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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.

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.”