The ever-growing reach of China’s navy was demonstrated recently when two of its warships sailed through the Turkish Straits and into the Black Sea for the first time. The two ships, the Luhu-class destroyer Qingdao and Jiangkai II–class frigateYantai (pictured here), entered the Black Sea on 31 July. They then veered off on their own separate visits, with the Qingdaotraveling to Sevastopol, Ukraine, while the Yantai made her own port calls at Costanta, Romania, and Varna, Bulgaria, before the vessels sailed back through the Bosporus and the Dardanelles in early August. Both ships, along with the replenishment oiler Weishanhu , had recently completed anti-piracy patrols
Photo courtesy Cem D. Yaylali
in the Gulf of Aden and off the coast of Somalia. Although the destroyer and frigate entered the Black Sea, the larger 23,000-ton Weishanhu remained docked at Istanbul. Once the ships departed the area, they made a brief stop at Haifa, Israel, before returning home to Chinese waters.
In an apparent reaction to the recently concluded multinational minesweeping exercise in the Persian Gulf and Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s appearance before the United Nations, Iran released film and video of its latest unmanned aerial system (UAS). Iran calls the new UAS Shahed-129 (or Witness-129). The Guardian news website provided the following transcript of Iranian television coverage of the Shahed-129 flight demonstration: “The new drone . . . can carry out combat and reconnaissance missions with its 24-hour non-stop flight capability.” The transcript goes on to report, “home-made aircraft is capable of hitting targets at a distance of 1,700-2,000 kilometers… [and] can be equipped with electronic and communication systems including cameras which can capture and send live images.”
Images from Iranian television of the Shahed-129.
While the Shahed-129’s flight performance claims may be exaggerated, the system nonetheless will join several other indigenously manufactured Iranian unmanned aircraft. For U.S. sailors operating in the Persian Gulf sightings of Iranian-built drones are a common. The fact is, Iran has been manufacturing reconnaissance drones since the 1980s, when they began building and flying the Mohajer systems during the Iran-Iraq War. The Mohajer was followed by a line of indigenously built systems such as the mass produced Ababil. The smaller Ababil UAS has been exported to Hezbollah forces, who used it against Israel in the 2006 conflict in southern Lebanon. More recent reports indicate that Syrian government forces may be using this system to locate and target rebel forces in Syria. The Ababil also made headlines in February 2009 when an Iranian controlled drone was shot down by a US F-16 after making an incursion into Iraqi airspace. So clearly then the, Shahed-129 is just the latest in a long line of Iranian built systems that Iran routinely operates. By all appearances, robotic systems have been part of the Islamic Republic of Iran’s military arsenal since the early days of the revolution.
On Monday the Pentagon ceased production of the Mine-Resistant Ambush Protected Vehicle (MRAP), perhaps the most iconic acquisition program of the past ten years. The trucks were designed and built in response to the urgent need to protect service members in Iraq from the pervasive improvised explosive device (IED) threat. The vehicle went through five different iterations and the production lines produced 27,740 trucks. The total price tag came to $47.7 billion. For all the investment, what are we left with?
Mine resistant ambush protected vehicles offloaded from the Military Sealift Command roll-on/roll-off ship USNS Pililaau in Kuwait in 2008. U.S. Navy Photo
The vehicle may be of use to the U.S. Army, but there is little place for the armored monstrosities in the Marine Corps. They are too heavy to be practical on the Navy’s amphibious warships. Marine Corps and Navy leaders rightly are concerned about the weight of the Marine Air-Ground Task Force, so the weight issue is a red line for integrating the trucks into permanent service. Any MRAPs remaining on the Marine Corps rolls will most likely be stripped of their radios and mothballed.
Proceedings, Oct. 2012
Lockheed Martin’s Missiles and Fire Control business unit started a series of airborne “captive-carry” testing in May on the sensor suite planned for use for a long-range antiship missile (LRASM). It is being developed for fielding aboard Ticonderoga -class cruisers and Arleigh Burke –class destroyers.
The LRASM program is a science-and-technology (S&T) development initiative managed by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) Advanced Weapon Systems Initiative and the Office of Naval Research.
Navy and DARPA officials say that the current UGM-84 Harpoon antiship missile, in service since 1977 and now on board theTiconderogas and Burkes , will in the future be less capable of penetrating advanced defenses on ships of potentially hostile navies. According to DARPA, without a new weapon, antiship operations against those defenses would require multiple launches and the use of overhead targeting assets.During an initial phase of the program, DARPA in July 2009 awarded Lockheed Martin a $9.9 million contract for demonstration of a new LRASM concept. The program aims at developing a low-signature subsonic missile that uses the airframe built for the AGM-158 joint air-to-surface standoff missile-extended range, also developed by Lockheed Martin and now in production for fielding aboard Air Force strategic bombers and USAF and Navy tactical aircraft.
The future of certain Navy and Marine Corps programs remain in doubt while a temporary legislative funding measure takes effect on Monday. A little over a week ago, Congress approved a six-month spending package that will give the House and Senate until March of 2013 to decide how to meet the nation’s financial obligations, including funding for the Department of Defense (DoD).
The so-called Continuing Resolutions (CR), allow the government to remain open and operating but they also prevent DoD from starting any new programs and require funding levels for current programs to remain essentially the same. For the DoD overall, the funding continuation means a half-percent increase in the topline, but restrictions in the bill hit the Navy and Marine Corps especially hard. Shipbuilding programs could stall and multi-year buys of fighter and vertical lift aircraft could be put off, driving up costs and impacting readiness.
The aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt (CVN 71) departs Naval Station Norfolk and begins a towing operation to Northrop Grumman Newport News Ship Building for a Refueling Complex Overhaul (RCOH) in 2009. U.S. Navy Photo.
But the Navy’s two biggest issues in the CR were funding for a pair of aircraft carrier midlife maintenance projects called RCOHs or Refueling and Complex Overhaul. USS Theodore Roosevelt (CVN 71) is scheduled to finish its three-year, $2.5 billion rebuild in June 2013, but the CR funded only half of the expected costs. USS Abraham Lincoln (CVN 72) is scheduled to start its downtime next year as well, but new programs are specifically prohibited under the CR.
Sea mines are historically the most dangerous threat to naval vessels. Since World War II, 15 U.S. Navy ships have damaged or destroyed from mines. Compared to torpedoes, small boat attacks and missiles, mines have caused more than four times more damage to U.S. Navy ships. Though the threat is well known, the mine countermeasure enterprise has suffered in recent years. Specifically, the U.S. Navy’s Avenger class minesweepers have had systemic maintenance and performance shortfalls. In the last year, the U.S. has moved the bulk of its minesweepers to its Fifth Fleet headquarters in Bahrain and this month has started the largest mine countermeasure exercise of its kind in the last several decades. International Mine Countermeasures Exercise (IMCMEX) 12 is currently ongoing, a partnership between the U.S. and almost 30 other countries. The U.S. Naval Institute spoke with Rear Adm. Ken Perry on Sept. 21 about the exercise, the health of the minesweeper fleet and what the exercise has to do with Iran.
Q: Could you give us a run down of the exercise?
A: The purpose is to demonstrate interoperability with our international partners to demonstrate our commitment to freedom of navigation and our ability to defend it against mine threats in particular. Our ability to conduct mine counter measure operations and mine clearance operations effectively. We had a very successful conference, a symposium, over the last couple of days it included naval leaders from the participating countries as well as industry representatives officials and other stake holders in freedom of navigation and maritime commerce and mine clearance and mine warfare capabilities. So with that symposium successfully conducted we transferred to the harbor phase where we have conducted a number of shipboard orientations for the participants including senior naval officials aboard the ships.
U.S. Avenger class minesweepers on manvuers with Royal Navy ships on Sept. 20. U.S. Navy Photo
We are sailing now toward the at-sea maneuvers where we will conduct a number of at mine counter measure evolution involving aircraft and surface ships and under sea forces, divers unmanned and under water vehicles.
As more information comes in from the Sunday attack on Camp Bastion, Afghanistan more and more news outlets are calling the incursion of attackers dressed as U.S. Army soldiers as a “false flag,” attack. The term, originated in the maritime circles, referrers to a ship that flies a flag other than its own for military advantage. The following is a narrative from a false flag incident in World War II.
Proceedings, March 1953
On December 3, 1941, German Supreme Command announced: “An engagement has taken place fff the Australian coast between the German auxiliary cruiser Kormoran and the Australian cruiser Sydney. The German cruiser commanded by Fregattkapitan Detmers has defeated and sunk a much more heavily armed adversary. The 6,830-ton heavy cruiser Sydney went down with her entire complement of 42 officers and 603 men. As a result of the damage received in the fierce engagement, the Kormoran had to be abandoned after the victory.”
Behind this laconic statement is hidden one of the greatest dramas known to the annals of sea warfare. Two ships had fought a battle at close range, in which both were so severely damaged that within several hours one of them sank with all hands, leaving no trace, while the other was so badly burned that it had to be abandoned by its crew 140 nautical miles from the safety of land. It was not until 5 days later, when one of the Kormoran’s lifeboats reached the Australian coast, that the world learned what a great catastrophe had been enacted at sea. An air search was begun at once from western Australia, and on the tenth day after the action the exhausted crews of the Kormoran’s remaining lifeboats were saved by the Australian minesweeper, Yandra. Of the 400-man German crew, 300 were interned in Australian prison camps. We can only guess at the tragedies that occurred during these days and nights. The dead are silent, and we, the survivors, can only guess.
Australian cruiser Sydney
Nevertheless, the experiences of the survivors tell us that time can not only speed in its flight, but can also be frightfully long. Minutes become hours, and hours long days, and in a few days many a man becomes years older.
Adm. John C. Harvey Jr., the outgoing commander of U.S. Fleet Forces, sent the following message to U.S. Navy surface forces commanders Sept. 1, 2012. The email was presented as a parting message before his retirement on Sept. 14, 2012. The message and subsequent attachments were addressed to flag officers in leadership roles in the U.S. Navy’s surface community.
Fellow Surface Warfare Flag Officers,
I’m communicating with you today in my capacity as the senior Surface Warfare Officer on active duty, otherwise known as “the Old Salt,” who is soon to retire and who, upon retirement, will relinquish that status and the honorific that accompanies it to VADM Terry Blake. This e-mail is my first “Old Salt-gram” to you, the leaders of our community, and it will be my only one.
Having had the great privilege of serving as a SWO for many years in a wide array of duties, the last 12 years as a Flag officer, I’ve watched our community grow and develop in both capability and professionalism across the wide array of mission sets for which we are responsible. And while there is certainly a great deal that is very positive for us to focus on, from the quality and performance of our ships to the quality and performance of our Sailors, there is a significant issue I want to discuss with you because of the painful lessons-learned we’ve accumulated over the years and the potential implications for the surface force if we don’t take those lessons-learned to heart.
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.
Naval History, October 2012
During World War II, the war-ship that made the largest contribution to victory in the Pacific was the aircraft carrier USS Enterprise (CV-6)—hands down. By war’s end, though, newer and more capable members of the Essex class had surpassed “the Big E.” The ship was soon decommissioned, and in 1959 she was scrapped—despite efforts to pre-serve her as a museum and memorial. Her legacy was perpetuated, however, in that she bequeathed her famous name to the world’s first nuclear-powered air-craft carrier, which was commissioned in November 1961.
Then Cmdr. Kent Lee aboard the USS Enterprise
The namesake carrier, originally CVA(N)-65 and later CVN-65, is now on her 22nd and final overseas deployment, serving with the 5th and 6th fleets. When she returns to the United States this autumn, she will be inactivated and then defueled. The current Enterprise , like her World War II counterpart, will be scrapped. The process of removing her eight nuclear reactors will so disfigure the ship that she will not be recognizable as an aircraft carrier and thus not suitable as a museum. But what a record she has com-piled. Her longevity is truly remarkable.