a lot of ships and infrastructure improvement for the Navy and the other services.

Tuesday, June 06, 2023

D-Day- Operation Pluto Oil for the Landed Forces (first published 6/24/2007)

Out in Nevada, one road across the Great Basin Desert, Highway 50, is referred to as "the Loneliest Road in America." Gas stations on this 287 mile road are few and far between, which means that some planning is required to make sure that you have fuel enough to complete the trip.

What is true in the high desert of Nevada is also true in war-fighting. If you plan an invasion, perhaps of occupied Europe, you need to have a plan to get the fuel needed by trucks, tanks, aircraft and other machines of war. In World War II, the plan for providing the invading Allied armies with fuel was ingenious, far ahead of its time and known by its acronym Operation PLUTO:
The Pipeline Under the Ocean (PLUTO) was designed to supply petrol from storage tanks in southern England to the advancing Allied armies in France in the months following D-Day.
A reliable supply of petrol for the advancing Allied forces following the D-Day landings was of the highest priority. Planners knew that the future invasion of Europe would be the largest amphibious landing in history and without adequate and reliable supplies of petrol any advance would at best slow down and at worst grind to a halt. A loss of momentum could jeopardise the whole operation as German forces would have time to regroup and counter-attack. Conventional tankers and 'ship to shore' pipelines were in danger of cluttering up the beaches, obstructing the movement of men, armaments and materials and, in all circumstances, were subject to the vagaries of the weather and sea conditions and they were easy targets for the Luftwaffe. The idea of a pipeline under the ocean, (the English Channel), was an innovative solution.
The terminals and pumping stations were heavily disguised as bungalows, gravel pits, garages and even an ice cream shop!
... systems had to be capable of laying down their pipes on the sea-bed in a fast single procedure. The HAIS pipe would be coiled on board the cable laying vessel and fed out as the vessel progressed across the Channel and the HAMEL pipe would be coiled around huge drums towed behind a tug-like vessel and fed out as they drum rolled along.
These pipe-lines were vital arteries, which enabled the Allied Air Fleets and Land Forces to maintain the vital momentum needed to secure victory. Moreover Operation PLUTO made it possible to dispense with the fleets of tankers, which otherwise would have been necessary and spared them the ordeal of concentrated enemy attacks in congested waters, thus undoubtedly saving many hundreds of gallant lives.
That the pipelines experienced delays in installation which meant that they were not fully operational until a couple of months after D-Day does not in any way diminish their importance. The volume of petroleum product transported was vital to the war effort and required a pretty hefty group to make it work:
By the time the two HAIS flexible pipelines and two HAMEL steel pipelines were pumping petrol the Allied armies were well on their way to Belgium. The length of the supply lines needed to be shortened so 11 HAIS pipelines and 6 HAMEL pipelines were laid in a swept channel two miles wide between Dungeness and Ambleteuse near Boulogne. In all about 500 miles of pipeline were laid in an average laying time over the 30 mile stretch of about 5 hours. In January 1945 the system delivered a disappointing 300 tons but by March this had increased to 3000 tons and later still to 4000 tons. This amounted to over 1,000,000 gallons per day giving a total of 172,000,000 gallons delivered in total up to the end of hostilities. During the operation to lay the cables an HQ ship, several cable ships, tugs, trawlers and barges were employed on this specialised work - a total of 34 vessels with 600 men and officers under Captain J.F.Hutchings.

The CombinedOps site has much more, including many photos of the PLUTO Operation.

The map and the PLUTO joint image are from that site. See also here:
Along with the Mulberry Harbours that were constructed immediately after D-Day, Operation Pluto is considered one of history's greatest feats of military engineering. The pipelines are also the forerunners of all flexible pipes used in the development of offshore oil fields.

According to this site, the drum used to unreel the pipeline was nicknamed "HMS Conundrum." Photo of the drum from here. The ABS has a nice piece on PLUTO here.

Escorts were provided for the pipeline laying ships, as set out here:
In June of 1944 both the "Campanula" and the "Dianthus", together with the sloop "Magpie" acted as escorts to two ocean going Tugs (escapees) from Holland that were renamed the HMRT Bustler and the "Growler" and one other smaller Tug , but I can't remember her name (possibly the HMRT Marauder or HMRT Danube V), towed huge "spools" of two inch pipe from Ryde to Cherbourg, 72 miles give or take a few.
In the WWII Pacific Theater, the Army Quartermaster Corps was responsible for getting fuel to the equipment on the beaches, as set out here:
Class III products (or POL) consisted of various grades of gasoline, kerosene, aviation fuel, diesel oil, fuel oil, and an assortment of petroleum based lubricants. It is absolutely critical for sustainment of mechanized forces. More vital even than clothing and general supplies. For without it the engines of war – planes, ships, tanks, motorized vehicles, and all the generators for electrical use – would cease to operate. Neither fighting units, nor logistical support units, could accomplish their varied missions without POL. As General Patton once said: "My troops can eat their belts. But my tanks gotta have gas."

Class III generally had fewer problems in the Pacific than did other areas of Quartermaster supply. The high priority accorded POL usually kept shipping delays to a minimum, and helped with efforts to build up needed reserves. U.S. Quartermasters were also able to draw from private oil company reserves in Australia, and made full use of their excellent bulk storage and handling facilities. Also because petroleum is less fragile and does not deteriorate quite so easily as other materials, it suffered fewer storage hazards. Still there were problems.

Lack of Bulk Storage and Distribution. Allied Class III personnel found they could rely on Australian refineries and their excellent bulk storage facilities for support in the Southwest Pacific until the action moved to New Guinea in 1943. Thereafter their assault had to move forward with limited access to bulk storage facilities. Engineers in New Guinea constructed medium-sized tanks for a few grades of gasoline and diesel oil, and created special dumps and laid aviation fuel pipelines in the vicinity of airports. But even these medium- to small-sized temporary storage facilities failed to meet all needs.

The problem became more acute in later 1943 and early 1944 as the island-hopping campaign got into full swing, and a succession of new bases and sub-bases were built. Larger petroleum vessels had difficulty moving into shallow waters. And when they got in, they often found that hastily built storage tanks were too small to permit complete pacific unloading of petroleum. What they needed, but seldom received, were smaller vessels capable of hauling fuel between bases and to forward supply points.

In the South Pacific area, the Quartermaster Corps had a responsibility to provide POL to New Zealand ground forces, and land-based US Navy and Marine units, as well as the Army. They established massive POL storage areas on Guadalcanal when that became available, at Green Island, and Espiritu Santo.

The Packaged Alternative. The virtual absence of permanent type bulk storage facilities and pipelines throughout the Pacific meant that almost all POL was stored and distributed in containers – mostly in 55-gallon drums. This contrasted sharply with experience in Europe. There QM Gasoline Supply Companies received most of their POL from huge fixed storage facilities, barges or railroad tanker cars, and promptly decanted it into 5-gallon jerricans. These were stacked in warehouses, open dumps, and along roads. And moved to user units in 2 ½-ton trucks and ¼-ton trailers. In the Pacific, they found the use of the much smaller jerricans neither practical nor desirable.

The 55-gallon drums were bulkier, heavier, and more difficult to handle. But they got around that by using forklifts and winches to load drums onto cargo trucks. When these were not available, they simply used planks and manually rolled them onto the trucks. Petroleum Supply Companies also attached pipes and nozzles right on to the drums, and used them to fill vehicles directly. They found that nearly twice the amount of fuel could be loaded on a standard 2 ½-ton truck using 55-gallon drums rather than jerricans.

Despite a persistent shortage of drums, and the absence of modern bulk storage and distribution facilities, Quartermaster efforts to furnish Class III supplies to Allied troops in the Pacific can be judged an overall success.
Today planning for petroleum delivery to combat shore areas is on-going. As noted here, the basic system is the Offshore Petroleum Discharge System (OPDS). OPDS is defined as
Provides a semipermanent, all-weather facility for bulk transfer of petroleum, oils, and lubricants (POL) directly from an offshore tanker to a beach termination unit (BTU) located immediately inland from the high watermark. POL then is either transported inland or stored in the beach support area. Major offshore petroleum discharge systems (OPDS) components are: the OPDS tanker with booster pumps and spread mooring winches; a recoverable single anchor leg mooring (SALM) to accommodate tankers of up to 70,000 deadweight tons; ship to SALM hose lines; up to 4 miles of 6-inch (internal diameter) conduit for pumping to the beach; and two BTUs to interface with the shoreside systems. OPDS can support a two line system for multiproduct discharge, but ship standoff distance is reduced from 4 to 2 miles. Amphibious construction battalions install the OPDS with underwater construction team assistance. OPDS are embarked on selected ready reserve force tankers modified to support the system.
All of which means that the Navy runs a pipeline to the beach from a mooring buoy offshore to which product tankers can connect and pump their cargo to storage facilities operated by the Army on the shore. This system is operated by the Military Sealift Command:
The U.S. Navy's Military Sealift Command awarded a $26.6 million contract with options to Edison Chouest Offshore, based in Galliano, La., for the time charter of one Offshore Petroleum Discharge System, or OPDS.

The OPDS consists of two ships -- a support ship and a tender -- that work together to pump fuel for U.S. military forces from a commercial oil tanker moored at sea to a temporary fuel storage area ashore.

To begin the process, the 348-foot support ship and 165-foot tender work together to install up to eight miles of eight-inch-diameter flexible pipe. Next, the support ship positions the tanker for safe off-load operations. While the tender holds the tanker in place, the tanker's lines connect to the flexible pipe through the support ship. Booster pumps aboard the support ship increase the pressure of fuel, pushing the fuel to shore.

The OPDS is especially valuable in areas where fuel piers are unavailable, and tankers are unable to tie up ashore to off-load fuel. The OPDS can pump up to 1.7 million gallons of fuel per day.
The system has been recently exercised. And, no, that ship is not sinking, it's just positioning itself to offload the Single Anchor Leg Moor component of OPDS.

All of which just reaffirms the original point - planning ahead matters, whether on the "Loneliest Highway" or getting ready for combat.

UPDATE: Comparison of "old" OPDS with new contract OPDS:

From PowerPoint presentations which can be reached from here and here.
The new system allows for use of other tankers, greater offshore distance and more flexibility.

D-Day - The Liberation of Europe Begins (first posted 6/6/2009)

So it began - a scared coxswain of a landing craft carrying troops to a heavily defended beach - or, as the caption from the Navy Art Gallery exhibit: The Normandy Invasion: D-Day, 6 June 1944 puts it:
Assault Wave Cox'n by Dwight C. Shepler - The landing craft coxswain was the symbol and fiber of the amphibious force. Exposed to enemy fire as he steered his craft to shore, the lives of thirty-six infantrymen in his small LCVP were his responsibility. If he failed in his mission of landing these troops, the strategy of admirals went for naught; the bombardment of a naval force alone could never gain a foothold on the hostile and contested shore. Prairie boy or city lad, the coxswain became a paragon of courageous determination and seamanship.
Hundreds of landing craft, carrying young men, operated by young Navy and Coast Guards men heading into harm's way.

From the U.S. Coast Guard a veteran's story:
Mr. Tommy L. Harbour began his service to his nation and community during World War II when he was sworn into the Coast Guard on July 5, 1943, and attended boot camp at Manhattan Beach Training Station in New York. Harbour was trained by both Coast Guard and Marine Corps personnel to become a motor machinist or "motor mac" (now known as a boat engineer) for the vehicle and personnel landing craft (LCVP), also known as the Higgins boat. He was then assigned to the Coast Guard-manned attack transport USS Bayfield (APA-33), where he served as a motor mac for one of the USS Bayfield's LCVP landing craft, PA33-4.

During the invasion of Normandy June 6, 1944, Mr. Harbour's landing craft had orders to land soldiers on Utah Beach. However, due to heavy losses, Harbour was instructed to land on Omaha Beach instead. After delivering troops to Omaha Beach, Harbour made several more landings on Utah Beach under heavy gunfire from German shore batteries.
Mr. Harbour returned to Normandy:
Mr. Tommy Harbour was 18 when he made three trips in LST PA33-4 delivering troops and equipment to the beaches of Normandy June 6, 1944. Mr. Harbour was a Coxswainmate in the U.S. Coast Guard whose job it was to lower the ramp on the boat and ensure the engine was full of fuel and in working order. Photo by John Tomassi
More photos from here:

Sunday, May 21, 2023

On Midrats 21 May 2023 - Episode 656: The Philippine Pact with Claude Berube

Please join us at 5pm (EDT) on 21 May 2023 for Midrats Episode 656: The Philippine Pact with Claude Berube

You're in for a treat this Midrats with a regular since 2010 returning to the podcast, Claude Berube. Claude will be with us the full hour to discuss his third novel in the Connor Stark series, The Philippine Pact, bringing back most of your favorite characters from the first two books in the series, The Aden Effect and Syren's Song.

As with all of Claude's novels, his characters always seem to find themselves in the location you find breaking in to the news in the real world.

Don't miss it!

Claude is the author of four non-fiction books, three novels and more than eighty articles. His latest, The Philippine Pact, continues the adventures of a private naval company countering China's small wars around the world. He earned his doctorate from the University of Leeds. He retired from the Navy Reserve as a Commander, serving out of the country in Europe, in the Persian Gulf, and as the Deputy J2 at JTF-GTMO.

He has worked as a navy contractor for Naval Sea Systems Command and the Office of Naval Research, as a civil servant with the Office of Naval Intelligence, and as a staffer to two US Senators and a House member. He has taught in the Political Science and History Departments at the US Naval Academy since 2005.

If you do miss the show live, you can pick up this episode and others and add Midrats to your podcast list simply by going to you use Apple Podcasts here. Or on Spreaker. Or on Spotify.

Saturday (on Sunday) Is Old Radio Day - "Up Periscope" from Escape (1951)

Monday, April 24, 2023

A War with China? Fleet Size and Other Options

Sam Tangredi, writing in USNI Proceedings January 2023 issue sends a warning shot across the bow of some current naval thinking by looking at history Bigger Fleet Win:

Using technological advantage as an indicator of quality, historical research on 28 naval wars (or wars with significant and protracted naval combat) indicates that 25 were won by the side with the larger fleet. When fleet size was roughly equal, superior strategy and substantially better trained and motivated crews carried the day. Only three could be said to have been won by a smaller fleet with superior technology. (footnotes omitted)

As set out at CNN,

Alessio Patalano, professor of war and strategy at King’s College in London, praised Tangredi’s work.

“His research is a very good way to push back on the silly assumption that mass doesn’t matter in war at sea,” Patalano said.

He stressed two key points.

A larger size means more leaders looking to gain the edge in their commands.

“A larger fleet tend to be more competitive, in training personnel development, and operational capacity,” Patalano said.

And he said a large industrial base is essential, especially in being able to build new units after incurring casualties in battle.

“In naval war, attrition is a real thing, so the ability to replace is vital,” Patalano said.

But wait, there's more - concern over the ability of U.S. Defense industry to gear up to produce the quantity of ships (and weapons) needed:

“Most analysts doubt that the US defense industry — which has consolidated and shrunk since the end of the Cold War — could expand quickly enough to meet wartime demand,” Tangredi wrote.


Adm. Daryl Caudle, commander of US Fleet Forces Command, last week called on the nation’s defense industries to step up their game, saying “you’re not delivering the ordnance we need.”

“It’s so essential to winning. And I can’t do that without the ordnance,” Caudle said at a symposium in Washington, adding that the US is “going against a competitor here, and a potential adversary, that is like nothing we’ve ever seen.”

In an online forum last week, Caudle’s boss, Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Mike Gilday, also noted the numbers problem the US faces in a potential Pacific conflict.

“The United States Navy is not going to be able to match the PLAN missile for missile,” Gilday said.

And if the US Navy can’t match China’s missile for missile, or ship for ship, Tangredi wonders where it can find an edge.

“US leaders must ask themselves to what extent they are willing to bet on technological — without numerical — superiority in that fight,” he wrote.

The CNN reporting, though surprising good, leaves out some key parts of Tangredi's USNI article, referring to Wayne Hughes and Robert P. Girrier:

Inspired by Professor Hughes’ work, my decades of research have brought me to this conclusion: In a naval struggle between near-peers, mass (numbers), and the ability to replace losses bests technological advantage. As the mass of one opponent grows, the chance of its defeat reduces. At a certain point of imbalance in mass, the larger naval force cannot be defeated, even when the opponent attacks effectively first in any one engagement.


One might assume that superior ship capabilities rather than mass can provide this effectiveness. But that is not what operations research indicates. As Naval Warfare Publication 3: Fleet Warfare notes: “Hughes’ salvo equations indicate that twice as many shooters beats half as many equivalent shooters firing twice as fast.”


If the United States wants to retain global influence, maintain deterrence in multiple regions, and conduct combat operations against a near peer that is expanding its global military footprint, it needs a large number of naval platforms. Today, the peacetime demand of the regional combatant commanders overwhelms the availability of deployable Navy ships.

In addition, a reserve of naval platforms is necessary to replace losses. In World War II, the reserve was the ability to build ships at speed. Today, most analysts doubt that the U.S. defense industry—which has consolidated and shrunk since the end of the Cold War—could expand quickly enough to meet wartime demand. To replace losses in a protracted conflict, the United States would need numbers of ships already in commission.


The United States can fund a significant fleet that matches the growth of the PLA Navy—or not. Whether the fleet is 250 or 500 ships is for elected officials and the Navy to decide, but those leaders must identify, acknowledge, and own that risk. There is risk in all choices. But there is particularly higher risk in making choices based on unproven assumptions.


A naval war against China in the western Pacific in this decade would pit a smaller U.S. naval force against a larger PLAN, on China’s home turf, within range of the PLA’s air and rocket forces. U.S. leaders must ask themselves to what extent they are willing to bet on technological—without numerical—superiority in that fight.

Though I believe that any war with China will be very much one that is won or lost on the sea, it seems that there is at least some analysis of the effect of shore-based anti-ship missiles controlled by the U.S and its allies that needs to be added into the equation - for as Wayne Hughes and Robert P. Girrier suggest in Fleet Tactics and Naval Operations(3rd ed), battles in the open ocean are rare, but battles inshore are not, and with the current state of land based anti-ship missiles, naval forces do not just have to contend with opposing fleets but with "forts"

Today a "fort" can be an airfield or the launch site for a a missile battery. Either of these can be repaired or rebuilt quickly, but a warship cannot.(p26)

China has the potential home field advantage in that respect, but the U.S. can place more "shooters" ashore and create their own "forts" that create a threat to the PLAN - which is exactly what the U.S. Marine Corps is proposing to do with its Force Design 2030:



We will equip our Marines with mobile, low-signature sensors and weapons that can provide a landward complement to Navy capabilities for surface warfare, anti-submarine warfare, air and missile defense, and airborne early warning. And in partnership with the Navy, our unit will possess littoral maneuver capabilities to include high-speed, long-range, low-signature craft capable of maneuvering Marines for a variety of missions.

The key to this is "Stand-in Forces."

Stand-in Forces Defined

SIF are small but lethal, low signature, mobile, relatively simple to maintain and sustain forces designed to operate across the competition continuum within a contested area as the leading edge of a maritime defense-in-depth in order to intentionally disrupt the plans of a potential or actual adversary. Depending on the situation, stand-in forces are composed of elements from the Marine Corps, Navy, Coast Guard, special operations forces, interagency, and allies and partners.

Theory of Success

In day-to-day activity, SIF deter potential adversaries by establishing the forward edge of a partnered maritime defense-in-depth that denies the adversary freedom of action.12 The impact of working with allies and partners cannot be overstated; it is key to undermining the adversary’s plans and is a primary reason stand-in forces’ presence must be persistent. SIF also deter by integrating activities with the other elements of national power (particularly diplomatic and informational) to impose costs on rivals who want to use ways and means below the violence threshold to achieve their goals.

Stand-in forces’ enduring function is to help the fleet and joint force win the reconnaissance and counter-reconnaissance battle at every point on the competition continuum. Stand-in forces do this by gaining and maintaining contact (establishing target custody and identifying the potential adversary’s sensors) below the threshold of violence. This allows SIF to assist in identifying and countering malign behavior, and if armed conflict does erupt, the joint force can attack effectively first and prevent the enemy from doing so.

When directed, SIF conduct sea denial operations in support of fleet operations, especially near maritime chokepoints. SIF can perform sea denial through the use of organic sensors and weapon systems to complete kill webs, but also by integrating organic capabilities with naval and joint all-domain capabilities. SIF also possess sufficient organic maneuver and offensive capability to gain a position of advantage by securing, seizing, and controlling contested key maritime terrain in support of sea denial operations.

By doing the above, SIF become an operational problem an enemy must address to achieve its goals. SIF impose costs on the enemy by presenting operationally relevant capabilities that cannot be ignored, even as their low signature, high mobility, dispersion, and use of deception make them difficult for an enemy to find and target. Their small footprint and focus on partnership make SIF less burdensome on the host nation than larger U.S. formations.

I fully support the Marines in this concept. We could quibble some aspects, but the main thing is get them what they need - now - to make it a reality because it has the potential to change the equations of "fleet size." Add in the U.S. Air Force and the U.S. Coast Guard and there may be way out of China's spider web. Heck, I can see the Army setting up "forts" too. The more the merrier.