Tag Archives: U.S. Navy

Sailors Ashore at Veracruz, 1914 (Naval History and Heritage Command)

100 Years Ago: Veracruz 1914 (Part 1)

Sailors Ashore at Veracruz, 1914 (Naval History and Heritage Command)

Sailors Ashore at Veracruz, 1914 (Naval History and Heritage Command)

This April marks the 100th anniversary of one of the strangest episodes in the history of the U.S. Navy and Marine Corps, the mostly forgotten 1914 occupation of Veracruz.

A relatively minor event during the lengthy and violent Mexican Revolution, it is also overshadowed by another American armed intervention in Mexico, the 1916 “Punitive Expedition” led by General John Pershing in pursuit of Pancho Villa.  The Veracruz occupation is remembered, if at all, for the embarrassingly large quantity of medals awarded to its participants, and as one of the numerous “small wars” conducted by the Marine Corps in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.

The roots for the 1914 occupation of Veracruz started a few years earlier, in the chaos caused by the Mexican Revolution.  Porfirio Díaz had ruled Mexico as a dictator since the 1870s (re-elected as President through periodic sham elections), but was finally forced from office in 1911 in the face of an opposition coalition that represented the whole spectrum from liberals to warlords and bandits.  His successor, the aristocratic but principled liberal Francisco Madero, was soon overthrown and murdered during a 1913 coup led by General Victoriano Huerta, who proceeded to declare himself President.

The U.S. first began creeping towards possible military intervention in Mexico in 1911, with President Taft instructing the Army to create a “Maneuver Division” for use in potential contingencies south of the border.  Madero’s death during the Ten Tragic Days (La Decena Trágica) of February 1913, weeks before Woodrow Wilson’s inauguration following his defeat of both Taft and Theodore Roosevelt in the 1912 election, resulted in the deployment of U.S. Navy ships to ports on both the east and west coasts of Mexico to observe the situation and protect American citizens and interests.

A month later, in March 2013, Venustiano Carranza established the “Constitutionalist” opposition to Huerta’s government by bringing together another coalition of liberals, regional leaders, and warlords/bandits.  By the next spring, Constitutionalist forces had made their way to the vicinity of Tampico, where there was a substantial American presence (mostly due to Tampico’s central role in the Mexican oil industry).  Rear Admiral Henry T. Mayo commanded the U.S. Navy forces offshore Tampico.

A Farewell to Grog (and a Hello to Joe)

A Farewell to Grog (and a Hello to Joe)

The direct cause of the U.S. seizure of Veracruz was enabled by the convergence of the U.S. Navy and Constitutionalist army on Tampico.  On 9 April 1914, personnel from USS Dolphin were mistakenly and briefly detained by Mexican soldiers (Federales loyal to Huerta) while buying fuel from a warehouse along the river near the front line between the two opposing Mexican armies.  Although the Mexican General in command of Huerta’s forces quickly released the American sailors and apologized, Mayo would only be appeased by the Mexicans giving a 21-gun salute to the U.S. flag after it was raised ashore in Tampico; a stipulation that would be unacceptable to any Mexican patriot.

In the following days, tensions were also raised by additional minor insults to U.S. honor, including the arrest of a “mail orderly” from USS Minnesota ashore in Veracruz, and the detention of a courier working for the embassy in Mexico City.  In response, on 14 April, President Wilson, whose personal and political distaste for Huerta and his manner of assuming power in Mexico was well known, ordered that the entire Atlantic Fleet immediately proceed from Norfolk to Mexico’s Gulf coast.

By 20 April the stakes had been raised even higher, as the President secretly informed a small group of Congressional leaders that he had been informed by the U.S. consul in Veracruz that a shipment of arms for Huerta’s army was on its way to Veracruz onboard a German cargo ship, Ypiranga.  Although Wilson wished to ask for congressional authorization for the use of force against Mexico, he did not wish to publicly disclose his knowledge of the Ypiranga shipment.

Later that night, Secretary of the Navy Josephus Daniels (most historically notorious for outlawing drinking onboard Navy ships) sent a warning order to Rear Admiral Frank F. Fletcher, commander of the ships off Veracruz, to “be prepared on short notice to seize customs house at Vera Cruz.  If offered resistance, use all force necessary to seize and hold city and vicinity”   The following morning, Fletcher received the order from Daniels to “Seize customs house.  Do not permit war supplies to be delivered to Huerta government or any other party.”

This is the first of a three part series on the 1914 invasion and occupation on Veracruz.

Lieutenant Commander Mark Munson is a Naval Intelligence officer currently serving on the OPNAV staff. He has previously served at Naval Special Warfare Group FOUR, the Office of Naval Intelligence, and onboard USS Essex (LHD 2).  The views expressed are solely those of the author and do not reflect the official viewpoints or policies of the Department of Defense or the US Government.

Destroyed Israeli Tank in the Sinai (Wikimedia Commons)

A2AD Since ’73

Wreckage of a Destroyed Israeli Plane (Wikimedia Commons)

Wreckage From a Destroyed Israeli Plane (Wikimedia Commons)

The threat posed by Anti-Access/Area-Denial (A2AD) capabilities is at the core of the the U.S. Navy and Air Force’s Air Sea Battle (ASB) operational concept.  However, A2AD weapons are not new,  in particular playing an important role in the 1973 Yom Kippur War.

A2AD and the ASB Concept

The ASB operational concept defines A2AD capabilities as “those which challenge and threaten the ability of U.S. and allied forces to both get to the fight and to fight effectively once there.”  One of the main capabilities that ASB has been established to counteract and mitigate against is the “new generation of cruise, ballistic, air-to-air, and surface-to-air missiles with improved range, accuracy, and lethality” that are increasingly available to states around the world.  Figuring out ways to operate in a world in which missiles are easy to acquire and operate is extremely important to the U.S. military, since A2AD weapons “make U.S. power projection increasingly risky, and in some cases prohibitive,” threatening the very foundation upon which the ability of the U.S. military’s ability to operate at will across the globe rests upon.

Missile Warfare in the Middle East

Using A2AD weapons, particularly surface-to-air missiles (SAM), surface-to-surface missiles (SSM), and anti-ship cruise missiles (ASCM), to conduct a form of asymmetric warfare is not a new idea.   In particular, the use of missiles to counteract an enemy’s superiority in the air or on the ground was very much a part of Soviet doctrine by the 1960s.  To protect against the U.S. air campaign during the Vietnam War, Soviet missiles and personnel were extensively used by North Vietnam.  Perhaps the best example of A2AD in action, however, was the Soviet-enabled missile campaign waged by Egypt against the Israeli military during the 1973 Yom Kippur War (also known as the Ramadan War or October War).

The use of missiles formed an essential part of the plans of Egypt and Syria to win back the territories lost so precipitously during the 1967 Six Day War.  In his book the Arab-Israel Wars, historian and former Israeli President Chaim Herzog noted that:

“the Egyptians had meanwhile studied and absorbed the lessons of the Six Day War: with the Russians, they concluded they could answer the problem of the Israeli Air Force over the battlefield by the creation of a very dense “wall” of missiles along the canal, denser even that that used in North Vietnam.  The problem posed by Israeli armour was to be answered by the creation of a large concentration of anti-tank weapons at every level, from the RPG shoulder-operated missile at platoon level up to the Sagger missiles with a range of some 3000 yards and the BRDM armoured missile-carrying vehicles at battalion and brigade level.”

As part of Operation Caucasus, the Soviet Union “deployed an overstrength division” of air defense forces, with eighteen battalions each composed of SAM batteries, Anti-Aircraft Artillery (AAA), and teams equipped with Man-Portable Air Defense Systems (MANPADS).  Although technically identified as instructors, the Soviet troops actually “were dressed in Egyptian uniforms and provided full crewing for the deployed SAM systems.” Using lessons learned in Vietnam, the air defense forces along the Suez Canal were capable of  “relocating frequently and setting up ambushes for Israeli aircraft using multiple mutually supporting batteries.”  Syria also procured Soviet SAM batteries to support their part of the planned surprise attack.  In Herzog’s words, the overwhelming array of SAMs and AAA “would provide an effective umbrella over the planned area of operations along the Suez Canal” and “to a very considerable degree neutralize the effects of Israeli air superiority over the immediate field of battle.”

Destroyed Israeli Tank in the Sinai (Wikimedia Commons)

Destroyed Israeli Tank in the Sinai (Wikimedia Commons)

The Egyptians pursued a similar effort in their efforts to combat Israel’s ground forces.  Per Herzog, Israel’s “armoured philosophy” emphasizing “massive, rapidly deployed, armoured counterattack” would be faced by an Egyptian Army that had crossed the Suez Canal “equipped to the saturation point in anti-tank weapons and missiles in order to wear down the Israeli armour.” The Arab leaders were not just concerned with achieving missile dominance inside the expected battlefield along the canal, however, but also that Eyptian and Syrian aircraft could not match their Israeli counterparts “outside the range of missile surface-to-air defence systems.”  Therefore, the Soviets also provided surface-to-surface FROG and SCUD missiles capable of directly striking at Israel itself, with the hope that they could deter against Israel’s ability to attack their own capitals.

Egypt and Syria’s employment of A2AD weapons had a significant tactical impact on the war.  Estimates of the losses of Israeli aircraft vary.  Herzog stated that 102 Israeli planes were shot down (50 during the first three days), with half shot down by missiles and the other half shot down by AAA.  According to other articles, “Israeli public claims are that 303 aircraft were lost in combat,” crediting SAMs with shooting down 40 and “between four and 12 to Arab fighters.”  This means that although most Israeli aircraft may have been shot down by AAA, the “missile wall” can be credited with “denying the use of high and medium altitude airspace, driving aircraft down into the envelope of high-density AAA.”

One can argue that the lessons learned from employment of A2AD in 1973 can be overstated (after all, Israel eventually won the war, at great cost).  However, Herzog’s claim that it was “a war of great historic significance” is merited, as it “was the first war in which the various types of missiles – surface-to-surface, surface-to-air, air-to-surface, and sea-to-sea – were used on a major scale,” and that “the entire science of military strategy and technique has had to be re-evaluated in the light of” its lessons.  In particular, the Egyptians in 1973 executed what the Air-Sea Battle concept identifies as an important objective of A2AD, in which “an aggressor can slow deployment of U.S. and allied forces to a theater, prevent coalition operations from desired theater locations, or force friendly forces to operate from disadvantageous longer distances.”

Evolution of Air-Land Battle and the Influence of the 73 War

If the Army’s AirLand Battle doctrine of the 1970/1980s can be seen as an intellectual precursor to Air-Sea Battle in its emphasis on “degradation of rear echelon forces before they could engage allied forces,” then the link between the 1973 Yom Kippur War and Air-Sea Battle is clear.  General William DePuy was the first commander of the U.S. Army’s Training and Doctrine Command (TRADOC) upon its establishment in 1973.  In particular, “DePuy had taken an intense interest in the reform of tactics and training, in line with tactical lessons drawn from the 1973 Arab-Israeli War.”  During the tenure of DePuy’s successor, General Donn Starry, TRADOC formulated AirLand Battle and laid the doctrinal framework for the modernization of the U.S. Army and inter-service, joint operations.

What is the Answer?

How and why Israel won the war in 1973 entails a much longer discussion possible in this particular blog post.  The solution to A2AD that the Navy and Air Force  have proposed through Air-Sea Battle “is to develop networked, integrated forces capable of attack-in-depth to disrupt, destroy and defeat adversary forces.”  The reader can decide whether those are just buzzwords and whether the A2AD threat faced by the Israelis forty years ago was an easier challenge to  overcome than what could be faced by the U.S. military today and in the future  What is clear, however, is that the notion of A2AD is not new, and was very much an important part of Soviet-supported military operations during the Cold War.

Lieutenant Commander Mark Munson is a Naval Intelligence officer currently serving on the OPNAV staff. He has previously served at Naval Special Warfare Group FOUR, the Office of Naval Intelligence, and onboard USS ESSEX (LHD 2).  The views expressed are solely those of the author and do not reflect the official viewpoints or policies of the Department of Defense or the US Government.

"Is America thinking about how it would fight us making war more likely?"

"No Majesty. But it is a great compliment to be so respected militarily."

Why Does Air-Sea Battle Need a Strategy?

Some of the criticism that the Air-Sea Battle Concept receives spawns from its developers not articulating what higher-level strategy it supports. Of course they cannot, because operational concepts are not operational plans! If Air-Sea Battle could be linked to a strategy, then either it is not actually a concept or the strategy it was being linked to was a terrible and inadequate strategy.

"Hey, you got air in my sea battle." "No, you got sea in my air battle."

“Hey, you got air in my sea battle.”
“No, you got sea in my air battle.”

Creating a good strategy is hard. Strategy must be tailored to a specific situation and as the situation continues to evolve, so must the strategy. Effective strategy is based in the current geo-political situation, looks at what you want the end result to be, and determines how to utilize all elements of national power (political and diplomatic, informational and social, economic, and military) to accomplish this.

Though a strategy can be simple and elegant, like the Anaconda Plan of the American Civil War, figuring out the correct strategy can be complex and messy. Before figuring out how to fight a war you have to figure out why you are fighting it and how you want it to end. Clausewitz may have said it best that “No one starts a war – or rather, no one in his senses ought to do so – without first being clear in his mind what he intends to achieve by that war and how he intends to conduct it.” No one should fight a war without knowing the strategic aims to be gained from it. Every complex aspect of strategy is compounded by the fact that the enemy always gets a vote in every strategic assumption made.

"To make this work multiple services are going to have to work together." "No one is going to like that concept."

“To make this work multiple services are going to have to work together.”
“No one is going to like that concept.”

Air-Sea Battle, like all operational concepts, has no business trying to be “linked to a strategy.” It is simply one tool we have to confront a potential threat and nothing more. The danger does not come from what Air-Sea Battle is; the potential danger comes if we ever try to make it more than it is. If we find ourselves in a conflict with a peer or near-peer adversary employing anti-access / area denial (A2/AD) capabilities and the only tool in the toolkit that we have prepared fully to utilize is Air-Sea Battle, we are in trouble. Air-Sea Battle in its entirety or key aspects of it absolutely might be the right answer in a future war, but it also might unnecessarily escalate the conflict or we may find it too limited in scope. The challenge is that we will never know this answer until actually faced with conflict. There will never be one golden operational concept with all of the answers and is all encompassing for all needs. Our danger with Air-Sea Battle is not a lack of it being linked to a strategy. Our danger is with our whole strategy being “the war has started; time to throw Air-Sea Battle at it.”

General Eisenhower felt that “plans are nothing; planning is everything.” Similarly, a concept itself may not be that useful, but the new ideas created as a result of developing the concept can be very useful. We may never use the concept of Air-Sea Battle, but in developing and writing it we will learn much about potential A2/AD threats and possible ways to address them. That is the entire point of concepts. Operational concepts are not operational plans. They are high-level ideas on how you could operate. But the ideas within them can and should influence operational planning when it is applicable.

Some could argue that the most likely scenario would be that we never go to war with the People’s Republic of China or that if we did we would never project power inland like described in Air-Sea Battle. Though it is good to know which scenarios are the most likely, strategic thinkers and planners must never limit themselves to the most likely. The most famous colored war plan developed prior to WWII was Plan Orange because it was the one which was ultimately utilized. But what is lesser known is all of the other developed plans that were never tested in combat. For example, War Plan Red-Orange was a scenario where the United States fought against a United Kingdom-Japanese alliance. This scenario seems ridiculous in hindsight and not the most likely scenario when it was being developed, but strategists and planners do not have the luxury of just ignoring certain scenarios which seem unlikely. If it is not an impossible scenario, it should at least be thought about. We know war plan Red-Orange was never used, but its analysis revealed that the United States was not prepared to support simultaneous operations in two major theaters. And though the U.S. did not go to war with the United Kingdom, those lessons were applied to actual operations in World War II.

"Is America thinking about how it would fight us making war more likely?" "No Majesty. But it is a great compliment to be so respected militarily."

“Is America thinking about how it would fight us making war more likely?”
“No Majesty. But it is a great compliment to be so respected militarily.”

The fact that we are thinking about Air-Sea battle is good, and the fact that we are debating the merits of it is even better. Air-Sea battle cannot be a flawed plan because it is no plan. It cannot support a strategy because operational concepts do not support strategies. We are not in trouble because we are thinking about Air-Sea Battle, but we could find ourselves in trouble if it is all we think about.

LT Jason H. Chuma is a U.S. Navy submarine officer who has deployed to the U.S. 4th Fleet and U.S. 6th Fleet areas of responsibility. He is a graduate of the Citadel, holds a master’s degree from Old Dominion University, and has completed the Intermediate Command and Staff Course from the U.S. Naval War College. He can be followed on Twitter @Jason_Chuma.

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.

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.

surface-ships-sail-information-during-exercise-proud-manta-2013

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.

Panda

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.