There’s a Case for Diesels
(See M. Walker and A. Krusz, p. 64, June 2018, and B. Gabbert, online C&D, July 2018 Proceedings)
I believe proponents of nuclear rather than diesel submarine power have had it right for years, but if we’re going to say no to diesel submarines, let’s do so for the right reasons. Take a look at some underlying myths surrounding the comparison of diesel and nuclear boats:
1. Submarine warfare in the littorals differs from submarine warfare in blue water. As previously pointed out in these pages, the submarine is equally at home in shallow or blue water, regardless of propulsion plant. Some capabilities may be constrained in deep water, and some in the shallows, but the platform is capable and comfortable in either case. Littoral warfare does not justify building diesel submarines.
2. Diesel-powered submarines are slow. Speed is important in getting to station, but stealth is inversely proportional to speed. Speed can be of less use—or even a liability—during the contact phases of engagement. (Recall, too, that the diesel-powered USS Albacore [SS-569] achieved 34 knots in trials in the 1950s.) Both conventional and nuclear submarines have been capable of detecting and attacking over-the-horizon targets for more than 30 years. Weapons, not propulsion plants, catch the target.
That said, neither the potential for a few hours’ steaming at an acceptable flank speed nor several days’ loitering on air-independent propulsion trumps the advantage of unlimited propulsion offered by nuclear power. Nuclear endurance permits operating under the ice, extended periods of proximity to adversaries, and evasion of determined prosecution. Building frontline assets without maximum capability is unwise and a reason not to build diesels.
3. Nuclear and conventional submarines would require entirely different designs. A submarine is a submarine. While some tanks and compartmentation may differ, hull-forms, control surfaces, sound-quieting technology, communication gear, sonar, navigation equipment, and weaponry could and should be common to maximize capability, interoperability, and maintenance—and save money.
But the diesel so built would have limited exportability since security concerns include specs for the above systems. Building submarines for allies is not a reason to build diesel-electric ones when the overall numbers of submarines the United States can build annually is counted on the fingers of one hand.
4. Diesel engines are exclusive to conventionally powered submarines. All submarines have at least one diesel engine. A diesel allows a nuclear submarine to keep the lights on with the reactor plant shut down. It also is the most efficient way of ventilating the boat after days or weeks submerged and removes smoke quickly after an onboard fire. It can be used to charge a battery or provide limited auxiliary propulsion. And a nuclear submarine’s diesel engine is used for initial reactor startup when divorcing from shore power.
Let’s confine the building of better diesel engines to their installation in nuclear submarines, conventionally powered surface ships, and unmanned underwater vehicles.
—Commander Dennis Fargo, U.S. Navy (Retired), past director and member of the U.S. Naval Institute Editorial Board and former commanding officer, USS Barbel (SS-580)
Reload Missile Shooters at Sea
(See T. Granger, pp. 73–74, July 2018
When Commander Granger proposed reloading missile-armed warships at sea, he overlooked an important study conducted more than two decades ago—the arsenal ship concept.
In 1995, replenishing warships from support ships was deemed to be too dangerous, too time consuming, and too expensive. Then–Chief of Naval Operations Admiral J. M. (Mike) Boorda and Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency director Larry Lynn convened a team to look into the issue. The panel consisted of Marine General Al Gray, Vice Admiral Joe Metcalf, Rear Admiral Wes Jordan, and myself. Our deliberations led to the arsenal ship concept.
The team’s goals were more ordnance on target; low cost; standoff capability; surface fire support and other unmet capabilities; and greater magazine capacity for high-intensity conflict.
The outcome was a proposal for a specialized ship carrying 500–750 missile launchers for a combination of land attack, fire support, ballistic missile defense, and air defense. The ship would have had limited self-defense capabilities and a small crew, around 25 to 50.
The ship would have had no fire-control or missile-guidance capabilities. Rather, she would have operated in the vicinity of cruisers and destroyers that would have defended the arsenal ship and controlled its missiles.
Unfortunately, the arsenal ship concept never went anywhere, because of rising shipbuilding costs, budget constraints, and other factors, including Admiral Boorda’s untimely and tragic death in 1996. The Navy could benefit by reviewing the arsenal ship concept; rebuilding existing support ships to replenish warships with missiles at sea is not the answer.
— Norman Polmar
The Other Mine Warfare Will Work
(See J. Winnefeld and N. S. Ahmad, pp. 28–32, July 2018 Proceedings)
Admiral Winnefeld and Captain Ahmad make an excellent case for what they call “the device,” a “modern-day mine, using advanced technology coupled with an imaginative concept of operations” for offensive missions. They also state, “We’re way behind, and we need to catch up.”
I agree but there is hope for the future. The Navy has put in place the programmatic, research, and development framework and is investing resources to enable us to surpass our adversaries’ mine warfare capabilities.
Current efforts in many ways are a response to Admiral Winnefeld’s challenge made at the Naval Surface Warfare Center (NSWC) Panama City Division in January 2015: “Within five years, how can our operating forces disrupt or deter an adversary vessel in international waters using mines that are smart, controllable, command-and-control enabled, mission adaptable, and payload––kinetic and non-kinetic effects––flexible?” Even if the five-year target proves to be too hard, the challenge helped focus the Navy’s attention on a critical long-term need.
OPNAV N95 initiated a new program of record in fiscal year 2018, the Hammerhead program, to develop and field new mine/mining capability incrementally. Under this program, the Navy is pursuing several initiatives that portend a renaissance in U.S. naval warfare.
Several navy warfare centers are using their Naval Innovative Systems Engineering (NISE) investment programs collaboratively to prototype and demonstrate candidate capability configurations. (NSWC Panama City is integrating innovative contributions from NSWC Indian Head, NUWC Newport, and SSC Pacific.) The “smart mine” initiative pools the warfare centers’ distributed technical capabilities to rapidly address the naval warfare gap and develop mines that meet “the device” characteristics.
The NSWC/NISE team is also exploring cost-effective wide-area-coverage options offered by encapsulated torpedoes and other effectors such as UAVs that can provide effects against coastal land targets. These tools can be networked with modular seabed sensors and command, control, and communications nodes, all deliverable from a wide variety of vessels.
The vision is that smart mining, with a network of encapsulated sensors and effectors, will become part of a distributed “kill web” offering flexible, scalable, lethal, and nonlethal effects from the seabed.
The time is right to conduct a robust and integrated joint concept technology demonstration. This will demonstrate advanced capability and support program-of-record development. It also will provide initial near-term leave-behind capability configurations for sailors and Marines to explore concepts of operations and tactics, techniques, and procedures development, while innovating other uses for these new asymmetric warfighting systems.
The Navy’s mine warfare objective is to use the “psychological warhead” that a robust mine warfare capability provides. The challenge, as always, is to ensure we have sufficient resources devoted to achieving and sustaining U.S. undersea superiority as we compete against a host of other priorities.
—Captain Hans E. Lynch, U.S. Navy, Mine Warfare Branch Head, Expeditionary Warfare N95, Office of the Chief of Naval Operations
Fighting Through Silence
(See D. Vercher, pp. 22–27, July 2018
The author’s discussion of the demise of electronic warfare (EW) sadly fails to mention the soon-to-be-complete disappearance of Marine airborne EW. The Marine Corps has chosen to deactivate the last EA-6B squadron, VMAQ-2. With it will go 70 years of EW aircraft, equipment, and experience.
One must assume the general staff that is throwing away these Prowlers believes Marine Corps F-35Bs and Navy EA-18G Growlers will provide what will be needed when the shooting starts.
The author makes a good point on another level—how we (as the self-declared “only superpower”) got lazy about training for war in less-than-ideal environments.
The author discusses practicing for war without EW dominance against Russia. There are many other things we don’t practice for: war without air superiority/dominance; without generators, tents, and laptops; without our UPS-like logistics train, etc, etc.
—Major Mark D. Stotzer,
U.S. Marine Corps (Retired)
U.S. Naval Aviation and Weapons Year in Review
(See G. Snodgrass, pp. 94–97, May 2018 Proceedings)
The aviation section of the Naval Review says that the MH-60S, which I helped build at Sikorsky Aircraft in Connecticut, carries a 20mm chain gun. The weapon is actually the M197 Gatling-type rotary cannon, with three barrels rotated by an electric motor. A chain gun possesses only a single, non-rotating barrel. It also is driven by an electric motor but uses a chain to drive the reciprocating parts to keep everything synchronized.
—Master Sergeant Chris Dierkes,
U.S. Air Force
‘George Lucas’ Explains
The Naval War College recently added to its curriculum Military Ethics: What Everyone Needs to Know (Oxford, U.K.: Oxford University Press, 2016), by Naval Academy Professor Emeritus George Lucas. The book deserves a wide audience.
Lucas defines theories of ethics with understandable terminology, contextualizing them with historical and present-day references accessible to the student yet worthwhile for the scholar. He displays a pleasing sense of self-deprecating humor, distinguishing himself from his famous namesake “the George Lucas of Hollywood.”
The careful exposition of vocabulary and the riveting examples of moral quandaries (in one case, he discusses “Operation Red Wings,” most famous for the involvement of Michael P. Murphy, posthumous Medal of Honor recipient) make this useful for the service academies as well as graduate-level war colleges.
Lucas comes down firmly on the side of Just War Theory when it conflicts with arguments based in “political realism.” Advocates for realism Carl von Clausewitz and Niccolo Machiavelli contend that war is a political instrument of the state that should be preoccupied with the most pragmatic route to military victory, not morality. Lucas argues that so-called realists often overlook their own attempts to explain military operations as an appeal to some rendition of ethics—that expeditious victory is moral. Those who make the categorical claim that there is no real right or wrong would have us believe that their moral claims alone are right, a self-defeating contradiction.
The author persuasively defends the moral advantages of the Just War tradition enshrined in international law as consistent with military virtue, professional pride, and personal intuition. He delineates the merits of each stage of Just War theory: jus ad bellum (justice toward war), jus in bello (justice in war), and jus post bellum (justice after war). Adding to the book’s innovative character, Lucas maintains that the role of moral education for the warrior constitutes the first phase of the Just War Theory—jus ante bellum, justice before war.
He makes a strong argument that the Just War tradition applies to modern problems such as cyber war, humanitarian intervention, private military contractors, and drones. The principles are still valid, he argues convincingly, and disputes over their application do not nullify but only confirm their relevance.
All in all, Military Ethics is an authoritative handbook marked by both simplicity and sophistication and deserves space on the bookshelves of today’s naval professionals.
—Lieutenant Commander Edward Erwin, U.S. Navy Chaplain Corps
But Will They Fight China?
(See N. Nappi, pp. 44–49, May 2018 and A. Johnson, p. 84, July 2018 Proceedings)
Major Nappi makes a dispassionate assessment of possible allied participation in a Sino-U.S. war, but the hypothetical conflict is neither a natural phenomenon nor an act of whimsy. It has to be fought in response to an event serious enough to cause it.
It is difficult to envision a bilateral issue over which either of the two wealthy and influential nations would go to war. The only result could be a horrible cost in lives and treasure, as well as a loss of prestige and influence for the loser. As the author states, China isn’t the Soviet Union, and ideology doesn’t figure. Nor does religion or conflicting territorial claims. Trade disputes, for all the noises made, are hardly a casus bellum for two prosperous countries with mutual interests.
It would be the height of folly for either nation to initiate a transoceanic nuclear war. An unwinnable land war on the Chinese mainland is something the United States would never seriously consider.
Major Nappi appears to envision instead a conventional, primarily maritime conflict similar to the Pacific War of 1941–45, in which allies could make a crucial difference. However, for that to happen, the patient and sophisticated Chinese would have to become so overweening as to abandon their subtle and largely successful carrots-over-sticks strategy to commit one of two possible outrages: naked aggression by regular military forces against a U.S. ally; or attempting to exercise sovereignty over the South China Sea by requiring all maritime traffic to request and receive permission for transit and conducting visit, board, search and seizure operations against the noncompliant.
In the first case, the targeted ally will fight if confident that the United States would honor its treaty commitments. Unlike NATO members, the Pacific allies have no obligation to each other and are unlikely to rush headlong into the fighting. More likely, they would initially involve themselves indirectly by providing noncombatant support to U.S. forces before making the potentially existential decision to “fight China.”
The second case, less outrageous on the surface than foreign invasion, has the potential to disrupt global commerce. It would set an unwelcome precedent for other designs to regulate unilaterally the use of various parts of the global commons. Allied participation would depend mainly on the forcefulness of the U.S. response. If strong,
Japan, South Korea, and Australia—possibly even maritime nations from outside the hemisphere—would participate. If half-hearted, it’s obviously less
risky to pay the bandits than break
The five bilateral treaties are holdovers from the Cold War era when the respective treaty partners were passionate about resisting communist domination. The Chinese have no ideological agenda and aren’t so much interested in conquest or formal absorption as in an economic suzerainty. Some countries, such as Japan, reject any such informal domination but others could be more amenable to accepting a hegemon’s control in return for economic benefits.
The five treaty partners are so disparate and geographically separated that it is as if NATO consisted of the United States and just five bilaterally linked, conventionally armed European partners on the continent’s periphery.
How can the five separate treaties be individually tailored and flexibly managed to produce the best possible deterrent and warfighting effects?
— George R. Gabaretta
COMBAT RESCUE NEEDS
(See B. Foster, pp. 30–33, April 2018
I AM IN AGREEMENT with Lieutenant Foster but would like to add a further suggestion.
As he noted, combat rescue was blended into the existing helicopter sea combat (HSC) structure. I suggest that it be separated back out of HSC and made an asset of each air group—over and above the HSC complement. I recognize that there is the risk of viewing the combat-rescue aircraft as “lifts of convenience” for the ship/air group, but with a sound and strict organizational structure, this could be prevented.
Combat rescue is a perishable skill and thus would require constant practice to maintain. The aircrews would be dedicated to practice their unique skill mix to the exclusion of other taskings. In addition, I suggest that two aircraft be assigned to this role, for redundancy and team-building evolutions.
—Senior Chief Hospital Corpsman
Paul H. Sayles, U.S. Navy (Retired)
The Human-Machine Team Failed Vincennes
(See A. Tingle, pp 38-41, July 2018
Lieutenant Colonel Tingle’s attribution of the USS Vincennes (CG-49) incident to the human-machine interface associated with the Aegis combat system applies the wrong lesson. Further, his statement that the captain of the Vincennes found himself in an untenable situation is unsupported.
Every officer assigned to an Aegis-equipped ship at the time attended courses in Virginia at Wallops Island and Dahlgren naval bases to became intimately familiar with the technology and its operation.
During this training, without preamble, the Vincennes tapes would be run and the watch team would simulate that scenario. The author says that the airspace was cluttered with civilian aircraft, but the tapes show a different story—benign, uncluttered airspace. Airliners were within air corridor boundaries and few other air contacts were in the vicinity. In the six times I personally sat through the training, not once did anyone engage the airliner. Why did the Vincennes? The answer is management.
A better way to study the man-machine interface in a cluttered environment would be to examine the performance of the USS Bunker Hill (CG-52) during Desert Storm and Shield. That ship and crew experienced air-track loads that were near-saturation level, including civilian airliners before the air war began, and at the same time faced Iraqi aircraft flying over the Persian Gulf several times a day. At the commencement of hostilities, the Bunker Hill controlled 28 multinational antiair-warfare (AAW) ships, multiple combat-air-patrol stations, and several Air Force tanker stations, and tracked the ingress and egress of close to 1,000 planes a day. Navy AAW forces under the control of the Bunker Hill had zero blue-on-blue engagements.
Why the difference? The Iran Air incident began with a simple error: an operator manually entered a mode-II (military) IFF code for a civilian airliner. The operator did not understand the differences between the standalone IFF system and the display representation. Numerous watchstanders had the ability to double check the IFF manually but did not.
The atmosphere on the Vincennes has been described as chaotic and loud, two signs of bad management. Free communication between watchstanders and questioning were discouraged. Errors noted, including operators repetitively pushing the wrong buttons, reflect less the man-machine interface and more the nervous behaviors that are the product of chaos.
I never heard a raised voice in the Bunker Hill’s CIC. Her crew went through the same training as the Vincennes crew. Watchstanders were expected to double check each other as part of their routine. Free communication was encouraged, and the most junior watchstanders could ask questions.
The biggest difference was the commanding officer (CO). The Vincennes report describes him yelling at the crew. The Bunker Hill’s CO brought calm to every situation. In a tense environment, he always brought us back to the sound practices we had trained for, and so the man-machine interface performed superbly.
This difference in performance with near identical systems is what the author should study.
—Commander T. P. Hekman,
U.S. Navy (Retired)
The Carrier’s Role is
(See A. Ross, pp. 16–20, July 2018
Commander Ross argues that the inadequate offensive reach of the carrier air wing (CVW) in the face of modern anti-access/area-denial (A2/AD) capabilities is eroding “the viability of the carrier in strike missions.” He implies that force structure and naval strategy should be realigned accordingly.
The author’s argument fails to consider several factors.
He does not take into consideration the defensive capabilities of the carrier strike group (CSG). Ballistic-missile-defense Aegis surface combatants have demonstrated capability against weapons such as the DF-21D. F/A-18E/F and F-35C strike fighters supported by the E-2D can protect against air threats. Nuclear-powered attack submarines and air-capable surface combatants, supported by maritime patrol aircraft, provide ASW defense.
Nor does the author consider the options available, such as submarine- and surface-launched missiles, stealth bombers, cyber attacks, and electronic warfare, to attrite or confuse the enemy’s defenses. The CSG itself includes several combatants armed with dozens of Tomahawk land-attack cruise missiles whose range is roughly equivalent to that of the DF-21D.
The range handicap is not a new problem for carrier forces. Historically, land-based air has outranged sea-based air, for the simple reason that land-based aircraft and missiles can be larger.
Despite this handicap, Navy carrier task forces played a major role in defeating Japan in World War II, and carrier strike forces were expected to play a key role in the Cold War maritime strategy.
Thus the CVW’s inherent range disadvantage compared to land-based systems does not mean that the CSG has no strike role in a near-peer conflict, any more than it did during World War II and the Cold War. It only means that the CSGs would not be committed until the “correlation of forces” between the enemy’s A2/AD capabilities and the fleet’s defensive capabilities represented acceptable risk.
Furthermore, the CVW’s range handicap is not a given in all scenarios. In some situations, the offensive reach can be extended with the support of shore-based tankers. The arrival of the MQ-25 Stingray organic tanker will likewise extend the wing’s offensive reach, albeit with smaller strike packages.
A more significant point is that only a CSG can provide the mix of power-projection, sea-control, and air-control capabilities that will likely be needed in conflict with a peer adversary. It is not a question of if the CSGs will be committed to the fight, but when and how they can be committed with acceptable risk.
Commander Ross’s argument applies only to the (highly unlikely) case of a major conventional conflict with a near-peer adversary. While the Navy must plan for this worst case scenario, it must also plan for other more likely scenarios in which the CVW is the most effective force for sustained power projection from the sea, as well as the preeminent choice for diplomatic signaling short of conflict.
The CSG/CVW will continue to play a central role across the spectrum of non-nuclear conflicts involving naval forces for the foreseeable future.
—Rear Admiral Robert M. Nutwell,
U.S. Navy (Retired)
In the May 2018 Proceedings, on page 95, the AGM-158C LRASM was incorrectly designated the AIM-158C.