Friday, November 27, 2015

Fullbore Friday

A rerun of a traditional FbF for a post-traditional holiday ponder.

Though we covered her back in '06 very briefly, Sid's link to her damage report from the Third Battle of Savo Island during a previous FbF made me think she needs another look.

Review this FbF and then come back here and let' s look at things from the perspective of the USS SOUTH DAKOTA (BB-57).

Just one chapter;
On 11 November, South Dakota, as part of TF 16, sortied from Noumea for Guadalcanal. On 13 November, she joined battleship Washington (BB-56) and destroyers Preston (DD-379), Walke (DD-418), Benham (DD-397), and Gwin (DD-433) to form TF 64 under command of Rear Admiral W. A. Lee. The next evening at 2330, the force was operating 50 miles southwest of Guadalcanal when Lee learned that an enemy convoy was coming through the passage off Savo sometime between 0030 and 0230. This was Admiral Kondo's bombardment group consisting of battleship Kirishima; heavy cruisers Takao and Atago; and a destroyer screen.
Admiral Kondo's forces were divided into three sections: the bombardment group; a close screen of cruiser Nagara and six destroyers; and a distant screen of cruiser Sendai and three destroyers in the van of the other forces. A quarter moon assured good visibility. Three ships were visually sighted from the bridge of South Dakota, range 18,100 yards. Washington fired on the leading ship, thought to be a battleship or heavy cruiser; and, a minute later, South Dakota's main battery opened on the ship nearest to her. Both initial salvos started fires on the targets. South Dakota then fired on another target and continued firing until it disappeared from her radar screen. Turret No. 3-firing over her stern and demolishing her own planes in the process-opened on another target and continued firing until the target was thought to sink. Her secondary batteries were firing at eight destroyers close to the shore of Savo Island.

A short lull followed after which radar plot showed four enemy ships, just clear of the left tangent of Savo, approaching from the starboard bow; range 5,800 yards. Searchlights from the second ship in the enemy column illuminated South Dakota. Washington opened with her main battery on the leading, and largest, Japanese ship. South Dakota's secondary batteries put out the lights; and she shifted all batteries to bear on the third ship, believed to be a cruiser, which soon gushed smoke. South Dakota, which had
been under fire from at least three of the ships, had taken 42 hits which caused considerable damage. Her radio communications failed; radar plot was demolished; three fire control radars were damaged; there was a fire in her foremast; and she had lost track of Washington. As she was no longer receiving enemy fire and there were no remaining targets, she withdrew; met Washington at a prearranged rendezvous; and proceeded to Noumea. Of the American destroyers, only Gwin returned to port. The other three had been severely damaged early in the engagement. Walke and Preston were sunk. Benham had part of her bow blown off by a torpedo and, while en route to Noumea with the damaged Gwin as her escort, had to be abandoned. Gwin then sank her by gunfire. On the enemy side, hits had been scored on Takao and Atago; Kirishima and destroyer Ayanami, severely damaged by gunfire, were abandoned and scuttled.

UPDATE: Via Kevin, a nice link to the SD memorial in SD on GoogleEarth.

Thursday, November 26, 2015

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

A Return to Reason for Our Navy

I am pondering a shift in the conversation about the future of our fighting navy over the last year. 

I posted it over at USNI. Give it a read and let me know what you think?

The 1970s Navy ...

How much do you know about the Hairy Navy from the Vietnam War drawdown to the Iranian rescue attempt?

Make sure and listen to this week's Warrior Writers Podcast where we discuss the developments in our Navy and Marine Corps in the 1970s.

Joining me as always will be Naval Academy History Professor Emeritus and noted naval historian Dr. Craig Symonds, and Naval Academy Museum Director Claude Berube.

This episode is just one part of a 14-part series will take you decade by decade, starting with the 1870s, discussing the significant naval events and developments that helped shape the US Navy.

The podcast coincides with the Naval Academy Museum exhibit: "Warrior Writers: The U.S. Naval Institute" open from September 10, 2015 through January 31, 2016.

You can listen to the episode below, get the full archive over at BTR, or better yet, subscribe to the show oniTunes.

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Russia vs. Turkey - this is where it gets stupid

As you may have gathered from my post 10-weeks ago, the greatest concern haunting the back of my mind with the goings on in Syria is the close proximity of Turkish and Russian forces.

There are centuries of "issues" between these two people, and neither one is known for assuming the best of those who may have made a mistake.

Well, this is what I will be watching all day;
The Turkish military said it shot down a likely Russian jet fighter that crossed into Turkish air space. Russia said that one of its jets had been downed in the region, but said that it had only flown over Syria.

The Turkish military said two of its F-16s shot down the jet fighter after it crossed into Turkish airspace and ignored 10 warnings in five minutes to return to Syrian airspace.

Turkish authorities didn’t give the nationality of the jet, but Russia separately said one of its jets had been downed, likely by shelling from the ground. Television footage showed a jet catching fire and crashing into the mountains along the Turkey-Syria border.

Kremlin Spokesman Dmitry Peskov confirmed its fighter was downed, adding that Moscow knew the aircraft was “certainly” in Syrian airspace, Interfax reported.

“It is a very serious incident,” he told journalists. He also said it was too early to predict what impact the downing of the plane could have on Russian-Turkish relations, which have been warm in recent years despite differences over their policies towards Syria.

The plane crashed on a part of the border where Russian and Syrian planes have been targeting Turkmen fighters, a group that has been seeking more support from Ankara in their fight against the Syrian regime.
That plane is a two person SU-24. It went down almost vertically in Syrian airspace. Here is the video of the shootdown;

The Turks have screwed up.

A few things before I head off to the paying gig;
1. Turkey initiated action against the Russians. They will run to NATO. How that will work out? Probably not in a way the Turks will like.
2. Reports differ if the Turkomen rebels have one or both Russian aviators from the SU-24. Regardless, watch how they are treated. If they are smart, they will turn them over, but being that Russia has been pounding them from the air, unlikely.
3. Russia will not leave this encounter as the "weak horse."

Interesting times.

Monday, November 23, 2015

Boeing Should Send Russia a Gift Basket

Remember the quaint little exercise we saw the mother country go through over the last few months?
In just a few weeks’ time, the government’s strategic defence and security review is expected to put the requirement for maritime patrol aircraft to protect the UK’s nuclear deterrent back on the list of spending priorities. With Russian submarines last year suspected of patrolling close to Faslane — the Scottish base for Britain’s Vanguard submarines carrying Trident nuclear missiles — the time has come to close the gap.
But the world’s defence industry is increasingly concerned that even before the government works out what the aircraft should do, the competition over who should build it has already been won.
Boeing, with its P-8 Poseidon aircraft operated by the US Navy and based on a 737 airliner, “would be considered the favourite”, said one Ministry of Defence source.
Royal Air Force crews are currently serving on US Poseidons, a decision taken after Nimrod was cancelled to maintain British expertise in maritime patrol. That, and the fact the P8 could be delivered quickly, has given Boeing a strong edge.

The global defence industry is resisting a Boeing shoo-in, however. Some of the world’s biggest defence companies last week called on Britain to pledge an open, transparent competition for a contract that could be worth £2bn.

“We need an objective capability assessment as to what the UK truly needs,” said Nicholas “Flash” Gordon, director international programmes for L-3, which is offering a variant of Bombardier’s Q400 regional turboprop aircraft against the P-8. “Is it protection of the deterrent, long range search and rescue, counter terrorism or all of these?”

Keith Muir, business development manager of Lockheed Martin, said: “We would very much like to see that it is a fair competition.”

Lockheed argues its proposal would be significantly cheaper, as it is based on converting the Hercules C-130 transporter already operated by the RAF.

Airbus, Finmeccanica, Saab and even Japan’s Kawasaki Heavy Industries are all hoping for a chance to compete with widely differing proposals. Northrop Grumman is lobbying hard for its unmanned version, in use by the US Navy.
Economics, foodtroughism, or military requirements; which would win the day?
But there may be even more pressing political imperatives. Boeing’s rivals point out that the P-8, with barely 5 per cent of its content by value sourced in the UK, hardly fits with the government’s prosperity agenda.

Mr Fallon was clear last week: “The government’s priority is to boost our export successes in what is an increasingly competitive [defence] marketplace.”

Lockheed claims its converted Hercules C-130 would have as much as 80 per cent UK content by value. It would also enhance the UK’s defence sovereignty by using mission systems developed in Britain for the Merlin anti-submarine helicopter, argued Mr Muir.

“Ours allows the customer more freedom through life for upgrading, without referring back to the US,” he said. “We will be able to turn that round into UK exports.”

L-3 says that up to 40 per cent of the value of its maritime patrol offer would be UK sourced, if servicing were included, and Airbus puts its British content at 50 per cent.

People familiar with Boeing’s proposal acknowledge that this is a concern for the P-8. The group is believed to be considering the addition of certain UK sourced sonar sensors to increase the proportion of British content. It could also promise to maintain and service in the UK Poseidons sold to other European countries, providing work to British technicians.

That recognition, more than any cries of foul play from defence rivals, suggests that the political mood could be shifting.

“Will jobs, growth and UK exports be one of the major drivers of the programme?”
Well, in come the Russians to supply some clarity.
A feather of disturbed water was all it took to reveal the presence of a Russian submarine off the west coast of Scotland.

Betrayed by its high-powered periscope, the vessel then disappeared, triggering a fruitless search that sent all manner of unwelcome messages to the Westminster Government.

Firstly, it is a reminder that the UK's armed forces lack a suitable maritime patrol aircraft after scrapping the Nimrod equivalent in 2011 and, secondly, the uncompromising message that Russia has the capacity to mount aggressive Cold War-style reconnaissance missions unhindered against Nato countries will have been noted in London.

The first issue was resolved by Nato allies sending their aircraft to Scotland to join the hunt. They included two US navy P-3 Orions, a Royal Canadian Air Force CP-140 Aurora and a Dassault Atlantique 2 of the French navy - but the problem of Russian aggression will be less easily resolved. Ever since Vladimir Putin returned to the presidency in 2012 he has made it his business to keep Nato on its toes by using his armed forces to further Russian interests across the world.
The UK made the right call.
The Prime Minister will announce a £178 billion investment in defence equipment and support over the next decade when he unveils the government’s 5 year National Security Strategy and Strategic Defence and Security review in the House of Commons later today.

The £12 billion uplift in funding will be focused on investments that will help to ensure the UK can respond to diverse threats in an increasingly dangerous and uncertain world. These will include:

Nine new Boeing P8 maritime patrol aircraft for maritime surveillance, anti-submarine and anti-surface ship warfare will increase further the protection of our nuclear deterrent and our new aircraft carriers. These roles require an aircraft that can carry torpedoes, as well as being fitted with a broad range of sensors, including radar and sonobuoys, which are operated from the rear of the cabin by a team of specialists. These aircraft will also provide maritime search and rescue and surveillance capabilities over land.
They need capability now as they are reminded that they are the “UK” in the GI-UK gap.

They have the crews to start things moving, now they just need the aircraft.
P-8A 431 might be a U.S. Navy airplane, but on the April 7 flight, the crew was from elsewhere.

Two Royal Air Force officers sat at the controls, and their British crew of six warfare operators — four airmen and two officers — worked the stations in the back, dropping sonobuoys and listening for the churning of a submarine.

The April 7 flight wasn’t their first attempt to take part in the competition. A flight the day before ended abruptly when smoke was smelled in the cockpit.

“It was quite frustrating to have to just turn around and land,” said Royal Air Force Squadron Leader Mark Faulds, one of the pilots.

Their luck turned 180 degrees the next day, when they spotted the periscope and tracked the submerged sub for a couple of hours, launching four simulated attacks.

“We really felt like we nailed it,” said Faulds, whose crew serves as instructors at Patrol Squadron 30. “We don’t get to operate as a crew much these days, so it’s nice to get out there and actually do the mission we’re here teaching others to do — nice to know we’ve still got it.”
Though stationed at the Jacksonville-based VP-30 and spending most of their time teaching new U.S. P-8 crews how to fly and fight, the reason Faulds and his compatriots are stationed here is to help the Royal Air Force maintain its maritime patrol tactics.

The RAF has maritime patrol crews but no maritime patrol aircraft to fly. Their last patrol platform — the Hawker Siddeley Nimrod — left service in 2010.

Since then, they’ve farmed out many of their crews overseas, to the U.S., Canada, Australia and New Zealand.

“We’re being called ‘seed corn,’ ” said Sgt. Steve Dixon, one of the crew’s enlisted warfare operators and a 24-year RAF veteran. “It’s wonderful that our leadership sees the value in retaining our skills, because it’s the kind of thing that’s very perishable.”

None of the crew could say what kind of aircraft the RAF might buy — or when.

American patrol pilots and operators train up and progress in their careers as individuals. But in the RAF, these crews train and stay together for much longer periods of time — a model that may have borne out in the results.

“It’s really a fantastic honor for us to even compete in the competition, let alone win,” said Faulds, whose rank is equivalent to a U.S. Navy O-4, after his crew received top honors. “It’s not like we ran away with it — from what I understand, the scoring was very close.”

For his part, Faulds credited their success to the state-of-the-art systems on the P-8. He and his team will be in the U.S. until 2016. They plan to be back next year to defend their title.
Just to be petty; if the UK is going to buy some P-8, can we contract build a dozen Type-26 frigates? OK, we'll build 8 if you want to be cheap.

Oh and Boeing ... you need to up your game. No pics of a P-8 in RAF colors? I have to deal with a model builder for my pic? Harumph.

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Procurement, strategy, and the choices we make, with Robert Farley - on Midrats

This Sunday from 5-6pm Eastern we are going to look at the big pixels that supports the entire national security infrastructure above it.

Using his recent article in The National Interest, The Real Threat to America's Military (And It's Not China, Russia or Iran), we will tackle the greatest challenge of a world power - those things it has no one else to blame for.

Procurement, strategy, and the choices we make. The run of the last 30 years of weapons development and strategic foresight has not been a very good one. Why?

Join us live if you can with the usual suspects in the chat room and offer up your questions for our guest, but if you miss the show you can always listen to the archive at blogtalkradio

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

Listen to internet radio with Midrats on Blog Talk Radio