PCs Are Small Ships with a ‘Big Navy’ Wake
(See M. Hipple, D. Follet, and J. Davenport, p. 12, April 2015 Proceedings)
Remo Salta—Ironically, if the Littoral Combat Ship (LCS) program had been managed properly, we would have ended up with a small warship about the size of the highly innovative 450-ton Danish Flyvefisken-class patrol vessel, which used off-the-shelf technology for weapon “modules” that allowed the ship to be used for different purposes. This would have been a tremendous achievement, because we would have had a small, low-cost, and flexible LCS that would have been an ideal first command for young officers and a perfect training ship for inexperienced sailors. But now we’re stuck with a large, overpriced, frigate-sized LCS that is too valuable to turn over to an inexperienced junior officer. And despite the original reason for the LCS, the Navy probably wouldn’t risk an expensive and vulnerable warship like this in a high-threat area, such as off the coast of Iran.
But today’s 13 Cyclone-class patrol coastal ships (PCs) are small and inexpensive warships that serve as excellent training platforms for officers and crewmen. There is also another mission where the PCs can really come into their own: Forward-deployed in the Persian Gulf, they could be of enormous value in guarding against Iranian fast-attack craft (FACs). Any frigate would be hard-pressed to fight off an attack of 10 or 20 missile-armed FACs. But if our larger warships had a picket line of PCs to patrol around them, then the PCs could serve as the first line of defense against the Iranian FACs.
The speed and agility of our PCs would be more than a match for their Iranian counterparts, and they could even break up an attack before it reached a larger U.S. vessel. And if the PCs are supported by armed U.S. helicopters, that would surely increase the probability that the enemy FACs would not be able to reach our warships. We are going to need speed and agility to defeat the Iranian FAC threat, and right now the LCS is not capable of doing the job. Although fast, the LCS is still a big and expensive target when compared to a PC, and it would have trouble fighting off a large number of fast-attack craft.
A combination of more PCs and armed helicopters would be able to prevent larger American warships from being attacked by the Iranian FACs. The armed helicopters could be based on the larger warships the PCs are escorting, and they could provide ample warning to the PCs as to the direction, size, and scope of the threat they are facing. Hopefully, the Navy’s bias against small warships will not blind it to the fact that it may well need more of them to win a possible naval war in the Persian Gulf.
Don’t Ignore the Contrarians
(See J. Murphy, p. 14, April 2015 Proceedings)
Force Command Master Chief Petty Officer Thomas J. Snee, U.S. Navy (Retired), National Executive Director, Fleet Reserve Association—Senior Chief Murphy was right “on spot” regarding the Military Compensation and Retirement Modernization Commission (MCRMC) not having enlisted representation. When I testified before a joint session of Congress on military personnel, I also mentioned this and received some looks. No enlisted representation on the MCRMC, when over 86 percent of the total force are enlisted, makes it hard to relate to the commission’s recommendations.
Bravo Zulu to Senior Chief Murphy for his column. When are we going to have direct representation on these commissions that govern us? Let’s bring us, and our ideas, into the fold.
A Century of Service
(See R. Braun, pp. 18–22, March 2015 Proceedings)
Captain Thomas J. Rossa, U.S. Navy Reserve (Retired)—Vice Admiral Braun’s article offers a worthy centenary history of the Navy Reserve, but what about exploring ways to really integrate the two demonstrably separate organizations (reserve Navy and regular Navy) into one Navy?
In my view, “reserve” is a label that is often construed negatively. Those in the Reserve should no longer be separated into their own units but instead should be made part of the Navy. While some vestige of the existing reserve command and administrative structure may need to remain, many of today’s reservists could be and should be assigned to active commands and used as an asset by that command. The controlling authority would be that command, not the reserve command-and-control structure. This will not be an imposition on the active command, but a real asset to be used to reach and maintain readiness.
The concept of a mobilization leading to the activation of reservists or reserve units to serve in the Fleet seems inconsistent with the present real world. Weeks or months to activate is too long as the needs today arise much faster. A reservist’s immediate transition to a totally active status with his or her fleet unit or shore command is realistic given the availability of military and civilian transportation. Any administrative hurdles to the transition from part-time to full-time, like clearances and qualifications, will no longer be an impediment to immediate integration as the unit or command will have kept the reserve personnel current.
We have telecommuters and job-sharing in the civilian world. The Navy needs to embrace similar concepts and integrate today’s reservists into the Navy by assigning them to commands at sea and ashore. Such personnel will be part-time but nonetheless a trained, productive, and proven asset.
Many if not most reservists want to be part of the Navy and resent being treated separately. They want to serve meaningfully and would increase their commitment in time and energy to have a more substantial role. A structure for those who are now reservists to integrate and be part of the Navy on shore or at sea has not been explored.
From another perspective, the idea that active-duty Navy personnel might be able to transition from a full-time to a part-time and back to a full-time role seems worthy of consideration. Such a system could retain many who now leave the Navy because they are confronted with a “go” or “stay” choice. An alternative kind of program would support retention rather than separation and, when combined with the part-time (previously “reserve”) personnel, it would create a blended workforce into one Navy.
Unfortunately, Vice Admiral Braun maintains a long-standing perception that the Navy Reserve is different from, separate from, and not part of the “real” Navy. And as presently organized, that is certainly an unfortunate, unnecessary, and illogical reality, because all wear the same uniform, and all have taken the same oath. It is time to restructure and move away from concepts of reserve mobilization rooted in battle-fleet tactics of the mid-20th century and go toward a more nimble and modern Navy, “one Navy,” that smartly uses full- and part-time assets.
Captain Kevin W. Olden, Medical Corps, U.S. Navy Reserve (Retired)—Vice Admiral Braun is to be congratulated for her excellent review of the Navy Reserve’s century of service to America. However, a common misconception was carried forward in the article. The author correctly states that as the United States entered World War I there were 8,000 members of the Naval Reserve Force, a number that rapidly increased to 250,000 Reserve sailors “on active duty.” She also notes that in World War II, the Reserve went from 45,000 to 3 million sailors on active duty, including “five future U.S. presidents.” But it is important to note that the overwhelming majority of these reservists never participated in a drilling capacity in the Naval Reserve.
These reservists were patriotic citizens who served brilliantly but were enlisted in a reserve status to allow for rapid discharge and return to civilian life at the end of hostilities. The five future U.S. presidents and the overwhelming majority of their fellow Reserve shipmates won the war and returned to civilian life, but never to drill another day after. Their extraordinary service saved our nation, but to equate them to past and present drilling reservists who maintain an ongoing commitment to our Navy is not accurate. We are all shipmates, but our drilling reservists are a unique group.
LCS Frigate Update
(See N. Polmar, pp. 88–89, March 2015 Proceedings)
Daniel Goure, Vice President, the Lexington Institute—Mr. Polmar is correct with respect to the littoral combat ship’s name change; we all should celebrate the redesignation of the LCS as a frigate. This decision hopefully marks the end of the U.S. military’s ill-conceived attempt to design platforms and forces according to short-lived intellectual fads. Along with the Army’s Future Combat System and the Air Force’s flirtation with acquiring its own light attack aircraft, the LCS initially was a response to a mistaken vision of future conflict. The name alone said it all. It was never clear whether the LCS was intended to meet critical mission requirements, or to respond to an ill-defined political agenda for a post–Cold War, more touchy/feely military.
Although some in the Pentagon may have thought the collapse of the Soviet Union meant that the era of major sate-on-state conflict was over, our prospective adversaries clearly had a different idea. The new frigate configuration, with the addition of a more powerful radar, short-range missiles, the M-38 25-mm gun, antisubmarine-warfare (ASW) torpedoes, and an electronic-warfare suite, will go a long way to addressing the current threat posed by small surface combatants.
Mr. Polmar is right to suggest that the Navy should have given greater consideration to adding a surface-to-air capability to the new frigate. An LCS variant with an Aegis-capable radar and Standard Missiles would be a powerful addition to the Fleet’s current air-defense capability. It would also reduce the demands on other air- and missile-defense-capable surface combatants.
The new frigate’s most important innovation, modularity, has unfortunately gotten less attention in terms of force planning, management, and budgets. The Navy desperately needed (and still needs) to expand its mine-countermeasures and ASW capabilities. The report that the mine-countermeasures package will soon be deployed for testing is a hopeful sign. Modularity also appeared to offer a potential solution to the perennial problem posed by the need to build extremely expensive multimission platforms. Admittedly, there were unresolved problems associated with some module technologies and with fully operationalizing the use of multiple mission modules, but these will be resolved. We cannot throw the baby out with the bathwater. In particular, the Navy needs to ensure that adequate resources and talent are devoted to the mine-countermeasures mission.
What must also be recognized is the Navy’s willingness to constrain its appetite for the newer, bigger, flashier platform and to limit itself to a set of LCS improvements that it could afford. In addition, a fast-changing international-security environment and potential breakthroughs in such areas as railguns, lasers, hypersonics, and robotics all suggest that this is not the time to begin designing and acquiring new combatants.
Getting and Staying Connected
(See E. Lundquist and L. Osborn, pp. 48–53, February 2015; J. G. Foggo, p. 8, March 2015; and J. R. Potter, p. 9, April 2015 Proceedings)
Captain Edward Lundquist and Captain Larry Osborn, U.S. Navy (Retired)—We have been pleasantly surprised with the response to our February article. In the hypothetical scenario we presented, operators from different combatant commands, services, and nations were able to plan and execute a challenging hostage rescue and noncombatant evacuation “on the fly” because of the interoperability afforded by the unmanned aircraft systems’ (UAS) control segment (UCS) architecture. Many unmanned systems and their sensors have unique, proprietary, and stovepiped control systems, communications, and datalinks. But with UCS they can be made to work together.
In our scenario, the situation could not wait for the arrival of the amphibious ready group and embarked Marine Expeditionary Unit (ARG/MEU). Even if they arrived late, they would have joined an operation already in progress and would not be able to dictate what systems would be employed. Waiting for the cavalry was not a viable option.
Forward-deployed naval forces are among the most innovative and adaptive organizations known to man. They must be, for often their mission success, and on occasion their very survival, hinges on playing the “pickup game” well.
Examples from our personal experience come to mind. During the 1980 Iranian hostage-rescue attempt, Captain Osborn’s squadron wired the cockpits of their A-7Es with 12 volts DC and velcroed commercially procured Fuzzbusters onto the glare shield. It was the only means they had to detect a specific and prolific surface-to-air missile threat in the region. A decade later, a very resourceful aviator performed a “field-modification” to the F-14 during Operation Desert Storm, wiring the aft cockpit with 12 volts DC to power a commercial handheld Magellan GPS receiver his wife had mailed him from home. After hours of flying over featureless desert terrain, his was the only tactical aircraft in the air wing able to navigate with assured precision. He simply updated the aircraft’s inertial navigation system with the known coordinates on the GPS receiver in the cockpit. It would be another decade before GPS was integrated into F-14 on-board navigational systems.
Each of these is an example of commercially available technology that would take many years to find its way into a program of record and be made available to Fleet operators. Instead, operators procured, adapted, and implemented them. Adoption of the Navy’s Common Control System (CCS) for UAS could be integrating legacy systems today. CCS leverages the DOD-led effort to make the UCS architecture the standard for integrating capabilities into existing and new systems. Unfortunately, CCS is moving at a snail’s pace and tied to a program of record (UCLASS) that has recently been delayed until 2023. Commercially available CCS-compliant software solutions could be delivering capability to the Fleet today and fostering out-of-the-box thinking by operators and more effective courses of action for their commanders.
Like the ARG/MEU that is over the horizon, this enabling technology will be unavailable to the Fleet for many years unless something changes.
Captain Jon C. Kreitz, U.S. Navy, Senior Military Assistant, Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Reserve Affairs—I agree with Vice Admiral Foggo that Captains Lundquist and Osborn’s article is right on target. They presented a scenario in which no ARG/MEU assets were in the area. As the former commanding officer of the San Antonio–class amphibious transport dock USS New York (LPD-21) for the majority of her maiden deployment in 2012, I was glad to read Vice Admiral Foggo favorably mention the value of an ARG/MEU in his comments.
Commanders will always attempt to make the best use of the assets available. The ARG/MEU team, a robust capability in itself, would be a welcome addition to the force package depicted in the Lundquist-Osborn scenario. With our ARGs/MEUs often operating disaggregated, San Antonio–class ships may be the sole amphibious assets available to a commander. The San Antonio class served as the shipboard technical-evaluation platform for the RQ-21 Blackjack small tactical unmanned aircraft system, and is envisioned to deploy with five RQ-21s, a capability they could share with the other assembled units. Coupled with the embarked Marine forces and aircraft, assigned landing craft, and a strong command, control, communications, computers, and intelligence capability, the San Antonio–class ships could serve as the hub for the type of operation depicted in the authors’ scenario.