Category Archives: Uncategorized

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X-47B Sea Trials – A BFD

                                                                           Taking flight


My twitter feed was abuzz today with statements lauding this morning’s launch of the U.S. Navy’s X-47B unmanned carrier air system from USS George H. W. Bush (CVN 77):

“…another great first for naval aviation…History has just been made…Momento histórico…History has just been made…the Next Era of Naval Aviation…Launch Catapults Naval Aviation into the Future…New era in warfare…MOMENTOUS…Watershed…a pivotal milestone in naval aviation…game-changing technology,” etc.

There is a bit of truth in all of these.  Though perhaps the event is best summarized in the words of Vice President Biden.


This article was re-posted by permission from, and appeared in its original form at

Death of a Fisherman

The rough location of the shooting incident.
The rough location of the shooting incident.

Taiwan on Sunday sent a task force of three Coast Guard Administration vessels and one Lafayette-class navy frigate to waters near the northern Philippines, joining a Knox-class frigate already in the area. The move follows the death of a Taiwanese fisherman last Thursday that has strained ties between the neighbors.

The 65-year-old fisherman was aboard the fishing vessel Kuang Ta Hsin No 28 when he was killed in a confrontation with Philippine coastguardsmen aboard the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR) vessel MCS 3001, an incident now under investigation by the Philippines government.

On Friday, the Philippines confirmed that it had confronted two fishing vessels and fired at one, but only after it says a vessel tried to ram the 30-meter MCS 3001. Philippine Coast Guard spokesman Commander Armand Balilo said that the BFAR ship fired to disable the ship’s engines, and before the coastguardsmen were aware of the injury, they saw “a big white ship that apparently scared them off.  “Our people felt threatened so they left the area,” he said, according to AFP News.

It is important to note that although the Philippines insists the incident took place in its undisputed waters, so far Taiwan has not acknowledged that assertion, backing the Kuang Ta Hsin‘s claims that they were in an area of overlapping Exclusive Economic Zones (EEZs).

A pair of BFAR MCS
A pair of BFAR MCS
Despite an increase in Filipino spending, Taiwan has more naval forces to call upon as a result of decades of inter-strait tension.
Despite an increase in Filipino naval spending, Taiwan has more naval forces to call upon as a result of decades of inter-strait tension.

Two additional Taiwanese fishing vessels reportedly rescued the Kuang Ta Hsin after it called for help and “towed the boat back to a port in southern Taiwan.”

Taiwan responded on Friday by demanding compensation from the Philippine Coast Guard, prosecution for those responsible, and an apology within 72 hours. Failure to comply would lead to a freeze on the hiring of Filipino nationals in Taiwan, said the spokeswoman for Taiwan’s presidential office, Lee Chia-fei.

The Philippines, however, are waiting for the result of their official investigation, with no word on its expected duration and in the mean time sticking by claims of justifiable self-defense. “If somebody died, they deserve our sympathy but not an apology,” said Balilo. Nonetheless, the personnel involved have been suspended as a matter of routine pending the investigation’s outcome. Interestingly, another Filipino news site says video exists of the incident and will be used in the investigation but is not available for public viewing.

Meanwhile hackers from both nations have targeted each others’ government websites.

Prosperity or Instability? The Natural Gas Game in the Eastern Mediterranean

By Andrew Chisholm

The discovery of substantial natural gas deposits in the Eastern Mediterranean sea holds the potential to bring great prosperity to several countries in the region. But the overlap of the gas fields with long-standing disputes has upped regional tensions, threatening to de-stabilize the area’s politics. The outcome will, of course, depend on many factors.

Security in the tension-fraught Middle East often fills international headlines, from conflict in Syria to Iran’s alleged nuclear program, to Israel-Palestine and more. However, many players are now focusing on a less flashy issue that may be just as important – substantial natural gas deposits in the Eastern Mediterranean sea.

Some 35 trillion-cubic-feet (tcf) have been located, while estimates range up to 120tcf, dispersed in the Tamar and Leviathan fields, among others. To date, the key beneficiaries are Israel and Cyprus, who stand to gain through achieving significant energy security, as well as through exports. However, the predicted locations of some gas fields overlap several maritime boundaries causing disputes between Israel and Lebanon as well as Greek- and Turkish Cyprus, intensifying long-standing tensions. Whether the eventual exploitation of these deposits will strengthen or undermine regional stability depends on many factors.

Prospective gas fields and disputed maritime boundaries (The Economist)
Prospective gas fields and disputed maritime boundaries (The Economist)

The Israeli-Lebanese border dispute is complicated by the potential for action by Hamas, which has threatened to attack Israeli gas platforms. Israel’s navy is largely occupied with enforcing its blockade of Gaza, and may lack the capacity, and capability, to secure offshore platforms especially from unconventional threats. Meanwhile Turkey, which does recognize Greek-Cypriot boundary claims and possesses the region’s most powerful navy, has been increasingly active, scheduling major naval exercises and upping its general presence in the area.

The US and Russia are important players as well, and could play multiple roles. Russia’s Gazprom has indicated financial interest, and the Russian navy has held three major exercises in the Mediterranean since 2011. Its potential as a stabilizing force in the future, though, depends on the uncertain fate of its Syrian naval facility, without which Russia’s ability to deploy in the area would be severely restricted. The Americans have been involved in exploration from the beginning and have good relations with most actors in the region. However, its support for Greek-Cypriot claims (also supported by Russia) could cause problems with Turkey while the US navy’s attention is fixed on the Persian Gulf and increasingly on Asia-Pacific, presumably restricting America’s willingness to balance Mediterranean tensions.

Another key factor will be the evolving state of the Israel-Turkey relationship. Their recent re-starting of diplomatic ties certainly bodes well for regional stability, and the potential for energy cooperation may spur its development. However, its impact on maritime boundary disputes, and therefore resource extraction, remains to be seen. Closer ties might calm the Cypriot dispute, although those tensions could also pose challenges (Israel concluded a maritime boundary agreement with Greek Cyprus in 2010, which Turkey does not recognize on principle). In the former case, Turkey’s naval power could serve to fill any gaps left by Israel’s security forces, and an alliance of these key regional powers might negate the need for a balancing force from outside. On the other hand, it could equally prove de-stabilizing in the latter scenario, should Turkish-Israeli naval confrontations become a reality (which I believe is unlikely).

All things considered, the future of natural gas development the Eastern Mediterranean is clouded, and the risks may in fact equal the potential rewards. From the outside, we will simply have to watch and wait.

Andrew Chisholm is a Junior Research Fellow at the Atlantic Council of Canada. He recently graduated from the University of King’s College with a B.A., Combined Honours, in Political Science and History, and studied Conflict Resolution at the Rothberg International School at Hebrew University in Jerusalem. Andrew focuses his writing on contemporary Canadian foreign, defence, and security policy.

Gen Y and the Barriers to Professional Blogging

Where is the one-stop shop for all things tactical in the United States Navy? Is it held within the hallowed halls of the Navy Warfare Development Command? NWDC aggregates lessons learned, fuses experience with doctrine, models and simulates how we fight (and how we can fight better), innovates to provide warfighters with the latest technical solutions, and is best positioned to influence the future of Navy warfighting. We would be remiss if we didn’t periodically ask the question: how do we better communicate with those frontline Sailors who are executing doctrine, tactics, techniques, and procedures such that we improve our ability to change doctrine when necessary? Be it the blog, the formal request, or feedback in the form of professional journal articles, NWDC should tap the innovative spark residing in every combat information center in the Fleet.

How do we share their lessons learned?
            How do we share their lessons learned?

In every organization that thinks, the old guard is wary of the perspectives of the new, but has a healthy appreciation for their views, energy, and willingness to discuss their experiences. That feedback loop has always existed in any organization willing to robustly challenge the status quo, but the desired feedback is not available at a macro level within the Navy for a variety of reasons–cultural, technological, and social. Imagine the differences between a junior and senior officer sharing perspectives of a generation ago (when they might have privately shared a bridge-wing discussion of a professional article published in Proceedings), juxtaposed with the immediacy and reach of the modern professional blog:

“Gosh…I am writing about something online, which I care enough about to expose my opinions and limited intellect to the great unknown–which could result in numerous fanboys championing my cause and lauding me as the next Mahan–or could result in numerous subject matter wonks illuminating my ignorance and lambasting my conclusions…all in full view of my superiors in the chain of command.”

The perceived risks and rewards of sharing ideas online have never been greater in an era where the center of gravity in naval warfighting thinking has shifted from the dusty Naval War College Review lying unread on the shelf in the empty wardroom, to the simulator and the blogosphere. Speaking of the latter, where is the sailorbob or cdrsalamader ‘site on the high side? Given the requirement to keep much of our tactical discussion away from prying eyes, how easy has the Navy made it for the average watchstander to find high-side sites where tactics are routinely and robustly discussed?

The generational difference above most keenly illustrates the loss of intimacy in professional feedback. Whereas every Commanding Officer wishes to create his or her own wardroom of “Preble’s Boys,” there isn’t a big-Navy “brand” that elicits a similar desire for fixing problems; rather, the average junior officer views the naval bureaucracy with the same degree of mistrust and fatalism most Americans feel about big government bureaucracy. Additionally, Gen Y expects feedback to generate change (or at least to generate transparent discussion)–not to sit in some fonctionnaire’s to-do queue for months as tired stakeholders and “antibodies” deliberate change.

Why is it so difficult to attract Gen-Y thinkers to post about naval warfighting? For a generation raised online, which Dov Zakheim, Art Fritzson, and Lloyd Howell discussed in the article Military of Millenials, one would think that information-sharing is second nature.

…deeply ingrained habits challenge established organizational values. To command-and-control organizations like the military (and many corporations), knowledge is power and, therefore, something to be protected – or even hoarded. To Gen Y, however, knowledge is something altogether different; it belongs to everyone and creates a basis for building new relationships and fostering dialogue. Baby boomers and Gen Xers have learned to use the Internet to share information with people whom they already know, but members of Gen Y use blogs, instant-messaging, e-mails, and wikis to share information with those whom they may never meet – and also with people across the hall or down the corridor. Their spirit of openness is accompanied by a casual attitude toward privacy and secrecy; they have grown up seeing the thoughts, reactions, and even indiscretions of their friends and peers posted on a permanent, universally accessible global record.”

Unfortunately, the article also sheds light on barriers which senior leaders need to be aware of, when it comes to sharing those innovative thoughts.

And there is a still more challenging issue: A Concours Group report on generational change proposed (in August 2004) that Gen Y’s comfort with online communications may mask the group’s inexperience in negotiating disagreements through direct conversation and a deficit in face-to-face social skills. Beyond the implications for this generation’s future management style, how might such a skill deficit affect the military’s ability to “win hearts and minds” in future conflicts? In recent years, the military has done extensive training to offset educational deficiencies. Indeed, the promise of such training has been among its greatest attractions for recruits. Should the military now begin to focus on developing new recruits’ interpersonal skills, neglected through years of staring into cyberspace?”

How does Navy leadership make Gen Y more comfortable with confrontation online, in a command-and-control environment, to engage in that robust discussion essential to the discovery of better ideas and processes? Recruit football players? Take boxing classes? Teach verbal judo? Train a generation of naval officers that a prerequisite for robust discussion is the ability to confront, even to the detriment of consensus? Or do we encourage anonymous blogging in such a way that an individual feels comfortable expressing his or her thoughts without fear of repercussion? A blogger should always expect to face contention. Most ideas works at a certain level, but become cannon fodder for memes on other levels. To mitigate as much ridicule as possible, one needs to consider additional perspectives to preempt the ridiculous assumptions of online “trolls.”


Yeah I'll get to that tactics discussion, I just need to grab something out of my zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz....
Yeah I’ll get to that tactics discussion, I just need to grab something out of my zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz….

The greatest factor we are fighting, regarding the target audience of young leaders is quite simply TIME. The average sea duty workload is something close to 74 hours a week. That’s lowballing the estimate, for the very leaders we somehow expect to be having these discussions and sharing their vital experiences (beyond their internal training teams). I still expect that junior officers, mid-grade enlisted, Chief Petty Officers are all engaged in those midwatch conversations about the best way to accomplish a mission, to fix a process, to kill more efficiently…but are simply too busy to push those ideas out to yet another feedback loop outside the lifelines, to whom sailors owe no particular loyalty nor do they expect to see any returns for their hard work.

The more insidious factor being a silencing of innovation in warfighting thought because of the perception that sharing of views outside of one’s own chain of command is seen in a negative light. Jeff Gilmore’s excellent post titled “Where is Lt Zuckerburg“  illustrates the challenges the military has placed upon its own innovators, from the lack of a coherent social media policy to the impediments placed upon junior thinkers by senior staffs. When coupled with the perception of ideas flowing into a doctrinal “black hole” once they leave the unit (due to the length of the vetting process, or due to failing to find advocacy outside the lifelines), what motivation do junior leaders have to share their ideas?

Another factor (WAIT! Was that a picture of a chicken wearing a birthday hat?): Distraction in the workplace is yet another detractor to naval Warfighting cognition. Let’s face it: war at sea is cerebral. Our ability to forecast, plan ahead, and train for those “what-if” scenarios is fundamental to preparing for adversity.

The omnipresent distraction of email, administrivia, meetings, drills, texts, and social networking sites creates a pervasive environment of “ADHD management” rather than the silence (and admittedly, for better or for worse, boredom) of a sanctum. However, should we not consider that it is from this very boredom that some of our greatest innovations stem? Think tanks do not hold a monopoly on innovation; rather, we should be tapping the limitless potential of our young watchstanders, disaffected with processes and TTPs that simply don’t make sense. Without a meaningful (and easy to use) method to feed those innovative ideas back to the doctrine-makers, we will continue to belabor the proverbial “open” in the feedback loop.

So how should the Navy engender robust participation in the warfighting discussion? Here’s a few thoughts on improving our Fleet warfighting advocacy:

One: Utility

Make a Navy-wide SIPR repository of all things tactical. You need to find that TACMEMO? We’ve got it. You want to rant about why page 348 of the pub is misleading? Post about it. You want to engage in knock-down, drag-out “discussions” with your peers and your seniors on more effective ways to take an enemy apart? Get in the game.

Two: Network

Centers of Naval Strategy, like the Navy Warfare Development command staff, should directly engage the mid-grade strategic thinkers at the CSG, ESG, squadron, and individual unit levels–and ensure they have access and opportunity to post. Usually, this comes when there are slow times for the umpteenth under-instruction watchstander in combat, who was tasked with looking something up online.

Three: Improve Inertia

Provide timely feedback, especially in cases where a particular TTP conflicts with AOR practices–essentially acting as the tactics referee for the Navy, ready to feed back to Fleet commanders when something doesn’t work as intended.

We can overcome the lack of organizational inertia that bureaucracy forces upon warfighting; but doing so requires us to train our young leaders to use a healthy dose of critical thinking, some self-righteous zeal, and a bulldozer when necessary.

Jason is a Surface Warfare Officer currently serving in the Innovations and Concepts Department within the Navy Warfare Development Command.

This article was cross-posted by permission from the Disruptive Thinkers Blog.