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
Sunday, April 6, 2014
Why, in the wake of World War I, did the relationship between the US Army Air Service and the US Navy go so bad so quickly? Thomas Wildenberg's Billy Mitchell's War with the Navy: The Interwar Rivalry Over Air Power chronicles the conflict between aviation enthusiasts (personified and led by William Mitchell) and the establishment Navy during the interwar period. With control over aviation assets at stake, the sides argued over the effectiveness of airpower against warships and shipping. Mitchell and his acolytes took a maximalist position, holding the air forces had effectively rendered surface navies obsolete, and that the United States government should redirect money away from battleships and aircraft carriers and towards heavy bombers. Fighting the Navy couldn't win Mitchell organizational independence, but it did hold the opportunity for gaining control of the immense resources that an independent air force would require.
The Navy and the Air Service fought for high stakes. In the United Kingdom, the Royal Air Force was stitched together from the Royal Flying Corps and the Royal Naval Air Service, putting all military aviation assets under one banner. The USN wanted to avoid this outcome at all costs, while Billy Mitchell wanted to create a similar arrangement in the US. In context of severe defense cuts at the end of the World War I, everything seemed to be on the table.
Wildenberg devotes considerable attention to the exercises that led to the sinking of the SMS Ostfriesland and several other old warships. With respect to the sinking of Ostfriesland, both sides had legitimate points to score. Ostfriesland was older than most of the American battleships of the day, but not all, and not much older. If bombers could sink her, then they could likely sink all but the most modern of the American standard type battleships. Three other issues made the exercise problematic, however. First, Ostfriesland was stationary, considerably simplifying the problem of bombing. In one of his more absurd moments, Mitchell explained this away in a passage that likely sets some sort of record for military dishonesty:
It does not make very much difference because we employ a massed attack. A ship on the surface of the water in motion is much easier to hit than an object at rest because the relative speed between the airplane and the object being fired at is the thing that makes it difficult to secure hits. If a water vessel could be moving at the same rate as an airplane there would be absolutely no trouble whatever hitting it because all you would have to do would be to get over the object and drop the bomb and as both the airplane and its taget would be going at the same speed you would be certain to get a hit. Therefore the faster that a water vessel goes the easier it is to hit from the air. This is not understood at all by people unfamiliar with bombing. As to turning and zigzagging, the turns of surface vessels of any kind are so slow as to be almost negligible from the air.Second, Ostfriesland was in poor shape, and lacked a crew. German battleships were well-known for their thorough compartmentalization and their watertight integrity, but looters and poor maintenance had made sealing Ostfriesland impossible. The battleship was already taking on water before the bombing began. More importantly, with no damage control teams on board, even relatively minor damage could prove lethal.
Finally (and in the only point that supports Mitchell) Ostfriesland had no munitions aboard. This rendered the battleship effectively immune to loss through catastrophic explosion, although the ability of the bombs used by the Army Air Service to penetrate Ostfriesland's magazines is in considerable question. Mitchell did violate the rules of the exercise, but not to the extent that it made much of a difference to the outcome.
The Army Air Service sank Ostfriesland and a variety of other old American and German vessels, helping both services to learn a great deal about targeting and bomb damage. Mitchell's interest was in propaganda, however; he used the sinking of the old battleship to argue that surface vessels of any kind were effectively obsolete in the face of determined air attack. It bears note that Mitchell was not predicting that surface ships would become vulnerable at some point in the future; he made clear his belief that the USN was already obsolete as of the early 1920s.
It's fair to say that Wildenberg is not impressed by Billy Mitchell, and that he generally tilts towards the Navy's side of the conflict. Wildenberg lands clear punches, demonstrating that while Mitchell was an effective organizational commander and an excellent propagandist, he had severe shortcomings as a strategist. The subject is complicated, because while planes can't sink battleships as easily as Mitchell suggested, they surely can sink them. Mitchell's claims for the capacity of aircraft to sink warships were wildly overstated, and were wrong in many of the particulars. But it's less clear that they were so wrong as to be unproductive. The extent to which the battleship was obsolete prior to 1939 has been (in part because of Mitchell and his partisans) strongly overstated, but then most major powers either curtailed battleship construction or ended it entirely once World War II began. It also bears note that Mitchell was quite right about the pointlessness of lighter-than-air aviation, and about many aspects of the interwar military aviation complex.
But then Mitchell's advocacy was surely unproductive in terms of the details of how aircraft could be used for coastal defense. Heavy, level bombers were nearly useless in World War II for attacks against naval vessels, as warships proved far too fast, maneuverable, and heavily armed to succumb to high altitude level bombing. In a prediction that didn't pan out, Mitchell suggested:
If the same method of battleship construction is continued, in the future no crw will stay on a battleship when aircraft comein sight. The captian will have to stick at his post and will probably send for a bottle of torpedo fluid to help him, and everyone else will immediately jump overboard. When the alarm of airplanes in sight is given, the crew will immediately put on gas masks, kapok coats in order to float in the water, asbestos shoes and gloves so as to be able to touch the hot metal, and parachutes so that they will be able to open them and come down alright when blown into the air.Hyperbole yes, but not particularly helpful hyperbole. Dedicated dive and torpedo bombers, usually (although not always) developed by navies, would sink the vast majority of warships during the war. Level bombers did better against civilian shipping, but this was not envisioned to be a serious operational task in the early inter-war period. And Mitchell was egregiously wrong about the effectiveness of carriers and carrier aircraft, which he believed would always be at a disadvantage against land-based air. Granting that Mitchell had a point with respect to aircraft sinking warships also requires appreciating that he got the details entirely wrong, and that he advocated policies that would have produced tactical and organizational disaster.
But Wildenberg probably goes too far when he draws Mitchell's personal history into the dispute. He illustrates his narrative with passages from Mitchell's life, stories that generally do not reflect well on the aviator. These passages add color to the account (he probably shot his first wife, for example), but also tend to obscure the argument by portraying Mitchell more cartoonishly than is strictly necessary. There were undoubtedly a significant number of officers on each side of the three way argument between the Army, the Air Service, and the Navy who suffered from alcoholism, who liked the ponies a bit overmuch, and who wildly overspent their means. Detailing these characteristics primarily for Mitchell and not for the other antagonists leaves a lopsided story that is, if anything, unfair to Mitchell.
Wildenberg doesn't present much in the way of a general theory of inter-service conflict, but it's not hard to develop one. Essentially, inter-service tension in the interwar period precluded the development not only of good cooperative procedures in areas of common interest, but also of the development of knowledge. Mitchell had a sincere interest in the bombing exercises, but his goals were mainly political, rather than the development of tactics, techniques, and technologies for using air and naval assets together. Mitchell wanted to prove that aircraft could kill specific battleships in order to kill the idea of battleships. The Navy appreciated that someone would try to sink its ships with aircraft, and even if it believed that Mitchell overstated the air threat, it did need a technical understanding of how bomb damage affected warships. The question was under what conditions, and what factors could either enhance the ability of friendly aircraft to sink enemy ships, or prevent the sinking of friendly ships by enemy aircraft. But faced with the political threat posed by Mitchell and his enthusiasts, the Navy grew understandably reluctant to put even its older ships at the service of the Army.
In the long run, this dynamic would hurt the Army Air Corps more than the Navy. Navy exercises and planning in the 1930s demonstrated the potential effectiveness of dive and torpedo bombers, even if it took some time in practice to develop effective anti-aircraft techniques. The Air Corps entered the war with an excess of optimism about the role that B-17s could play in coastal defense, while simultaneously lacking any understanding of how heavy bombers might support the anti-submarine effort (although obviously the Navy hardly covered itself with glory on this score in the first year of the war). Threatening the Navy forced it to circle the (battle) wagons, which limited the extent to which the Air Service could prepare for the next war. Everybody likes aggressive, enthusiastic activism than threatens entrenched interests, but those interests may respond in generally unproductive ways.
This is an interesting book, and if it had come out earlier I would have found it useful in my own work. The research appears sound, and the argument is largely correct. I can't help feel, however, that the case could have been made more carefully. The book could also have been organized more clearly, as some of the early chapter are much longer than their later counterparts (this may be my own pet peeve). Nevertheless, it's a good one volume account of how bitterly the Navy and the Air Service fought for prominence in the interwar period. Cross-posted at LGM.
Posted by Robert Farley at 10:33 PM
The folks at CIMSEC have posted an informative piece on the future direction of Navy IAMD by Captain Jim Kilby of the OPNAV Staff. Jim has forgotten more about IAMD than most of us know, and his appearance on the One-Star List last week was a surprise to no one.
The bottom line for Kilby is that the threats and the systems we field to counter them will drive us toward a higher state of readiness and professionalism in IAMD. Surface Warfare is returning to its Sea Control roots, and IAMD is a big part of that mission. The plain truth is that the world's most devastating power projection force cannot do its job unless it controls the (maritime) terrain from which it operates. IAMD is key to that proposition.
Posted by The Conservative Wahoo at 10:35 AM