Sunday, April 26, 2015

AEI's Mackenzie Eaglen and I Have Some Thoughts on the X-47B's Trip to the Boneyard

RealClearDefense has published a piece Mackenzie Eaglen was nice enough to ask for me to join in on, in which we criticize the Navy for planning (once again) to send the X-47B to the boneyard.

Friday, April 24, 2015

The Fallacy of “Mutually Assured Economic Destruction”

In an excellent War on the Rocks article last week, Eric Lorber and Jacquelyn Schneider argued that economic sanctions cannot serve as standalone deterrents against aggression by another state. They noted in particular how prospect theory and credibility considerations affect the utility of threatened economic punishments as a deterrent within an opponent’s decision-making:

“…while these new, sophisticated sanctions often cause medium- and long-term damage to a country’s economy, the prospect of such damage may not deter aggressive actors from taking immediate actions contrary to U.S. interests. For example, in the case of Russia, while the sanctions have certainly taken a toll, the Russian economy, when supported by capital reserves, is sufficiently resilient to put off the worst impacts of the sanctions for a few years. In the short-term, however, Russia has been able to annex Crimea and exercise significant influence in rebel-controlled areas deep in Eastern Ukraine. Thus, while the prospect of economic damage may loom down the road, this risk may be insufficient to deter an aggressive actor from pursuing short-term benefits...
…Likewise and in the Russia context, given the discord among European Union member states about how to respond to additional Russian aggression, Russia may not believe that the United States and the European Union will impose additional, extremely painful sanctions on the country, and therefore may not be deterred from engaging in additional destabilizing action in Ukraine.”
They conclude that a defender must understand “the aggressive actor’s intentions and motivations” in order to determine whether deterrence by economic punishment is likely to succeed:
“Policymakers in Washington need to do better than conclude that ‘these sanctions will cause economic pain, therefore they will deter.’ Rather, they must analyze whether the particular sanctions on the table will influence a malicious actor’s decision-making.”
In other words, the opponent’s leaders’ political objectives and perceptions of the strategic circumstances (including pressures stemming from domestic popular passions) are central variables in determining a deterrence policy’s probable efficacy.
While all deterrence policies face this challenge to some degree, it tends to especially impact deterrence by punishment. The amount of threatened pain must significantly exceed the opponent’s discomfort with continuing to honor the status quo. A threat of certain national economic catastrophe is not sufficient if opponent’s leaders value some other political objective more highly or suffer from exceptional ‘strategic desperation.’ Japanese leaders proved that exact point in their decision for war during the late summer and early fall of 1941.
This does not change if a threatened economic catastrophe would affect both the aggressor and the defender. This is the premise behind ‘mutually assured economic destruction,’ a concept rooted in the longstanding idea that the likelihood of war between competing states decreases as their economic interdependence increases. In theory, two competing countries should be mutually restrained by the risk of devastating their entwined economies. One does not have to look that far back into history to see the fallacy in this thinking: the aggressors in both World Wars valued other objects more highly than the prospects of economic disaster (to the extent economics factored into their calculus at all).
From my perspective, and consistent with Lorber’s and Schneider’s findings, deterrence based on fear of economic damage (whether inflicted on just the competitor or shared with the defender) probably only functions in encouraging a competitor’s restraint from escalation in the event of a 'salami tactics confrontation gone bad' over some low-stakes political object. Even then, it would seem that the latent threat of conventional military forces becoming entangled—and the associated threat of unleashing an ill-controlled process of escalation that might carry the players to the nuclear threshold against their preferences—likely provides a more readily-perceived deterrent pressure on an opponent’s leaders.

The views expressed herein are solely those of the author and are presented in his personal capacity. They do not reflect the official positions of Systems Planning and Analysis, and to the author’s knowledge do not reflect the policies or positions of the U.S. Department of Defense, any U.S. armed service, or any other U.S. Government agency.

--Updated 4/24 9:39AM to correct type in last paragraph--

Thursday, April 23, 2015

The Great Aircraft Carrier Debate is Rejoined

CNAS Scholar Jerry Hendrix has a piece at National Review that is now out from behind the firewall, in which he makes arguments against the carrier with which many of us are familiar.

Seth Cropsey and I have a reply here.

One message coming through for Navy leaders loud and clear from all parties to this debate:  the air wing MUST evolve for the carrier continue as the centerpiece of naval power.

AEI/Heritage Weekly Read Board (Navy)

From a HASC Seapower and Projection Forces Product

Upcoming Events
·       Wed 1200-1245 SPF Subcommittee Pre-mark Meeting
·       Wed 1600-1900 US Naval Institute Annual Meeting, National Press Club
·       Thu 1030-1200 SPF Subcommittee Markup

Scuttlebutt (News)
·       Secretary Of Drones: Mabus Creates DASD For Unmanned Secretary Mabus announced a number of unmanned systems initiatives in his speech at Sea-Air-Space.
·       U.S., Philippines Add Muscle to Military Drills The U.S. military and Philippines armed forces kicked off their biggest joint exercises in 15 years on Monday, at a time of distress in Manila over China’s island-building program in the South China Sea.
·       Navy has seven combat ships around Yemen as Saudi-led blockade continues Navy ships are searching vessels for Iranian arms bound for the rebels but U.S. troops are not participating in the Saudi naval blockade.
·       Japan-U.S. guidelines seek to deter China’s naval advances The revised Japan-U.S. defense guidelines will seek to ensure that bilateral cooperation “seamlessly” covers everything from so-called gray-zone contingencies to island invasions, with an eye to deterring China’s military buildup and aggressive naval advances.
Now Hear This (Opinions)
·       Remarks by the Honorable Ray Mabus, Secretary of the Navy, Sea-Air-Space Exposition The Secretary argues that innovation is the kay to maintaining the US Navy’s superiority, and believes that the F-35 should be the last manned strike fighter aircraft the Navy flies.
·       Enemy Cruise Missile, Meet the U.S. Rail Gun SPF member Mike Conaway (R-TX) argues that directed energy weapons systems have the potential to deliver effective offensive and defensive capabilities at a fraction of the cost of current systems.
·       It’s Time for the U.S. Military to Double Down in the Asia-Pacific Col. Stephen Liszewski argues that Congress should not allow the response to immediate crises such as ISIS distract from the importance of long-term challenges like a rising China.
Deep Dives (Analysis)
·       Directed-Energy Weapons: Promise and Prospects CNAS report on the value of directed energy weapons and recommendations for how the U.S. can invest in a cost-effective and time-efficient manner to further mature this important technology.

Fact of the Week:  The USS Carl Vinson’s nine and a half month deployment was the longest for an aircraft carrier since the Vietnam War.  The carrier’s air wing, CVW-17, conducted 2,383 combat missions and dropped 869 precision-guided munitions totaling more than half a million pounds of ordnance. The Theodore Roosevelt Carrier Group is replacing it, with an expected 8 month deployment.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

HASC Seapower and Projection Forces Mark

Received this from HASC SPPF Subcommittee Chairman Rep. Randy Forbes (R-VA) office this morning.  A whole lot of goodness here...but admittedly, the bar for goodness is set pretty low these days.  This is the mark of a Chairman with a clear view of American Seapower and the guts to push for it.


·         Authorizes continued funding for CVN-79 and first year funding for CVN-80 planning and long lead item procurement.
·         Grants economic order quantity (EOQ) authority for the construction of CVN-80 and CVN-81 in order to allow the Department to purchase components in batch form, reducing overall cost of items procured.
·         Continues full funding authority for the refueling and complex overhaul (RCOH) of CVN-73.
·         Provides incremental funding authority for the RCOH of five Nimitz class aircraft carriers: CVN-73, CVN-74, CVN-75, CVN-76, and CVN-77.
·         Instructs GAO to study costs and delays to the Navy's two-phase contracting strategy for CVN 79, a plan that is likely to slow CVN-79 construction by 18 months.

·         Provides for the construction of two Arleigh Burke-class guided missile destroyers.
·         Increases funding authority for Aegis destroyer modernization in FY16, following removal of five destroyer mods from the FYDP.
·         Authorizes the Navy to begin Flight III destroyer acquisition including ability to modify existing multiyear destroyer construction authority.

Littoral Combat Ship:
·         Authorizes the construction of 3 LCS.

Amphibious Ships:
·         Accelerates advance procurement of the new LX(R) amphibious ship by two years.
·         Authorizes funding for the completion of LPD-28.
·         Authorizes advance procurement for the 5th Afloat Forward Staging Base.

Auxiliary Ships:
·         Authorizes procurement of the first TAO(X) auxiliary oiler ship.
·         Moves funding for this ship into the National Defense Sealift Account to provide Navy additional flexibility in completing construction.

Virginia Class Submarines:
·         Authorizes the construction of two Virginia class submarines, continuing the highly successful block buy.
·         Expresses support for incorporating Virginia Payload Module (VPM) into the entire Block V Virginia class buy, as opposed to the Navy's current plan to only equip two-thirds of the Block V Virginia class with VPM in the 2020s.

Ohio Class Replacement:
·         Provides $1.39 billion in R&D for SSBN(X), representing the Navy's largest R&D investment.
·         Moves this R&D funding into the National Sea-Based Deterrence Fund, created in last year's NDAA.
·         Reiterates the fact that the ORP acquisition program will "have an extraordinary and detrimental impact to investments in the shipbuilding and construction, Navy, account if traditional funding levels of this account are sustained.  The committee also believes that the entirety of the Department of Defense investment capabilities need to be used to recapitalize this strategic asset."
·         Expands the authorities of the National Sea-Based Deterrence Fund to include incremental funding authority, Economic Order Quantity authority, and an expanded reprogramming authority from the entire DoD to support SSBN(X) with the goal of preserving stability in the SCN account in future years.
·         Calls attention to the "serious resource challenges" inherent to ORP and instructs GAO to assess technology challenges and industrial base implications with the purpose of reducing or preventing cost growth and schedule risk in the program.

Cruiser Modernization/BMD Demand:
·         Prohibits the removal of BMD capabilities from any Ticonderoga-class cruiser until SECNAV certifies Navy has obtained BMD capabilities required by the most recent Navy Force Structure Assessment.
·         Prohibits the retirement, inactivation, or storage of Ticonderoga-class cruisers and Whidbey Island-class amphibious ships.
·         Requires the modernization of two cruisers using previously authorized and appropriated SMOSF funds.
·         Limits the term of cruiser modernization availabilities to 2 years, preventing unnecessary layup of these assets and reducing the likelihood that they may be inactivated at a later date.

Tomahawk Block IV
·         Increases Tomahawk procurement to a minimum sustaining production rate of 198 missiles.

MQ-8 Fire Scout:
·         Increases procurement to minimum sustainment rate of 5 air vehicles.

Long Range Strike Bomber:
·         Expresses strong support for the new bomber program as a "key element" in DoD's planned investment in long-range strike.
·         Authorizes the full amount for the program that DoD can execute in FY16, given contract award delays.
·         Instructs GAO to complete an assessment of technology challenges and cost implications associated with LRSB.

KC-46A Tanker:
·         Expresses strong support for KC-46A Tanker as a critical enabler of power projection.
·         Funds the program at the maximum level DoD can execute in FY16.

UCLASS:  Expresses strong support for unmanned carrier-based, long-range penetrating strike capability, specifically stating, "The committee believes that sea-based, long-range strike capabilities have incontrovertible merit and have been an integral element of the U.S. carrier air wings in the past.  Looking ahead, this capability may be the most important capability that the aircraft carrier can provide in contested environments and anti-access/area-denial scenarios.  The committee believes that pursuit of a long-range penetrating strike capability should therefore be a critical focus of naval investments.  The committee also believes that the capabilities offered by unmanned aviation may be the only capability that can support this mission requirement."

Combat Logistics Force Assessment:  Calls for an independent assessment of anticipated future demands of combat logistics force ships and challenges these ships may face in contested maritime environments.  Specifically the review shall include an assessment of CLF "operating in a dispersed manner and not concentrated in carrier or expeditionary strike groups, in accordance with the concept of distributed lethality of the Navy" and an assessment of the force to support Naval assets "engaged in major combat operations against an adversary possessing maritime anti-access and area-denial capabilities, including anti-ship ballistic and cruise missiles, land-based maritime strike aircraft, submarines, and sea mines."

Mine Countermeasure Master Plan: Requires SECNAV to submit a mine countermeasures master plan concurrent with annual budget requests which assesses degree to which current and future capabilities can meet operational plans and contingency requirements.

AMDR Assessment: Calls for a review of the maturity of Air and Missile Defense Radar and the Navy's plans for developing, testing, and integrating AMDR. 

Naval Electric Weapons Systems Fielding Plan:  Notes that electric weapons, such as directed energy and electromagnetic railguns, have "the potential to provide revolutionary new capabilities for Navy platforms, including increased range, increased safety, and deeper magazines than conventional weapons.  The committee believes that such system will be important in the future to counter cost-imposing strategies in an anti-access environment where swarms of low-cost weapons could be used to overwhelm higher-cost, limited numbers of defensive weapons."  As such, the mark instructs SECNAV to develop a plan for fielding electric weapons for both the current and future fleet, including details regarding allocation of the requisite power and space for the fielding of such systems.

Maritime Security Program: Reiterates the critical role that the Maritime Security Program provides the Department in that it provides on-demand "economical commercial sealift capacity, assures a United States-flag presence in international commerce, supports a pool of qualified United States-flag vessels during times of war or national emergency, and serves as a critical component of our national security infrastructure."

Shipbuilding and Industrial Base: Expresses concern regarding the health of the surface combatant industrial base.  "While the Navy public shipyards are expanding to meet significant workload increases associated with the growth of unplanned Nimitz-class carrier work and the nuclear undersea warfare industrial base is programmed to increase their capacity with the introduction of the Ohio-class ballistic missile submarine replacement program beginning in fiscal year 2019, the committee notes that a limited shipbuilding and conversion Navy account may disproportionately and irrevocably impact the non-nuclear surface combatant industrial base."  The language continues, "The committee believes that continued long term, multiyear procurement and block buy contracts are integral to sustaining the overall industrial base."

Coast Guard Polar Icebreaker: Expresses the view that "the administration has inadequately valued the necessity to procure required icebreaker capability.  The committee believes the failure to acquire all domain access capability in polar region expeditionary may irreparably harm Department of Defense national security mission, and may leave the Department in which the Coast Guard is operating unable to meet its anticipated future responsibilities…"

Oscar II SSGN Modernization

Oscar-class SSGN, Undated (U.S. Department of Defense)

A few weeks ago a colleague passed me a Google translation of a TV Zvezda report on the Russian Navy’s plans for fielding advanced cruise missiles . Written in reaction to ADM William Gortney’s Congressional testimony in March that touched on Russian cruise missile threats to North America, the article initially highlights how Yasen-class attack submarines will carry up to 24 3M-55 Oniks (SS-N-26) ASCMs or 3M-14 Kalibr LACMs; presumably the sub can also carry 3M-54 Klub (SS-N-27) ASCMs. This information is not new in open source reporting.
What was new, at least to me, was the article’s assertion that the surviving Oscar II SSGNs’ 3M-45 Granit (SS-N-19) ASCM launchers will be replaced with “universal launcher” cells that can each contain up to three Oniks or Klub missiles. In doing some online digging, there have been rumors on non-authoritative sites for the last few years that Oscars undergoing modernization will receive this upgrade. The Zvezda report is the first one that is authoritative.
It’s impossible for me to say whether a launcher cell that can house three Oniks or Klub missiles can actually be integrated within the former space occupied by a Granit cell. That kind of question is never as simple as ‘does the peg fit in the hole?’ For the purposes of this piece, though, I’m going to assume that the hull and mechanical implications of the change can be readily accommodated.
The takeaway is that an Oscar II with the new launcher cells would be able to carry up to 72 advanced cruise missiles. That’s very impressive. Not only would the sub pose a formidable threat to naval battleforces, but it could also pose a medium-range land-attack threat. It is reasonable to interpret Oscar IIs with these capabilities as ‘gapfillers’ that account for fiscal or technical difficulties building out the Yasen-class.
A key follow-on question, though, concerns the means by which a modernized Oscar II would receive over-the-horizon anti-ship targeting cues. The Cold War-era method for doing this was fraught with exploitable vulnerabilities. A more modern approach would still likely be dependent upon cues from reconnaissance aircraft, space-based sensors, or perhaps a shore-based fusion apparatus. None of these are devoid of exploitable vulnerabilities, either. While there is no guarantee that a U.S. or NATO battleforce would be able to effectively blind, deceive, or otherwise degrade Russian oceanic surveillance-reconnaissance-strike systems in the event of a conflict, there is no guarantee that those systems would be able to successfully target their prey either. The principles I proposed last fall for maritime scouting and anti-scouting competitions would almost certainly apply.
Another question concerns their patrol areas. I have never seen any open source reporting of an Oscar deployment outside Russia’s maritime periphery. From their 1980s introduction through the present, their principal task has been serving as part of the Russian homeland's ‘outer layer’ defense against U.S. carrier strike groups. Oscars simply could not conduct over-the-horizon anti-ship engagements very effectively outside the coverage of Russian oceanic surveillance-reconnaissance systems. With a notional land-attack capability, however, modernized Oscars could conceivably be deployed further forward. For example, modernized Oscars might be used to threaten land targets reachable from the southern Norwegian Sea, the North Sea, the Sea of Japan, or the Northwestern Pacific. This bears watching.

The views expressed herein are solely those of the author and are presented in his personal capacity. They do not reflect the official positions of Systems Planning and Analysis, and to the author’s knowledge do not reflect the policies or positions of the U.S. Department of Defense, any U.S. armed service, or any other U.S. Government agency.

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