Professional Notes

Early in the century, however, our American industrial base learned how to make compact, relatively light, reliable, and affordable marine reduction gears. Because electric propulsion plants generally were heavier, took up more space, cost more, and required more fuel than comparable mechanical propulsion plants, the vast majority of U.S. naval vessels built in this century use these plants. The ships, regardless of the prime mover—steam turbines, gas turbines, or diesels—all feature marine reduction gears as the method for matching prime mover speed with the required propeller speed and (sometimes) direction.

What has worked in the past, however, is not always the right choice for the future. In 1998, because of some revolutionary advances in American technology, electric propulsion now offers the following benefits for the new destroyer (DD-21), nuclear-powered aircraft carriers (CVNs), and nuclear-powered submarines (SSNs/SSBNs).

For DD-21:

  • Reduced fuel costs—approximately $100 million over the life of each ship
  • Reduced machinery volumes—24%
  • Greatly increased operational range
  • Reduced signature emissions (acoustic, thermal, etc.)
  • Reduced maintenance time and cost
  • Technology insertion capability; the all-electric ship
  • Competitive propulsion equipment costs

For Future CVNs:

  • Increased ship survivability
  • A reduction of about 1,000 feet of propulsion shafting and shaft alley area
  • Watertight motor rooms
  • Additional weight and volume available for weapons/ordnance/aircraft-escort fuel
  • Competitive propulsion equipment costs

For Future SSNs/SSBNs:

  • Improved stealth
  • Potential for employing advanced, novel propulsor concepts
  • Equivalent propulsion equipment costs

The key to achieving these benefits is based on using advanced U.S. technology, available today for the lead DD-21, and a common system approach for the entire Navy: common/scalable modular components used for all electric propulsion systems for all platforms. The advanced technology to be employed consists of two principal elements: permanent magnet motors and advanced high-power power electronics.

Permanent magnet motors offer very-high-power density, light weight, low cost, and low maintenance. Because the magnets create a permanent magnetic field on the rotor, there is no need for maintenance-intensive brushes, slip rings, or current collectors. In addition, using an advanced geometry radial air gap design (as opposed to a pancake or axial air gap design) passively eliminates cogging (serious torque fluctuations as the rotor passes stator poles). The permanent magnet motor offers far better performance than older-technology motors now being demonstrated in the Navy's Integrated Power Systems Program.

High-power power electronics make the use of permanent magnet motors feasible for military ship propulsion. These power electronic motor controllers must provide variable frequency (and variable phase rotation for reversing) power output to the motor without imparting electrical or mechanical noise to either the motor or the rest of the ship's electrical distribution system. Power electronic equipment meeting these requirements already is being seen in various naval applications.

The basic system, using a radial air gap permanent magnet motor with an advanced technology power conversion drive system, is scheduled to be demonstrated later this year at the 3,000 shaft horsepower level in a system designed and built exclusively with industry funding.

It is difficult to see how this technology, considered in isolation, achieves its benefits. After all, the efficiency of this electric propulsion system is still less than that of a comparable mechanical drive system. It is when the overall operation of the ship is considered, and when the ship's operating profile is adjusted to take advantage of this system, that the benefits are realized.

A Spruance (DD-963)-class destroyer, for example, has seven gas turbine engines. Four of these engines are for propulsion, and three are for the generation of ship service power. Three or four engines normally are in operation—two producing ship service electrical power and one or two driving the ship. Typically, all of these engines operate at well below their best fuel-efficiency points and a great deal of fuel is used just to provide an operating backup generator available to ensure continuity of ship service electrical power. This continuity of power is essential in today's ships, and is an absolute requirement if the ship is to have both basic ship safety and continuity of combat capability.

A DD-21 with electric propulsion has only four engines each driving a generator. Electrical power from the generator is provided both to propulsion and ship-service loads, with continuity of power for all loads (including propulsion) provided by an energy storage device (such as a submarine battery).

If the operating engine fails for some reason, the energy storage system automatically picks up the load while another engine is started. In this way, the ship will go through most of its operational life with a single engine operating at much closer to its most fuel-efficient design point. For additional speed, the watch officer simply orders additional engine(s) started.

Because each engines accrues fewer operating total operating hours (and because engine operation can be rotated to equalize use) the length of time between gas turbine maintenance and overhauls can be extended. Because the engines are mounted on the main deck as opposed to at the bottom of the hull, there is far less intake and exhaust ducting, making the ship far less detectable by thermal means.

Future CVNs can save significant lengths of propulsion shafting, which makes volume previously dedicated to shaft alleys available for weapons and fuel storage. In addition, because the motor rooms can be much smaller and watertight, the watertight integrity of the entire ship is improved.

For submarines, any improvement in stealth beyond that attained on the Seawolf (SSN-21) and the New Nuclear Attack Submarine (NSSN) probably will require electric propulsion. In addition, electric propulsion will facilitate future undefined payloads.

Thus, three warfare communities, with different priorities and drivers, all can benefit from electric propulsion. The fiscal reality, however, is that none of the three, on its own, has the funding required to develop and deploy electric propulsion. To do this the Navy must come together.

The trick will be to provide a system cheap enough for the new destroyer, powerful enough for the new aircraft carrier, and quiet enough for the new attack submarine. It can be done—and the key is commonality.

A system designed using scalable/modular components for the basic system building blocks can achieve these goals. Because high-power power electronics is a growing commercial business, it can be done without the Navy having to support alone an entire industrial base, e.g., high performance marine propulsion gears, dedicated only to naval ships. Without electric drive, this situation—which exists today—will become even more problematic and costly. This is because there are no other applications for the extremely high-precision, high-performance gears required for today's Navy ships.

With serial production of these scalable/modular system elements, advanced industrialization and manufacturing techniques can be used to automate production and keep acquisition costs low. Low enough, in fact, that full military system performance can be achieved at near commercial-off-the-shelf cost.

This advanced U.S. technology offers an affordable opportunity to move our Navy to the next level of performance. Electric propulsion, using this common system approach, has the potential to be as revolutionary a change for the DD-21 as gas turbines were for the Spruances —and as revolutionary a change for submarines as nuclear power was for the Nautilus . But this will never happen unless the Navy—the entire Navy—makes a conscious decision to come together to develop a Common Integrated Electric Drive System applicable to all ships. Now is the time for that decision.

Mr. Bartlett , a Navy veteran and plankowner on the USS La Jolla (SSN-701), is General Manager of Eaton Navy Controls Division. Eaton supplies Power Conversion Modules for the DC electric plant on the New Nuclear Attack Submarine (NSSN), and has supplied its Cutler Hammer motor controllers for many Navy ships; the company also is a member of the General Dynamics Marine Propulsion Plant Team.

 

Rate of Fire Beats Tonnage During Operational Maneuver

By Franklin C. Spinney

Major Ralphs makes an indisputable case for battleship firepower in the traditional "tons-on-target" sense, but he does not say how naval gunfire support would be incorporated in the Marine Corps's doctrine of maneuver warfare and the emerging concept of Operational Maneuver from the Sea (OMFTS). [See "The Troops Ashore Deserve Better Fire Support," Proceedings June 1998, pages 69-72.]

Proponents of the battleship must make their case in this context if they are going to convince Marine leadership to cross swords with the Navy over this highly charged issue. To understand how this might be done, it is necessary to explain what concepts lie at the heart of the OMFTS concept and then suggest a frame of reference for marrying naval gunfire support to it.

A traditional amphibious assault has the immediate objective of establishing a safe beachhead as a launching platform for a conventional maneuver aimed at destroying an enemy force located in the interior. Normally, such an operation would embody a methodical assault by waves of landing craft, and would be preceded by a massive bombardment. Not surprisingly, such assaults often degenerate into bloody attrition battles. Normandy is an outstanding example, and an attrition measure like "tons-on-target" is a good indicator of effective naval gunfire support in that context.

The theory behind Operational Maneuver from the Sea is very different, however, and stems from two insights: (1) a traditional amphibious assault is very similar to a methodical World War I frontal assault, and (2) infiltration tactics, which the Germans used in the 1918 offensive to overcome the limitations of frontal assaults, can be adapted to amphibious warfare doctrine. At its heart is a marriage of the idea of "surfaces" (strong points) and "gaps" (weak points) with Quick decentralized decisions by leaders at the front.

An infiltration attack penetrates deeply into a region with multiple thrusts flowing through the gaps and around the surfaces. Commanders lead from the front and reinforce successful thrusts to deepen penetrations and speed up the pace of operations. Forces hung up on surfaces are by-passed or pulled out. The quickening pace of operations enables the attacker to retain the initiative, and although his flanks may be long, they are not exposed, because the adversary is constantly reacting to a kaleidoscope of rapidly changing thrusts.

The key to retaining operational focus and initiative in an infiltration attack is for one's observation-orientation-decision-action (OODA) loops to achieve a faster tempo or rhythm than one's adversary. He will not be able to keep up with the changing situation and, because he is unable to generate mental images that agree with the menacing actions he must cope with, he will over- and underreact—getting farther and farther behind the power curve. This favorable mismatch in mind-time-space permits commanders to shape the flow of events, and General George Patton's dictum—don't worry about your flanks; make the enemy worry about his flanks—will prevail.

Operational Maneuver from the Sea takes these ideas of infiltration attack and extends them back to the amphibious ship-to-shore movement—the result is the so-called ship-to-objective operational maneuver. The idea is to infiltrate through undefended (or lightly defended) beach regions and immediately penetrate deeply into the littoral region with a fast-paced infiltration attack. Once the objective of the operation has been accomplished, the maneuver force moves quickly to an undefended exfiltration region and executes a rapid shore-to-ship maneuver.

It is a very ambitious concept, and no one is sure the Marines can pull it off. But one thing is clear: To be successful, commanders must be prepared to accommodate late decisions about infiltration and exfiltration points. Given the fog and friction of combat, this is where naval gunfire support, properly configured and trained, can play a crucial role.

In this context, there are at least two reasons why fire support from 16-inch guns may not be the best answer. First, if a battleship's firepower is needed to support an insertion operation, then under the doctrine of operational maneuver, the infiltration force would be attacking a surface rather than a gap, and continuing the operation would be reinforcing failure. On the other hand, there might be a requirement to lay down some high-rate suppressive firepower to force the adversary to divert his attention or dig in (and thereby slow down his OODA loop), while extricating the troops from this dangerous situation. A single battleship can lob big rounds, but I think its relatively low rate of fire would reduce its effectiveness in such a suppression mission.

The second reason was hinted at during a limited objective experiment conducted last winter by the Amphibious Warfare School, Marine Corps Warfighting Lab, and elements of the 4th Light Armored Reconnaissance Battalion. The objective was to determine how tactical aviation might support the movement of a light armored vehicle (LAV) force after it had been successfully infiltrated deep into a suburban littoral region. During its exit maneuver, the blue force LAVs almost stumbled into a red force artillery trap as they were approaching their exfiltration point. Had the trap been successfully sprung, quick-response, suppressive fire would have been needed to force red heads down while the extraction took place.

In both circumstances (an unexpectedly hard insertion point or a fighting extraction), the most immediate problem is to regain the initiative. Rate of fire becomes a more important indicator of effectiveness in this context than measures such as tons-on-target or least-cost per ton-on-target when one is comparing the relative contributions of battleships to carrier-based bombers or alternative surface fire-support options. Rate of fire relates directly to the problem of regaining the initiative, because suppressive effects slow down or disorient an opponent's OODA loops, while the friendly force uses the ensuing mismatch to adapt quickly to the unexpected situation. Admittedly, all these effectiveness measures overlap, but in my opinion, a pure tons-on-target capability would be more appropriate for a traditional amphibious assault than for supporting Operational Maneuver from the Sea.

If, for example, a battleship were reconfigured with three turrets of eight inch, rapid fire, automatic loading cannons, she might be able to provide the volume of fire I am thinking about. Such cannons have been fielded in the past. The Des Moines (CA-134)-class cruisers, for example, had three turrets—each mounting three guns whose individual rate of fire was ten rounds per minute. Moreover, the battleship's heavy armor and voluminous magazines would permit her to get in close to the beach in mine infested waters and sustain fire for a relatively long period of time, if necessary. Of course, such a program seems impossible in today's climate (after the Major Caliber Lightweight Gun debacle). I'm not sure the shipyards even have the skill to design and build such a turret at a reasonable cost, but that should be cheaper to build than the ill-fated, since-abandoned arsenal ship

If the Navy is serious about fighting in the littorals, however, it clearly needs to find some alternative way of putting quick-responding, high-rate fire (almost like a machine gun supporting an infantry squad) on small infiltration/exfiltration areas. To be survivable, such a capability should be low-cost, accurate, responsive, and capable of sustaining volume fire for the time needed to execute the maneuver. I am not sure this can be done with missiles like the Multiple Launch Rocket System.

Once an operational maneuver force is ashore and moving deep, it will outrun flexible, responsive surface fire support in any event. People who think guided weapons such a the Army Tactical Missile System or the Extended Range Guided Munition fired from ships 30 miles off shore can fill this requirement are dreaming: they cost too much, communications will be erratic at best, and they cannot be re-targeted quickly enough when the situation is fluid.

This is why an integrated air-ground team that can keep planes constantly overflying a column is a required capability in an operational maneuver scenario. One wonders how a carrier air wing with less that 50 fighter attack aircraft for all missions can support this demanding requirement.

Mr. Spinney is an analyst in the Department of Defense’s Office of Program Analysis and Evaluation.

 

The National Institute of Military Justice: A Status Report

By Lieutenant Commander Eugene R. Fidell, U.S. Coast Guard Reserve (Retired)

Not since the Vietnam War has there been anything like the current level of public interest in the administration of military justice. The Tailhook affair, the Aberdeen Proving Ground incidents, and the names of individual military accused such as Lieutenant Kelly Flinn, U.S. Air Force, and Sergeant Major of the Army Gene C. McKinney have become household terms. Americans with no particular connection to the military find themselves engaged as never before by issues of fair treatment of military personnel. Whether and when adultery ought to be a military crime, and how fraternization should be treated are hot button issues. Sizable and active student groups have developed spontaneously in recent years at several prominent law schools, including those at Yale, Catholic University, and William & Mary.

The current high level of interest in military justice represents both a challenge and an opportunity for the military, the legal profession, and the media. Experience gained since the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ) went into effect in 1951 suggests that the public interest will be served by the active involvement of a nongovernmental organization in the military justice system. The National Institute of Military Justice (NIMJ), whose creation within the Department of Defense had been suggested in these pages as far back as 1984, finally was established in 1991—privately—to meet that need.

The Institute's overall purpose is to advance the administration of military justice within the armed services of the United States. To achieve this goal, it is available to:

  • Foster coordination and cooperation between military and civilian practitioners and among the various armed services
  • Appear as a friend of the court in cases involving issues of military law
  • Cooperate with individuals, agencies, and organizations involved in the study or administration of military justice in other countries
  • Work with military lawyers to fashion litigation and appellate strategies
  • Work with the news media to ensure proper, balanced, and accurate coverage of newsworthy events in military justice, in order to improve public understanding of this important, specialized, and little-known field of the law
  • Encourage, conduct, and cooperate with studies relating to judicial administration, criminal justice, and correctional practices within the military
  • Furnish general backup legal assistance to civilian and military defense counsel in courts-martial and appeals and collateral litigation

The Institute plays a key role because many of the institutions that promote discourse in American life today do not function with respect to the military justice system. Prior to the recent spate of high-profile cases, the media took little interest in military justice. Those most directly affected are barred from political activity, unions in the military are outlawed, and in any event Congress ordinarily has too many other important matters competing for its attention. The Federal Courts take a deferential attitude when reviewing military cases, sustained academic interest is sparse, and there is no functioning unified military bar.

A real need therefore exists for an effective, professional, public-interest group focused on the military justice system and related aspects of the administrative discharge system. A few established organizations, such as the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Inc., and the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), appear in occasional cases of interest from the standpoint of their institutional concerns, but their efforts, although often productive, remain sporadic. These groups rely heavily on volunteers and are not in a position, singly or together, to keep pace with the functioning of the military justice system as a whole.

Military correctional programs historically have had very little outside scrutiny.

The National Prison Project has been a useful resource, but its main thrust has necessarily been elsewhere. A volunteer group, Members Opposed to Maltreatment of Service Members (MOMS), has been a focal point for families of incarcerated personnel. The interest the organization has generated in military corrections and its ability to gain the ear of military corrections officials confirm the need for NIMJ's broader approach.

With the exception of occasional involvement by the Vietnam Veterans of America, veterans' service organizations have played virtually no role in military justice in recent years. Some law school appellate advocacy programs have submitted amicus curiae (friend of the court) briefs to the civilian United States Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces, but their efforts, again, are sporadic and not oriented to broader issues of administration or policy arising outside the litigation context.

Established entities with functions analogous to NIMJ's, such as the National Institute of Justice, the State Justice Institute, the Federal Judicial Center, the Vera Institute of Justice, or the National Legal Aid and Defenders Association, have no responsibility for or expertise in military justice

The organized bar has a number of military-oriented committees, but with rare exceptions these lack either the resources or the charter, or both, to undertake the kinds of projects that are needed. In addition, bar association internal procedures often make it too cumbersome for committees to take positions on an expedited basis, as is typically necessary when issues reach a critical phase in the judicial, administrative, or legislative processes. Clearance requirements can be a major impediment to preparing amicus curiae briefs on a tight schedule. In some cases, bar committees may not be entirely independent of the armed services because of the heavy involvement of active duty personnel or drilling Reservists. The Institute, on the other hand, is not a bar association and does not compete with any organization for members or resources. It maintains close relations with established organizations such as the Judge Advocates Association and the American Bar Association's Standing Committee on Armed Forces Law.

The appellate defense units in each of the armed services remain seriously understrength and lack the resources needed for longer-range projects such as proposing or commenting on regulations or legislation, the development of coordinated litigation strategies, or the preparation of more than an occasional amicus brief. Of particular concern, military appellate prosecutors have the incalculable advantage of access to the Solicitor General's Office at the Department of Justice in shaping Supreme Court strategy. Their defense counterparts must fend for themselves and learn the sensitive work of Supreme Court litigation through a process of trial and error.

Finally, despite the outreach efforts of the civilian United States Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces, there are substantial limits on what the Court and others who are officially responsible for administration of the military justice system can do to foster public understanding and facilitate intelligent coverage of newsworthy military justice matters by the media. The Institute provides the media with needed background information so the public and Congress can be fully informed about this highly specialized, relatively isolated, but critical part of the American legal system.

In 1992, the Institute began publishing a free monthly newsletter called the Military Justice Gazette . The hard-copy circulation is more than 200. Since 1994, the Gazette has been available online through America Online's Legal Information Network and, more recently, the Army Times's Military City Online. In 1997, the Institute established an e-mail list for dissemination of the Gazette and occasional news flashes of interest to readers and the media.

Since 1992, the Institute also has published an annually updated edition of the Guide to the Rules of Practice and Procedure for the United States Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces which is available without charge to military appellate practitioners and the Court itself in a limited number of copies. It also is available free from America Online's Military City Online, from which hundreds of copies have been down loaded.

The Institute has appeared before Congress several times, including 1993 hearings on war booty and on gays and lesbians in the military. In 1996 and 1997, the Institute presented its "Boot Camp" introductory program on military justice for congressional staff in conjunction with the popular annual training program conducted by the highly regarded National Veterans Legal Services Program. In February 1998, the Institute co-sponsored a well-attended panel discussion on the question "Can You Get a Fair Trial in the Military?" that was televised on C-Span.

The Institute has participated in several rule-making proceedings relating to military justice. For example, in 1992, we submitted a petition for rule making to the United States Court of Military Appeals (predecessor to the United States Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces) regarding the disposition of cases in which no issues were presented by the appellant. We also submitted detailed comments concerning the 1997 proposals for changes in the Manual for Courts-Martial , and were among those organizations asked by the Defense Department to comment in 1997 on current military justice policy on adultery. The Institute has been among the few organizations to attend regularly the public hearings conducted by the Joint Service Committee on Military Justice, which is responsible for proposing changes to the Manual for Courts-Martial with amicus curiae briefs, and has filed similar briefs and presented oral argument in several cases before the United States Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces. At issue in Fletcher v. Covington was whether the Court of Appeals had jurisdiction under the All Writs Act to review the withdrawal of charges from a court-martial. United States v. Kelly involved the use of summary courts-martial at which the accused had not been represented by counsel as matter in aggravation. In ABC, Inc. v. Powell4, which arose from the McKinney case, the issue was whether it was proper to exclude the public and the media from the preliminary investigation of charges against the senior enlisted member of the Army.

The Institute also assists attorneys handling military law cases in the Supreme Court of the United States and the Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces. This assistance includes consultation on strategy, review of briefs, and participation in moot courts.

In addition to the training programs already mentioned, the Institute in 1995 conducted programs on Extraordinary Writ Practice, geared to appellate practitioners of military law and Civilian Instruction in Military Law, for past, present, and future teachers of military law at civilian law school; the latter was held at The Judge Advocate General's School of the Army, in Charlottesville, Virginia.

Given that few in the media have personal experience with the military, and that serving military personnel rarely can comment on pending cases, the Institute increasingly is viewed as an independent, knowledgeable resource for the print and electronic news media, both on background and for attribution. The Institute's availability as a resource and its refusal to take sides on the merits of any specific case, have contributed to this image.

Institute officers and advisors play active roles in bar and scholarly activities relating to military justice. In addition to working closely with the Judge Advocates Association and concerned sections and committees of the American Bar Association, they have contributed to the professional literature including published treatises and articles in professional journals such as the Military Law Review and several university law reviews. Institute advisors, several of whom are law professors and deans, have maintained close contacts with the International Society for Military Criminal Law and the Law of War (based in Brussels) as well as the Inter-University Seminar on Armed Forces and Society.

The Institute is not a membership organization but does have an advisory board composed of distinguished private practitioners and law professors and deans who, like the officers and directors, serve without compensation. Members include Rear Admiral John S. Jenkins, Judge Advocate General Corps, U.S. Navy (Retired), who served as Judge Advocate General of the Navy, and Brigadier General David M. Brahms, U.S. Marine Corps (Retired), who served as Director, Judge Advocate Division, Headquarters Marine Corps. Admiral Jenkins is Associate Dean at The George Washington University Law School; General Brahms is in private practice with the California law firm of Brahms & Duxbury. The Institute receives no financial assistance from the government. With the exception of a helpful start-up grant from the Beech Street Foundation, it has relied entirely on contributions from individuals. Securing substantial institutional philanthropic support is a current goal.

The Institute's goals for the future are realistic and achievable. These include continuing present programs, conducting a regular program on Civilian Instruction in Military Law, and offering additional training programs for military law practitioners and congressional staff. More aggressive use of the Internet will be critical to future programs; creation of a home page with appropriate links to other military law web sites is a high priority.

Meeting with foreign practitioners and experts in military law and fostering increased course offerings in military justice by American law schools remain goals. American military justice would be enriched by comparative law studies. We have much to share with other countries, particularly the emerging democracies. An international seminar on comparative military justice would be a useful start. Similarly, we need access to foreign periodicals (both online and in hard copy) on a regular basis in order to monitor important military justice developments overseas and keep our readers informed. This requires both research staff and funding for costly computerized research.

It is unhealthy, in a democratic society, for the military criminal justice system to exist as unknown territory to the civilian bench and bar, as is increasingly the case in the United States. More law schools would offer courses in military justice if there were a commercially available textbook—and the Institute is well positioned to assist in or undertake such a project using valuable existing materials as a starting point.

The Institute's center of gravity is in Washington, D.C., a city blessed with far too many lawyers—but also several highly regarded law schools. As the Institute moves into a new range of activities and the likely need for staff, research facilities, and a serious Internet presence, affiliation with one of these law schools will become increasingly appropriate. This too is a high priority.

For a small and poorly funded organization, the Institute has had a full plate from the beginning. As the UCMJ approaches its half-century anniversary, additional opportunities and challenges are certain to present themselves. The National Institute of Military Justice will be ready to participate and help shape public policy in this critical sphere.

Eugene Fidell is a partner in the law firm of Feldesman, Tucker, Leifer, Fidell & Bank LLP in Washington, D.C.

 

Cyclones Enter the 21st Century

By Lieutenant Tony Parisi, U.S. Navy

Even though capable Cyclone (PC-1)-class coastal patrol ships have been employed effectively for more than five years, many myths exist surrounding their overall utility. In fact, they were developed to fill the void in the U.S. Navy's coastal patrol and interdiction mission requirement and to augment Naval Special Warfare's ability to insert and extract SEALs throughout the world. Today, 13 PCs (nine homeported in Little Creek, Virginia, and four in San Diego, California) are in the fleet and the 14th is under construction at Bollinger Machine Shop & Shipyard in Lockport, Louisiana.

The Cyclones are required to perform the vast majority of the basic communication, damage control, engineering, and deck training evolutions that fleet cruisers, destroyers, frigates, and amphibious ships undergo. Their required operational capabilities include basic antiair, amphibious, and antisurface warfare missions. Their workup cycle incorporates the same major milestones as other surface combatants, and the four officers and 24 enlisted crew members train to the same meticulous standards that any Arleigh Burke (DDG-51) or Harpers Ferry (LSD-49)-class ship is required to demonstrate during workups. During advanced phase training, however, PCs train specifically with Naval Special Warfare units, primarily the SEALs, practicing insertion and extraction techniques and training to specific PC-unique missions.

The coastal patrol ships' mission is:

To conduct Maritime Special Operations, to include SEAL and other Special Operations Forces (SOF) insertions/extractions in a coastal environment, coastal patrol and interdiction, and barrier surveillance operations. To support the embarkation of a direct mission support including SEAL direct action missions and to operate in operations short of war with contingency scenarios ranging from Naval Special Warfare (NSW) support to noncombatant evacuation operations in a permissive environment.

The patrol ships routinely deploy to the Mediterranean, the Caribbean, South America, and the Western Pacific. In addition to performing their assigned tasks, PCs also are adept at augmenting and complementing the traditional day-to-day missions of cruiser-destroyer and amphibious ships, such as forward presence, search and rescue (SAR), blockade enforcement (e.g., Operation Support Democracy in Haiti), merchant vessel escort, and counter drug operations. PCs perform these real-world missions every day.

Clearly, coastal patrol ships have earned a role in today's downsized but very engaged Navy, yet many myths still surround their employment. Many who are not familiar or who have never worked with PCs believe that they are more of a liability than an asset. Some common misconceptions about PCs are:

PCs are too small and too lightly armed to be useful in combat . At 170 feet and 350-plus tons, they are more than large enough to carry out their currently assigned tactical missions in seas up to 10 feet (12 feet on beam and stern, 10 feet directly on the bow) throughout the world's littorals. The Cyclones were not designed to combat or compete with foreign fast-attack missile boats, nor were they meant to replace Oliver Hazard Perry (FFG-7)-class frigates. While the PCs have some sea denial and antisurface warfare capabilities, these are not their primary missions. No one envisioned them steaming in the blue-water screen formations of yesteryear, combating Russian Backfire bombers, or hunting nuclear submarines. They were designed to operate in low-intensity conflict, in support of Special Operations Forces under the aegis of U.S. air supremacy and with the assistance of larger fleet assets. The craft would have been valuable assets in such operations as Grenada, Somalia, Panama, Sierra Leone, and Liberia. PCs contributed significantly to Operation Support Democracy in Haiti and routinely conduct low-profile presence and foreign internal-defense missions throughout Europe, Africa, and South America. PCs are not expected to conduct overt direct surface engagements against cruiser-destroyer-sized platforms.

PCs cannot communicate effectively with other fleet units. This is simply not true. While PCs carry several pieces of unique special forces communication equipment, commonly referred to as green gear, all 13 ships have been or are being fitted with the AN/USC-54(V) Integrated Communications System (VICS), upgraded satellite antennas, Joint Maritime Communications Information System (JMCIS), and several other communications upgrades. PCs can and do regularly operate and communicate with cruisers, destroyers, frigates, and ‘gators. The PCs' radiomen are proficient in all standard Navy communication systems as well as Special Operations Forces green gear. This allows PCs to serve as a communications nexus for all Maritime Special Operations forces, a capability no other surface platform is routinely trained for or ready to perform. PCs are underused by SEALs and other Special Operations Force units. This misconception exists because PCs are not an integral part of the current SEAL workup and training cycle. The PCs work up separately and, to date, have focused on proof-of-concept deployments, foreign internal defense, counterdrug operations, and other traditional naval exercises, (e.g., UNITAS). This has precluded deploying SEAL team platoons and other SOF units from training with a particular PC and then operating with the same ship once they arrive in theater. Additionally, the PCs' advanced-phase training regimens have not been directly linked to those of the SEALs. The PCs, SEALs, and Special Boat Squadrons are aware of this problem and have started to coordinate training for specific deployments and exercises. Whenever SEAL platoons and other SOF elements have used PCs, they have found them to be very capable command-and-control and insertion/ extraction platforms.

PC commanding officers and crews lack the experience and training required to carry out today's real-world missions . In fact, operational commanders and staffs know this to be untrue. Worldwide, PCs have performed beyond everyone's expectations, often outperforming the cruiser-destroyer or amphibious forces in theater. How can this be? Because the second-tour surface warfare department heads sent to command these ships are competent and motivated volunteers who have current fleet knowledge plus several years of post-Cold War deployment experience under their belts. The two second-tour division officers, who serve as the operations and weapons officers, are also the cream of the crop of today's junior surface warfare warriors. The engineer is normally a hot-running limited duty officer with extensive diesel propulsion plant experience. The crew members are mostly first and second-class petty officers who want to go to sea and do exciting things. The officers and crew are all very familiar with today's "Forward . . . from the Sea" missions and have all been through the complete advanced training process at least once. The four officers and 24 enlisted men (one or two chief petty officers) who make up the crew also are highly motivated volunteers who sought out this non-traditional seagoing assignment. In addition to the high crew enthusiasm, PC's cross training regimens, operational schedules, and demanding Naval Special Warfare missions are very exciting and challenging. Sprinting around at 30 plus knots and working with the SEALs is, quite simply, fun; this increases the job satisfaction, morale, and ultimately battle readiness. The Special Boat Squadrons on both coasts also provide the right mix of guidance and autonomy to the commanding officers.

This should shed some light on what PCs have accomplished to date. Naval Special Warfare's coastal patrol ships contribute significantly to U.S. national interests in accordance with the Navy's current "Forward . . . from the Sea" and "Operational Maneuver from the Sea" strategies. There is no shortage of missions or assignments for PCs in today's ever-changing geopolitical environment. Whether it be counterdrug operations in the Caribbean, a Mediterranean deployment in support of Sixth Fleet, or a foreign internal defense training exercise off West Africa, PCs continue to work up, deploy and support maritime special operation forces all over the world.

What does the 21st century hold for these vessels? In his recent mission statement for the U.S. Special Operations Command (USSOCOM), entitled "Special Operations Forces: The Way Ahead," General Peter J. Schoomaker stated, "To meet these challenges [regional instability, transnational dangers, asymmetric threats . . .], we must leverage the best capabilities and potential of our armed forces." He continued to emphasize that today's Special Forces must change and adapt to face the new threats of today's post-Cold War world. The PCs, owned and maintained by USSOCOM, can and will play a key role in combating the principal threats to U.S. national security in the 21st century.

According to General Schoomaker, "SOF's ability to help mold the international environment . . . is our most important day-to-day contribution to national security and represents our `steady state' for the future." This mission ties in directly with PCs' foreign internal defense role. Because of their shallow draft (7-8 feet) and high speed (35-plus knots), The PCs can go where larger ships cannot. Recently, PCs have deployed to the Pacific, Western Africa, South America, and the Baltic to train with foreign navies and their respective special forces. These deployments focus on building strong military-to-military relationships with the host nations and simultaneously nurture vital warfare skills with potential allies. In addition, such deployments provide a low-profile U.S. presence in littoral areas not normally visited by deeper-draft conventional ships. One or two PCs in the port of a developing nation demonstrate U.S. resolve and commitment but do not physically or politically overwhelm the country like other standard U.S. surface combatants could.

While the immediate benefit of these deployments and PC presence missions may not seem readily apparent, they contribute to the overarching goal of promoting peace and stability in the developing littoral regions of the world through mutually beneficial military-to-military relationships.

In an article entitled, "Surprising the Enemy," in the January/February 1998 issue of Surface Warfare , Lieutenant General Paul K. Van Riper, U.S. Marine Corps (Retired), described Ship-to-Objective Maneuver, a new tactic that calls for rapid insertion from over the horizon of a highly mobile force to conduct a specific mission. The tactic does not require that an extensive beachhead or logistic train be established prior to attacking the target. The blitzkrieg-style tactic employs the latest communications and mobility technologies to force the enemy to defend several fronts while the assault force loiters over the horizon poised to strike with overwhelming firepower and precision.

For PCs, this is nothing new. In fact, it is exactly how the ships conduct their missions with U.S. Navy SEALs—albeit on a much smaller scale. A typical SEAL-to-Objective Maneuver (insertion) entails approaching a hostile coast, usually at night, and rapidly and stealthily inserting a SEAL element via combat rubber raiding craft to accomplish a very specific objective. The SEALS are later extracted from a planned location. While the SEALs are ashore, the PC serves as their communications nexus and provides close-in fire support if necessary.

Another innovative concept currently being tested in the fleet is that of the "Smart Ship," which has been employed successfully on board the USS Yorktown (CG-48) for several years. It incorporates off-the-shelf technologies to reduce manpower requirements while simultaneously improving battle efficiency and safety. PCs, which were constructed and equipped from the outset with off-the-shelf technology, have been smart ships since the Cyclone was commissioned in 1993. PCs run a taut, safe and highly efficient underway watch.

While PCs are considerably smaller than their cruiser, destroyer, and `gator counterparts, they are required to maintain the same logs, records, and key watch stations as all other U.S. Navy ships. Because PCs were not built to military specifications and were not subject to Surface Force Atlantic and Pacific regulations, they were able to incorporate such "Smart Ship" equipment as the Sperry Integrated Bridge System and Autopilot and Voyage Management System long before the term "Smart Ship" was coined. Today, PCs continue to improve battle efficiency and reduce manpower intensive underway requirements largely unbeknownst to the rest of the fleet.

Ship-to-Objective Maneuver and the Smart Ship concept are just two examples of the way PCs are at the leading edge of 21st century naval developments. PCs have carved their own niche in the post-Cold War, post-Desert Storm world, and have demonstrated their capabilities while conducting a plethora of missions.

The real issue facing coastal patrol ships in the future is not whether they are viable platforms in today's ever changing geopolitical environment, but what is the right mix of real world missions to train toward.

Lieutenant Parisi is the commanding officer of the USS Zephyr (PC-8). He has served as combat systems officer on the USS John Rodgers (DD-983); ASW and operations officer on the USS Jack Williams (FFG-24); and deck division officer on the USS Forrestal (CV-59). He has been selected for Lieutenant Commander.

 

 
 

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