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Navy Announces E-2D Will No Longer Employ Most Important Capability

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.

NORFOLK – In a controversial decision this morning, U.S. Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus, former Governor of Mississippi and avid fisherman, has revealed that the Navy’s newest aviation command-and-control platform will no longer be performing its most important mission.

“In the wake of concerns from fishermen and environmentalists, we have decided to forego the Maritime Air-Borne Underwater Security (MABUS) capability in the E-2D Advanced Hawkeye. We recognize the changes that this will bring to the community, but are confident that our resilient officer aircrew and enlisted maintainers will provide the same kind of dedication to new mission sets as they did to MABUS.”

MABUS was first developed in 1998 and is widely hailed as one of the first true innovations from the Navy’s junior officer ranks.

“I think it was the 35th Taco Tuesday of deployment, and we were frankly getting pretty sick of it,” remembers former E-2C mission commander LT John “Bubba” Gump, USN (ret). “I bet Pig that I could catch us a fish and have the NFOs cook it up on the radar boxes in the back.”

LT Chris “Pig” Penn remembers it well. “That sonofabitch cost me $100. But he started a revolution in the community. That’s the day MABUS was born.”

Technically speaking, MABUS is an advanced maneuver that involves the E-2 rolling to an appropriate “reference heading,” using flaps and attitude to achieve the slowest possible airspeed, and then rolling inverted to make use of the large, ugly rotodome, that had previously served no purpose on the airframe, as a vessel for catching fish. Experts say that the radiation from the dome acts as a flash-fryer, causing the cooked fish to rise to the surface to be scooped up during a second pass by the dome, or by a second E-2 flying behind.

“And not just fish, either,” interjected Gump during our interview. “You can make just about anything you want from MABUS. Shrimp-kabobs, shrimp creole, shrimp gumbo. Pan fried, deep fried, stir-fried. There’s pineapple shrimp, lemon shrimp, coconut shrimp, pepper shrimp, shrimp soup, shrimp stew, shrimp salad, shrimp and potatoes, shrimp burger, shrimp sandwich. That- that’s about it.”

Mabus admitted that the decision was made after a recent fishing trip to Lee County, Mississippi.

“There I was, a pristine day on Elvis Presley Lake, when I feel a tug on my line. I’ve done a lot of things in my life, but the feeling I get when a big one is tugging on the line is quite possibly the best in the world.”

“So there I was, and I’m sure this is going to be a big catch. I start reeling in and I’m thinking of different ways to filet this sucker, when all of a sudden out of nowhere comes this big E-2, inverted, dome in the water about a mile away. I start reeling vehemently but the Hawkeye keeps trucking in closer and closer until finally, WHAM! and it was all over. Damn thing broke my fishing rod. And stole my fish.”

Mabus says that the Hawkeye crew will not face punishment, but will be responsible for replacement of his fishing rod and suit, also ruined in the incident.

A source close to the Hawkeye aircrew confirms that the officers will, indeed, make good on their promise to replace the Secretary’s suit, but that “it will probably be a knock-off from a vendor in Dubai.”

LT Roger L. Misso is a Naval Flight Officer (NFO) in the E-2C Hawkeye and former director of the Naval Academy Foreign Affairs Conference (NAFAC). 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, the US Navy, the E-2 community, his squadron, Paramount Pictures, Bubba Gump Shrimp Co, Tom Hanks, or the actor who played “Bubba” in Forrest Gump.

Industrial Accident at Naval War College: RI Declares State of Emergency

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.

disasterAfter what are being called a “series of industrial accidents,” Rhode Island Governor Henry Armitage declared a state of emergency today. Aquidneck Island has been cordoned off as a no-go zone centered around Downtown Newport and the Naval War College. General Thomas Malone of the Rhode Island National Guard has put out the call to mobilize the 56th Troop Command as well as the 43rd Military Police brigade as local and state police set up blockades on the Claiborne Newport Bridge, Mt. Hope Bridge, and Sakonnet Bridge.

The nature of the accident is unknown at this time, but before the current interruption in the island’s internet and land-line phone services, it was reported that cell reception had ceased as well. Observers as far as Providence have noted the smoke coming from across Narraganset Bay. Apparently, state authorities are ordering residents to evacuate to Fort Adams State Park or Portsmouth Highschool via loudspeaker on police helicopter.

In a strange garbled phone call immediately proceeding the disaster, a visiting professor from Miskatonic University, Professor William Dyer, claimed the cause of the yet-undetermined disaster started in the Naval War College itself. From what we could understand in the phone call, he claims that during Lieutenant Commander Wilbur Whateley’s oral defense of a dissertation on the use of DAta Global Online Network (DAGON) for a Combined Tactical HUb- Linked HUd  (CTHULHU) in Air-Sea Battle (ASB), a particularly long combination of acronyms inadvertently formed an “incantation” from a “purposely forgotten dead language.” Before Professor Armitage’s phone call was completely cut by static, the repeated phrase “Old Ones” was unmistakable.

Similar bizarre phone-calls in the minutes after the disaster reported what residents described as “unspeakable figures slithering through the fog.” In response to queries, General Thomas Malone claimed that some of the chemicals dispersed in the accident have a deleterious effect on the sanity of its victims, naturally explaining both the state of emergency and the bizarre phone calls before the disruption in telecom services. He also claims the cause of the event may have been obsolete storage facilities near the War College, explaining Armitage’s use of the phrase “old ones.”

Photo taken by Dutch Island resident North of Jamestown. Definitely smoke! Not a shambling horror from dimensions just beyond the veil of sight.
Photo taken by Dutch Island resident North of Jamestown. Definitely smoke! Not a shambling horror from dimensions just beyond the comfort of sight.  Authorities remind all residents that smoke is unhealthy, and to avoid the coastal areas of Narraganset Bay this evening.

As this report went to press, residents of Jamestown, RI reported a green glow emanating across the Narraganset Bay from downtown Newport. The sounds of heavy gunfire was also reported. Some wilder calls from the area allege a monstrous shape lurching through the night past Prudence Island and towards Providence. State authorities report this is merely the billowing smoke creating shapes in the night and definitely NOT the over-use of military acronyms pulling the thin veil off our fragile reality, allowing in unspeakable things the likes of which man was not meant to know.

Francis Morgan is a writer for the Miskatonic Post of Massachusettes.

Godspeed Liaoning!

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.

Why Chinese Naval Aviation is (almost) Ideal for U.S. Strategic Interests

Godspeed Liaoning! After 14+ years of refitting the former Soviet rust bucket the Riga/Varyag, China finally commissioned Liaoning in September 2012 (by the way did anybody ever tell the Russians or Chinese that it was bad luck to rename a ship?). This past week, the PLAN announced that it would begin a six year construction program to build its first domestically produced aircraft carrier with the ultimate goal of having four active duty aircraft carriers. This announcement has been met with responses ranging from skepticism to panic, with some defense analysts claiming that China could achieve this ambitious goal as early as 2020. One reaction that has not been heard is that of smug satisfaction. You heard it here first ladies and gentlemen: This is very good news for the U.S.! Welcome to the aircraft carrier “big boys” club China.

Just when I was getting worried about anti-access/area-denial (A2/AD), China does the United States a favor and changes their defense budgetary priorities. Rather than prioritize protecting their own coastline, China is now diverting funds to project power. Great, welcome to the economic reality of opportunity cost guys. Even the seemingly limitless economic powerhouse of China has to make strategic choices. Every Yuan spent on carriers is one not spent on denying access to the South China Sea. News flash: carriers and power projection is expensive! Nukes, anti-satellite weapons, cruise missiles, and diesel-electric subs are cheap ways to impose costs on your opponent. Whew! I was getting concerned about trying to get an LCS inside the first island chain and China goes and does us a solid by blowing their national bankroll on something that will, for a change, impose significant cost on themselves.

What will China get for its investment? They get one hundred-year-old technology with no clear strategic purpose and a vicious learning curve.

Meanwhile, the news just keeps getting better for the United States. While U.S. naval aviation is going an identity crisis, China is rushing headlong into a worse one of its own. At least the U.S. has the doctrine, support network, history, expertise, and institutional knowledge on hand to possibly be able to figure out what to do with its floating cities as they deal with the challenges of unmanned aircraft, cruise missiles, the proliferation of submarines, and budgetary uncertainty.

China is going to have to figure out all of these problems while also having to deal with the operational problems of using their aircraft carriers, the societal challenge of allowing their commanders to exercise their own initiative, and the inevitable tactical and strategic responses of the United States and our allies. While many have worried about the “Mahanian turn” in Chinese naval doctrine, perhaps a more apt analogy is the unfortunate soul who bought a black and white television in 1960 or a Betamax machine in 1990. China, you may impress some folks, but you are way behind the curve on this one.

If the prospect of a Jutland in the South China Sea is scary to some, fear not. China is playing our game now. In case you missed the last 70 years of history, the United States is really good at conventional, high intensity war. As long as we do not have to fight in jungles, mountains, or cities, we are the crème de la crème at identifying, tracking, and blowing things up. Our sailors, soldiers, marines, and airmen are the best in the world at these missions. In any contingencies with China this side of the late Tom Clancy’s imagination, we would have numerical, informational, and qualitative superiority over the proposed Chinese aircraft carriers. God forbid we answer John Rambo’s plea, “Sir, do we get to win this time?”

What is most likely is that the PLAN carriers would serve as a “fleet in being” much like the German High Seas fleet in WWI−too expensive to risk, too weak to use. Just ask Kaiser Bill how that worked for him. If you gave him truth serum, he would confess that he’d have gladly traded his “splendid ships” for another division or two on the right wing in the Schlieffen Plan. Let the Chinese have their ships for prestige during time of peace and neutralize them quickly in the event of war.

Maybe we should panic. Perhaps our xenophobic reactions are justified. Indeed we could be setting ourselves up for our Munich or Pearl Harbor moment. However, if we approach this not as a problem but as a strategic opportunity, we should congratulate ourselves and realize that the sky is not falling. The Chinese have bought the naval version of a Ferrari−good at impressing their neighbors, good at inspiring vitriol and knee jerk reactions, but not good at actually picking up the kids at school.

Satire week-posturing aside, the United States should take these developments seriously, but should not panic. If it keeps its proverbial, “head when all about [you] are losing theirs,” then this development creates as many opportunities for the United States as it does challenges. In sum, China has forgone other more provocative and dangerous strategic options, invested in old technology, is and will remain for the foreseeable future on the bad side of the learning curve, has no doctrinal history or expertise for conducting carrier operations, and now is playing to U.S. core competencies. Godspeed Liaoning! God bless Chinese naval aviation. Good luck. Glad tidings. Good riddance!

J. Furman Daniel, III is a Visiting Assistant Professor of
International Affairs in the George Washington University Security
Policy Studies Program. His research focuses on a wide range of topics including: covert balancing; technological innovation and arms races; the problems of human agency and highly improbable events in
international relations theory; the theoretical legacies of Edmund
Burke and Carl Von Clausewitz; the bureaucratic politics of the
early-American Navy; and the impact of the naval blockade on the
Confederacy during the American Civil War. Dr. Daniel may be reached via e-mail at jfdaniel@gmail.com or jfdaniel@gwu.edu.

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.