Naval History Magazine October, 2012
From manning quarantine lines to flying reconnaissance missions to preparing for an invasion, the U.S. Navy played instrumental roles during the Cuban Missile Crisis 50 years ago.
On a tense day in October 1962, the USS Allan M. Sumner(DD-692) was about 500 miles off the northern shore of Cuba, trailing a Soviet freighter. President John F. Kennedy, after learning that the Soviet Union was sending ballistic missiles to the island nation, had proclaimed a quarantine against ships carrying offensive arms there. The Cuban Missile Crisis had moved from the White House and the Kremlin to the sea, and suddenly the crisis was focused on the Sumner .
“I was in the wheelhouse,” Quartermaster Third Class Bob Bourassa remembered. “The freighter was about 1000 yds off our port side.” When the transport failed to respond to an order to stop, Commander William J. Flynn, captain of the Sumner , sent a handwritten message down to the radio shack “and after the first message was returned to him, he instructed the guns to be turned toward the freighter.” After a while, Commander Flynn sent down a second message. Before it was answered, “the freighter came to a stop . . . backed down for some time, stopped and then turned around and sailed eastward.” 1
That was the Navy on the quarantine line—ships ready for action and a command system that reached from the Pentagon and President Kennedy to destroyer captains and their crews. Before the crisis ended, the Navy would have more than 140 ships in the Caribbean and over 350 combat aircraft at area airfields. 2 They were responding to a Cold War confrontation that had begun in September 1960 when the Soviet freighter Atkarsk arrived at Nikolaev, the Black Sea port used for exporting weapons and military equipment from the Soviet Union.
On Oct. 25 1962 two unarmed and unescorted Navy photo-reconnaissance jets were speeding over the Cuban landscape on their way to photograph an intermediate-range ballistic missile site being constructed by Soviet technicians. The lead RF-8A Crusader was piloted by Lt. Cmdr. Tad Riley. His wingman, Lt. Jerry Coffee, flew sorties with the first VFP-62 low-level reconnaissance missions on Oct. 23, as part of the classified operation codenamed Blue Moon. Coffee spotted a military encampment and broke formation with his flight leader to get a closer to take pictures. His photographs disclosed a military threat unknown to Pentagon and the CIA analysts: Soviet tactical nuclear-capable Luna missiles. This evidence of battlefield weapons of mass destruction got submerged in the flood of intelligence reaching the president. Those forgotten missiles of the Cuban Missile Crisis could have triggered World War III.
Earlier, in response to a Soviet supplied military buildup in Cuba in mid-1962, Pentagon planners were refining two operational plans against Cuba: one a massive 500 sortie airstrike against missile and radar sites and MiG airfields; the other a 125,000-strong joint-force invasion. The latter apparently had no contingencies for facing tactical nuclear weapons, as Defense Secretary Robert McNamara revealed in his book In Retrospect, “. . . U.S. invasion forces would not have been equipped with tactical nuclear weapons.”
The following was excerpted from the U.S. Naval Institute’s 2012 annual history conference “The History and Future Challenges of Cyber Power” at Alumni Hall on the grounds of the U.S. Naval Academy on Oct. 16.
The panel discussion focused on the cooperation between the public sector (the intelligence and military for the sake of this discussion) and a private sector that is often vulnerable to cyber warfare.
The segment was moderated by University of Maryland School of Public Policy Research Professor Dr. William Nolte, who reminded the audience just how much people are touched by computers and by extension potentially cyber warfare on a daily basis.
“I used to ask audiences like this, ‘How many of you have used a computer today?’” Nolte said. “And people caught on. The easier question is, ‘How many have not used a computer today,’ meaning how many of you have not driven a car, or in some cases turning on your stove? You use your iPhone certainly. And this event I think has really taken us all by storm.”
Participating in Nolte’s panel was Dr. Michael Warner, the command historian for U.S. Cyber Command of the U.S. Department of Defense. Warner’s claimed that he is the only practicing “trained historian” in this field and explained his role a historian.
“Federal historians are those people who have to say to the boss, ‘Sir, ma’am — the problem is actually much harder than you realize and it’s much more complicated, too,’” Warner said. “So on that cheery note, that may be why there are so few federal historians because that is our job to bring this unwelcomed news to people.”
The following was excerpted from the U.S. Naval Institute conference report.
Opening the U.S. Naval Institute’s 2012 annual history conference “The History and Future Challenges of Cyber Power” at Alumni Hall on the grounds of the U.S. Naval Academy with the morning keynote segment was former Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff retired Gen. James Cartwright.
Cartwright was regarded as the Pentagon’s top thinker on cyber warfare during his stint as the vice chairman. In his remarks, Cartwright emphasized why the cyber landscape is important – it is a medium that lies between sanctions and military power.
“The tools available to a president or nation in between diplomacy and military power were not terribly effective,” Cartwright explained. “And so from my perspective at that time what I was looking for was a set of tools that had broad range capability, had no regard really for strategic depth and could be used in a way that would make a more logical transition, may even avoid the use of kinetic force to reset diplomacy, reestablish the ability to negotiate with whoever you’re working with. So we were looking for a way to fill the gap.”
Some of the methods Cartwright had said he looked at were electromagnetic pulse, directed energy, electronic warfare and cyber – all speed-of-light means used to extend the life of the diplomatic activities.
“We need to be able to work at no strategic depth and very large strategic depth,” Cartwright said. “Speed-of-light weapons were well suited for those kinds of problems. That was really at the heart of what we were trying to get accomplished.”
Proceedings, Oct. 2012
How likely is it that a conflict between two combatants involving both kinetic and cyber operations would be an asymmetric one? And does the answer to that question depend on who the combatants are? In a kinetic scenario, the creation and “massing” of forces is often possible to observe. Whether it is the number of troops, warheads, or aircraft, one can physically monitor the activity. The buildup can be measured in days or weeks. Such a scenario involving state-of-the-art kinetic weaponry also needs a high level of expertise that only comes from years of education and training. One needs a well-funded organization to support this kind of activity.You can trace the kinetic matériel fairly accurately to its source, and the effects of a kinetic attack unfold over an observable period of time. You can watch and react to it. Defense is possible as long as you are sufficiently diligent and prepared with a response.
U.S. Navy photo
The cyber battlefield is different. First, you don’t need a factory or a military base or physical materials. You don’t need the same sort of education, training, and expertise. All you need is a computer, Internet connection, and the time and patience to learn about software, hardware, and network vulnerabilities. Anyone can learn about and create effective cyber weapons. That’s why non-nation-state combatants are the most common potential adversaries. The development of offensive cyber weapons is very hard to actually “see.” It might be occurring in the room next to you, and you’ll be unlikely to know it.
This week in a speech in Virginia, Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney talked about his plan to build a 350-ship Navy, boosting spending on current programs and creating two new ship designs. But affordability is a key detail in any procurement discussion, and it’s one piece of the puzzle that the Romney camp is still fleshing out. Romney also did not identify any new requirements for a 350-ship fleet.
There is no doubt shipbuilding is a priority for whomever occupies the White House for the next four years. The Navy’s current roster of ships is near its smallest since 1916, when then-President Woodrow Wilson signed the Naval Act authorizing a massive build-up. At Wilson’s behest and with congressional approval, the Navy built 10 battleships, six battlecruisers, 30 submarines, 50 destroyers and other support vessels over three years, tripling the size of the sea service by 1919. Wilson’s 752-ship Navy was the high-water mark for decades, and his push leading up to World War I is credited with establishing U.S. naval dominance in the 20th century. But the expansion came at a cost — some $500 million at the time or a mere $10.2 billion in current-year dollars. But today’s ships are different by nearly all metrics — mission, capability, sophistication, size and cost among other factors.
Nearly a century later, Congress finds itself in much the same quandary as Wilson — an aging fleet of warships in need of modernization and, some say, expansion. The U.S. fleet as a whole has been on a slow decline since the late 1980s, bottoming out at 278 ships in 2007. The Navy says it needs between 310 and 316 ships to meet all its obligations around the world, a number that has remained roughly unchanged since the 1994 Quadrennial Defense Review.
Proceedings, Oct. 2012
In August, the Royal Navy released details of its next surface combatant, the Type 26, a modular ship. Announced plans are to build 13 of these vessels to replace the surviving 13 Type 23 frigates. All were intended primarily for antisubmarine warfare (ASW); the Type 23s were conceived as minimum towed-array ships to work in the Greenland-Iceland-UK (GIUK) Gap mainly in support of maritime patrol aircraft. With the end of the Cold War, this mission disappeared, and the Type 23s found themselves carrying out a wide variety of peacetime missions, such as drug interdiction in the Caribbean and anti-piracy work off Somalia. An incidental effect of the change from harsh GIUK waters to calmer ones is that the ships’ hulls have lasted far longer than expected. (Cynics may suspect that the ships’ longevity is really the consequence of successive governments’ reluctance to buy replacements on a timely basis.)
Comparing the Type 26 to the U.S. Littoral Combat Ship (LCS) shows how wide a range the concept of modularity covers. The Type 26 is a 5,500-ton frigate that can be built in one of at least two versions. In appearance it is a scaled-down Type 45 destroyer with the same sort of tower foremast, in this case topped by the Artisan three-dimensional radar rather than the big Sampson of the Type 45. The Type 26 was conceived as part of a long-running project to design a Future Surface Combatant, which was originally to have been built in three versions of varying capability (and cost).
The Type 26 is apparently the ASW variant, presumably a direct replacement for the current Type 23, with much the same systems as the projected modernized Type 23. They include the Sea Centor vertically launched suface-to-air missile (replacing the current Seawolf) and the Type 2087 low-frequency active-passive sonar (towed pinger plus array plus medium-frequency bow array). Sea Centor is an active-radar-guided derivative of the current British short-range air-to-air missile, also known as CAMMS (Common Modular Missile System). It uses an uplink for mid-course guidance. The ship will have a single gun, either the 4.5-inch currently standard in the Royal Navy, or perhaps a derivative of the U.S. 5-inch/62 (BAE owns United Defense, which makes the U.S. gun). There may be provision for a more powerful gun; in the past BAE has advertised a 155-mm gun within the footprint of its 4.5 inch.
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.
The new ABC drama Last Resort puts the crew of the USS Colorado, a fictional Ohio-class ballistic missile submarine, at odds with a secret conspiracy inside the U.S. government with aims of sparking a global conflict. News.usni.org asked Naval Institute Editorial Board member and U.S. Navy submariner Lt. Jack Walsh to assess the reality of what was on screen to how things really work on board a boomer.
Spoiler Alert: There are many.
The show is Hollywood’s take on the end of the world with enough gaps in real naval procedure to make the entire plot impossible.
Here is what any qualified submariner would say the show did wrong:
Busy First Day
The crew of the fictional USS Colorado had an unbelievably busy first day on screen:
Colorado picked up a group of Navy SEALs in a hostile environment with a nuclear ballistic missile submarine; the boat received missile-launch orders out of the blue; spoke via phone with the deputy secretary of Defense; instantaneously watched TV news at sea (possible, but highly unlikely); disobeyed a launch order; had the captain relieved; dodged a cruise missile underwater; crossed the equator and then ended up off the coast of Pakistan; bottomed the submarine on the ocean floor; miraculously escaped the ocean floor; occupied a remote Pacific island harbor; hit a fishing vessel, took over the island; threatened the U.S.; went back out to sea; launched a nuclear missile at Washington D.C.; and were threatened by U.S. bombers.
Last Resort tried to combine Crimson Tide, The Hunt for Red October, U-571, Down Periscope into just not one show, but into one episode. Hollywood’s timelines for submarine movies are bad enough — this is just laughable.
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.