We are picky about sources, particularly sources that take perspective of countries other than the United States. When it comes to India, Russia, China, Japan, Great Britain, Canada, and Australia in particular, we get very picky. The politics make it tough, the absence of politics in analysis is a bonus, but in the end we see these countries as the most important countries to the United States National Defense and Foreign Policy in the 21st century.
Over the past several months we have continuously been impressed by Ilya Kramnik, a Russian analyst for RIA Novosti who also contributes analysis of Russian military subjects with UPI.
Eagle1 linked his latest contribution this morning, a very interesting Russian take on how to control piracy problems plaguing commerce. Ilya Kramnik sets up the discussion with a historical look at global piracy and the conditions off east Africa, then gives a few suggestions for how Naval forces can effectively stomp out the problem with an international coalition, of which he suggests Russia would participate in.
The most realistic way of combating piracy is cooperation between militarily strong countries in protecting navigation in problem areas. A united squadron of ships set up on the basis of a broad coalition (NATO countries, Russia, and the Gulf states) could effectively counter piracy off Somalia, or in any other trouble spot.We approach this article from the strategic view, and work from there. Piracy represents a peacetime system disruption to sea lines of communication, instances of "uncommand of the sea" through violence or threat of violence, but as a peacetime system disruption this contested state at sea requires a peacetime strategic approach to eliminate. As we have stated before, successful maritime strategy during peacetime leverages military power to establish "command of the sea" when system disruptions create conditions of "contested uncommand of the sea."
Legal measures are also important. The UN Security Council's mandate for the invasion of Somalia's territorial waters, use of arms against the pirates, and allocation of the required forces and equipment (reconnaissance aviation, deck helicopters, radars, and Marines and Special Forces trained in boarding and releasing hostages) will eventually make piracy too dangerous an occupation.
It would be enough to set up a squadron of five to six warships and one light helicopter carrier as a flagship. Warships from different navies could rotate patrol duty with shifts lasting for several months. In the most dangerous areas, merchant vessels could be escorted by ships, helicopters, or armed motor-boats.
Importantly, patrols will be effective only if struggle against piracy overrides the inviolability of territorial waters. Otherwise, the pirates will always be able to escape punishment.
In this case, the strategic approach from the Russian view advocates the use of two distinct peacetime processes. First, international law (UN Security Council Action) is leveraged to establish ROE so that the military can address all the symptoms while working towards solving the problem. One the process is established through the pol-mil diplomatic process, we note the desired peacetime military solution advocated for is Strategic Sea Basing.
Note the desired forces being advocated for: Reconnaissance aviation, deck helicopters, radars, Marines and Special Forces trained in boarding and releasing hostages, armed motor-boats, five to six warships, and a flagship to support aviation capabilities. This force structure sounds a lot like an international version of what we have previously called the Littoral Strike Group centered around a mothership. The tactics advocated for include regional maritime domain awareness, maritime presence, and the establishment of convoy's. Ilya Kramnik is describing exactly what this blog has been advocating for in regards to how to think about developing peacetime naval force structures for dealing with peacetime system disruptions: Motherships and small combatants.
Our definition of a mothership is a logistical supply and repair, command and control, and reconnaissance enabler for naval forces to forward deploy smaller platforms in forward theaters to address irregular warfare environments. The desired purpose of a mothership is to establish a mobile forward operating base in contested seas that coordinates regional maritime domain awareness through unmanned systems, and persistent maritime presence for manned platforms. The mothership represents the networked command core at sea supporting maritime manned networks for peacetime presence and engagement, and unmanned networks for maritime information dominance.
If we use the example of a Whidbey Island class Dock Landing Ship, the mothership would utilize a powerful radar system and electronic suite for tracking regional maritime traffic, conceptionally something like JLENs optimized for tracking maritime traffic instead of cruise missiles, and rooted to the mothership which acts as the network core. Additionally the mothership would support 4 small surface combatants (what we call SSC-135s) with the size and well deck docking capabilities of the ~135 ft LCU-1600s, allowing for 4 to be carried on the LSD-41s instead of LCUs.
Additionally, a mothership would support unmanned surface and subsurface mission modules, specifically the repair facilities to keep these platforms operational and stowage space for operational swaps in forward theaters. Unmanned platforms can be independently deployed from the mothership using the cargo crane if necessary. The mothership becomes the HVU of what we call a Littoral Strike Group, essentially the 21st century replacement for the cold war, blue water SSG, with the HVUs being the mothership, amphibious ships, and/or MSC ships that make up the tailored forward operating base at sea. Escorted by 1 DDG-51 and 4 surface combatants, this force would meet the desired metrics Ilya Kramnik is advocating for.
Additional Notes: If the 4 other surface combatants were Littoral Combat Ships, we note a LSD-41 mothership in this situation becomes a LCS tender on top of other roles, able to swap out mission modules that can be carried forward in the cargo hold. The crane on the Harpers Ferry class is rated for 30 tons, so I assume the same crane is used on the Whidbey Island class. I am unsure how mission modules are swapped out on the Littoral Combat Ships though, skin to skin may not have been a design factor and using a dock may be a requirement. One could assume this could be done, but assuming capabilities with the Littoral Combat Ship to date has been an exercise in disappointment.
In thinking about motherships, we have simulated the concept operationally in two ways. The first is the method described above, as the HVU for what we call a Littoral Strike Group, the information dominance command and control network core enabler for operations in contested maritime environments. Another conceptual view we have taken is that of a 4th platform for existing ESGs, carrying 'that other stuff' ESGs can't carry forward. We usually think of "that other stuff" as air traffic controllers, Seabee's, and other enabling components the Navy provides during Marine operations, a naval role in expeditionary warfare that we believe the Navy needs to dedicate more attention to in complimenting Marine operations in the joint battlespace.