All posts in “Navy”

COMNAVSURFOR -Vision for the 2026 Surface Fleet

COMNAVSURFOR – “Vision for the 2026 Surface Fleet”
Interesting read & released coincident with the Surface navy Association’s annual meeting. I especially note with interest the emphasis on offensive lethality – to wit: the Surface Force must greatly improve it’s offensive lethality. All well and good and the nod to training is important. BUT:
– where is my ship-launched 150-300km, supersonic (Mach 2+) ASCM?
– where are my organic OTH-T sensors to support it?
– and most importantly, how do we get the lawyers out of my CDC or give me real world ROE so I can put a spear deep in the enemy’s (sea-going) chest?

“Offensive lethality” =/= the mere ability to pump a bunch of subsonic TLAMs across the beach in a permissive environment. We need to get back to being able to fight on the high seas and in the littorals with a range of ship-launched weapons supported by organic and off-board sensors, and do so in a non-permissive. Alas, our current offensive capability puts our ships well inside the first-launch ring of our opponents, which, of course means, we need to have the full range of hard and soft-kill capabilities out there (now) to defend ourselves and hope to survive to close and launch.

What about the CVW? It’s going to be damn busy fighting a new Outer Air Battle with reduced assets (aircraft and carriers) and may not be available in certain areas of the world where our surface forces are already deployed – more frequently by themselves or with very small associated support.

It’s time for surface navy to get a big stick.

2026 Vision

In The Mail Today: “The Admirals” by Walter R. Borneman

So – just as I was making a serious dent in the pile of shame, in the mail today comes an advance copy of “The Admirals” courtesy the publisher, Little Brown, scheduled for release next month.  The noted author Walter R. Borneman (Polk, 1812, and The French and Indian War among several) takes on the task of examining the rise of Nimitz, Halsey, Leahy and King to flag officer and their winning the war at sea during WWII.  555 page with illustrations, photos, detailed endnotes and bibliography, at first glance it looks to be a compelling read and one we’ll dive into beginning this weekend.  More to follow…

The Ties That Bind

It has been said that in a world intricately and inexorably connected, individually, we seem to draw apart from one another.   That those connections we have are tenuous, virtual and of little lasting substance or effect.   Like spiderwebs on the wind, we connect and (temporarily) bond with whatever object we come in contact with, only to be pulled apart and float until the next object enters our space.   We see this in our personal and professional relationships on a regular, daily basis.   And yet, every now and then we are reminded of the ties that bind – that survive the immediacy of the moment no matter their outward, gossamer appearance; which bespeak a deeper level of common interest and shared values.   We are reminded, if you will, that no man is indeed, an island.

The events of the past few weeks have underscored the above for me.   In no short order, I learned of the loss of three persons of note to myself, and to many others around them.   They were many things to many different people – writer, poet, leader, aviator; but in the end they each, in their own way, made a difference.   There was CAPT Carroll LeFon – Lex to almost everyone, whose legacy and loss has been chronicled here and across the web.   His writing is timeless, coming from the head and heart with the rare ability to find common points of intersection with his readers and relate a story in such manner that even those who never tasted salt air or viewed the world through sun-drenched canopy could readily relate.   We saw that gift brought to life last night at our gathering in DC and across the nation and the world as people from all walks of life came together to pay honor to his legacy.   But did you know that three of the JOs under him when he was a VFA squadron CO so many years ago screened for command this past week?   There’s a living legacy for you.

On the way to the wake last night I also learned of the passing of CAPT Ed Caffrey, USN-ret.   Himself a gifted aviator, CAPT Caffrey was a leader and pillar of the Hawkeye/Greyhound community.   The term “people person” is overworked to the point of material failure in this day and age, but he was an original in that manner.   There are today, many a former VAW and VRC CO, XO and Department Head who were mentored (again, an overwrought but apropos word here) during his tenure as CO and AEW wing commodore.   More than a few of us, myself included, owe a deep debt of gratitude for his support and advocacy on our behalf and on the behalf of the VAW/VRC community.   Easy words to say now, but there was a time when the community had, shall we say, less than enthusiastic support at the CVW level and higher because of the “support” label broadly brushed on anything that didn’t have an “F” or “A” in the 2-letter designator (and if it had an “H” or ended with a W or Q, well, bonne chance mon ami and don’t let the hatch hit you on the way out).   More than that, he cared deeply about people – his people, be they residents on the Breezy Point seawall, his nav division on JFK, students at Naval War College or even later, students at Valley Forge Academy.   Just ask the recipients of the VAW/VRC Memorial Fund which he took the lead in establishing.   He made a difference.

And there was Jeff Huber – a retired Hawkeye NFO and writer with a pen of steel and a mind of sharper wit.   Jeff was another ground breaker for the Hawkeye community, as Skippy-san so very eloquently lays out in a fine tribute over at his site today.   Jeff had the courage and determination to drag E-2 tactics out of the moribund 50’s and 60’s and lay the foundation for the missions that lay just over the horizon — Kosovo, Desert Shield/Storm, Southern Watch, OEF and OIF. Later he took that same determination and sought to be a conscious for a Service and country that seemed determined to ignore its roots and founding principles.   I didn’t always agree with his assertions – but they provided a reference point and more importantly, a prompt for me to evaluate and re-evaluate my own assumptions and analyses.   Too often today people want to reside in the “amen” section and decline to think critically for themselves – deferring instead to the opinions and assertions of others whose best or only attribute is their shrillness.

Different paths, with seemingly random co-mingling or intersections – what are the ties that bind?   In each case you are witness to someone who deeply cared about their nation, their Service and the people under their charge or in association.   Each, in uniform and in retirement, sought to continue to serve, in their own way and do what they could to better their fellow humans and the Navy to which they had dedicated a substantive part of their life in its service.   Some few years back the Navy was casting about for a definition of ethos.   I and several others demurred on the end, corporately derived and committee driven statement that emerged from the “process” preferring instead to point to the 200+ years of example driven ethos and the principles detailed therein.   Of things like service before self, courage in the face of overwhelming opposition – of conviction and standing firm for principles when all else was sinking beneath the waves.   If I were asked today for more recent examples, I can think of none finer than the three I highlight above — outstanding aviators, naval officers without peer and human beings who cared deeply about and for their fellow mankind.

And I am honored to have worn the uniform and served with them.


Happy 236th Shipmates!

From CNO:

  On 13 October, the Navy celebrates 236 years of enduring traditions and missions that have preserved freedom of the seas and the American way of life. As we celebrate this birthday, we can reflect on more than two centuries of warfighting excellence while serving as a global force for good. The mettle and tenacity of that fledgling fighting force endures today in the men and women serving our Navy and nation.
  Our 200 year heritage is still apparent today. As it was in 1775, our primary joint partner is the U.S. Marine Corps, and our focus is “Warfighting first.” It is what our Navy does best, and it will continue to be our priority. Similarly, we have to “Operate forward” providing our nation with critical offshore options and bringing vital security and stability to maritime crossroads around the world. Finally, as history has so often taught us, we must “Be ready” to address any challenges, many of which will be unexpected.
  Through all this, it is our Sailors’ fighting spirit that will continue to ensure our success.
  Our long and illustrious history makes clear that we can overcome any obstacle, seize any opportunity, and ultimately prevail no matter how difficult the challenges we face. As a result of unwavering contributions of every member of our Navy team – our Sailors, our civilians, our reservists, our Navy veterans, and our families at home, we are the finest maritime force the world has ever seen.
  As our birthday is celebrated around the globe, I know you will carry our proud legacy wherever you go. I cannot begin to tell you how honored and privileged I am to be your Chief of Naval Operations. Happy 236th Birthday to you and to your families.

Warfighting First. Operate Forward. Be Ready.

Best wishes this 236th to all those I have and continue to serve with — and am proud to call ‘shipmate’

w/r, SJS

A Navy With Too Many Flag Officers?

Skippy-san thinks so:

When the Navy was a lot larger-a lot of these billets did not exist, and we where an organization that was 200,000 people bigger and 300 ships bigger. Yet we still got ships deployed. Why does it take so many flag officers to do so now?
It doesn’t-and you know it. More importantly they know it. They also know that unless they are issued a preferred customer card early-or start piling up sacrificial bodies like cord wood ( Yes Admiral Harvey that remark is directly targeted at you) they know they are finished at one star or two star. That’s not exactly a reformist proposition for people who have spent 30+ years on an ambitious track.

425 Flag Officers for a Navy with less than 290 ships? And yet there are plans afoot to gut cut the critical mid-grade enlisted leadership ranks because of over-retention by almost 19% (3,000 will need to go home). Anyone think we’ll see 80 Admirals go home at the same time?
I didn’t think so either…

The Navy is out of balance and this problem begets other problems.

Amen & amen — preach on Brother Skippy, preach on.

USNI: A Change In Mission Statement?

The Board of Directors at the US Naval Institue (of which, full disclosure, I am a Life member) has evidently determined that the “mission statement” that has served the organization for 138 years is in need of an overhaul.
Norman Polmar disagrees:

I am writing to you–fellow members of the U.S. Naval Institute–to urge that you vote against the proposed change of the USNI mission statement that is being mailed out with the March issue of the Proceedings magazine. The current statement is refined from the original, 1873 mission written at the establishment of the USNI (see below). I believe that USNI members who believe in the principles of our 138-year-old professional organization should strongly object to three words/terms in the proposed change of the mission statement:

(1) “an independent forum advocating” I believe these words are self-contradictory. The USNI has established itself as the leading international naval–and increasingly “defense”–forum because it has not “advocated” anything but has let authors (military and civilian, of all ranks, genders, and even nationalities) express their opinions. “Advocating” a position will unquestionably deter the USNI serving as an independent forum.

(2) “global sea power” What does this mean? The Soviet Union from 1970 (the massive Okean exercise) until 1991 was certainly a “global sea power”–does the USNI advocate a rehabilitation of Russian sea power? Or a buildup of Chinese global sea power? Or Japanese? Or …? And, does “global sea power” include a strong merchant marine–which we do not have and will not develop in the foreseeable future? Or fishing fleet? Or ….? Again, “global sea power” is ambiguous and misleading.

(3) “economic prosperity” Again, for whom? The world? Then the USNI is encouraging every nation (including Iran, N. Korea, China, etc.) to develop global sea power. Or only for the United States? How does “global sea power” help U.S. posterity–other than the shipbuilding industry?

The proposed new mission statement makes the USNI appear to be a lobbying and “cheerleading” organization for…. I am not quite certain for what or whom. In the years that I have been associated with the Naval Institute (since age 15), I was taught that those roles–lobbying and cheerleading–were the purpose of the Navy League, not the Naval Institute.

The USNI now exists “to provide an independent forum for those who dare to read, think, speak, and write in order to advance the professional, literary, and scientific understanding of sea power and other issues critical to national defense.” I believe that mission statement is still valid and germane.

I strongly urge all members to REJECT the proposed change to the USNI mission statement.

All good wishes/Norman
Norman Polmar

 My vote will be against the change (as are ‘Phib and Galrahn) and I strongly urge you to consider the same.

Steeljaw Scribe

Project CADILLAC: The Beginning of AEW in the US Navy (Part III)

1050L 24 Oct 1944. USS St. Lo (CVE-63) is under heavy air attack. After successfully fending off the superior surface force of VADM Takeo Kurita’s Center Force, “Taffy 3” is now defending against a surprise air attack that has lasted some 40 minutes already. One of the features of this attack is the use of suicide attacks.
The “Divine Wind” — Kamikazes.
In the midst of battle, St Lo is struck by a plane flown by Lt Yukio Seki. Penetrating the escort carrier’s unarmored flight deck, the plane and its bomb explode in the port hangar bay, igniting a massive fire with secondary explosions. When the bomb and torpedo magazine detonates, St. Lo is engulfed in flames and sinks 30 minutes later. Barely 6 days later, the carriers Franklin and Belleau Wood were struck by suicide aircraft. Both were forced to retire for repair before rejoining the fleet. This emerging threat, kamikaze attacks, were a hint of what was to come as the Fleet closed on the Japanese homeland. The urgency for getting Cadillac’s capabilities operationally deployed was being underscored by increasing losses in the Pacific…

Development & Production

AN/APS-20 Installation in AD3W (similar to earlier TBM-3W installation)

Recognizing the importance of the Cadillac system, an early decision was made by the Navy to establish production coincident with its development. To be sure, this imparted significant risk to the program, but in light of its benefits this was deemed acceptable. To facilitate this plan, the project was divided into five parts: shipboard system; airborne system; airborne radar; radar transmitter; and beacons and IFF. So far, what had been brought together was still not much more than a conceptual model – it was time for building actual sets.  Development was undertaken in earnest shortly after approval in May 1944. Using ground-based radar located atop Mt. Cadillac and operating at low power to simulate the APS-20, work on the airborne elements, particularly the relay equipment was well underway. This arrangement allowed prolonged simulation of the air- and ship-board environment, contributing significantly to the shortened development timeline.

Progress was measured in the completion of each of the first 5 developmental sets envisioned. The first set flew in August 1944 – barely 3 months after the approval to begin work was received. Each subsequent system saw incremental improvements over its predecessor with the improvements folded back into the earlier models. By October 1944 a full-fledged demonstration was flown for the benefit of USAAF and USN leaders. These demonstrations consisted of 2 aircraft and 1 shipboard set and were flown out of Bedford Airport (later known as Hanscom AFB), Massachusetts. By all accounts, the demonstration was extremely successful, which boded well for the production units, forty of which had been ordered by the Navy in July 1944.

AN/APS-20 Antenna installation on TBM-3W

As additional developmental sets were completed, permanent sites were established in Bedford and MIT (originally scheduled for Brigantine, NJ). The latter was established at MIT for the purpose of evaluating the system in the heavy interference conditions expected in the operational environment. It was in this environment that the first major problem was uncovered as the system was found to jam itself – interference was so bad that rotational data as transmitted by the double-pulsed coding and passed over the relay link was virtually completely jammed. An extraordinary effort though on the part of the development team led to a triple pulse encoding scheme. With little time to fully test this new set-up (there was considerable rework in the synchronizers, relay receivers and decoders to be accomplished), the third set was packed off to formal Navy trials at the CIC Group Training Center, Brigantine, NJ that started in January 1945 – only two weeks behind schedule

In December, at the height of the crisis over finding a means to address the interference problem, DCNO(Air) disclosed to Cadillac team leaders the urgency by which their equipment was required to combat the rapidly growing kamikaze threat. Even though Cadillac was already at the top of the Navy’s electronics development requirements, with the increased need, the Navy made available substantial numbers of officers, technicians, draftsmen and even a special air transport system to facilitate delivery of parts and personnel.

On the production side, a flexible system of generalized target dates were crystallized as designs firmed up, permitting incorporation of changes as experience was gained with the development units. Though this was undoubtedly the least economic process in terms of cost, the brute force development/production method was necessary to ensure delivery of the critical sets in time for the invasion of Japan — anything less than the very high priority Cadillac carried would have hampered successful completion. Nevertheless, a production schedule was agreed to in June with BuAer that would start deliveries of operational systems with two in February 1945. This was subsequently modified in November for initial delivery of 1 set in March 1945 followed by 4 in April and then 8 per month afterwards.

Operational Testing

Not long after starting operational evaluations at Brigantine, more problems were discovered, centered primarily on interference issues in the shipboard environment. Again, most of us today are well aware of the hazards the witches’ brew of RF in the CV environment. Mixtures of high-powered radars operating at different frequencies overlaid with HF, VHF and UHF voice comms provide an extremely challenging environment to develop and deploy a new system, even with the benefit of fifty plus years of experience. Without the benefit of that experience, the roadblocks encountered are not surprising. More modifications were made to the shipboard system with filters to screen out the extraneous radiation. Additionally, as more experience was gained with the APS-20 radar, it was determined that anti-clutter filters were needed to reduce the effect of large clutter discretes from the sea’s surface in and around the immediate vicinity AEW platform (typically out to 20 nm from ownship).  Mounting the antenna above the airframe would have resolved this problem, using the aircraft itself to screen out large clutter discretes  encountered from returns within 10-15 nm from the platform, but that was not an option for the Avenger platform.

On the West coast, training in the TBM-3W for pilots and crewmen was undertaken by the Fleet Airborne Electronics Training Unit (FAETU) in preparation for deployment. While the crews were in training, the USS Ranger (CV-4), recently returned from delivering aircraft to allied forces in Casablanca, entered Norfolk Naval Shipyard 17 May 1945 for a six-week overhaul, during which a CIC and the Cadillac shipboard equipment were installed. Underway again in July, she arrived at North Island on July 25th where she loaded aboard her airwing. This airwing was different from the conventional wing in that it included several developmental concepts; among these were the Cadillac configured TBM-3Ws and the Night Air Combat Training Unit from Barber’s Point. By August 1945 she was in Hawaiian waters conducting final CQ prior to leaving for Japanese waters when the war ended.

With the end of the war, Cadillac was almost, but not quite completed. While the carrier-based component did not have a chance to prove itself in combat, the utility of carrier-based AEW was so clear and its applications so far ranging in impact that further development and deployment would continue post-war, with deployments on Enterprise and Bunker Hill. In addition to the carrier-based component, a second development was begun under Cadillac II for a more robust airborne capability. That will be the subject for the next installment.

TBM-3W Data
Wing span: 54.2 ft
Length: 41.0 ft
Weight (empty): 11,893 lbs
Weight (max): 14,798 lbs
Max Speed: 260 mph @ 16,450 ft
Cruise: 144 mph
Svc ceiling: 28,500 ft
Range (scout): 845 miles

To Be Continued…

Article Series - Centenary of Naval Aviation (1911-2011)

  1. Flightdeck Friday: Smoke and the Battle of Midway
  2. Flightdeck Friday: RF-8 Crusaders and BLUE MOON
  3. Flightdeck Friday: Midway POV – Wade McClusky
  4. Flightdeck Friday: 23 October 1972 and The End of Linebacker I
  5. Former VFP-62 CO and DFC Recipient, CAPT William Ecker, USN-Ret Passes Away
  6. CAPT John E. “Jack” Taylor, USN-Ret.
  7. Flightdeck Friday: USS MACON Added to National Register of Historical Places
  8. Tailhook Association and Association of Naval Aviation
  9. Flightdeck Friday: Speed and Seaplanes – The Curtiss CR-3 and R3C-2
  10. Flightdeck Friday: A Family Remembers a Father, Naval Officer and Former Vigilante B/N
  11. Out of the Box Thinking and Execution 68 Years Ago: The Doolittle Raid
  12. The ENTERPRISE Petition – A Gentle Reminder
  13. USS Enterprise (CVAN/CVN-65) At Fifty
  14. A Golden Anniversary: The Hawkeye At 50
  15. Project CADILLAC: The Beginning of AEW in the US Navy
  16. Project CADILLAC: The Beginning of AEW in the US Navy (Part II)
  17. Project CADILLAC: The Beginning of AEW in the US Navy (Part III)
  18. Reflections on the E-2 Hawkeye’s 50th Anniversary
  19. An Open Letter to “The 100th Anniversary of Naval Aviation Foundation”
  20. U.S. Naval Aviation – 100 Years
  21. Doolittle’s Raiders: Last Surviving Bomber Pilot of WWII Doolittle Raid, Dies at 93
  22. More Naval Aviation Heritage Aircraft (But Still No Hawkeye)
  23. Naval Aviation Centennial: Neptune’s Atomic Trident (1950)
  24. Naval Aviation Centennial: One Astronaut, A Future Astronaut and Reaching for New Heights
  25. Flightdeck Friday Special Edition: The Space Shuttle – Thirty Years of Dreams, Sweat and Tears
  26. Flightdeck Friday – Postings from the Naval Aviation Museum
  27. Saturday Matinee: US Naval Aviation – the First 100 Years
  28. National Museum of Naval Aviation – Some Thoughts and A Call to Action
  29. Flightdeck Friday – 100 Years of Naval Aviation and the USCG
  30. Guest Post: THE U.S. NAVY’S FLEET PROBLEMS OF THE THIRTIES — A Dive Bomber Pilot’s Perspective
  31. This Date in Naval Aviaiton History: Sept 18, 1962 – Changing Designators
  32. Centennial Of Naval Aviation – The Shadow Warriors

United States Navy: Happy 235th Birthday


13 October 1775: Continental Congress

Resolved, That a swift sailing vessel, to carry ten carriage guns, and a proportionable number of swivels, with eighty men, be fitted, with all possible despatch, for a cruise of three months, and that the commander be instructed to cruize eastward, for intercepting such transports as may be laden with warlike stores and other supplies for our enemies, and for such other purposes as the Congress shall direct.

That a Committee of three be appointed to prepare an estimate of the expence, and lay the same before the Congress, and to contract with proper persons to fit out the vessel.

Resolved, that another vessel be fitted out for the same purposes, and that the said committee report their opinion of a proper vessel, and also an estimate of the expence.”


. . . But we are left to ask – going forward, is it our twilight or the dawn of a new day?

‘We Remember. . . ‘ Nine Years Later

The sun has long since set – but in the darkened, borrowed office I notice little beyond the pale circle of light on the desk in front of me.  Before me is  list of names, some scratched out, many not.  The hand that just hung up the phone is now cradling my head – throbbing with the beginnings of a headache, but I hardly notice.  My clothes still smell of the smoke and sweat from earlier in the day – but I barely notice, because the words in the last call are still echoing in my head…

“He’s not coming home – is he?”  was the quiet voice that stifled a sudden sob.  “What am I gong to do?”

How do you answer?  What can you possibly say?  No stranger to death and the violence that often surrounds it – friends and shipmates lost in mishaps at sea or on the flightdeck, the question still hammers at you, hanging accusingly in the air in front of you…

“What am I gong to do?”

Nine years later that day and the the long night that followed lives with me still.  Of lost friends and shipmates, of courage, honor and commitment applied in real time, of duty to and honor for the fallen and their families.  And of another time that gave rise to another cry — ‘Never Again’.

In preparation for this weekend I was over at the Project 2996 site, an organization this site has been associated with since it’s inception, and there found a wonderful way that each of us may give recognition.  A prominent feature of Project 2996’s coat of arms is a red and white zinnia.  Zoe Falkenberg was the youngest of the victims that day – she was onboard American Airlines Flight 77 that crashed into the Pentagon that in turn, destroyed the Navy Command Center where the Navy’s losses were incurred – including most of my N513 branch.  Zoe’s favorite flower is the Zinnia and her surviving family has asked that folks plant zinnias as a remembrance.  In floral mythology, zinnias stand for constancy (scarlet) and goodness (white) while mixed zinnias remember an absent friend…

This coming spring, I’m planting zinnias.  Lots of zinnias…

Remembering Midway – 68 Years Later

In every battle there is a moment when the combatants, and the world, seem to catch their breath. It is a fleeting moment, lost in the blink of an eye. But in that same blink, everything changes. Such moments are borne of desperation, of courage, of plain dumb luck. But they are pivotal – for what was before is forever changed afterwards. – SJS (June 2007)

Three years ago I wrote that at the end of a series of posts (which are collected here)  that began on the 65th anniversary of the Battle of the Coral Sea, and culminated on the anniversary of Midway with some modern day observations and what we might take away. For even today, with all our technological sophistication there are still things we can learn at all levels, be it at the Fleet or in the cockpit or on the bridge.  One of those lessons is the role of the individual and seizing the initiative when everything else seems to be going to hell in a handbasket around you.  That was something impressed upon me as a young LTJG E-2C Mission Commander and I found resonance and inspiration from the JO’s and petty officer’s actions that pivotal day.

And sometimes it means pressing ahead into a situation from which you know there is no way out — but to do otherwise would result in a greater loss.

There aren’t too many of them left — the original Midway vets that is.  Same for the Doolittle Raiders.  Ditto Medal of Honor awardees from that era.   These modern day Samuel’s raised their Ebenezer in our darkest hours – and what was before was forever changed.

The job wasn’t finished yet though, and the way ahead was still perilous — Guadalcanal, Savo Island, Bloody Tarawa (can it ever be though of as just Tarawa?), Iwo Jima, Anzio, Normandy, Bastogne and the Meuse — Okinawa; all lay in the future.  But it was a future made possible by the fighting spirit of the Navy, Marines and Army Air Corps in a far flung theater whose battlefield was but a featureless, sun-dappled sea of blue.  Still, more would come and follow in their footsteps.  And you and I today carry their proud heritage forward.

The far horizon is difficult to discern these days and it may well indeed hide gathering storm clouds – from whence direction I can not say for certain.  But it would do us well to heed their lessons and remember their deeds when the warning flags are broken and we are called to battlestations once again.

— SJS, June 2010