Archive for “March, 2008”

Thoughts on the Maritime Strategy: Round II

Last week we published a detailed, thoughtful critique by Robert Work and Jan van Tol under the auspices of the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessment (CSBA). At the time it was noted that this was the lead-off of a new round of cooperative discussion of the Maritime Strategy to begin today here and at Information Dissemination, Eagle1, CDR Salamander, and Chapomatic among others.

Make no mistake, there has been significant discussion to date, but it has been primarily resource-centric and focused on the number of ships the new strategy would support. The wider debate has been muted – until now. Work and van Tol’s excellent analysis serve as a superb foil in that regard and so the coming week at this site will primarily be given over to this discussion with the exception of a few other items of note. If you haven’t read either the Maritime Strategy or the aforementioned critique, we encourage you to take the time to do so now by following the links accordingly. We also encourage you to visit the other sites as each of us has our own perspective and take on the Maritime Strategy – Galrahn, for example, has written extensively of the seabase while here you will find a concentration on matters such as escalation dominance and the prevention of war in the MS.

There are battles looming – one near term and dealing with fiscal issues and roles and missions, the other, likely in five to eight years, kinetic, short and focused on maritime and expeditionary air and ground forces. The Maritime Strategy will have a role to play in both and Work and van Tol’s critique should serve to inform and improve the MS as both approach the event horizon.

Work and van Tol open with a discussion of whether the MS is really a strategy or a strategic concept given that some key elements, namely the means necessary to fulfill the goals of the strategy. Much has already been written already on this particular subject including on these pages when the MS first came out. Rather than rehash the points made then and elsewhere, including Work and van Tol, we would suggest that since the Navy Strategic Plan, and its predecessor, the Naval Strategic Planning Guidance (NSPG) as well as the Naval Operational Concept for Joint Operations (NOCJO) were made available to the public previously, unclassified versions of the same should be released as supplements to the MS. Why is this important – the upcoming debates over roles and missions and the budgetary debate in the coming year will be critical, more so than usual. For those that may remember QDR ’01, the original, pre-9/11 QDR ’01, it was a bare-knuckled, knock down, drag out affair and frankly Navy would have come out on the short end of the stick.

How bad was it going to be? Senior leadership was leaning to 9 CVBGs. In part it was because we (Navy) had fallen off message during the 90’s, as tallied by Work and van Tol, and while relevance and importance of forward deployed maritime forces should never have been in doubt (and were amply displayed in the hours and days that followed Sept 11th), the sad fact of the matter is inside the Beltway, it’s a different universe. One where, for example, a GS-15 staffer in OSD(P) demanded with a straight face just what, if anything the Navy had really done since the end of WW2. Really. To be sure, QDR ’09 had to be in the uppermost mind of Navy’s leadership as the work began on the new MS. For sure, it has in the other Services (Air Force Quadrennial Defense Review and Quadrennial Roles and Missions Review – ed. link removed as it appears the RFP has been pulled. – SJS) and there should be every expectation of a return to the environment of the ’01 QDR given no expectations for an expanded budget and every expectation that focus will be on a large land force and the equipment to support the same – which may be exactly the wrong force for the next battle.

The multi-polar world with regional actors that seek to dominate their regions in a like manner that the US has dominated globally is the geopolitical environment of the MS. It is a complex environment that may not necessarily lend itself to the long-standing formal alliances that typified the Cold War. That the maritime commons provide a venue for common interests and engagement is without question. Indeed, the illustration below underscores the nature of those commons – What you’re viewing is not a chart, but a recording of electronic emissions across the globe over a 24 hour period. The areas in green represent those of the heaviest concentration of electronic activity. (Note: this is from a briefing we used some 6 years ago to inform/influence about a 21st Century navy when we were on the Navy staff):

Work and van Tol identify another critical shortcoming of the MS one again, ID’d elsewhere as well. Namely that the threat to those global commons is inadequately identified. Some will immediately leap to identify the burgeoning threat posed by China. Indeed, the growing quantitative and qualitative presence of the various elements of the PLA combined with their insistence on a lack of transparency plays to that concern.

There are other concerns and threats though, that should also have been addressed in the MS. We have said before that there is some quite extraordinary language in the MS particularly that dealing with preventing and deterring war. It states we will provide a credible and scalable ability to retaliate against aggressors conventionally, unconventionally and with nuclear forces – and leaves it at that. There is no further discussion about the role maritime forces could – or should, play in a regional conflict between regional nuclear powers, say between India and China or India and Pakistan.

And for those that think this a bit fantastic or an order of hype for resource purposes, there is a history of recent conflict – extensive conflict, in both cases within the past forty years. In fact, during the Indo-Pakistani war in the 1970’s, India used her aircraft carrier quite extensively to carry out attacks along the Pakistani coastline. With the history of extensive bloodshed between these two countries, one must question whether the same kind of normative considerations for employment of nuclear weapons will or has evolved as that which presumably evolved and guided, ever so guardedly and fragilely the US and Soviets during the Cold War. It is important because conflict – be it major conventional or “limited” nuclear in this region will have a significant impact on the rest of the world and chances spillover effects elsewhere as well. It also begs the question of the means and capabilities of US maritime forces to meet the stated preventative measures of the MS, much less intercede to impose some measure of escalation control.

There is more – and as mentioned, we will continue to discuss this week. In the meantime, visit the other sites – drop your comments or, if desired, send us your extended comments for posting as a Guest Author:

How to Celebrate a 45th Anniversary?

You start planning a year in advance.  And no, it isn’t the Scribe’s nupital anniversary w/She Who Must Be Obeyed, though come to think of it, she will have a part to play…

April 2009, the Mustang turns 45.  To celebrate, how about:

… a major league road trip?  Six day road trip finishing up with a 3-day celebration sponsored by the Mustang Club of America.  Registration opens April 17th – we’ll have a link here.  In the meantime, we’ll also be hosting a link to Mustangs Across America in the blogroll should you be interested.

We just may have to add ourselves to the list

Flight Deck Friday: Pilots – The Movie

And now for something a little different.  Nose – when I saw this the first time (it was passed along by an ex-Corsair/Crusader jock I work with) couldn’t help but think of you  

Enjoy your Friday all !  Oh yeah — Spitfires y’all — there be Spitfires in thar… 

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Blogger’s Roundtable With VADM Morgan: The Maritime Strategy (UPDATED)

So what happens when you gather together bloggers like Galrahn, Eagle1, YHS and several others with VADM Morgan to discuss the Maritime Strategy via a teleconference on a late Thursday afternoon?  This:



Transcript should be forthcoming soon and will be posted as an update. Transcript’s up and posted below for your reading pleasure:


India Presses Homegrown Missile Defense

So your one neighbor, Pakistan, possesses nuclear weapons and is working assiduously on short- and medium-range missiles, no doubt with nuclear delivery in mind as part of a deterrent package against your own nuclear forces.  China, with whom you share a fairly long (and disputed) border has also been engaged in building a modern force of short- and medium-range ballistic missiles.  According to the latest DoD report on China’s military power, those numbers are now in the neighborhood of 675-710 CSS-7 (300 km range), 315-355 CSS-6 (range 600 km) and 60-80 CSS-5 (range 1750+ km).  Most of these are presumably pointed across the straits at Taiwan, but since they are mobile, may be re-deployed after a fashion.  Against such a growing threat, prudence would seem to dictate building an indigenous ABM capability, which, if open press reports are to be believed, it appears India is well along the road to doing:

Following successful interceptor missile tests in 2006 and 2007, India claims to have developed an anti-ballistic missile (ABM) capacity, with operational deployment scheduled by 2011.   

During the November 2006 Prithvi Air Defense Exercise (PADE), a high altitude test was conducted involving the successful interception of a Prithvi ballistic missile by a second modified Prithvi interceptor missile, dubbed the AXO (Atmospheric Intercept System). The agency has also successfully tested the Advanced Air Defense (AAD) missile, intended for lower altitude interceptions.

According to sources, a further test is scheduled for this April when two interceptors will target a single incoming missile. Development is also reportedly underway on the high-speed AD-1 and AD-2 ABM systems.  – INS Security Watch: India Missile Defense Dreams (27 March 2008)

Of course, there are those that continue to see any form of defense as inherently unstable:

Defense analysts fear a credible Indian anti-missile capability could promote instability in the South Asia region, triggering responsive arms-procurements and weapons systems development. Moreover, there are fears that US involvement might complicate India’s relations with China, Russia and Pakistan.  – Ibid.

Indeed, one begins to hear many of the same arguments placed in the regional context that have been made in the global one for and against many elements of the debate over nuclear deterrence and what shape or form it takes as well as the role, if any, defense should have.  This mirrored debate is an interesting one to watch for it reflects a growing issue where countries like India, and China, wish to become regionally dominant in like manners as the US has become globally dominant.  That in turn will have an impact in the ongoing discussion and debate over such things as the Maritime Strategy as it will influence force structure, operations, regional security agreements and engagements and initiatives like the ongoing Africa Station. 

It will also have a bearing when those regional powers come in conflict with one another…but we are getting ahead of ourselves.  Something else to think about in the run-up to next week’s renewed discussions over the Maritime Strategy as well as the next nuclear and national strategies.  Make sure you join us then!

Guest Author: Nuclear Weaponry


Accepting the offer from our earlier post, Southern Air Pirate weighs in with his thoughts re. the issue of nuclear weapons…


A friend of mine forwarded the couple of articles you have written about nuclear weapons to me. I have just only had a chance to skim them not really read them for comprehension. This is my take on the whole thing. If we could I would love to see the damn things taken away from the world. That being said out to sea their usage is always a little dicey. Once you irradiate a patch of water what then? A ship can still steam through the hot zone and can do so faster then an army can march through a hot zone ashore some place. Against a fleet it appears to be dangerous only if you are close to the initial blast. The blast alone may sink a few ships, but if the fleet is properly dispersed then the affect might be lose of a few defensive ships. The high value targets towards the center of the task force might now be exposed to the blast or might see limited blast and radiation damage from the blast. Not exactly a mission kill in that situation. So the only thing really left is their usage against subsurface and targets ashore. Submarines are the most the most at threat from nuclear weapons mainly from the overpressure, but why go that way if you can kill them with aerial launched torpedoes or normal depth bombs? Targets ashore are only a slippery slope from tactically (armies) to theater usage (rail heads, bridges, HQs) to strategic targets (the enemies nukes, cities, production facilities, etc).

You think it was hard to crunch the numbers on what might be winnable. Imagine the guys who had to stare at SIOP and then stare at the Kola, Kamchecktua, and Sevastopol peninsulas and go, "You want me to fly through that to delivery what?" I was a kid around a few of them (friends of my father), they were professionals too. Most of them understood the mission but accepted that the world would be in the hurt locker real bad if those special weapons came up with the weapons techs working on the planes and Marines were around the jets. I only got a chance to see once what one of the B/N’s looked like dressed up in the full Nuclear Delivery Garb and he looked very much like a TIE fighter pilot or Storm Trooper from Star Wars. On top of that the A-6’s had special fiberglass shields that were fitted over the canopies designed to reflect the flash. So it was completely heads down trusting your instruments to deliver those weapons to targets ashore. If you want something to shake you up, check out those Traditions Military Video folks online, they have an actual Department of the Navy film from the late 50’s early 60’s talking about how carrier air power would do in a general war scenario. The setup is Norwegian Sea patrol of a carrier and report of nuclear weapons being used. It then shows F-8’s and F3H’s taking off fitted with nuclear tipped aerial rockets engaging TU-16’s and Mya-4’s, then peeling off as the escorts are firing off nuclear tipped Terrier and Tartar Surface to Air Missiles to get the leakers. Finally shots of A-1’s, A-4’s and A-3’s taking off to deliver nuclear weapons to naval bases in the region. While all of that is going on the film also talks of a CVS with its A-4’s taking on a small surface group and then its S-2’s and H-34’s dropping nuclear depth bombs on various hostile subs and wolf packs. Everyone comes back home and the admiral gives a hearty job well done to all hands. I can not fathom that anyone honestly thought that way, but they did.

Well those are my simple thoughts on the subject.





Shift Colors – Underway

USS Russell (DDG 59) underway for deployment.  So what’s different about it?  XO’s blogging ’bout it – you can follow via "The Destroyermen" link in the column to the right under "Navy Blogsphere"  You also know him as the Yankee Sailor

bon chance y’all – it looks like it will be a most interesting deployment…

A Cooperative Strategy For 21st Century Seapower: An Assessment


Prelude for Round II of the discussions on the Maritime Strategy. 

The document below from the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments will provide the departure point for said discussions beginning 31 March here and over at several of the usual suspects: Information Dissemination, CDR Salamander,, Chapomatic, Eagle1 to name but a few. Since the release of the new MS in Oct ’07 there has been a great deal of focus and discussion on the downward link(s) into force structure and while those are important and vital discussions, an important element has been missing.  Namely the larger discussion of whether this document genuinely constitutes a maritime strategy and if so (or if not) how it relates and interacts to the family of other strategy and policy documents.  For example, as we pointed out on these pages in an earlier post, there appears to be a disconnect in the discussion on deterrence. 

Many readers (hopefully) will recall that we opened these venues to Guest Authorship by the Navy lead of the MS in the days following the release of the MS to address questions, concerns and the like from around the ‘verse.  We offer the same bully pulpit this time ’round as well.  Your voice, your words edited only for spelling or other gross grammatical errors.  Additionally, to stimulate the discussion, we offer the pulpit to those who want to expound beyond the limits of the comments section – a useful proposition for some who have encountered the cutoff before (*cough* b2 *cough*).  Just submit your inputs via email to steeljawscribeATgmailDOTcom (you know what to change) and we will publish them under the Guest Author label with your preferred nome de’guerre.  Our only request is as you review the article and the MS that it be less about the raw numbers of force structure and more in the context of the larger question of our national strategy and naval strategy in general and whow does it square with the three functions id’d by Work & Tol:

1. Inform and guide those American fighting men and women who make their professional living by operating on, over, under, and from the sea;
2. Be welcomed by US political leaders and representatives of the American people who will then seek and approve the funds necessary to implement the three Sea Services’ strategy (above those that might otherwise be expected); and
3. Be accepted, if not outright applauded and supported, by US naval allies.



Download PDF Here

Click on Share document to enlarge or download PDF if you do not see the Share document or do not have Flash v9.

We look forward to the coming discussion on these and the other sites in the days/weeks to come.

Roles and Missions Debate

And so it begins…

 “This report seeks to provoke thoughtful public discussion about a vitally important question: how do we keep America strong and safe in a complex 21st-century national security environment?” – Rep. Jim Cooper

“Unlike many Congressional reports, we have raised contentious issues and resisted the temptation to find easy, lowest-common-denominator solutions. My fellow panel members and I don’t agree with every idea in the Roles and Missions Panel report, but we believe the questions it raises must be answered. It’s time to start a conversation—not just in Washington, but across America—about rethinking national security.” -Rep. Phil Gingrey. 

"Cry "Havoc," and let slip the dogs of war". – William Shakespeare (Julius Caesar)

The report may be found and downloaded here.  We will forestall on commentary for now as we are reviewing the work along with another document which will be published tomorrow on the Maritime Strategy.  Both of which, however, will serve to kick-off a new round of discussion/debate the following week on the future of the maritime services in general and the Navy in particular.  Hang on — it’s going to be …interesting… around these parts for the next few weeks…

Postcards from Deployment: “Strange FOD”


From our ship’s newspaper though the folks back home might get a laugh out of this:

Sailors Rescue a Nocturnal Creature
MC3 Damian Martinez

When the words foreign object debris (FOD) come to mind the last thing someone thinks about is an owl. On the morning of March 17 on board USS Harry S. Truman (CVN 75), an owl is exactly what was found. What might have been a mishap, ended on a happier note thanks to a few Sailors’ attention to detail.

“I was the safety behind the 300 jet. That’s why I probably ended up there first,” said Aviation Structural Mechanic [Equipment] 3rd class Jeremy Smith assigned to the “Ragin’ Bulls” of Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 37.
He was called over by Aviation Electronics Technician Airman Apprentice Tony McJohnston, also assigned to VFA-37. What they found was a screech owl, as they later found out.

Aviation Structural Mechanic 2nd class Zachary Gorman assigned to the “Dusty Dogs” of Helicopter Anti-Submarine Squadron (HS) 7 and a licensed falconer in the United States, was called in to check on the status of the bird.

“When I got there I checked him over to make sure he didn’t have any broken wings and if he was dehydrated or malnourished,” said Gorman.

Gorman and the flight deck Medical team nursed the owl, or “FOD” as Flight Deck Control liked to call him, back to health. One of Smith’s main jobs is to collect FOD from inside the cockpit of the airplanes, which is why the bird was caught instead of scared away.

“The main reason I grabbed it instead of shooing it away was that I was afraid it would fly into the cockpit of another jet,” said Smith.

If the bird had stayed hidden in the cockpit, then panicked during take off, it may have caused a serious problem for the pilot. “If this owl was hiding in a cockpit while a jet was on the catapult. It could possibly bring a jet down if the pilot freaks out because an owl is flying around in his cockpit,” said Smith.

Gorman said after treating the bird they found no real problems that may have endangered the animal. “For the most part the bird was healthy, just a little tired and dehydrated,” said Gorman. He also made sure the animal was OK in a box that was his makeshift “stateroom.” Gorman has been working with birds of prey since the age of 12, prior to the Navy he worked for a rehab center for birds of prey. “I’ve worked with a lot of owls throughout the years, but I never thought I’d have to deal with one on a carrier in the middle of the Arabian Gulf,” said Gorman.

The owl could not reside on board indefinitely so they came up with another plan. “Since he was in a weak condition, flying to land would decrease his chances of survival so we thought we would give him a hand,” said Gorman. Preparations were made to fly the owl off the ship on a Carrier Onboard Delivery (COD) to land, where he was released safely and out of harms way. “It was a free ride. They were going there anyway so we made it a little bit easier on him,” said Gorman. McJohnston’s attention to detail might very well have prevented a serious incident from taking place.