Friday, March 24, 2017

Fullbore Friday


About half of this is from an email Sid sent me in 2009. I added a little bit - but what a catch.

An elderly leader with decades of experience at sea. Merchants without enough military ships to make the passage. Hostile waters. A mission.

What do you do against a superior military force, when you basically have next to nothin'..?


You have been put in command of really nothing of a military ability - but everything of an economic necessity. Your nation is one that is at war, and relies on sea born commerce to survive and prosper. Between you and your nation are thousands of miles of open ocean, and an enemy that wants to destroy you.

You know you do not have what you need to fight and win ... at least on paper.

So, what do you do? Well - if you are Commodore Sir Nathaniel Dance, you get to work. You go to war with the Fleet you have - not the Fleet you wish you had.

Let's set the stage.

During the Napoleonic Wars, the British economy depended on its ability to trade with the British Empire, particularly the valuable colonies in British India. The intercontinental trade was conducted by the governors of India, the Honourable East India Company (HEIC), using their fleet of large, well armed merchant vessels known as East Indiamen. These ships weighed between 500 long tons (508 t) and 1,200 long tons (1,219 t) and could carry up to 36 guns for defence against pirates, privateers and small warships. They were not, however, capable under normal circumstances of fighting off an enemy frigate or ship of the line. Their guns were usually of inferior design, and their crew smaller and less well trained than those on a naval ship.
The East Indiamen sought to ensure the safety of their cargo and passengers, not defeat enemy warships in battle. Despite these disadvantages, the size of East Indiamen meant that from a distance they appeared quite similar to a small ship of the line, a deception usually augmented by paintwork and dummy cannon. The East Indiamen would gather at ports in India and the Far East and from there set out for Britain in large convoys, often carrying millions of pounds worth of trade goods.
The journey would usually take six months and the ships would subsequently return carrying troops and passengers to augment the British forces stationed in India. "Country ships", smaller merchant vessels chartered for local trade, sometimes independently from the HEIC, would often join the convoys. To protect their ships from the depredations of pirates, the HEIC also operated its own private navy of small armed vessels. In combination, these ships were an effective deterrent against smaller raiders, but were no match for a professional warship.

Understanding the importance of the Indian Ocean trade and seeking to threaten it from the start of the inevitable war, First Consul Napoleon Bonaparte ordered a squadron to sail for India in March 1803. This force was under the command of Contre-Admiral Charles-Alexandre Durand Linois and consisted of the ship of the line Marengo and three frigates.
What was Commodore Dance working with?
The China Fleet was a large annual British merchant convoy that gathered at Canton in the Pearl River during the winter before sailing for Britain, via India. As the convoy passed through the East Indies, it was joined by vessels sailing from other European ports in the region on the route to India, until it often numbered dozens of ships. The 1804 fleet departed in late January, and by the time it reached the approaches to the Strait of Malacca it had swelled to include 16 East Indiamen, 11 country ships, a Portuguese merchant ship from Macau and a vessel from Botany Bay in Australia.
Although the HEIC had provided the small, armed brig Ganges as an escort, this vessel could only dissuade pirates; it could not hope to compete with a French warship. There was no military escort: news of the outbreak of war had reached Canton before reinforcements had arrived from the squadron in India. Spies based in Canton had passed the composition and date of departure of the China Fleet to Linois in Batavia, and he set out to intercept it. However, Dutch informants at Canton had also passed on false reports that Royal Navy warships were accompanying the convoy, reports that may have been deliberately placed by British authorities.
The convoy was an immensely valuable prize, its cargo of tea, silk and porcelain valued at over £8 million in contemporary values (the equivalent of £541,000,000 as of 2009). Also on board were 80 Chinese plants ordered by Sir Joseph Banks for the royal gardens and carried in a specially designed plant room.
The HEIC Select Committee in Canton had been very concerned for the safety of the unescorted convoy, and had debated delaying its departure. The various captains had been consulted, including Henry Meriton, who in his ship Exeter had captured a frigate during the Action of 4 August 1800, a disastrous French attack on a convoy of East Indiamen off Brazil. Meriton advised that the convoy was powerful enough in both appearance and reality to dissuade any attack. He was opposed by John Farquharson of Alfred, who considered that the crews of East Indiamen were so badly trained that they would be unable to mutually defend one another if faced with a determined enemy.
Eventually the Committee decided that it could delay the convoy no longer and awarded command to the most experienced captain, Commodore Nathaniel Dance in the East Indiaman Earl Camden, an officer of over 45 years service at sea.
Not perfect - not even good; but what does a leader do? Improvise, adapt - overcome.
Lead.
Dance had been taken seriously ill at Bombay during the outward voyage, but had recovered in time to sail with the convoy. The fleet did not have any naval escorts, and though the East Indiamen were heavily armed for merchants, carrying nominal batteries of between 30 and 36 guns, they were no match for disciplined and professional naval forces. Not all of their listed armament was always carried, but to give the illusion of greater strength, fake gunports were often painted on the hulls, in the hope of distant observers mistaking them for 64-gun ships of the Royal Navy
...Maneuver and Deceive...
At dawn on 15 February, both the British and French forces raised their colours. Dance hoped to persuade Linois that his ships included some fully armed warships and he therefore ordered the brig Ganges and the four lead ships to hoist blue ensigns, while the rest of the convoy raised red ensigns. By the system of national flags then in use in British ships, this implied that the ships with blue ensigns were warships attached to the squadron of Admiral Rainier, while the others were merchant ships under their protection. Dance was unknowingly assisted by the information that had reached Linois at Batavia, which claimed that there were 23 merchant ships and the brig in the convoy. Dance had collected six additional ships during his journey, and the identity of these were unknown to the French, who assumed that at least some of the unidentified vessels must be warships, particularly as several vessels had been recently painted at Canton to resemble ships of the line.
At 09:00 Linois was still only observing the convoy, reluctant to attack until he could be sure of the nature of his opponents. Dance responded to the reprieve by reforming the line of battle into sailing formation to increase his convoy’s speed with the intention of reaching the Straits ahead of Linois.
With the convoy a less intimidating target, Linois began to slowly approach the British ships. By 13:00 it was clear that Linois's faster ships were in danger of isolating the rear of the convoy, and Dance ordered his lead ships to tack and come about, so that they would cross in front of the French squadron. The British successfully executed the manoeuvre, and at 13:15 Linois opened fire on the lead ship, Royal George, under the command of John Fam Timmins.
The Royal George and the next four ships in line, the Indiaman Ganges, Dance's Earl Camden, the Warley and the Alfred, all returned the fire, Ganges initially attacking the Royal George in error. Captain James Prendergrass in Hope, the next in line, was so eager to join the battle that he misjudged his speed and collided with Warley, the ships falling back as their crews worked to separate their rigging. Shots were then exchanged at long range for 43 minutes, neither side inflicting severe damage.

Royal George had one man killed: a sailor named Hugh Watt, another man wounded, and suffered some damage to her hull. None of the other British ships or any of the French reported anything worse than superficial damage in the engagement.
At 14:00, Linois abandoned the action and ordered his squadron to haul away with the wind and sail eastwards, away from the convoy, under all sail. Determined to maintain the pretence of the presence of warships, Dance ordered the ships flying naval ensigns, including his flagship Earl Camden, to chase the French. None of the merchant ships could match the French speed, but an attempt at a chase would hopefully dissuade the French from returning.
For two hours, Dance's squadron followed Linois, Hope coming close to catching Aventurier but ultimately unable to overtake the brig. At 16:00, Dance decided to gather his scattered ships and return to his former heading rather than risk attack from other raiders or lose sight of his convoy in the darkness. By 20:00, the entire British convoy had anchored at the entrance to the Straits of Malacca. On 28 February the British ships of the line HMS Sceptre and HMS Albion joined them in the Strait and convoyed them safely to Saint Helena in the South Atlantic, from where the convoy returned to Britain without further incident.
The attitude and conduct of the French Admiral is telling as an example of how not to fight war at sea.
The French admiral later attempted to explain his conduct during the engagement:
The ships which had tacked rejoined those which were engaging us, and three of the engaging ships manoeuvred to double our rear, while the remainder of the fleet, crowding sail and bearing up, evinced an intention to surround us. By this manoeuvre the enemy would have rendered my situation very dangerous. The superiority of his force was ascertained, and I had no longer to deliberate on the part I should take to avoid the consequence of an unequal engagement: profiting by the smoke, I hauled up to port, and steering east-north-east, I increased by distance from the enemy, who continued the pursuit of the squadron for three hours, discharging at it several broadsides.
—Linois, quoted in translation in William James' The Naval History of Great Britain during the French Revolutionary and Napoleonic Wars, Volume 3, 1827,
That is pathetic.

To end this FbF on a positive note - let's go back to Commodore Dance. Good leaders always are humble and thankful.

Placed, by the adventitious circumstances of seniority of service and absence of convoy, in the chief command of the fleet intrusted to my care, it has been my good fortune to have been enabled, by the firmness of those by whom I was supported, to perform my trust not only with fidelity, but without loss to my employers. Public opinion and public rewards have already far outrun my deserts; and I cannot but be sensible that the liberal spirit of my generous countrymen has measured what they are pleased to term their grateful sense of my conduct, rather by the particular utility of the exploit, than by any individual merit I can claim.
Class act.

First posted DEC09

Thursday, March 23, 2017

Diversity Thursday

If this weren't such a serious topic, I'd have more fun with it ... but my humor leans dark, so why not?

It is important on some DivThu that we have time to enjoy a good chortle. Of course, being that it is DivThu, there are certain thematic requirements and a need for a leavening agent of schadenfreude.

As we all know, from your command website to the composition of the USNA Color Guard, the Navy's branch of the Diversity Industry is obsessed with optics. They want pictures to be "diverse" even though they may have absolutely zero reflection of the demographics of the topic at hand.

Does not matter ... it is all about the optics and counting each face so that you have the "correct" type of jellybeans in the visual.

As we all know, they can go overboard. The best are when they are at a command that is 75% "white male" and yet, "white males" are only in 20% of the pictures.

Good times ... good times ... but the Commissar is happy.

How does this get to a point of humor besides the usual photo asshattery? Here's an example. 

I think the Diversity Bullies lost the bubble a bit.

As Admiral Mullen and Roughead insisted, and their politics maintain their inertia today, I have to take diversity in to consideration in everything I do. So what does diversity have to tell us about domestic violence? 

Let's see what our GMT is messaging to us.

So, what you're saying here is that domestic violence isn't a problem with European heterosexual couples?

OK. Good to know.


Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Why the Third Offset Should Not be First in Your Hearts

If you've heard it once in the last year, you've heard it a thousand times.

Third Offset.

There is a good argument against it over at USNIBlog.

Stop by and give it a read.

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

SM-6 and the Changing Calculus

An ongoing story in the Darwinian nature of war is the contest between the dominance of defense and offense. Especially acute on land - something 100-yrs on from WWI we are still talking about - it also applies at sea.

The last decade, much talk on the surface side of the house has been A2AD, ASBM, and a buzzword I like less every time I use it "distributed lethality," and the need to somehow find a way to get back in the anti-surface warfare fight at range.

Slowly and deliberately making it to the fleet, the SM-6 is showing all the signs of being the weapon we need now, and need in number.

As reported by Kris Osborne at The National Interest;
The Pentagon simultaneously fired two Standard Missile-6 weapons in rapid succession at a single ballistic missile target to asses new seeker technology and solidify the weapon's ability to ensure destruction of approaching enemy targets.

Using an emerging "active seeker" technology, two SM-6 missiles were able to simultaneously track and destroy a single target, greatly improving the probability of a target kill.
...
The SM-6 is unique in several respects; the weapon uses what is called an "active" seeker, meaning it can send a signal or electromagnetic ping forward in addition to receiving them. Electromagnetic signals, which travel at the speed of light, send a signal forward before analyzing the return signal to determine the shape, size, speed or configuration of an approaching threat. Since the speed of light is known, and the time of travel is able to be determined, a computer algorithm is able to calculate the exact distance of an object. Portions of this technology are built into the SM-6, using software upgrades.

An "active seeker" gives the missile to better attack maneuvering or moving targets at sea, because it does not need to rely upon a ship-based illuminator to bounce a signal off a target for a merely "passive" seeker to receive.

This is the technology which allows a ship commander to fire several SM-6 missiles in more rapid succession or closer to one another in the event that a target needs to be attacked with more than one missile.
Yes, in my head I'm counting VLS cells and wanting more, but nothing is perfect;
Compared with the SM-3, the ship-fired SM-6 interceptor is designed to track and destroy closer-in-threats such as a ballistic missile in the "terminal" phase of decent to its target.

The weapon has been established with an ability to knock out ballistic missiles approaching from the sky.
Of course, it is one thing to have mastery of defense and break the confidence your opponent may have in his offensive systems, but what about your offense? Here's the sexy part;
More recently, the weapon has been developed for a number of new "offensive" missions including surface attacks against enemy ships or defensive intercepts against anti-ship missiles closer to the surface.
Back to what we had with SM-1 but lost with SM-2. Good.  We also have the standard AAW ability;
The SM-6 has also been capable of anti-air defense, equipped with an ability to attack or destroy enemy helicopters, drones and other approaching threats. The weapon has now been established as defensive, offensive and capable of three distinct missions; they are surface warfare, anti-air warfare and ballistic missile defense.
More testing and then ... get 'ye to the fleet.

One note of caution. We should be a bit more humble. Good-man-Mike had me sucking my teeth a bit;
"You now have absolute assurance of hit no matter what the threat is doing. If the threat takes a turn and does something weird and the first missile is unable to sense it and engage it, the second missile will," Mike Campisi, SM-6 Senior Director, Raytheon, told Scout Warrior in an interview.
Never say you have "absolute assurance" of anything at sea. Mother Ocean and Mars love to make a fool of you from your own over-confidence.

Monday, March 20, 2017

A Bigger Navy? What About Our Human Capital?

In our desire to grow to a 350+ ship Navy, rightfully the first place people start to look is the budget. Without the money, all else is simply theories and talk.

Let's make the assumption that the money shows up. So, we just start rolling ships off the assembly line? Well, not so fast.

A partial answer is provided in a nice article from Mike Stone via Reuters
“It has historically taken five years to get someone proficient in shipbuilding," said Maura Dunn, vice president of human resources at Electric Boat.

It can take as many as seven years to train a welder skilled enough to make the most complex type of welds, radiographic structural welds needed on a nuclear-powered submarine, said Will Lennon, vice president of the shipyard's Columbia Class submarine program.

The Navy envisioned by Trump could create more than 50,000 jobs, the Shipbuilders Council of America, a trade group representing U.S. shipbuilders, repairers and suppliers, told Reuters.

The U.S. shipbuilding and repairing industry employed nearly 100,000 in 2016, Labor Department statistics show. The industry had as many as 176,000 workers at the height of the Cold War in the early 1980s as the United States built up a fleet of nearly 600 warships by the end of that decade.
The only way to grow our fleet is to grow our skilled trades, not an unknown challenge. Especially as the last wave of Baby Boomers just get too old for this line of work & we still suffer under an, "everyone must go to college" mindset, the human capital problem will only intensify. This is a good start.
To help grow a larger labor force from the ground up, General Dynamics' Electric Boat has partnered with seven high schools and trade schools in Connecticut and Rhode Island to develop a curriculum to train a next generation of welders and engineers.
Mike Rowe can't do all the heavy lifting on this culture shift. We need a change in attitude. Instead of having people get six figures in debt to get an otherwise unemployable degree in Sociology or Left Handed Latvian Lesbian Studies - what if we invested that in helping interested people learn a trade? It is a trade that pays well.
The two largest U.S. shipbuilders, General Dynamics Corp (GD.N) and Huntington Ingalls Industries Inc (HII.N), told Reuters they are planning to hire a total of 6,000 workers in 2017 just to meet current orders, such as the Columbia class ballistic missile submarine.

General Dynamics hopes to hire 2,000 workers at Electric Boat this year. Currently projected order levels would already require the shipyard to grow from less than 15,000 workers, to nearly 20,000 by the early 2030s, company documents reviewed by Reuters show.

Huntington Ingalls, the largest U.S. military shipbuilder, plans to hire 3,000 at its Newport News shipyard in Norfolk, Virginia, and another 1,000 at the Ingalls shipyard in Mississippi this year to fulfill current orders, spokeswoman Beci Brenton said.
There is a sustainability issue to be concerned about as well. One that signals a need to take things slow and easy. No one is going to get hired on a promise, and one would hope for a career if you were going to go in to a field. No one goes in to a line of work to get laid off.

So, perhaps we should not be in all that much of a hurry. Have industry tell us what they can effectively digest, and then we should try to dovetail any increase along those lines. Perhaps this pressure will accelerate automation where it can be done.
Makers of submarine components such as reactor cores, big castings, and forgers of propellers and shafts would need five years to double production, said a congressional official with knowledge of the Navy’s long-term planning.

"We have been sizing the industrial base for two submarines a year. You can’t then just throw one or two more on top of that and say, 'Oh here, dial the switch and produce four reactor cores a year instead of two.' You just can't," the official said.

In his first budget proposal to Congress on Thursday, Trump proposed boosting defense spending by $54 billion for the fiscal 2018 year – a 10 percent increase from last year. He is also seeking $30 billion for the Defense Department in a supplemental budget for fiscal 2017, of which at least $433 million is earmarked for military shipbuilding.

A 350-ship Navy would cost $690 billion over the 30-year period, or $23 billion per year - 60 percent more than the average funding the Navy has received for shipbuilding in the past three decades, the Congressional Budget Office said.
Boring topic? Perhaps, but if you want a larger, more sustainable and scaleable Navy - it's sexy.

Sunday, March 19, 2017

WESTPAC's Progress with Toshi Yosihara - on Midrats



While a new American President, Russia, and ongoing operations against the Islamic State continue to absorb attention, the Western Pacific from Japan, Korea, China, to Australia continues forward.

Our guest to discuss all the latest developments Sunday from 5-6pm Eastern will be Toshi Yoshihara.

A prior guest on Midrats, Dr. Yoshihara is a Senior Fellow at CSBA. Before joining CBSA he held the John A. van Beuren Chair of Asia-Pacific Studies at the U.S. Naval War College where he taught strategy for over a decade.

He is co-author of Red Star over the Pacific: China's Rise and the Challenge to U.S. Maritime Strategy, which has been listed on the Chief of Naval Operation’s Professional Reading Program since 2012. Translations of Red Star over the Pacific have been published in China, Germany, Japan, South Korea, and Taiwan.

He has also co-authored Indian Naval Strategy in the Twenty-first Century and Chinese Naval Strategy in the Twenty-first Century: The Turn to Mahan. He is co-editor of Strategy in the Second Nuclear Age: Power, Ambition, and the Ultimate Weapon and Asia Looks Seaward: Power and Maritime Strategy. His articles have appeared in Journal of Strategic Studies, Asian Security, Washington Quarterly, Orbis, World Affairs, Comparative Strategy, Strategic Analysis, Journal of the Indian Ocean Region, and Naval War College Review. The Naval War College Review awarded him the Hugh G. Nott Prize for best article of 2010.

He holds a Ph.D. from the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy, Tufts University, an M.A. from the School of Advanced International Studies, Johns Hopkins University, and a B.S.F.S. from the School of Foreign Service, Georgetown University.

Join us live if you can, but if you miss the show you can always listen to the archive at blogtalkradio or Stitcher

If you use iTunes, you can add Midrats to your podcast list simply by clicking the iTunes button at the main showpage - or you can just click here.

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Libya; Just Say No

Believe it or not, there are those from both the American right and left that want us to get MORE involved in the mess that is Libya.

I don't think so ... and am pondering a bit over at USNIBlog.

Come by and give it a read.