Tag Archives: featured

Giant Hand Development Woes Threaten USS Gerald Ford Timeline

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.

Key Naval Technology to Revolutionize War at Sea

The U.S. Navy, contractor Lockheed Martin, and shipbuilder Newport News are racing to complete a key component for the new aircraft carrier USS Gerald R. Ford – an 80-meter-wide retractable hand. Seen by proponents as a game-changer that will reinvigorate the carrier platform, critics contend that Navy plans to put a giant mechanical hand at sea are ill-conceived and threaten to derail the new carrier’s 2016 commissioning. 

What is It?
Those familiar with Giant Hand describe it as a key part of the Gerald Ford, second only to the carrier air wing itself. A close to the program described it as, “… a hard power tool and a soft power tool, a strategic communications tool and, like, just, wow.” The source was overcome with emotion and could not give further comment.

Although shrouded in secrecy Giant Hand is thought to primarily be a weapon system. Stowed in a protected position behind the carrier’s “island,” Giant Hand can be deployed to shield Ford-class aircraft carriers from Chinese DF-21 anti-ship ballistic missiles. Giant Hand can also be used to counter swarm attacks by smaller vessels or engage land targets up to 50 meters from shore. Giant Hand is also thought to have a secondary capability as a secure, line of sight communication system.

Yet cost overruns and technical problems have plagued the program. Giant Hand is $855 million over budget and said to be fourteen months behind schedule. Further, the middle finger currently does not fully extend, a problem the Navy admits hinders Giant Hand’s communication uses.

Said an obviously disappointed source: “We were hoping to have a smaller version of Giant Hand ready to signal to the Chinese at RIMPAC this summer, but that appears increasingly unlikely.”

According to a leaked document, Gerald Ford and other ships equipped with Giant Hand will also be able to perform “enhanced humanitarian and goodwill missions.” Ships will be able to “steam off a coastline, waving Giant Hand in a friendly gesture of American goodwill that will be seen for miles in all directions. This will allow us to discontinue our annual humanitarian assistance cruises in Asia, the South Pacific, Africa, and Central America.”

Calls to the Navy’s Giant Hand program office were not returned.

Hidden in Plain Sight
Defense watchers first spotted the Giant Hand program in a list of classified Navy programs identified by what was assumed to be a code name. “It was listed under classified surface warfare programs, with the name GIANT HAND,” explained H. Philip Vultureman, leading analyst at the Munroe Institute for Defense. “Nobody knew what it was. Turns out it was literally a giant hand.”

Giant Hand is one of several new technologies to be introduced in the Ford-class carriers, along with the Electromagnetic Aircraft Launch System (EMALS), increased automation, stealth features, and the new A1B nuclear reactor. Navy leadership is banking on Giant Hand to give it a decisive advantage over the The Chinese People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN), which commissioned its first aircraft carrier in 2012 and has reportedly started work on indigenously building more.

China is thought to have requirements for at least three carriers, and U.S. Navy officials are said to have looked for new technology that would preserve the Navy’s lead.

“The Chinese have an aircraft carrier,” said one U.S. Navy admiral smugly, “but it doesn’t have a giant mechanical hand on it.”

Critics Not Impressed
Critics contend that Giant Hand is a prime example of a flawed defense program. “It’s too expensive, the technology isn’t proven, and the hand is not wide enough,” argues Jacques Shower, a defense analyst who helped design the F-16 fighter jet.

An artist's conception of the Giant Hand in action.
An artist’s conception of the Giant Hand in action

“Internal navy studies say that the Giant Hand needed to be 150 meters wide to crush a Somali pirate village,” Shower said, “but the Navy could only fund an 80-meter hand. So instead of going back to Congress and saying, ‘We need more money to do this right’, they just saluted and built a medium-sized hand. Only they still call it a giant hand. The requirements still stand.”

Privately, Navy officials concede that they’d like the hand to be wider and it may need two or three blows to flatten a Somali pirate village. Still, officials believe that as currently designed the hand will be capable of fulfilling the mission.

Chief of Naval Operations Admiral Jonathan Greenert is said to be cautiously optimistic about Giant Hand, after receiving a classified briefing on the program early January. “The United States Navy won’t be out-sticked,” he is said to have stated, “and we surely will not be under-handed.”

Kyle Mizokami writes on defense and security issues in Asia, particularly Japan. He is the founder and editor for the blogs Japan Security Watch, Asia Security Watch and War Is Boring. Contributor at Medium, The Atlantic.com, Salon, The Japan Times and The Diplomat.

Survivor: Nikumaroro Island

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.

Producers and financial backers for the 60th edition of the enduring “Survivor” series have high hopes for this season. Today, the two competing teams of survivors disembarked from the luxury yacht Neptune’s Refuge on to one of the most remote and desolate locations on the planet. “Survivor: Phoenix Islands” is likely to be the most taxing and potentially violent edition of the long-running television series and the third iteration since the purchase of all rights to the show by the Sino-Russian (and possibly North Korean) Yakov-Liaoning Financial (YLF) Group. Russian billionaire and YLF founder Yakov Rozhestvensky bade personal farewell to the competitors while his staff ensured their non-disclosure agreements and personal wills were in order before each contestant left the yacht.

Only today Roszhestvensky’s company revealed that this edition of Survivor would take place on the famous Nikumaroro island, a one-time failed British colonial possession believed by many to have been the final resting place of lost aviatrix Amelia Earhart and her navigator Fred Noonan. Rozhestvensky and his chief financial officer Victor Shu brushed off journalists’ questions about how much they paid the Kiribati Provisional Govt. for use of Nikumaroro, an island that had been a protected wildlife refuge until just March of this year. There had been speculation that YLF had financed the Kiribati coup that last year ousted the previous peaceful government of the island chain.

Rozhestvensky has high hopes that this season will duplicate and even exceed his previous two Survivor efforts, which were noted for their exotic and dangerous locations. Believing audiences bored by the standard “tropical paradise” environment of the long-running series, “Survivor 58: Viking Island” shifted to a polar location on the Greenland coast. There contestants battled cold weather, ate fish and whale blubber for 30 days, and competed in “Viking-like” challenges such as open-boat whaling, tug of war over a fiery pit, and extreme cold-weather swimming. Ratings were mixed until soaring in the latter half of the game when 10 contestants were medevaced for hypothermia or injuries sustained in the challenges.

This perhaps prompting Rozhestvenski’s next effort, “Survivor 59; The Poseidon Adventure.” During this latest installment the Russian entrepreneur purchased the laid-up cruise liner Dolphin Voyager and conducted challenges reminiscent of the 1972 disaster movie with the ship moored in the middle of the Sea of Okhotsk. Contestants were divided into two groups and forced to move about the ship in darkness while navigating hazards, re-rigging electrical power to dark sections of the ship, and swimming through flooded compartments.

Rozhestvensky had planned to actually sink the ship with the contestants aboard (and have them attempt to escape) as the season finale, but the Russian govt. intervened. Apparently this stunt was too dangerous for even President-for-Life Vladimir Putin to countenance and instead the ship was beached and “survivors” forced to move by lifeboats to a gravel-covered, cold, windswept beach. One of the lifeboats overturned and two contestants went missing for a day before they turned up with serious hypothermia further down the coast from the landing site. The “abandon ship” episode had an even higher viewership than “Viking Island.” With iTunes purchases of these episodes filling his coffers, Rozhestvensky is planning the next installment to be even more of a thrill-ride.

This season’s contestants could also be more colorful than any in the past. Distinctly themed teams will compete against one another for the top prize, with representatives of the Sea Shepherd Conservation society squaring off against a mysterious and shadowy group of former Somali pirate whalers personally recruited by Rozhestvensky for this season’s effort. The Sea Shepherds are motivated by a legal agreement with Rozhestvensky stipulating that he will shut down his whaling company and donate the proceeds of its liquidation to the activist conservation group. Sea Shepherd vessels had attempted to halt the whaling part of the “Viking Island” season but were intercepted and seriously damaged by Rozhestvensky’s security craft. For their part, the Sea Shepherds agreed to forgo their lawsuit in a Dutch court against Rozhestvensky in return for his acceptance of their conditions for participation in this season of “Survivor.” These provisions demand that no whale products will be used in any aspect of this season, or any further season.

Russian President-for-Life Vladimir Putin is rumored to make several guest appearances in this season's Survivor.
Russian President-for-Life Vladimir Putin is rumored to make several guest appearances in this season’s Survivor.

While the addition of Somali pirate whalers to the contestant pool may be an ironic protest of these prerequisites, this season’s location of Nikumaroro Island meets the requirement that it be nowhere near any whaling activity, although a statement by the Sea Shephards denounces their “forced trespassing on an unspoiled refuge” as a “trick.” While there is edible food on Nikumaroro, YLF will provide all water supplies via helicopter air-drop. Multiple fixed and unmanned aerial vehicle-mounted cameras will record the game play. Rozhestvensky himself will play the role of host and “tribal council” moderator via hologram. This provision alone has caused concern as some sources indicate Rozhestvensky was a one-time KGB apprentice interrogator and worked directly for Putin – a combination of factors that has worried some that Rozhestvensky plans to turn this season into his own edition of “Lord of the Flies.”

While the Sea Shepherds are a familiar group for many viewers, the Somali pirate whalers are an unknown quantity and potential source of violence on the show. Rozhestvensky brushed off such concerns and stated that the men and women he recruited in Somalia were “honest fishermen.” He further stated that if he really wanted to “mess with the Sea Shepherds’ minds,” he would have hired “ex-Japanese Coast Guardsmen and members of the Institute for Cetacean Research security” as the opposing team. Nonetheless, this volatile combination of teams, remote location, and few if any safeguards will likely draw the large international viewership Rozhestvensky craves and could be the highest-rated edition of Survivor yet unveiled.

Steve Wills is a retired surface warfare officer and a PhD student in military history at Ohio University. His focus areas are modern U.S. naval and military reorganization efforts and British naval strategy and policy from 1889-1941. He posts here at CIMSEC, sailorbob.com, and at informationdissemination.org under the pen name “Lazarus.”

An International Guide to Drone Vocabulary

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

Drones have become a popular subject of discussion. And, like the previous spread of the non-technical term “tank,” usage of the term “drone” to describe unmanned aerial/surface/undersea vehicles is nowadays ubiquitous. Yet each nation confronts the technology with its own language inflections. Therefore we present the first International Guide to Drone Vocabulary.

Drone – (English) – an unmanned aircraft or ship guided by remote control. According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary the first known usage was before the 12th century when they participated in the Crusades, or as known in Middle English, “Ye Olde Warre On Terrore”

Dronin – (Japanese) – A drone that loses communication with its master. Programmed to automatically search for a new master, preferably a stronger one like a cruiser, for example.

Dronone – (Italian, augmentative) – A big drone, equivalent to an American UCAV or UCLASS. Somehow the letter “C” makes a drone bigger even if a foreigner would expect the letter “B” to achieve such effect. Hint for visitors to Poland – UBAV pronounced in Polish means “fun.” Hint for visitors to France – don’t mistake Dronone with Danone.

Dronino – (Italian, diminutive) – A small drone. Used to familiarize kids with this new technology.

Dronik – (Polish, diminutive) – Same as Dronino. A baby drone.

Dronisko – (Polish) – A big friendly drone. Lacking an effective national air defense network, Poland took an alternative approach by switching from defensive drones to those facilitating accommodation. If you can’t beat an enemy, make it a friend.

Dronislav Droninovich Dronski – (Russian) – Name of a famous Russian drone designer from the 20th century. In recognition of his achievements, the Russian Navy named its latest unmanned SSBN after him. For those concerned with the ethical and legal aspects of unmanned technology, the question what to do with a genie freed from a bottle remains.

Dronenwehr – (German) – Operational concept advancing drones in anti-ballistic missile defense.

Dronentag – (German)The Day of Drones, a sci-fi thriller about an apocalyptic future in which drones take control over humans.

Dromazon – (Int’l) – Amazon delivery service replacing Prime and marketed with slogan “Faster than Internet”

The above list is far from complete, and readers are welcome to extend it in the comments section below. Its sole purpose is to acquaint the broader public with unmanned technology and make it friendlier 🙂

Przemek Krajewski alias Viribus Unitis is a blogger In Poland. His area of interest is the context, purpose, and structure of navies – and promoting discussion on these subjects in his country.

China Signs 10-year Contract to “Ignore” LCS

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

BEIJING – The U.S. Chief of Naval Operations (CNO) and the Commander-in-Chief of the Chinese People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) signed a ten-year fixed-price contract Monday that bars China from attacking the Littoral Combat Ship (LCS) in the event of hostilities.

“This contract makes enormous sense operationally and fiscally,” stated the CNO in a press conference following the signing. “We’ll be procuring at least 24-32 LCS, yet it’s well known that LCS isn’t survivable in a shooting war. The challenge was how to address this gap in our CONOPS in an affordable manner.”

“The contracting department at Naval Sea Systems Command (NAVSEA) came up with an innovative and cost-effective solution: rather than trying to ‘fix’ LCS, we pay the Chinese a flat $50 million per hull through 2024 to just kind of ignore the LCS for the first week of a war [between the US and China],” said the CNO. “That should be enough time for a forward-deployed LCS to steam back to San Diego – assuming the typical breakdown rates we’ve seen on recent deployments,” he added.

“I look at it as an insurance policy. If we keep five LCS forward-deployed in the Pacific, the contract will cost the taxpayer about $250 million—a fraction of what we’ve spent developing and acquiring LCS to date, let alone what we’ll spend on hull modifications and yet-to-be-delivered mission modules. It’s a win-win scenario for everyone: industry can keep building new LCS hulls; Congress garners support from the shipbuilders; Navy keeps overall fleet numbers up; and NAVSEA gets another decade to try to make LCS into a warship,” stated the CNO.

Support for this contract among the LCS community has been strong.  “Whew! Not having to worry about Phase 2 military operations is a big relief,” wrote Cmdr. John Hansen, the commanding officer of USS Freedom (LCS-1) Gold Crew in an email. 

“Most of my crew are only getting four hours of sleep per night,” said Hansen. “We spend all our time plugging leaks, fixing engine malfunctions, logging casualty reports, removing rust and repainting, and arranging emergency port visits. It’s nice to know that if a swarm of Chinese Houbei missile boats comes bearing down on me, I’ve got a legally-binding contract which stops them from firing their C-802 [missiles.]”

China also stands to benefit from the contract—and not just financially. “Destroying an LCS would not have been much of a challenge,” said the PLAN Commander-in-Chief. “I mean just look at the thing. In fact, it’s such a lop-sided match-up that my ship captains were starting to feel a bit puzzled and insecure. I’d get emails from them saying ‘What are the Americans up to with LCS? Don’t they respect our capabilities?'” he sighed. “But with this contract in place, I can tell my captains that you Americans do respect our capabilities – which does wonders for our self-esteem.”

The Navy is expected to propose similar contracts to Iran and North Korea.

Matt Cosner is a former P-3 naval flight officer now flying a non-descript cubicle deep in the heart of southern Maryland.  The opinions expressed in this article do not reflect those of the Department of Defense or Department of Navy and probably shouldn’t be taken seriously by anybody…except on LCS.