Posts tagged ‘Navy’
Inside the Osprey
Cobra Gold, the largest and oldest military exercise in Southeast Asia, originally started as a training exercise to strengthen the relationship, mission readiness and interoperability between troops of the Kingdom of Thailand and the United States. This year, the 33rd iteration of Cobra Gold, the United States and Thailand welcomed participants from Indonesia, Japan, South Korea, Malaysia, Singapore and, for the first time, the People’s Republic of China.
The exercise included an amphibious operations, helicopter assault, disaster site evacuation and training with live ammunition, according to the Pattaya Mail. The U.S. Marines seen here are with 2nd platoon, Lima Company, 3rd Battalion, 1st Marine Regiment, 1st Marine Division.
To see what the Osprey tilt rotor aircraft looks like from the outside and other photos of the exercise, click here.
Trying Something New
The U.S. Navy has a nearly silent TV commercial that notes 70 percent of the world is covered by water, 80 percent of the people in the world live near water and 90 percent of all trade around the world travels by water.
The ad concludes with a massive aircraft carrier cruising past. Get the message?
But the Navy and the Marine Corps have both acknowledged that a lot of those people living near water reside in cities on the coast or along rivers where big ships can’t go. In future conflicts that could pose an access problem.
The solution was supposed to be the Littoral Combat Ship (LCS) – a vessel small and light enough to naviagte shallow coastal waters, but carrying enough armament to do the jobs of chasing submarines and clearing away mines in “premissive environments” where the opposition isn’t packing a lot firepower — think: pirate strongholds and failed states without an air force or long range missiles.
Since the $32 billion program began in 2002, the LCS development has encountered numreous problems including cost overruns and a complex competition that led to construction of two separate designs by Lockheed Martin and Austal (an Australian company). There have also been firepower, crew manning and vulnerability issues. Critics say it is too lightly armed and armored to survive battle in a contested area, like the waters off China or North Korea.
“LCS is not expected to be survivable in high-intensity combat,” according to a 2013 report by the Pentagon’s Director of Operational Test and Evaluation, because the LCS design requirements do not include “survivability features necessary to conduct sustained combat operations in a major conflict as expected for the Navy’s other surface combatants.”
Facing severe post-Afghanistan budget cuts, the Pentagon wants to stop acquisition of both versions of the ship – at 32 vessels instead of the planned 52.
Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said Monday (February 24) that he was concerned the Navy was “relying too heavily on the LCS” to achieve its long-term goals for expanding the size of the fleet to 300 ships to meet demands for global presence.
“We need to closely examine whether the LCS has the independent protection and firepower to operate and survive against a more advanced military adversary and emerging new technologies, especially in the Asia Pacific,” Hagel said, noting that if the program is allowed to grow to 52 ships, the lightly armed LCS would represent one-sixth of the future 300-ship Navy.
“Given continued fiscal restraints, we must direct future shipbuilding resources toward platforms that can operate in every region and along the full spectrum of conflict,” Hagel concluded.
So he’s directed the Navy to submit alternative proposals for procuring “a capable and lethal small surface combatant, generally consistent with the capabilities of a frigate.”
Those proposals — to include a completely new design, existing ship designs and a modified LCS design — are due back to Hagel later this year in time for planning next year’s budget request.
Speaking at a defense industry conference in Washington today, Admiral James Winnefeld, the vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, defended the decision, calling it smart “to look at what else can we do” with the existing two LCS designs “or with a different concept to make sure we are covered in the future..”
However the new vessel turns out, Winnefeld told Bloomberg’s BGOV Defense Summit, he thinks there is great potential for it to perform additional jobs, including strike and special operations missions, as well as offering a potential platform for the Marines.
But the admiral indicated it was too soon to count the LCS out completely. “I think the LCS is going through it’s V-22 phase,” he said, harking back to the criticisms of the Osprey tilt-rotor aircraft during its development, especially after several fatal crashes.
From Africa to Afghanistan to East Asia, V-22s are now very popular with area commanders. “There’s a demand signal out there in the real world today – I wish I could tell you all about it – for V-22s. I wish we had more out there,” Winnefeld said.
Our friend and colleague, Aviation Week’s Mike Fabey, is the winner of the 2014 Timothy White Award, given by the American Business Media association to a journalist who demonstrates “bravery, integrity, passion and quality of product.” Fabey, Aviation Week’s Naval Editor, was cited for his work detailing design, fabrication and operational problems with the Navy’s Littoral Combat Ship. To see more, click here.
Pentagon’s 2015 Budget: Dropping the First Shoe
Updates with Sen. Ayotte comments
Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel today (February 24) outlined the painful cuts to programs and reductions in the armed services imposed by Congressional budget cutters.
Under the Bi-Partisan Budget Act passed by Congress in December, defense spending is capped at roughly $496 billion for Fiscal Years 2014 and 2015 – forcing the Pentagon to come up with more than $75 billion in cuts over the two-year period, Hagel said.
He noted those cuts come on top of “the $37 billion cut we took last year and the Budget Control Act’s 10-year reductions of $487 billion.” If sequestration-level cuts remain the law for Fiscal Year 2016 and beyond, more cuts will have to be made, Pentagon officials said.
Starting in Fiscal 2015 [October 1, 2014-September 30, 2015], the Army will see a large reduction in size over five years – down to pre-World War II numbers, 440,000 to 450,000 – and the Navy can expect to see the number of cruisers and Littoral Combat Ships (LCS) drop. The Air Force is dropping some of its tactical aircraft inventory, including its 40-year-old A-10 close air support jets and U-2 spy planes as cost savings measures.
But the Pentagon continues to see a need for increasing the size of Special Operations Forces. In the 2015 budget request to Congress, Defense Department leaders are choosing to reduce troop strength and force structure in all of the military services, “in order to sustain our readiness and technological superiority” and to “protect critical capabilities like Special Operations Forces and cyber sources,” Hagel said.
The 2015 budget seeks to increase the number of personnel serving in Special Operations Command by 3,700 to 69,700, Hagel said, to protect “capabilities uniquely suited to the most likely missions of the future” counter terrorism and crisis response. That’s more than double the 33,000 SOF complement in 2001.
To protect “higher priorities” like the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, new aerial refueling tanker and long range strike bomber programs in this era of fiscal austerity, the Air Force plans to eliminate the entire A-10 Thunderbolt fleet. Called the “Warthog” for its stubby appearance, punishment-taking air frame and lethal armament, the 1970s era A-10 is best known for effective close air support in Iraq and Afghanistan.
The Air Force can save $3.5 billion over five years by retiring the 300-plus A-10 fleet rather than upgrade it, said Hagel. The move would also speed up Air Force plans to replace the A-10s with the F-35 in the early 2020s.
Hagel said it was a tough decision to eliminate the beloved A-10. But he noted it was a “40-year-old single-purpose airplane originally designed to kill enemy tanks on a Cold War battlefield.” The A-10, which can fly low and slow to provide covering fire for ground troops “cannot survive or operate effectively where there are more advanced aircraft or air defenses,” Hagel said. And the Pentagon believes the advent of precision munitions means there are more types of aircraft to provide effective close air support – a point A-10 advocates and several members of Congress dispute.
Senator Kelly Ayotte, a New Hampshire Republican and member of the Armed Services Committee, was quick to criticize the move.
“The Pentagon’s decision to recommend the early retirement of the A-10 before a viable replacement achieves full operational capabability is a serious mistake based on poor analyses and bad assumptions,” said Ayotte, who has been battling Pentagon efforts to ground the Warthogs. “Instead of cutting its best and least expensive close air support aircraft in an attempt to save money, the Air Force could achieve similar savings elsewhere in its budget without putting our troops at increased risk,” she added.
In addition to the A-10, the Air Force also plans to retire the 50-year-old U-2 high altitude spy plane in favor of the unmanned Global Hawk system. But the Air Force is also slowing the growth of its unmanned aircraft inventory. “While effective against insurgents and terrorists,” UAVs “cannot operate in the face of enemy aircraft and modern air defenses,” Hagel said.
The actual budget numbers for each service and program – the other shoe, if you will – will drop next week (March 4) when the White House releases the president’s full budget request. And then the “fun” will begin when Congress weighs in.
What Do Special Operators Want?
The big money defense budgets of the past decade have come to an end. And thanks to additional across-the-board cuts imposed by Congress, each of the armed services is being asked to find even more programs, platforms and procedures to cut.
So what do Special Operations Forces (SOF) – who depend in part on the other services’ capabilities – need to do their job in this austere funding environment?
Well the No. 3 commissioned officer at U.S. Special Operations Command cited some technology needs in a question-and-answer session at last week’s Special Operations/Low Intensity Conflict Symposium sponsored by the National Defense Industry Association in Washington.
There’s always a need for intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) technologies – especially for sensors that can see through foliage in places like Africa and South America, Air Force Lieutenant General Bradley Heithold, SOCOM’s vice commander, told industry representatives.
“Our focus is on high definition. That’s a game changer for us,” Heithold said, adding that “We’re in the business of man hunting – whether to kill someone or capture them – so the fidelity that we get from our sensors is very important.”
He said SOCOM was in the process of modifying its fixed wing and unmanned aircraft with updated signals intelligence capabilities. “I don’t think we have a gap there, but it’s a game you’ve got to be in all the time. You can’t fall behind,” Heithold said.
Major General Mark Clark, commander of Marine Corps Forces Special Operations Command (MARSOC), said the command was “absolutely” looking at a Joint High Speed Vessel, for a MARSOC maritime platform — as long as it could accommodate MV-22 Osprey tilt rotor aircraft or helicopters; operate in the littoral environment and include SOF equipment modules “so you can put them on or take them off.”
Modularity for SOCOM aircraft was also important, said Richard Holcomb, civilian deputy to the commanding general of Army Special Operations Command. Modular ISR, strike and air drop packages for Special Ops aviation assets “are clearly the way of our vision [going] forward,” he said. Army experts are also exploring how to arm the Osprey tiltrotor. Another area needing future study is non-lethal capabilities like directed energy, Heithold said.
Undersea mobility is another crucial technology, Heithold added. While progress is being made with the Advanced Seal Delivery System, a mini undersea vessel to transport Navy SEALS from a submerged submarine to shore, he urged industry to come forward with any technology that might help. SOF’s stealthy capability, “our true magic,” Heithold called it, “is going to be our ability to infiltrate and ex-filtrate from the sea – under the sea.”
And, as we posted last week, Heithold said the Tactical Assault Light Operators Suit (TALOS) is the top acquisition priority. SOCOM commander, Admiral William McRaven, “is way focused on that,” said Heithold, noting that McRaven very much wants to protect “the first person through the door” during a raid or night action.
A U.S. Marine and two South Korean marines attempt to flip a boat as they conduct amphibious operations drills during Exercise Cobra Gold 2014, Asia’s biggest military exercise, at Hat Yao in Rayong,Thailand.
The exercise is designed to advance regional security and effective response to regional crises through a multinational force created out of the nations that share common goals and common security commitments in the Asia-Pacific region.
The exercise also reaffirms the commitment by the United States and Thailand to their 181-year-old alliance and regional partnership in the Asia-Pacific region.
This year’s participants come from the U.S. and Thailand, but also Indonesia, Japan, Malaysia, Singapore and South Korea.
For the first time, China will participate with a tiny contingent in the exercise, the Straits Times website reported. Beijing has had disputes with several nations — including the Philippines, Japan and Vietnam — over territorial boundaries in the South China Sea.
The Cobra Gold drills started in 1982 and have developed in to the largest multinational military exercise. China has been an observer since 2002 but has never been invited to take part before, according to CCTV.com.
The U.S. Marines participating in the exercise come from the 3rd Marine Division’s 3rd Reconnaissance Battalion.
The U.S.S. Constitution, a three-masted heavy frigate, has been prowling the Caribbean Sea since New Year’s Eve, looking to intercept British shipping and commerce.
The Pictou, is escorting the armed merchant the Lovely Ann from Bermuda to Suriname, when it is spotted by the Constitution under the command of Captain Charles Stewart. The American warship captured the Lovely Ann, taking her for a prize and then fired on Pictou.
The 54-gun Constitution stopped Pictou with a shot through her sails, capturing the smaller British vessel. Stewart decides to keep the Lovely Ann but orders the Pictou destroyed. The Pictou was one of five British warships captured or destroyed by the Constitution during the War of 1812. In addition to Pictou, they were HMS Guerriere, Java, Cyane and Levant.
On this Caribbean cruise, Stewart and Constitution captured five British merchant ships and Pictou before problems with the main mast force the captain to take Old Ironsides back to port.
Constitution, one of the six original frigates authorized by Congress in 1794, remains in service today – the oldest, still functioning warship in the world. The other frigates, that formed the backbone of the U.S. Navy were: President, United States, Constellation, Chesapeake and Congress.
Ready for “Harm’s Way”
“I wish to have no connection with any ship that does not sail fast; for I intend to go in harm’s way.”
–John Paul Jones
Today U.S. sailors take vessels like this riverine command boat (RCB) into harm’s way. Sailors assigned to Task Group 56.7.4 cross the Arabian Gulf in an RCB during a training exercise in the Arabian Gulf. RCBs provide a multi-mission platform for the U.S. 5th Fleet by focusing on maritime security operations, maritime infrastructure protection, and security cooperation efforts with other services and militaries. Oh, and they take part in offensive combat operations, too.
These fast moving boats ar armed with M240 7.62mm machine guns as well as heavier .50 caliber machine guns.
To see a short training video of an RCB in action in the Arabian Gulf, click here.
The 4GWAR blog is pleased to announce the return, starting Monday, January 20, of the weekly feature
THIS WEEK in the War of 1812
The final full year of America’s first declared war was a significant one … continued frontier battles with Native Americans…
the last big battles along the Niagara frontier … naval contests won and lost …
the rise to prominence of future presidents Andrew Jackson and Zachary Taylor …
the widening British blockade of U.S. ports … Washington is taken and burned while Baltimore resists under the Star Spangled Banner.
Read all about it! Starting Monday, January 20, 2014!
Not Cars, Flying Boats
U.S. Sailors with Coastal Riverine Squadron 1 assemble a modular ramp before unloading a pair of 34-foot patrol boats from an Air Force C-5 Galaxy cargo plane at Camp Lemonnier in the East African nation of Djibouti, January 12, 2014.
In addition to training with the Air Force, CRS-1 conducts anti-terrorism, force protection and personnel recovery missions in the Horn of Africa area of operations.
Coastal Riverine Squadrons, formerly known as Maritime Expeditionary Security Squadrons, were established in the wake of terrorist attacks abroad, in particular the 2000 bombing of the guided-missile destroyer USS Cole (DDG 67). Coastal Riverine Squadrons provide rapidly deployable defense personnel and assets for force protection and anti-terrorism operations.
An Aerospatialie Alouette III helicopter assigned to the 35th squadron of the French aircraft carrier Charles de Gaulle (R 91) hovers near the guided-missile destroyer USS Bulkeley (DDG 84) in the Gulf of Oman.
The Bulkeley, part of the Harry S. Truman Carrier Strike Group, is conducting operations with ships assigned to French Task Force 473 to enhance cooperation and interoperability, as well as mutual maritime capabilities.
BTW, alouette is the French name for lark and also an old French song about plucking the feathers off the tiny bird. Relax francophiles and francophones, we know the first line of the song in French is “Alouette, gentille alouette,” but we also know that millions of American summer campers on bus trips and around camp fires, mangled the phrase to Jaunty Alouette (and we think this French helicopter looks pretty jaunty).
Et aussi, mes amis — the USS Bulkeley is named for Vice Admiral John Bulkeley, a PT boat skipper in both the Pacific and European theaters of war who battled shortages of supplies, spare parts and fuel — as well as the Japanese — in the defense of the Philippines in early 1942. For his heroism and leadership in the P.I. from December 1941 to April 1942, he was awarded the Medal of Honor. Two years later, Bulkeley was in command of PT boats patrolling the waters off the Normandy beaches on D-Day. The highly decorated Bulkeley was probably best known for commanding the risky PT boat mission that spirited Gen. Douglas MacArthur off the island of Corregidor through enemy patrolled waters during the bleak early days of the War with Japan. Robert Montgomery’s character in the John Ford World War II film, “They Were Expendable” was modeled on Bulkeley’s exploits in the Philippines.
Corrects the reason Bulkeley received the Medal of Honor: His combat leadership in the Philippines — not the MacArthur evacuation (for which he received the Silver Star medal).