Category Archives: U.S. Navy

The Cost of a Syrian Intervention

The Cost of a Syrian Intervention

A Libya-style military intervention in Syria could take up to six times as many combat aircraft as last year’s Operation Odyssey Dawn, according to a recent analysis from Massachusetts Institute of Technology.The analysis comes as calls are increasing to intervene in the escalating civil war in Syria.

USS Barry (DDG 52) fires Tomahawk cruise missiles in support of Operation Odyssey Dawn in 2011. U.S. Navy Photo

USS Barry (DDG 52) fires Tomahawk cruise missiles in support of Operation Odyssey Dawn in 2011. U.S. Navy Photo

When Odyssey Dawn began in March 2011, it appeared to hail a new model for military interventions. The relatively swift, painless and low-cost application of offshore and aerial power against a hostile regime to protect a rising hub of Libyan resistance in Benghazi began the military unraveling of the Gadhafi regime. Today, as Syria’s own civil war intensifies and officials such as Senators Lindsey Graham, John McCain, and Joe Lieberman call for military action, might another aerial and offshore campaign effectively establish a haven for the Syrian opposition and topple the Syrian government?

Brian Haggerty, doctoral candidate at MIT, recently released an extensive open-source analysis of what an aerial campaign to suppress Syrian air defenses and establish a safe zone would entail. While the operation is feasible, mitigating its significant risks would require a major campaign—one requiring at least 191 strike aircraft, at least six times the number of comparable aircraft in the opening phase of Odyssey Dawn, and perhaps several times more bombers and cruise missiles.

Discerning the capability of Syria’s integrated air defense system (IADS) is critical to that question. American officials, such as General Martin Dempsey, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, stress the sophistication of Syria’s IADS relative to other countries in the region and particularly in comparison with Libya. Syria has faced American air power before, while the embarrassments of Israel defeating of its air force in the 1982 Lebanon War and destroying a Syrian nuclear reactor in 2007 left it acutely aware of the need to deter and defeat hostile air power.

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Pentagon Denies Russian Sub Patrolled in Gulf of Mexico

Pentagon Denies Russian Sub Patrolled in Gulf of Mexico

Associated Press File Photo

Associated Press File Photo

The Pentagon and the Navy have denied it, but this month’s report that a Russian attack submarine prowled near the U.S. without being detected has turned attention back to the art and science of anti-submarine warfare.

The story, which appeared in the conservative “Washington Free Beacon,” reported that “U.S. officials” said the Akula-class sub loitered in the Caribbean for a month without being detected, and this “exposed deficiencies” in the Navy’s ASW capabilities.

The story did not contain enough detail to know what to make of that assessment – whether, for example, the Navy searched for the sub and didn’t find it, or whether it visited and left without a trace. The “Free Beacon” story said American commanders only learned of the sub’s patrol after the fact, but it did not explain how they could learn of it given that they hadn’t been able to detect it in the first place.

The incident is similar to 2009 reports in which the U.S. Northern Command (NORTHCOM) confirmed that two Akula boats patrolled off the Eastern U.S. seaboard.

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The Makin Island Raid at 70

The Makin Island Raid at 70

On August 17, 1942 211 Marines set out from two submarines to Makin Island, the home of a Japanese seaplane base. The raid 70-years ago was a first for the U.S. and a precursor to U.S. Special Operations forces that operate routinely from submarine assets. This is a narrative of the raid originally published in the October, 1946 issue of Proceedings

It was D-Day plus One in the Solomons. Three thousand miles away two submarines passed Hospital Point, Pearl Harbor, and headed out to sea.

Smoke from Makin Island taken by the crew of the one of two submarines that ferried Marines to the raid.U.S. Navy photo

Smoke from Makin Island taken by the crew of the one of two submarines that ferried Marines to the raid.
U.S. Navy photo

Submarines often had silently left Hawaii and had as silently returned, their conning towers emblazoned with miniature Japanese flags, since the first days of the war. They would until the last. But none had left with such a cargo as these two on that August 8 of 1942.

A plane on patrol swooped low over the pair. To the pilot as he waggled his wings in a gesture of “Good Hunting!” they were as other submarines he had seen taking the great circle route westward. Could he have seen below those narrow decks into the strong pressure hulls, he would have snorted “what the hell are those ‘@#$%’ Marines up to now?”

For there were Marines in the two submarines — two hundred and twenty-two of them. But they weren’t taking over submarines, they were being taken by them — on a foray unique in American naval history.

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The Witch's Final Flight

The Witch’s Final Flight

Naval History, August 2012

On a rainy night on a remote station, the U.S. Navy paid the price for poor training and lack of vigilance when Confederate raiders seized the gunboat Water Witch.

For the officers and men of the Union side-wheel steamerWater Witch , the evening of 2 June 1864 passed quietly. On board the gunboat, nothing about the monotonous night distinguished it from any other of the previous several months. She was moored in familiar waters—Ossabaw Sound, Georgia—where, as usual, she was the lone ship blockading the large ocean inlet 15 miles south of Confederate-held Savannah.

The Water Witch ’s isolation, however, made her an inviting target. And as her crew turned in that drizzly night, nearby Confederate sailors and marines rowed stealthily through the darkness in hopes of carrying out one of the Civil War’s most audacious naval raids.

Launched at the Washington Navy Yard in 1851, the Water Witch shipped 378 tons and measured 150 feet in length and 23 feet at the beam. In early 1853 she sailed on her first mission, exploring and surveying portions of South America’s Atlantic coast, the River Plate region, and the Paraná River. As the ship ascended the Paraná two years later, she was fired on by Paraguayan forces attempting to halt her progress. One cannon shot cut away the ship’s wheel, killing the helmsman.

The incident was not forgotten. In 1858 Congress authorized President James Buchannan to dispatch a large naval force, which included the Water Witch , to strong-arm concessions from Paraguay. Along with issuing an apology and granting a favorable commercial treaty to the United States, the South American country paid an indemnity to the family of the dead helmsman.

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The Smooch that Ended World War II

The Smooch that Ended World War II

kissingOn August 14, 1945, President Harry Truman took to the airwaves to announce that Japan had accepted the terms of surrender and that the war was over. The news sparked spontaneous celebrations across the United States, including in Times Square where photographer Alfred Eisenstaedt captured a joyous sailor kissing a passing nurse. First published in Life magazine as part of a pictorial titled Victory, Eisenstaedt’s V-J Day in Times Square has since become one of the most iconic images of the Second World War. Although several people have claimed to be the kissing couple, their true identities were a mystery until the 2012 book The Kissing Sailor revealed the results of extensive forensic analysis which determined that George Mendonsa and Greta Zimmer Friedman were the sailor and nurse in the photo. Interestingly, helping establish the identity of Mendonsa’s as the sailor is that fact that his future wife can be seen just over his right shoulder. The two had been out on a date when Mendonsa felt compelled to kiss the first nurse he saw in appreciation for what they had done for the wounded during the war.

Like Joe Rosenthal’s Raising the Flag on Iwo Jima, Eisenstaedt’s V-J Day in Times Square has been endlessly copied, reenacted and parodied.
Here are examples of the photo’s impact on pop culture:

kissin_1

The original: V-J in Times Square by Alfred Eisenstaedt

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Sailor and Marine Olympic Medal Winners

Sailor and Marine Olympic Medal Winners

Carl T. Osburn

carltosburn_0

You would think that the affinity that Americans have for guns would make competitive shooting a more popular sport, but one of the nation’s greatest Olympians is largely unknown. U.S. Navy Capt. Carl Osburn won 11 Olympic medals with his rifle between 1912 and 1924. He held the record for most U.S. medals until swimmer Jenny Thompson surpassed him eighty years later in Athens.

Charley Paddock

paddock

A gold medalist at the 1920 games in Antwerp, the flamboyant sprinter previously served as a Marine field artillery officer in World War I. His defeat by Brit Harold Abrahams at the 1924 games was depicted in the 1981 film, “Chariots of Fire.” Paddock was killed in a plane crash during World War II while serving on the personal staff of Maj.Gen. William Upshur.

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New Tomahawks Inbound

New Tomahawks Inbound

110329-N-3396H-001Raytheon Missile Systems, prime contractor for the ship- and submarine-launched Tomahawk land-attack missile, is moving into production of a new order of Block IV all-up round missiles under a new contract, valued at $337.8 million, awarded by the Naval Air Systems Command (NAVAIR) in June. Deliveries are set to start in 2013.

Meanwhile, the company is awaiting a NAVAIR decision on a sole-source award for development of an offensive antisurface weapon that would adapt Tomahawk subsystems to convert missiles to that new configuration. The plan is contingent on congressional approval and availability of funding.

Tomahawk, the Navy’s primary long-range land-attack missile, is deployed to some 140 ships including Ticonderoga -class cruisers and Arleigh Burke –class destroyers, as well as Ohio -class guided-missile submarines and Los Angeles – andSeawolf -class attack subs. It also is fielded by the Royal Navy’s Astute – and Trafalgar -class submarines. The U.S. Navy plans to field Tomahawk aboard the three Zumwalt -class land-attack destroyers now under construction and on Virginia -class attack subs. The cruisers and destroyers launch Tomahawk from the belowdecks Mk-41 vertical-launch system; the SSGNs launch the missile from vertical missile tubes and the attack subs from torpedo tubes.

Block II and Block III Tomahawks were employed extensively during Operation Desert Storm, with ships and submarines launching about 290 missiles. Tomahawks subsequently were used during Operation Southern Watch in 1992, Enduring Freedom in 2001, and Iraqi Freedom in 2003.

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The Future of the Carrier Air Wing

The Future of the Carrier Air Wing

120729-N-ZZ999-001What 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.

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Pigeon Holes or Paradigm Shift: How the Navy Can Get the Most of its Unmanned Vehicles

Pigeon Holes or Paradigm Shift: How the Navy Can Get the Most of its Unmanned Vehicles

Proceedings, July 2012
The U.S. Navy must combine innovation with tested ideas to make the most of its unmanned aerial vehicles.

110930-N-JQ696-401The process of assimilating a new technology is a complex one for any organization. Besides facing the resistance of those who view it as a threat, the technology’s full potential often remains unrealized because of a failure of imagination. Instead it is forced, at least initially, into existing functions and slotted into established intellectual “pigeonholes.” Unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) have been subjected to this sort of thinking. The U.S. Navy should consider them as more than mere unmanned versions of existing aircraft and take full advantage of this new tool.

In the original version of the film Star Wars , Luke Skywalker piloted an X-wing fighter with his trusty droid R2-D2 in the back. Single-seat aviators of the 1970s noted with some glee the allegorical reference to an automated naval flight officer. It appeared that the function of piloting was inherently human; system management was something a robot could handle. However, even at their current stage of development, the flight of unmanned aircraft is considerably more automated than, say, radio-controlled model airplanes, which indeed must be “flown.” UAVs such as the Northrop-Grumman RQ-4 Global Hawk are capable of autonomous takeoff, navigation, and landing. It is the pilot function that has been automated; the naval flight officer function still requires a human to make decisions.

This is the leading edge of a “paradigm shift”: pilotless aircraft operated by pilotless squadrons or perhaps by no squadrons at all. The shift may go further, possibly obviating the need for any kind of winged specialist. After all, the Navy has been operating a large fleet of highly lethal unmanned aircraft since the 1950s, controlled almost exclusively by surface warfare officers. These aircraft are called missiles.

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