Page 1 of 2 12 LastLast
Results 1 to 20 of 26

Thread: Is the US Navy Overrated?

  1. #1
    Creepy Ass Cracka & Site Owner Ryan Ruck's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jul 2005
    Location
    Cincinnati, OH
    Posts
    24,805
    Thanks
    48
    Thanked 72 Times in 71 Posts

    Default Is the US Navy Overrated?

    I found the following while browsing at ARFCOM.

    I think it makes some very valid assessments.

    I think that this should be taken not as an insult but as constructive criticism where the US desperately needs to improve. The Navy is, after all, our front line between us and our Trans-Asian Axis foes.

    It is long so I am going to try to post the most relevant part. If you'd like to read the entire paper, visit Knightsbridge University and scroll down to the links under "Is the US Navy Overrated?" There you can select either PDF format or Word format.

    Dedication

    Let me begin by stating that the US Navy is an important fighting organization, but it is not a person. It is not the flag, and it is nobody’s mother or child. It is an employer of hundreds of thousands of people, but importantly, one that has extracted billions of dollars from the taxpayers. It is not a religion, it is not sacred, and as such, it can and must be subjected to rigorous criticism when warranted. It is in the spirit of sincere and constructive criticism that I write this paper. I say this because, despite good intentions, and extensive documented evidence, often provided by current or former US Navy officers who want to turn this organization around, there are some who are apparently incapable of engaging in constructive but critical discussion on their current or former service. To these folks, the US Navy is America, and to criticize the former is to mock the latter. I dismiss this paradigm, along with any and all counterarguments that are based on emotion, hyperbole, willful ignorance, that rely on the Ad Hominem Abusive, the Ad Hominem Circumstantial, Ignoratio Elenchi, those without specific and documented countervailing arguments (in other words, those based on assumed facts that are not in evidence, better known as the old “I think you took these statements out of context, but I cannot rebut them because I do not know the actual context, and basically I do not like your argument so I am just grasping at straws to deflate it” gambit), and those based on unauthenticated contumacy or prevaricating bromides that do not wash with reality, common sense, or precedent. In this age of rampant jingoism in the US, in which even the most thoughtful and well-reasoned criticism of the US military is sometimes inexplicably equated with contempt or polemical disrespect, some reactionaries might even go so far to claim a paper such as this must ipso facto be tinged with “anti-Americanism.” I reject this reasoning as well, and as a counter I do offer much praise for other branches of the US military, especially the US Air Force, for their professionalism, relatively high selection standards, and excellent aircraft. To borrow a phrase from a well known Jack Nicholson movie, if “you can’t handle the truth,” then I suggest you go no further.

    Thankfully, there are many US Navy officers (serving or retired) who are willing to speak about their navy’s failings. These men and women are the true patriots, not the “Everything’s just fine, thank you” types who populate the US military-industrial complex, the political spin-doctors in the Pentagon, and all others who cannot see the reasonable forest for the trees. These reformers and thinkers try to make a difference, and they are the ones who are truly loyal for they realize that one does need to be a reactionary to be a loyal and effective officer or sailor. One will find such men and women in the pages of the US Naval Institute Proceedings from time to time, but the most influential in these ranks are such men as the Late Admiral Elmo Zumwalt, Admiral Stansfield Turner, the Late Rear Admiral Eugene Carroll, Captain John L. Byron, Captain Dean Knuth, the Late Scott Shuger, and former F-14 Radar Intercept Officer Jerry Burns, all of whom are quoted in this paper. To these men, and the men and women like them in the US Navy, I respectfully dedicate this paper.

    Introduction and Objective

    “I never did give them hell. I just told the truth, and they thought it was hell.”
    - Harry S Truman

    Americans are a proud people, and it goes without saying that many Americans take great pride in the US Navy. Americans boast that their grand fleet of supercarriers, nuclear submarines and surface ships rules the seas now as Britannia once did. After all, with the Soviet Navy practically eliminated, who can challenge American naval dominance today? The US Navy is absolutely the biggest and most expensive navy in the world, that is true, but if one looks back over time, one can plainly see an embarrassing pattern of failure and underachievement, with pivotal combat successes (such as the victory at Midway) resulting mostly from the miscalculations of enemies rather than from any other single factor. The purpose of my research is to describe this historical pattern of failure and underachievement (not just the issues facing today’s Navy), and then to ask a very pertinent but controversial question: Is the US Navy truly the most capable navy in the world, or is it closer to being an overrated paper tiger whose dominance can be at least partially attributed to the mistakes of former adversaries? With this in mind, I will begin by discussing various international naval exercises that have pitted the predominant US Navy against foreign diesel submarines (SSKs), with many ending with very poor results for the Americans. I will also discuss shortfalls in fleet composition, readiness, morale, mine warfare, personnel, security, training, and cohesion. I will provide examples, some based on unscripted exercise scenarios, and others from real life, that illustrate the many unfortunate and often ignored (or deliberately concealed) deficiencies of the US Navy. Among other things, it will become painfully apparent that unscripted or free-play exercise evolutions strongly suggest that foreign diesel submarines are quite dangerous to the US Navy, and it needs the help of smaller allies in several key areas of naval warfare. I will also suggest that there is good reason to believe that the mighty US Navy is, with all due respect, simply overrated. Before asking you to consider the documented examples below, I would like first to offer a counter to the most likely argument against my findings.


    The “Exercises Aren’t Real” Argument: My Response

    The examples below are from exercise scenarios, but some will say that one cannot draw conclusions from exercises because they cannot fully duplicate the reality of combat. Some might also say, erroneously, that exercises are only meant to be instructional, using scripted situations with predictable conditions and rules to train the crews on drills and procedures rather than to actually “fight the ship.” In this kind of exercise, the crews are basically just practicing their various skills, such as gunnery, damage control, and learning how to operate damaged or degraded systems. In other words, they are about learning about combat, not engaging in it. In these exercises, there are no winners or losers, and certainly no one calls the media to report a “success” in such exercises. This is just part of the complex exercise equation, and it is not the part that interests me. What does interest me are the so-called “Force on Force” exercises where there are indeed winners and losers. In many exercises there often are unscripted or free-play evolutions that closely simulate combat, and no ship has any special advantage or disadvantage. The purpose of these evolutions is not to train crews, but to fight and hopefully win. As Robert Coram put it, “In a free-play exercise – no scenario and no rules – the orchestrated performance was tossed out. There is no better way to select and test combat leaders than by free play. Free play means winners and losers; it means postexercise critiques…Careerists hated free-play…True combat leaders loved it.” In these evolutions, rival crews do their very best to win, as there are considerable bragging rights endowed to the winners. Realism is important in these exercises. Exercise Tandem Thrust 99, an unscripted multinational “free-play” exercise, was “as close to war as we can possibly get,” said Commander Al Elkins, US Navy. “We’re in this exercise like we’re in a hot war. When our aviators take off, they have no idea what kind of threat is coming.”

    No reasonable person would suggest that a ship that regularly fails in free-play exercises is nevertheless in good shape for combat, and vice-versa. Now assume for just a moment that, rather than a list of failures, I will present a detailed list of US Navy successes in exercises instead. Suppose a modern US Navy destroyer had “sunk” an “all gun” World War II-vintage Turkish destroyer in a hypothetical free-play exercise. It would be outrageous for the obviously outmatched Turkish Navy to say “Yes, but exercises aren’t reality. In a real battle, my old ship and her guns would have clobbered that new American destroyer and her Tomahawk missiles.” That would be preposterous, and so is the claim that free-play exercises, like the ones described below, are inherently meaningless. The fact is that consistent free-play exercise results (successes or failures), are useful, meaningful, and provide reasonable analytical tools. And if free-play exercises are not meaningful, then why does the US Navy invest so much time and money to participate in them? Because these types of exercises frequently reveal both the good and the bad news about how a navy might fare in a real war. I would propose referring a couple of the many interesting quotes one gets when googling 'purpose naval exercise'. I did not see a single 'just having a good time' and ‘shooting the breeze' statement. While not always the case, the standard, blanket explanation employed by US Navy apologists that all defeats (even in free play or unscripted exercise evolutions) are purely because the US ships or aircraft involved were operating under some sort of artificial restriction, limitation or handicap is also often rather spurious, exaggerated, overly convenient, deceitful, and just a cop-out, and I will deal with that matter in due course.

    On yet another level, some will also claim that since exercises are conducted in relatively small areas, it is easier for diesel submarines to detect and attack surface ships. In real life, the oceans are much bigger and it is more difficult for a diesel submarine to position itself to attack a much faster carrier battle group. I would ask those who support this argument to consider two things.

    Firstly, many US surface combatant ships were sunk in the open ocean by slow, primitive diesel submarines in World War II, including the carriers USS Yorktown, USS Wasp, the escort carriers USS Liscombe Bay, USS Block Island, the cruisers USS Indianapolis and USS Juneau, the destroyers USS Mason, USS Reuben James, USS Satterlee, USS Jacob Jones, USS Hammann, USS O'Brien, USS Porter, USS Henley, USS Buck, USS Bristol, USS Leary, USS Leopold, USS Fechteler, USS Fiske, USS Eisele, USS Shelton, USS Eversole, USS Frederick C. Davis, and many other types of surface ships. US battleships were damaged by submarine attacks and taken out of action for months as well. In the case of the battleship USS North Carolina, one of the most powerful and up-to-date ships of her time, and far more advanced than the ships destroyed at Pearl Harbor, she was taken out of action for two months by a single torpedo fired by the Imperial Japanese Navy’s submarine I-19. In addition, the Imperial Japanese Navy’s 71,890 ton supercarrier Shinano was also sunk by a diesel submarine, as was the 36,000 ton fast battleship Kongo. Submarines also claimed five of the largest British carriers.

    Secondly, consider that even though carriers and surface ships are more advanced today, and are still much faster than conventional submarines, that does not give them any additional life insurance because in a war the enemy diesel submarine will know a) where the US Navy ships are coming from and b) where they are likely headed. They do not have to catch up to a carrier battle group making more than 30 knots; they can just wait for it, and no one can predict exactly where en route they are waiting. The only protection the US Navy will have is solid Anti-Submarine Warfare (ASW) skills, and as we will see in this paper, the assumption that the US Navy has such skills is not well-founded. Today's diesel submarines are far better than those of the past, and with the US Navy now concentrating more on the dangerous, noisy and shallow waters of the littorals, if anything, the potential threat from quiet conventional submarines is greater now than it was in World War II.

    One more thing about exercises. I have noted over the years that our US Navy friends expect to always win, by virtue of possessing what they earnestly believe is superior technology (on which some say the US Navy has grown overly-dependent, and consequently, rather sloppy) and/or superior training. They simply cannot fathom the results when things do not go their way all the time. When a US Navy F-18 squadron beats a foreign squadron in a dogfight, for example, US Navy supporters do not ask questions about exercise parameters. They just assume that American technology and training were better, so case closed. However, when a US Navy ship or squadron loses in a competitive free-play or unscripted exercise, the response is rarely "Well, you can't win them all," or "You win some, you lose some." Sadly, the more typical response is to call a foul at the very concept of being beaten. Were the conditions unfavorable to the US Navy? Was the exercise unfair to US forces? (As if war could ever be “fair”) Remember former Vice President Bush, a Navy veteran, who said the following after a US ship shot down an Iranian airliner: “I will never apologize for the United States of America. I don't care what the facts are." I find this quote very much in keeping with the culture of evasion, excuse-making, blame-shifting, buck-passing, and denial in the US Navy, and I urge you to keep this in mind as you read this paper. Denial, in the words of military commentator Stan Goff, is indeed “the grandest of American appetites.”

    As for methodology, the first section relies on qualitative rather than quantitative data. The reason for this is simple. As Captain Dean Knuth, US Naval Reserve (Retired), will attest later in this paper, the US Navy keeps a tight lock on its exercise evaluation data, especially on the ones that include potentially embarrassing failures. These exercise reports are not available to the general public, and attempts to make them public have been suppressed by the Navy. Under these conditions, a statistical analysis is not likely. In fact, after conducting a thorough search of the available unclassified materials, I could not locate even one such study, and one can be sure that is just what the US Navy wants. This is a discussion paper, and thus my purpose is merely to ask questions and raise issues, rather than to comprehensively answer all of them. My task here is to try to put the pieces together, and see if any conclusions can be supported or extrapolated. Although helpful, one does not always need reams of statistical data and tables to recognize a plain fact especially when history, common sense, and credible authorities support the conclusion. We do not require a statistical analysis to understand universal truths. I always liked the way Bruce Russett stated his methodology, so I shall indicate my concurrence by quoting him directly: “My intention is to be provocative... The argument is not one subject to the principles of measurement and the strict canons of hypothesis-testing – the mode of inquiry with which I feel most comfortable. Nevertheless the subject is too important to leave untouched simply because the whole battery of modern social science cannot be brought to bear on it.”

    I would also add that it does not require a leap of faith to know that there is no such thing as an unsinkable ship, no matter how big it is, how many water-tight compartments it has, or how much armor plating it has. Nor does it require much imagination to comprehend that a nearly silent diesel submarine can most definitely stalk and sink even the largest surface warships (or, these days, noisy nuclear submarines) with relative ease. Such things happened in both World Wars, and they can happen today. Even Compton-Hall, whose writings reflect a slightly pro-nuclear submarine disposition, cautioned: “It is a great mistake to denigrate SSKs: they will continue to be a menace for the foreseeable future and the Soviet Navy knows it.” Those who deny these facts are in fact denying reality. As Aldous Huxley once said, “Facts do not cease to exist because they are ignored.”

    David vs. Goliath: Do Diesel Subs Feast on the US Fleet?

    “The U.S. Navy has long relied upon exercises to measure itself against potential threats... Sometimes we join forces with our NATO allies to conduct more realistic exercises, going up against crews with different kinds of training and experience. Of course, all these exercises are scripted in one way or another…. Scripting has its disadvantages, of course. For one thing, in a real war, the other side isn’t following a script, at least not one we might know about. Thus, sometimes individual skippers will deviate from the script – sometimes on secret orders, and sometimes, just because… Over the years, these off-script events have produced surprising results...” - Dr. Robert Williscroft, Former US Navy submarine officer, October 2004

    “Even in the open ocean NATO fleet exercises demonstrate, time and again, that a proportion of SSKS (diesel subs) will get through the screen.”
    - Commander Richard Compton-Hall, Royal Navy (Retired)

    In 1952, the first major NATO naval exercise, Operation Mainbrace, was conducted in the North Atlantic. Involving 85 warships from the US and the UK, the exercise was the brainchild of none other than General Dwight Eisenhower, who wanted to demonstrate to the satisfaction of Norway and Denmark that NATO could indeed protect them in the event of a Soviet attack. Three US Navy carriers participated (the USS Midway, the USS Wasp, and USS Franklyn D. Roosevelt,) and the captain of the Roosevelt encouraged his crew to be vigilant in the face of a significant diesel submarine threat. Said Commander George W. Anderson, US Navy, “Any man who spots a periscope before it attacks gets special liberty to London.” Anderson’s crew soon got their chance to deal with a sneaky diesel submarine, HMS Taciturn, when the boat reportedly “got through the destroyer screen and promptly claimed hits” on all three US carriers, and other ships, with conventional torpedoes (curiously, although nuclear weapons were available at the time, simulation of their use was not included in the exercise scenario). The exercise umpires, however, all on the surface ships, did not concur, and they initially ruled that the submarine herself had been sunk. The matter as to “who got whom first” was supposedly subjected to a post-exercise review, but the definitive answer was, to my knowledge, never made public. Although in this case it was never proven that the submarine had been successful, at least not publicly, it is not at all far-fetched for a single diesel submarine to successfully attack three major surface ships. That very thing happened in World War I, as Richard Compton-Hall once described, when a “pathetic” German submarine, the U-9, took on and destroyed three British cruisers in one day. It is also not at all far-fetched that US Navy officers might “overlook” and not report successful attacks against the aircraft carriers that have formed the very basis for US naval power projection over the past 60 years. I will return to that momentarily.

    There have been many other exercises in the years since, but only a handful of these have become public knowledge, usually in the pages of a few periodicals and base newspapers. Another such exercise that drew public attention was in 1973. The exercise was code-named Uptide, and according to Thomas B. Allen, during this exercise the aircraft carrier USS Ticonderoga (which has since been retired and the name now inherited by a cruiser) was sunk twice by enemy submarines and taken “out of action”. This defeat, however, remained officially unreported and strictly “off the record.” Later, in 1981, the NATO exercise Ocean Venture ended much the same way for the US Navy, with submarines destroying US Navy carriers, but this time, something very different happened; an exercise analyst tried to report the truth.

    Before I get to the ugly details of the matter in hand, here is a little background on the exercise: “In September 1981, the largest exercise in Atlantic Fleet history reached a peak after a two-carrier battle group completed a transit across the Atlantic. The ships entered the Norwegian Sea and their planes struck simulated enemy positions in waves of coordinated air attacks. The NATO exercise was Ocean Venture/Magic Sword North, and it was the first time that-the Commander in Chief Atlantic Fleet had amassed two American aircraft carriers, the British through-deck cruiser Invincible, and a large supporting force which included Royal Navy, Canadian Navy, and U.S. Coast Guard ships — all for the purpose of demonstrating the ability of the free world "to control the Norwegian Sea and contain Soviet sea power.” During the exercise, a Canadian submarine slipped quietly through a US Navy aircraft carrier destroyer screen, and conducted a devastating simulated torpedo attack on the carrier. The submarine was never detected. A second carrier was also reportedly destroyed by another enemy submarine during this exercise.

    Later, Exercise Senior Analyst Lieutenant Commander Dean Knuth, US Navy, tried to use material from his official report in a magazine article, but when Navy officials read a draft of it, his work was promptly censored to minimize the potential fallout. The article was never published. Said Knuth in a subsequent newspaper interview, “The fact is our aircraft carriers were successfully attacked by torpedoes or missiles from submarines in our major exercises.”

    In 2005, Captain Knuth, US Naval Reserve (Retired) told me that “We were interfered with by upper echelons of the Navy who wanted us to delete all references to sub attacks against carriers.” According to Knuth, Navy Secretary Lehman was trying to convince Congress to fund two new additional aircraft carriers and his case could have been seriously undermined if Knuth’s original manuscript came into the public eye. In Ocean Venture 81, “90 percent of the first strikes were by submarines against the carriers,” and this fact did not sit well with many naval aviators, or Lehman. At that point, Knuth said he got “fed up with the politics” of the Regular Navy, and transferred to the Naval Reserve, where he was eventually promoted all the way to Captain and became the Commodore of Naval Coastal Warfare Group Two (Atlantic). Had he stayed in the Regular Navy, Knuth doubts that he would ever have gotten another promotion, let alone two.

    Although the Navy tried to hush the matter up, and ordered Knuth to destroy his original manuscript, he kept a copy of the censored version, and even in its expurgated form, it is interesting and titillating reading. In the censored version, titled “Lessons of Ocean Venture 81,” Knuth notes that the carriers Eisenhower and Forrestal “would never have made it to Norway in a wartime situation” because of the submarine threat. He continued: “The first major event of the exercise was strictly a World War II leftover not likely to take place in the future: carrier against carrier. The Forrestal's battle group steamed in total emission control and sneaked toward the Eisenhower group which was on track for the Greenland-Iceland-United Kingdom gaps. This event was parochialism personified. In Battle of Midway style, the aviator admiral relied on long-range tactical air strikes against the Forrestal, with little or no fighter air support. The surface admiral dispersed all of his surface combatants away from his carrier and sent them quite effectively on an anti-surface mission against the Eisenhower. Unfortunately, in doing so, he unrealistically left his own carrier open for submarine and air attack.” He also noted “The most exciting part of the exercise was the transit of the Iceland-United Kingdom gap. In the previous five autumn NATO exercises, the carriers have always been attacked going through the gaps.”

    The USS Eisenhower was successfully attacked by a surface ship, said Knuth, but official reports by the commanders on scene seem to have overlooked this success: “An Orange missile ship sneaked to within weapon-firing range during the night and maintained station on the Eisenhower. At sunrise, the ship simulated emptying her missile load into "Ike" without herself being engaged until after signaling that she was engaging the carrier. The surprise attack was well described in traffic among warfare commanders on the satellite circuit, but when the carrier striking force summary report was received by the fleet commander, it stated that the Orange ship had been tracked and that a Blue ship, stationed between the carrier and the Orange ships, had been watching his actions. The report described a far different action than the confusion that had existed at the time of the engagement.” There was also an apparent “friendly fire” incident in which “a guided missile destroyer in Ocean Venture mistakenly harpooned the Eisenhower, mistaking a carrier for an Orange surface combatant. The composite warfare commander was so furious that he threatened to excommunicate the ship from the battle group.”

    Knuth offered much criticism of US Navy battle group tactics, organization, intra-navy parochialism (aviators versus surface warfare and submarine rivalries) but spoke very highly of the British contingent: “The British force employment, asset management, commands and action reports were superlative and a model for our battle group to emulate.” He also conceded that British officers and men “are better trained than our best and their battle group commanders and staffs are highly proficient in tactics. My professional note in the December 1981 Naval Institute Proceedings explains in depth why this is the case.” Finally, Knuth admonished that “Our battle groups continually prostrate themselves before the hard-to-find enemy because of our perception of our own invulnerability… The enemy can locate battle groups easily, and with a large fleet of submarines, set up for a pre-planned attack. Our policy is normally to head straight for danger and not shoot until shot at first. When the Orange force makes a preemptive attack, it is usually of such a magnitude that the battle group is overwhelmed and lost.”

    Despite the Navy’s censorship of the Ocean Venture ’81 article, and the fact that the uncensored version was never published, the story became public knowledge in Canada. An anonymous Canadian submariner leaked the story to a Halifax newspaper, and indicated that this successful Canadian attack on an American carrier was by no means an isolated incident. It was a simple ambush in the North Atlantic, and it worked perfectly. Indeed, the article concluded that the Americans never knew what hit them, that they were embarrassed by this failure, and that they wanted to bury the matter then and there. The Canadian submarine did not fire the customary green flare to indicate a hit, for reasons unknown to anyone except for the skipper of the submarine, but instead simply took periscope photos of the carrier to prove its point. In doing so, the diesel submarine ambushed a surface ship in the same way that Germany’s U-boats had done it decades before. This news and Knuth’s original uncensored report, which ended up in the hands of Senator Gary Hart, caused quite a stir in Congress, and the US Navy had a lot of explaining to do. Why had not one but two American carriers been sunk, and why were the submarines responsible not detected? Why indeed had a small, 1960s-vintage diesel submarine of the under-funded and multi-dimensionally “bantam” Canadian Navy been able to defeat one of America’s most powerful and expensive warships, and with such apparent ease?

    Conjointly, why were the Canadians able to do essentially the same thing to the US Navy in subsequent exercises in the spring of 1983? The Winnipeg Free Press reported that the submarine HMCS Okanagan “snuck to within a kilometer of the USS John F Kennedy, went through preparations to fire a salvo of torpedoes and slipped away unnoticed by the carrier or the destroyers…” The submarine got close enough “to score a lethal hit, Defence Minister Jean Jacques Blais said…” Blais went on to say, “This is a matter of some pride for submariners and shows the strength of our underwater boats at a time when satellite detection can identify surface ships more readily.”

    There are several possible explanations. Firstly, the Canadian submariners have a long-standing reputation for being well trained and professional. Supporting this argument is Compton-Hall, one of the world’s leading authorities on submarines, who evaluated the Canadian submariners as “first class, aggressive and innovative.” Secondly, the Oberon-class submarines used by the Canadian, Australian, British, and other navies, built in the UK, but based on a German design from World War II, were probably the quietest in the world at that time. Of course, adverse acoustical conditions produced by temperature variations (thermal layers) may temporarily cloak even the noisiest nuclear submarines, but the nearly silent Oberon-class diesel boats running on batteries were still harder to find in such conditions than even the best nuclear boats. And in any case, Knuth described the acoustical conditions as being “excellent” for detecting submarines, so the answer probably lies elsewhere. A third possible reason is perhaps that the powerhouse US Navy just is not very good at hunting submarines, especially the ultra-quiet diesel boats available today. It is the last explanation that intrigues me, and it is the one on which I shall focus much of this article.
    While Canadian submarines have routinely taken on American carriers, other small navies have enjoyed similar victories. The Royal Netherlands Navy, with its small force of extremely quiet diesel submarines, has made the US Navy eat the proverbial slice of humble pie on more than one occasion. In 1989, naval analyst Norman Polmar wrote in Naval Forces that during NATO’s exercise Northern Star, “…the Dutch submarine “Zwaardvis” was the only orange (enemy) submarine to successfully stalk and sink a blue (allied) aircraft carrier…” The carrier in question might have been the USS America, as it was a participant in this exercise. Ten years later there
    were reports that the Dutch submarine Walrus had been even more successful in the exercise JTFEX/TMDI99. “During this exercise the Walrus penetrates the US screen and ‘sinks’ many
    ships, including the U.S. aircraft carrier Theodore Roosevelt CVN-71. The submarine launches two attacks and manages to sneak away. To celebrate the sinking the crew designed a special T-shirt.” Fittingly, the T-shirt depicted the USS Theodore Roosevelt impaled on the tusks of a walrus. It was also reported that the Walrus sank many of the Roosevelt’s escorts, including the nuclear submarine USS Boise, a cruiser, several destroyers and frigates, plus the command ship USS Mount Whitney. The Walrus herself survived the exercise with no damage. Talented and wily enemies, of course, usually do not play by the rules, and they do not stick to a script.

    Actually, it should come as no great eye-opener that Dutch submarines would do well against the US Navy. The Dutch submarine service has an enviable reputation, and has been praised by people such as the Late Vice Admiral Charles A. Lockwood, Jr., US Navy, who was Commander, Submarines Pacific during World War II. Lockwood said in 1945 that Dutch submarines in the Pacific were “thoroughly effective. They handled their boats with great skill and do not need to take off their hats to anyone…” The admiral also mentioned his “high regard for their ruggedness and fighting skills.” Nowadays, many navies, including the US Navy, send their submarine officers to the Netherlands to undergo the legendary Netherlands Submarine Command Course. In November 2002, the Royal Australian Navy’s official newspaper described the Dutch course for prospective diesel submarine commanders as arguably “the best submarine training in the world.” US Navy students who have taken the course have also found it extremely challenging (in 2002, naval officers from the US, Australia, Canada, Israel and the Netherlands took the course, but unfortunately, the American officer failed due to a safety violation. The US Navy officer was the only one to fail that year, but in fairness, he was a nuclear submariner, naturally, and ergo was much less familiar with the workings of a diesel submarine and its battery operations.) Reassuringly, Lieutenant Commander Todd Cloutier, US Navy, did graduate from the Dutch course in 2003, and he too elucidated the program’s “legendary reputation” and described it as “perhaps some of some of the toughest training a submariner can get.” Although this course is for experienced officers who wish to command a diesel submarine, he was also very impressed by the overall training received by Dutch junior officers. “A Dutch Junior Officer (JO) with three years at sea is quite proficient with the periscope. During my familiarization ride on Bruinvis, I saw a non-qualified JO take the conn and conduct a task-group penetration against a multinational task force. It wasn’t perfect, but quite impressive for a JO with less than two years on board.”

    The foregoing concerned aircraft carriers and surface ships only, but the US Navy has long maintained that its nuclear submarines are clearly and unambiguously superior to any and all diesel submarines. This dogma has been perpetuated for decades, said Rear Admiral C. Mendenhall, US Navy (Retired) in 1995, because the nuclear submarine force leadership “has been brainwashed by the Rickover nuclear-only philosophy.” Nuclear submarines are so superior, allegedly, that some US submariners have long said that they need not even worry about conventional submarines. In a 1998 report by Ivan Eland, he cited an article in which “One U.S. submarine commander reported that he would not even bother to destroy a diesel because he could detect the boat before it detected him; he said that he would simply avoid it.” Although this oblivious thinking has finally begun to change, there is still much that needs to be done. What follows is intended to challenge that old establishment view, and hopefully in a small way, contribute to its reform.

    Like the Canadians and Dutch, the Australian submarine force has also scored many goals against US Navy carriers, and nuclear submarines as well. On September 24 2003, the Australian newspaper The Age disclosed that Australia’s Collins-class diesel submarines had taught the Americans a few lessons during multinational exercises. By the end of the exercises, Australian submarines had destroyed two US Navy nuclear attack submarines and an aircraft carrier. According to the article: “‘The Americans were wide-eyed,’ Commodore Deeks (Commander of the RAN Submarine Group) said. ‘They realized that another navy knows how to operate submarines… They went away very impressed.’” In another statement attributed to Deeks, it was reported that: "We surprise them and they learn a lot about different ways of operating submarines... The Americans pour billions into their subs but we are better at practical applications."

    However, officially, the US Navy soon went into damage control mode and denied that the Australians could beat an American nuclear boat in a fair fight. Said The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists: “The United States is justly proud of its military prowess, but apparently a little defensive when anyone else shows a bit of talent. Defense Week's ‘Daily Update’ on October 1, 2003, reported that the commander of the U.S. Pacific Fleet was trying to downplay the fact that an Australian diesel-electric submarine had ‘sunk’ an American submarine during recent training exercises, and said the Australians were making too much of the simulated hit. Adm. Walter Doran said that the outcome ‘certainly does not mean that the Collins-class submarine in a one-on-one situation is going to defeat our Los Angeles-class or our nuclear submarines.’" But even if the American submarine was “supposed” to be sunk, or was using a noise augmenter to simulate a Soviet sub, or purposefully running with “degraded” Anti-Submarine Warfare (ASW) systems, (there is no available evidence to support any of these excuses) then why did an experienced Australian submariner like Commodore Deeks, an officer in one of the most professional navies in the world, make such unsubstantiated, out-of-context, and unfair statements to the media? As Compton-Hall said, the Australian submarine service is “outstandingly efficient,” and has an excellent reputation. Because, like the Japanese at Pearl Harbor, the Australians had actually caught the Americans off guard and unawares. As we will see later, Captain Richard Marcinko, US Navy, strayed from the rules during exercises in the 1980s, and he achieved incredible results. War, as they say, is not fair, and pre-emptive or surprise attacks have often proven devastatingly effective, as the Israelis demonstrated in 1967.
    In October 2002, the Australians also reported that their diesel submarine HMAS Sheehan had successfully “hunted down and killed” the nuclear submarine USS Olympia during exercises near Hawaii. The commander of the Sheehan observed that the larger American nuclear boat’s greater speed was no advantage because “It just means you make more noise when you go faster.” In the previous year, during Operation Tandem Thrust, analyst Derek Woolner set forth that HMAS Waller sank “two American amphibious assault ships in waters of between 70-80 metres depth, barely more than the length of the submarine itself. The Collins-class was described by Vice-Admiral James Metzger, Commander, U.S. Seventh Fleet as 'a very capable and quiet submarine…” Although the Waller was herself sunk during the exercise, the loss of a single diesel submarine, in exchange for two massive amphibious assault ships, is quite a good bargain, and very cost effective.

    Finally, during RIMPAC 2000 it was disclosed that HMAS Waller had sunk two American nuclear submarines and gotten dangerously close to the carrier USS Abraham Lincoln. Even more ominous, asserted researcher Maryanne Kelton, is that: “Even though the exercises were planned and the US group knew that Waller was in the designated target area, they were still unable to locate it. New Minister for Defence, Robert Hill, recorded later that the ‘Americans are finding them exceptional boats…in exercises with the Americans they astound the Americans in terms of their capability, their speed, their agility, their loitering capacity, they can do all sorts of things that the American submarines can’t do as well.’” In 2003, Commander Peter Miller, US Navy, spoke about his experiences with the Australian diesel submarines, and he paid the greatest (politically correct) compliment that a nuclear submariner can make. He said that the Australian diesel submarine was “on a par” with US nuclear submarines, and that “The Collins are great submarines.” Actually, given the defeats the Australians have dished out, one might suppose that saying that a diesel submarine is “on par” with a nuclear boat, especially in terms of stealth, is actually not much of a compliment.

    The Japanese have also proven to be formidable in their modern diesel submarines. Said nuclear submariner Dr. Andy Karam in 2005: “During exercises with Japanese diesel submarines (I believe it was during the 1988 Team Spirit exercises), Plunger had some problems that led to our being beaten several times. We eventually learned how to fight against diesel boats, but by then, we probably would have been sunk. Part of the problem was the inherent quietness of diesel boats that made them very hard to detect on sonar. In addition, the Japanese crews were very disciplined - I got the impression that, if told to go to their bunks and stay there without moving, the crew would have done so indefinitely, without complaint and without breaking discipline.”

    The Chileans deserve to be on the list too, as their diesel submarines have successfully attack ed US Navy ships during exercises. In 2001, the unusually candid skipper of the nuclear submarine USS Montpelier (Commander Ron LaSilva, US Navy) recounted that a Chilean diesel submarine "Shot him twice during successive exercise runs.” As a result, LaSilva learned that “bigger and nuclear is not always better.” Commander LaSilva should be commended for his courage, for as we shall see later in this paper, this kind of honesty is usually not the best policy for US Navy officers. That same year, a Pakistani submarine tried to approach an American carrier operating in the Arabian Sea, but fortunately, one of the carrier escorts, a Canadian frigate, detected the sub and escorted it from the area. On February 23, 2001, Dougherty reported that Pakistan had decided to put nuclear-tipped cruise missiles on some of its submarines, and India was considering doing the same to maintain the balance of power in the region (more on naval tactical nuclear proliferation later).

    Since I just mentioned that a Canadian ship was part of a US Carrier Battle Group (CBGs), perhaps that needs some explanation. For a number of years now, Canadian ships have been integrated with US Navy CBGs, but the rationale for this arrangement is not purely political, nor is it tokenism. It has much more to do with the pronounced shortage of US surface combatant ships in the post-Cold War era (thanks, in no small way, to budget cuts and the US Navy’s continuing dogmatic obsession with big-ticket supercarriers and huge nuclear submarines) and as we will see later, the fact that Canadian ships are more capable in certain areas than are US ships.

    And lastly, in 1998, U.S. News and World Report noted “In two recent exercises with Latin American navies, a Chilean sub managed to evade its U.S. counterparts and ‘sink’ a U.S. ship.” To be more specific, during RIMPAC 1996, the Chilean submarine Simpson was responsible for sinking the carrier USS Independence (this event was mentioned in the 1997 Discovery Channel TV documentary “Fleet Command.”) In a 1998 article, Robert Holzer, the Outreach Director at the Office of Force Transformation, provided more detail: “a Chilean diesel sub penetrated the perimeter of a U.S. Navy battle group and moved among its ships for several days. U.S. forces knew the sub, participating in an exercise with the Navy, would operate in an attack mode. Yet the Pacific Fleet could not find it. The Chilean sub demonstrated that it could have targeted and fired on U.S. Navy ships at any time. In exercises over several years, the U.S. Navy’s most advanced antisubmarine warfare (ASW) ships have been unable to detect the South African Navy’s Daphne (-class diesel-electric) subs, which were built 30 years ago.”

    In short, the US Navy would have its hands full if it had to fight diesel submarines. U.S. News and World Report also quoted Rear Admiral W. J. Holland, US Navy (Retired) who maintained if the US Navy had to deal with a hostile diesel submarine today, “It would take a month to handle that problem, including two weeks of learning.” Strangely though, Admiral Holland remains completely opposed to any plan that would involve the US Navy acquiring its own diesel submarines! In any event, the moral of this naval story is that the American sea service really needs “a healthy dose of humility and caution in future operations.”

    Not surprisingly, NATO and allied diesel submariners are extremely confident in their ability to sink American carriers. In his 1984 book The Threat: Inside the Soviet Military Machine, Andrew Cockburn wryly noted that European submariners on NATO exercises were far more concerned about colliding with noisy American nuclear submarines (running fast, and therefore, blind) than about being attacked by American ships. Despite the vast amount of propaganda put out by the US Navy, well-run diesel submarines are still intrinsically quieter than any nuclear submarine because they have fewer moving parts. As former Royal Navy submarine officer Ashley Bennington said in his 1999 response to an article on the Virginia-class submarines: “…You mention that the new Virginia class of nuclear submarines will easily detect diesel submarines, implying that diesels are noisy. As a general rule, however, diesel submarines, which use an electric motor that runs on batteries, are quieter than nuclear-powered subs, which constantly run coolant pumps.” One US nuclear submariner of my acquaintance had a slightly different take on this: “More specifically, nuke boats have the 60-cycle hum from an AC electrical system, the steam noise, main coolant pumps, and the turbines and reduction gears. Even when sound-mounted, these make noise a diesel boat lacks…” However, he disagreed with Bennington’s statement that coolant pumps must be kept running at all times. “The Ohio-class boats can run in natural circulation at low power; the LA class can do so only for emergency cooling only.” He also agreed, moreover, that except during snorkeling, the traditional diesel submarine remains somewhat quieter than the nuclear boat (and newer diesel boats can now snorkel much more quietly than their predecessors did).
    Bennington’s sentiments were echoed in late 2004 by Captain Viktor Tokya of the German Navy. Toyka said that conventional submarines, especially those with Air Independent Propulsion (AIP), are more difficult to detect than nuclear boats. Captain Li Chao-peng of the Taiwanese Navy also concurred that diesel submarines are more cost-effective and are still quieter than any nuclear submarines. His navy has Dutch Zwaardvis-class diesel submarines and in 2002 he told the Taipei Times: “The only advantage that a nuclear submarine has over a conventionally-powered one is its endurance under the sea… But a diesel-powered sub like ours is much quieter than a nuclear one." He added that the Taiwanese diesel subs can definitely “compete” with nuclear boats. Developments in AIP, such as fuel cells, the Stirling system, the Spectre closed-circuit diesel system and the French/Spanish Module d'Energie Sous-Marine Autonome (MESMA) system provide conventional submarines more endurance, and even greater stealth. The future for nuclear submarines does not look especially promising, although as Karam points out, their endurance remains useful for distant intelligence-gathering operations.

    It seems clear now that many diesel submariners rather doubt the farfetched claim from the Office of Naval Intelligence (ONI) and the so-called nuclear submarine mafia that modern American nuclear boats have become “just as quiet” as conventional boats in the past ten years. Any startling revelations coming from ONI should be treated with the greatest skepticism because, after all, one of their main jobs during World War II was to broadcast disinformation and propaganda to frighten and demoralize the enemy. In doing so, they greatly exaggerated US naval capabilities, and they do the same today. And if the modern US nuclear submarine truly can operate as quietly as a diesel sub (at low to moderate speed), then why did the US Navy recently scramble to get its hands on a Swedish conventional submarine to train with and study? Yes, the Swedes do have experience dealing with Soviet submarines, but then, so do the Americans. Sweden is not a major naval power, and has not fought a war since 1814, yet they do seem to know more about how to make quiet submarines than the United States does.

    As Aristophanes prophetically cautioned, “The truth is forced upon us very quickly, by a foe.” In this instance the foe is the conventional submarine and the truth could be rather awful for the US Navy, if it is ever revealed. Karam also opined that “Now, and when I was in the Navy, I firmly felt that we would prevail in any war, from sheer numbers if nothing else. But I also felt (and continue to feel) that any war would cost us more dearly in people and ships than need be the case. Finally, my assessment of our state of readiness when I was in the Navy and Reserves was similar to the situation that faced us prior to WWI and WWII - on paper, we looked great, but I was not sure that our administrative readiness was mirrored by our actual war-fighting readiness.” Today, the US Navy has no diesel submarine combatants, and this means that although the diesel submarine is a very dangerous threat, the Americans must rely on smaller allies and friendly nations like Sweden, Canada, Chile, Peru, Columbia, Australia, and others to provide this vital training. This, it can be argued, is a very serious handicap for any blue water navy, much less the world’s largest.

    Likewise, the US Navy has traditionally been very weak in mine countermeasures since the end of World War II, and has often had to ask allies for those capabilities as well (because the US Navy considers it unglamorous). Remember the words of Rear Admiral Allan Smith, US Navy, who admonished his navy’s inexcusable inability to deal with primitive North Korean mines in the 1950s? When a major amphibious invasion had to be postponed because those crafty North Koreans laid mines in their path, the US Navy, which had pretty much abolished its substantial mine warfare forces, was profoundly embarrassed. Admiral Smith said “We have lost control of the seas to a nation without a Navy, using pre-World War I weapons, laid by vessels that were utilized at the time of the birth of Christ.” As the years went by, the embarrassment faded away, and the Navy’s mine countermeasures (MCM) assets dwindled and atrophied, and many of them were eventually stowed away in the low profile Naval Reserve. But in 1989, with insufficient mine countermeasures available, the USS Samuel B. Roberts struck a mine in the Persian Gulf, and was taken out of action for 17 months. In 1991, the USS Tripoli suffered a similar fate, and she was only carrying the only MCM helicopter (an MH-53E) available in her area of operations. Just a few hours later, “The USS PRINCETON (CG-59) hit two mines. Luck was with the crew - only three of the 364 members aboard were injured. But the damage was substantial. The ship's superstructure was torn in two pieces at the midships quarterdeck. The gun and missile-launching systems were knocked out. The rudder, propeller, and main shaft on the port side were damaged, and her port engine had to be shut down. She was out of the war for good.” When the Princeton was disabled, Rear Admiral Dan March, US Navy, sent a request for a ship to escort the Princeton back to port. The admiral specified that the escort ship must have a helicopter and “a good anti-mine capability” and, interestingly, he also said “I’d prefer it to have a Canadian flag flying from the stern.” The Canadian destroyer HMCS Athabaskan and her Sea King helicopters quickly obliged and were thus dispatched to escort the American ship back to port. Why did the American admiral specifically want a Canadian ship to do the job? According to Commodore Duncan Miller, Canadian Forces, the Americans knew that the Canadian ships “were the best prepared of any of the warships in the Gulf to counter the mine threat.” The Canadian ships had another advantage over their American friends in that the Canadian Sea Kings, although not dedicated as MCM platforms, were the only helicopters in the Gulf with Forward-Looking-Infra Red sensors for night missions, and that truly specialized in low level flying. Luckily, they were good enough for the job at hand, and were the best available.

    All told, said Commander Frank G. Coyle, US Navy, since the end of World War II, “14 U.S. Navy ships have been sunk or damaged by mines – more than triple the number damaged by air and missile attack.” Did the Navy learn from these unpleasant remedial lessons in mine warfare? As of 2004, “Our current mine warfare force consists of 14 Avenger (MCM-1) class minesweepers, 12 Osprey (MHC-51)-class coastal mine hunters, and two Squadrons of MH-53E helicopters.” All of these platforms are quite good, actually, but one wonders if there are enough of them to meet the needs of the world’s largest and most globally involved navy. That is not a very big force considering that America has a very long coastline, and that the US Navy is supposed to be the guardian of the oceans and primed for combat in the littorals, to boot. And it is unacceptable to make excuses or rationalizations such as “Well, our allies are supposed to do that,” which, for a superpower, is really just passing the buck. As one of my colleagues said recently, “A properly balanced blue-water Navy should have sufficient MCM capabilities instead of relying on its allies or coalition partners to provide them.” One could say that same about ASW, too.

    In contrast, the much smaller Royal Navy has a much smaller coastline to protect, but it has three MCM squadrons, with a total of 21 mine hunters and mine sweepers. Unlike the Americans, all British MCM units are in the regular navy, not the reserve. The Americans also have destroyers and other helicopters that offer mine detection and/or sweeping capabilities, but they are not dedicated MCM platforms, and therefore are probably not especially well trained in that specialty. The same goes for the new Littoral Combat Ships (LCS). The Navy recently signed contracts to build the first Littoral Combat Ships (LCS), and these ships can be customized with one of three mission packages, one of which will be MCM. These ships will be fast enough to keep up with carrier battle groups, which is commendable, but they will not be permanently dedicated to MCM (at times, they might be configured for ASW or ASUW). So, in a nutshell, yes, the US Navy is getting new MCM ships, but apparently only on a contingency basis, so all in likelihood, they too will be far less than ideal. Some now say that the MCM situation is in fact much worse now than it was 10 or 15 years as regards to the Navy's doctrine and training for neutralizing the growing mine threat in the littorals. Many believe that the US Navy's recent decision to embrace organic MCM is the wrong move as it will do nothing to rectify its deficiencies in countering the mine threat, and it would also create a dangerous illusion that perhaps there is no need for dedicated MCM forces. The most recent BRAC (Base Realignment And Closure) report suggests moving surface MCM forces to San Diego and MCM helicopters to Norfolk, VA. This is another bad decision. The fact is that MCM ships and helicopters should never have been based in Texas; the US Navy really needs adequate MCM capabilities on both coasts.

    ASW: A Low Priority?

    “ASW officers and enlisted men are more often treated like the Rodney Dangerfields of the air wing. They get no respect…” – George C. Wilson, onboard the USS John F. Kennedy

    In the preceding section, I presented a list of US Navy ships and submarines that had been “sunk” in free-play exercises by diesel submarines. As any expert will tell you, however, there are a great many variables in ASW, and to be fair, it is quite possible that, because of adverse acoustical conditions, no navy in the world could have found some of those diesel boats. And while US submarines may sometimes use Noise Augmenters (NAUs) to simulate Soviet/Russian submarines, which tend to be noisier, there is no published evidence that this was the case in any of the exercises cited. Further, the use of NAUs is not especially common in multinational exercises (they are most commonly used in US national exercises for training surface ships and P-3 crews). Several Canadian ASW senior officers I consulted (with almost 70 years of combined service) indicated that they had never conducted an exercise with a US nuclear submarine using NAUs or operating under a handicap. One of them said that, for US Navy nuclear submarines, “Their job was to stay quiet to avoid us most of the time, even during exercises. Sounding like a Soviet would certainly have attracted our attention!”

    In the few instances in which his nuclear submarine was asked to simulate a Soviet sub during multinational exercises, Karam said that the ship “simply operated as normal (i.e. without rigging for ultra quiet).” It should also be noted that diesel submarines often use NAUs in exercises as well – to make it easier for US ships, aircraft, and submarines to find them! Furthermore, most of the diesel versus nuclear submarine scenarios described occurred in the last five years, by which time Russian submarines had made great strides in quieting. As Cote articulated, by the mid 1980s, the Soviets had “a nuclear submarine that could elude SOSUS and frustrate efforts by tactical ASW platforms using passive sonar to establish and maintain contact with it.” The submarine in question, the Victor III, was an unpleasant surprise to the US Navy when it was first encountered. The boat was described by former CNO Admiral James Watkins “as quieter than we thought --- We learned that they were hard to detect.” Subsequent Russian designs were even better. Polmar said in 1997 that when the Improved Akula-class submarine first appeared in 1990, “Admiral J.M. Boorda, the Chief of Naval Operations, told the House: ‘This is the first time since we put the NAUTILUS to sea that (The Russians) have had submarines at sea quieter than ours. As you know, quieting is everything in submarine warfare.” Polmar went on to say that the Navy’s claims that its new Seawolf-class submarine “is the quietest submarine in the world” were based on highly questionable or sparse intelligence. The Seawolf-class was cancelled after only three boats were delivered, but perhaps that is just as well as there were reports that these boats were not properly tested. In 2002, Diehl recalled that “The Navy has refused to perform shock tests on all the components of its newest type attack sub, the three-billion-dollar Seawolf. These supposedly required tests were designed to insure that all components would survive the stresses of most underwater explosions. The Navy apparently had diverted some of its testing funds to other uses. Such decisions continue to pace those who volunteer to go in harm’s way at exceptional risk.”

    With these statements in mind, and unless or until verifiable evidence proves otherwise, the tired excuse “I think the US ship that got sunk must have been simulating a really bad old Soviet sub by running with a noise augmenter or some other handicap” should be considered offhand supposition or wishful thinking, especially in recent years, and as such, an intellectual cul-de-sac. It still reminds me of the old “I could have done it, but I chose not to,” excuse used by children to rationalize their failures.

    In any event, as we will see in this section and others later on, there is evidence to suggest that the US Navy’s ASW forces are definitely not as good as they should be, nor are they as good as those of certain allies. This lack of concern and expertise in ASW can certainly make US Navy forces more vulnerable than those of other countries, and consequently, less combat effective. The Navy’s standard line on its long-term neglect of ASW is, in so many words, that “We rely on our allies to help us with that,” and/or “The Soviets are gone now” which is ludicrous, considering that the US Navy has been the world’s largest navy for a long time now, that “The US military budget is almost as much as the rest of the world's”, that it did not rely on British or Canadian ASW assets in its deadly battles with the Japanese in the Pacific, and the Soviet Union was certainly not the only potentially hostile country with submarines, but I digress.
    Since the end of the Cold War, and the demise of the Soviet submarine fleet, the US Navy has admitted that it has not made ASW a high priority, especially in shallow water, and it shows. Perhaps the most obvious recent evidence is the demise of the Navy’s carrier-based fixed wing ASW aircraft, the S-3B Viking. In 1999, the Navy discontinued the S-3B’s ASW mission, and now the aircraft are being retired, without a dedicated carrier-based fixed wing ASW plane to replace them. Mind you, there is also a new initiative to improve and coordinate ASW tactics, units, training, and equipment, which includes the recent loan of a Swedish Gotland-class diesel submarine. The US Navy’s inability to deal with quiet non-nuclear submarines was made quite evident in 2004, when Crawley wrote that “During sonar training with other navies’ diesel submarines, a noisemaker or pinger is often installed to increase the sub’s noise level so that U.S. warships and submarines can find the quieter vessels.” The Gotland-class boat is “a very good submarine,” added naval analyst A.D. Baker III, editor of The Naval Institute Guide to Combat Fleets of the World series, “Unless we enhance the (Gotland’s) acoustic signature, we won’t find it.”

    Although the temporary loan from the Royal Swedish Navy is a step in the right direction, some fear the Navy’s recent reemphasis on ASW skills does not go far enough, and by that they refer to the Navy’s steadfast refusal to build and develop even a small number of its own non-nuclear submarine forces (Admirals Zumwalt and Woodward, US Navy and Royal Navy, respectively, have both recommended buying diesel boats, and even Navy Secretary Lehman once said “These submarines are extremely quiet when operated at low speeds and for this reason substantial helicopter, subsurface, and surface anti-submarine warfare defense is required…”), the aforementioned retirement of the S-3 Viking, and the CNO’s requirement that spending for the new ASW initiative must not “break the bank.” One should also take note that even during the Cold War, when there was a clear and present danger projected by a potential foe with hundreds of submarines, both nuclear and diesel-powered, the US Navy was still not the most proficient navy in this specialty, even in deep water. This remains true to this very day that other forces, such as the Canadian Navy and Air Force, were and are arguably more committed to and more skilled in ASW (in deep or shallow water) than the US Navy, despite having some old equipment like the Sea King helicopter.

    A few cogent examples from history will further illustrate my point. In 1942, after several years of sitting on the sidelines of combat, America was finally at war with Germany and Japan. German U-boats prowled the Atlantic under the cloak of ocean, fog and darkness, attacking and sinking an incredible number of allied ships (by some accounts, they disposed of approximately 12,000,000 Gross Registered Tons of merchant shipping in the Battle of the Atlantic). The British and Canadians had considerable experience dealing with U-boats, but the US Navy initially did not want to take ASW advice from its more experienced allies. Gannon wrote that as a result of “inexperience and poor training,” US Navy ASW was thoroughly ineffective during the first half of 1942. Not only were the Americans poorly trained, their ethnocentrism prevented them from adopting proven tactics developed by the British and Canadians (Gannon described the American CNO, Admiral King, as “The Imperious Anglophobe Admiral,” which is all the more interesting since, as Padfield pointed out, King’s mother was born in England). The Japanese also thought the US Navy was badly trained in ASW. In late December 1941, a Japanese submarine prowled off the coast of Northern California, and was eventually detected. However, according to her skipper, Captain Zenji Orita, “We heard a number of patrol boats, and our radiomen listened in on many plain-language uncoded message exchanges. This made it easy for us to dodge the hunters.” Orita later pronounced that “The American ASW technique at that time was very poor…”

    The British tried to coach the US Navy on ASW, but their efforts were rebuffed for months. “Americans must learn by their own mistakes,” said Rear-Admiral R.S. Edwards, US Navy, to a British Commander. “…and we have plenty of ships to spare.” This egregious statement betrayed a callous disregard for the safety and lives of both Americans and allied sailors and merchant seamen. At that point the Briton told the higher-ranking American officer: “We are deeply concerned about your reluctance to cooperate and we are not prepared to sacrifice our men and ships to your incompetence and obstinacy.” Just as an aside, Dan van der Vat professed that unlike the Germans, the Japanese submarine force never made a concerted effort to eradicate American merchant shipping, and for that the United States should be eternally grateful. “The United States was also singularly fortunate in that the Axis seldom functioned as a military alliance in the Far East: Admiral King’s troubles, had be been faced with coordinated submarine campaigns in both oceans simultaneously, hardly bear thinking about.” Astonishingly, “German urgings and appeals for attacks on American merchant shipping with the outstanding Japanese torpedoes (originally developed for surface vessels) persistently fell on deaf ears” in Tokyo.

    The Canadians, too, had serious ASW deficiencies in the early years, and endured many caustic remarks from RN officers, but by 1942 they became far more efficient and aggressive at fighting the U-boats, and as a result, the German U-boat commanders soon discovered that it was much easier to hunt in American waters rather than off the coast of Canada. Sarty noted that for a time Royal Canadian Navy warships actually escorted convoys out of New York City and through U-boat infested American waters because the much larger US Navy was totally unprepared for such operations. Even President Roosevelt once confided to Winston Churchill that “My Navy has been definitely slack in preparing for this submarine war off our coast…You learned the lesson two years ago. We still have to learn it.” In the first six months of 1942, there was “an aggregate of 397 ships sunk in U.S. Navy-protected waters. And the totals do not include the many ships damaged. Overall, the numbers represent one of the greatest maritime disasters in history and the American nation’s worst-ever defeat at sea.” So dire was the situation that at one point General George C. Marshall, US Army, wrote to Admiral King to say “‘another month or so of this’ would so cripple their means of transport they would be unable to bring US forces to bear against the enemy.”

    After much destruction, the Americans began to listen to the British and Canadians, and US Navy ASW skills improved dramatically. Even so, it is frequently understated in the US that most of the ASW operations in the Atlantic were conducted by the British and Canadians. For its part, the US is credited with destroying 127 U-boats at sea from 1941 to 1945, and that is a very high number indeed. But it pales in comparison to the work done by the British and Canadians from 1939 to 1945. The combined British/Canadian total was 491, and thus it is an overstatement of the highest order for America or the US Navy to take sole credit for winning the Battle of the Atlantic, or for defeating Germany. I say this only because many Americans have been taught that it was so. As Sadkovich said, at the end of World War II, with both Germany and Japan defeated, the US Navy emerged as "the most successful navy ever--although its success clearly owed something to the British and Canadians." Even the noted American naval historian and Harvard Professor, the Late Samuel Eliot Morison, applauded the Royal Canadian Navy’s contribution in the Battle of the Atlantic: "Too much praise cannot be given to that gallant, efficient force of our nearest neighbor." The Imperial War Museum in London went even further, saying in one of their publications that “Without the Royal Canadian Navy, the Battle of the Atlantic could not have been won.”

    It is also interesting to note that although it is well known in the US that America supplied warships to the British and Canadians, it is also true that the US Navy borrowed or bought warships from Canada and the UK (including an aircraft carrier, HMS Victorious). This last comment is a minor, perhaps trivial point of course, but it, along with the U-boat hunting statistics mentioned above and the reality that Canadian ships had to escort allied shipping through American waters, surprises many who espouse the traditional “If it weren’t for us, you’d all be speaking German” polemics so often recited in certain lay circles.

    That was World War II, but some things never change, or they change only temporarily. Most Americans do not know this, but the US Navy found itself, once again, dependent on the tiny Royal Canadian Navy for essential ASW forces during the 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis. When Kennedy decided to establish a quarantine around Cuba, the US Navy, still far superior to the Soviet Navy, had to seek help because it did not have enough ASW escorts to do the job (a familiar story). An American admiral came to Canada to request assistance in dealing with Soviet submarines, and the Canadians obliged by deploying much of their Navy, RCAF ASW aircraft, and the two British submarines under their control, to sweep the North Atlantic for Soviet submarines. According to David Robinson, the US Navy established a 600 mile submarine barrier south of the Grand Banks, and “It was a huge undertaking, and with American naval forces stretched to the limit with the Cuban blockade, major Canadian participation was essential to its success.” Later, the Canadian ships were asked to move further south, and just as they did in the early days of 1942, they patrolled the waters approaching New York Harbor. As the historian Tony German articulated, “The RCN took over a very substantial segment of what would have been a U.S. responsibility and certainly allowed at least one (anti-submarine) task group to move down further south.” Its great to have allies, and the RCN also depends greatly on the US Navy (obviously), but one must wonder why the world’s greatest navy was not able to fight its own battles in its home waters, no less, not once, but twice since the beginning of World War II. And as I mentioned before, even now, the US Navy relies on Canadian escort ships to supplement its Carrier Battle Groups because it does not have enough of its own. Is this what a superpower’s navy is supposed to do?

    Moving ahead to the early 1980s, Canada’s Navy was on the verge of rusting out, yet due to its intensive training and emphasis on ASW excellence, it was still better at hunting submarines than the US Navy. In 1983, a retired British naval officer and Senior Fellow at the Brookings Institution, Mike MccGwire, told a Halifax newspaper that “ship-for-ship,” the Canadian Navy’s elderly ASW destroyers were still “better equipped, maintained, and trained” and “infinitely better” at ASW than American surface ships. At the same time, the new Canadian CP-140 Aurora aircraft was arguably far superior to its elderly cousin, the American P-3 Orion, and the Oberon-class submarines were much better listening platforms than any US Navy nuclear submarine. During his service on the elderly nuclear submarine USS Plunger during the late 1980s, Karam offered that “We were almost never detected during games with our own Navy, and then only when we approached on an agreed-upon bearing at a given time and usually cavitating or going active on sonar. I took many photos of our surface ships at close range at a time when they were unaware of our presence… Plunger made successful attacks against US carriers, cruisers, destroyers, frigates and a battleship during my time on-board.”

    Lugubriously, not much has changed since. Today, Canada’s incoming Victoria-class diesel submarines (formerly the UK Upholder-class), Halifax-class frigates, AKA the Canadian Patrol Frigate (CPF), both of which are or will be equipped with the AN/SQR-501 CANTASS towed sonar array system, are world-class ASW assets. Deployed in the mid 1990s, CANTASS weds the existing US-designed SQR-19 towed array with a “breakthrough technology” Canadian processor (the AN/UYS-501), and at that time both American and Australian naval officers called it the best in the world, as was demonstrated in many naval exercises. Both of those countries subsequently bought variants of this processor from Canada. In addition, the Tribal-class destroyers, with their excellent command and control systems and expertise in coordinating and leading multinational task forces, and the updated CP-140 aircraft are in many ways better equipped, better designed, more suitable, and better trained for ASW than their American equivalents.

    Compton-Hall has said that the Victoria-class submarine has “an exceptionally good weapon system, equivalent to an SSN with Ferranti-Gresham-Lion DCC fire control… the submarine is extremely quiet,” and David Miller, formerly of Jane’s Information group, postulated in 2002 that the Canadian submarines “are most sophisticated and capable diesel-electric submarines ever built.” Said Commander Jonathan Powis, RN, who commanded one of the Victoria-class boats while they were in British service: “The greatest strength of the class is its small acoustic signature. Benefiting from 35 years’ money and effort expended in quieting nuclear-powered submarines, they are extraordinarily quiet. On main motor they were shown repeatedly to be all but undetectable by passive sonar. Even when snorkeling, they had a signature comparable to a modern SSN… They presented a difficult target to active sonar as well because they were small and fully acoustically tiled, and much of their superstructure was made from composites. Moreover, because of their size, adversaries could not easily exploit magnetic anomaly detection and other nonacoustic signatures.”

    The same cannot be said of US Navy nuclear submarines, which are considerably larger. During RIMPAC 2004, for example, a Canadian CP-140 detected and tracked the bulky nuclear submarine USS Charlotte using sonobuoys and her magnetic anomaly detector. The ostensibly mighty Charlotte was depicted simply as “a huge metal object disrupting the earth’s magnetic field.” The initial stage of the hunt was scripted (the Canadians knew that the Charlotte was at or near the surface in a specific area), but after submerging the Charlotte did her best to evade the plane, and even tried to leave the designated exercise area. Nonetheless, the Canadian plane was able to maintain contact and track the submarine. As one pleased Canadian officer reflected, “This was good training… we had him early and we held him at an extended distance.” The Charlotte tried to shake the patrol plane, but she did not succeed.

    Fortunately, these ASW failures and shortcomings are finally and slowly becoming public knowledge in the United States, for as the Congressional Budget Office revealed in 2001: “Some analysts argue that the Navy is not very good at locating diesel-electric submarines, especially in noisy, shallower waters near coastal areas. Exercises with allied navies that use diesel-electric submarines confirm that problem. U.S. antisubmarine units reportedly have had trouble detecting and countering diesel-electric submarines of South American countries. Israeli diesel-electric submarines, which until recently were relatively old, are said to always ‘sink’ some of the large and powerful warships of the U.S. Sixth Fleet in exercises. And most recently, an Australian Collins class submarine penetrated a U.S. carrier battle group and was in a position to sink an aircraft carrier during exercises off Hawaii in May 2000. Thus, if a real opponent had even one such submarine with a competent commanding officer and crew, it could dramatically limit the freedom of action of U.S. naval forces in future conflicts.” For more on the relative deficiencies of US Navy ASW, please see the section titled “Lack of Training, Overrated Technology…” later in this paper.

    A Lucky Break at Midway & the Big Carrier Navy

    “I’d rather be lucky than good.” - Vernon “Lefty” Gomez

    At this point, it is a fair comment to say that foreign navies openly and unashamedly flaunt when one of their submarines “sinks” an American carrier on exercises. They have no problem letting the news media know about their triumphs. With a few courageous and candid exceptions, such as the people quoted in this paper, American nuclear submariners generally do not publicly reveal their own accomplishments against US Navy aircraft carriers. If they do, they do it anonymously, usually after they leave the service, or they provide only the sketchiest of details. Why is this so? Former US Navy officer Jerry Burns gave a pretty straightforward answer in 2000 -- because “Anyone who says something is wrong gets thrown out of the Navy.” Also, as Professor Thomas Etzhold pointed out, the US Navy does not want anyone to know that its carriers have been sunk (or even seriously damaged) in exercises. Ergo, officers are strongly encouraged to keep quiet about such incidents. Obviously, these gag orders only apply to US Navy personnel, not to foreign crews. The author of the 1987 book War Games, Thomas B. Allen, described this naval censorship during an interview with the American NPR network in 2003. “The Navy had a kind of unwritten rule: You can't sink an aircraft carrier in a war game. And if you talked to any submariner who had been in either an exercise or a war game, you get a whole story about how many times they really sank aircraft carriers.” In other words, the truth is suppressed for “the good of the service.” We can therefore deduce that the good of the service is the paramount concern in the US Navy; not the good of the country, and not the good of the taxpayers who bankroll these expensive platforms.

    The US Navy’s aircraft carriers have plenty of supporters, including many politicians who cash in politically on the jobs that naval contracts provide to their constituents. One of their most common defenses is to invoke a logical fallacy and imply that since no American carrier has been sunk since World War II, American carriers cannot be sunk. This is tantamount to saying “My residence is in one of the most dangerous areas of Washington, DC, and in 60 years, it has never been burglarized. The only possible explanation is that it must be burglar-proof.” The real reason could simply be that no one in the area had the motivation, necessity and opportunity to try. This bogus “It has not happened and there is only one reason – because these ships are invulnerable,” implication was amplified in a statement made by former Navy Secretary John Lehman, who said that American supercarriers are by definition safer than other ships since “We never lost an aircraft carrier of over thirty thousand tons in World War II.” Quite right, no big American carriers were sunk during the war. But it is a fallacy to assume that this is because of some special quality of the American aircraft carrier (which, by the way, were more vulnerable to kamikaze attacks than British carriers because the American ships did not have armored decks), for if the Japanese had succeeded at Midway or Guadalcanal, and the US Navy should thank its lucky stars that they did not, we might not even be discussing the US Navy supercarrier today. Nor is it necessarily true that US carrier task forces have been a successful deterrent either because, as the Malayans aptly say: “Don’t think there are no crocodiles because the water is calm.”

    As former naval intelligence officer Scott Shuger reminded us, the world’s largest carrier in World War II, the 71,890 ton Imperial Japanese Navy Ship Shinano, was sunk in 1944 “by four torpedo hits from a single American submarine” (the USS Archerfish). According to Captain Joseph Enright, US Navy, the skipper of the Archerfish, the Shinano was heavily armored and well-protected from torpedoes: “The weight of the steel installed for defensive purposes totaled 17,700 tons – about one-quarter of Shinano’s displacement and equal to the tonnage of many light cruisers… As for the watertight integrity of the ship, there should have been little cause for concern. Since 1935 Japanese warships were tested first by filling the underwater compartments with water, then, after the equipment was installed, by conducting air tests. The compartments of Shinano, which had been tested hydrostatically, were structurally sound, and watertight doors had been installed.” And even though the Shinano was unable to run at full speed because some of her boilers were unserviceable, she could still make more than 20 knots; faster than any diesel submarine. Like the Americans do today, The Japanese considered their first and only “supercarrier” to be virtually unsinkable, and yet four torpedoes violently disproved that claim on November 29, 1944. (If four US torpedoes could do this, imagine what horrors the Japanese could have inflicted at Midway, with the best torpedoes in the world, if only they had employed their submarines as effectively as the Germans did.)

    True, the Shinano was not fully tested and cleared for combat duty, but the US Navy has most definitely sent carriers to sea when they were less than fully ready for combat, too. Williscroft attested that the USS Independence was far from shipshape during her deployment in early 1998 (the conditions aboard were described as “atrocious”, with “critical maintenance being neglected… decks were waxed, but the crew was incapable of handling a real emergency.”) Such large but poorly maintained ships would be relatively easy to destroy, as was the Shinano.

    Four years later, the carriers USS John F Kennedy and USS Kitty Hawk failed a major readiness inspection and a light-off assessment (respectively), with the Kennedy’s propulsion system declared “unsafe for operation.” In late 2001, the Kennedy was a deeply troubled ship that had failed a scheduled INSURV inspection just a few months before deployment: “…three of the ship’s four aircraft elevators, used to bring aircraft from the hangar deck to the flight deck, were inoperable; two of the four catapults that launch aircraft were in bad shape, and the flight deck’s firefighting equipment was ‘seriously degraded.’” Even worse, one of the Kennedy’s men said that the dilapidated ship, which required extensive emergency repairs to make ready, was not the worst ship he’d seen in his 19 years of US naval service. After the repairs were made and the Kennedy deployed in 2002, some Navy wives were still not sure that their husbands would be safe on such a run-down ship. “‘Will the Kennedy come home after it leaves?” wrote Karen Moore, whose husband is attached to the ship. ‘I worry that this ship is destined for disaster.’” Such a disaster, arguably, is more likely if the US Navy continues to deploy poorly maintained, under trained and under manned aircraft carriers. The Japanese did this sixty years ago with the Shinano, and it could just as easily happen to ships like the Kennedy and the Independence today. Even worse, at least the Japanese did not have to contend with attacks by nuclear-tipped torpedoes or cruise missiles, a fate that could now befall the US Navy at any time.

    While on the subject, US Navy battleships have also been deployed in poor materiel condition, and during the US Navy's glory days under Ronald Reagan, to boot. According to military historian Geoffrey Regan, the battleship USS Iowa, launched in 1942, then modernized and reactivated in 1984, was nevertheless in many ways still an ancient vessel that was "basically unreliable." By the late 1980s, as Regan put it: "the Iowa was not in good shape. The new captain found a loose hatch in one of the turrets that had been leaking hydraulic fluid for two years. The crew in the turret used twenty-five watt light bulbs for fear of blowing fuses if they used fifty watt bulbs. In the gun-loading areas, bags of explosive propellant were torn and were leaking black powder. Nor was the crew up to scratch, quantitatively or qualitatively. The ship was short of good petty officers, had an annual turnover of crew of forty percent, and in one turret was short of thirty-seven of the 118 men who usually served there." Not only was the ship short of men, many of the men she did have were “dopers, marginal personnel” said the Iowa’s skipper, Captain Fred Moosally, US Navy. The Iowa’s deficiencies were obvious to many of her officers, including Lieutenant Commander Dennis Flynn, US Navy, the director of the ship’s strike warfare center. Flynn predicted in 1988 that the Iowa would be “sunk” in free-play exercises, and he was proven right. As former naval officer William C. Thompson II recorded, in the fall of 1988, “The Iowa engaged NATO forces and was ‘sunk’ by a Dutch frigate hiding lurking behind a civilian oil tanker.” A few months later, in the Caribbean, the Iowa was again “trounced by the British, Canadian, and West German forces.”

    In Thompson’s view, Moosally’s seamanship was questionable. Sadly, in April, 1989, the novice crewmen in number 2 turret were put on the spot during an exercise because they had to fire the guns with little or no experience with the equipment or procedures, and to complicate matters even more, they had never worked together before. The resultant explosion in that turret killed 47 men, and during the fire, some of Moosally’s suspicions about the character of certain members of his crew were confirmed. “While most of the 1,550 surviving members of the Iowa’s crew were fighting fires, recovering the bodies, or just trying to keep the ship afloat, a small band of thieves broke into the lockers and looted the possessions of Turret Two’s casualties, as well as the lockers of some of the live crewmen who were occupied with damage-control efforts.” Said one sailor, “I was ready to lynch those bastards. They broke into my locker while I was fighting fires to save lives.”

    The US Navy then shamefully attempted to concoct a conspiracy theory about a sailor named Hartwig to absolve itself of responsibility for the tragedy. Fortunately, further investigation later disproved the Navy’s claims of a conspiracy. The main culprits, alleged Thompson, were an undermanned, undertrained, and unacquainted gun crew, poor leadership in general, ancient and intermixed powder, and a very old ship that had been rushed back into service before she was ready. As journalist Peter Cary concluded, “If ever there was a ship seemed fated for catastrophe, it was the U.S.S. Iowa.”

    The pro-carrier argument loses even more strength when we consider how easily the US Navy might have lost the Battle of Midway in 1942. In his brilliant work “Our Midway Disaster: Japan Springs a Trap, June 4, 1942 ” Professor Theodore F. Cook theorized that had the Japanese been just a little bit more diligent and skeptical about the phony radio reports about Midway’s water problems, there would have been a very high probability that they would have won the ensuing battle. “Given the deadly suddenness of carrier warfare,” he noted, “How easily might it have been the U.S. Navy mourning the loss of three carriers… in exchange for, perhaps, one or two Japanese flattops on June 4, 1942?” Furthermore, he recommended that his readers ponder a rather unpleasant theoretical possibility: “What would have happened if the Japanese had won at Midway? With only one carrier left in the Pacific, how could we have resisted their advance?” One should never forget that the American victory at Midway was far from certain, and has been often been called a “miracle.” Heavily outnumbered and, much more importantly, thoroughly outclassed by pilots with substantially more flight experience and presumably much higher morale, the Americans prevailed, but this was largely due to the gullibility of a few Japanese naval personnel. Orita, on the other hand, thought Midway could have been salvaged if only the Japan had properly deployed its submarines to locate and attack the American carriers: “Had our submarines been used properly and effectively, the history of the Pacific War might have been written quite differently.”

    By the way, although most historians believe that Midway was the turning point in the war against Japan, not everyone agrees. Some believe that the Japanese had a second chance to neutralize the US Navy in the Pacific at Guadalcanal in September, 1942. Orita conjectured that had the Japanese done what the Americans had expected at Guadalcanal, and that was to confront the Americans with a vastly superior force, both morally and materially, the Americans would have lost the battle, the few remaining US carriers in the Pacific would have been destroyed, and Japan would have been unfettered and unrestrained in the Pacific for a very long time. Instead, cautious Japanese officers did not use all the means at their disposal, and consequently lost a great strategic victory. As Orita put it, “We still had such superiority in forces that it seems that the chance to race down to Guadalcanal with overpowering strength was not seized. A swift and overwhelming blow could have been struck at Guadalcanal at any time between Sept. 15 and Oct. 1. There would have been absolutely no way for the Americans to counter it….in September, 1942, we had America nearly beaten in the Pacific. President Franklin Roosevelt at that time was actually considering whether or not to move his marines off Guadalcanal before they were slaughtered…Mr. Roosevelt was lucky. He put off making an immediate decision at all. Our high command solved his problem by not doing what Mr. Roosevelt feared most we would do – bringing down upon Guadalcanal all the force Japan could exert.” Once again, a devastating strategic victory was denied to the Japanese, even though their forces were superior in most aspects except that they did not have radar, but even this was not a fatal deficiency because as Overy said, “against mass air attack even radar warning was of limited value.”

    Lieutenant Colonel Forrest R. Lindsey, USMC (Retired) did not cover the possibilities of an American defeat at Guadalcanal, but he did agree that if the Americans had not been so lucky at Midway, the Japanese would have been “essentially unopposed from the Indian Ocean to the California coast.” The only thing standing in their way would have been the American submarine force, but in the early years of the war American submarines were severely handicapped by poor training, overly-cautious skippers (many of whom were relieved of their commands; in fact Padfield said that proportionately more American submarine COs were fired than those of any other major navy), and what Spector called the “worst torpedoes” in the world. Harris used the word “abysmal” to describe the performance of American submarines during the first two years of the war, and backed up this assertion statistically: “The U.S. submarine score for 1942 was 180 ships, 725,000 tons (about equal to a monthly U-Boat total). The Japanese replaced 635,000 tons in the same period.”

    As history tells us, US Navy torpedoes and submarine tactics improved markedly in the final years of the war, and the American submarine force played a decisive role in the defeat of Japan. Even so, Compton-Hall argued that over the course of the war, British submarines were, boat-for-boat, generally more combat effective than American boats, and German submarines seized at the end of the war were found to be technically superior to American boats in a number of ways. Orita also ventured that much of the success of American submarines in the waning years of the war was because the US Navy copied a torpedo developed by the Germans. It really is incredible that the American submarines did as well as they did in the final years of the war because, in addition to the aforementioned shortcomings, and quite unlike the other major navies, US Navy submarine skippers “had to file a contact report and get permission to fire before engaging a surface vessel. This often meant the prey escaped.”

    Had the Americans lost at Midway, the possible consequences for the US Navy could have been rather substantial. Lindsey projected that the Japanese could have moved on to capture Hawaii, and then proceeded against the American mainland: “Japan’s enormous striking power could reach and severely damage the cities, factories, transportation, and fuel reserves on America’s west coast. Strong enough attacks would also convince America’s leaders that continued war against Japan was impossible… The major American aircraft companies were well within carrier-based aircraft range and some were even within range of (Japan’s) battleship’s guns from fire support areas along the Pacific coast.” If this had happened, and it certainly was a strong possibility, then the modern day “big carrier” US Navy might have evolved quite differently, to say the least. Orita suggested that the Japanese submarine force was actually quite successful in the Indian Ocean, with one of their submarines destroying 13 enemy ships, totaling 78,000 tons: “(Commander) Fukumura got 9 of these – an excellent example of what the Japanese 6th Fleet might have accomplished had the Battle of Midway been won by us and all our other submarines loosed for attack operations in the west. Australia and India would have been cut off by sea. Years might have passed before any kind of major offensive could have been mounted against Japan, if at all!”

    Some opine that America would have won easily anyway simply because it was able to “out produce” Japan, or as one US Navy apologist said recently: “From January 1942 to August 1945, the United States launched 37 fleet carriers, 83 escort carriers and 349 destroyers. The Japanese built three fleet carriers, six small-carrier conversions, and 63 destroyers. Even if those sneaky, treacherous (Japanese) could have destroyed 50 percent of the West Coast production facilities, the war effort would not have been slowed, much less crippled.”

    Case closed? Well, not quite. If simply building more ships, tanks, and airplanes than your enemy, in and of itself, were a guarantee of an easy or inevitable victory, then how could Afghanistan, one of the poorest countries in the world, repel the gargantuan Soviet armed forces in the 1980s? Why is the US still there fighting the remnants of the Taliban? How could North Vietnam endure the most ferocious air assault in history long enough to force the world’s richest country to withdraw from South Vietnam? How does Israel, badly outnumbered by its neighbors, manage to survive, let alone be the dominant military power in the Middle East? How too were the Finns able to vanquish the Russians in 1939-1940? How on Earth could resource-poor Japan squarely defeat Russia in 1905, and then invade and occupy China in the 1930s? Going further back into history, how was it possible for Hannibal and the Carthaginians to route the much superior Roman Army at the Battle of Cannae, or for Napoleon to clobber much larger Austrian and Russian forces at the Battle of the Austerlitz in 1805? War production is only one factor among many in the combat equation, and it is frequently a rather misleading one at that.

    Biddle declared in 2004 that, contrary to popular opinion, “predominance,” as measured by military expenditures, war materiel, and the number of personnel are, as independent variables, very poor predictors of victory. “Real battle outcomes cannot be explained by materiel alone; in fact, materiel factors are only weakly related to historical patterns of victory and defeat,” he noted. Using sophisticated mathematical models, Biddle demonstrated that the outcomes of combat in the twentieth century clearly detract from the outdated notion that “bigger and more expensive are better” in battle. As he said, “All told, the data show no support for a simple assumption that preponderance predetermines capability.” War production is a salient factor, but one cannot ascribe it to be the sole and direct reason for victory any more than one claim that cows and pigs are the cause of obesity, or that automobile manufacturers are the sole cause of car accidents. Think Mogadishu or “Black Hawk Down” if one needs a more recent example.

    When in doubt, always remember the immortal words of Mark Twain: "It's not the size of the dog in the fight, it's the size of the fight in the dog." It could be argued that, even if Midway had ended in its favor, Japan would have been defeated anyway, but not for the reasons commonly supposed. Overy argued convincingly that Japan’s defeat had more to do with a loss of the warrior spirit due to its long and pernicious war with China, which began in 1931, and by military brutality and oppression on the home front rather than from any other single factor. In other words, the Japanese public was simply tired of making war and was not truly stalwart when things began to sour for them after the loss at Midway. Some of their military leaders too, such as Admiral Yamamoto, had, shall we say, “defeatist” tendencies from the very beginning, which probably did not help.

    Reluctance and insecurity also robbed the Japanese of many additional opportunities for victory, and right from beginning, with the abbreviated attack on Pearl Harbor. The prevailing wisdom in western circles is that the attack on Pearl Harbor was a mistake, but this theory has its critics. Russett argued that the attack on Pearl Harbor was rational, well-planned, and from a Japanese standpoint, quite necessary to counter American and allied attempts to cut off Japan from its overseas natural resources. The attack itself was well executed, but it did not go far enough, and the Japanese did not press on when they clearly had all the means to do so. Hoyt criticized the Japanese for putting too much emphasis on hitting the American battleships at the expense of easier and possibly, more strategically valuable targets. “So eager were the Japanese fliers to sink battleships,” he related, “… they ignored the tanker Neosho, which was loaded with high-octane aviation fuel, If they set her afire she might have burned down the whole harbor,” thus denying the Americans the use of one of their most important bases. In addition, Hoyt maintained, “The more important error was the failure of the Japanese to cripple the Pearl Harbor submarine base, which they could have easily done with another attack…Also, four-and-a-half million barrels of oil had been stockpiled at Pearl Harbor, located in dumps above ground, made an easy target. The Japanese ignored them.” All of these opportunities were extinguished simply because Admiral Nagumo lost his nerve and halted the thoroughly one-sided Battle of Pearl Harbor much too soon, when his enemy was very much at a disadvantage. (According to van der Vat, Nagumo “was prone to bouts of anxiety which prevented him from sleeping; even the smallest decision caused him stress.”) An extra day of attacks would have been all that was necessary to put the whole base and its ships out of action, or even out of existence, which in turn would have made life much easier for the Japanese in the years ahead. Luckily for the Americans, “because of tactical failure, the strategic victory was lost.”

    And finally, while there is no doubt that, as it happened, America's carrier task forces and submarines did play a decisive and integral role in the eventual defeat of Japan, many Americans overlook the significant contribution of the Soviet Union to that same end. In actuality, the Soviet Red Army was responsible for neutralizing approximately 32% of Japan's army personnel, but this fact seldom appears in the typical American discourse on the war.

    The Russians Mug the Kitty Hawk, the Saratoga, the Constellation, the Carl Vinson, and others…

    “If there was any doubt about Soviet intentions… one had only to read the speeches of the Soviet naval commander, Admiral Sergei Gorshkov, who had boasted that the United States had made a strategic miscalculation in relying on large and increasingly vulnerable aircraft carriers to project power in the world. The U.S. strategy would fail in wartime, Gorshkov alleged, because ‘the combat potential… of nuclear-powered aircraft carriers is inferior to the strike potentials of submarine and air forces.’”
    – Patrick Tyler

    The examples above from unscripted naval exercise evolutions provide ample evidence of the vulnerability of US Navy carrier battle groups to attacks from diesel submarines, but of course there are other ways to sink a carrier, as the Russian Air Force knows well. In October 2000, the aircraft carrier USS Kitty Hawk was “mugged” by Russian SU-24 and Su-27 aircraft, which were not detected until they were virtually on top of the carrier. The Russian aircraft buzzed the carrier’s flight deck and caught the ship completely unprepared. To add insult to injury, the Russians took very detailed photos of the Kitty Hawk’s flight deck, and very courteously, provided the pictures to the American skipper via e-mail. In a story in the December 7, 2000 edition of WorldNetDaily, one US sailor exclaimed, “The entire crew watched overhead as the Russians made a mockery of our feeble attempt of intercepting them.” Russia’s air force is now only a faint shadow of what it once was, but even now, they can demonstrate that they can, if necessary, do significant damage to the US Navy. It’s little wonder then that a Russian newspaper gloated that “If these had been planes on a war mission, the aircraft carrier would definitely have been sunk.”

    Perhaps they are right. As Howard Bloom and Dianne Star Petryk-Bloom advised in 2003, both the Russians and Chinese now have the deadly SS-N-22 Sunburn missile at their disposal. This massive long-range missile, equipped with nuclear or conventional warheads, is extremely difficult to detect or destroy. According to Jane’s Information Group, it is more than capable of destroying any US aircraft carrier. More to the point, Timperlake (a former USMC fighter pilot and US Naval Academy graduate) and Triplett warned that the Sunburn missile is “designed to do one thing: kill American aircraft carriers and Aegis-class cruisers. The SS-N-22 missile skims the surface of the water at two-and-a-half times the speed of sound, until just before impact, when it lifts up and then heads straight down into the target’s deck. Its two-hundred-kiloton nuclear warhead has almost twenty times the explosive power of the atomic bombs dropped on Hiroshima…The U.S. Navy has no defense against this missile system… As retired Rear Admiral Eric McVadon put it, ‘It’s enough to make the U.S. 7th (Pacific) Fleet think twice.’” The only caveat, said Karam, would be the possibility of US nuclear retaliation against the enemy’s homeland.

    Some would say that this example is not efficacious because in a real war, the carrier and her escorts would have been more careful, and at a higher level of readiness. Indeed yes, but what if this mock attack had been the opening shot in an unexpected war? In that case, the US Navy probably would have lost one multi-billion dollar carrier and probably some of its escorts on the very first day. Multiple coordinated surprise attacks by aircraft, cruise missiles and diesel submarines could quickly emasculate many of the American carrier battle groups. As one naval aviator told Wilson during his visit to the USS John F. Kennedy, the Russians “can make it rain longer than we can swim.” A politically incorrect statement for a naval officer, to be sure, but others have gone further. Captain T.S. Teague, US Navy, broke one of the cardinal rules of the US Navy when he, the skipper of the Kitty Hawk in the early 1980s, told Stevenson that yes, the Russians could “take out” his ship if they made an effort, and this was long before the Russians developed the SS-N-22. For some reason, possibly convenience, or wishful thinking, many US analysts tend to overlook or downplay the fact that the Soviets had deployed submarines with nuclear-tipped torpedoes more than forty years ago, and if even a few dozen of these weapons could be used effectively, the surface forces of the US Navy could be incinerated in short order. This is not new technology at all, and it wise to predict that eventually these weapons will fall into the hands of many nations, and some of them might wish to oppose the US. It would be apt to say that not only can US Navy carriers be destroyed, as evidenced by combat actions involving various battleships and big carriers in World War II and the frank admissions of US Navy officers; they can definitely be destroyed by a determined enemy, with good diesel submarines, good crews, and good torpedoes or cruise missiles. Moreover, it would be especially easy to do so by one that has even a few tactical nuclear weapons at his disposal. Such might be the case soon with regard to India and Pakistan, for example.

    A Navy spokesman said that the Kitty Hawk had not been surprised, that they knew the Russian planes were not going to attack, and that the Russian aircraft were tracked almost from the moment they took off. In other words, “We were on top of things, no need to intercept, and certainly no reason for alarm.” When the Russians over flew the Kitty Hawk, the carrier was “in the process of refueling and therefore was not going fast enough at the moment of the refueling to launch planes.” It took 40 minutes for the first American aircraft to be launched, and the Russian Air Force was delighted with the results: “‘For the Americans, our planes were a complete surprise,' said Gen. Anatoly M. Kornukov, the Russian air force's commander in chief. ‘In the pictures, you can clearly see the panic on deck.’'' This episode sounds somewhat like what happened to the Japanese Navy at the Battle of Midway, where its aircraft carriers were caught off guard and attacked while their planes were being rearmed. Clever enemies often prefer to attack during periods of low readiness, or during poor weather.

    Just for the sake of argument, let us assume that the US Navy had indeed tracked the Russian planes and fired at them (and/or their attacking cruise missiles). Even if this had happened, it still doesn’t mean that the Russian attack would have failed. A 2000 report by the US General Accounting Office cast great doubt on the survivability of American surface ships because the Navy has continuously exaggerated “the actual and projected capabilities of surface ships to protect themselves from cruise missiles because the models used in the assessment…include a number of optimistic assumptions that may not reflect the reality of normal fleet operations.” For example, in its highly questionable testing of ship borne defensive systems, the US Navy assumes any such attack would occur in perfect weather, with a perfect American crew, and flawless equipment, which is a highly unlikely scenario.

    Even if there had been F-14s on CAP above the carrier during the Russian penetration their outrageously expensive Phoenix missiles might not have made any difference, either. According to a 2001 paper by Colonel Everest Riccioni, USAF (Retired), “The long range US Navy Phoenix missile was fired twice in combat in 30 years and missed both times – a zero return on a large investment.” Colonel Riccioni was speaking of US combat experience, which was obviously not very extensive. On the other hand, there are reports that Iranian F-14 pilots scored multiple kills with the Phoenix missile against Iraqi Mig-21 and Mirage F1 pilots (but, as one might expect, Iraq strongly disputes the Iranian assertions). If the claimed Iranian Phoenix kills are genuine, one wonders if the Iranian pilots might have learned something about how to use the Phoenix missile that the pilots of the US Navy did not, or, on a more elementary level, perhaps their relatively successful employment was because they simply had more opportunities to use them. Like the Iraqis, many US analysts are also quite dubious of the Iranian claims, and “Western estimates for the true kill-loss ratio attained by the F-14 during the conflict credit 4 kills against 4 or 5 losses.” If the hopefully unbiased Western estimates are correct, or even close, they suggest that the US-trained Iranian pilots and/or their aircraft and/or missiles may not have been that much better than their Iraqi opponents. We may never know the whole story, (the Iranian aircraft lacked spare parts and thus had maintenance issues) but for many, the F-14/Phoenix combination was always rather problematic.

    Another question now comes to mind. If the crew of the Kitty Hawk really knew of the impending Russian visit, why did the US Navy decline to release the Russian photos? If the crew had truly not been surprised, the photos of the flight deck should surely reveal this, and clear the US Navy. If there had been some classified equipment or activity depicted in the Russian photos, surely the Pentagon could have censored the photos as required, then released them to show the world a crew at sea going about routine business.

    Why also did the Kitty Hawk, 40 minutes later, finally launch aircraft to intercept the Russian planes that had already flown over, but did no physical harm to the ship? Why was it necessary to belatedly intercept the Russians if the US Navy was so confident that the Russians were no threat? And why did the Washington Times impart that the “Kitty Hawk commanders were so unnerved by the aerial penetration they rotated squadrons on 24-hour alert and had planes routinely meet or intercept various aircraft?” Because in asymmetrical warfare, the very concept is to strike when the larger, more powerful enemy is least prepared. This is what the Japanese did when they attacked Pearl Harbor in the early morning hours on a Sunday. This is why the 1968 Tet holiday offensive was launched when the Army of the Republic of Vietnam was in a low state of readiness. But then, perhaps it would have been more sporting of the Russians to have called in first before launching their mock attack.

    As an aside, although the foregoing concerns fast jet aircraft, the US Navy has had troubles dealing with slower planes as well. A colleague recently reported an amusing incident between a Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) P-3C Orion and an American aircraft carrier, and it should be considered seriously. In the words of retired Squadron Leader J R Sampson, RAAF: “When I was an RAAF liaison/briefing officer enroute from Diego to Perth for R&R sometime in 1981/82, I dined in the (American) admiral's suite and the admiral gave me a copy of a message that censured an air wing commander for allowing an RAAF P-3C to get in undetected amongst the CVBG (Carrier Battle Group) screen a few days earlier. According to the message the commander himself was in an F-14 cockpit checking out the TCS (Television Camera Set) that had just been installed as a new piece of F-14 kit. TCS enables long-range visual identification of targets. He was adjusting the FOV (Field of View) when he saw a P-3 swim across his screen, right on the carrier's bow at about 300 feet above sea level. He'd just come from CIC (Combat Information Center) and knew that no cooperating P-3's were due so he queried the FLYCO who queried the CIC who asked the on station E-2C. They didn't even have the capability to launch an F-14 intercept. Very embarrassing but the admiral gave me a copy of the message to take back to headquarters…” Embarrassing yes, and it proves that an enemy doesn’t even need speedy jet fighters to get through a US Navy battle group’s defenses. A large and relatively slow turbo prop aircraft like the P-3 can do it just as well.

    It goes without saying that the relatively noisy Soviet/Russian submarines have a long tradition of tracking and stalking American carriers. The Soviets maintained a huge force of both nuclear and diesel submarines, and their boats were able to locate, pursue and close with US Navy carrier battle groups on many occasions. In 1966, the noisy Victor-class nuclear submarine K-181 trailed the carrier Saratoga and her escorts in the Atlantic for several days, and made “nine simulated conventional torpedo attacks on the aircraft carrier, from different directions and distances, and sent twenty radiograms on the task group actions to fleet headquarters. The K-181’s expert radiomen recorded the sound of the aircraft carrier’s turbines at different depths, invaluable information for another cruise.” Although the Soviet submarine was eventually detected, it was not by the carrier or by her escorts, but by the SOSUS warning net. Regardless, “it was a considerable triumph to put K-181 within killing distance of the aircraft carrier…”

    Although the Americans did detect the K-181, it was not until well after she conducted her simulated torpedo attacks. In a real war, the carrier probably would have been destroyed before the Soviet sub could be localized and attacked. Something very similar happened in late 1967, said Tyler. A US carrier task force in the Atlantic “had been shocked by the sudden appearance of the conning tower of a Victor-class submarine. The Russian had popped up to thumb his nose at the Americans and to demonstrate a Soviet capability to penetrate the carrier battle group. It was a secret and unreported victory for the Soviet Union and an embarrassing and ominous moment for the U.S. Navy,” he heckled. Of course, the US Navy did the same thing to the Soviets as well, but most of us in the west either do not know or do not want to know the other side of the story.

    Indeed, Shuger wrote in 1989 that the US Navy sometimes had great difficulty locating even the oldest Soviet submarines: “More than a decade ago, when there were dozens of U.S. ships and planes in the South China Sea looking for the one Soviet submarine then on patrol there – and it was obsolescent one at that; this was before the big Soviet naval build-up of the Cam Ranh Bay naval base in Vietnam – it would still go unlocated for weeks on end. Imagine the difficulties presented nowadays by the increased numbers of quieter Soviet subs.”

    Specific encounters between Soviet/Russian subs and American ships are rarely publicized or described in so much detail, but Sontag et al. detailed that during the Cold War “Soviet subs seemed to be waiting to monitor U.S. naval exercises even before U.S. ships and subs arrived on site. A few times, Soviet subs had shown up in waters where U.S. exercises had been scheduled, then cancelled. Other times, Soviet subs barreled right into the middle of exercises almost as if they were trying to see how the U.S. forces would react.” In 1985, said Weir and Boyne, the Soviet submarine K-324, taking advantage of temperature variations in the Gulf Stream, “detected American SSBNs (nuclear-powered ballistic missile submarines) on three different occasions, maintaining a combined contact time of twenty-eight hours” while another Soviet nuclear boat surreptitiously tailed another American SSBN for five days. In these cases, we can see that the US Navy's traditional belief in the inherent superiority of American nuclear submarines and tactics over their Soviet/Russian adversaries is not always justifiable or realistic.

    Along those same lines, Kaylor reported that in 1986, "a U.S. attack-submarine skipper received a shock while tracking a Soviet sub in its home waters. The U.S. commander expected to hear his quarry long before it heard him. But suddenly the American sonar men heard a single loud, metallic 'ping' in their earphones. Listening with passive sensors that make no sound of their own the Soviets had picked up the American sub, then transmitted a single 'active' sound wave to fix its exact location. It was the Soviet captain's way of saying, 'Gotcha!' But in wartime, it would have been followed swiftly by a torpedo." A Canadian warship also surprised and pinged the very modern Ohio-class SSBN USS Michigan during filming of the informative 1992 NOVA documentary “Submarine.” This, of course, flies right in the face of the US Navy’s standard ballyhoo that its SSBNs cannot be detected by non-US forces. A US nuclear submariner, who wished not to be identified, also told me recently about an incident in which his elderly and relatively noisy nuclear attack submarine (launched in the early 1960s) had stalked and launched a simulated attack on a supposedly undetectable Ohio-class SSBN using passive sonar, “because our Sonar Chief steered us towards a part of ocean with lower-than-expected background noise, from the boomer screening the ambient noise. We were able to creep into their baffles to fire a water slug…”

    In addition to the aforementioned encounters, the American media learned in September 1997 that a Russian nuclear submarine had gotten uncomfortably close to the carrier USS Constellation and other ships during a Pacific cruise. So close, in fact, an anonymous US Navy source “concluded later that the submarine would have sunk the Constellation near Seattle if there had been a conflict.” Holzer also mentioned that the same Russian submarine stalked “the USS Coronado, flagship of the U.S. Third Fleet, for several days. The U.S. Navy never knew it was there...” And Gertz recorded that “The submarine… loitered off the Washington coastline and practiced attack operations against the [USS] Carl Vinson during the carrier's training mission.” He concurred that the US Navy had great difficulty tracking the elusive submarine, and as he put it, “the Russian Oscar II-class guided missile submarine spent nearly two weeks in September about 100 miles off the Washington coastline and sailed undetected for days, eluding U.S. surveillance vessels and aircraft.” And even though their nuclear boats were very noisy until sometime in the 1980s, in 1997 Polmar said that the latest Soviet nuclear submarines were actually quieter than the US Improved Los Angeles-class, at least at tactical speeds of 5-7 knots. In any case, the Soviets/Russians, like so many others, have many high quality photos of American carriers taken by surprise and at close range.

    The Chinese Know Thy Potential Enemy

    The Chinese too have a strong interest in neutralizing American aircraft carriers, and in his 2000 book China Debates the Future Security Environment, Michael Pillsbury demonstrated that the Chinese have completed detailed studies of the vulnerabilities of US Navy carriers. He documented that the Chinese have noted the following possible weaknesses: lack of stealth due to the large number of radar reflections plus infrared and electromagnetic signatures, all of which make the carrier “very difficult to effectively conceal,” flight restrictions during bad weather, the inability to safely operate in shallow waters, decreased readiness during regular at-sea replenishments, poor ASW and mine countermeasures capabilities, and the structural vulnerabilities of catapults, elevators, and arresting gear. Sun Tzu put it best when he said “Know thy enemy and know thy self and you will win a hundred battles.” It seems the Chinese have taken Sun Tzu’s advice to heart when it comes to their potential rivals.

    These days, many analysts are quite concerned about a possible confrontation between the US and China over Taiwan. While O’Hanlon suggests that China does not have the necessary means to invade and occupy Taiwan, others feel the Chinese might still attempt to do so. If that does happen, it would be well for the US not to underestimate the Chinese. One need only recall Appleman’s book Disaster in Korea: The Chinese Confront MacArthur to see that the low tech Chinese have been a most dangerous and wily opponent for American forces. In 2004, Goldstein and Murray (The latter is a former US Navy submarine officer) predicted that if the US Navy comes up against Chinese AIP and diesel submarines blockading Taiwan: “…we find a plausible worst case would yield nearly fourteen U.S. ships sunk after a single tactical exchange. Playing out this model to its logical conclusion (iterations until all submarines in the People’s Liberation Army Navy are destroyed) with these revised inputs suggest that more than forty U.S. Navy (USN) ships could be sunk.” Thus, in their view, the Chinese submarine deployment of roughly 24 non-nuclear submarines would be destroyed eventually, but they could take as many as 40 American ships down with them, and that American aircraft carriers would “not be immune from submarine attack,” even if they remain in the comparatively low risk deep waters to the east of Taiwan.

    The main reason for the predicted relatively heavy US losses is the degradation and withering of US ASW capabilities since the end of the Cold War. As I noted before, the S-3 fleet has been retired without a dedicated ASW replacement. Furthermore, between 1991 and 2004 the P-3 Orion force has been reduced by 50%, and will suffer another cut, a further 33% reduction in 2005, and as Goldstein and Murray pointed out, the remaining P-3s “no longer focus on ASW as their principal mission” in most areas. For example, in 1998, Vice Admiral Richard W. Mies, US Navy, excoriated the laggard and supine ASW training typical of the Navy's P-3 Orion crews. "'Take the average P-3 air crew,''' he said. ‘How much time do they have on top of a friendly submarine or a potential adversary submarine just tracking them? You'll find that many of the crews have very, very little operational proficiency time. And that's true across all the elements of ASW.''' (Incredibly, Caldwell reported in 2000 that the missile-equipped Orion, a large, four-engine turbo-prop patrol aircraft, with an airframe based on a 1950s passenger plane, was actually being used as a substitute for much faster and agile jet fighter aircraft on Combat Air Patrols). Finally, the SOSUS warning net has been “effectively mothballed,” thus depriving the Navy of a much needed early warning system. The Chinese have noted all of this and keep it in mind when they plan their exercises. The Chinese, for good reason I should suppose, are growing more and more confident in their ability to tangle with the US Navy. Said one Chinese senior officer in 2002, “We have the ability to deal with an aircraft carrier that dares to get into our range of fire… The U.S. likes vain glory; if one of their aircraft carriers could be attacked and destroyed, people in the U.S. would begin to complain and quarrel loudly, and the U.S. President would find the going harder and harder.”

    Lax Security

    One would think that the US Navy would spare no expense to protect its bases, especially those in which their nuclear submarines, both attack and missile boats, are stationed. One would think that effective, vigilant, round-the-clock, airtight, multi-tiered security would shroud an installation in which Trident missile submarines are based. One would think that the security around these nuclear missile-launching platforms would be almost impregnable. But if one also thinks that strong security measures were the norm in the US Navy during (and after) the Cold War, one should think again.

    In June 2001, Lieutenant Commander Jack Daly, US Navy, told the audience of a radio broadcast called Judicial Watch that American nuclear submarine and aircraft carrier bases were becoming increasingly vulnerable to attack due to lax security measures. He cited an incident in April 1997, in which a Russian spy ship reportedly used a laser to attack a helicopter in the Strait of Juan de Fuca, near two Navy bases. Daly and his Canadian Air Force pilot suffered permanent eye damage because of the attack, and Daly said it was now routine for Russian spy ships to go snooping around the US Navy bases at Bremerton and Everett, Washington. He also propounded that the spy ship that attacked his helicopter had “come to within 1,000 yards of the nuclear-missile-armed U.S.S. Ohio.” The reason why the Russians had gotten so bold, he argued, was that the US Navy had grown complacent and unconcerned about espionage and security. With the end of the Cold War, he said, the US Navy had basically let its guard down.

    Lax security was also evident in October 2000, just a few weeks before the terrorist attack on the USS Cole, when a news team from WABC TV New York completed a two-month investigation on security at the naval stations at Norfolk, Virginia, New London, Connecticut, and Naval Weapons Station Earle in New Jersey. In all cases, the news team had absolutely no difficulty gaining access to the bases, were never asked to produce identification, were able to sail a small boat within a few feet of American ships without detection, and in Norfolk, the world’s largest naval base (home port for 78 ships) the journalists roamed freely, unnoticed and unchallenged, for four hours. They shot video of their incursion, and when Representative Jim Saxton of New Jersey saw the shocking tape, he said, “What you have shown me is absolutely incredible, it’s unbelievable!” It is hard to understate how much damage a team of terrorists could have done to the US Navy if they too could have penetrated the security at Norfolk and attacked the ships concentrated at the world’s largest naval base. Although it is certainly not common, according to GlobalSecurity.org, at times there have been up to five nuclear-powered carriers simultaneously in port at Norfolk.

    Of course, both these incursions happened after the Cold War ended. However, it must be pointed out that even during the Cold War, security at US Navy bases was often very poor. Probably the most qualified man to speak on this issue is a former US Navy senior officer, Captain Richard Marcinko. Although he was once court-martialed for misuse of government property, it is hard to discredit a man like Marcinko when it comes to military operations. A former SEAL, with over 300 combat missions to his credit, he earned 34 citations and medals, “including the Legion of Merit, The Silver Star, and four Bronze Stars with a combat ‘V’ for Valor.” He is now an acknowledged expert on terrorism and is frequently consulted on US national TV news and current affairs programs. In the 1980s, during the watch of CNO Admiral James Watkins, US Navy, Marcinko and his SEAL Team Six were assigned to test security at major navy bases, and the results of his simulated terrorist raids were very disturbing. His team infiltrated the New London Naval Base, where nuclear submarines, including missile boats, are based. Marcinko’s team had little difficulty infiltrating the base, and it made a mockery of the base security forces. In his own words: “I rented a small plane, and Horseface flew us under the I-95 bridge, wetting our wheels in the Thames as we swooped low. We buzzed the sub pens. No one waved us off. We rented a boat and flew the Soviet flag on its stern, then chugged past the base while we openly taped video of the subs in their dry docks, capturing classified details of their construction elements. The dry docks were exposed and unprotected – if we’d decided to ram one of the subs, nothing stood in our way.”

    Marcinko’s team did far worse during his visit to New London. His men infiltrated several nuclear submarines, and thereby proceeded to wreak havoc therein. “First, they found the sentries – who were secure in their shacks drinking coffee – and silenced them. Then, they concealed explosives behind the diving planes of one nuclear sub. They boarded another Boomer sub and placed demolition charges in the control room, in the nuclear-reactor compartment, and in the torpedo room.” They were challenged by base personnel, but explained that they were just doing maintenance, and amazingly, they were never asked to identify themselves. Marcinko later briefed a very unhappy admiral and boasted, “I blew up two of your nuclear subs, and if I’d wanted to, I could have blown ‘em all up.”

    Karam also reminisced that the SEALs also clobbered his submarine, the USS Plunger, during an annual drill. “One year, they swam across the shipping channel from North Island, ‘shot’ our topside watch and were in control of Control and Maneuvering within a few minutes.”

    To be fair, the US Navy is now taking security much more seriously, but only as a result of the attack on the USS Cole and the September 11th attacks. Despite the lessons taught by Captain Marcinko and his SEALS in the 1980s, little was done to improve security in the interim. Apparently the US Navy prefers to learn its lessons, when it does actually learn, the hard way.

    A Few Realistic Men

    “My own experience (in war games) is that I never have any problem getting a carrier… those fleets are going to get ground into peanut butter in a war.”
    – Anonymous US Navy submarine commander on how easy it is to find and sink a US Navy aircraft carrier.

    “One enemy diesel submarine lucky enough to get one torpedo hit on a CVN (nuclear powered aircraft carrier) or an AEGIS cruiser could easily turn US resolve and have a huge impact on a conflict… the challenge of finding and destroying a diesel submarine in littoral waters can be nearly impossible… In general…a diesel submarine operating on battery power is quieter, slower, and operating more shallow than a nuclear submarine.”
    - Lieutenant Commander Christopher J. Kelly, US Navy

    Earlier, I discussed how easy it is for foreign diesel submarines and air forces to attack American carriers. But it is not just the Russians, Chinese, Canadians, Chileans, Dutch and Australians who think the US Navy’s carrier battle groups are overrated, expensive and extremely vulnerable. The Late Admiral Hyman Rickover, US Navy (Retired) didn’t think much of his own carrier-centered navy, either. When asked in 1982 about how long the American carriers would survive in an actual war, he curtly replied that they would be finished in approximately 48 hours. The atypically unreticent submarine commander, Captain John Byron, US Navy (Retired) also intimated in the early 1980s that even noisy American nuclear submarines (noisy when compared to state-of-the-art diesel submarines, and in Compton-Hall’s opinion, to RN Trafalgar-class nuclear boats) had little difficulty operating against carriers. “Operating against a carrier is too easy,” he quipped. “The carrier’s ASW protection often resembles Swiss cheese.” In a 1985 exercise in the Pacific, this was confirmed when one US nuclear submarine sank two aircraft carriers and eight other ships, and as per standard operating procedure, these painful results "were never publicly disclosed." Shuger, in 1989, noted: “I’ve seen enough photos of American carriers through periscope crosshairs – most sub crew offices feature one – to become a believer. Despite all the antisubmarine warfare equipment that carrier groups take with them to sea, in my own experience most exercises against subs ended up with my carrier getting a green flare at close quarters, the standard simulation for a successful torpedo or cruise missile attack.”

    The respected naval affairs analyst Norman Polmar said in 1998 "It's just too easy for a diesel sub with even conventional torpedoes, let alone high-speed advanced torpedoes... that the Russians are selling, to get a shot and hit a carrier...That could really cause us problems." Former CIA director Admiral Stansfield Turner, US Navy (Retired) has also complained that the US Navy’s continuing policy of building and deploying “big, over-powered aircraft carriers” is “ill-advised.” The Late Rear Admiral Eugene Carroll, US Navy (Retired), himself a former aircraft carrier skipper, was also an outspoken critic of the Navy and its obsession with big aircraft carriers. He once said that if the United States continues on its path to build ever larger and ever more expensive aircraft carriers, it will eventually degenerate into a “bankrupt nation.”

    Another senior American officer who might agree with Rickover, Turner, Carroll, Byron and Shuger is Lieutenant General Paul Van Riper, USMC (Retired). In Exercise Millennium Challenge (2002), Van Riper, playing the role of Saddam Hussein, used small boats to destroy 16 US Navy ships, including an aircraft carrier and two helicopter carriers, in the Persian Gulf. As usual, the US Navy was not pleased with this successful attack against its most powerful ships, and so it stopped the exercise, “reactivated” the dead ships and continued as though nothing had happened. “‘A phrase I heard over and over was, ‘That would never have happened,’ Van Riper recalls. And I said ‘Nobody would have thought that anyone would fly an airliner into the World Trade Centre’… but nobody seemed interested.’” Stan Goff, is his own erudite yet polemical style, explained why this had to be: “The reason Van Riper’s victory had to be overruled is that it tears the scary mask off the bully and lets the whole world see the fundamental weakness of the vastly complex and expensive U.S. military monstrosity – the one that will invite not less but more ‘asymmetric warfare,’ the very monstrosity that is already mortgaging our children’s future.” Sadly, this kind of official denial is standard operating procedure in the US Navy. Consider also the American submarine commander who once said that, during war games, he “put six torpedoes into a carrier, and I was commended – for reducing the carrier’s efficiency by 2 percent.” The battleship admirals did the same thing when they ran the navy, and we all know what happened to the battleship.

    Many of the criticisms of the carrier-centered Navy come from US Army officers who see the Navy as a rival more than as a partner in national defense. One might dismiss army criticisms of the US Navy as merely parochial slander, but some Army critics make good sense. Lieutenant Colonel Douglas Macgregor, US Army, made a number of convincing arguments in his ground-breaking book, Breaking the Phalanx. Macgregor is a vocal critic of American military strategy, and his criticisms are not restricted to the Army. He argued that with the US Navy’s new focus on littoral warfare, the big carrier Navy is in even more danger now than during its days as a high seas fleet designed to face the Soviet Union. The fact that American aircraft carriers are so big, and so much firepower is concentrated on them, makes them attractive and worthy targets for weapons of mass destruction in littoral waters: “The concentration of several thousand sailors, airmen, and Marines in an amphibious or Nimitz-class aircraft carrier risks single point failure in future warfighting.” Also, as the quality and availability of cruise missiles increase, so do the chances of a successful attack on carrier battle groups: “The survivability of large carriers and amphibious ships depends on antiship missile defenses, which must perform perfectly within a few seconds of a missile alert. In both cases, very expensive platforms can be destroyed by relatively inexpensive weapons…”

    Williscroft said in September 2004 that there are several possible nightmare scenarios that face the modern US Navy, and they most certainly will involve quiet conventional submarines: “The bad guys can station one of the new ultra-quiet AIP subs at a choke point, and seriously damage or even sink a carrier. An AIP sub can sneak up on a Virginia-class (nuclear submarine) deploying a Seal team with devastating results. A hunter-killer pack of several AIP subs can take out any nuke we have, once they find it.” Macgregor also noted that at a cost of approximately $4 billion for construction alone, the loss of even one Nimitz-class carrier would be morally and financially devastating. The loss of one or more of the $2 billion Virginia-class nuclear submarines would also be a tremendous burden on the United States Treasury.

    This isn’t “Top Gun”

    “USN pilots worry more about being able to come aboard than about their tactics. It is not totally unreasonable, especially in bad weather, night operations. Fortunately, for the USAF, a landing makes about the same demand as breathing, and frees them to concern themselves with the tactics and doctrines of aerial combat."
    - Col. Everest Riccioni, USAF (Retired), e-mail to author, February 2005

    As we have seen, US carriers are remarkably vulnerable to attacks by submarines and aircraft, but what about the much-vaunted American naval aviators? How would the US Navy pilots fare in a dogfight with a much smaller, less powerful, but well-trained enemy? The evidence is not encouraging. Consider Canada, for example. Often criticized by US and NATO officials for very low defense spending (about 1.2% of Canada’s GDP is spent on defense), Canada’s armed forces are among the smallest in the alliance (currently at about 60,000 in the regular Army, Navy and Air Force, combined). Australia spends less on defense than Canada does, but tellingly, Americans rarely criticize Australia’s defense forces (possibly because the Australians more easily acquiesce to US foreign policy requests). Despite this chronically low funding, however, Canadian pilots routinely outperform US Navy and Air Force aircrews in exercises, and it is easy to understand why if one reviews the Canadian war record. Here, briefly, are a few highlights related to the Canadian war record. In World War I, a group of just ten Canadian fighter pilots was responsible for shooting down a mind-blowing 438 German aircraft. Even though many Americans sincerely believe that it was latecomers like Captain Eddie Rickenbacker in his French-designed Spad VIII that won the Great War, the Canadian pilots were the true eagles flying over the Western Front. Of the top ten aces produced by the allies, four were from Canada, a country that at the time had a population of only 11 million (the other top aces were French and British).

    In World War II, Canadian Spitfire pilot Buzz Beurling shot down 27 enemy aircraft (confirmed, plus 3 other probable kills, and 8 damaged) in only 14 flying days. He was nicknamed “The Falcon of Malta,” and as Lieutenant Colonel Rob Tate, USAFR, said in 2004, Beurling’s triumphs were “one of World War II's memorable aerial-combat achievements.” In the 1950s, Canadian pilots flying the Canadair Sabre Mk. VI with its souped-up Orenda engine “flew circles” around every fighter plane in NATO. According to Brigadier General George Schulstad, USAF (Retired), the Canadian Sabre pilots were “the very best of the best!” The American general also said that he was “truly impressed and deeply honored” to have flown with the Canadians. In the late 1980s, Canadian fighter pilots were at the top of the charts in NATO, flying more hours per year than all other allied forces in Europe (German pilots came in second, and USAF pilots placed third). In 1996, the famous American pilot and author, Colonel Walter Boyne, USAF (Retired) rated the Canadians and Israelis as the two most challenging foes for top US fighter pilots on exercises. That same year, a Canadian fighter team defeated all comers (six US Air Force and Air National Guard teams) at the prestigious William Tell competition. Some say no team in history had been as dominant as the Canadians were (they won accolades for Top Gun, Top Team, Top Operations, Top Element, and Top Weapons Director Team.) In 2001, US Secretary of State (and former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs), General Colin Powell, US Army (Retired) informed the new US Ambassador to Canada that the Canadian Forces, despite their tiny budget, are “quite good.”

    Three years later, Colonel Joseph Nunez, US Army, in his otherwise scathing critique of Canadian military capabilities, recorded that Canadian military personnel "are of high quality and add real value to any operation," that they are "experts at cold-weather operations," and that in combat in Afghanistan, "The Canadian performance obviously impressed US military commanders." On January 2, 2002, retired Lieutenant Colonel Kalev Sepp, US Army (Special Forces), wrote to The Ottawa Citizen to say that Canadian soldiers are “often better” than US personnel. He added that Canadian air crews are “superb,” that Canadians “stand in the first rank of the world’s soldiers,” and that the Canadian Forces have been blessed with “thoroughgoing competence,” and finally that the quality of Canadians in uniform is “unsurpassed.” US Ambassador Paul Cellucci, in a speech delivered to The American Assembly in Harriman, New York in early 2005, said the Canadian Special Forces unit JTF2 is “world-renowned” for its combat skills and professionalism. JTF2 was also awarded a US Presidential Unit Commendation in 2004 for its covert actions in Afghanistan.

    Now, in the interests of full disclosure, I am Canadian and my Great, Great Uncle was one of the ten Canadian World War I fighter pilots described above. But the foregoing is not idle boasting or a manifestation of the so-called “Canadian inferiority complex” because I certainly have published articles that were quite critical of the Canadian military, including the very unit to which I belonged (I have indeed thrown a few stones at my own house, but luckily, I am thick-skinned and I am no flag-waving partisan, and thus I do not mind at all if my domicile might have been built with silicates bonded with various oxides or pentoxide). Truthfully, I do my best to honor the sage words of Samuel Johnson (“Patriotism is the last refuge of a scoundrel.”) As I see it, the Canada/US military comparison follows the same asymmetries as the classic David and Goliath contest, and I have focused largely on Canadian examples because, simply by default, I just know more about the Canadian military than I do about other minor military powers (although, for good measure, I have also included examples from Australia, Chile, the Netherlands, and other countries that have modest but professional armed forces). The point I am trying to make is that, contrary to what most Americans believe, and despite Canada’s puny numbers and low funding, the Canadians (David, if you will) have indeed had great success competing against US Navy (Goliath) pilots in competitive exercises. As for the reason why, perhaps part of the answer is, as Colonel Sepp conveyed, “Smaller often allows for better in key skills, the meager Canadian defence budget notwithstanding.”

    Even though the US defense budget is thirty to thirty-five times greater than Canada’s, Canadian naval and air units are often better trained, and in some instances better-equipped than US Navy units. For example, in the early 1980s it was revealed that the average pilot in the Canadian Air Force flew about 300 hours a year, whereas his US Navy counterpart flew only about 160 hours annually. Although the Canadian pilots fly fewer hours these days, they can still hold more than their own with US Navy and Air Force pilots. During the days of Royal Canadian Navy carrier aviation it was well known that the pocket carrier HMCS Bonaventure, which had just one catapult, could put more planes in the air than much larger USN ASW carriers of the Essex-class. Furthermore, although the diminutive Bonaventure (which displaced only about 19,000 tons) operated RCN Banshee jet fighters for years, US Navy Banshee pilots did not wish to risk a landing on a smaller carrier. One author put it this way: “In joint RCN-USN exercises, aircraft from both fleets regularly landed on the other's carriers. However, the American Banshee pilots straight-out refused to attempt a landing on Bonaventure. The task was becoming so routine for the Canadian pilots that they were doing it before sunrise.”

    Since the late 1990s, Canada’s new military pilot training center has established a new standard of excellence, and is recognized internationally as having the most advanced pilot training regimen in the world. The official Canadian Air Force Web site makes it clear that Canada’s pilot training system is far ahead of the US Navy: “To date, Canada has sold more than $1-billion in training to pilots from Britain, Italy, Denmark, Singapore and Hungary since the inception of NFTC (NATO Flying Training in Canada) training in 1999. Using the most advanced and effective integrated pilot training system at the most modern training facilities currently available in the world, Canada has become the benchmark in military pilot training. ‘We have the leading edge, most advanced technology for pilot training in the world. It is well ahead of everyone, Britain, the United States, everyone. It is the model for other countries so we are very proud of that,’” said Lieutenant-Colonel Brian Houlgate, Director of the Canadian Aerospace Training Project.

    Canadian fighter pilots, in particular, receive certain training benefits that are simply not readily available to many US Navy aviators most of the year, simply because Canada has huge, under populated areas that are ideal for flight training. American naval aviators at bases such as Oceana Naval Air Station (the largest US Navy fighter base on the east coast) must deal with massive military and civilian air traffic congestion, plus the close proximity of civilian living areas, and thus, very limited air space. As a result, according to journalist Jack Dorsey, their training, particularly at low levels, suffers because of safety and noise concerns. Canadian pilots training at Cold Lake, Alberta, Canada’s largest fighter base, have far fewer restrictions due to the base’s relative isolation, and have access to “five separate air-to-air ranges and a tactical air weapons range covering 700,000 square kilometers” (or 270,272 square miles, slightly larger than the State of Texas). That is one reason why many US Navy pilots covet the opportunity to fly at the Canadian base during the annual Maple Flag air combat exercises. But it is not just the vast air space that attracts the interest of American pilots. The new Canadian air combat training system now in place at Cold Lake “is the first system of its kind” to integrate a “rangeless” Air Combat Maneuvering Instrumentation system (ACMI) “with an electronic warfare system - the Surface Threat Electronic Warfare (STEW) system, which simulates surface-to-air and other ground-to-air threats.” “Together, these systems make up the most modern training system in the world today,” said Keith Shein of Cubic Corporation in June 2004. “The combination of these two training systems enables pilots to realistically view their performance and tactics on each mission.” Better training makes better pilots. Canada has a tradition of excellence in aircrew training, and that is why President Roosevelt once called that country “The Aerodrome of Democracy.”

    Like the Canadians, The Israeli Air Force, perhaps the best-trained and most experienced in the world, has outshined the US Navy, and they have done so more than once. A joint USN-IAF air combat exercise in 1999 underlines and highlights the thesis that the US Navy is overrated. On September 14, 1999, The Jerusalem Post announced that the Israelis soundly dispatched the air wing from the USS Theodore Roosevelt (which, incidentally, was the same carrier the Dutch destroyed in 1999). Israeli F-16s squared off against American F-14s and F-18s. The final results were astonishing. The Israelis shot down a whopping 220 US aircraft while losing only 20 themselves. The 10:1 kill ratio was so embarrassing that the results were not “officially published ‘to save the reputations of the US Navy pilots.’” The magazine article on which the article was based, however, reported the kill ratio to be about 20:1.

    Some dispute these figures, and claim that the Israelis had an “unfair advantage,” and did not include American victories from “stand-off missile hits.” Responding to claims by a US Navy spokesman that the aforementioned victory by Israel was meaningless, former F-14 Radar Intercept Officer Jerry Burns retorted “He gets paid to say that.” And as The Washington Times reported on September 15, 2000, the Navy Inspector General, Vice Admiral Lee F. Gunn, US Navy, was unimpressed with the Navy’s performance and its excuses. “Navy pilots were thoroughly beaten in an exercise against Israeli fliers. ‘An air wing commander was proud the Israelis only achieved a 6-to-1 kill ratio during simulated air-to-air combat maneuvers against a carrier air wing during a recent exercise, instead of the 20-to-1 kill ratio initially claimed.’” Regardless of the exercise parameters and conditions, it is likely that Israeli F-16s would have had the upper hand against US Navy F-14s and F-18s because the F-16 is simply a more maneuverable and agile aircraft. Tests done in the mid-1970s confirmed that prototype YF-16 had “generally shown superior performance” to that of the YF-17, which became the F-18. F-16 pilots often say that the F-18 is a worthy opponent, with its excellent AOA (Angle Of Attack) capabilities, but it is also “a little underpowered with its smaller engines, and decelerates quickly.” And as we will see below, the now retired F-14 “Tom Turkey” (especially the original A model) was never a particularly good dogfighter, even with the more powerful engines in later models.

    This incident was not the first time the US Navy has found itself running behind the Israelis in air combat. Back in 1983, significant qualitative differences between the Israeli Air Force and US naval aviation became obvious when the US Navy botched a raid over Lebanon to suppress Syrian forces there. Aircrews from the USS John F. Kennedy were not properly briefed, launched with the wrong weapons, used outdated tactics, lost twenty percent of their aircraft, and in return, did very little damage to the Syrian positions. The Israelis, conversely, had enjoyed great success during hundreds of missions over the Bekaa Valley with negligible losses. Yes, the Israelis had far more experience flying over the region, and thus a major advantage, but even Secretary Lehman, himself a Naval Reserve aviator, granted that the Israelis were simply more organized, more creative, and had far better planning and tactics than the Americans did. “Their loss rate is much lower because they plan. They don’t do things on the spur of the moment. They have preplanning… And they use imagination. They’re damn good,” Lehman surmised. As Wilson blazoned in very colorful terms, US Navy pilots were shocked and mortified by their poor showing over Lebanon, especially when compared to the almost immaculate performance demonstrated time and again by the Israelis. One pilot on the Kennedy indicated his disgust with the Navy’s execrable performance by shouting “What a fucked-up mission.” Another confided to Wilson: “If the American people ever find out that we sent ten airplanes over there from this carrier to do what one plane could do, they’ll never forgive us. I’m embarrassed… I wonder if we learned anything at all from Vietnam.”

    But then, perhaps the US Navy pilots should not have been surprised that the Israelis could outperform them in both air-to-air and air-to-ground combat. As Shlomo Aloni recorded in 2004, Israeli fighter pilots flying the French-made Mirage IIIC and the Nesher (made in Israel, but very much a Mirage V type aircraft) and badly outnumbered, scored 397.5 air-to-air kills between 1966 and 1974. “Compared with the US air combat experience in Vietnam, the Israeli aerial kill exchange rate and overall air-to-air performance was phenomenal…” Aloni commented that the French Mirage IIIC was technically inferior to its contemporaries serving in the US Navy, but luckily, it did have a cannon, and in the hands of skilled Israeli pilots (who knew how to use obsolete weapons like a cannon to great effect) it became the most successful fighter of its era.

    Aloni’s statement, while impressive and sincere, needs some qualification. If we look at the performance of the US Navy and Air Force’s primary fighter of the 1960s, the F-4 Phantom, against Soviet-designed North Vietnamese fighters in the early years of the war, the overall victory-loss ratio in aerial combat was only about 2:1 in favor of the Americans. Meanwhile, between July 1966 and the end of 1969, the Israeli Mirage and Nesher pilots shot down 116 Soviet-built Mig fighters (mostly with cannon fire) while losing only 9 to enemy fighters (a ratio of almost 13:1). Many of the enemy fighters faced by both the Israelis and the US Navy were the Mig-21 Fishbed aircraft. The Israelis, as you might expect, had little difficulty handling this opponent. According to Cockburn: “The Israeli Air Force consistently outclassed the Fishbed in the Middle East wars in 1967 up to the engagement with the Syrians over the Bekaa Valley in 1982, destroying an average of 20 for every Israeli plane lost.” The US Navy pilots also handled the Fishbed over Vietnam, but not quite as easily. As Rendall posted, the US Navy and Air Force pilots had far more restrictive “Rules of Engagement” than the Israelis did, and this no doubt undermined their performance. While these engagement restrictions were certainly not the fault of the pilots, they nevertheless were a key weakness for the US Navy, the US military, and other western nations who try to fight wars with lawyers as well as warriors. Adversaries that are less concerned with such legal niceties will prove to be quite challenging.

    Hallion also cautioned that Surface-to-Air Missiles (SAMs) were much more prolific in Vietnam than in the Middle East in 1967, and that complicated matters for the Americans as well. Others have noted that the Israelis, ironically, had an easier time shooting down enemy planes because there were so many available targets; Vietnam, to the contrary, was not a “target rich” environment for the Americans. As Riccioni detailed, the Arab pilots flying against Israel were not of the highest caliber, either. However, there were other major purely self-imposed obstacles that the Americans faced, such as having poor dogfighting skills and using missiles when guns would have been more appropriate (even the most advanced version of the F-4 used by the Navy, the J model, did not have an integral cannon). Stevenson grieved that the Navy “fired 50 Sparrows in a row in Vietnam without a hit,” and Cockburn also ruminated that the US over-reliance on missiles in Vietnam sometimes verged on the tragi-comic: “On one occasion during the Southeast Asia war, a U.S. F-4 pilot fired a Sparrow missile at an Australian destroyer because his look-down radar had informed him it was a low-flying helicopter. Luckily for the seaman in whose bunk the Sparrow ended up, the fuze was not working and the missile failed to explode.”

    Stevenson further repined that the Phantom also had smoky exhaust, making it an easy target, plus the canopy restricted the crew’s field of vision, hence it had a very large blind spot. Plus, even Top Gun graduate Robert L. "Hoot" Gibson, who had flown both the Navy F-4 (in combat) and the Mig-21, said that he would have preferred flying the Mig-21 in daytime visual flight conditions. Ironically, if the US forces had used an older fighter, the Canadair Sabre Mark VI, a more powerful version of the USAF Sabres used in Korea, they actually might have gotten better results in air combat over Vietnam. The Sabre was an excellent all-gun fighter, and its canopy gave the pilot a 360-degree view. Its engines were smokeless as well. These features probably assisted the Pakistani Air Force’s elderly Sabres in defeating Indian Mig-21s by a whopping 6:1 ratio in the 1971 Indo-Pakistani War (although one would have to wonder how the Sabre would have fared against North Vietnamese SAMs). In addition, Air Commodore Jamal Hussain, Pakistan Air Force (Retired), said that in the late 1970s outdated Pakistani Mirage IIIs also defeated US F-15s and F-4s during exercises.

    Acknowledging its poor performance in air combat over Vietnam, in March 1969, the US Navy opened its famed “Post-graduate Course in Fighter Weapons, Tactics and Doctrine,” better known as the “Top Gun” course. Here, happily, is an instance in which the US Navy understood it had a weakness and actually did something about it. However, it can be argued that the Top Gun course, offered to only a very few select F-4 crews, who then refreshed their squadrons with what they had forgotten (or never learned) about the art of dogfighting, was only necessary because the US Navy had not fully trained (or equipped) its pilots in the essentials of close air combat. In effect, at least in the beginning, it might be considered a remedial course that taught US Navy pilots many of the tactics that the Israelis apparently learned years before, even though both countries were fighting air wars since 1966. The impact of Top Gun, within the limits of Vietnam, is frequently overstated. As Hallion enumerated, even with Top Gun graduates in the skies at the end of the war, the overall victory-loss ratio for all US Navy and US Air Force F-4 crews in Vietnam was still disappointing (it never topped 3.38: 1. The 12:1 ratio some pundits offer only applies to Top Gun graduates collectively, a very small number of men).

    That 3.38:1 ratio may not truly reflect the skills of the US Navy crews because it includes both Navy and Air Force F-4 crews, and the Air Force was slow to provide its pilots with advanced ACM training. Even if we discard the Rules of Engagement and SAM issues, Navy pilots in general lacked the training and weapons necessary to excel in close combat, and thus probably would not have achieved the same exchange ratios as the Israelis. And despite launching Top Gun, the top ace of the war was nevertheless a North Vietnamese pilot named Nguyen Van Coc, with nine air-to-air kills (including several F-4 Phantoms). All together, North Vietnam produced 16 aces, whereas the US Navy took seven years to produce its first and only ace team (pilot Lt. Randy “Duke” Cunningham and his Radar Intercept Officer, Lt. J.G. Willie Driscoll) who together were credited with five victories. The Vietnamese pilots had a certain advantage in that they stayed with their units and engaged in combat for longer periods of time than US Navy pilots. As we will see later, the relatively fast rotation of American pilots from unit to unit has been a serious problem. Cunningham and Driscoll earned distinction by shooting down three Migs in one day, but in turn were shot down that same day by a North Vietnamese SAM. Not exactly a Hollywood story, but they were the best the US Navy produced, and Cunningham was a Top Gun graduate.

    All this makes the US Navy look pretty bad in comparison to the Israelis, but is it a fair comparison? Some say that the two organizations and the conflicts they have engaged in are apples and oranges, and perhaps they are correct, at least to a certain extent. This does not let the US Navy off the hook, though, because it is also correct to say that the Israeli air combat record is second to none in the post-war era, whereas the US Navy’s record is considerably more mixed. Lehman was not just being kind when he said that the Israeli Air Force is “Damn good.” In the 1973, Yom Kippur War, “The Israeli Air Force had the fastest turnaround time from takeoff to takeoff of any nation on earth,” declared American author Rodger Claire. Analogously, the Israeli student pilots who converted to the F-16 in the late 1970s astounded their US mentors with their in-depth technical knowledge of the aircraft, and often knew more about what-was-to-them the brand new F-16 than the experienced American instructor pilots did. (This is not to say that the Israelis are supermen; indeed, in the Six Day War, Pakistani pilots flying Egyptian, Iraqi and Jordanian aircraft brought down 10 Israeli jets without suffering any losses.)

    Having said that, all in all, most analysts would concur that the Israelis have been highly successful. Contrarily, most analysts would also agree that US naval aviation has suffered many setbacks and humiliations over the years, and has had to open special schools to rectify its self-admitted deficiencies. Finally, it would be very difficult to accept that US naval aviators were or are better-trained than their Israeli peers, especially in 1983, and considering the massive funding provided to US Navy pilots, combined with their combat experience over Vietnam, this in itself should be a disappointment. This core issue here in an apparent inability or unwillingness to learn from mistakes in the long run. Once again, the Israelis have proven that a modern navy can and must adapt to new threats in a timely fashion. As Cockburn alluded, during the Six Day War, Israel lost one of its largest ships, a destroyer, to Egyptian anti-ship missiles. The Israeli Navy learned its lesson and promptly implemented a solution “by scrapping their few large destroyers and rebuilding their navy around small, fast, and highly maneuverable patrol boats.” Although the Israeli Navy is not in anyway comparable to the US Navy in terms of missions, responsibilities, or strategic purpose, this example does show that one navy is capable of intelligent and rapid change, even if it means sacrificing the greatest symbols of naval might available (Germany’s Admiral Donitz once thought about getting rid of his navy’s big surface ships too, but was talked out of it by his fellow admirals).

    Unlike Israel, Chile is not a great military powerhouse, but its air force is well trained, and they too have given the US Navy reason for pause. In the August 1989 issue of Air Combat magazine, author Jeffrey Ethell reported that Chilean Air Force pilots, flying the relatively unsophisticated but nimble F-5E, had trounced an American carrier air group (including F-14s) from the USS Independence in air combat exercises. The kill ratio was 56:16 in favor of the Chileans, and as one might expect, this incident did not receive much press coverage in the United States. The legendary Late Colonel John Boyd, USAF (Retired) was no fan of swing-wing airplanes like the USAF F-111 or the Navy’s F-14, and there was much criticism of the F-14 in his 2002 biography. “Hollywood and the movie Top Gun notwithstanding, the F-14 Tomcat is a lumbering, poor-performing, aerial truck. It weighs about fifty-four thousand pounds. Add on external fuel tanks and missiles and the weight is about seventy thousand pounds. It is what fighter pilots call a “grape”: squeeze it in a couple of hard turns and all the energy oozes out. That energy cannot be quickly regained, and the aircraft becomes an easy target. Navy admirals strongly discourage simulated battles between the F-14 and the latest Air Force fighters. But those engagements occasionally take place. And when they do, given pilots of equal ability, the F-14 always loses.” This observation tends to confirm what even CNO Admiral Ernest King, USN, quietly admitted in World War II, that land-based aircraft are, in fact, naturally “superior” to carrier-based planes.

    The F-14 is now fading into the pages of history, and it is being replaced by the F/A-18E/F Super Hornet. While certainly much newer than the F-14, the Super (expensive) Hornet is considered to be no improvement over the existing F/A-18C/D, or the F-14 itself, in fact in many parameters, it is actually less capable than its predecessors. Critics have roasted the new aircraft for its compromised “do-it-all-with-one-platform” philosophy, and in 1999, the US Marine Corps even stated that it would flat out refuse to buy the aircraft. Even compared to the stylish but overpraised F-14, the Super Hornet falls short in key areas. Consider payload and range, for example. Said Bob Kress and Rear Admiral Paul Gillcrist, US Navy (Retired) in 2002, “Though it's a whizzy little airshow performer with a nice, modern cockpit, it has only 36 percent of the F-14's payload/range capability. The F/A-18E Super Hornet has been improved but still has, at best, 50 percent of the F-14's capability to deliver a fixed number of bombs (in pounds) on target. This naturally means that the carrier radius of influence drops to 50 percent of what it would have been with the same number of F-14s. As a result, the area of influence (not radius) drops to 23 percent!”

    “The Super Hornet program is still not the performance champion among combat aircraft,” echoed another critic, Bill Sweetman, in 2004. “The F-15 and Rafale will carry more weapons and fly farther, and the Rafale, F-16, and Typhoon will out-accelerate and outmaneuver the F/A-18E/F at high speeds.” Stan Crock pontificated that a great many naval aviators appear to be quite unimpressed with the new airplane, and consider it a step backward, not forward: “‘If the Joint Strike Fighter dies,’” frets one airman, “‘we're stuck with the Super Hornet.’”

    One cannot talk about the overesteemed F-14 for very long without bringing up the movie that made it famous. Top Gun is just a movie, obviously, but it was made with the full cooperation of the US Navy, which then exploited its popularity to boost recruiting. “Indeed the Navy liked the film so much that Navy recruiters set up recruiting booths inside some theaters that were showing the film. According to the Navy, recruitment of young men wanting to become naval aviators went up 500 percent after the film was released,” said David L. Robb in his book Operation Hollywood: How the Pentagon Shapes and Censors the Movies. This being the case, it is probably fair to say that this film and the perceptions it created were quite influential in the United States. This movie was very much directed by the Pentagon, but Robb noted that most Americans “have no idea that the government has any say whatsoever in the content of films and TV shows.” But it does. In order to make use of Navy aircraft, bases, personnel, and such, movie producers must surrender some of their creative license to Navy officials who act, in effect, as script censors, removing scenes and dialog that might reflect poorly on the US Navy. When it comes to Hollywood productions, the Pentagon will indeed “change the facts to make the military look better than it really is.”

    In the case of Top Gun, the Navy nixed early story ideas about a mid-air collision and told the producers to change Kelly McGillis’ character (Charlotte) to a civilian so it would be safe for the Tom Cruise character (Maverick, a naval aviator) to court her. Curiously, though, several not-at-all favorable elements were left untouched and uncut by the Navy. Maverick, in his Navy uniform, followed Charlotte into a Ladies’ Room, and propositioned her. Maverick, a brilliant flyer, is depicted as emotionally unstable, unreliable, glory-seeking, sophomoric, insubordinate, undisciplined, ungentlemanly, immature, reckless, overly aggressive, and “dangerous and foolish.” Despite these massive character flaws, he is only slapped lightly on the wrist for his many, many transgressions, and nevertheless becomes a hero for his unpredictable flying skills. The US Navy apparently had no problem with this. No matter what Maverick tried to do, he always got away with it, and even got rewarded. To some cynics out there, this sounds reminiscent of the USS Vincennes incident, in which members of the crew received citations for shooting down an Iranian airliner. I will have more on that in due course.

    The relationship between Top Gun and the Navy goes far beyond recruiting, however, because as Oscar Wilde once said “Life imitates art far more than art imitates Life.” Case in point, said Diehl, is the behavior of Navy fighter pilots after Top Gun became a hit: “Navy Secretary John Lehman (himself a party-loving Navy flier) was once photographed congratulating Tom Cruise, star of the block-buster movie Top Gun. In the film, the Tom Cruise character flies the F-14 Tomcat at the Navy’s elite fighter weapons school. Cruise’s character repeatedly takes chances, such as buzzing an air traffic control tower. He enjoys being called dangerous and flies “at the edge.” Unfortunately, the real Tomcat fliers would try to emulate this devil-may-care Hollywood image. The F-14 mishap rates would more than double in the years following the movie’s release – in numerous not-so-great balls of fire, to borrow from the Jerry Lee Lewis song in the soundtrack.”

    There are other things one will not see a Pentagon-controlled movie like Top Gun. Take the French Navy, for example. Often the subject of great derision in America, which is quite bizarre in that French ships, ground forces, and gunpowder proved instrumental in defeating the British during the American Revolution, and as John Lehman said “the origins of the U.S. Navy owe much more to the French Navy than to the Royal Navy,” the French Navy recently also scored some points against US Navy fighters. In December 2002, a French magazine reported that Rafales from Squadron 12F tangled with American F-14s and F-18s from the USS Theodore Roosevelt, and the combat-proven US Navy planes got their money’s worth out of the novice French fighter: “According to the 12F pilots, the low-speed maneuverability of the Rafale surprised their American counterparts. ‘Results were positive,’ modestly adds Lieutenant Commander (Philippe) Roux…. ‘Our training focused on close combat, which emphasizes the Rafale’s maneuverability, including rate of turn, turning radius, acceleration, deceleration and vertical maneuvers… The Rafale proved superior in each of these areas. The American F-14s and F-18s are proven, high-performance machines, and their crews know them inside-out, but they are still previous generation planes.”

    US naval aviation is having trouble these days, even against the allegedly inferior French military, but the fact is that US naval aviation has had serious deficiencies for many years. In 2000, Burns rued “We are a much less effective force than we were seven or eight years ago.” “At the start of the Kosovo conflict, says Burns, who at the time was stationed at the Strike Weapons Tactics School in Virginia Beach, U.S. Navy pilots hadn't been trained in using laser-guided weapons. ‘That's why we had such high miss rates in the opening phases of the war. We had to dispatch someone [to tutor pilots] in laser-guided bomb delivery techniques.’ Burns, who retired in 1999, says that when he last served on the Eisenhower in the Mediterranean, the carrier was ‘undermanned’ by 450 to 500 sailors. ‘They didn't have enough people to keep the [approach] radar fully manned at all times.’ If the weather closed in, he adds, someone would have to be sent down to the bunkroom to wake up a radar operator. ‘The Navy says operations are safe. But they aren't safe. Planes were running out of gas and they couldn't come on board.’ Flight training hours have been cut back so much, says Burns, that the last time his carrier fighter squadron went on deployment, its aviators were only getting 10 to 15 hours a month.”

    Given the latitudinous foibles, inconstancies, and multiple Achilles Heels already documented in US naval aviation, it may not be terribly preternatural that a few contemporary naval aviators now actually bestow great esteem on their historic rival, the USAF. Commander Bob Norris, US Navy, flew F-18s in the Navy and also did a three-year exchange in the USAF, flying F-15s. When asked if an aspiring fighter pilot should go to the Naval Academy or the Air Force Academy in Colorado, he actually encouraged the prospect to consider the USAF. Incredibly, for a naval officer, Norris was quite enthusiastic about the USAF: “The USAF is exceptionally well organized and well run. All pilots are groomed to high standards for knowledge and professionalism… Their aircraft are top-notch and extremely well maintained… Their enlisted personnel are the brightest and the best trained. The USAF is homogenous and macro. No matter where you go, you’ll know what to expect, and you’ll be given the training and tools you need to meet those expectations.” The Navy, he said is “heterogeneous and micro… Your squadron is your home; it may be great, average or awful. A squadron can go from one extreme to the other before you know it… The quality of the aircraft varies directly with the availability of parts. Senior Navy enlisted are salt of the Earth; you’ll be proud if you can earn their respect. Junior enlisted vary from terrific to the troubled kid the judge made join the service… The quality of training will vary and sometimes you’ll be in over your head…” The only truly positive aspect of flying in the Navy, according to Norris, was that “You will fly with legends and they will kick your ass until you become a lethal force.” So, in Norris’ opinion, unlike the US Navy, USAF training and aircraft are consistently excellent, and USAF enlisted people are better trained than Navy personnel. “Bottom line, son, if you gotta ask… pack warm & good luck in Colorado.”

    Major Gregory Stroud, Arizona ANG, a former Navy pilot, “jumped ship” to fly F-16s in the Air National Guard in 1988, and he too was less than exuberant about naval aviation. Major Stroud has the great distinction of graduating from both the Navy Top Gun course and the Air Force Fighter Weapons School, and his comparison of the two courses was not flattering to the Navy. “The F-16A School (Air Force) was a much more comprehensive and difficult school which takes five months to complete and covers every tactic and mission the F-16 is capable of… Top Gun was fun and easy in comparison.”

    Lack of Training, Overrated Technology, Bad Policies, and Technocratic Leadership

    Despite its vastly superior numbers, resources and weapons, the US Navy, the world’s only true heavyweight navy, continually fails to vanquish welterweight and lightweight naval powers. This would indicate that training and good officers, not big, expensive ships, are the key to naval power. It is training, or lack thereof, that truly undermines the performance of the US Navy. For example, even though the United States maintains the largest submarine fleet in the world (because the Russian fleet is mostly tied up at dockside), American submariners do not currently receive escape training. The Canadian submarine force has only 4 boats, and yet it has the most advanced submarine escape training facility in the world. In November 2003, it was reported that the US Navy was considering sending its submariners to Canada for escape training. (According to Karam, the US Navy closed its free ascent training facility, but even if it had been open during his tour of duty in the late 1980s, he, a “Nuke,” would not have received such training because the US Navy apparently felt that only the non-nuke sailors needed it). It is rather strange that the biggest, richest kid on the block might need to go to his poor cousin’s kid’s house to swim in his pool.

    At this point, some skeptics will say “What about the accident on HMCS Chicoutimi and the complaints from former submarine offices that Canadian submariners in the early 2000s spent too much time in simulators and alongside rather than at sea?” The lack of sea time, I agree, is a serious deficiency that owes itself to inexcusable government stonewalling over the replacement of the Oberon boats, but strangely there is no evidence that this was responsible for the Chicoutimi accident. In that instance, questions about the captain’s judgment were the primary issue, and why he was not relieved of command, but he was later absolved. (He ordered two hatches opened simultaneously to conduct repairs, but he broke no rules since he posted men to monitor the hatches and the sea state, which, for the first thirty minutes, was calm enough to take the risk; a freak wave caused the flooding). Although the Canadian Navy has had its share of problems, accidents, and embarrassments, as Compton-Hall said Canadian submarines traditionally have been “well equipped, well manned and well trained,” recent problems notwithstanding. And although the captain of the Chicoutimi was not relieved of command, thankfully he did not receive a medal, whereas the skipper of the USS Nautilus was both relieved of command and given a medal stemming from a collision with an aircraft carrier in 1966.

    One of the reasons why Canadian submariners, over the last forty years, seem to be more knowledgeable about their boats than their American nuclear peers is because diesel boats are simpler to operate and possibly because the average Canadian submariner, generally speaking, has been more seasoned, especially the junior ranks. For example, in the 1989 PBS documentary “Submarine: Steel Boats, Iron Men,” it was mentioned that most of the enlisted sailors at Submarine School in Groton, Connecticut were “just a few months out of school,” and very young. The Canadian submariners, in contrast, “usually have three to five years of surface experience before moving to subs.” Needless to say, serving on a destroyer is not direct preparation for the world of submarines, but it helps to ensure that the younger submariners are mature and reliable enough to better handle the rigors of submarine life because they have already proven themselves to be competent seamen elsewhere. It is possible that this experience and maturity may have helped to compensate for the temporarily extensive use of simulators vice sea training. In any case, the training problems faced by the Canadian Submarine Service right now are arguably temporary, transitional, and atypical, whereas the US Navy’s training problems are more likely to be long-term, cultural, systemic, recurring, and certainly not due to a lack of funding. The US Navy’s training problems can also be attributed more generally to arrogance, complacency, and an over-emphasis on high technology. I will come back to this point momentarily.

    Many US Navy personnel will say that the number of days spent underway (“steaming days”) per year is strongly correlated with the overall combat readiness of a navy, and by that standard the US Navy does very well. Yet, if the number of steaming days in itself is a true stand-alone way to evaluate readiness, then probably the best-trained navy in NATO in the late 1990s was the pocket-sized Belgian Navy. In 1996, a US Navy officer visited a Belgian ship during exercises in the Baltic Sea, and reported that “Belgian sailors seem never to stop sailing,” averaging 280 steaming days a year. The following year, the US Navy average for deployed ships in the Atlantic was only about 200 steaming days, and in 1990, authors Dunnigan and Nofi rated the Royal Navy’s overall seamanship as superior to that of the US Navy. Belgian pilots do quite well also; in 1982 Kaplan related that “In NATO exercises, Belgian F16 pilots consistently ‘shot down’ American F15 pilots.”

    The US Navy opines that its officers and crews are the most professional in the world, yet media reports have indicated a startling number of American ship commanders have been fired or suspended in recent years, including the captain of the carrier John F. Kennedy, whose ship collided with a small dhow in the Persian Gulf in 2004. Accidents happen in every navy, but in his discussion on why so many US Navy commanders are getting fired, Raymond Perry said “I believe that the spate of CO firings is an indicator of the decline of professional warfighting skills of naval officers.” Perry, who served for 29 years as an officer, said that when he was at the US Naval Academy in the 1950s, one of his professors observed “operational competence was no longer a true priority in the US military.” That was more than forty years ago, and not much has changed since. Both the professor and Perry argued that then and now, political maneuvering and impressing the brass take priority over war-fighting skills in the peacetime US Navy. Many conscientious officers quietly agree with them. The reason why careerism runs rampant among US Navy officers is directly related to the Navy’s “Up or Out” policy, enacted in 1916, and used in all branches of the US military. This system, unlike those used in other English-speaking navies, requires US Navy officers to be promoted “on schedule” or face early retirement. This in turn creates insecurity, competition, a desire for impossible perfection, a zero-defects mentality, which applies to everyone except the crew of the USS Vincennes (more on this in a minute), and ticket-punching taken to almost absurd levels. It also ensures that some of the Navy’s most experienced and mature officers will be lost to the civilian world because, after all, only a very few officers in any navy will ever make flag rank. Even Defense Secretary Rumsfeld called the US Navy’s officer promotion policy “lousy” in 2003, yet it remains in place at the time of writing. This is a systemic problem.

    In addition, one should also recall the attack on the USS Stark and the shoddy damage control procedures used by her crew, the accidental and inexcusable attack on an Iranian airliner by the USS Vincennes, and the more recent collision between the nuclear submarine USS Greeneville and a Japanese vessel. When the Japanese government found out that untrained civilian guests were actually at the controls of the Greenville before the collision, they were most undiplomatic. “It is outrageous. The US Navy is slack,” said the Japanese Defence Agency Chief Toshitsugu Saito in response. Also note that the Japanese have gone through this before: “In 1981, the nuclear submarine USS George Washington, en route to a liberty port, hastily surfaced in the East China Sea. It rammed and sank a Japanese freighter. Unbelievably, the sub did not report this collision until the next day.”

    Paul Beaver, Military Editor at Jane’s Defence Weekly, told National Public Radio’s Lisa Simeone in 2001 that the US Navy is quite probably the only navy in the world that has a “civilian ride-along program.” Although civilians can visit British and Canadian warships, for example, they may only do so when the ships are at dockside, and they must leave the ships before they get underway. He added that Britain’s Royal Navy would never even consider such a ride-along program because of the inherent risks involved.

    Regarding the Vincennes incident, former Chicago Tribune military correspondent Lieutenant Colonel David Evans, USMC (Retired), said it was "An operationally inept tragedy that caused the loss of 290 civilians, when the skipper had electronic (transponder) evidence that the 'target' was not an Iranian F-14 but a commercial airliner, not to mention that the captain was in Iranian territorial waters, where he had no business being since he was not under attack. Many US Navy officers feared this sort of thing could happen, calling their apprehension a case of 'Aegis arrogance.'" Even though nearly 300 innocent civilians were killed, the captain of the Vincennes, who also ignored a direct order to hold her position, was soon decorated with the Legion of Merit for “exceptionally meritorious conduct in the performance of an outstanding service."

    After the USS Vincennes outrage, many agreed that the US Navy is fundamentally flawed in a number of cogent areas, and many wondered about the Navy’s so-called “wonder” technology. Actually, many believe that the US military’s claims of a vast “technological edge” over other countries are lacking in substance. Captain Larry Seaquist, US Navy (Retired) said in the 1993 book War and Anti-War that the United States “has no technological monopoly in virtually anything… I’ve never found anyone to respond to my challenge to name three technologies which are under the exclusive control of the U.S. military. There’s nothing left.” In their controversial 1991 book, The Coming War With Japan, authors Friedman and Lebard argued that “the Japanese are in the forefront of high technology maritime construction,” that Japanese destroyers are the equals of US Navy ships (of course, Japan had access to US technology to accomplish this, however, it is rather unlikely that the US would sell Japan sensitive military technology unless US officials knew the Japanese already had the wherewithal to develop it themselves), and that “in certain technologies, such as electronics miniaturization – useful in advanced avionics, and fire-control systems, Japan is ahead of the United States.” They also they described Japan’s indigenously designed Type 90 main battle tank as “the finest main battle tank in the world,” and that it would be a very dangerous opponent for the American M-1 Abrams tank.

    Not only is the US Navy’s technological lead over others now largely illusory, that very technology can certainly be a weakness and not a strength, especially against a low technology enemy. For example, in the late 1980s and early 1990s, the US Navy, along with many other high technology military organizations, faced a potentially debilitating supply problem related to memory chips. At that stage, the US Navy had become almost totally dependent on Japan for semiconductors, and as TV journalist John Chancellor put it in 1991, “These tiny chips are needed for everything from supercomputers to jet aircraft, and makers of the most sophisticated electronic equipment, including military contractors, must depend on Japan for supplies. You can’t run today’s world without chips, but more and more, the United States, including its military, is dependent on Japan.”

    One Japanese politician even said that if Japan decided to sell its memory chips to the Soviet Union rather than the US, the balance of power would have been jeopardized. Thankfully for the US military, the Japanese gradually lost their stranglehold on the semiconductor market, and the American industry rebounded. Notwithstanding this, for a time, the US Navy was almost completely dependent on its former enemy for essential computer hardware, and this supply weakness could theoretically have been exploited by adversaries. Obviously, the US (and all its high technology allies) would have needed to maintain a very good relationship with the officially pacifistic Japanese if they had to fight a protracted war during that era. A small, highly mobile, low technology enemy who had the savvy to exploit a falling-out between the US and Japan could have been very dangerous indeed. An unlikely scenario, yes, but still possible and plausible.

    Even with a steady supply of semiconductors, the US Navy’s technology has not always been universally admired. In the early 1990s, for instance, the US Navy was one of more than 30 navies that visited South Africa. The Chief of the South African Navy kept careful notes on all the visiting warships, and the admiral gave the highest points for technology and personnel to the navy that impressed him the most. The winner was not the US Navy, nor the Royal Navy, nor any of the other usual suspects. Instead, the South African admiral gave the top honors to the modest and understated navy of America’s northern neighbor, Canada, for reasons that will be detailed below. This honor confirmed what many knowledgeable and worldly naval experts already knew about the Canadian Navy, whose ships regularly outmatch US Navy warships.

    US Navy officers fawned over the new Canadian Patrol Frigates in the late 1990s, frequently stating that they were, in most respects, better than US frigates and destroyers. In a July 1997 report by the US-based Center for Security Strategies and Operations (CSSO), the Canadian Halifax-class frigates were compared to similar vessels from five allied nations. The CSSO argued that the Canadian ship had better self-defense systems than US ships because of its unique “completely automated combat system.” “Of all the frigates analyzed the Halifax class emphasizes survivability to the greatest extent,” the report declared. “The Halifax is the only frigate analyzed that has an advanced, state-of-the-art, fully distributed combat system with a distributed command and control system linked by redundant data buses.” The Canadian ship was also rated the highest in ASW capability. The US periodical Forecast International chimed in by stating that “…the Halifax class frigates have matured into fine warships. The lead ship of the class has been the subject of unstinting praise from the US Navy, following visits to American naval bases.” In 2004, Wajsman recorded that the Canadian ships have a communication system that is “The envy of many NATO countries. It allows calls to be made from a compact console to anywhere on the ship or to anywhere in the world at the touch of a button. And it operates with multiple inter-face capability.” He also said that the Canadian Zodiac fixed hull light boats are the finest in the world, and that the CANTASS system remains “highly regarded” in the international arena. These achievements are a major coup for a navy with only 9,000 sailors and a 1998-1999 budget of less than $1.5 billion (US).

    If one compares the Halifax-class frigate to the US Navy’s premiere destroyer, the Arleigh Burke-class, the Halifax arguably has some distinct advantages in ASW. For example, all the Halifax-class ships have a world-class towed array sonar system, whereas only the first flight of the Arleigh Burke-class ships have a towed array. All the Halifax-class ships have an embarked ASW helicopter (the CH-124 Sea King), which, although quite old and in dire need of a replacement, is large, fully autonomous and able to search for and attack submarines independently. Only the updated version of the American ship (the Flight IIA version) has embarked ASW helicopters, but the Americans prefer not to use their ASW helicopters as autonomous assets but rather as tethered extensions of the mother ships. For ASW, the US Navy LAMPS III SH-60 Seahawk helicopters relay acoustic data back to the ship for processing and receive operational directions from the ship through a datalink, which in wartime could be vulnerable to failure, jamming or spoofing. In doing so, the US Navy LAMPS III helicopter crews are quite limited in taking the initiative, and are not true “force multipliers” like the autonomous helicopters of the British and Canadian navies. Interestingly, although the Canadian Forces make great efforts to remain inter-operable with their American brethren, the US Navy Seahawk failed to impress Canadian officers during the recently completed competition to replace the Sea King. With some exceptions, Canadian senior officers much preferred the European-designed EH-101 Merlin over the American models, but were compelled to accept the Sikorsky H-92 (a larger and improved version of the Seahawk) because the more powerful and capable Merlin was too expensive.

    Talbott also referenced over-manning and over-specialization in the US Navy, and a prime example of both is the Blue Angels. The US Navy boasts that the Blue Angels flight and maintenance teams are the world’s best, but when one examines their bloated, overly specialized maintenance team, one really has to wonder. The Blue Angels perform with only six F-18 jets, whereas the Canadian Snowbirds fly nine Tutors, which are much older. The Canadian team flies more airplanes, but still manages with a much smaller maintenance team. The Blue Angels have approximately 100 technicians, but the Snowbirds have only about ten. American technicians are very specialized, and as a result they need lots of them to do the same job that just one Canadian technician can do. This does not sound like an efficient or cost-effective arrangement, to say the least. Said Master Corporal Frank Gough, Canadian Forces, in 1993, “We have only five major trades which work on the aircraft. We have people who are more diverse and they can work on many systems at the same time.” Corporal Wes Cochrane (US equivalent E-3), an Aero-Engine Technician in the Canadian Forces, told Air Force magazine that US Navy aircraft technicians are awestruck when they meet Canadian technicians to compare skill sets and training. “They’re surprised when they hear me list off the systems that I’m qualified to work on: the engines, drive-train, fuel systems, flight controls, hydraulic systems, and so on. They’re quite amazed,” Cochrane related. Withal, some Canadian Forces aviation technicians have said that a Canadian Private (US equivalent: E-2) is comparable to an American E-6 in terms of their knowledge of aircraft systems.

    I do not like saying this, as members of my family have been attached to the US Navy, but poorly trained and inexperienced personnel are evident in many US Navy units these days. Williscroft said crewmembers of the USS Independence were “poorly trained” in 1998, and this, combined with broken-down equipment, impaired her readiness. Captain Ronald H. Henderson, Jr., US Navy, who took over command of the Kennedy after she failed her INSURV readiness inspection in 2001, had harsh words for some former members of the ship’s company, especially the chiefs and officers. “It was clear to me that there were a few chiefs in Kennedy who were, in fact, incompetent. But there were a lot of chiefs who weren’t getting any support from the chain of command,” he noted. His predecessor, Captain Maurice Joyce, US Navy, was relieved of his command, as was the ship’s chief engineer. “What makes me really upset is when we make the same stupid mistake over and over again,” admonished Henderson.

    Stupid mistakes are easy to make when a ship has an inexperienced and undertrained crew. Said Henderson of the Kennedy crew in late 2003, “45 percent of my crew has never been to sea, ever, in any ship, on any ocean.” In 1999, Dorsey reported that 50% of the officers on the destroyer USS Arthur W Radford (a ship that suffered a serious collision) were just ensigns, the lowest-ranking and least experienced officers in the Navy. A 2002 study by the RAND Corporation confirmed that the experience levels of US Navy personnel do not compare favorably with French Navy and British Royal Navy and Royal Air Force (RAF) personnel. The study compared the skills and experience of US Navy F-18 pilots with RAF Tornado pilots and French Navy Super Etendard aviators, and found that “The British and French pilots have greater experience levels and more continuity in their units than the U.S. pilots.” In the same vein, a visit to a US Navy F-18 squadron by defense analyst Franklin Spinney in 1994 revealed “deteriorating readiness” and alarming training deficiencies. “According to the squadron commander, pilot training (particularly for those junior officers embarking on their first cruise) was barely adequate prior to the deployment… Furthermore, over the last 12 months of the cycle (the last six months of workup plus the six months on cruise), junior officers averaged 100 instead of the normal 120 carrier ‘traps’”. Another report issued in January 2000 confirmed that US Navy pilot skill levels in general were declining at the Navy’s air combat training facility at Fallon, Nevada. As the author noted, “Because incoming pilots are less proficient, Fallon basically uses its first week of flight training to bring pilots up to where they should be.”

    The RAND study also compared American P-3 Orion crews and DDG-51 destroyer crews with their French and British ASW counterparts and concluded once again that the American ASW crews were, on average, the least experienced and the least cohesive. The French and British units were more cohesive and provided greater continuity because “While the typical career pattern for U.S. Navy officers takes them away from the operational ship world to various headquarters and staff assignments, French and British naval officers may stay in the operational community throughout their careers.” One of the main reasons for this lack of continuity is that career US Navy officers are required, by law, to complete “Joint Duty” assignments (in the other branches of the armed forces), which as Perry said in 2005, require “specific education… and years spent away from an officer’s chosen specialty. My own experience has confirmed that this significantly reduces an officer’s available time for professional development in his critical specialty…” Perry also said this was a key factor in the recent and nearly catastrophic accident involving the nuclear submarine USS San Francisco. The CO of the badly damaged ship, which collided with a seamount, he suggested, did not have “enough time on the pond” because of the joint duty obligation. Here we have yet another systemic problem that interferes with training to add to the list.

    US Navy enlisted men are also rather frequently shuffled from unit to unit, and new sailors have shorter enlistment contracts than do their counterparts in the French and British navies. The result is low standards of training and professionalism. The constant shuffling or rotation of personnel in the US Navy was a great concern to Gabriel, who said that it prevents people from becoming experts. “Most American officers,” he decried, “are amateurs… Amateurism is, of course, directly associated with rotational turbulence. Officers who move frequently are just about reaching a level of expertise where they can stop learning their job and carry out their tasks effectively when it is time to move to another assignment.” Captain Neil Byrne, US Navy (Retired) said much the same thing in 2001, and Captain Larry Seaquist, US Navy (Retired) also pointed out that during the course of any given year, the average US Navy warship will replace 50% of her crew with newcomers.

    The report also observed that unlike the British and the French forces, US Navy aviation units do not maintain consistent readiness to go into battle throughout the fiscal year. As Scott Shuger said, “Amazingly, it’s not uncommon for navy squadrons to cut back their flight hours drastically or even to be grounded due to the scarcity of aviation fuel near the end of the fiscal quarter. This even happens to squadrons already at sea. Several times during my carrier service we had to drop anchor and wait for more fuel money.” In 2000, an anonymous Navy officer informed Dougherty that during a recent exercise in Asia “five U.S. warships – including the flagship for the U.S. Seventh Fleet—(were) restricted from getting underway due to steaming-dollar shortfalls.” This inconsistent readiness is due to the US Navy’s rigid deployment cycle system and its “training philosophy.” The authors concluded that this “readiness bathtub” has “caused concern at the Chief of Naval Operations level.” The French and British do not have this problem because they do not use “fixed deployment and training cycles” and also because they strive to have their naval and air units consistently ready for combat at all times of the year. Spinney, on the other hand, verified that US Navy carrier-based squadrons receive no combat training at all for the first two months after returning from a cruise, during which “flying operations are limited to maintenance check rides and instrument flight/airways navigation training.”

    Low Morale, Racism, Drugs, Sabotage, plus a few Illiterates and Felons

    "The US Navy is now confronted with pressures...which, if not controlled, will surely destroy its enviable tradition of discipline. Recent instances of sabotage, riot, willful disobedience of orders, and contempt for authority...are clear-cut symptoms of a dangerous deterioration of discipline."
    - The House Armed Services Committee’s statement on the US Navy in the early 1970s

    There are several other factors that must be considered in evaluating the readiness of the US Navy. Although most American sailors are decent and hard-working, over the years, a significant number of them have proven to be not only unreliable, but actually detrimental to combat readiness. During the Vietnam era, the combination of institutionalized racism against black sailors, a long unpopular war, and an over-worked fleet, contributed to serious morale problems, violence aboard ships, disruptions of operations, mutiny and sabotage. In 1971, “The Navy reported almost 500 cases of arson, sabotage, or willful destruction on its ships, while 1000 sailors on the USS Coral Sea petitioned Congress to stop its cruise to Vietnam. These ‘flattop revolts’ expanded the next year, as sailors signed petitions or disrupted operations on the Kitty Hawk, Oriskany, Ticonderoga, America, and Enterprise. Sabotage on the Ranger and Forrestal prevented their scheduled port departures while pilots became increasingly concerned about their role in the bombing campaign and questioned the war openly.” The USS Ranger, one of the mightiest warships in the world at the time, was taken out of action for more than three months, and all it took was a single disgruntled US Navy sailor to do it (who was later acquitted). Suspected sabotage has also been detected on nuclear submarines in the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s, including the famous USS Nautilus (apparently on more than once occasion), and the USS Spadefish, again, more than once.

    These issues are strongly related to an overall lack of motivation. It is safe to say that most sailors in western navies join because their respective navies offer job security, training, and opportunities for travel and advancement. This is true in the US Navy also, but there was one major difference between US Navy sailors and other professional navy men, at least during the 1960s and early 1970s. As Freeman pointed out in his book about the disastrous fire that broke out on the USS Forrestal in 1967, most of the young sailors on the ship went into the Navy simply because they did not want to get drafted into the Army and sent to Vietnam. Many of these young American sailors hated the military and never wanted to join the Navy, but felt compelled to do so to avoid more dangerous duty elsewhere. Like the National Guard and Reserve forces, the US Navy was considered a safe and legal choice for those who wanted to avoid direct combat. In effect, they were, in a manner of speaking, voluntarily “conscripted” into the Navy so that they would not be involuntarily conscripted into the Army. This provides some additional context for understanding why the US Navy had so many personnel problems in the Vietnam era. During this time, it is fair to say that although every navy has malcontents, the US Navy had much more than its usual share. For these unmotivated US Navy sailors, sabotage and protests were just a means of registering their dissatisfaction with the draft, and all things military.

    Sabotage is not a major problem these days, but every so often, someone does not want to go to sea for yet another six month deployment, and so sabotage pops up from time to time. In a recent case that the Navy called one of “national security,” an American submariner was convicted of 23 counts of “property destruction, conspiracy, theft, obstruction of justice, and drug use.” In 2001, Petty Officer 2nd Class Ernesto Cimmino, US Navy, admitted he sabotaged the nuclear ballistic missile submarine USS Alaska just “for the rush.” All US Navy personnel serving aboard submarines carrying strategic nuclear weapons are supposed to undergo a most thorough and rigorous screening process, including very intrusive background checks and constant monitoring and surveillance by shipmates and superiors to ensure high reliability and good character. Somehow, Cimmino managed to slip through the cracks of the system. In addition to being a saboteur and a drug user, he was also an adulterer (his girlfriend was the wife of another sailor), a thief, and generally a man with little common sense. When he found out that the Navy suspected him of sabotaging the Alaska, he actually “telephoned investigators to ask if the Navy had caught him on videotape cutting cables and wanting to know if polygraph results could be admitted in a court martial.” Cimmino plea-bargained the 23 counts, which could have earned him 300 years in prison down, almost unbelievably, to just five. In some other countries, such as China, such crimes by a sailor would almost certainly invite the death penalty.

    Sabotage by American sailors has been a powerful and recurring guest character in the ongoing story of the US Navy (I am now looking into the issue of sabotage in the Royal Navy, the Royal Canadian Navy, and the Royal Australian Navy since World War II, but have not as yet found anything substantial or concrete on the public record that would match the events described in the US Navy, especially during the draft and the Vietnam eras), but racism, as the Late Admiral Elmo R. Zumwalt, US Navy, posited, was an “integral part of the Navy tradition” until the early 1970s, and perhaps even later. Certainly the institutionalized racism that rocked the fleet in the early 1970s is thankfully no longer so common, blatant or obvious. Race relations are much better now in the US Navy, but individual racism and inequality still linger. In 1979, for example, the Pentagon became concerned about Ku Klux Klan activities in the Navy. “The warning was borne out later that summer in the Mediterranean Sea when three white sailors wearing white sheets and hoods touched off a ‘black power’ demonstration aboard the carrier USS Independence. The Klan reportedly had members on two other Atlantic Fleet ships,” said the Newport News Daily Press.

    Despite the progress made in race relations, a 1999 survey indicated that racial discrimination was still a serious issue for many black and minority sailors in the US Navy. The survey included members of all branches of the US military, and found that 75% of black service members had experienced “racially offensive” encounters with other service members or non-military Department of Defense employees in the previous year. The findings for black navy personnel were very disquieting, and suggest that the US Navy still has a long way to go before it can claim to be free of racism. For example, “Barely half of all blacks in the navy believe their immediate supervisors have made ‘honest and reasonable efforts’ to stop racial discrimination in the service. Only 36 percent of blacks and 48 percent of all sailors believe their command enforced penalties for discriminatory acts.” Moreover, “Sixty-two percent of blacks in all services believe the military has paid too little attention to racial discrimination in recent years…” Undoubtedly this survey is an indication of morale problems among black and other minority sailors.

    In the US Navy today, racial inequality persists to a much greater extent than does deliberate, systemic racism, with the possible exception of the SEAL teams, where black officers have complained bitterly about widespread racism as recently as 2001. That same year, Waller noted that the officers and chiefs on the ballistic missile submarine USS Nebraska were “almost lily-white. The lower enlisted ranks had about the same percentage of minorities as in the civilian world, but there was only two African-Americans among the Nebraska’s thirty-three officers and chiefs, a demographic found in the upper ranks of most subs.”

    Some will be shocked to know that some of the preconditions that helped lead to violence on the USS Kitty Hawk in the 1970s still exist today. In their highly controversial account of life on the Kitty Hawk, published in 2002, journalists Roland Watson and Glen Owen wrote “Boarding [the ship] is like entering a time warp back to the former Deep South. In the bowels of the carrier, where the crew are cooped up for six months at a time, manual workers sleep dozens to a room. Most are black or Puerto Rican… Officers exist in almost total ignorance of the teeming world beneath them, passing around second-hand tales of murders, gang-fights, and drug abuse.” Black and other minority sailors still do much of the dirty work in the Navy, while mostly white officers (with a few notable exceptions) fly the glamorous jet planes and command the ships.

    If one compares the US Army to the Navy, one finds that the Army has proportionately far more black officers. In Fiscal Year 2004, for example, the Army calculated that 22.7% of its personnel were black, as were a like number of the officers, 22.5% (roughly 12% of the US population is black). The Navy, sadly, was very different. In the final quarter of Fiscal 2004, black personnel constituted 19.54% of the Navy, but only 7.7% of the officers. For every black lieutenant commander, there are 11 whites. Moving upward through the Navy's hierarchy, we find that for every black commander there are 20 whites, and every black captain is outnumbered by a 23:1 ratio. Even now, in the twenty-first century, almost unbelievably, 95.91% of US Navy admirals are white, (as are 100% of the four-star admirals) whereas only 3.18% are black, and most of them are two-star admirals, thus producing a white/black flag rank ratio of more than 30:1. (One of the very few admirals who is also a visible minority (American Indian), Rear Admiral Michael L. Holmes, US Navy, was an exchange officer in my late father's squadron, and used to live down the street from me.) Notice the pattern? The explanation for this imbalance that grows more pronounced and obvious at each successive level, all the way to the top, is probably very complicated and multi-faceted, but in the real world, appearances (or disappearances) do matter a great deal. This vertical racial asymmetry does suggest or imply a continuing dimension of racial inequality in the US Navy, and one cannot avoid concluding that the US Army really seems to be doing a better job in this area.

    Racism is not unique to America, nor to the US Navy, but as compared to other countries, attempts to combat racism in the Navy have been somewhat weak. Consider the example of the Canadian Airborne Regiment and the murder of a Somali boy in the early 1990s. When the news broke that there were indeed racists, not just murderers, in the unit, the Canadian government did far more then simply punish the murderers -- it disbanded the entire unit! A draconian and unfair measure, yes, but no one can say now that the Canadian Forces treat criminals and racists with kid gloves.

    In the past six years there has also been compelling evidence of serious morale problems among Navy junior officers. “In the fall of 1999,” reported Jack Spencer of the Heritage Foundation, “the Navy surveyed its junior officers to gauge morale. They expected a 15 percent response rate, but, to their surprise, over 55 percent of those surveyed responded. Of these responses, 82 percent responded negatively. Citing poor leadership, inadequate pay and compensation, and insufficient spare parts and equipment, only one-third said they planned to reenlist.” Notice that the primary reason listed for low morale is “poor leadership,” which, one might suspect, is a nice way of saying “bad senior officers and bad politicians, in that order.”

    Another problem is the US Navy’s low educational standards for enlisted sailors. In 1977, “30 percent of all Navy recruits read below the 9th Grade level, although the majority were high school graduates.” Former Navy Secretary Lehman also submitted that in the late 1970s the US Navy enrolled recruits “who were illiterate, convicted felons, drug users, and worse.” In 1985, Gabriel wrote that “the quality of personnel tends to be low” in the US Navy. The admirals gloried about their “high quality” all-volunteer force in the late 1980s and early 1990s, but in 1993 it was reported that the Navy still had thousands of sailors who could not read material designed for a junior high school audience. The Navy confessed that despite its efforts to attract high quality people, “a quarter of their recruits can’t handle manuals geared to a ninth grade reading level.” Even though the vast majority of American sailors today are high school graduates, it must not be forgotten that due to low standards in the US public school system, “American high school graduates are among the least intellectually competent in the industrialized world.”

    Correspondingly, and predictably, “Americans are at or near the bottom in most international surveys measuring educational achievement,” especially in math and science. American universities, with some very notable exceptions, are not much better than the high schools as regards producing intellectually competent graduates. With the exception of certain Ivy League schools (but not all of them) and a few others, American universities are generally not very selective. Almost anyone in the US with a high school diploma (and the money to pay for it) can gain admission to a college or a university because many US institutions of higher learning actually have very low standards. “A College Board survey of 2,600 colleges showed that only forty percent required any minimum grade point average for admission and only thirty percent set minimum cut-off scores on the SAT,” said Anelauskas. And while fewer than 10 percent of US high school graduate applicants will get accepted into Harvard, Anelauskas commented that European schools are even more demanding. “According to literacy studies by the National Assessment of Educational Progress, fewer than five percent of American high school graduates would meet the entrance standards of European universities.”

    Even some people who graduate from US colleges have very poor reading and critical reasoning skills (and apparently, at a least of few of them have managed to become officers in the US Navy. Karam noted that one of the junior officers on his ship was “barely literate,” and needed his help writing reports). This crisis in education was illustrated well in recent studies by researchers at the Educational Testing Service. According to one of the researchers, “the literacy levels of U.S. college graduates ‘range from a lot less then impressive, to mediocre, to near alarming,’” and as Anelauskas surmised: “Surely if illiterate persons can graduate from American universities, it is not far-fetched to say that something is uniquely wrong with the American education system.” According to the The Times Higher Education Supplement of November 5, 2004, 35 of the 100 top rated universities in the world are in the US, but as Professor David VandeLinde of Bath University has said, there are tremendous variations in quality throughout the US system, and we must temper this statement with the knowledge that the world’s 100 worst universities are probably also American.

    Even the world’s top-rated research university, Harvard, is thought to be quite overrated, particularly as regards the quality of teaching in undergraduate programs. Said Harvard graduate Ross Gregory Douthat in 2005, “Harvard is a terrible mess of a place…,” there is an “overall ease and lack of seriousness in Harvard’s undergraduate culture…,” and finally, Harvard, like many traditional, accredited, so-called “real” universities in the US, has become more of a degree factory than a school. With many unbelievably easy classes, and almost everyone (as of 2001, 91% of the seniors) graduating with honors, this university, he said, “was not a refuge of genius and sanctuary of intellect” at all, but often an expensive adjunct to the country club culture in which the sons and daughters of the “blue state” rich meet, greet, and compete. Douthat’s insider views of Harvard are by no means unsupported. Indeed, Harvard senior Trevor Cox told The Boston Globe in 2001 that “I’ve coasted on far better grades than I deserve… It’s scandalous. You can get very good grades, and earn honors, without ever producing quality work.”

    This underlying weakness in the American educational system, even at the highest levels, is compounded by the relatively low AFQT (Armed Forces Qualification Test) scores required to join the Navy. According to Rod Powers, the minimum acceptable score for the Navy is just 35 (and prior to 2003 the Navy’s standard was even lower), whereas the Coast Guard and Air Force each require scores of at least 40. The Navy will also accept 5 to 10 percent of recruits who are high school dropouts with GEDs as long as their AFQT scores are higher than 50. The US Air Force is far more selective, and does a relatively good job at compensating for the unreliable US education system in that it rarely admits anyone who does not have a high school diploma, and even these folks must have an AFQT score of 65 or greater.

    In the 1980s, Gabriel revealed that many critical and highly technical positions in the US Navy could not be filled because of a shortage of well-educated sailors. To compensate, the Navy hired civilian CETS (Contractual Engineering Technical Service) people to handle these duties aboard ships. Distressingly, the Navy became dependent on these civilians, who were not under any legal or contractual obligation to stay when the ships deploy. The commanding officer of an aircraft carrier even lamented that he could not take his ship to sea unless he had civilian contractors aboard to maintain some of the ships combat systems. This too, is a serious weakness, although it may not be unique to the US Navy.

    In sharp contrast are the sailors of today’s Japanese Maritime Self-Defense Force. Japanese sailors are universally and highly literate, and are exceptionally well-educated. Japanese schools are notoriously tough academically, and “Experts believe that an average high school education in Japan can be equated with an average college education in the United States.” It is very rare indeed to see overweight Japanese sailors, and even now the drug abuse rate in Japan is “still very low compared to that in other counties…”

    On the other hand, drugs have most definitely undermined the combat readiness of the US Navy, and the problem was especially noticeable in the 1970s and 1980s. In 1981, it was revealed that 15% of the crew of the submarine USS Parche, including three of her officers, failed a drug test just before a scheduled deployment. The Parche was used on spy missions, and many of these covert visits to Soviet waters were extremely dangerous. Sontag et al. explained that some American submariners turned to drugs to help deal with the stress of dangerous intelligence gathering deployments, or to avoid going to sea altogether. “Parche wasn’t unique in her personnel problems, and the drug bust had intelligence officials worried,” they adduced. “Seawolf’s crew was disintegrating under the mounting frustrations of serving on a broken-down and cursed boat. The pressure inspired some of her crew to lose themselves in a marijuana haze. Some even proclaimed their drug use openly and loudly, just to get off of Seawolf.” (Emphasis added.) Karam also reported that more than one US Navy nuclear powered ship has been “shut down from time to time because of sloppiness or in one case, (a submarine), for excessive drug use by the crew.”

    None of this should be surprising to anyone who has paid attention to the US Navy for the past 25 years, except possibly Tom Clancy. At that time, “Drug and alcohol abuse was rampant throughout the fleet,” wrote Gregory Vistica. “Forty-seven percent of the Navy’s personnel was smoking marijuana. Another 11 percent was snorting cocaine.” A 1981 crash on the deck of the USS Nimitz killed 14 sailors, and half of their bodies contained traces of marijuana. The Navy introduced mandatory random drug testing to counter this problem, but random testing by urinalysis definitely has its limitations. In recent years, naval aviators, SEALs, and other officers have been arrested for drug trafficking or usage, along with thousands of enlisted personnel (between 2000 and 2003, at least 10,000 American sailors have failed drug tests). Not even the great bastion of American navalism, the US Naval Academy, is immune to the scourge of drugs. In his famous 1971 article “The Collapse of the Armed Forces,” Colonel Robert D. Heinl, Jr., USMC, wrote that drug use at the Naval Academy was “anything but unknown,” and almost thirty years later Burns further lamented, “It used to really mean something to be a Naval Academy graduate. In recent years they’ve had pedophiles, car theft rings, drug rings, cheating scandals and murderers.”

    Four years ago, Admiral Robert Nader, US Navy, admitted that there is a serious problem with designer drugs like ecstasy in the US Navy. “We have a problem. I don’t want to hide that problem,” he conceded. Fewer sailors are failing drug tests now than in the 1980s, and the known drug problem has been reduced substantially. It has not, however, been eliminated, and in a warship disaster can result if even a few sailors are high while underway. This was the case on the infamous USS Vincennes in November 2004, when a total of 18 sailors were charged with drug offenses. “In one instance, two sailors used drugs while the ship was underway, endangering other crew members and potentially affecting the ship’s readiness.”

    It should be pointed out too that certain designer drugs now available pass through the body very quickly, and are more difficult to detect than others by urinalysis. With this in mind, it is not hard to imagine that the number of actual drug users in the US Navy could be much greater than the number that is caught these days. It may be unfair to compare statistics from the early 1980s with those of today because the drugs of choice have changed. Other navies certainly have drug problems, however no navy in the world is more closely associated with the drug problem than is the US Navy. When one acknowledges that the US Navy has knowingly accepted felons and drug users to fill its ranks, that American teenagers have the highest “alcohol-and drug-abuse rate of any industrial nation,” including liberal countries like the Netherlands, then drug abuse in the US Navy is just another manifestation of a massive US criminal subculture. Drug abuse is undeniably self-destructive behavior, and even the US Congress has proclaimed that America is “the most violent and self-destructive nation on Earth.”

    Poor physical fitness is also evident in the ranks of the US Navy. In a 2001 column, investigative journalist John E. Dougherty revealed that a survey conducted by a team of doctors at Marywood University found that many personnel in most branches of the US military were unfit, overweight, and physically inactive. US military personnel were almost as unfit and inactive as average American civilians, in fact. The survey reckoned, “Military personnel do not exercise any more than the general population, even though some amount of physical training is required in all branches.” Unsettling news to be sure, especially for Americans, who on average are the most overweight people in the world. Dougherty, who served as a corpsman in the US Navy found a simple, but valid explanation for this embarrassing situation: “Our overweight, undertrained, physically unfit military is little more than a reflection of American society as a whole, I fear.” As the sage old saying goes, “The apple does not fall far from the tree.”

    To put it as delicately as possible, there is nothing in the US Navy that does not exist in American society, and that includes a substantial and lingering historical legacy of racism, substandard public education, widespread obesity and drug abuse (in all fairness though, the Soviets/Russians have also had very serious alcohol problems in their navy.)

    What Tom Clancy Does Not Know or Will Not Say…

    “We are inclined to overestimate our ability and underestimate our vulnerability.”
    -Commander Dale Sykora, US Navy, former skipper of the nuclear submarine USS Dallas, 2004

    Through his many best-selling books and movies, author Tom Clancy has created a crisp, sharp, spit-polished, efficient, and patriotic image for the US Navy. Some think he should be a paid public relations consultant or recruiter for the American submarine force. It may come as a shock to some of his readers, however, that the American ships, submarines, aircraft, equipment and sailors in his books are too good to be true. In 2001, Shuger suggested that Americans have placed too much stock in Clancy’s writings, and that is perhaps especially damaging since Clancy has moved from novels to non-fiction. The result, Shuger exclaimed, was that “millions and millions of people… have gotten most of what they know about warfare and the U.S. military from an ex-insurance agent who never served a day on active duty.” Furthermore, “Does he know what he's talking about? He certainly seems to know a lot about how planes, subs, and missiles are supposed to work, and how we and the Soviets intend to use them. And this makes his books that much more seductive. But is there any reason to think that he knows what will happen when those weapons and those intentions are put into the pressure-cooker of combat? The more complex war has become, the more ways there are for missions to go bad, and the graver the consequences. The history of modern warfare is replete with counterexamples to Tom Clancy's vision. The problem is that history hasn't sold 20 million copies. How unlike fiction is real war! Clancy has it in his head--and his readers are getting it drummed into theirs--that the U.S. military is a precise instrument, capable of almost effortless accuracy.”

    Luckily, however, Clancy has competition, and what is more the competition is much more candid and realistic. Several recent books have effectively stripped off much of the shiny Hollywood polish on the American submarine force, most notably former Petty Officer Dr. Andy Karam’s account of life on the USS Plunger, Rig Ship for Ultra Quiet (2002), and Douglas C. Waller’s Big Red (2001). Both authors made it known that there is a lot of hype regarding US submarine training, but the reality is much less impressive. As for the legendary assertion that all US submariners are experts on “every system” in their boats, one sailor told Waller that was “All bunk.” Waller explained “The (submariner’s) qualification only made you familiar with the rest of the boat. It didn’t mean you could actually run other parts. If (the sailor) and the other missile techs suddenly died, those nukes in the back wouldn’t have a clue how to fire these rockets.” Former Petty Officer Karam, an Engineering Laboratory Technician, who eventually became a Chief Petty Officer in the Naval Reserve, concurred, and acknowledged that he could only work on other systems “in a pinch.” He continued “The Plunger, and, for that matter, any nuke boat, was sufficiently complex that one person simply could not learn everything to that level of detail in the 14 months we were given to qualify. Not if they were doing their own jobs, too.” Diesel submarines, as Shuger told us, “require fewer men, and their crews don’t have to undergo as much time-consuming and expensive physics and engineering training. And if a submarine is simpler to operate, crew members can concentrate more on tactics. It’s long been suspected that the Navy’s all-nuke sub force is very strong on running submarines but not as strong at it should be on fighting them.” One will not find this awful kind of truth in any Tom Clancy book. The non-fiction he produces on submarines is well written and detailed, but it is still essentially, at its core, Navy PR fluff.

    British allies, of course, have long ridiculed American submariners for spending too much time and effort learning about nuclear reactors. Surprisingly, Waller wrote that some US Navy officers quietly agree. The Drill Coordinator on the USS Nebraska, Lieutenant Brent Kinman, US Navy, told Waller that American submariners talk too much about the reactor, like mechanics, and not enough about how to fight the ship effectively: “That was the problem with today’s submariners, Kinman thought. They were technicians rather than warriors. The average lieutenant riding these boats considered himself a nuclear engineer first and a submarine officer second. ‘It almost feels like we’re out there just driving the reactor around…’” This overemphasis on engineering might explain why diesel submarines are so often triumphant against American nuclear submarines during exercises. In his controversial “loved-or-hated” 1986 book Running Critical, Patrick Tyler presented evidence to suggest that the mainstay of the US nuclear submarine force, the first flight of the (688) Los Angeles-class, was not a first class attack submarine, and like the F-4 and the F-14 fighters, it was possibly more expensive than combat effective against potential adversaries.

    According to Tyler, the Late CNO Admiral Zumwalt was not impressed with these submarines: “To Zumwalt, the 688 submarines were a begotten class; shallow-running, unstable in tight turns, vulnerable at high speed, and too costly for the marginal advance they had given the navy over previous alternatives.” US Navy crews complained that the boats were poorly constructed by reportedly lazy and indifferent shipyard workers, and based on a compromised committee-driven design that was demonstrably inferior to Soviet contemporaries in all areas except stealth, and even in that parameter, they were still inferior to diesel submarine contemporaries, of which the Soviets and many others had plenty. The result was a thoroughly mediocre submarine. Karam also thought the original Los Angeles-class boats were less than stellar performers, especially when they were deployed on “spec-ops” (spying missions). “At the time I was in, LA-class subs were fairly routinely detected on spec-ops – it seems they had a tendency to lose depth control at periscope depth because their fairwater planes were too high on the sail. I understand the improved 688s are better. The USS New York City was apparently detected routinely on one mission every time they streamed their floating wire antenna because sea gulls sat on the wire and hitched a free ride.” Such things will never appear in a Clancy book.

    Of course, American nuclear submarines have successfully attacked allied surface ships and diesel submarines on exercises too, and it would be unfair and remiss of me not to mention that, but nevertheless many allied and NATO officers are not overly impressed by American nuclear submarines or their crews. Compton-Hall, for example, lavished all but unqualified praise on the Dutch, Canadian, German, Australian, and Scandinavian submarine services, but his comments on the American silent service were decidedly mixed. Praise was included, but it was infrequent and sincerely qualified. For example, like Shuger, he said that the US Navy submariners are superb engineers, “but there is a case for saying that fighting capabilities took second place over a long period during the Rickover reign.” Sprinkled through his discussion on the Americans are terms such as “Rickoverized,” “dogmatic,” “conformism,” “conservation,” and “complacency”. He also took issue with the US Navy’s “habit of overstating fitness reports which is no kindness to the man or to the service. The effects have been felt far beyond deserved or undeserved promotions. A serious result has been that the cold-blooded, highly critical post-attack autopsies to which British command teams are traditionally and often embarrassingly, subjected have generally been avoided. Avoidance has led to over-confidence and lessons not being learned…”

    Along the same lines, a former captain of the Canadian pocket carrier HMCS Bonaventure reminisced back to the year 1968: “I do remember an American nuclear submarine getting his comeuppance when he was attacked by one of our Trackers. They thought they were absolutely foolproof. This guy was discovered, pinged on and attacked and nailed, the whole schmeer, and he couldn’t figure out why. We weren’t anxious to tell him either…” He concluded by saying that the defeated US submariners were amazingly and unjustifiably “overconfident.” And in the joint Indian Navy-US Navy exercise MALABAREX in 2003, the frigate INS Brahamaputra took on the seemingly formidable Los Angeles-class nuclear submarine USS Pasadena. The Indian ship “was able to detect Pasadena ‘from over 8 miles away’, and engage it, ‘getting a mission kill’ in the process,” said the Indian magazine Frontline.

    One last thing that you will not find in any Tom Clancy book is any substantive discussion on the US Navy's safety record since the loss of the submarines Thresher and the Scorpion. During the past fifty years or so, it was quite fashionable for US sailors to mock the Soviets, especially as regards to safety. Soviet nuclear submarine reactors were often poorly designed, and not as safe as their American equivalents, and I do not think anyone would dispute that. What some forget, or perhaps discount, is that the US Navy's safety record has also been frequently been called into question

    In both 1989 and 2000, the US Navy has had to order all units to stand-down from normal operations to review basic safety procedures, in both cases, after a string of serious accidents. Everyone familiar with the US Navy knows about the losses of the Thresher and the Scorpion in the 1960s, which forced the US Navy to improve its submarine safety programs, but there have been other, one might say, “near misses” since then that have not gotten quite so much attention. According to Arkin and Handler, in 1973, the USS Greenling sank below her test depth for a short time simply because one of her depth gauges malfunctioned. Such a descent can be fatal, needless to say, but luckily, this time, it was not. In the following month, the USS Guardfish “experiences a primary coolant leak while running submerged… The submarine surfaces and is ventilated and decontaminated, and repairs the casualty unassisted. Four crewmen transferred to the Puget Sound Naval Hospital for monitoring.” This was a serious accident, for as Shay Cullen put it, “Without this vital fluid (the coolant) the reactor will overheat and melt down, the worst nuclear disaster possible…” The crew “barely managed to avoid a meltdown. There was a serious radioactivity leak but what was more serious was the cover up, the deck log book and the command history were falsified.” Not very reassuring, but there is more. In 1975, “The USS Haddock (SSN-621) develops a leak during a deep dive while on a test run near Hawaii. The U.S. Navy confirms the incident, but denies the vessel is unsafe as crew members had charged in late October. A number of enlisted men had protested sending the ship to sea, claiming it had cracks in the main cooling piping, leaks, and malfunctions and deficiencies in other systems, including the steering mechanism.” Fortunately, there was no loss of life. Finally, it should be repeated that a near fatal accident on the USS La Jolla in the 1981 was caused by none other than the father of Nuclear Navy, Admiral Hyman G. Rickover, US Navy, himself. As Tyler tells it, thanks to Admiral Rickover’s massive ego, the ship went out of control, and nearly reached her test depth, and if she had continued her uncontrolled dive much longer, “That would have been it – another Thresher.” In 2002, the research submarine USS Dolphin was also nearly lost because of a fire and flooding, and the crew had to abandon ship.

    By all accounts the US Navy has been lucky, for as one US submariner who served on the USS Sargo said in 1983, “I’m really surprised we only lost two subs…There were times when we weren’t sure we were coming back.” As I said before, every navy has accidents (The Canadians just did), but given that the US Navy has had not one but two official safety stand-downs since 1989, mistaken an airliner for an F-14, and shot it down, accidentally fired a missile at a Turkish destroyer, and let us not forget the 1986 misfiring of a Tomahawk cruise missile by the USS Iowa, (The missile was supposed to fly within the Florida panhandle, but instead veered into Alabama, catching some unlucky marijuana farmers off guard. The Navy, amusingly, tried to pass it off as a carefully planned “drug bust” rather than an accident), one might actually form the impression that the US Navy is somewhat accident prone.

    In addition to the aforementioned submarine accidents and near misses, there have been others involving nuclear weapons. According to the Center for Defense Information, in 1959, “A U.S. Navy P-5M aircraft carrying an unarmed nuclear depth charge without its fissile core crashed into Puget Sound near Whidbey Island, Washington. The weapon was never recovered.” Six years later, “An A-4E Skyhawk strike aircraft carrying a nuclear weapon rolled off an elevator on the U.S. aircraft carrier Ticonderoga and fell into the sea. Because the bomb was lost at a depth of approximately 16,000 feet, Pentagon officials feared that intense water pressure could have caused the B-43 hydrogen bomb to explode. It is still unknown whether an explosion did occur. The pilot, aircraft, and weapon were lost. The Pentagon claimed that the bomb was lost ‘500 miles away from land.’ However, it was later revealed that the aircraft and nuclear weapon sank only miles from the Japanese island chain of Ryukyu.” Although some doubt the weapon could explode simply because of water pressure (at that depth, roughly 7000 PSI, or that if it did explode, we would not know about it), the loss of a hydrogen bomb in itself is disquieting. Incredibly, or perhaps not so incredibly, the US Navy did not inform the Japanese of this accident until the mid-1980s!

    Finally, going back to World War II, there was also a friendly fire incident involving the battleship USS Iowa and one of her escorts that should never be forgotten. The destroyer USS William D. Porter accidentally launched a torpedo at the Iowa, which just missed. The near miss was bad enough, but even worse, there were VIPs aboard the Iowa during that cruise, including the President of the United States and the Chief of Naval Operations! The captain of the Iowa wanted to court-martial the skipper of the destroyer, but was over-ruled by President Franklyn Delano Roosevelt so as to avoid “adverse publicity.” Both presidents FDR and George W. Bush have in some way tried to gloss over the Navy’s friendly fire problems, and that too is scandalous.

    Misleading Congress and a Cultural Explanation

    “… and you’ve got to consider the psychology of the Navy itself… The Navy, traditionally, technically, doesn’t do anything wrong.” – Former Army Research Director Raymond Walker on the Navy’s flawed investigation of the USS Iowa explosion in 1989

    The question that now remains is: How has the US Navy managed to conceal all its glaring faults, bad policies, and weaknesses for all these years? Part of the answer is that the Navy has a history of not telling the full truth to Congress. Former Navy Secretary John Lehman mentioned that senior US Navy admirals have a tradition of omitting information about the Navy’s weaknesses and deficiencies during public testimony and, during the 1970s at least, of promoting an “illusion of overall superiority” to Congress. “Admiral Elmo Zumwalt was the first naval leader to break ranks after he left office, and he wrote in his memoirs that ‘none of us thought we had such a capability and all of us were under heavy pressure not to let on’; his public testimony was purged by the Pentagon of references to ‘adequate, marginal or inadequate capability…”

    Misleading Congress, omitting negative information, call it what you will, it is not uncommon in the US Navy. Zumwalt was not specific about the information he withheld from Congress, but there are other examples that are much more concrete. In the early 1980s, wrote Scammell, Navy officers tried to conceal the shortcomings of the new Aegis system by using unrealistically easy operational tests, then by classifying the poor results: “An amalgam of sophisticated seaborne radar, computers, and surface-to-air rockets ten years in development, Aegis was built to simultaneously track up to two hundred aerial targets and to control thirty killer missiles. But in sea tests against sixteen easy targets – easy because they were lobbed in one after another instead of all at the same time, as they would arrive in combat – the supershield missed all but five…” Consequently, “The results of the sea trials were immediately classified, ostensibly for reasons of national security, and it was announced that the tests had been successful. When Congressional overseers eventually learned they had been duped –a gain because not everyone in the fiasco interpreted ‘patriotic duty’ as ‘staying silent’—the Aegis program was very nearly scuttled.” According to Representative Denny Smith, a Republican from Oregon and former F-4 fighter pilot, Navy officers deliberately deleted key passages from their initial test reports on the Aegis system to keep him in the dark on its failings.

    Another part of the answer is that building ships, submarines and aircraft for the US Navy is big business, and with a few salient exceptions like Smith, politicians may not want to hear that the systems being built in their districts (and providing many, many jobs to voters) won’t work or are not really needed. When Representative Smith tried to hold the Navy accountable for the botched tests of the Aegis system and the attempted cover-up, “Trent Lott, the House Republican whip, asked Smith if he knew that killing the Navy’s Aegis cruiser program could affect sixteen thousand jobs at Ingalls Shipyard in Lott’s home state of Mississippi.” With politicians who are much more interested in jobs than effective and properly tested weapons, then it is not surprising that the US Navy has big problems.

    There is one final possibility that comes into play, and it is cultural, deeply-entrenched, and difficult to remove. My maternal grandparents were American, and I went to public schools in the US for three years. I have also had experience as a student or as a lecturer in two other countries, and as such, I have a reasonably sound basis for making comparisons, both educational and cultural. It has been my observation (and that of many others) that American public schools and culture place much more emphasis on cultivating self-esteem than do those of other countries. This has led to a false confidence, or bravado if you will; a false sense of self-importance and to a certain extent, plain old fashioned narcissistic egotism. As a matter of fact, this streak of overconfidence goes back a long way in American history. Samuel Huntington, in his erudite book The Soldier and the State, made a scorching reference to it during the time of the great American navalist Alfred Thayer Mahan. “Not only were Americans bellicose, but they suffered from an overweening and highly dangerous self-confidence. The military officers expressed great alarm at the “national conceit” rampant in the United States…”

    This overconfidence is manifested today in several ways. It manifests itself in international mathematics competitions in which American teenagers get the highest scores in “self-confidence” but the lowest scores on the actual exams. And it is also manifested in naval exercises, where American units are sometimes shocked that can be easily defeated by a competent enemy with good tactics. Sadly, this over-confidence, combined with a misinformed Congress that is often more interested in jobs than national security, may someday have profound consequences for the US Navy.

    Conclusion

    The US Navy is the largest navy in the world, and on paper, certainly the most powerful. It is also unmistakably the most expensive navy the world has ever seen. Of that there is no doubt. With the Russian Navy all but gone, and the Chinese Navy still ascending, the American Navy remains the dominant sea power in the world. Yet, as we have seen here, this heavyweight navy often has great difficulty handling the little guys. Indeed, if the US Navy were a boxer, one might say that his dominance is due mostly to his sheer size because he punches well below his massive weight. In this era of asymmetrical warfare, of David versus Goliath conflicts, perhaps it is time for America to rethink its naval strategy, lose some weight, and as sports announcers say, “focus more on the fundamentals.” For all the money America spends on its huge navy, it really needs to be much better. Edmund Burke once said “A nation without the means of reform is without the means of survival.” So, too, I would add, is a navy.

  2. #2
    Postman vector7's Avatar
    Join Date
    Feb 2007
    Location
    Where it's quiet, peaceful and everyone owns guns
    Posts
    21,618
    Thanks
    28
    Thanked 70 Times in 65 Posts

    Default Re: Is the US Navy Overrated?

    Here is another one post wonder with 7831 views from Ryan Ruck. I will attempt to add substance to the subject in this very popular thread.

    Is the US Navy Overrated?
    Ryan Ruck
    November 7th, 2005 07:19
    by Ryan Ruck
    0 7,831 The U.S. Military
    Last edited by vector7; December 18th, 2009 at 16:09.

    To view links or images in signatures your post count must be 15 or greater. You currently have 0 posts.


    Nikita Khrushchev: "We will bury you"
    "Your grandchildren will live under communism."
    You Americans are so gullible.
    No, you wont accept
    To view links or images in signatures your post count must be 15 or greater. You currently have 0 posts.
    outright, but well keep feeding you small doses of
    To view links or images in signatures your post count must be 15 or greater. You currently have 0 posts.
    until youll finally wake up and find you already have communism.

    To view links or images in signatures your post count must be 15 or greater. You currently have 0 posts.
    ."
    Well so weaken your
    To view links or images in signatures your post count must be 15 or greater. You currently have 0 posts.
    until youll
    To view links or images in signatures your post count must be 15 or greater. You currently have 0 posts.
    like overripe fruit into our hands."



  3. #3
    Postman vector7's Avatar
    Join Date
    Feb 2007
    Location
    Where it's quiet, peaceful and everyone owns guns
    Posts
    21,618
    Thanks
    28
    Thanked 70 Times in 65 Posts

    Default Re: Is the US Navy Overrated?

    How the United States Lost the Naval War of 2015

    by James Kraska



    James Kraska is a guest investigator at the Marine Policy Center, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution and the former Oceans Policy Adviser for the Director of Strategic Plans & Policy, Joint Chiefs of Staff. The views presented are those of the author and do not reflect the official position of the Department of Defense. He may be reached at james.kraska@gmail.com.

    Abstract: Years of strategic missteps in oceans policy, naval strategy and a force structure in decline set the stage for U.S. defeat at sea in 2015. After decades of double-digit budget increases, the Peoples Liberation Army (Navy) was operating some of the most impressive systems in the world, including a medium-range ballistic missile that could hit a moving aircraft carrier and a super-quiet diesel electric submarine that was stealthier than U.S. nuclear submarines. Coupling this new asymmetric naval force to visionary maritime strategy and oceans policy, China ensured that all elements of national power promoted its goal of dominating the East China Sea. The United States, in contrast, had a declining naval force structured around 10 aircraft carriers spread thinly throughout the globe. With a maritime strategy focused on lower order partnerships,and a national oceans policy that devalued strategic interests in freedom of navigation, the stage was set for defeat at sea. This article recounts how China destroyed the USS George Washington in the East China Sea in 2015.

    The political fallout from the disaster ended 75 years of U.S. dominance in the Pacific Ocean and cemented Chinas position as the Asian hegemon.

    By 2015, U.S. command of the global commons could no longer be taken for granted. The oceans and the airspace above them had been the exclusive domain of the U.S. Navy and the nations edifice of military power for seventy-five years. During the age of U.S. supremacy, the Navy used the oceans as the worlds largest maneuver space to outflank its enemies. Maritime mobility on the surface of the ocean, in the air and under the water was the cornerstone of U.S. military power.

    The United States was able to utilize its maritime dominance to envelop and topple rogue regimes, as it demonstrated in Grenada and Panama, and use the maritime commons to ferry huge ground armies to the other side of the world and sustain them indefinitely, as it did in Vietnam and twice in Iraq. The unique capability to project decisive power rapidly in any corner of the world gave the United States deterrent power and unrivalled military influence.

    All that changed in 2015, when the nuclear-powered aircraft carrier USS George Washington, forward-deployed to Yokosuka, Japan, sunk to the bottom of the East China Sea. More than 4,000 sailors and airmen died and the Navy lost eighty aircraft. A ship that would take seven years and $ 9 billion to replace slipped into the waves. The incident upset not just the balance of naval power in Asia, but ushered in a new epoch of international order in which Beijing emerged to displace the United States.

    Red Sky in MorningSailors Warning

    The warning signsthe series of political, diplomatic and strategic misstepshad been unfolding for more than two decades. Globalization, developments in the international law of the sea, and the revolution in military affairs aided the emergence of China and other new naval powers. Globalization was a democratizing force among navies.

    The wealth effect of expanding trade and rising economies combined with the spread of doctrine, training and operational art, serving as a force multiplier. The result of globalization was a vastly improved Peoples Liberation Army (PLA) Navy in terms of its force structure and war fighting skills. The proliferation of advanced weapons technology helped nations that historically had never exercised naval power to make generational leaps in precision-guided munitions. Already, a number of regional states had developed or acquired sophisticated anti-ship cruise missiles and super-quiet diesel electric submarines armed with sensitive wake homing torpedoes.

    A collection of unfriendly coastal states had invested heavily in asymmetric anti-access technologies and strategies to counter the power of U.S. naval forces. In 1991, Iraq used a mixture of crude pre-World War I contact naval mines and sophisticated magnetic and acoustic influence mines launched from small rubber boats. The country deployed over 1,100 mines in the first Gulf War, but most of them were either inoperable or improperly positioned. Yet Baghdad still reaped success in using mines to secure its seaside flank off Kuwait City.

    The USS Tripoli struck a moored contact mine, which ripped a 16-20 foot cavern below the waterline; hours later, and despite proceeding with deliberate caution to avoidmines, the USS Princeton struck a mine that cracked her superstructure and caused severe deck buckling.2 The Persian Gulf is a relatively small, semi-enclosed body ofwater,
    and in narrow seas mines are an effective anti-access weapon.

    The Pacific Ocean, in contrast, is a vast, seemingly limitless expanse haunted by the tyranny of time, distance and space. While Saddam Husseins Iraq and Ahmadinejads Iran borrowed weapons from the past, China was developing weapons of the future.

    PLA Chief Naval Commander admiral Liu Huaqing promised the twenty-first century would be the century of the sea. Fueled by a dynamic economy and impressive ingenuity, Beijing developed and fielded a bevy of asymmetric weapons. One game-changing weapon, an anti-ship ballistic missile, could hit an underway aircraft carrier.

    And that is what happened.

    Without warning, a Chinese anti-ship ballistic missile a variant of the 1,500 km-plus range DF-21/CSS-5 solid propellant medium-range ballistic missile (MRBM) specifically designed to decapitate U.S. carrier strike groups operating in East Asia struck the USS George Washington causing the ship to erupt in a cataclysm.

    The Chinese Navy made uncanny progress in the two decades preceding the attack, transitioning from an obsolete1950s-style coastal defense force into a balanced blue water fleet. Beijing was outfitting its second domestically produced aircraft carrier in 2015.

    For decades, Beijing had studied the Australian carrier HMAS Melbourne and had tinkered with three Russian carriers, finally placing the former Ukrainian carrier, Varyagrenamed the Shi Langin operation after years of refurbishment at Dalian shipyards. Against these three carriers, the commander of the U.S. Seventh Fleet sometimes had operational control over asmany as three carriers at once, but this figure included U.S. strike groups transiting fromSan Diego and Seattle en route toor fromthe Persian Gulf.

    These ships could be days or weeks from the East China Sea. Still smarting from the surge of the Nimitz and Independence carrier battle groups into the Taiwan Strait by President Clinton in the spring of 1996, China timed its attack against the George Washington so that the forward-deployed carrier was the only U.S. flat-top in the Western Pacific.

    A speaking invitation from Cornell University to Taiwanese president, Lee Teng-hui was the source of the Taiwan Crisis of 1995-96. Viewing the presidents visit as a move away from the One China policy, Beijing conducted missile exercises in the waters surrounding Taiwan. The more lasting impact, however, was that China embarked on massive naval buildup, first ordering Sovremmeny-class destroyers and Kilo submarines from Russia, and then developing more advanced ships and aircraft domestically. In 1999, the PLA Navy introduced the sophisticated Song-class diesel electric submarine.

    Reportedly quieter than the fast attack the U.S. Los Angeles-class boats, the Song was equipped with wake-homing torpedoes and anti-ship cruise missiles.

    In one incident in October 2006, one of the ultra-quiet Song submarines surfaced inside the protective screen of the aircraft carrier USS Kitty Hawk.

    Admiral Gary Roughead, who was commander of the U.S. Pacific Fleet and who would later go on to serve as Chief of Naval Operations, was visiting China at the time of the incident.4 In 1996, at the end of the Third Taiwan Strait Crisis, PLA General Xiong Guangkai warned a visiting U.S. envoy, . . . you care more about Los Angeles than you do about Taipei.

    While the U.S. Pacific Fleet was in panic after the Kitty Hawk embarrassment over its vulnerability to Chinese diesel-electric boats, Navy Pentagon had just briefed President Bush on its new strategy.

    The Thousand Ship Navy, would evolve into the concept of a global maritime partnership and the service chiefs for theNavy,Marine Corps and Coast Guardwould jump on board in 2007 and sign the Cooperative Strategy for 21st Century Seapower.

    These cooperative maritime concepts were meant to be accessible to all nations, inclusive and inviting. Partnerships were sought for maritime humanitarian assistance, disaster relief and counter-piracy operations.

    Fleet commanders searched for opportunities to build partnership capacity along the littoral regionssmall boat engine repair for the Jamaican coast guard, fisheries enforcement training in the Gulf of Guinea. Pacific Partnership floated one of the large hospital ships throughout ports in Asia, dispensing free medical care to thousands of grateful patients. The Navy and Coast Guard signed agreements with dozens of nations to share merchant ship tracking and monitoring data.

    Nations that had little respect for offshore or littoral freedom of navigation were courted, and regional commanders favored the benefits of partnership over the value of preserving navigational rights. Winning hearts and minds trumped age-old principles.

    The U.S. Navy struggled with how to conduct combined, lower-order maritime security operations. China was concentrating on how to win a naval war. The United States Navy was living off its legacy. The incessant search for naval partnershipsno nation can do it alonewas tacit recognition that President Reagans 600-ship Navy was a shell of its former glory. The country lay under the illusion of naval superiority, but it was a mirage. The self delusion emerged from an emotional investment in the past and wishful thinking about the future, rather than a calculation of the correlation of forces at sea. In 2012, when the country reduced its fleet of aircraft carriers to ten, down from fifteen during the 1980s, Secretary of Defense Gates assured Congress that the force was as large as the next fourteen navies combined.

    Furthermore, most of the other nations with large navies were allies.

    While technically true when measured in fleet tonnage and missile tubes, his testimony obscured the fact that while the U.S. Navy perhaps could outmatch any other navy in a fair fight, her rivals were not looking for a fair fight. Allies would prove unreliable partners, more intent on avoiding war than deterring it. U.S. adversaries were thinking asymmetrically.

    The fourteen-to-one advantage in naval power also assumed that the United States had time to collect and concentrate its far-flung ships against a single foe. The ephemeral 313-ship force structure was never achieved, but it called for eleven carriers, eighty-eight cruisers and destroyers, forty-eight submarines, fifty-five littoral combat ships and thirty-one amphibious warfare ships. But these forces were spread thinly throughout the world maintaining a bewildering and multi-tasked agenda. Given that a 1.0 force presencemaintaining one ship on stationtypically requires three shipsone in work-ups and evaluation, getting ready to deploy, one on deployment, and one in the yard being refurbished after deploymentthe 313 ships never really promised more than about 100 ships at sea at any given time, and these would be spread over the entire globe.

    In 2015, Chinas navy was somewhat smaller, numbering only a handful of aircraft carriers, sixty submarines and seventy major surface combatants.

    Beijing also operated hundreds of fast offshore patrol vessels, many that packed a punch with anti-ship cruise missiles. Whereas an adversary like China could marshal its entire national fleet for a crisis immediately off its shore, as well as land-based missiles and aircraft, to face down the United States, the U.S. Navy would have to fight with the forces that happened to be in the region. Additional U.S. naval forces would be siphoned from other theaters, exposing new vulnerabilities for a nation with global responsibilities.

    By the time reinforcements would arriveit could be weeks laterworldwide clamor for a ceasefire and peace talks could mean the war was already over. In the decades after the end of the Cold War, China closed the gap in naval capability, even surpassing the United States in some areas in terms of both quantity and quality of platforms.

    For example, China concentrated on advancing its large diesel-electric submarine force. Sweden became the first nation to develop a diesel-electric submarine with air-independent propulsion (AIP), which extended underwater endurance from a few days to one month.

    The first in class of these vessels, the HMS Gotland, was leased by the U.S. Navy for two years in order to practice anti-submarine warfare. The Gotland proved extremely quiet and effective, and AIP submarines are able to sprint underwatergreatly increasing their attack radius. China integrated AIP technology into the Type 041 Yuan-class boats, which followed the Song. Having launched several of these smaller, stealthy boats each year since 2004, a decade later, the U.S. Seventh Fleet could never be certain whether China was shadowing U.S. vessels.

    The U.S. Navy also suffered problems in readiness and proficiency.

    Diversion of thousands of officers and enlisted sailors to fill Army shortfalls in Iraq and Afghanistan deprived the service of years of training and operational experience at sea. Promotions were tied to disassociated augmentation tours for stability operations and reconstruction rather than excellence afloat. An entire generation of mid-career commissioned and non-commissioned officers tried to learn counterinsurgency land warfare in the desert and mountains of central Asia while their counterparts in China conducted fleet exercises to learn how to destroy them. In filling a critical gap between means and ends in ground combat in Central Command, a seam between the two was created in naval warfare in Pacific Command.

    The Day After


    Americans woke up to a different world the day after the attack. The war was over almost as soon as it had started. Outmaneuvered tactically and strategically, the United States suffered its greatest defeat at sea since Pearl Harbor. The incidentcould it really be called a war?had been preceded by a shallow diplomatic crisis between the two great powers. No one in the West expected the dispute to spiral out of control. George Washington was conducting routine patrols off the coast of China to send a signal of U.S. resolve.

    China responded with a signal of its ownsinking the massive ship.

    The ship broke in two and sank in twenty minutes. The Chinese medium-range ballistic missile had a penetrator warhead that drilled through all fourteen decks of the ship and punched a cavernous hole measuring twenty-feet wide from the flat-top landing deck through to the bottom of the hull.

    Ammunition stores ignited secondary explosions. Two million gallons of JP-5 jet fuel poured into the sea. The attack was calamitous and damage control was pointless.

    While the Pentagon was reeling to determine exactly what happened, a well-orchestrated and pre-planned rescue effort was already underway by a flotilla of first responders from China. The Chinese media reported on the bravery of Chinese naval forces, fisheries enforcement police and common fishermen who happened to be in the vicinity of the disaster and were able to save numerous lives. The massive warship had a crew of 3,200 sailors, and there were nearly 1,800 additional sailors and airmen embarked with the wing of aircraft on board the ship.

    Among this floating city, thousands of souls either incinerated or drowned. In the end, China saved hundreds of desperate survivors floating in the water. Chinese state television filmed distraught young U.S. navy personnel, weeping, grateful to be alive as they were plucked from the oily water. Family members back in the States rushed to Beijing to reunite with their sons and daughters, hosted by the Chinese government and state media.

    Beijing denied the attack. China shuttled to the Security Council, claiming that an accident on board the aircraft carrier had created a radioactive incident in its fishing zone, spreading nuclear fallout throughout the air and water in the region. The International Maritime Organization had declared the area of the attack a marine sanctuary one year earlier, and China had publicly warned that foreign warships posed an environmental risk to the natural marine environment.

    The United States, it was suggested, was liable for damage to Chinas living and nonliving resources in the oceans, in accordance with the Law of the Sea Convention. Beijing also rushed to the area activists from environmental NGOs to monitor the situation. Expressing solidarity and sorrow for the U.S. loss, China flatly denied that it had anything to do with the catastrophe.

    The Pentagon was stunned, immediately ordering warships and aircraft toward the East China Sea. B-2 bombers repositioned to Guam.

    Submarines in Guam and the West Coast got underway. One Aegis destroyer operating off Hawaii broke away from high seas driftnet enforcement duty to begin the week-long trip to the area. No sooner had warships from the U.S.

    Second Fleet in Norfolk gotten underway, however, than did Cosco, the Chinese company operating the Panama Canal, declare the passageway closed for four weeks for urgent repairs to the Atlantic and Pacific locks.

    Closure of the 40-mile long canal added 3,000 miles to transits from the East coast of the United States to the Far East.6 The alternative was to take the laborious route through the Strait of Magellan in southern Chile. Considerably safer than Drake Passage, Magellan was still difficult to navigate. The narrow passage was dogged by fierce winds and the inhospitable climate. Half the U.S. fleet anchored in Norfolk was temporarily cut off from the Pacific.

    At the same time, street protests to stop the impending transit of U.S. warships through the Suez Canal stung the government in Cairo.

    The Suez Canal shaves 40 percent of the distance off a trip from the Sixth Fleet operating area in the Mediterranean Sea to the Far East.

    In March 2008, a U.S. Navy security detail embarked on a chartered commercial ship killed a concessionaire plying the canal, mistaking the waterborne merchant for a small boat threat. Cairo kept the Canal open, but the 2008 shooting and an earlier decision to allow Israeli Dolphin-class submarines to transit the Canal fed dissension and elevated the risk of terrorist attack. Only sixty meters wide at some points, the United States and Egypt initiated a heightened security presence along the route, slowing ship traffic. All of the activity further antagonized the Arab street.

    A number of U.S. Navy ships on patrol with the Fifth fleet in the Persian Gulf began the two-week transit back to Asia, but to what end?

    It became apparent that China was doing all that it could to provide assistance to the crew of the George Washingtonshowcasing to the world a kind, benevolent and proactive rescue effort. At the same time, China repeatedly denied blame for the incident. Nationalists honked car horns in China, and the Chinese government funded spontaneous rallies of support in selected Chinatown districts. The impact was more pronounced in shifting or transferring cargo between the East and West coast of the United States.

    Sailing from New York to San Francisco around South America added 8,000 miles; vessels leaving New Orleans and heading to San Francisco added 9,000 miles by going around South America. Emory Richard Johnson, The Panama Canal and Commerce in Asia and the U.S. West Coast. With Chinese naval, air and rocket forces on alert in response to U.S. fleet activation, the issue was placed squarely in Washingtons lap.

    Much as Secretary of State Colin Powell had delivered evidence of Iraqs secret weapons of mass destruction at the Security Council in February 2003, the U.S. ambassador to the UN provided details on Chinese missile telemetry to prove Beijings complicity.

    But U.S. credibility was low, and China was in ascent. Chinas narrative shaped global media and public opinion: the incident was unfortunate and simply demonstrated to Japan and to the world the volatility and danger of U.S. nuclear-powered warships. The explosion was an accident and it would not have happened if the carrier had not been trying to intimidate China. In South America and the Middle East, and even in Europe, the feeling was strong that the ship was an instrument of imperialist power projection, operating in an area where it did not belong. Most Asians were inclined to think the United States should have been minding its own business. Dumbfounded, the White House churned without direction.

    A month would pass before the United States was able to position more than three aircraft carriers in the region, and then what? Many Asian governments tacitly supported the United States, but were afraid to do so publicly for fear of angering China.

    The highly capable fleet of the Japan Maritime Self Defense Force rested at anchor in Yokosuka, Sasebo and a handful of other bases throughout the country. Tokyos four escort flotillas formed around a core of superlative Kongo-class guided missile destroyers, which feature the phased-array Aegis anti-air warfare and integrated combat system. But Japan was constitutionally prohibited from taking action on behalf of the United States, and realistically, what could it do? In Delhi, the growing sense of a U.S.-Indian naval condominium, and a common Chinese foe could not overcome the strength of the communists in the government who restrained Indian support for the United States.

    A dilemma confronted the White Housewould it start a war, claiming China had sunk the carrier? Responsible opinion-makers warned of a holocaust; surely, there was time for cool heads to prevail.

    Oceans Policy Blindness

    How did the United States arrive at this place?

    The 2008 DOD Capstone-Concept for Joint Operations described the new ocean operating environment:

    Foreign sensitivities to U.S. military presence have steadily been increasing. . . . Diminished access will complicate the maintenance of forward presence, a critical aspect of past and current U.S. military strategy, necessitating new approaches to responding quickly to developments around the world as well as more robust exploitation of existing U.S. advantages to operate at sea and in the air, space and cyberspace.

    Assuring access to ports, airfields, foreign airspace, coastal waters and host-nation support in potential commitment areas will be a challenge and will require active peacetime engagement with states in volatile areas. In War, this challenge may require forcible-entry capabilities designed to seize and maintain lodgments in the face of armed resistance.

    The once robust U.S. freedom of navigation program, which sent warships and military aircraft to operate freely on the seas, had atrophied by 2015. First, with a declining U.S. fleet, there were fewer vessels and aircraft available to show the flag. More importantly, after the 2001 EP-3 incident, in which a Chinese fighter jet intercepted and collided with a U.S. Navy surveillance aircraft in the airspace seventy-five miles off the coast, the Department of State deemed naval operations near China to be too overt, too provocative.

    The mere possibility of sparking a crisis with China had made the Pentagon and Department of State shy about exercising navigational rights and freedoms in the East China Sea. Gradually, fewer U.S. warships and naval aircraft were operating in the area in deference to Beijings sensitivities. As the Seventh Fleet became less visible in the East China Sea, Chinas sense of ownership over the littoral waters grew. On the occasions when the U.S. did assert its right to exercise high seas freedoms, China reacted by condemning U.S. naval operations as an escalation, designed to keep China weak and to occupy Chinese maritime territory.

    During the 1990s, the demise of the Soviet Union produced a psychological distortion, tempting the United States to become more assertive about equating its national goals with universal values. But by the 2000s, beginning with the worldwide unpopularity of the Bush administration and the apologizing Obama administration, the United States lost the position of the planets self-proclaimed tutor.

    Challengers no longer accepted the U.S.-constructed post-war world, questioning everything from the primacy of the dollar as the worlds reserve currency to U.S. counter-proliferation policy against Iran. The international law of the sea was no different.

    Three of the four rising BRIC nationsBrazil, India and Chinarejected the notion that U.S. warships could freely operate within 200 miles off their coastline without their permission. These nations did not accept the traditional understanding that freedom of the high seas exists in the coastal zone, extending out to 200 miles from the beach.9 For decades China asserted that both the quantity and quality of navigational freedoms available to foreign warships and aircraft was very different within 200 miles from the coast.10 When China was weak, it suffered the indignity of routine U.S. and foreign naval operations off its shores.

    But as the U.S. Navy declined and the Chinese Navy became more powerful, China became less willing to tolerate the foreign invasions.

    The Lesson of History: Tectonic Shifts Occur Quickly

    History shows how the maritime balance of power can shift suddenly, rearranging global order. Naval power has been particularly indeed, even uniquely associated with the rapid, as opposed to evolutionary, rise of new major powers. Historically, even great shifts in global politics have occurred rapidly: In 1480, Spain was a collection of little kingdoms, as eager to fight each other as to defend their common interests. Twenty years later, Spain held title to half the globe.

    Similarly, [i]n 1935, with no armed forces to speak of and an economy in decline, the United States wanted nothing more than for the world to leave it alone. Within ten years, flush with victory, economically
    prosperous, and in sole possession of the atomic bomb, the United States became the single most powerful nation on earth.

    The shock of the sinking of George Washington transformed Asian security. Clearly, the United States had been unseated. Only more slowly did people begin to realize that the maintenance of world order had rested on U.S. military power, and the foundation of that power was U.S. command of the global commons.13 The Army could fail, as it did in Vietnam; the Air Force was ancillary to the Army. To secure the U.S. position and the nations securityand indeed for world orderthe Navy could never fail. This was an unexpected wake-up call to the United States and its NATO partners who had become increasingly obsessed with counter-insurgency tactics and small wars doctrine in Iraq and Afghanistan, forgetting the lessons of history and great power conflict.

    In the past an overwhelming advantage in resources and technology gave the United States an unmatched ability to successfully project power worldwide. The nations unfettered global reach meant it could introduce a local superiority of force at any point on the globe. Naval and air capabilities, coupled with dominance in space and cyberspace, served to guarantee U.S. access to the global commons and helped to underwrite security commitments around the world.

    A shrinking force structure, large, expensive legacy systems ill-suited to asymmetric warfare and an aging, depreciating industrial and technical base meant that the U.S. Navy found it increasingly difficult to respond to asymmetric opponents in the maritime commons. Moreover, unlike the United States, China used all levers of maritime power to achieve its goals.

    To view links or images in signatures your post count must be 15 or greater. You currently have 0 posts.


    Nikita Khrushchev: "We will bury you"
    "Your grandchildren will live under communism."
    You Americans are so gullible.
    No, you wont accept
    To view links or images in signatures your post count must be 15 or greater. You currently have 0 posts.
    outright, but well keep feeding you small doses of
    To view links or images in signatures your post count must be 15 or greater. You currently have 0 posts.
    until youll finally wake up and find you already have communism.

    To view links or images in signatures your post count must be 15 or greater. You currently have 0 posts.
    ."
    Well so weaken your
    To view links or images in signatures your post count must be 15 or greater. You currently have 0 posts.
    until youll
    To view links or images in signatures your post count must be 15 or greater. You currently have 0 posts.
    like overripe fruit into our hands."



  4. #4
    Creepy Ass Cracka & Site Owner Ryan Ruck's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jul 2005
    Location
    Cincinnati, OH
    Posts
    24,805
    Thanks
    48
    Thanked 72 Times in 71 Posts

    Default Re: Is the US Navy Overrated?

    I'm not sure why this thread is as popular as it is. For some reason it shows prominently when searching for the paper's title on various search engines.


  5. #5
    Postman vector7's Avatar
    Join Date
    Feb 2007
    Location
    Where it's quiet, peaceful and everyone owns guns
    Posts
    21,618
    Thanks
    28
    Thanked 70 Times in 65 Posts

    Default Re: Is the US Navy Overrated?

    Well then a few threads maybe responsible for funneling thousands to stumble across this site.


    To view links or images in signatures your post count must be 15 or greater. You currently have 0 posts.


    Nikita Khrushchev: "We will bury you"
    "Your grandchildren will live under communism."
    You Americans are so gullible.
    No, you wont accept
    To view links or images in signatures your post count must be 15 or greater. You currently have 0 posts.
    outright, but well keep feeding you small doses of
    To view links or images in signatures your post count must be 15 or greater. You currently have 0 posts.
    until youll finally wake up and find you already have communism.

    To view links or images in signatures your post count must be 15 or greater. You currently have 0 posts.
    ."
    Well so weaken your
    To view links or images in signatures your post count must be 15 or greater. You currently have 0 posts.
    until youll
    To view links or images in signatures your post count must be 15 or greater. You currently have 0 posts.
    like overripe fruit into our hands."



  6. #6
    Creepy Ass Cracka & Site Owner Ryan Ruck's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jul 2005
    Location
    Cincinnati, OH
    Posts
    24,805
    Thanks
    48
    Thanked 72 Times in 71 Posts

    Lightbulb Lean Manning Saps Morale, Puts Sailors At Risk

    Lean Manning Saps Morale, Puts Sailors At Risk
    Oct 21, 2009

    When the cruiser Port Royal ran aground in February off Hawaii, Navy investigators found a number of reasons for the failure. The ship's navigational gear was broken. Watchstanders lost their situational awareness. The fathometer wasn't working, so the ship had no way of assessing depth.

    But the investigation also found two other problems that have become all too common in the surface fleet: The captain had barely slept, and qualified lookouts who could have spotted the disaster in time were stuck doing jobs in other parts of the ship.

    Both problems too much work to do and not enough people to do it are byproducts of the fleet's years-old practice of "optimal manning," slowly whittling the number of bodies in each command throughout the fleet.

    Interviews with sailors, officers, leadership and experts, and a review of internal Navy documents, illustrate several problems in the fleet caused or worsened by shrinking crews:

    Increasing workdays and precious little time for rest.

    Fewer people to maintain or repair equipment aboard ship.

    Crew members with valuable expertise being pulled for other jobs and never replaced.

    Lower material readiness of ships and even mishaps.

    A site visit report from the Naval Inspector General's office to commands in Hampton Roads, Va., laid out the problems, listing the sailor deficit as the issue commanders complained about most.

    "Manning issues abounded throughout the region and clearly represented the greatest concern with regard to commanders' ability to safely and effectively accomplish their missions," said the report, which was completed this spring and obtained by Navy Times through the Freedom of Information Act. "Numerous manpower reduction initiatives, combined with manpower 'taxes' on commands to accomplish external missions, severely test many commands' ability to function."

    Comments from sailors show just how tough life has become.

    "Everything from standing watches and back-to-back deployments is getting really bad," one first class petty officer told Navy Times. He asked that his name not be used because he is still serving on active duty.

    "Just look at the surface side of the house. These sailors are standing watches, then going to work, then going to stand another watch. You tell me when these sailors are getting any sleep, or time to eat," he said.

    Ensign Eric Wynn, of the cruiser Vicksburg, said he thought the effects were even worse for junior officers, who work, stand watches and study to get qualified as surface warfare officers in a climate of smaller crews.

    "A SWO JO gets a hard lesson in time management during the first 18 months on board," Wynn said, estimating that young officers get only three or four hours of sleep on busy days.

    "Lean manning at sea means one thing: sleep deprivation," he said. "Sleep deprivation leads to mistakes, injuries, neglected equipment maintenance and repair, and poor crew morale. All of these affect mission readiness and success. We've known for years that sleep deprivation can have the same effects as being drunk."

    Big Navy knows the fleet is unhappy with lean manning. Adm. John Harvey, head of Fleet Forces Command, used one of the earliest posts on his official blog to ask sailors what they thought about manning in the Navy. And he acknowledged to Navy Times on Sept. 28 that the Navy was still adjusting to its current end strength of about 330,000 people, after cutting about 60,000 sailors over the previous six years.

    "We've hit where we think our floor is," he said. "Now, how do we best live with this number? I know we have not got it right in all the particulars."

    So Harvey and other fleet leaders are working on a series of moves to put sailors in hard-hit ratings where they are needed most. For example, Harvey wants to consolidate nine amphibious squadrons into seven, send more fire controlmen to Aegis ballistic-missile defense ships and send more qualified engineers to the gator fleet.

    But even though the Navy has stopped shrinking, it probably won't grow significantly for years if ever. And the cost of sailors, which is the Navy's most significant expense, won't abate, either. That is why Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Gary Roughead and other top leaders remain committed to reducing ships' crew sizes as much as possible, because every body taken off a ship frees up money the Navy can spend elsewhere.

    "We must strive to put in place the systems that allow us to reduce the crew sizes as much as we can," Roughead said last year in a meeting with Navy Times reporters and editors.

    "I do not advocate reducing people just to reduce people. We have to be able to compensate with technology or something that needs to take place but my thrust is, as we look to the future, and as we build new ship classes, we have to bring the ship's crew down," he said.

    How did this happen?

    One of the first major advocates for reducing the sizes of Navy crews was then-Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Vern Clark, who spoke often about the high price of sailors. So, in the early 2000s, he tasked the Navy with figuring out ways to trim crews.

    At the time, Clark knew the fleet needed to prepare for a new "family" of minimum-crew surface ships. The new warships all would need fewer sailors than any earlier ships of their size, so the Navy had to know how to operate them before the ships showed up, leaders said.

    "It's huge," said then-Vice Adm. Timothy LaFleur, who was commander of Naval Surface Forces, in 2003. "In the ships of the future, like [the littoral combat ship] and DD(X), we're going to have optimally manned crews. When DD(X) and LCS arrive, we have to have that infrastructure in place."

    In 2002, Clark's Navy Staff issued a change to the Navy Standard Workweek, the template planners use to assess how sailors use their time and, as such, how many sailors the Navy needs.

    "Manpower requirements shall reflect the minimum quantity and quality of manpower required for peacetime and wartime to effectively and efficiently accomplish the activity's mission," said the message, signed by then-Chief of Naval Personnel Vice Adm. Norb Ryan.

    The Navy extended the time allotted for work from 67 hours a week to 70 hours which, when computed with the fleet's manning formulas, meant the Navy could change its requirements to need fewer people, said retired Cmdr. Bill Hatch, a manning expert who teaches at the Naval Postgraduate School in Monterey, Calif.

    Since then, cruisers and destroyers, the bulk of the surface fleet, have been the hardest hit: Each has lost 40 to 50 sailors since the onset of lean manning, according to information provided by Naval Surface Forces. Frigates have lost 30 to 40 sailors.

    The ships and their equipment haven't changed they still need constant attention and maintenance to stay ready to deploy and fight. So, with the same amount of work and fewer people, each sailor works more and gets less time off.

    The decisions of the early 2000s began a drawdown that is only now abating, Harvey told Navy Times, although he stressed that the fleet had also added new obligations along the way.

    "What we've done fast forward to today we have shrunk the Navy by about 60,000 sailors in the past six to 6 years. And along the way, we invented the Navy Expeditionary Combat Command, expanded the Seabees and expanded [explosive ordnance disposal]. We've done a lot of expansion along the way," he said.

    As the Navy shrunk, officials in the fleets also made internal policy changes to call for fewer sailors, Hatch said.

    For example, as part of the Navy's "Smart Ship" concept for cruisers, fleet officials designated some equipment on the ships as needing "condition-based maintenance," so a sailor would work on a system only when it malfunctioned or broke, rather than making regularly scheduled checks. With less gear to work on regularly, a ship's crew could shed a few people.

    Another way for the fleet to require fewer people was to set up personnel requirements that assumed lower levels of readiness. For example, if Navy officials assumed a destroyer needed only a "limited" capability under normal sailing conditions, its crew would need only six signalmen, as opposed to "full" capability of 15 signalmen.

    Six signalmen on a destroyer cost the Navy $342,000 per year in 2008 dollars, but 15 cost $855,000 per year, according a Naval Postgraduate School manning case study. At about $57,000 a year per signalman, that difference of nine billets, over 30 destroyers, with each ship designed to serve for 40 years, means the Navy eventually can bank more than $615 million in savings.

    That dynamic, extrapolated to the entire force, means smaller crews save the Navy billions.

    There are still more factors at work in today's fleet that take away crew members. Many commands must send away sailors to serve as individual augmentees on the ground in Iraq or Afghanistan. Although they're no longer on board, in the eyes of the Navy bureaucracy, they still count as members of a ship's company. So even today's smaller official crew sizes can be deceiving, sailors told Navy Times.

    When ships are in port, they are expected to contribute crew members to do guard duty and other tasks needed by the base commander, pulling sailors away from time they could be training with shipmates to do their normal jobs, the IG report says.

    Overall, the Navy has adopted a culture of making do of permanently covering for people who are "temporarily" gone or were never there at all, sailors said.

    That mind-set is taking its toll.

    "Every commanding officer will make mission people will always get the job done," Hatch said. "You'll work them to death, but what's the cost? Fatigue, [low] retention and potentially, damage."

    A fleet of sleepwalkers

    Information Technician 2nd Class (SW) Chris Tierney, of the destroyer John Paul Jones, estimated that sailors on his ship slept three to five hours a night for weeks at a time.

    But endemic weariness isn't just unpleasant. It can be deadly, said Capt. Nicholas Davenport, a fatigue expert with the Naval Safety Center.

    "Fatigue affects mental capability in many different ways. The most obvious is where people just fall asleep they're not functional at all. We also know that these little 'micro-sleeps' go on, periods of seconds in the sleep mode, and a person is not aware of that. People can actually be asleep in those seconds. The more and more fatigued they get, their higher-level cognitive function degrades in a lot of strange ways."

    Although lean manning has affected all parts of the Navy, the effects of sleep deprivation are more acute in the surface force, Davenport said, because of its culture of endurance. Aviators learn early in their careers that their performance depends on being well-rested, he said, and pilots and aircrew members don't fly if they haven't had a minimum amount of down time. But the surface force has developed traditions of hardiness and standing long watches that are difficult to overcome.

    "In the past, we've kind of had this heroic mentality that says, 'We're well trained, we're drilled, we're professional,'" Davenport said. "'Yeah, we're gonna be tired, we're fatigued, but we know how to manage it.' But the science, in fact, shows us that's not true. As people get more and more fatigued, they do have degradation of their performance in a whole variety of ways."

    Some ratings get it even worse than others. One example came from Operations Specialist 2nd Class (SW) Steven Burkett, who, like many in his rating, stands "port and starboard" watches because the Navy doesn't fully fund the OS rating, Hatch said. Burkett described how draining it was to spend weeks at sea getting precious little sleep and trying to stand a watch in the combat information center.

    "While other rates on the weekend underway sleep in, or watch TV all day, the OSes are standing watch. Then of course we get in trouble if we are caught dozing off in a room that is dark with blue lighting, with the [air conditioning] going, and the ship rocking back and forth like a cradle. When you're tired, you're tired. Yet when we try to explain why, it's always our fault, and our responsibility to get enough sleep."

    Life gets difficult

    Smaller crews don't just cause sleeplessness; they make life harder for everyone on board. Navy Times heard many other examples from sailors: In one, a third class surface sonar technician spent six months of a seven-month deployment on mess duty because the ship's supply department needed extra help, meaning he didn't get any time at sea to do his actual job.

    Officials at a fleet maintenance symposium Oct. 1 said a shortage of qualified enginemen has caused problems running the diesel engines on the fleet's amphibious ships.

    And when the cruiser San Jacinto returned from a deployment in March and got ready for a material inspection by the Board of Inspection and Survey, its captain realized the ship couldn't get in shape to pass with the core crew he had available.

    The ship needed help from as many as 87 people from 16 commands to get into shape for InSurv proof, its commander wrote in a "lessons learned" message obtained by Navy Times, that today's surface ships don't have the manning they need.

    "The significant labor pool which rallied in support of SJA contributed greatly to preparations for the M.I.," wrote Capt. John Cordle. "Without this additional manpower SJA would not have been ready for the M.I."

    The overwork and fatigue caused by smaller crews has also led to accidents at sea. Port Royal's commander, Capt. John Carroll, had only 4 hours of sleep in 24 hours, and 15 hours' sleep over three days, as he and his crew worked to get underway, the Navy's investigation found.

    Carroll admitted he was tired and said his fatigue was made worse as he oversaw the launch of a small boat carrying home sea trial assessors just before the grounding. What's more, although the ship had qualified lookouts, they were helping out the supply department, working as food service attendants in the mess, and not standing watch as the ship came into port.

    Before the Port Royal mishap occurred, a December 2008 study by a student at the Naval Postgraduate School linked mishaps and small crew sizes on frigates.

    For his master's thesis, Lt. Patrick Lazzaretti compared Class A through D mishaps aboard 27 frigates from 1998 to 2005 with the ships' crew sizes and found that as crews shrunk, the incidence of mishaps increased. Although the study did not name individual ships or list numbers of mishaps, its findings show that the rise and fall of crew sizes tracked with the fall and rise of incidents.

    In today's fleet, even crews on station, with no mechanical problems, have to worry about whether they'll be able to make do if a vital sailor is hurt, killed, or pulled off the crew for some other reason.

    "Recently a sailor was injured, requiring him to be flown off the ship," said Tierney, of the John Paul Jones. "With him went not just a valuable sailor and a great shipmate, but also the valuable knowledge he possesses, leaving no one with the necessary knowledge in case of equipment failure or a casualty."

    The destroyer Decatur, a ship designed for about 330 people, sailed from San Diego in May with a crew of 239. Its commanding officer said he felt he had enough people to do his job, but he acknowledged he was leading a team whose starters had to play for the entire game.

    "I feel like we are tactically ready and prepared, but there's a price and it's on the backs of sailors," Cmdr. Chris Sweeney said. "I think we are at the right number. It's how resilient are you. If someone gets hurt, I don't have a bench."

    The response

    Top Navy leaders are often asked about manning when they meet with sailors in all-hands calls. Navy Secretary Ray Mabus, who tells sailors that ships are going to sea manned at 85 percent, has said he wants to begin to get IAs back to their home crews as soon as possible.

    And after reading the posted messages on his blog, Harvey said fleet leaders know there is work to be done in adjusting how ships are crewed. So he said he has decided to add a total of 122 new billets in strategic places in the aviation, submarine and surface forces. They'll be in place over the next three months.

    Polices are changing as well: Under the new plan, optimally manned ships would have new protections for when and how many crew members can be plucked off for IA assignments. Harvey said he would like ships to keep 95 percent of crew members in every skill set after sailors have been taken away for IA missions, a change from today's goal of 90 percent.

    He also said he wants to protect ships getting ready to deploy from losing sailors too close to when they sail, although it wasn't clear in early October how far in advance the IA "fence" would go up.

    Atlantic and Pacific Fleet leaders are also standing up "fleet review panels," which will investigate manning issues on the East and West coasts. That concept is still in the early stages; a spokesman for Fleet Forces Command said he didn't have additional information about who would sit on the panels, whether they'd be permanent or other details.

    Overall, Harvey said he has gotten the message that the Navy needs to tweak its policies.

    "We are making adjustments within the overall manning picture. Yes, we have manning issues, but I think we have a good idea of what they are and I think we have a good idea of what we need to do," he said.

    Fleet fixes

    Adm. John Harvey, head of Fleet Forces Command, plans a series of changes and additional billets to help commands across the Navy that suffer from manning issues. Fleet Forces is adding a total of 122 billets across the Navy, as well as making policy and organizational changes, which include:

    Manning:

    35 new machinist's mates for amphibious assault ships, or five apiece for the first seven Wasp-class big deck gators.

    30 more fire controlmen for ballistic-missile defense cruisers and destroyers.

    30 more billets for the patrol coastal ships' maintenance support teams.

    16 more enginemen for Whidbey Island- and Harpers Ferry-class dock landing ships.

    11 more engineering trainers for Philadelphia's Center for Naval Engineering detachment.

    Reorganization:

    Collapse nine amphibious squadrons into seven, redistributing the staffs so that each remaining squadron is fully manned.

    Shift six master chief surface sonar technicians from jobs ashore to posts at sea.

    New policies:

    Require newly selected chiefs to stay aboard or return to their ships for their initial sea tour in that rank.

    Ensure that 95 percent of every skill set aboard ship remains in place after sailors have been pulled away for individual augmentee assignments, up from 90 percent.

    Make sure ships don't lose sailors to IA assignments within a certain time before that ship deploys. Today, a sailor who has spent months with shipmates working up for a deployment can be pulled off for IA duty weeks or days before a ship deploys.

  7. #7
    Creepy Ass Cracka & Site Owner Ryan Ruck's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jul 2005
    Location
    Cincinnati, OH
    Posts
    24,805
    Thanks
    48
    Thanked 72 Times in 71 Posts

    Default Re: Lean Manning Saps Morale, Puts Sailors At Risk

    InSurv Prep Means Extensive Outside Help
    Oct 6, 2009

    The funding and manning climate in today's surface fleet makes it difficult for ships to get into shape for their major inspections without outside assistance, according to an internal case study detailing one cruiser's preparations.

    For the Norfolk, Va.-based cruiser San Jacinto, it took the ship's company, plus as many as 87 extra people from 16 commands working as much as three months in advance, to set the ship up for its material inspection by the Board of Inspection and Survey. A Navy message detailing those arrangements, written by the cruiser's commander, Capt. John Cordle, made clear that without the extra help, San Jacinto would have failed.

    "Bottom line: The maintenance community is not currently structured and the business practices do not currently support the large volume of work which inevitably must take place to prepare a ship for InSurv," said the message, obtained by Navy Times. "The significant labor pool which rallied in support of SJA contributed greatly to preparations for the M.I. Without this additional manpower SJA would not have been ready for the M.I."

    The story of San Jacinto's InSurv preparations demonstrates the Navy's acceptance of ships bringing in external help to get in shape for inspections — not only because ships' core crews have gotten smaller, but because crews shrink even more depending on a ship's place in its deployment cycle, said Bob Butler, deputy fleet maintenance officer for Fleet Forces Command.

    According to Cordle's message, cruisers today have about 44 fewer sailors than before the onset of "optimal manning." And because San Jacinto had recently come back from a deployment, its ship's company was even smaller, Butler said.

    He didn't have an exact number of the deficit in the ship's crew, but generally the dip can be as many as 20 people.

    The ship returned from deployment in late March. Its material inspection took place Aug. 3-7.

    But Butler said the borrowing of workers from across the waterfront to prepare for an inspection was a long-standing practice.

    "What they did and how they prepared is exactly how we expected to see. None of that was unique," Butler said.

    A disturbing sign?

    One retired cruiser commander, who asked not to be identified because of his ongoing ties to the Navy, said the heroic effort described by San Jacinto's message showed that the fleet's daily routines were broken.

    "What this suggests is that optimal manning doesn't create a situation in which a ship, using only its own assets, can succeed in InSurv," he said.

    "I think that the record of known failures, particularly in cruisers, is beginning to speak for itself: Rode hard, put away wet; too much time away from home; too little time getting repaired; and too little money and planning dedicated to it."

    San Jacinto didn't just need extra people to get the ship squared away, according to the message. Ninety days beforehand, officials assessed that the ship needed about $1.5 million in repairs and at least six extra days underway, which later become 10.

    "An exceptional amount of energy had to be expended in order to overcome the inertia of a huge maintenance backlog in only 90 days," the message said.

    The funding eventually came, but only after high-level finagling, according to the message: "In the end SJA received a great deal of the necessary support, but this required constant engagement at the O-6 and above level.

    "There is no substitute for performing the checks at sea. Additional underway days must be budgeted for ships to get underway and conduct InSurv preps," the CO wrote. "Ships should not have to justify the need to get underway to practice for InSurv. This should be a recognized cost of preparing a ship for this rigorous inspection."

    One team, one InSurv

    The cruiser San Jacinto needed help from 16 commands throughout Naval Station Norfolk, Va., to get ready for its inspection. The commands that shared people and the number of sailors they gave, from 30 to 90 days before the inspection:

    Enterprise Carrier Strike Group, 4; carrier Enterprise, 4; cruisers Leyte Gulf, 1; Monterey, 1; Vella Gulf, 2; destroyers Bulkeley, 1; Gravely, 10 people per day for 90 days; Jason Dunham, 10 people per day for two weeks; Ramage, 1; Roosevelt, 1; dock landing ship Carter Hall, 2; amphibious assault ship Nassau, 1; Cruiser Class Squadron, 3; Destroyer Class Squadron, 10 people per day for 90 days; Transient Personnel Unit Norfolk, 10 people per day for 90 days; Navy Reserve: 26 sailors for a total of 511 workdays.

  8. #8
    Expatriate American Patriot's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jul 2005
    Location
    A Banana Republic, Central America
    Posts
    48,602
    Thanks
    79
    Thanked 27 Times in 27 Posts

    Default Re: Lean Manning Saps Morale, Puts Sailors At Risk

    Wait, I have an idea... let's put WOMEN aboard!

    (LMAO)
    Libertatem Prius!


    To view links or images in signatures your post count must be 15 or greater. You currently have 0 posts.




  9. #9
    Creepy Ass Cracka & Site Owner Ryan Ruck's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jul 2005
    Location
    Cincinnati, OH
    Posts
    24,805
    Thanks
    48
    Thanked 72 Times in 71 Posts

    Default Re: Is the US Navy Overrated?

    Sailors Report Footing Bill For Needs On Ships
    December 1, 2009

    Chief Machinist's Mate (SW/AW) Michael Seger was tired of his sailors being punished when they weren't getting their work done on schedule. It happened over and over, and it wasn't their fault, he said. They didn't have the gear they needed to clean, paint spaces, or maintain their equipment by the command's schedule.

    So Seger took matters into his own hands. For years, first on the carrier Enterprise and then on the amphibious assault ship Nassau, Seger drove out to hardware stores and shopping centers to spend his own money on the stuff his sailors needed.

    Between those two ships alone, Seger estimated he spent more than $4,000 of his own money "to buy everything from simple cleaning supplies that cost a few dollars to high-priced fittings for pumps that cost upwards of several hundred dollars," he told Navy Times.

    "Over almost 18 years of service, I know I am not the only one to do this, and honestly, it is simply pathetic," Seger said.

    He is far from the only one. More than 40 current and former sailors told Navy Times stories about paying for equipment with their own money, a practice they described as common and often necessary to keep ships in fighting shape. Many active-duty sailors asked not to be identified because they worried about being disciplined for discussing shortages or management problems in their current commands.

    Navy Times heard mostly from senior petty officers and chiefs located all over the U.S., as well as a few officers.

    Leaders were surprised when Navy Times told them what the sailors said, despite the fact that the problem was brought to Big Navy's attention this spring, in a report filed by the service's inspector general.

    "The only time I've seen anything like that is back in the bad old days," said Rear Adm. David Lewis, vice commander of Naval Sea Systems Command and chief operating officer of the Surface Warfare Enterprise.

    "That's not right. If that's going on, we want to hear about it — we don't pay our sailors to do that."

    According to the IG, sales have been slipping at the contractor-operated Super ServMart store on the waterfront at Naval Station Norfolk, Va., which sells more than 8,000 items to the fleet. "This may be indicative of the increasing budget shortfalls noted by the afloat units visited," said the report, which was examining a number of issues in the Hampton Roads area.

    IG investigators found one ship, which they didn't identify, that had $1 million in unfunded consumable supplies. "Sailors of all ranks, including the supply officer, are buying supplies out of pocket to meet operational and certification requirements," the report said.

    Navy Times asked sailors to comment on the IG's findings, and heard similar stories from all across the fleet. Some of the most common items were hand and power tools, bought to replace an earlier version that had disappeared, was broken or just wasn't working right.

    One sailor described needing to buy a Simpson 260 multimeter (about $230); a corpsman stationed at Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, Calif., needed to buy his own medical bag (about $300); and another sailor remembered venturing into town during a foreign port call to buy a replacement fuse for the Mk 13 missile launcher on a frigate (about $6). When he got back to the ship, his tools had been stolen, so he needed to replace those, too.

    Over a career, one sailor said, these expenses add up.

    "Nothing beats having your wife meet you at the door when you come home — except when she informs you that the money you have spent on your equipment rework over the last four months could have made an extra house payment," said one aviation support technician first class.

    The common theme: Although sailors didn't have what they needed to work, their commanders still expected results. That included times when crews needed gear they couldn't buy.

    One aircraft carrier supply officer remembered buying his own paint, brushes and other supplies so sailors could get spaces finished on schedule. But what they didn't have — and couldn't buy — was the right personal protective equipment, to keep sailors from breathing in the fumes as they worked.

    "I cannot tell you how many brain cells I have destroyed due to the fact of our ship not having enough respirators, and our deadlines not flexing for it," the supply officer said.

    When you need it yesterday

    Why would people working for a federal agency with a yearly budget of more than $150 billion spend their own money on equipment to do their jobs?

    Sailors gave plenty of reasons.

    Because not enough of that money trickles down to their level. Or because what did has dried up. Or because they can't get what they need otherwise.

    "Right now, because there is no budget in place somewhere, my unit cannot even buy toilet paper or printer toner, let alone a tool like a hammer or a saw," one utilitiesman first class said. "It really wears you out when all you get is the answer 'no' for three months and one day they say you need to spend $10,000 today! And this repeats over and over again."

    Another big reason: Because an inspection, deployment or VIP visit is coming up soon, and work needs to be finished fast.

    Senior Chief Cryptologic Technician (Technical) (SS/SW/AW) Scott Priest estimated he had spent $500 of his own money over two years, also aboard the amphibious assault ship Nassau, even as leaders discouraged sailors from buying their own gear.

    "This, of course, was not expected by the chain of command. It was even looked at negatively. But in the end, there was no other option. Buying an air chisel from Home Depot for $40 and getting the job done with one sailor in one day was much better than handing five sailors a bunch of paint scrapers and wasting a week," he said.

    Over four years on Norfolk-based ships, former Hull Technician 2nd Class David Moyer estimated he spent as much as $2,500 of his own money on key blanks, picks, drill bits and other tools in his job as a ship's locksmith. Moyer, who got out of the Navy last year, asked once to be reimbursed for a year's worth of key blanks, to the tune of $240, but his supervisors were incredulous.

    "I would usually get a chuckle of, 'Ugh, no, what do you need that much money for?' " he remembered. "Um, because that's how much that $20 a month cost me, little by little, per year."

    Moyer described a complicated philosophy when it came to buying his own gear, which he believes is pervasive in the fleet. He felt indebted to the Navy for sending him to locksmith school, so he viewed buying his own equipment as a kind of repayment, and he saw the same dynamic in other sailors who needed to resolve their own money and maintenance shortages.

    "[These] are just sad realities of life in or out of the Navy," he said. "It really is as simple as this: You cannot buy a $500 welder [when] a shop only got allotted $400 to buy shop equipment. I do believe a majority of these people are like myself and feel that they are just giving back what the Navy has given to them. They also do it because they know their ship, sitting pier-side, broken down, is a ship that's obviously useless and cannot do its job to defend America."

    Don't ask, don't tell

    One reason that buying equipment out of pocket is so common could be that Big Navy seems to have few overarching, fleetwide rules addressing the issue. Spokesmen for Naval Supply Systems Command, Fleet Forces Command and Naval Surface Forces all said there was no official guidance. Lt. Cmdr. Phil Rosi, spokesman for Fleet Forces, declined to make a senior officer within his command available for an interview.

    What's more, officials sounded surprised when they learned what sailors were telling Navy Times — but to a person, they said they opposed it.

    Master Chief Petty Officer of the Navy (SS/SW) Rick West said he hadn't heard about the out-of-pocket purchases, but the notion distressed him.

    "If this is happening, it's unacceptable," he said.

    Retired Rear Adm. David Donohue — whose career included time in command of Norfolk Naval Shipyard and who now serves on the board of the American Society of Naval Engineers — was unequivocal in condemning out-of-pocket purchases.

    "This is an abominable abuse of our personnel," he said.

    The high-level disengagement seems to have been caused by sailors' hiding the purchases from division officers or commanders. Indeed, one element mentioned repeatedly was an old Navy management philosophy: I don't care how you do it, just get it done.

    "We needed a specific color of paint, not normally kept in the boatswains' paint locker," remembered one San Diego-based senior chief boatswain's mate. He said that could have taken weeks to order. "Well, the CO didn't want to hear that. I went to Home Depot with a paint chip, color-matched it, and purchased a half gallon of paint in order to get the job completed. Mission accomplished and the CO was off my back."

    The senior chief estimated he had spent as much as $2,000 of his own money on such jobs over his career in the Navy.

    "If the [Defense Department or the Department of the Navy] is unwilling to properly fund for the proper care of their equipment, then it should not fall on the shoulders of the sailor. For me, it was easier to pay for it, get it done, keep my division and [work center] numbers up, than to keep taking shots from the CO or department head. ... [I]f a sailor is pushed to get the job done, they will find a way to accomplish the task — just don't ask too many questions."

    How to fix the problem

    Sailors had several recommendations — large and small — for changes the Navy could make to cut back on buying equipment out of pocket.

    • Get division officers, executive officers and captains involved. One key recommendation — given that it's an issue at the local command level — is for local commanders to be more involved with their supply situation, said Lt. Cmdr. Martin Thomas, a supply officer now serving with U.S. Central Command at MacDill Air Force Base, Fla.

    "A distinct possibility is that there is a failure on the part of ship's personnel to understand what a ship's true needs are, a failure to prioritize those requirements, and a failure to communicate those needs to higher authority. Doing this accurately is a very difficult job, but also very crucial," he said.

    • Make it easier to buy things out in town. Chief Machinist's Mate (SW/AW) Michael Seger said ships and work centers should be given more latitude to buy equipment on their own, as opposed to ordering from within normal supply chains. That would save time and money, he said.

    • Do you really need those new TVs? Several sailors singled out one culprit they thought could be eating up dollars that was going elsewhere: Big, flat-panel televisions that have become ubiquitous aboard ships.

    "On my last ship, my division needed an essential part to fix some of our gear. Supply department told us there wasn't enough money for it, yet they could somehow afford two 50-inch high-def flat-screen TVs that they had in one of their spaces — supply support. Kind of makes you wonder," Sonar Technician Seaman Heidi Welte said.

    • Establish tool-control programs. Although sailors on ships and in aviation units told Navy Times they had supply and gear shortages, the aviation world may also have an answer: Many squadrons forbid sailors from buying their own equipment and maintain stringent "tool-control programs."

    "All of our work center's tools are accounted for. All of the tools I have to replace that are broken, worn, or missing tools are accounted for. ... We are not allowed to buy our own tools, a big no-no," said Logistics Specialist 2nd Class Joseph Nykaza, who is the tool-control program coordinator for Strike Fighter Squadron 14, the "Tophatters."

    "We must account for everything. So this whole buying your own tools thing is rubbish. It is wrong to let that happen at all, anywhere, anytime."

    The problem is that many ships have no choice.

    "What the surface Navy needs is a good tool-control program like the aviation world has," one petty officer said. "But, to do that, the ships need to be equipped to support it."

  10. #10
    Creepy Ass Cracka & Site Owner Ryan Ruck's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jul 2005
    Location
    Cincinnati, OH
    Posts
    24,805
    Thanks
    48
    Thanked 72 Times in 71 Posts

    Default Re: Is the US Navy Overrated?

    The Decline of U.S. Naval Power
    Sixty ships were commonly underway in America's seaward approaches in 1998, but today there are only 20. We are abdicating our role on the oceans.

    March 2, 2011
    By MARK HELPRIN

    Last week, pirates attacked and executed four Americans in the Indian Ocean. We and the Europeans have endured literally thousands of attacks by the Somali pirates without taking the initiative against their vulnerable boats and bases even once. Such paralysis is but a symptom of a sickness that started some time ago.

    The 1968 film, "2001: A Space Odyssey," suggested that in another 30 years commercial flights to the moon, extraterrestrial mining, and interplanetary voyages would be routine. Soon the United States would send multiple missions to the lunar surface, across which astronauts would speed in vehicles. If someone born before Kitty Hawk's first flight would shortly after retirement see men riding around the moon in an automobile, it was reasonable to assume that half again as much time would bring progress at a similarly dazzling rate.

    It didn't work out that way. In his 1962 speech at Rice University, perhaps the high-water mark of both the American Century and recorded presidential eloquence, President Kennedy framed the challenge not only of going to the moon but of sustaining American exceptionalism and this country's leading position in the world. He was assassinated a little more than a year later, and in subsequent decades American confidence went south.

    Not only have we lost our enthusiasm for the exploration of space, we have retreated on the seas. Up to 30 ships, the largest ever constructed, each capable of carrying 18,000 containers, will soon come off the ways in South Korea. Not only will we neither build, own, nor man them, they won't even call at our ports, which are not large enough to receive them. We are no longer exactly the gem of the ocean. Next in line for gratuitous abdication is our naval position.

    Separated by the oceans from sources of raw materials in the Middle East, Africa, Australia and South America, and from markets and manufacture in Europe, East Asia and India, we are in effect an island nation. Because 95% and 90% respectively of U.S. and world foreign trade moves by sea, maritime interdiction is the quickest route to both the strangulation of any given nation and chaos in the international system. First Britain and then the U.S. have been the guarantors of the open oceans. The nature of this task demands a large blue-water fleet that simply cannot be abridged.

    With the loss of a large number of important bases world-wide, if and when the U.S. projects military power it must do so most of the time from its own territory or the sea. Immune to political cross-currents, economically able to cover multiple areas, hypoallergenic to restive populations, and safe from insurgencies, the fleets are instruments of undeniable utility in support of allies and response to aggression. Forty percent of the world's population lives within range of modern naval gunfire, and more than two-thirds within easy reach of carrier aircraft. Nothing is better or safer than naval power and presence to preserve the often fragile reticence among nations, to protect American interests and those of our allies, and to prevent the wars attendant to imbalances of power and unrestrained adventurism.

    And yet the fleet has been made to wither even in time of war. We have the smallest navy in almost a century, declining in the past 50 years to 286 from 1,000 principal combatants. Apologists may cite typical postwar diminutions, but the ongoing 17% reduction from 1998 to the present applies to a navy that unlike its wartime predecessors was not previously built up. These are reductions upon reductions. Nor can there be comfort in the fact that modern ships are more capable, for so are the ships of potential opponents. And even if the capacity of a whole navy could be packed into a small number of super ships, they could be in only a limited number of places at a time, and the loss of just a few of them would be catastrophic.

    The overall effect of recent erosions is illustrated by the fact that 60 ships were commonly underway in America's seaward approaches in 1998, but today—despite opportunities for the infiltration of terrorists, the potential of weapons of mass destruction, and the ability of rogue nations to sea-launch intermediate and short-range ballistic missiles—there are only 20.

    As China's navy rises and ours declines, not that far in the future the trajectories will cross. Rather than face this, we seduce ourselves with redefinitions such as the vogue concept that we can block with relative ease the straits through which the strategic materials upon which China depends must transit. But in one blink this would move us from the canonical British/American control of the sea to the insurgent model of lesser navies such as Germany's in World Wars I and II and the Soviet Union's in the Cold War. If we cast ourselves as insurgents, China will be driven even faster to construct a navy that can dominate the oceans, a complete reversal of fortune.

    The United Sates Navy need not follow the Royal Navy into near oblivion. We have five times the population and almost six times the GDP of the U.K., and unlike Britain we were not exhausted by the great wars and their debt, and we neither depended upon an empire for our sway nor did we lose one.

    Despite its necessity, deficit reduction is not the only or even the most important thing. Abdicating our more than half-century stabilizing role on the oceans, neglecting the military balance, and relinquishing a position we are fully capable of holding will bring tectonic realignments among nations—and ultimately more expense, bloodletting, and heartbreak than the most furious deficit hawk is capable of imagining. A technological nation with a GDP of $14 trillion can afford to build a fleet worthy of its past and sufficient to its future. Pity it if it does not.

    Mr. Helprin, a senior fellow at the Claremont Institute, is the author of, among other works, "Winter's Tale" (Harcourt), "A Soldier of the Great War" (Harcourt) and, most recently, "Digital Barbarism" (HarperCollins).

  11. #11
    Expatriate American Patriot's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jul 2005
    Location
    A Banana Republic, Central America
    Posts
    48,602
    Thanks
    79
    Thanked 27 Times in 27 Posts

    Default Re: Is the US Navy Overrated?

    I don't think the USN is over rated by any means.

    I DO however believe that the Federal Government and the DOD in general are in deep, deep trouble for other reasons.

    Efficiency? There just ain't any anymore.

    What used to take me a week to accomplish now takes me 3-4 MONTHS.

    You wanna know why? The government has created more and more regulations and rules about how things should be done, checks and checks and rules and no balances versus manpower.

    I have three people working here. Me and two others. We used to be able to get our parts, do an upgrade and get it done in a few days.

    It's taken us OVER A YEAR just to "run the process" of "approval" (which of course it was approved). This involved hundreds, if not THOUSANDS of manhours to sit in BLOODY MEETINGS to "talka bout and discuss" things

    The DOD isn't any better. They are worse off.

    Airmen, Marines, Soldiers and Sailors sit in stupid assed classes on "how to get along" with other races, drug classes, and many other "socialistic oriented" instruction these days instead of learning the more important aspects of "How to KILL the fucking enemy and live to tell about it"
    Libertatem Prius!


    To view links or images in signatures your post count must be 15 or greater. You currently have 0 posts.




  12. #12
    Creepy Ass Cracka & Site Owner Ryan Ruck's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jul 2005
    Location
    Cincinnati, OH
    Posts
    24,805
    Thanks
    48
    Thanked 72 Times in 71 Posts

    Default Re: Lean Manning Saps Morale, Puts Sailors At Risk

    Quote Originally Posted by Ryan Ruck View Post
    Well, apparently the solution to the problems caused by lean manning is to cut more Sailors...

    Navy to Cut Jobs Amid Recession-Driven Sailor Surplus
    July 8, 2011

    With more sailors staying in the military amid a slumping economic recovery, the U.S. Navy is taking the unprecedented step of firing low-ranking petty officers to help rein in spending.

    The Navy plans to let go of 3,000 young sailors after economic uncertainty put the service in the unusual position of having a manpower surplus.

    The move comes as a new government report shows that the unemployment rate ticked up to 9.2 percent -- marking 29 straight months that number has been over 8 percent and a record streak since the Great Depression.

    In August, the Navy will convene a board to review the cases of 16,000 sailors and eliminate 3,000 positions, about 1 percent of the force. Navy officials say the jobs cuts will be based on experience and individual performance records.

    It's a complete reversal for the military, which just four years ago at the height of the fighting in Iraq, had a hard time meeting its recruiting goals. At the time there was talk of the Army being spread so thin it would not have enough fighters to conduct its wars. Now with the White House aiming to cut spending and pull troops out of Iraq and Afghanistan, the need for more men has diminished.

    Rep. Mike Coffman, who sits on the House Armed Services Committee and served in the Marine Corps, says it's not a good situation for those young sailors.

    "There's no retirement for them and... there's no severance for them," Coffman said. "So essentially they're with so many other Americans on unemployment."

    Coffman told Fox News it's not unusual for the military's retention rates to go up during bad economic times, but he called this particular case "unprecedented."

    "It's never gone up to this level where so many people, the vast majority of people want to stay in the United States Navy."

    The Air Force retention rates are also up to a 6-year high, causing it to convene a similar reduction-in -force board. The Air Force will review the records of more than 9,000 officers, mostly majors, and roughly 400 are expected to be let go.

    Fox News military analyst and retired Maj. Gen. Bob Scales, says it all boils down to pressure on Washington to save money and simple arithmetic.

    "The quickest way to reduce the budget for the military is to cut people," Scales said. "They can be pulled out of the ranks immediately and the savings are immediate. Whereas when you try to cut programs often times for new weapons systems it takes years, if not decades, to get all that money back."

    The retention rate for sailors with one to six years of service rose 10 percent from 2005 to 2010. And the Navy is overstaffed in 31 different job categories: jet engine mechanics, avionics technicians, electricians.

    "What we're seeing in the Navy is just the tip of iceberg for all the services," Scales said. "The Air Force and the Navy have gone down in strength over the last few years and as the troops return from Afghanistan and Iraq and as pressure mounts on the defense budget, we're going to see similar consequences for the ground services."

    Former Defense Secretary Robert Gates announced in January that as the wars come to a close in 2015 the Pentagon has plans to cut active-duty soldiers by 27,000 and reduce the Marine Corps by roughly 15,000.

    In October, the Army will begin cutting its ranks by 22,000 -- and that means even more job seekers in a market with fewer and fewer good jobs.

  13. #13
    Expatriate American Patriot's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jul 2005
    Location
    A Banana Republic, Central America
    Posts
    48,602
    Thanks
    79
    Thanked 27 Times in 27 Posts

    Default Re: Is the US Navy Overrated?

    All the forces are cutting people, quietly.

    Wait and see.
    Libertatem Prius!


    To view links or images in signatures your post count must be 15 or greater. You currently have 0 posts.




  14. #14
    Creepy Ass Cracka & Site Owner Ryan Ruck's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jul 2005
    Location
    Cincinnati, OH
    Posts
    24,805
    Thanks
    48
    Thanked 72 Times in 71 Posts

    Default Re: Is the US Navy Overrated?

    And from what I'm hearing, these aren't the do-nothing paper pushers. These are the behind-the-scenes hard workers that get things done.

  15. #15
    Expatriate American Patriot's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jul 2005
    Location
    A Banana Republic, Central America
    Posts
    48,602
    Thanks
    79
    Thanked 27 Times in 27 Posts

    Default Re: Is the US Navy Overrated?

    Same thing is going on quietly everywhere, Ryan. We've cut about 500 people world-wide from MDA. Looks like more cuts are coming.

    Unfortunately, these were the contractors, the on-the-ground, digging in the dirt, wiring up wires guys.

    Some of the contracts with operations are going bye-bye too from what I am hearing and reading around here.

    That's a BAD thing...

    No government guys, just contractors.
    Libertatem Prius!


    To view links or images in signatures your post count must be 15 or greater. You currently have 0 posts.




  16. #16
    Postman vector7's Avatar
    Join Date
    Feb 2007
    Location
    Where it's quiet, peaceful and everyone owns guns
    Posts
    21,618
    Thanks
    28
    Thanked 70 Times in 65 Posts

    Default Re: Is the US Navy Overrated?

    Over a Fifth of Navy Ships Arent Ready to Fight






    More than a fifth of the Navy isnt ready to sail or fight, at a time when demand on the fleet is off the charts. And the number of unready ships is likely to rise as Navy officers try to fix their chronic readiness woes.

    According to statistics released by Rep. Randy Forbes, the Virginia Republican who chairs the House Armed Services Readiness Subcommittee, 22 percent of Navy ships didnt pass their inspections in 2011. In 2007, just 8 percent of ships were rated as carrying junk equipment or insufficient spare parts. And more than half the Navys deployed aircraft the F/A-18 Hornets, the jamming EA-18G Growlers, the P-3C Orion surveillance plane arent ready for combat.

    The Navys surface fleet goes into the water banged up. Its aircraft carriers, frigates, destroyers spend nearly 40 percent of their deployment time with at least one major equipment or systems failure, according to a chart Forbes released at a hearing on Tuesday. That can include anti-air defenses, radar, satellite communications, or engines. Lets not forget that even the new ships are disintegrating.

    And the demand on the Navy is huge. Consider the last year at sea. U.S. Navy ships and aircraft performed support missions for Iraq and Afghanistan. They helped with disaster relief after Pakistani floods and a Japanese tsunami/earthquake. They fought Somali pirates and spearheaded an ongoing war in Libya.

    At Forbes hearing, two senior Navy officers, Vice Adm. William Burke and Vice Adm. Kevin McCoy, signaled that the readiness problems going to get worse before it gets better. As engineers perform more detailed inspections the admirals solution to the problem theyll probably expose even deeper maintenance woes. And ship maintenance came up short in the current defense budget, Burke said, with $5 billion devoted to patching up the fleet.

    Philip Ewing of DoD Buzz contends that todays Navy is paying the bill for short-sighted Pentagon decisions in the late 90s and early 2000s. As someone who documented systemic, service-wide problems with preventive maintenance at emerged at the end of the last decade, Ewing writes that the Navy cut back on maintenance crews, used computer programs instead of skilled chiefs for maintenance instruction, and simple budget cuts meant ships didnt get the regular maintenance or spare parts they needed.

    Now consider that the Navys facing down three big trends. The Obama administrations $400 billion, 12-year defense budget cut means it has to juggle priorities if it wants to get its ships and planes ready to fight.

    (Bye-bye, super lasers.) The Pentagon sees the U.S. most likely security showdowns occurring at sea and in the air, especially in the western Pacific the Navys wheelhouse. Finally, unless the Navy goes on a shipbuilding surge in the next decade, the fleet might shrink by about 70 ships as the Reagan-era subs and combatants meet the end of their service life in the 2020s.

    The Navy, in other words, is staring down an era of doing more with less. And the decks its looking out from appear increasingly creaky and junked.

    To view links or images in signatures your post count must be 15 or greater. You currently have 0 posts.


    Nikita Khrushchev: "We will bury you"
    "Your grandchildren will live under communism."
    You Americans are so gullible.
    No, you wont accept
    To view links or images in signatures your post count must be 15 or greater. You currently have 0 posts.
    outright, but well keep feeding you small doses of
    To view links or images in signatures your post count must be 15 or greater. You currently have 0 posts.
    until youll finally wake up and find you already have communism.

    To view links or images in signatures your post count must be 15 or greater. You currently have 0 posts.
    ."
    Well so weaken your
    To view links or images in signatures your post count must be 15 or greater. You currently have 0 posts.
    until youll
    To view links or images in signatures your post count must be 15 or greater. You currently have 0 posts.
    like overripe fruit into our hands."



  17. #17
    Creepy Ass Cracka & Site Owner Ryan Ruck's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jul 2005
    Location
    Cincinnati, OH
    Posts
    24,805
    Thanks
    48
    Thanked 72 Times in 71 Posts

    Default Re: Is the US Navy Overrated?

    Surface Navy: ‘We’re Not Good To Go’
    July 12, 2011

    A pair of top Navy officials admitted Tuesday that its endemic readiness problems are basically unresolved — and may keep getting worse — before the service’s plans to fix its surface fleet finally take effect. Vice Adm. Bill Burke, the Navy’s top maintenance officer; and Vice Adm. Kevin McCoy, head of Naval Sea Systems Command, told a House Armed Services Committee panel that it took so many years, and so many interconnected decisions, to put the surface Navy in its current state that it would take a lot of time and effort to get it right again.

    “We have a good plan,” McCoy told committee chairman Rep. Randy Forbes, a Virginia Republican, “We’re not good to go right now.” In fact, he said some negative indicators “may turn a little harsher.”

    Over the past five years and beyond, Navy inspections have found that a growing number of the Navy’s surface warships aren’t ready to fight: The ships are in bad physical shape, carry broken equipment, insufficient spare parts, and can’t even rely upon their advanced weapons and sensors. But despite years of embarrassing reports in the press and harangues from Congress and top DoD officials, the fleet has been slow to recover, given the wide range of causes for its woes. In the late 1990s and early 2000s, when the “running government like a business” craze swept the Pentagon, top leaders rewarded commanders who could get the job done for less money, which then sparked a flurry of inter-related decisions that had the net effect of reducing the readiness of the surface Navy:

    The Navy fielded smaller crews, making fewer hands available for regular maintenance; it cut human-led, hands-on instruction, preferring to teach sailors their jobs using “computer-based instruction,” which meant they weren’t qualified to do their jobs at sea. And simple budget cuts meant ships didn’t get the regular maintenance or spare parts they needed. On top of all this, Navy commanders blame an increase in operational tempo, which meant more demands on their smaller, poorly maintained fleet, which meant less time and money to do the full-scale repairs ships need to keep them in service for their design lives. Crews realized all these problems at the operational level, but it has taken years to get the top brass to acknowledge the failures of initiatives such as “top 6 roll-down,” “lean manning,” and the “fleet response plan.”

    According to Tuesday’s hearing, all those problems are more or less still in effect, although Burke and McCoy told Forbes they acknowledge what’s wrong and they know what they have to do to fix it. The surface Navy is doing the inconvenient, expensive maintenance it has long put off, McCoy said, because it now accepts the need to keep ships around for their full lives — something the Navy traditionally has not done. McCoy gave the example of the cruiser USS Chosin, now in dry-dock in Hawaii: Initially the repair bill for that ship was estimated at $35 million, McCoy said, but when engineers did their deep inspections and discovered the state of its tanks, pipes and other equipment, they realized they would have to spend $70 million to get the ship into the best shape they could. This is why McCoy and Burke warned the Navy could continue to have bad results on its inspections, as long-hidden problems finally come into view.

    McCoy and Burke said that about 70 percent of the Navy’s hoped-for fleet of 313 ships is in service today, but the service can only get to that goal if all its destroyers and cruisers, for example, actually serve for their full 40 or 35 years.

    But Congress has heard Navy leaders give this explanation many times before, Forbes said. He pointed to statistics that showed an ever-growing number of Navy warships were being found unready each year — from 12 percent in 2009 to 24 percent last year, and 22 percent already this year. What is the Navy’s target for that number? Forbes asked. McCoy and Burke said the service is in the process of formulating one, but it’s a complicated situation. Forbes complained that defense witnesses always come before Congress with a plan for how they’ll get better, but they seldom appear to be able to act on it; as when DoD was unable to even conduct the basic audits of itself that officials promised they would.

    McCoy and Burke repeated that the Navy is “stretched” by the number of forces it must provide to combatant commanders, who Burke said want more carriers, aircraft and submarines than the Navy can deploy in answer. Burke, a submariner, said that combatant commanders want between 16 and 18 nuclear attack submarines at any one time, but the Navy only has enough to deploy 10. He and McCoy said the Navy wasn’t forcing commanders to miss missions, but that the rate of operations today was affecting the surface fleet’s ability to do maintenance and could hurt the service lives of its ships. Overall, the admirals warned, today’s operational tempo is “unsustainable.”

    But Forbes alluded to a classified report from the combatant commanders that he suggested found the Navy was forcing them to miss missions, although he said he and the witnesses couldn’t talk about it in open session. Forbes also blasted the Navy’s decision to under-fund its depot maintenance for ships and aircraft, a calculated risk by service officials to defer work in order to afford other priorities. Forbes hinted at a high “cannibalization” rate in the surface force, alluding to the practice in which crews’ swap their ships’ equipment when inspectors are due so they aren’t dinged for non-functional gear. Although surface sailors quietly talk about this practice among themselves, it’s very seldom broached publicly, and the Navy brass denies it happens.

  18. #18
    Creepy Ass Cracka & Site Owner Ryan Ruck's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jul 2005
    Location
    Cincinnati, OH
    Posts
    24,805
    Thanks
    48
    Thanked 72 Times in 71 Posts

    Default Re: Is the US Navy Overrated?

    Is Naval Aviation Culture Dead?
    Proceedings Magazine - September 2011
    By John Lehman

    The swaggering-flyer mystique forged over the past century has been stymied in recent years by political correctness.

    We celebrate the 100th anniversary of U.S. naval aviation this year, but the culture that has become legend was born in controversy, with battleship admirals and Marine generals seeing little use for airplanes. Even after naval aviators proved their worth in World War I, naval aviation faced constant conflict within the Navy and Marine Corps, from the War Department, and from skeptics in Congress. Throughout the interwar period, its culture was forged largely unnoted by the public.

    It first burst into the American consciousness 69 years ago when a few carrier aviators changed the course of history at the World War II Battle of Midway. For the next three years the world was fascinated by these glamorous young men who, along with the Leathernecks, dominated the newsreels of the war in the Pacific. Most were sophisticated and articulate graduates of the Naval Academy and the Ivy League, and as such they were much favored for Pathé News interviews and War Bond tours. Their casualty rates from accidents and combat were far higher than other branches of the naval service, and aviators were paid nearly a third more than non-flying shipmates. In typical humor, a pilot told one reporter: “We don’t make more money, we just make it faster.”

    Landing a touchy World War II fighter on terra firma was difficult enough, but to land one on a pitching greasy deck required quite a different level of skill and sangfroid. It took a rare combination of hand-eye coordination, innate mechanical sense, instinctive judgment, accurate risk assessment, and most of all, calmness under extreme pressure. People with such a rare combination of talents will always be few in number. The current generation of 9-G jets landing at over 120 knots hasn’t made it any easier.

    Little wonder that poker was a favorite recreation and gallows humor the norm. In his book Crossing the Line, Professor Alvin Kernan recounts when his TBF had a bad launch off the USS Suwanee (CVE-27) in 1945. He was trying desperately to get out of the sinking plane as the escort carrier sped by a few feet away. Looking up, he saw the face of his shipmate, Cletus Powell (who had just won money from him playing blackjack), leaning out of a porthole shouting “Kernan, you don’t have to pay. Get out, get out for God’s sake.” No wonder such men had a certain swagger that often irritated their non-flying brothers in arms.

    Louis Johnson’s Folly

    By war’s end more than 100 carriers were in commission. But when Louis Johnson replaced the first Secretary of Defense, Jim Forrestal—himself one of the original naval aviators in World War I—he tried to eliminate both the Marine Corps and naval aviation. By 1950 Johnson had ordered the decommissioning of all but six aircraft carriers. Most historians count this as one of the important factors in bringing about the invasion of South Korea, supported by both China and the Soviet Union. After that initial onslaught, no land airbases were available for the Air Force to fight back, and all air support during those disastrous months came from the USS Valley Forge (CV-45), the only carrier left in the western Pacific. She was soon joined by the other two carriers remaining in the Pacific.

    Eventually enough land bases were recovered to allow the Air Force to engage in force, and more carriers were recommissioned, manned by World War II vets hastily recalled to active duty. James Michener’s The Bridges at Toko-Ri and Admiral James Holloway’s Aircraft Carriers at War together capture that moment perfectly. Only later was it learned that many of the enemy pilots were battle-hardened Russian veterans of World War II.

    By the time of the armistice, the Cold War was well under way, and for the next 43 years, naval aviation was at the leading edge of the conflict around the globe. As before, aviators suffered very high casualties throughout. Training and operational accidents took a terrible toll. Jet fighters on straight decks operating without the sophisticated electronics or reliable ejection seats that evolved in later decades had to operate come hell or high water as one crisis followed another in the Taiwan Strait, Cuba, and many lesser-known fronts. Between1953 and 1957, hundreds of naval aviators were killed in an average of 1,500 crashes per year, while others died when naval intelligence gatherers like the EC-121 were shot down by North Koreans, Soviets, and Chinese. In those years carrier aviators had only a one-in-four chance of surviving 20 years of service.

    Vietnam and the Cold War

    The Vietnam War was an unprecedented feat of endurance, courage, and frustration in ten years of constant combat. Naval aviators flew against the most sophisticated Soviet defensive systems and highly trained and effective Vietnamese pilots. But unlike any previous conflict, they had to operate under crippling political restrictions, well known to the enemy. Antiaircraft missiles and guns were placed in villages and other locations known to be immune from attack. The kinds of targets that had real strategic value were protected while hundreds of aviators’ lives and thousands of aircraft were lost attacking easily rebuilt bridges and “suspected truck parks,” as the U.S. government indulged its academic game theories.

    Stephen Coonts’ Flight of the Intruder brilliantly expressed the excruciating frustration from this kind of combat. During that period, scores of naval aviators were killed or taken prisoner. More than 100 squadron commanders and executive officers were lost. The heroism and horror of the POW experience for men such as John McCain and Jim Stockdale were beyond anything experienced since the war with Japan.

    Naturally, when these men hit liberty ports, and when they returned to their bases between deployments, their partying was as intense as their combat. The legendary stories of Cubi Point, Olongapo City, and the wartime Tailhook conventions in Las Vegas grew with each passing year.

    Perhaps the greatest and least known contribution of naval aviation was its role in bringing the Cold War to a close. President Ronald Reagan believed that the United States could win the Cold War without combat. Along with building the B-1 and B-2 bombers and the Peacekeeper missile, and expanding the Army to 18 divisions, President Reagan built the 600-ship Navy and, more important, approved the Navy recommendation to begin at once pursuing a forward strategy of aggressive exercising around the vulnerable coasts of Russia. This demonstrated to the Soviets that we could defeat the combined Warsaw Pact navies and use the seas to strike and destroy their vital strategic assets with carrier-based air power.

    Nine months after the President’s inauguration, three U.S. and two Royal Navy carriers executed offensive exercises in the Norwegian Sea and Baltic. In this and subsequent massive exercises there and in the northwest Pacific carried out every year, carrier aircraft proved that they could operate effectively in ice and fog, penetrate the best defenses, and strike all of the bases and nodes of the Soviet strategic nuclear fleet. Subsequent testimony from members of the Soviet General Staff attested that this was a major factor in the deliberations and the loss of confidence in the Soviet government that led to its collapse.

    During those years naval aviation adapted to many new policies, the removal of the last vestiges of institutional racial discrimination, and the first winging of women as naval aviators and their integration into ships and squadrons.

    ‘Break the Culture’

    1991 marked the dissolution of the Warsaw Pact and the end of the Cold War. But as naval aviation shared in this triumph, the year also marked the start of tragedy. The Tailhook Convention that took place in September that year began a scandal with a negative impact on naval aviation that continues to this day. The over-the-top parties of combat aviators were overlooked during the Vietnam War but had become accidents waiting to happen in the postwar era.

    Whatever the facts of what took place there, it set off investigations within the Navy, the Department of Defense, the Senate, and the House that were beyond anything since the investigations and hearings regarding the Pearl Harbor attack. Part of what motivated this grotesquely disproportionate witch hunt was pure partisan politics and the deep frustration of Navy critics (and some envious begrudgers within the Navy) of the glamorous treatment accorded to the Navy and its aviators in Hollywood and the media, epitomized by the movie Top Gun. Patricia Schroeder (D-CO), chair of the House Armed Services Committee investigation, declared that her mission was to “break the culture,” of naval aviation. One can make the case that she succeeded.

    What has changed in naval aviation since Tailhook? First, we should review the social/cultural, and then professional changes. Many but not all were direct results of Tailhook.

    ‘De-Glamorization’ of Alcohol

    Perhaps in desperation, the first reaction of Pentagon leadership to the congressional witch hunt was to launch a massive global jihad against alcohol, tellingly described as “de-glamorization.” While alcohol was certainly a factor in the Tailhook scandal, it was absolutely not a problem for naval aviation as a whole. There was no evidence that there were any more aviators with an alcohol problem than there were in the civilian population, and probably a good deal fewer.

    As a group, naval aviators have always been fastidious about not mixing alcohol and flying. But social drinking was always a part of off-duty traditional activities like hail-and-farewell parties and especially the traditional Friday happy hour. Each Friday on every Navy and Marine air station, most aviators not on duty turned up at the officers’ club at 1700 to relax and socialize, tell bad jokes, and play silly games like “dead bug.” But there was also an invaluable professional function, because happy hours provided a kind of sanctuary where junior officers could roll the dice with commanders, captains, and admirals, ask questions that could never be asked while on duty, listen avidly to the war stories of those more senior, and absorb the lore and mores of the warrior tribe.

    When bounds of decorum were breached, or someone became over-refreshed, as occasionally happened, they were usually taken care of by their peers. Only in the worst cases would a young junior officer find himself in front of the skipper on Monday morning. Names like Mustin Beach, Trader Jon’s, Miramar, and Oceana were a fixed part of the culture for anyone commissioned before 1991. A similar camaraderie took place in the chiefs’ clubs, the acey-deucy clubs, and the sailors’ clubs.

    Now all that is gone. Most officers’ and non-commissioned officers’ clubs were closed and happy hours banned. A few clubs remain, but most have been turned into family centers for all ranks and are, of course, empty. No officers dare to be seen with a drink in their hand. The JOs do their socializing as far away from the base as possible, and all because the inquisitors blamed the abuses of Tailhook ’91 on alcohol abuse. It is fair to say that naval aviation was slow to adapt to the changes in society against alcohol abuse and that corrections were overdue, especially against tolerance of driving while under the influence.

    But once standards of common sense were ignored in favor of political correctness, there were no limits to the spread of its domination. Not only have alcohol infractions anonymously reported on the hot-line become career-enders, but suspicions of sexual harassment, homophobia, telling of risqué jokes, and speech likely to offend favored groups all find their way into fitness reports. And if actual hot-line investigations are then launched, that is usually the end of a career, regardless of the outcome. There is now zero-tolerance for any missteps in these areas.

    Turning Warriors into Bureaucrats

    On the professional side, it is not only the zero-tolerance of infractions of political correctness but the smothering effects of the explosive growth of bureaucracy in the Pentagon. When the Department of Defense was created in 1947, the headquarters staff was limited to 50 billets. Today, 750,000 full time equivalents are on the headquarters staff. This has gradually expanded the time and cost of producing weapon systems, from the 4 years from concept to deployment of Polaris, to the projected 24 years of the F-35.

    But even more damaging, these congressionally created new bureaucracies are demanding more and more meaningless paperwork from the operating forces. According to the most recent rigorous survey, each Navy squadron must prepare and submit some 780 different written reports annually, most of which are never read by anyone but still require tedious gathering of every kind of statistic for every aspect of squadron operations. As a result, the average aviator spends a very small fraction of his or her time on duty actually flying.

    Job satisfaction has steadily declined. In addition to paperwork, the bureaucracy now requires officers to attend mandatory courses in sensitivity to women’s issues, sensitivity and integration of openly homosexual personnel, and how to reintegrate into civilian society when leaving active duty. This of course is perceived as a massive waste of time by aviators, and is offensive to them in the inherent assumption that they are no longer officers and gentlemen but coarse brutes who will abuse women and gays, and not know how to dress or hold a fork in civilian society unless taught by GS-12s.

    One of the greatest career burdens added to naval aviators since the Cold War has been the Goldwater-Nichols requirement to have served at least four years of duty on a joint staff to be considered for flag, and for junior officers to have at least two years of such joint duty even to screen for command. As a result, the joint staffs in Washington and in all the combatant commands have had to be vastly increased to make room. In addition, nearly 250 new Joint Task Force staffs have been created to accommodate these requirements. Thus, when thinking about staying in or getting out, young Navy and Marine aviators look forward to far less flight time when not deployed, far more paperwork, and many years of boring staff duty.

    Zero-Tolerance Is Intolerable

    Far more damaging than bureaucratic bloat is the intolerable policy of “zero-tolerance” applied by the Navy and the Marine Corps. One strike, one mistake, one DUI, and you are out. The Navy has produced great leaders throughout its history. In every era the majority of naval officers are competent but not outstanding. But there has always been a critical mass of fine leaders. They tended to search for and recognize the qualities making up the right stuff, as young JOs looked up the chain and emulated the top leaders, while the seniors in turn looked down and identified and mentored youngsters with promise.

    By nature, these kinds of war-winning leaders make mistakes when they are young and need guidance—and often protection from the system. Today, alas, there is much evidence that this critical mass of such leaders is being lost. Chester Nimitz put his whole squadron of destroyers on the rocks by making mistakes. But while being put in purgatory for a while, he was protected by those seniors who recognized a potential great leader. In today’s Navy, Nimitz would be gone. Any seniors trying to protect him would themselves be accused of a career-ending cover-up.

    Because the best aviators are calculated risk-takers, they have always been particularly vulnerable to the system. But now in the age of political correctness and zero-tolerance, they are becoming an endangered species.

    Today, a young officer with the right stuff is faced on commissioning with making a ten-year commitment if he or she wants to fly, which weeds out some with the best potential. Then after winging and an operational squadron tour, they know well the frustrations outlined here. They have seen many of their role models bounced out of the Navy for the bad luck of being breathalyzed after two beers, or allowing risqué forecastle follies.

    ‘Dancing on the Edge of a Cliff’

    They have not seen senior officers put their own careers on the line to prevent injustice. They see before them at least 14 years of sea duty, interspersed with six years of bureaucratic staff duty in order to be considered for flag rank. And now they see all that family separation and sacrifice as equal to dancing on the edge of a cliff. One mistake or unjust accusation, and they are over. They can no longer count on a sea-daddy coming to their defense.

    Today, the right kind of officers with the right stuff still decide to stay for a career, but many more are putting in their letters in numbers that make a critical mass of future stellar leaders impossible. In today’s economic environment, retention numbers look okay, but those statistics are misleading.

    Much hand-wringing is being done among naval aviators (active-duty, reserve, and retired) about the remarkable fact that there has only been one aviator chosen as Chief of Naval Operations during the past 30 years. For most of the last century there were always enough outstanding leaders among aviators, submariners, and surface warriors to ensure a rough rotation among the communities when choosing a CNO. The causes of this sudden change are not hard to see. Vietnam aviator losses severely thinned the ranks of leaders and mentors; Tailhook led to the forced or voluntary retirement of more than 300 carrier aviators, including many of the finest, like Bob Stumpf, former skipper of the Blue Angels.

    There are, of course, the armchair strategists and think-tankers who herald the arrival of unmanned aerial vehicles as eliminating the need for naval aviators and their culture, since future naval flying will be done from unified bases in Nevada, with operators requiring a culture rather closer computer geeks. This is unlikely.

    As the aviator culture fades from the Navy, what is being lost? Great naval leaders have and will come from each of the communities, and have absorbed virtues from all of them. But each of the three communities has its unique cultural attributes. Submariners are imbued with the precision of engineering mastery and the chess players’ adherence to the disciplines of the long game; surface sailors retain the legacy of John Paul Jones, David G. Farragut and Arleigh “31 Knot” Burke, and have been the principal repository of strategic thinking and planning. Aviators have been the principal source of offensive thinking, best described by Napoleon as “L’audace, l’audace, toujours l’audace!” (Audacity, audacity, always audacity!)

    Those attributes of naval aviators—willingness to take intelligent calculated risk, self-confidence, even a certain swagger—that are invaluable in wartime are the very ones that make them particularly vulnerable in today’s zero-tolerance Navy. The political correctness thought police, like Inspector Javert in Les Misérables, are out to get them and are relentless.

    The history of naval aviation is one of constant change and challenge. While the current era of bureaucracy and political correctness, with its new requirements of integrating women and openly gay individuals, is indeed challenging, it can be dealt with without compromising naval excellence. But what does truly challenge the future of the naval services is the mindless pursuit of zero-tolerance. A Navy led by men and women who have never made a serious mistake will be a Navy that will fail.

    Dr. Lehman was the 65th Secretary of the Navy and a member of the 9/11 Commission.

  19. #19
    Creepy Ass Cracka & Site Owner Ryan Ruck's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jul 2005
    Location
    Cincinnati, OH
    Posts
    24,805
    Thanks
    48
    Thanked 72 Times in 71 Posts

    Default Re: Is the US Navy Overrated?

    'Games' Find Navy Ability Lacking In The Arctic
    April 29, 2012

    In six oceans, the U.S. Navy is considered the master. In the seventh, the Arctic Ocean, it will rely on others.

    As global warming () opens the Arctic Ocean to commercial and industrial traffic, the U.S. Navy is pushing to catch up with Russia, Canada and even Denmark in its Arctic ability. If a crisis were to happen now, the Navy lacks the ability to act in the Arctic without the help of one of those countries or the Coast Guard.

    Last year, the Navy asked the War Gaming Department of the U.S. Naval War College to find out what the Navy needs for sustained operations in the Arctic.

    In the resulting 2011 Fleet Arctic Operations Game, the Navy learned how big its Arctic shortcomings are. As a force, the Navy lacks everything from bases and Arctic-capable ships to reliable communications and cold-weather clothing.

    While the Hollywood image of a war game involves commanders pushing ships around a table in response to threats from another country, an operations game looks at smaller threats. A group of 88 people, including industry experts, government officials and senior level naval officers, participated in the game last September.

    “We looked at search and rescue, oil spill response, maritime domain and maritime safety and security issues,” said Walter Berbrick, assistant research professor in the War Gaming Department at the Center for Naval Warfare Studies. “They were all fictional scenarios.”

    The game’s conclusions: the Navy is not adequately prepared to conduct long-term maritime Arctic operations; Arctic weather conditions increase the risk of failure; and most critically, to operate in the Arctic, the Navy will need to lean on the U.S. Coast Guard, countries like Russia or Canada, or tribal and industrial partners.

    To sustain operations in the Arctic, the Navy needs ice-capable equipment, accurate and timely environmental data, personnel trained to operate in extreme weather, and better communications systems. Much of the environmental data will come from other Arctic nations.

    “We have limited capability to sustain long-term operations in the Arctic due to inadequate icebreaking capability,” Berbrick said. “The Navy finds itself entering a new realm as it relates to having to rely on other nations.”

    In the past 30 years, the Coast Guard has been on point leading maritime Arctic operations, but as the Department of Defense develops more of an interest in what is going on in the Arctic, the Coast Guard — a part of the Department of Homeland Security — will work closely with the Navy to share information.

    “It’s very likely that whatever operation goes on up there would be a joint operation,” said Coast Guard Capt. Craig Lloyd, chief of response for the 17th Coast Guard District. “All of the Department of Defense and U.S. Northern Command is interested in what is happening in the Arctic.”

    Navy submarines have visited the Arctic on an irregular basis for the past half-century, sailing under the Arctic ice to test equipment and conduct classified missions. Last spring, the Navy’s submarine fleet brought its newest submarines, the Virginia-class USS New Hampshire and the Seawolf-class USS Connecticut, to an organized exercise beneath an ice station. The next such exercise has been scheduled for 2013.

    Surface ships are rarer in the Arctic. The Navy participates in the joint Northern Edge exercise in the Gulf of Alaska during odd-numbered years. In 2009, it brought the aircraft carrier John C. Stennis north. Last year, the cruiser USS Lake Erie and destroyer USS Decatur came north.

    Trips to the true Arctic — defined as north of the Aleutian Islands — are still more infrequent, due to a lack of icebreakers. The Navy turned over its last icebreaker to the US Coast Guard in 1966.

    In an Arctic emergency, the Coast Guard has some resources in place and might take a lead role over the Navy. The Coast Guard routinely sends a Coast Guard C-130 from Kodiak to the Arctic to patrol, and it has relationships with people who live and work in the Arctic. During the summer the Coast Guard conducts operations in the Arctic to prepare for law enforcement, oil spills, and search and rescue.

    This summer, the Coast Guard will deploy cutters to the Arctic Ocean for regular patrols.

    Navy officials understand the need to conduct exercises in the Arctic so they can get ready for the real thing, but they don’t have a strategy.

    “We are the only Arctic nation without an Arctic strategy,” said U.S. Navy Cmdr. Blake McBride, Arctic Affairs officer for Task Force Climate Change. “The Coast Guard and Department of Defense are working on a strategy to help answer the issue, and advocate for capabilities.”

    Aside from signing National Security Presidential Directive 66, which requires the U.S. to have a presence in the Arctic, the Arctic hasn’t been a priority for the U.S. government, largely because there isn’t an immediate military threat.

    “It’s becoming a higher priority, but we don’t make our own priorities,” McBride said. “We don’t foresee a military threat in the Arctic, but it doesn’t mean we will not need to be able to operate there.”

    The Navy’s future plans to conduct operations in the Arctic largely depend on the budget.

    “It’s all about the money,” McBride said. “If you don’t have the budget or funds to invest in manpower and equipment then you don’t have anything.”

    The Navy has an “Arctic Roadmap” that discusses the Navy’s future plans for the Arctic through 2014.

    Navy officials have done the work called for in phase one and two of the roadmap, which largely consisted of developing research, assessing fleet readiness, completing capabilities-based assessments like the Fleet Arctic Operations Game, and formalizing cooperative agreements.

    The biggest hurdle comes in the next phase, which calls for funding equipment and Arctic training. Navy officials say they are drafting a budget request to address those items.

  20. #20
    Postman vector7's Avatar
    Join Date
    Feb 2007
    Location
    Where it's quiet, peaceful and everyone owns guns
    Posts
    21,618
    Thanks
    28
    Thanked 70 Times in 65 Posts

    Default Re: Is the US Navy Overrated?

    Navys $670 Million Fighting Ship Is Not Expected to Be Survivable, Pentagon Says

    WIRED.COM
    By Spencer Ackerman
    01.15.13 11:46 AM



    In less than two months, the Navy will send the first of its newest class of fighting ships on its first major deployment overseas. Problem is, according to the Pentagons chief weapons tester, the Navy will be deploying the USS Freedom before knowing if the so-called Littoral Combat Ship can survive, um, combat. And what the Navy does know about the ship isnt encouraging: Among other problems, its guns dont work right.

    Thats the judgment of J. Michael Gilmore, the Defense Departments director of operational test and evaluation, in an annual study sent to Congress on Friday and formally released Tuesday. Gilmores bottom line is that the Littoral Combat Ship (LCS) is still not expected to be survivable in combat. His office will punt on conducting a Total Ship Survivability Test for the first two LCSes to give the Navy time to complete a pre-trial damage scenario analysis. In other words, the Freedom will head on its first big mission abroad maritime policing and counter-piracy around Singapore without passing a crucial exam.


    The systems the LCSs will carry, from their weapons to their sensors, compound the problem. The helicopters scheduled to be aboard the ship cant tow its mine-hunting sensors, so the Navy is going to rely on robots instead only the robots wont be ready for years. And the faster the ship goes, the less accurate its guns become.


    In fairness, the point of operational testing is to uncover and flag flaws in the militarys expensive weapons systems. And first-in-class ships often have kinks that are worked out in later vessels. Plus, its not like the Navy is rushing the Freedom to fight World War III. The local pirates there would never be confused for a serious navy. But the flaws Gilmore identifies go to the some of the core missions behind LCS existence: to fight close to shore, at high speeds; and to clear minefields.

    These words have haunted the Navy ever since Gilmores office uttered them in December 2011: LCS is not expected to be survivable in a hostile combat environment. At a Navy expo in April 2012, Secretary Ray Mabus insisted that LCS is a warship and it is fully capable of going into combat situations, while heralding the LCS 2013 deployment to Singapore.

    Gilmores new report stands by the 2011 assessment, though it sands down the rough edges. LCS is not expected to be survivable, it finds, in that it is not expected to maintain mission capability after taking a significant hit in a hostile combat environment. Additionally, Gilmore discloses that the Navy has knowledge gaps related to the vulnerability of an aluminum ship structure to weapon-induced blast and fire damage, but that it wont conduct tests for those vulnerabilities until later this year or next year.

    It might also not be able to depend on all of its weapons in a fight. The 30mm gun on board the Freedom exhibit[s] reliability problems. The 57mm gun on both the Freedom and its sister ship, the differently designed USS Independence, is apparently worse: Ship operations at high speeds cause vibrations that make accurate use of the 57 mm gun very difficult, Gilmore finds. Worse news for the Freedom: Its integrated weapons systems and air/surface search radar have performance deficiencies that affect the ships tracking and engagement of contacts.

    This is supposed to be a time of heraldry for the LCS. In March, the Freedom will head to Singapore for eight months as a harbinger of the Obama administrations much-touted strategic refocusing on Asia and the Pacific Ocean. Its also meant to spur confidence in the Navys first new type of ship in two decades, an expensive design that still faces serious questions about just what its role in the Navy is. Its crew in San Diego is confident: The guns shoot, we conduct [maritime interdiction] operations, and we move fast, Cmdr. Patrick Thien recently told Navy Times Christopher Cavas. Vice Adm. Tom Copeland, who heads the Navys surface fleet, last week called LCS an integral and substantial part of our future force.

    The Navy ultimately wants to buy 55 of the ships. When fully loaded with all its gear, the USS Freedom costs $670.4 million, according to an August report from the Congressional Research Service. (.pdf) The alternate design on the USS Independence runs $808.8 million

    Fighting close to shore is only one of the missions that the LCS, a ship designed so the Navy can plug and play different sensors and weapons systems as technology improves, is expected to perform. Another is mine-hunting which the Freedom wont do in Singapore. Problem is, the Pentagons weapons testers gave the LCS mine-hunting package a failing grade last year, and this one isnt much better.

    This time around, Gilmores office found that the MH-60 Seahawks intended to launch from the LCS minehunters cant safely tow the sonar suites that scan for underwater mines. So the Navy has scrapped the plan to put the underpowered helicopters aboard the LCS for minehunting. Thats left a gap in organic mine sweeping capability on the LCS, the report states.

    The Navys plan to address that gap depends on the Unmanned Influence Sweep System, a semi-autonomous undersea robot that will spoof the acoustic and magnetic signals of big ships to compel the mines to detonate when Navy ships arent in range. Problem is, as Danger Room reported earlier this month, the Navy is just getting ready to solicit industry bids to build the robot. That gap in mine-sweeping capability is likely to last years and thats if the robot successfully speeds through the development and acquisition process.

    The report isnt all bad news for the LCS. It finds that the Navy has fixed a crack in the hull of the Freedom. And its installing an anti-corrosion system on the Independence that should prevent a strange and aggressive corrosion discovered in 2011.

    The Navy said it couldnt reply to the report by Danger Rooms press time, so well update this report if and when we receive a response. Its not as if the Navy isnt aware of the problems with the ship: Adm. Jonathan Greenert, the chief of naval operations, appointed a high-ranking panel in August to get the LCS up to snuff (.pdf); its action plan is due at the end of January.

    Singapore isnt exactly a combat zone. But the testing report makes clear that grounds for skepticism about the Navys newest warship remain especially if pirates decide to challenge it on the open water.

    To view links or images in signatures your post count must be 15 or greater. You currently have 0 posts.


    Nikita Khrushchev: "We will bury you"
    "Your grandchildren will live under communism."
    You Americans are so gullible.
    No, you wont accept
    To view links or images in signatures your post count must be 15 or greater. You currently have 0 posts.
    outright, but well keep feeding you small doses of
    To view links or images in signatures your post count must be 15 or greater. You currently have 0 posts.
    until youll finally wake up and find you already have communism.

    To view links or images in signatures your post count must be 15 or greater. You currently have 0 posts.
    ."
    Well so weaken your
    To view links or images in signatures your post count must be 15 or greater. You currently have 0 posts.
    until youll
    To view links or images in signatures your post count must be 15 or greater. You currently have 0 posts.
    like overripe fruit into our hands."



Thread Information

Users Browsing this Thread

There are currently 1 users browsing this thread. (0 members and 1 guests)

Bookmarks

Posting Permissions

  • You may not post new threads
  • You may not post replies
  • You may not post attachments
  • You may not edit your posts
  •