Monday, April 21, 2014
Posted by The Conservative Wahoo at 4:58 PM
Saturday, April 19, 2014
|Cesar Chavez (T-AKE 14) conducts a replenishment-at-sea |
with Royal Australian frigate HMAS Toowomba (FFG 156).
(U.S. Navy photo by Master Capt. Rollin J. Bellfi/Released)
To get a better idea of the variety and importance of this force, allow me to highlight three ongoing missions, in three different theaters, using three completely different platforms. In the far reaches of the southern Indian Ocean, a handful of international ships continue a wide-ranging search for any trace of missing Malaysia Air flight 370. Keeping these ships moving and fed is USNS Cesar Chavez (T-AKE 14). This sort of underway replenishment combat logistics mission is MSC's bread and butter, with dozens of similar operations occurring around the globe every day and night.
In the Mediterranean, another MSC ship is deployed for a unique and historical mission – to dispose of Syria’s chemical weapons. MV Cape Ray, part of the Transportation Department Maritime Administration’s Ready Reserve Force, departed Portsmouth in late January. The ship has spent most of its deployment pier-side in Rota while Syria stalls in fulfilling its UN-mandated obligations to aggregate the stockpiles at Latakia for transport and neutralization at sea. Whether or not the ship will ever get to execute its intended mission remains to be seen. Nevertheless, the fact that this operation was able to spin up so quickly and embark the U.S. Army’s chemical neutralization equipment demonstrates the agility of our heavy sealift ships.
At this point, I should brag on my fellow citizen Sailors. Two of the missions I've mentioned couldn't happen without the dedication of Navy Reservists on extended active duty. While the ships themselves are operated by the MSC's civil mariners, reservists make up a significant portion of the mission teams aboard Cape Ray and Spearhead, to include some key leadership positions. Reservists are also part of USS Ponce's mission in the Arabian Gulf. Naval operations are often come-as-you-are affairs, and there are no better folks at rapidly and seamlessly partnering with the MSC for operational pick-up games than our reserve Sailors.
When considering long term budgets and acquisition plans, our capital combat ships are extremely important. But the flexibility and strategic reach of our military sealift force is what makes us a global naval power. The above ships represent just a small part of the MSC's inventory. Other vessels are prepositioned around the world to support major contingency operations. Still others support salvage, submarine rescue, or special operations missions. Time after time, MSC has demonstrated the ability to get equipment to the fight and sustain our warfighters.
Any opinions expressed in the preceding post are those of the author alone and not representative of the U.S. Navy or any other organization.
Monday, April 14, 2014
Posted by The Conservative Wahoo at 7:57 PM
Sunday, April 13, 2014
I spent an enjoyable hour with Commander Salamander and Eagle One on their weekly internet radio show, MIDRATS. We talked a good deal about carriers, the importance of the Navy, and what the future might hold.
Listen here if you like.
Posted by The Conservative Wahoo at 9:26 PM
Friday, April 11, 2014
With the recent induction of No. 172 and the appearance of Type 055 full scale land simulation structure, there has been some questions about how many of these ships will join PLAN and the number of sailors that will need to be trained to operate them. This entry will focus on the hardware part, since that is an easier factor to quantify than the software part.
Before all of that, I want to take a quick look at Type 055. Based on the dimensions of the land simulation structure, estimate for width of the ship have been 21+ m and length to be 175 m based on photos. That would make this ship larger than the neighboring Atago class and KDX-III class, which are both over 10,000 ton in displacement. It would be comparable in size to Slava class and only smaller than Kirov class and Zumwalt class. Based on work by online PLAN fans, it seems like Type 055 would be able to comfortably hold 128 VLS cells ¬¬¬and still have enough endurance long range missions. To the best of my knowledge, China has only built land based simulation structures for aircraft carrier and nuclear submarine. Therefore, the construction of such a structure shows the high regard that PLAN has for Type 055. Work for Type 055 is said to be starting at JN this year, so it’s quite interesting to me that they are building the training structure so early.
Looking at PLAN right now, we still have a good mix of Soviet-era ships and modern ships. Amongst what PLAN considers to be destroyers, we have the very old Type 051 class and the very new Type 052C/D class along with many interim classes in between (Type 052, Type 051B, Sov, Type 051C and Type 052B). About half of Type 051 Luda class ships have already been decommissioned and the remaining ones should be retiring over the rest of the next few years as they come up to 30 years in service. After that, it will be interesting to see what PLAN does with those interim classes. Type 052 Luhu class have been in service for 20 years, but just receive mid life upgrade in 2011, so will probably service until next decade. Similarly, No. 167 of Type 051B Luhai class has been active since entering service in 1998, but looks to be getting a mid life upgrade very soon, so will probably stay in service until middle of next decade. The 4 Sov destroyers have the problem that they are using combat system and data link that simply don’t work that well with PLA’s new inter-service data link protocol. Even though they are still relatively new, their combat system and electronics are so backward that the smaller Type 054A frigates are more effective in combat and leading fleet. I had previously advocated that PLAN just retire all 4 of them early, but now it looks like China will put them through extensive mid life upgrade with indigenous parts replacing the older Russian systems. At least, that should allow these ships to communicate better with the rest of the fleet. The 2 Type 051C destroyers have the same problem as the Sovs. They are the last PLAN destroyers to use steam turbine propulsion and also use a different type of VLS (and Air defense system) that needs its own industrial support. Since the latter 2 Sovs and Type 051C ships joined service at the same time as the first Type 052C ships, they will remain in service for a while serving minor roles while Type 052C/D form the backbone of air defense for PLAN. The production run for Type 052C will stop at 6, while Type 052D will probably hit 12 ships. If we add in the 2 Type 052B, 2 Type 051C and 2 recent Sov destroyers, that will total 24 destroyers or 2 flotilla of 4 destroyers for each of PLAN’s 3 fleets. In reality, PLAN will probably have more destroyers than that in service in order to form a permanent blue water fleet, but this provides a simple breakdown for 2020 to 2030.
PLAN’s frigates do not have nearly the number of interim classes. Nearly every jianghu-1 class ships have already been decommissioned as Type 054A have been joining the fleet in mass. By the end of this decade, I would think all of the remaining Jianghu ships will be either be decommissioned or refurbished/upgraded for export or coast guard. The 4 Jiangwei-I frigates should also be close to decommissioning. Aside from that, PLAN has 16 Type 054As (which will become 20 over the next 2 years), 2 Type 054 and 10 Type 053H3 Jiangwei-II frigates. By the end of this decade, these 36 frigates (22 054/A + 14 Jiangwei) will form 3 flotillas for each of the 3 fleet. In order to replace the retiring Jiangwei class and provide escort for the new blue water fleet, a new class of frigates will likely start construction in the next few years using the new universal VLS. It could also be argued that with the induction of the Type 056 class, PLAN no longer needs as many frigates for the nearby waters. In that case, the class that comes after Type 054A will be closer in size to 052B/C and the European “frigates” than the 4000-ton class frigates we see today.
It’s always interesting to speculate how a rapidly modernizing naval force like PLAN will look like in 5 or 10 years time. With most of the older Soviet era ships are close to retiring, we finally have a good idea to project into future, because they are no longer just building interim classes. For me, a major symbolic milestone will hit once all Luda and Jianghu class ships retire. The majority of PLAN’s main fleet will be modernized by then. On the other hand, questions about modernization in software are a lot harder to answer and quantify.
Posted by Feng at 2:35 PM
Lyle Goldstein at the China Maritime Studies Institute is a national treasure (along with his colleague, Andrew Erickson), and he has teamed up once again with Shannon Knight from the Naval Undersea Warfare Center to produce a fascinating article in this month's Proceedings, which is unfortunately behind the firewall (hey, why aren't you a member?) The piece, "Wired for Sound in the Near Seas" details China's development of a sophisticated network of fixed ocean floor acoustic sensors off its coasts. After reminding readers that analysts have for years rightly downplayed China's ASW capabilities, Goldstein and Knight make this assertion:
"Defense analysts who follow Chinese military literature closely, however, will have noticed over the past several years that the massive Chinese military-industrial complex has now come around to the great importance of ASW, and China’s substantial military and science-research energies have shifted accordingly. The fruits of these major research efforts are now gradually coming into view. Most startling is the revelation in numerous Chinese scientific and strategy publications since 2012 that China has deployed fixed ocean-floor acoustic arrays off its coast, presumably with the intent to monitor foreign submarine activities in the “near seas.”
This report by the China Maritime Studies Institute is something many have been waiting for, as there never seemed to be much logic in China's utter cession of the undersea domain. It is my view that there is nothing the U.S. military does better than undersea warfare, and so the PLA has a long way to go. I've had conversations with U.S. submariners who welcome China spending money to try and close this gap, as they are quite confident that the advantage we maintain is insurmountable. It would appear the PRC sees things differently, and only time will tell who is correct.
Posted by The Conservative Wahoo at 1:30 PM
Thursday, April 10, 2014
Bloomberg has an editorial up today that attempts to pooh-pooh the threat of the Chinese aircraft carrier program. They do so with a mix of decent analysis and factual citation, but ultimately, their conclusion is flawed because of assumptions about what China hopes to do with its carriers.
First, the good news. They raise important threat-related issues in this paragraph: "The greater danger is China's other military investments. It's deploying thousands of surface-to-surface missiles near its eastern shore, and it is also building a fleet of quiet diesel submarines and advanced anti-ship ballistic-missile batteries. China's cyber-attacks on U.S. government agencies and private defense corporations have become increasingly aggressive." They are speaking here of course, of the greater danger to U.S. forces, which is a defensible position.
But that's not (in my view) why the Chinese are building aircraft carriers. They are not building aircraft carriers to become a "...globe-spanning Chinese navy capable of operating across deep oceans" and in the process, challenge the U.S. for global naval dominance. They are building aircraft carriers in order to project power in their near abroad, so that their regional dominance is enhanced and their influence over neighbors is increased. China wishes to create the impression that they are capable of operationalizing their claims in order to provide additional pressure to settle them in their favor.
The focus of the Chinese effort is not the US Navy; rather it is our system of friendships and alliances.
Posted by The Conservative Wahoo at 9:31 AM
Wednesday, April 9, 2014
The Navy is bureaucratically trying to kill a carrier it believes it can no longer afford. It is proposing long term lay-up of eleven cruisers as a fall-back force structure preservation measure. It is truncating its small surface combatant program (under pressure) in search of additional lethality and survivabilty, injecting unwelcome churn into a program that has finally begun to hit reasonable unit production costs, while likely creating a hole in its shipbuilding plan. It is reducing its buy of fifth generation fighters. It is closing down the production line of one of is most successful weapons--the Tomahawk Land Attack Missile--without an identified replacement and several years until that replacement is in production. It is struggling to afford two attack submarines a year even as its highest priority acquisition program--the follow-on ballistic missile submarine--looms on the horizon with its cost likely to consume nearly half the shipbuilding budget for ten years. And its shipbuilding plan--the one now aiming at 308 ships--is underfunded to the tune of nearly $4B a year when compared to historical levels of spending, realistically pointing toward a fleet at least 20% smaller than is planned.
Simultaneously, the importance of a powerful, globally employed Navy to our security and prosperity rises. China continues to play the part of the rising power whose respect for the current global order and what it takes to maintain it is questionable. Russia has decided to use its military and economic power to re-assert itself as a brooding Eurasian power. North Africa and the Mediterranean rim are increasingly unstable, Turkey is having a hard time figuring out what kind of nation it wants to be, and Israel remains in the crosshairs of nations and movements who want it gone.
All of which it occurs to me, argues for a greater emphasis on American Seapower, for the kinds of capabilities ONLY a force that is persistent, powerful, and self-sustaining can provide. A force that brings with it both the helping hand for those facing disaster and the mailed fist of deterrent strength to remind those who would disturb regional security.
Which brings me to the CNO's speech yesterday at the Navy League's Sea Air Space Symposium. In it, he debuted what appears to be a new line of strategic communication for him, that of pursuing greater joint force interdependence. While I applaud the CNO's commitment to eliminate overspending and to investigate avenues of cooperation among the Services in research and development/science and technology, it baffles me that he would select the most prestigious forum for American Seapower to make a case that what we need now is MORE Jointness. I believe quite the opposite. What we need now is more Seapower, and more reliance on it. For most of the joint era, land power has been the supported force, with Seapower and air power in support. Jointness--the kind which the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs advocates and to which the CNO refers--meant everyone being jointly in support of land operations, which is one of the reasons the Army was the Service that supported Goldwater Nichols most strongly. Hewing to this line in a maritime era will dramatically mis-allocate scarce resources and leave the United States less capable of responding to growing threats.
More jointness will not arrest a Navy in decline; more Navy will. And no one is in a better position to advocate for that than the CNO.
Thank you for the comments below--a good crop. I have a couple of thoughts:
1. Some believe more jointness is the best way to respond to diminishing resources. Indeed, more jointness would make the force better prepared for a greater range of futures--but it would necessarily make the force less prepared for either the most likely future or the most dangerous future--which in my view, merge with China. This is for me, why more jointness is less preferable to more Seapower. But I acknowledge that the other view is logical.
2. Elsewhere, someone asked "Am I wrong for thinking that the two things McGrath is placing into opposition are not actually mutually exclusive?" A very good question. The answer is yes, he is wrong. In order for his view to be right--jointness--properly understood in its modern context--would have to change, and fairly dramatically--from its land focused nature today to a more strategic and maritime focus. That kind of jointness is a very different creature than this.
Posted by The Conservative Wahoo at 11:56 AM
Tuesday, April 8, 2014
Posted by The Conservative Wahoo at 8:04 PM
Monday, April 7, 2014
|USS Freedom and USS Independence underway in company|
Posted by Lazarus at 12:31 PM