Category Archives: Surface Forces

The Royal Navy's Pacific Strike Force

The Royal Navy’s Pacific Strike Force

Naval History Magazine, January 2013
After more than five exhausting years of global conflict, the British Commonwealth organized a powerful modern fleet that fought as equal partners with the U.S. Navy in the late stages of the Pacific war.

For the Royal Navy, the end seemed to come quickly in the Pacific war. Less than three days after the conflict’s outbreak, Japanese aircraft attacked and sank the most powerful British warships in Far Eastern waters, the modern battleship Prince of Wales and the battlecruiser Repulse . Their loss, followed within a couple of months by the capture of the naval bases in Hong Kong and Singapore, effectively drove the British navy out of the Pacific.

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But the Royal Navy—in the form of the British Pacific Fleet (BPF)—returned to make a major contribution in 1945 to the defeat of Japan. The BPF, its vital bases, and logistical support organization did not exist until late 1944, but eight months later, the fleet had become the most powerful deployed force in the history of the Royal Navy.

The BPF did not begin to come into focus until the August 1943 Quadrant Conference of Allied leaders in Quebec. Agreement was reached that greater priority should be given to the Pacific war, while retaining the “Germany first” principle. But for much of 1944, Prime Minister Winston Churchill and the British Chiefs of Staff argued over how best to implement the decisions.

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HII CEO Mike Petters Talks Business

HII CEO Mike Petters Talks Business

Mike Petters has been the chief executive officer of Huntington Ingalls Industries since the shipbuilder was spun off from Northrop Grumman in 2011. On Thursday, Petters briefed reporters in the state of the company almost 18 months after the spin-off.

It was our first full year as a public company. We spun off in 2011 from Northrop and we did that in the end of March. We really had three quarters in 2011, but last year was the first full calendar year. As a public company there are lots of things you are doing that you weren’t doing before that you do for the very first time. There are lots of things that were done by other people before you became public. And our team did a very credible job working its way through that and we’re at the point where we’re doing it again. . . . We did that in an environment where there’s more than usual uncertainty in the economy, the business environment, and politically. . . . You couldn’t go a day without hearing someone talk about the level of uncertainty in the business climate.

petters_hiresFor businesses in that environment it was a turbulent year. Usually aerospace and defense companies tend to be a little bit insulated from that kind of discussion. But I think the Budget Control Act of 2011 put defense contractors front-and-center in that conversation in a way that we were not before. I think as the year played out you saw different companies react to that in different ways. For us the issues were to pay close attention to our own knitting. When we spun the business from Northrop Grumman we said we have five contracts that we have to negotiate. We have five ships that we have to deliver that are troubled ships. It’s going to take us a couple of years to get those ships out of the way.

I’m happy to tell you that three of those five ships have been delivered. In 2012 we delivered LPD-23 and -24. LPD-22 was delivered at the very end of 2011. We still have two ships to deliver this year, LPD-25 and LHA-6. . . . Getting those ships delivered has been our focus. . . . We have to finish those two ships and get them delivered. In that regard execution and operations have been continuing to steadily improve. On LPD-25 and LHA-6 we had quality launches last year.

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China: Birth of a Global Force?

China: Birth of a Global Force?

In 2010, Rear Admiral Zhang Huachen, China’s East Sea Deputy Commander, said, “With our naval strategy changing now, we are going from coastal defense to far sea defense.”[1] Over the past 30 years the People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) has built a defensive navy operating within coastal waters, but in late 2008 the PLAN seemed to be transitioning towards becoming a global naval force—the capability to project power or diplomacy through sustained maritime operations anywhere in the world.

China’s far-sea defense—far-seas operations—comprises the maritime area 1,000 nautical miles beyond its territorial waters.[2] Based on that definition, far seas operations equate to approximately three days’ travel from China’s mainland and require at least six days of total transit time to include at-sea refueling operations. Since late 2008 the PLAN has achieved four significant metrics in the far seas:

  • Task forces deployed to the Gulf of Aden
  • A flotilla of warships operating in the Philippine Sea
  • The “Harmonious Mission” of the ship Peace Ark, and
  • The training ship Zheng He’s worldwide deployment

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This Time, It's Different

This Time, It’s Different

Proceedings, January 2013

A close observer of defense-spending trends takes a look at dollars and sense and the looming budget challenges in the Pentagon.

Defense-budget headlines of late have concentrated on sequestration, as hand-wringing increased about the so-called fiscal cliff. Most coverage has focused on defense officials predicting dire consequences for the Department of Defense (DOD), or industry officials warning of job losses and collapse of certain technology sectors and associated businesses. The U.S. Naval Institute recently hosted Defense Forum Washington with a program titled “The Fiscal Cliff: What Does This Mean for Defense and National Security?” The conference focused on sequestration and its impacts. Speakers and panelists offered different perspectives on impact, ranging from disaster to a mere “pothole,” and on occurrence from irresponsible to a fait accompli that should happen to provoke fundamental changes in DOD.

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Combat Fleets: Final Lewis and Clark Launched

Combat Fleets: Final Lewis and Clark Launched

Proceedings, Jan. 2013
The U.S. Navy’s 14th and final Lewis and Clark –class dry-cargo/ammunition ship was delivered on 24 October. Built by General Dynamics National Steel and Shipbuilding Company, the USNS Cesar Chavez (T-AKE-14), pictured here while still under construction, was launched on 5 May.

NASSCO Photo

NASSCO Photo

Named for the Mexican-American activist, the 689-foot ship has a beam of 105.6 feet and a draft of 30 feet and is operated by the Navy’s Military Sealift Command. The 14 ships of the class are tasked primarily with transporting and delivery of logistics supplies to include ammunition, food, fuel, repair parts, and ship-store items to U.S. and allied vessels at sea. The Cesar Chavez and her sisters each displace roughly 41,000 tons and can carry more than 10,000 tons of cargo. The Lewis and Clark class forms a sizable percentage of the 34 ships that make up Military Sealift Command’s Combat Logistics Force.

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Policy Difference Could Scuttle Second Virginia Submarine in 2014

Policy Difference Could Scuttle Second Virginia Submarine in 2014

Two weeks before budget-makers face the fiscal cliff deadline, there continues to be a great deal of uncertainty within the Pentagon. If the sequestration trigger goes into effect, program offices will be forced to cut billions of dollars from line items across the board. But within the Navy’s shipbuilding office, planners are already dealing with cuts that could impact the Virginia-class submarine program. The Navy and Congress have fought hard to institute a buy-rate of two Virginia-class boats a year, laying the groundwork for a five-year buy of the newest fast attack boat, beginning in 2014. But when the Navy delivered its budget request earlier this year, one submarine had been moved from the front of the line to the back so that budget planners could meet spending top lines mandated by last year’s Budget Control Act.

“We did not have sufficient headroom to fully fund the second boat in 2014,” Sean Stackley, the Navy’s top acquisition official, told the Senate Armed Services Seapower Subcommittee in April.

With a price tag of more than $2 billion, it’s easy to see how a submarine that’s two years away from construction ended up on the chopping block. But the costs associated with each boat have come down significantly since the program began, and opponents of the cut say removing one boat from the program now could reverse that trend.

USS Hawaii returns to Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam after completing a six-month deployment to the western Pacific region In November. U.S. Navy Photo

USS Hawaii returns to Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam after completing a six-month deployment to the western Pacific region In November. U.S. Navy Photo

The Navy estimates that sliding the submarine back to Fiscal Year 2014 from 2018 would reduce the total cost of the other nine boats in the current multiyear deal by roughly $900 million. Cost savings on par with the Navy’s estimate mean building the sub in 2014 would be 35 percent cheaper than doing it four years later. Virginia-class shipbuilders General Dynamic Electric Boat and Huntington Ingalls Industries’ Newport News Shipbuilding add that the continuity of two boats in 2014 would help maintain stability between the supplier base and the workforce.

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Cause for Alarm

Cause for Alarm

Proceedings, December 2012

The Navy’s future leaders should go to General Quarters with so many commanding officers being in the headlines lately.

A young submariner once wrote, “It is integrity that bonds the crew of a submarine so tightly together that when faced with any circumstance, each individual can trust his shipmate to meet the needs of the moment.” This anonymous sailor went on to make the comparison between integrity in professional conduct and the physical integrity of a ship. It seems that officers in today’s Navy need to extend this analogy to address integrity in personal conduct.

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Now-retired Vice Admiral Thomas Kilcline brought the issue of personal integrity to the fore in 2010 through a concept called “The Whole Sailor.” Unfortunately, the rate of personal misconduct, specifically among commanding officers (COs), has only increased. In the Summer 2012 Naval War College Review , Navy Captain Mark Light sought to bring attention to integrity problems at the command level through an analysis of COs who were “detached for cause (DFC)” from 1999 to 2010. He pointed out that in 2010, 13 DFCs were due to personal misconduct, compared with a total of 29 in the prededing decade. Since that analysis concluded in 2010, 25 COs (not counting the most recent incident involving the command of the USS Vandegrift [FFG-48]) have been fired for integrity related incidents. Whether or not these numbers represent a real deterioration of integrity among COs—or just heavier focus on personal conduct from senior leadership—a seemingly never-ending stream of embarrassing headlines (“Submarine commander sunk after allegedly faking death to end affair”) and a desensitized tone from the public (“Navy Skippers: The Gift that Keeps on Giving”) are unquestionably cause for alarm. 4

To be fair, senior Navy leaders have not hesitated in taking immediate action. For one, the Navy has been forthright regarding the behavior of its COs. It is easy to find articles about COs being fired for personal misconduct, but it is difficult to find credible instances of the Navy covering up such behavior. Meanwhile, strict new requirements for screening potential commanders, such as written tests, oral boards, and even reviews from peers and subordinates, are being enacted throughout the Fleet. Clearly, the Navy is willing to fight to preserve the standards to which it holds its COs.

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Sequestration: Coming Soon?

Sequestration: Coming Soon?

Sequestration has lately been hotly debated and often derided. Many probably have heard the term, aware it involves budget reductions, and possibly many know it could come to pass on Jan. 2, 2013. These potential spending reductions and simultaneous expiration of tax cuts have been collectively dubbed the “fiscal cliff,” receiving increased, post-election media attention as the President and lame-duck Congress negotiate a potential deal to change or avert both. But what does sequestration mean, and in context of the Department of Defense (DOD), what is its impact?

Sequestration could still be avoided (the President alluded to this in the Oct. 22 final campaign debate). Likewise, another outcome could be modification of the amount of budget reduction and/or the mechanisms by which it is conducted. However, worst-case sequestration under current provisions, coupled with previous budget reductions under the Budget Control Act (BCA) and compounded by other long-standing trends in defense spending, will be extraordinarily disruptive and damaging to the long-term defense program. Any change to sequestration requires passage of new legislation and presidential signature before Jan. 2, 2013 which very well may not happen. Therefore, assuming sequestration does trigger as planned in both timing and manner, let’s consider implementation impact on DOD.

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China vs. Japan Dispute is No Gordian Knot

China vs. Japan Dispute is No Gordian Knot

Proceedings, December 2012
The Senkaku/Diaoyu Tai Islands dispute between China and Japan has ramped up in a heated season of discontent, but given the position China has backed itself into through official pronouncements and military showmanship, Japan, Taiwan, and the United States have the opportunity to resolve the dispute. They can do this by forcing China to recognize a transfer of administrative control of the islands to Taiwan, or rather, the Republic of China (ROC), the legally binding designee of World War II–era diplomatic agreements. This action would accomplish a number of things:

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  • Reward China and Taiwan for recent stabilization of cross-strait ties and improve economic relations, and place the two sides in common cause over a security/territory issue.
  • Remove a perennial crisis point from the first island chain and the potential for its recurring destabilizing impact on Sino-Japanese relations.
  • Keep the islands within the U.S. alliance structure and security umbrella.

The Constitution's Victorius Captains

The Constitution’s Victorius Captains

Naval History Magazine, December 2012
Hull, Bainbridge, Stewart—the roll call of Old Ironsides’ commanders during the War of 1812 conjures a series of sea fights that helped put the young U.S. Navy on the map.

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The outbreak of the War of 1812 in June of that year pitted a U.S. Navy of fewer than two dozen ships of all sizes against the elephantine Royal Navy, which had almost that many ships of 100 guns or more. Furthermore, the officers and men manning that fleet had had nearly two decades of real-world combat experience. Among our fledgling officer corps of that day, only one senior seagoing officer had experienced a ship duel (and, ironically, he never managed to gain the glory of another during the new conflict). The frigate Constitution , one of the largest American warships, had three captains and two crews between 1812 and 1815, virtually none of whom had any combat experience—and yet they managed to amass an unbroken string of victories. These were those leaders.

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