More than a decade ago, Navy leaders decided to abandon historic standards for ship-manning levels and for shipboard maintenance, supposedly to make the Navy more “business-like” and “efficient” and to make more money available to buy a new generation of ships and weapons.
But the result instead was a sharp drop in the material readiness of the surface ships and a continued decline in fleet size, which forced the leadership to work the remaining operational ships and their smaller crews harder, thus aggravating the problems.
With congressional committees, Navy inspectors and a high-level outside panel issuing increasingly shrill alarms, the leadership finally is acting to correct those mistakes.
A sailor removes deteriorated paint and rust with a disc sander on a weather deck aboard the aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan on Sept. 6, 2012. U.S. Navy Photo
This week, as he prepares to retire and turn over Fleet Forces Command on Friday, Adm. John C. Harvey has fired off a lengthy message to the surface warfare community and its supporting organizations warning that “the cumulative impact of individual decisions made over long periods of time had put the future readiness of our surface force at risk.”
And he charged those who will remain on watch to adhere to the old proven standards and procedures to restore the surface fleet to its historic state of combat readiness.
It was a strong message from Harvey, who had remained surprisingly quiet about the growing readiness crisis earlier in his tour at FFC.
Since Congress passed the “Two-Ocean Navy Bill” in 1940, the U.S. Navy has been sized to operate simultaneously in the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans. First during the Second World War and then later against Soviet naval forces, the “Atlantic Fleet” held the line against America’s enemies.
USS Harry S. Truman underway in the Atlantic on Sept. 5, U.S. Navy Photo
Today, with the high-end threats in the Atlantic Ocean subdued, the Navy has called for posturing “credible combat power” in the Indian and Pacific Oceans. One question I am often asked is if this will result in a diminished role for U.S. naval forces on the Atlantic coast as the Navy turns its attention to the Indo-Pacific region. The answer: Far from it. Our East Coast forces will continue to play a major role in regions beyond the geographic scope of their “Atlantic” posture, taking the lead in contributing to sea control and power projection missions in the Arabian Gulf/Indian Ocean while also performing ballistic missile defense, constabulary, intelligence/surveillance/reconnaissance, and partnership-building missions in the Southern Command, Africa Command and the European Command areas of responsibility.
What should the carrier air wing of the future look like? The topic has taken on new significance as a consequence of an article in the July issue of Proceedings by the Chief of Naval Operations ADM Jonathan Greenert. The title of the article, “Payloads over Platforms: Charting a New Course,” its discussion of the diminishing value of stealth, and the positive mentions of both the F/A-18 Hornet and unmanned systems such as the Scan Eagle and Fire Scout led some observers to accuse the CNO of being secretly opposed to the carrier variant of the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter. In response, ADM Greenert and his staff have stressed that the article did not refer in any way to the F-35, but instead to stealth in the future.
The F-35 noncontroversy aside, Greenert made a profound statement that could have dramatic implications for the character of U.S. air power, in general, and the future carrier air wing, in particular. The CNO declared “we need to move from ‘luxury-car’ platforms—with their built-in capabilities—toward dependable ‘trucks’ that can handle a changing payload selection.” Why? Well, by definition “luxury car” platforms are expensive. A payload-centric approach allows for more rapid technological refresh at lower cost as well as the ability to tailor forces for the conflict du jour.
One conclusion to be drawn from the CNO’s assertion that the Navy needs to move toward “dependable trucks” is that the value of the performance characteristics associated with so-called “luxury car” platforms is declining Those characteristics include stealthiness, speed, maneuverability, perhaps even survivability. There are those who argue that the combination of advanced sensors, data fusion, high-performance missiles and directed-energy weapons will bring the era of manned fighters and penetrating bombers to an end. It is by no means certain that the U.S. aerospace industry will be able to design an affordable sixth generation manned aircraft with the combination of range, persistence, stealth, ISR, and payload required to operate in such an intensely hostile environment.
Fishing is one of mankind’s oldest organized activities. From the time our earliest ancestors first sorted through tidal pools to the present day, we have been fishermen, and fishermen are essentially hunters. Today, that hunting has become increasingly difficult. High-tech, super-efficient methods have led to drastic overfishing of the most valuable stocks. In addition, loss of fish habitat, pollution, and acidification of the oceans have combined to naturally reduce those fisheries that are still viable. It is known what measures should be taken to develop global sustainable fisheries, but few governments have the discipline to enforce the necessary restrictions.
The World Ocean covers 71 percent of our planet’s surface and has a volume of 350,000,000 cubic miles. But the idea that it contains a vast store of harvestable protein for humankind is fiction. The fact is, fish in the oceans can never be a primary source of animal protein for a growing world population now at 7 billion people. The present world fish catch is about 85 million tons a year. It has remained at that level for nearly two decades. Furthermore, 80 percent of the fish stocks now taken for human consumption are at or have exceeded their exploitable limits. The hunter roaming the oceans is rapidly losing his prey.
[Northrop Grumman Photo]
CRYSTAL CITY, VIRGINIA — Three nautical miles from an amphibious assault ship, I toggled a small button labeled “STOVL,” or short take-off and vertical landing. The abbreviation “REDY” flashed in green and I could see thrust vector angles change on my heads-up display in my F-35B Lighting II Joint Strike Fighter. I adjusted what my instructor called the cruise control and set my airspeed to 80 kts. All of a sudden, my flight controls changed as the “REDY” turned solid. I had transitioned to vertical flight.
With minimal coaching, after two minutes I had landed safely on the flight deck of a U.S. Navy ship. Though I briefly felt pride after my landing, I quickly realized that a computer had done all of the hard flying for me.
Computers and cockpits are nothing new, but with the proliferation of unmanned aerial vehicles and the degree to which computers control piloted aircraft today, policy makers and military leaders are asking when pilots can be removed completely from combat aircraft.
A wave strikes the side of to the Military Sealift Command fleet replenishment oiler USNS Henry J. Kaiser (T-AO 187) as it conducts a replenishment at sea with the aircraft carrier USS Nimitz (CVN 68) on July,7.
[U.S. Navy Photo]
The U.S. Navy kicked of its annual Rim of the Pacific (RIMPAC) exercises last Friday and will use the world’s largest naval exhibition to test its concept for powering expeditionary operations on biofuels. A carrier strike group, dubbed the Great Green Fleet, is the culmination of several years of testing in the biofuels arena and will serve as the Navy’s first top-to-bottom test of a force that could go to war powered by alternative energies. But parochial interests in Congress threaten to undo the Navy’s progress on biofuels and undermine efforts to build a cost-competitive biofuels market.
When the House Armed Services Committee took up its annual debate over the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) for fiscal year 2013, questions about the Navy’s biofuels program quickly came to the forefront. When the bill hit the House floor in May, two provisions had been added during markup of the bill by Rep. Mike Conaway (R-TX). Biofuels backers see the provisions as an attempt to undercut the Navy’s ambitious effort, which they contend hurts efforts to stabilize Defense Department fuel costs and offset DOD’s dependence on foreign fossil-based fuels.
The first provision, which is more symbolic than substantive, exempts DOD from the so-called Section 526 requirements contained in the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007. The section requires government-purchased alternative fuels to have a lower greenhouse gas impact than current fossil fuels. DOD says it doesn’t need the waiver, but, within the biofuels industry, section 526 is seen as a levy holding back cheaper but more pollutant-intensive fuels like coal-to-liquid.
The oath taken on commissioning or enlisting in the armed forces, begins, “I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States.” In constitutional law classes at our military service academies, cadets and midshipmen are taught that in honoring that oath they may be called upon to fight and die to protect a citizen’s First Amendment right to burn the flag, preach hate or damn U.S. warfighters.
Last week, in a less melodramatic vein, the Supreme Court ruled in United States v. Alvarez that service members also may fight and die to protect the First Amendment rights of frauds who falsely claim military decorations for heroism. The Stolen Valor Act criminalized the act of falsely claiming to hold the Medal of Honor, Distinguished Service Cross, Navy Cross, Air Force Cross and Purple Heart, among other awards. With sad regularity, we hear of imposters claiming outrageous feats in combat that resulted in high decorations. Quickly recognized as pathetic liars by those of us with military backgrounds, an unknowing public, eager to honor heroes, embraces the liars. The 2005 Stolen Valor Act finally gave authorities the means to convict and imprison imposters. Dozens of convictions followed. Athough sentences were usually no more community service, at least a federal criminal conviction resulted.
Xavier Alvarez was a particularly bold liar and fraud, claiming to be a retired Marine officer wounded multiple times and awarded the Medal of Honor. In fact, he never served a day in uniform. Across the nation, many others who wove heroic fantasies for themselves have been honored in a variety of ways, but it was Alvarez whose 2010 conviction came before the Supreme Court.
“Any ship can be a minesweeper –- once,” goes the old naval joke, but top American commanders in the Middle East are not laughing. Amid the roller coaster of tensions with Iran and a new high-level order to confirm that it can “shoot straight,” the Navy is beefing up its mine warfare capabilities in the Persian Gulf.
Motor Tanker (M/T) Wila, a merchant vessel in international waters en-route to the UAE port of Khor Fakkan, in the Gulf of Oman, was boarded by armed Iranian personnel who fast roped aboard the ship from an Iranian Sea King helicopter as it hovered above on Aug. 12, 2020. US Navy Photo
An Iranian special forces team boarded and seized a Liberian tanker off the coast of the United Arab Emirates for about five hours on Wednesday. The action by Iranian forces drew swift condemnation from the U.S.-led collation created to deter harassment of merchant ships in and out of the Persian Gulf. Read More