Wednesday, April 25, 2018

Zumwalt Fiasco Looking Worse!

The Navy is attempting to explain away the Zumwalt fiasco but is only looking more culpable while doing so.

As you know by now, the Zumwalt’s Advanced Gun System (AGS) was designed in such a way that it could only use one, unique munition – the Long Range Land Attack Projectile (LRLAP).  The idiocy of that decision has become manifestly clear now that the cost of the LRLAP has risen to nearly a million dollars per projectile and the munition development project has been cancelled.  The Zumwalt is now left without a munition for its main weapon, the AGS.

“Even at the high cost, we still weren’t really getting what we had asked for,” he said. “So what we’ve elected to do is to separate the gun effort from the ship effort because we really got to the point where now we’re holding up the ship.”

“Holding up the ship”????  The ship IS the AGS.  The entire ship was designed around the AGS.  The ship’s reason for existence is to carry the AGS.  The ship IS the AGS.

You’re not holding up the ship – without the AGS, there is no ship.  The ship has no purpose or use.

You never, never, never, never design and build a ship around non-existent technology.  It’s failed every time it’s been tried and the Zumwalt was no exception.

Whoever approved the design concept for the Zumwalt program needs to be court-martialed for dereliction of duty and utter stupidity.  If stupefying stupidity is not a violation of the Uniform Code of Military Justice, it should be!

Did you also catch the part about not getting what was asked for?

“…the system was also failing to achieve the range it wanted …”

So, not only was the cost on an exploding, runaway trajectory (unlike the munition itself!) but the performance was inadequate.  The system couldn't achieve the claimed range.  What have I said, repeatedly?  - No system ever achieves its claimed performance.  Despite the 100% certainty of the truth of this statement, people will still wholeheartedly believe the claims for the next great weapon or system.

Take any performance/cost claim and double the cost and halve the performance and you’ll be somewhere in the ballpark of reality.

There’s no explaining this one away, Navy.  You screwed the pooch in a big way.


(1)Defense News website, “US Navy takes ownership of its second stealth destroyer”, David B. Larter, 24-Apr-2018,

Tuesday, April 24, 2018

Navy Prepares For Combat

This was a real headline from a Navy Times article:

“Carrier John C. Stennis throws sexual assault awareness rodeo” (1)

 “The SAPR [Sexual Assault Prevention and Response] Rodeo consisted of games such as rope toss, trivia and an obstacle course all designed to teach Sailors about the different facets of the SAPR program.” (1)

And we’re unsure why our combat readiness isn’t what it should be and why our ships are colliding and running aground because we don't have enough training time?


(1)Navy Times website, “Carrier John C. Stennis throws sexual assault awareness rodeo”, Geoff Ziezulewicz, 23-Apr-2018

Monday, April 23, 2018

Recruiting Women For The Military

USNI News website has an interesting article about the military’s efforts to recruit women and why they aren’t doing more. (1)

“Lawmakers Friday morning challenged the military personnel chiefs to redouble their efforts recruiting and retaining female service-members …”

Here’s what the response to that challenge should have been:  “Why?  Why would we want more women in the military?  What do they bring to the table?”

What’s the official response?  Well, it’s along these lines,

“…not doing so means potentially missing out on selecting the best from half the nation’s talent pool.”

Yeah, we’d be missing out on the best of the least capable half of the talent pool!  That’s the point that everyone glosses over.  With a few job exceptions, women are not capable of contributing to combat. 

It’s not even debatable that women are a detriment in combat.  They simply don’t have the physical capabilities that are needed and, as a group, lack the mental/emotional aggressiveness to be effective in combat.

The problem with women in the military and, particularly, in combat, is that the discussion leapt right over the merits and into implementation.  All the studies that I’m aware of have uniformly shown that women are a detriment in combat.  I’m unaware of any study showing any benefit to having women in combat.  Despite that, we’re totally focused on implementation.

That said, there are jobs in the military that women can fill quite ably.  Here’s a few examples,

  • Computers – computer operators, programmers, network techs, etc.
  • Medical – Non-combat medical jobs such as doctors, nurses, med techs, lab techs, etc.
  • Rear area maintenance – aircraft, armor, and equipment maintenance as long as it doesn’t involve strength (such as tank track maintenance)
  • Pilots – non-combat transport pilots;  I’m undecided about female combat pilots.   I’d have to talk to male pilots to see if women can handle combat flying.  I have doubts but I don’t know.

One of the approaches the military is proposing to recruit more women is to have more contact with women’s sports teams – the theory being that these are the type of women who are already superior in physical capabilities and mental attributes such as determination, motivation, and toughness.  You know what?  They’re right!  Unfortunately, the best of women are pathetically behind even the worst male athletes or even average non-athlete males.  I’ve witnessed female college basketball players get demolished by extremely average high school males.  The physical disparities are simply too great to overcome.

According to the military,

“We’re making progress. It’s slow, but we’re making progress.”

Hey, don’t apologize for not wrecking the military faster!


(1)USNI News website, “Military Branches Are Doing More to Recruit Women into Active Duty”, Ben Werner, 13-Apr-2018,

Friday, April 20, 2018

Army Gets It Again

In a past post, ComNavOps stated that the Army seems to be beginning to understand what a future war will entail (see, “Army Gets It”).  That recognition is belated, to be sure, and still incomplete but at least aspects of reality are starting to be recognized by the Army.  Here’s the latest demonstration of the Army’s slowly dawning recognition via a Breaking Defense website article about combat communications as put forth by Maj. Gen. Peter Gallagher, head of the Army’s network Cross-Functional Team (1).

“Instead of video, the screens will show minimalist messages and abstract icons on digital maps, updated by telegraphic bursts of data designed to avoid detection. Instead of constant micromanagement, there’ll be a taut silence broken by terse litanies of codewords, soldiers getting on and off the radio before the enemy can trace the transmission. Instead of direct uplinks to bulky, vulnerable satellites high in geostationary orbit, signals will bounce from low-orbiting mini-satellites to relay drones to ground antennas, following dozens of possible paths, too many for the enemy to block them all. Instead of specialist soldiers and contractor field service reps laboriously configuring and reconfiguring the network, artificially intelligent software will adapt autonomously to avoid jamming, hacking, and interference.”  [emphasis added]

The full featured, video-intensive, real time documentation of military operations that our leadership has come to assume as normal will be impossible.  Electronic countermeasures, jamming, signal disruption, equipment destruction, cyber attacks, etc. will ensure that we’ll have sporadic communications, at best.  The article sums it up nicely.

“Instead of optimizing the network to provide the best user experience in normal circumstances — the current standard — you optimize it to provide acceptable performance in extreme circumstances.” [article’s emphasis]

This demonstrates that the Army has at least a glimmer of understanding about a future peer war and is beginning, just beginning, to prepare for it. 

Gallagher noted,

“in a high-intensity, fast-moving fight against a great power adversary, he said, the network will be under attack, so you have to prioritize to ensure that at least three essentials get through:

  • secure voice, so troops can talk to each other, because typing a text message under fire isn’t always practical, and nothing tells you whether a subordinate is confident or cracking up like his tone of voice;

  • Position Location Information (PLI) that’s not reliant on the Global Positioning System, so you know where your people are even when GPS is jammed; and

  • telegraphic updates on each unit’s status and enemies spotted so you can populate your digital map with what the Army calls a Common Operational Picture.”

All of this is fascinating and worth a tip of the hat to the Army but what does it have to do with the Navy since this is, after all, a Navy blog?  Well, it should be obvious – the Navy will face the same attacks on its communications and networks and, therefore, should be working towards the same goals as the Army.

The really disturbing aspect to this is that far from working towards minimal, but assured, communications in recognition of the reality of peer combat, the Navy is actually increasing its dependence on highly suspect and even more complex and “bulky” communications such as Distributed Lethality, Co-operative Engagement Capability, Third Offset Strategy, unmanned vehicles, Navy Integrated Fire Control – Counter Air (NIFC-CA), etc.

Did you note the use of the term “bulky”?  This means that communications and data are becoming ever more demanding of increased bandwidth, signal strength, and signal duration.  It takes a LOT of bandwidth and time to transmit video as opposed to a couple of word text transmission.  Enemy electronic countermeasures are going to ensure that our communications and network data transmissions are interrupted, degraded, and sporadic.  This is the antithesis of the path the Navy is on.

Here’s an example.  The LCS was designed to self-monitor its machinery, instrumentation, and condition and transmit all that data back to a shore station so that the shore support group could anticipate maintenance and repair needs and have the proper personnel and parts waiting when the LCS arrived back in port for its all too frequent maintenance visits.  However, during the first two Singapore public relations deployments the reality was that the LCS lacked the communications bandwidth and fidelity to transmit the monitoring data and the entire system broke down and this was during peacetime when communications were unchallenged!  How much worse will the situation be during war when communications are contested?

Those high resolution videos of terrorists from overhead UAVs that we’ve all grown so accustomed to on the news are simply not going to be possible in a peer war - of course, neither will UAV survival over the battlefield so the inability to transmit video won’t really be that big an issue, I guess!.

The point is that the Navy needs to take a lesson from the Army and begin reducing its reliance on communications and networks rather than increasing it.  We also need to greatly increase the robustness of our communications but that, in turn, depends on reducing the demands, complexity, and bandwidth requirements.  In other words, we need to train to fight silently and isolated.  If we find that our communications and networks perform better than we anticipated, all the better but we must not count on it.


(1)Breaking Defense website, “Can’t Stop The Signal: Army Strips Down Network To Survive Major War”, Sydney J. Freedberg Jr., 26-Mar-2018,

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

France - Ready For War?

ComNavOps suggested in the Syria anti-chemical weapons strike post that it demonstrated that the UK and France have some severe limitations with their military reach and readiness.   Some commenters scoffed at that assessment.  Well, here’s some more evidence from a Defense News article. (1)  The French frigate that was designated to launch the three cruise missiles failed to do so and a backup ship had to launch missiles, instead.

“When a French multimission frigate failed to fire its salvo of three naval cruise missiles during last weekend’s joint airstrike on Syria, the military drew on a backup plan.

The frigate’s sister ship, the Languedoc, instead launched its naval cruise missiles at the three Syrian targets. The mission was the first time France fired its naval cruise missile, a weapon which up until then only the British and U.S.had fired against a threat.

“The first salvo did not fire,” Army Col. Patrick Steiger, spokesman for the French Joint Chief of Staff, told Defense News on April 18.”

The launch failures may not have been limited to French ships.  A French aircraft may have also had a launch failure.

“The spokesman declined to comment on why the French Air Force did not fire a 10th cruise missile, as reported by website Le Mamouth.

The Air Force declined comment. Each of the five Rafale fighter jets on the mission carried two Scalp cruise weapons, of which nine were fired.”

I’ve harped on the US readiness issues but France appears to have issues of their own.


(1)Defense News website, “France turns to plan B when missile launch fails during Syria airstrikes”, Pierre Tran, 18-Apr-2018,

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

MH-53E and Mine Countermeasures

Following developments in the area of mine countermeasures (MCM) is challenging, to say the least.  Equipment seems to come and go on an almost daily basis.  A new piece of equipment is tested, proclaimed the future of MCM, and then dropped with the entire process occurring, seemingly, overnight.  The LCS MCM module development has epitomized this.

As we consider future MCM developments, it is helpful to understand the current and legacy systems.  To that end, let’s take a look at the current (soon to be legacy) MCM workhorse, the MH-53E helo.

A major portion of our current MCM capability is aviation based from the MH-53E helicopter.  The MH-53E was produced in the early 1980’s and is suffering age-related maintenance problems, spare parts shortages, and extensive maintenance times.  These helos, of which there are only 28 in inventory, are aging rapidly and there are no plans to provide direct replacements for them.  Instead, the Navy has decided to transition their MCM capabilities to the LCS.

“…current plans involve transitioning the MH-53E airborne mine countermeasures capability to the Littoral Combat Ship Mine Countermeasures Mission Package …” (1)

The sundown path for the MH-53E is now tied to the LCS MCM reaching full operational capability which is tentatively scheduled for 2025.


The MH-53E helos are organized into two active squadrons, HM-14 (10 helos) and HM-15 (13 Helos), and a Fleet Replacement Squadron, HM-12 (5 helos).

Here’s a few specifications with a comparison to the SH-60 series Seahawk just for some perspective.

                                                              MH-53E    SH-60B

Length, ft                     100     65
Empty Weight, lbs            33000  15000
Internal Payload, lbs        30000   6700
External Payload, lbs        36000    N/A
Unrefueled Endurance, hrs        5   3.5?

MH-53E Powerplant  3 × General Electric T64-GE-416/416A C, 4,380 shp each

SH-60B Powerplant  2 × General Electric T700-GE-401C, 1,890 shp each

As the specs demonstrate, the MH-53E is massively larger, more powerful, and with longer endurance.  In other words, ideal for the aerial MCM role.  The SH-60, as has been well documented, was found to be underpowered for safe MCM equipment towing, in what is one of the most bewildering blunders of the LCS module program.

MH-53E MCM capabilities and systems include the following:

Influence Sweep Systems
  • AN/SPU-1W (Magnetic orange Pipe)
  • Mk-104 Acoustic Sweep System
  • Mk-105 Magnetic Sweep System
  • Mk-103 Mechanical Sweep System (Mk-17 cutters)

Neutralization System
  • AN/ASQ-232 SEAFOX Airborne Mine Neutralization System

Mine Hunting
  • AN/AQS-24 Side Scan Sonar with Laser detection/ID capability

Future Upgrades include:
  • AQS-24B – Technical refresh of the Q-24A which addresses obsolescence and reliability issues and adds High Speed Synthetic Aperture Sonar (HSSAS) side scan arrays
  • AQS-24C – Provides expanded volume search capability to B-variant through the addition of iPUMA sonar to the tail of the towed body

Vertical website offers a nice, basic writeup on the MH-53E. (5)

One of the notable issues related to transitioning from aviation centric MCM to ship MCM is the loss of speed.  Helos operate much faster than the unmanned underwater vehicles planned for the LCS MCM module.  Even if it works, the LCS clearance rate will be very slow – too slow for combat clearance.

For example, the AQS-24B side scan sonar can be helo-towed at 18 kts and still be effective, according to manufacturer, Northrop Grumman. (2)   By comparison, the sonar-equipped, mine detecting, Knifefish UUV for the LCS has a speed of 4.5 kts.(3)  Even that speed is misleading because the Knifefish has to wait to return to its host vessel to upload its data which must then be analyzed to actually “detect” a mine.  That process takes significant additional time.  The Navy is attempting to adapt the AQS-24 towed sonar to an unmanned surface vessel to address the speed issue.

Here’s a telling quote,

"We're funding these new systems that, when you look behind the curtain, are not as capable as the systems that they are replacing," said Bob O'Donnell, a retired Navy captain who directed the service's program office for mine warfare in the years following the first Gulf War. "Even if the new systems meet all their operational targets, they won't be as good as the ships and helicopters we've had in service for decades." (4)

Clearly, the MH-53E MCM helos have capabilities that have yet to be duplicated by the LCS MCM module.  It is unclear how the planned 6-10 or so LCS MCM vessels, each individually less capable than current equipment, will replace 12 Avenger ships and 28 MH-53E helos.

Mk105 Magnetic Minesweeping Sled

Potentially, the new CH-53K in a dedicated MCM version offers the ability to replace the MH-53E although I have heard of no such plan by the Navy.

The larger question that looms over any discussion of MCM is whether mine countermeasures should be aviation focused or surface/subsurface.  The Navy has opted for the surface/subsurface path by going all-in on the LCS and unmanned surface/subsurface vehicles and by retiring the MH-53E without replacement.  However, it is not at all clear to me that this is a wise path.

As always, a combination of assets and capabilities is probably the best approach but allowing the MH-53E to retire without replacement is knowingly accepting a significant decrease in MCM capabilities.


(1)US Navy N98 / Mine Warfare Association, “The Future of Airborne Mine Countermeasures”, 3-Nov-2015,

(2)Northrop Grumman website, retrieved 1-Apr-2018,

(4)The Virginian-Pilot website, “A Hidden Danger”, Mike Hixenbaugh and Jason Paladino, Sept. 25, 2016

(5)Vertical website, “Clearing The Way”, 22-Aug-2012,

Saturday, April 14, 2018

Syrian Anti-Chemical Weapons Strike Analysis

Here’s an early and quick analysis of the Syrian strike.  I don’t have much to offer because not much is known.  However, a few things stand out about this latest anti-chemical weapons (CW) strike.

Political.  The participation of the UK and France was clearly intended to send a political message.  As the Pentagon briefers emphasized, the US, UK, and France make up 3 of the 5 permanent members of the UN Security Council. 

The fact that Syria again used CW after the last use/strike cycle clearly demonstrates the uselessness of such political messages.  The last one didn’t deter Syria so why would we expect that this one will?

Since the last message didn’t accomplish anything, this strike should have been targeted at Assad, personally, to hit every location he is known to frequent with the intent to kill him.  You don’t provide second chances to maniacs who use CW against their own people.

Finally, the real message should be directed at Russia who provides the support for CW use and is the "enabler".  So much for Russia's assurances that Syria had destroyed all their CW capabilities and inventories.  Russia is complicit in this.  The strike should have been directed, at least in part, against Russia.  I don't care about escalation.  If promoting the use of CWs is the hill Russia wants to die on then we should accommodate them.  

Military – France and UK.  The strike also demonstrated the severe limitations of France and the UK to exert significant world wide military influence.  The lack of land attack naval forces forced the UK and France to resort to risky and difficult strike-fighter missile launches.  The risk of lost aircraft and killed or captured aircrew was significant.  Further, the strike required extensive tanking and electronic warfare escort, according to the Pentagon briefing.  Presumably, the use of aircraft also required search and rescue forces to be on standby.  That’s a lot of effort for what should have been a simple standoff cruise missile attack from naval forces. 

France and the UK need to seriously reevaluate their military capabilities as they relate to their geopolitical strategic goals.

Military US – The number of missiles employed suggests that the US was anticipating Russian defensive efforts.  As with the previous strike, this clearly demonstrates the enormous amount of firepower the US believes necessary to destroy even small facilities.  This suggests that our current level of munitions will be exhausted in a matter of days in a peer level war.  As a strategic imperative, we need to ensure that we have sufficient facilities to quickly replenish our inventories.

If the number of missiles used was indicative of an anticipated Russian defensive response, that would give us a good indication of how the US views the effectiveness of the Tomahawk missile at penetrating a peer level defense and it’s not good.  If unopposed, the targets could probably have been destroyed with around a dozen missiles.  This suggests that the US does not view the Tomahawk as being particularly survivable against active defenses.  Stealthier, higher performance missiles are clearly needed in the US inventory.

Tactically and operationally, there was no need for the US to use the B-1 bomber and JASSM along with the attendant risk to aircraft and aircrews.  Clearly, someone wanted to conduct a live fire test of the JASSM and/or justify the expense of its development.

Military SAM – Once again, as throughout the history of surface-to-air defensive efforts, we see that SAM systems are only marginally effective.  Syria’s defensive SAM efforts did nothing to change the historical success rate of 1%-25% - if the Pentagon is to be believed, no attacking missiles or aircraft were shot down.  Other, unconfirmed, reports suggest that at least some missiles were shot down.  Regardless, it doesn’t change the conclusion. 

As a point of interest, Russia claims that Syria shot down 71 out of 103 missiles. (1)  Interestingly, Syria only claims to have shot down 13 missiles! (2)