Category Archives: The Lighter Side

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Sea Control 26 – New Podcast Series Party

seacontrolemblemSea Control will be adding two monthly segments to its lineup: Sea Control Europe/Britain and Sea Control Asia-Pacific. We are joined by Natalie Sambhi of the Australian Strategic Policy Institute and Alexander Clarke of the Phoenix Think Tank. Today’s episode is a conversation with Nat and Alex about their backgrounds, their organizations, and their plans for their monthly series.

DOWNLOAD: Sea Control 26 New Podcast Series Party

We are available on Itunes, Stitcher Stream Radio, etc… Remeber to subscribe, leave a comment and a 5-star rating.

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Sub Officers Jealous Air Force Missileers Get to Have All the Fun

International Maritime Satire Week Warning: The following is a piece of fiction intended to elicit insight through the use of satire and written by those who do not make a living being funny – so it’s not serious and very well might not be funny. See the rest of our IntMarSatWeek offerings here

LOCATION CLASSIFIED – U.S. Navy Lt.j.g. Paul McKudo leaned over the conn rail to check the boat’s position on the chart. “Yep,” he sighed, “still here.”

As officer of the deck on board USS Louisiana (SSBN-743) McKudo is responsible for safe navigation of this nuclear powered warship which carries a key leg of the U.S. nuclear weapons triad, 24 Trident II D-5 Nuclear Ballistic Missiles.

“I understand the importance of our mission and the strategic role we have in our nation’s defense” McKudo said, “but I really want to be in the Air Force missile program, those guys know how to party”.

Recent news involving Air Force officers appeal to the junior officers in Louisiana’s wardroom. They see the buttoned-up culture of Navy ballistic missile submarines as too restrictive and lacking variety.

“I have a buddy from college who works in the missile fields up in North Dakota,” says Ensign Robert Connely, Louisiana’s reactor chemistry officer. “He tells me stories about driving Suburbans 90 miles per hour through snowy corn fields. That sounds awesome”.

“Look, those guys don’t even have to really take any sort of regular tests or anything,” McKudo said with excitement. “And when they do it’s so open book the Chinese get to crib the answers too. Plus their generals get to party so hard, especially on foreign travel, it defies the imagination”.

According to a recent study by the RAND corporation, officers in the Air Force missile corps are “burnt out” and often act in a manner inconsistent with the standards of the military due to their levels of stress. Members of Louisiana’s wardroom do not sympathize.

“They get to sleep on watch!” said. McKudo. “Try being out in the middle of the ocean for three months, constantly think about boiling water, then come talk to me. They are obviously just partying so hard they forget what they are doing. They don’t even have to closer the door! It’s better than Florida State U!”

“You know what happens if we forget to close the door?” asked Connely. “We sink – that’s what happens. Can’t sink in the middle of Wyoming, no sir.”

The two officers’ watch reliefs arrived, signed the logs, descended the ladder to the wardroom, the boat having traveled 6 miles in their 6 hour watch. After surveying the small collection of games and DVDs they agree to play their 326th game of Cribbage.

Alan Tweedie currently serves in the Navy reserve as an intel officer. At his civilian job he spends a lot of time with former Air Force missile officers who have no idea how good they had it.

Gala

U.S. Navy Hosts 4th Annual Pivot to Asia Gala

International Maritime Satire Week Warning: The following is a piece of fiction intended to elicit insight through the use of satire and written by those who do not make a living being funny – so it’s not serious and very well might not be funny. See the rest of our IntMarSatWeek offerings here

WASHINGTON – The brass was out and the Sailors were shining at the U.S. Navy’s annual “Pivot to Asia” Gala at the Gaylord National Resort and Convention Center on Saturday. This year marked the fourth such affair, a brass-filled celebration of the Obama administrations much-heralded namesake national security policy. The event, commissioned in December 2009 by then Chief of Naval Operations Admiral Gary Roughead, represents the Navy’s return to the pre-eminent role in the U.S. Military. Prior to the Asia pivot, the former “stalwart of the seas” had been marginalized by counter-terror missions, counter-insurgency doctrine and the advent of land-based drone technology.

During what was known as “the dark times” by navy brass, the service yearned for the halcyon days of Top Gun, bombing North Vietnam into the Stone age and “sinking any ship labeled ‘IJN’ faster than you can say Admiral Nimitz,” said a slightly tipsy Rear Admiral (Lower Half) Joshua Painter.

“It was embarrassing,” Painter continued. “The Army and Marine Corps are walking around with their combat ribbons and valor awards looking down at us ‘squids,’ I mean I’m sorry my service didn’t think it was a good idea to invade two countries with ¼ of the men required, what do we know….you know…do you know when the last valor award was given to a ship for combat operations? Libya – and this ‘Benghazi’ thing – 1980s Libya. Sure we sent gunfire liaison support, medics, and SeaBees into the fight, not to mention the SEALs – thank God for them. Best PR since Tom Cruise did a 4G negative dive with a MIG 28…INVERTED! But still.”

Although integral to the “Global War on Terror,” some in the Navy felt it didn’t get the respect it deserved. The riveting accounts of daily fire-fights in places like Ramadi, Mosul, Kunar Province, and Nuristan were featured on the nightly news and throughout print media. As the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan slogged on, Americans sought to not repeat the treatment of American troops they faced during Vietnam. This effort to support the troops had an unintended negative side effect as thousands of Sailors and Coast Guardmen got caught in the ‘support the troops’ crossfire.

“These civilians see your haircut or a bartender sees a military ID and just starts thanking you for your service,” said Sonar Technician 2nd Class Ronald Jones. “They ask if I have driven over an IED or been to Iraq…and I have to sheepishly reply ‘no, I am in the Navy.’ I shouldn’t be embarrassed. I can track a Russian boomer from Polyarny to Panama and read and write at a high school level, unlike our glorious cousins, the Marine Infantryman! This sun burn is from Mission Beach, not a mission in the sand box, but I feel like I’m leading folks on.”

According to Naval Aviator Lt. Cmdr. Rick Heatherly, the morale in the surface fleet had become dangerously low. “The good old days were gone, the world was all terrorists and insurgents. Back in the 80s, when people saw my wings I couldn’t buy a drink if I wanted too. Now all I get is ‘Are you a Navy Seal? Do you know any?’ I love those guys but my god, from the press they get you would think the entire Navy exists to support them. When we got to go fight Somali pirates, the fleet was thrilled. But who came in on their helicopters and saved Captain Phillips, now a major motion picture, but the SEALs…drives us crazy!”

AviatorsThey say it is always darkest before the dawn. The sun rose on the 21st-century Navy when the Peoples Liberation Army-Navy (no relation to the Army-Navy football game) announced the creation of a “Blue Water” fleet with no fewer than four aircraft carriers. Non-counter-insurgency and neglected Air Force and Navy partisans responded quicker than you can say “Empire Strikes Back,” publishing a litany of operational concepts and strategies, known popularly as “Air-Sea Battle” (ASB) and “Offshore Control.”  ASB combines naval and air assets to counter anti-access and area-denial (A2/AD) measures employed by a nation with a modern military. “The Army didn’t know what hit them!” laughed Captain Rockwell ‘Rock’ Torrey. “They were so busy arguing the best way to train the soldiers of Kerblakistan to fight Al Qaeda that they forgot that COIN is needed after you screw up an occupation.” Army Colonel Thomas Ryan was in attendance due to the DOD requirement that all operations be “joint.” He responded “I don’t care how many billions of dollars you spend, at the end of the day you will need a boot on the ground with a gun in its hand. I mean, not saying boots have hands, but…you know what I mean.”

The site of the gala, the Gaylord National, is fittingly situated in the remote National Harbor development known locally as the “Green Zone” for its isolation from even the surrounding municipality of Oxon Hill, MD. But inside the affair was all glitz, including a room dedicated to showing Hollywood films that involve the U.S. Navy. While the list included Flight of the Intruder and They Were Expendable, much to this reporter’s chagrin, The Hunt for Red October was not on the list. When asked, various surface warfare officers (SWOs) and aviators responded with variations on “%^&* those weird clowns, They get enough glory as it is. They haven’t sunk a ship since Truman was president.”  ”I mean those guys are all secrets… where did you go? Secret! What did you do? Secret! What time is it? Secret!” and ”Seriously, Imagine a metal tube filled with Gollum from Lord of the Rings, with egos and nukes. If one tries to fight you, just run 20 feet; he’ll be winded at 5.”

Inter-naval rivalries aside, the air, surface, and subsurface arms of the U.S. Navy celebrated in style next to stars from the hit shows NCIS and NCIS: Los Angeles, as well as stars of the myriad of recent films featuring Navy SEALs, including Act of Valor, Zero Dark Thirty, Lone Survivor, Captain Phillips and the 1990 film Navy SEALs [The casts of Battleship, Down Periscope, Under Siege, and Cher's 1989 music video "If I Could Turn Back Time" were reportedly not invited].

As China continues to expand its claims on resource-rich islands, sea lanes, and air space the need for a strong Navy is vital to the United States’ national interest. The rise of China has returned the Navy to its former glory, as it once again has a mighty foe worthy of its expensive yet impressive arsenal.

Robert Hodge is a U.S. Army veteran and graduate student at George Washington University in Washington, D.C.

Battleship

Hasbro Announces Reboot of “Battleship”

International Maritime Satire Week Warning: The following is a piece of fiction intended to elicit insight through the use of satire and written by those who do not make a living being funny – so it’s not serious and very well might not be funny. See the rest of our IntMarSatWeek offerings here

It’s a classic from your childhood, but in the cut-throat board game business nothing is sacred.

In a surprise move the board game manufacturer Hasbro announced a series of changes to their stalwart wargame classic, “Battleship,” that would bring it into the 21st century. Their name of choice: “LCS,” referring to the Navy’s recently introduced Littoral Combat Ship (LCS).

“We thought it was time to bring ‘Battleship’ in line with the modern U.S. Navy,” said Martin Sawyer, the spokesman for Hasbro game, at a press conference on Friday afternoon. “When you think of the missions of a modern navy, you immediately think of the LCS.”

Hasbro officials believe that, while the image of a massive capital ship with unquestioned firepower was enough to carry the franchise over the past five decades, the name “Battleship” no longer resonates with their young target demographics.

“The age of the battleship has clearly passed. Heck, it was gone by the time we made the game. It’s time to make this a modern game.” Off the record, sources say the real reason for the change may be that the rare earth metals used to make the aircraft carrier pieces became exhorbiantly expensive, scuttling the move to rebrand the game “Carrier.” Officials also say the fact that ‘LCS’ contains 3 syllables played a role – enabling players to bemoan in the traditional “you sunk my….” phrasing the sinking of their vessels, over and over again. 

Battleship, which first started as a pen-and-paper game in the 1930s, has been a Hasbro mainstay since it was first released in its present form in 1967. In the game, two would-be fleet commanders square off in a battle of wits, vigor, and dumb luck by blindly firings at points on a grid to damage their opponent’s navy. Ships “sink” when they receive a requisite number of hits. Smaller ships, like the destroyer, take up fewer spaces on the grid and are thus harder to hit. This leads to real-life situations where the destroyer is more valuable than other, larger ships such as the cruiser, submarine, and aircraft carrier. “LCS” will build off this trend by replacing the ships in each navy exclusively with LCS destroyers.

The U.S. Navy was quick to praise the changes. “The LCS is a testament to the future of the low-observable Navy,” said Navy spokesman Lt. Cmdr. Michael Fabian. “It stands to reason that a game like ‘Battleship,’ where navies wildly shoot at empty water in an attempt to hit something, perfectly reflects the capacity of the LCS in the naval domains of the future.”

After battling aliens, pirates, and G.I.Joe, Battleship is moving on

Others, though, are not convinced. Some members of the surface warfare community that were allowed to playtest the new version have instituted the “Fire Scout” rule, referring to the shipboard UAV, which allows a player to look at the opponents board before declaring their shot. “Even if LCS is low-observable we still have eyes and flying robot cameras with persistent-loiter capability,” said one surly surface warfare officer.

“Seriously,” he said, ”we can still see them with our freaking eyes.”

Members of the Air Force also added their own ruleset “Rods from God.” In the Rod God Mod, players are allowed to look at their opponent’s board and then immediately destroy a ship of their choice with tungsten rods dropped from satellites. “Take that, naval power!” said an Air Force playtester, right before the same rods destroyed his immobile, land-based runways in the modified game.

In conjunction with the rebranding, Universal Pictures announced that the blockbuster movie Battleship would be given a gritty reboot in line with the boardgame. Gone is the emphasis of capital ship warfare against aliens; instead, the movie will feature even greater suspension-of-disbelief in the dazzling capabilities of the LCS on the silver screen.

“Audiences will marvel at the LCS as it uses stealth technology to sneak up on pirate skiffs that lack radar and then do nothing further from lack of evidence that they are pirates!” said Universal sales representative Lester McPeak. “Think Captain Phillips but with less shooting and more bureaucracy.”

Added McPeak: “If Jack and the Beanstalk and Hansel and Gretel can get gritty reboots, we can totally do that for Battleship too. As long as we keep the same actors and writers, we should be just fine.”

Matthew Merighi is an employee of the United State Air Force, but we tolerate him anyway. His views do not reflect those of the United States Government but he hopes they are appreciated by other snarky Pentagon millennials.

A still from Iranian state television of a purportedly reverse-engineered Amazon drone

Iran Claims to Have Reverse-Engineered Amazon Drone

International Maritime Satire Week Warning: The following is a piece of fiction intended to elicit insight through the use of satire and written by those who do not make a living being funny – so it’s not serious and very well might not be funny. See the rest of our IntMarSatWeek offerings here

TEHRAN - Iran’s state TV aired footage Wednesday of what it described as a working copy of an Amazon Prime quadrotor helicopter drone that it says it captured while flying over Iranian territorial waters. Iran first claimed in March, 2013, to have brought down the drone that it says was engaged in illegally violating user-privacy agreements.

While Amazon’s Central Delivery Command refuses to confirm or comment on whether Iran is in possession of one of its drones, sources say a drone was lost during an Amazon Prime Obstacle Clearance exercise early last year. “The model matches what went missing, but we’d be truly surprised if the Iranians had the capabilities by themselves to force down and recover the drown in a state that allowed them to reverse engineer a copy,” said a senior Amazon Prime officer.

A still from Iranian state television of a purportedly reverse-engineered Amazon drone

A still from Iranian state television of a purportedly reverse-engineered Amazon drone

Several independent analysts speculated on the possible involvement of Evil-Bey, or E-Bey, a Turkish front company known for facilitating Iran’s evasion of oil sanctions. E-Bey is considered by many to have the know-how and a large stockpile of cash necessary to pull of such a technical feat. Observers based in the Caucuses reported recently spotting E-Bey drones of a similar design flying oil barrels to refineries in southern Russia. 

Jean Carthwright, a logistics drone expert at the Institute for the Study of Gizmos, pointed to further circumstantial evidence. “At the time Amazon lost contact with its quadrotor it was attempting to delivery a DVD of the second season of BBC’s Sherlock to crew aboard the ASS Express, one of Amazon’s intel-collection ships,” said Carthwright. ”In April, a review posted to Amazon’s website by A. Khameni denounced the season as ‘insufficiently respectful to Allah and uneven, particularly in the Hounds of Bakersfield episode – Sherlock is just too petulant at times. But what a cliff-hanger! God willing Season 3 will respect the audiences’ intelligences with a plausible solution to Sherlock’s faked demise. Death to America!’”  

 

The opinions and views expressed in this post are his alone and are presented in his personal capacity. They do not necessarily represent the views of U.S. Department of Defense or the U.S. Navy.

 

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U.S. Navy Abandons Anti-Submarine Warfare

adriatic-sea-horizon-igor-voljcInternational Maritime Satire Week Warning: The following is a piece of fiction intended to elicit insight through the use of satire and written by those who do not make a living being funny – so it’s not serious and very well might not be funny. See the rest of our IntMarSatWeek offerings here.

In a move that is of little surprise to veteran defense analysts, the U.S. Navy has formally divested itself of antisubmarine capability, citing the excessive difficulty of finding submarines with even the best training and equipment. “It’s really frickin’ hard,” said one official from the Navy’s Directorate of Warfare Integration. “When we wargame this stuff, we consistently find that we are vulnerable to submarines, and that’s a real downer for our planners.”

Anti-Submarine Warfare (ASW), long considered a core competency of the U.S. Navy, fell from preeminence after the collapse of the Soviet Union and never fully recovered. When the Navy spent a decade fighting to justify its existence amid two land wars, resources traditionally devoted to the ASW mission were recapitalized into the Global War on Terror. Now that the United States has shifted its strategic focus to the growing uncertainty in the Pacific, the ASW mission has become more of a liability than an asset.

“Our exercises have proven to be of little training value when we simulate a submarine attack realistically,” said a professor in the Operations Research Department of the Naval Postgraduate School. “Through rigorous modeling and analysis, we have discovered that when we constrain or remove the threat of enemy submarines from the model, our forces become far more effective. This technique, properly integrated into our real-world planning, will prove to be a force multiplier.”

Other commentators took a nuanced view. “Capability in combat on the high seas is a Cold War anachronism, this much we know,” said a prominent intellectual between sips of brandy. “What you’re witnessing here is the U.S. Navy coming to terms with the undisputable fact that great power war is a thing of the past.”

While the public talking points make a clear strategic case for eliminating the ASW mission, private commentary suggests complicated motives at play. Since the passing of the Goldwater-Nichols Act in 1986, the Navy has weathered a constant barrage of criticism for a perceived lack of “jointness” in doctrine and culture. By redirecting efforts traditionally devoted to finding submarines (a parochial concern of little interest to sister services), Navy leaders hope to demonstrate progress in combating a deep-seated culture preoccupied with the sea.

“It’s a win-win, all around,” remarked an Admiral at Naval Sea Systems Command who has chosen to remain anonymous. “We’re already seeing benefits to some of our best programs, like the Littoral Combat Ship.” By deleting the requirement for a viable ASW Mission Module, the LCS Program Office has shown instantaneous progress toward full platform capability, at a net cost savings. “I can’t believe we didn’t think of this sooner,” said the Admiral.

LT Will Spears, USN, is an Active duty submariner; post-JO shore duty type. His last tour was aboard a WESTPAC Fast-Attack; he is now at NPS working on an MBA in the Financial Management program. He is the author of the leadership blog JO Rules.