Sunday, December 8, 2013
Saturday, December 7, 2013
Over at the National Interest I get into the listicle game:
What are the five greatest fighter aircraft of all time? Like the same question asked of tanks, cars, or rock and roll guitarists, the answer invariably depends on parameters. For example, there are few sets of consistent parameters that would include both the T-34 and the King Tiger among the greatest of all tanks. I know which one I’d like to be driving in a fight, but I also appreciate that this isn’t the most appropriate way to approach the question. Similarly, while I’d love to drive a Porsche 959 to work every morning, I’d be hesitant to list it ahead of the Toyota Corolla on a “best of” compilation.
Nations buy fighter aircraft to resolve national strategic problems, and the aircraft should accordingly be evaluated on their ability to solve or ameliorate these problems. Thus, the motivating question is this: how well did this aircraft help solve the strategic problems of the nations that built or bought it?
Posted by Robert Farley at 11:59 AM
Dear CDR Salamander and Eagle One,
Based on what I have read and/or discussed with Harvey over the last year, the following set of issues seems to be the topics he thinks about and writes about very frequently since his retirement. I'd encourage you to get him chatting up this topic for insights, and I'm sure you already had plans to do exactly that.
My question is simple, what does ADM Harvey make of Ronald O'Rourke telling the House Armed Services Committee that NOW is the time to start paying attention to the Force Structure debate? See his October 23, 2013 testimony to the Subcommittee on Seapower and Projection Forces regarding the 30-Year shipbuilding plan.
I look at the following examples as context, although it is unlikely this is an fully accurate representation of Ronald O'Rourke's thinking on the subject.
I have observed the Harvey/Wayne and the Rubel articles in Proceedings discussing small missile corvettes in "flotilla" style squadrons for adding diversity in distribution of precision missiles at sea. In essence, this looks to be an argument to use small flotilla warships in a battle fleet strike role.
I have observed two different responses from the Surface Warfare community to that specific discussion, We Need a Balanced Fleet for Naval Supremacy by CDR Phillip E. Pournelle and Naval Supremacy Cannot be "Piggybacked" on Small Ships by Lazarus.
I have observed the discussion of Influence Squadrons by Hendrix in Proceedings which also discusses small ships organized in squadrons centered around a mothership for sustained regional presence.
I have observed another article by Hendrix published by CNAS that describes the large deck aircraft carrier as an asset with a declining value at higher cost when looking into the future.
I have observed a recent report by RAND that concludes "the United States should pursue a strategy of making its sea power less vulnerable by relying more on submarines, drones, and smaller, elusive, widely distributed strike platforms" which also looks at the declining value of aircraft carriers in it's primary role in the Pacific. I am specifically talking about the report "Sea Power and American Interests in the Western Pacific" by David C. Gompert.
I have observed the NPS developed, ONA sponsored New Navy Fighting Machine that calls for a Fleet Constitution that has a greater variety of smaller vessels for multiple roles both high and low end, but essentially the NNFM looks to rebalance the fleet in favor of quantity over quality.
I have observed the LCS, intended to be a one-size fits all roles and missions modular design criticized for being too big for some roles, too small for others, lacking too few sailors to be a peacemaker, and lacking enough firepower to be a warfighter.
I have observed the US Marine Corps, consolidated into a declining number of three ship Amphibious Ready Groups, but still consuming the vast majority of shipbuilding funding of all ships not part of the main battle fleet (CVNs, CGs, DDGs, SSBNs, and SSNs). And the design of the Marine Corps 3-ship flotilla is still primarily focused around the single role of Joint Forcible Entry Operations, which presumably Bold Alligator 2012 informed about although no changes since are observable.
Are these discussions actually meaningful, as Ronald O'Rourke suggests to the House Armed Services Committee Subcommittee on Seapower and Projection Forces? Are these discussions connected, or simply related? Is the community talking about the Battle Fleet roles of small ships in places like the Pacific, or is the community talking about the global naval roles generally of small ships not in the Battle Fleet? Is there a common thread with low intensity conflict squadrons like Influence Squadrons and the wartime squadrons like the ones Adm Harvey and Captain Hughes are discussing? The Battle Force is organized for what the Battle Fleet needs to be able to do for the nation, but can the Navy say the same is true for the rest of the ships in the fleet, including the Marine Corps?
The US Navy spends a great deal of time organizing in meticulous detail every aspect of the Battle Fleet - Carrier Strike Groups, Carrier Air Wings, Attack Submarines, and Ballistic Missile Submarines and every detail regarding design and construction and maintenance and basing and training and doctrine and tactics and organization and function and role and mission and strategy...
What should the Navy's intellectual focus be when it comes to thinking about the 'rest of the fleet' that isn't specifically part of the main Battle Fleet? Should the rest of the fleet be organized together, as is happening with the MCM Influence Squadron in the Persian Gulf with AFSB Ponce, MCMs, and PCs, or should the focus remain on highly specialized ships specifically instead of collectively, or is the modular approach of LCS the right approach for the entire small vessel portion of the Navy? Is it time to rethink the way Marines are fielded at sea, or is the 3-ship ARG how things should be? Can the LCS ever be the whole solution as it is intended to be today, or is LCS just one piece of a larger set of necessary capabilities that need to be present within lower tier of the surface force?
These are just a few of the things I have been thinking about, and in my opinion listening to Admiral Harvey discuss these topics on Midrats is well worth an hour of my time.
Mid 20th Century the “Happy Hour” was a common occurrence in the USN. It was an opportunity for sailors to blow off some steam, and maybe even get a little exercise. Also known as a “smoker,” in those days a “Happy Hour” was usually series of boxing or wrestling matches when the ships weren’t busy.More of this.
In our post-prohibition world it means something a bit different, but still gives us a chance to blow off some steam. On Thursday, 12 December, The Naval Institute will host a Happy Hour in Newport, Rhode Island for members, prospective members, or anyone who wants to show up to talk about daring “to read, think and write” about sea power and national security.
A member of our Editorial Board will be there to answer questions, and some writers and thinkers who have contributed to the Institute to share some of their experiences. While there will be no punches thrown, sparing over strategy and grappling with the naval issues of the day will be encouraged.
If you are in Newport, please join us to splice the main brace at the USNI Happy Hour/Social:
12 December 2013, 1700 until the tab runs out or the grog runs dry.
Every year for the past several I have found a way to get a hold of the unclassified final winning papers from the Spring graduating class at the Naval War College. Yes, I've even driven from Albany to Newport and attended the awards ceremony to beg for copies of papers. Every year in reflection, some of those papers represent the best thing I read all year - and I read a lot.
I am convinced the Naval War College is, consistently every year, one the most incredible idea factories on the topic of seapower in the world. It is unfortunate that few of those ideas are exposed to the general public despite these papers being unclassified. In seeking the reason why, I have found that the overwhelming majority of students believe it is better for their career not to have their work published, no matter how good it is. That perception says a lot, and nothing good.
Personally, I think the NPS model of posting everything online is better, and I do hope one day the Naval War College takes a similar approach.
I have long believed that USNI is the one organization that could positively make a difference to the situation if they can get folks who write excellent material to take a few hours, condense those works, and somehow funnel the material into USNI for publishing via the range of publishing options available at the Institute (Proceedings, Web, Multiple Article Collections on a Single Topic for Books, etc.). This "Happy Hour" appears to me an excellent opportunity to move the ball down the road a bit, and I hope every one in Newport with an interest in Seapower shows up to support this activity - both faculty and students.
Sunday, December 1, 2013
Posted by The Conservative Wahoo at 2:48 PM
Thursday, November 28, 2013
This week, CV-16 sailed forth with 2 051Cs and 2 054As escorts to South China Sea for what China calls a scientific and training mission.
There are some concerns that CV-16 was sent there for political purposes to intimidate neigbhouring countries. I personally think that's wildly inaccurate. As I talked about in the previous entry on 091, No. 404 (the first production version of Type 091) was sent to South China Sea for testing at PLAN's deep water testing facility in Hainan. It should not be a surprise that China's first carrier would spend time here given how little space it has to operate around the Qingdao naval base. One of well known posters on Chinese military forum recently posted the following list of uncompleted tests that will need to be carried through this time.
- Temperature related tests - Due to the colder temperature of north, certain tests that require hot climate (like air conditioning systems and refrigeration equipments) can only be completed in South China Sea at this time of the year. All of this will happen in the relatively high water temperature of South China Sea, which cannot be replicated around Qingdao.
- Deep water tests - The Bohai sea shelf around Qingdao is generally pretty shallow. South China Sea has long stretches of water depths of greater than 100 m (several hundreds of meters in many cases). ASW tests, especially against deep diving submarines, can really only be carried out here. Other tests including under water communications, acoustic countermeasures testing and deep water anchor testings,
- Testing command & control - As part of having 2 051C and 054A in this sea trial, CV-16 will be able to test the command & control systems leading a flotilla formation. More C&C tests can be completed in South China Sea given the concentration of new combat aircraft and naval ships in the area (including the nuclear submarines stationed at Sanya naval base). He also listed that 054As are part of the flotilla due to their strong ASW suites, which is important given the number of foreign submarines that will be looking to gather CV-16 acoustic signatures. I tend to that's a lost cause.
- Testing the new Carrier base - There is a new carrier base being constructed in South China Sea. Having this flotilla there will test out the ability of the new naval base to support a carrier group.
So there are a number of tests that will need to be carried out this time. In the long term, there will be probably multiple carriers home based in the carrier base in South China Sea. After all, there is far more room to operate there than around Qingdao. I think this will be the first of many trips that CV-16 makes to South China Sea until SSF gets its own carrier.
Posted by Feng at 10:39 AM
Tuesday, November 26, 2013
A civil war in Syria, nuke deals with Iran, and a Chinese air defense zone have dominated the attention of national security watchers and policy makers. Even so, al Qaeda's network continues to quietly operate and plot terror in its multiple safe havens dotted across Africa and the Middle East.
|Balhaf Terminal exports up to 12.5 billion cubic meters of gas per year.|
Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula and its predecessors in Yemen have operationalized this strategy more than any other affiliate, with sea-borne attacks on USS COLE and MV LIMBERG, maritime facilitation to supply Somalia's al Shabaab, and a couple of amphibious-like operations along Yemen's southern coast.
Last week, AQAP again went to sea in support of the third line of operations when they attempted an attack against the Balhalf liquefied natural gas terminal, apparently foiled by Yemen's small navy. Completed in 2010, the $4.5 billion Balhaf Liquified Natural Gas terminal exports gas from the Marib field to the coast via 320km of pipeline. The terminal and its surrounding pipelines have been the focus of a number of attacks the past few years, but this is perhaps the first water-borne attempt.
These activities may seem like small potatoes in the greater naval spectrum - and they are to a certain extent. But taken with other irregular maritime threats proliferating globally, they represent vacuums in sea power that when filled with non-state actors have greater implications for modern navies. Is protecting oil infrastructure and defeating pirates a job for a handful of multi-billion dollar warships, or flotillas of more numerous, more affordable small combatants? Might distributed maritime operations using both manned and unmanned vessels be a better force construct against irregular threats than CSGs and ARGs? What is the best way for Marine Corps, joint SOF, and Navy teams to get after these rogue maritime elements in a discrete footprint, politically palatable manner? How can naval aviation detect, track, and engage threats that blend in with local fishing and commercial traffic? When does it make sense for the US to unilaterally and quickly deal with these threats versus enabling our partners or deferring to our allies?
The views in this post are those of the author alone, presented in his personal capacity.
Monday, November 25, 2013
|South China Sea Petroleum Trade Route|
|The British Royal Navy White Ensign|
|Admiral Sir John Fisher and Winston Churchill|
On Friday, I had the opportunity to speak with Alyona Minkovski from HuffPo Live about the book:
I also heartily recommend the article on Pentagon accounting practice that Scot Paltrow and I discussed with Alyona; it's really very good.
Posted by Robert Farley at 11:30 AM
Saturday, November 23, 2013
My latest at the Diplomat evaluates some friction with offshore balancing:
Last week, James Holmes described the ongoing difficulties involved with establishing forward U.S. bases in the Philippines. Despite the evident threat that the PLAN poses to Philippine territory in the South China Sea, the process of balancing has moved slowly, largely because of domestic concerns in Manila about a military U.S. presence. The lesson Dr. Holmes describes is that international threat, especially at incipient levels, does not automatically transform into the sort of domestic flexibility that offshore balancing demands.
Friction, whether generated by organizational dynamics, concerns about sovereignty, or historical grievance, can slow the balancing machinery. It’s difficult to solve the problem of friction in alliance politics, especially if key procedures haven’t been worked out in advance. Yet, eliminating friction requires building relationships over the long term, usually involving the kind of commitments (at least implicit) that Offshore Balancers tend to resist.
Posted by Robert Farley at 8:28 PM