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Author: Subject: U.S.Navy, 2017 onwards
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[*] posted on 17-8-2017 at 06:18 PM


TALONS Tested on Commissioned U.S. Navy Vessel for First Time

(Source: Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency; issued Aug 15, 2017)



DARPA’s Towed Airborne Lift of Naval Systems (TALONS) research effort recently demonstrated its prototype of a low-cost, elevated sensor mast aboard a commissioned U.S. Navy vessel for the first time. The crew of USS Zephyr, a 174-foot (53-meter) Cyclone-class patrol coastal ship, evaluated the technology demonstration system over three days near Naval Station Mayport, Florida.

TALONS demonstrated safe and routine operation from the ship’s deck under a variety of sea states and wind conditions without adversely affecting the ship’s operational capability. In tests, the system significantly improved the ship’s ability to detect, track, and classify contacts of interest. It also increased communications range between the ship and remote platforms such as the Zephyr’s rigid hull inflatable boats (RHIBs).

Towed behind boats or ships, TALONS could persistently suspend intelligence, surveillance, reconnaissance (ISR) instruments and communications payloads of up to 150 pounds at altitudes between 500 and 1,500 feet above sea level—many times higher than current ships’ masts—greatly extending the equipment’s range and effectiveness.

“We’re very pleased with the USS Zephyr testing, which showed that a future system based on TALONS could provide operational benefits for even small Navy vessels,” said Scott Littlefield, a program manager in DARPA’s Tactical Technology Office (TTO). “In the next year, we will continue our cooperative relationship with the U.S. Navy and work toward fully automating launch and recovery, which would make the system even easier to use on manned vessels and compatible with unmanned surface vessels.”

“Expectations were really exceeded with the ease of not only deployment, but the recovery of the system,” said Lt. Cmdr. Cameron Ingram, commanding officer of the Zephyr. “Beyond the initial launch, it immediately stabilized, and it had a very smooth transition all the way up to altitude. I was very impressed with how stable it was.”

The TALONS test on USS Zephyr built upon a successful joint test last year with DARPA’s Anti-Submarine Warfare (ASW) Continuous Trail Unmanned Vessel (ACTUV) program. ACTUV’s technology demonstration vessel set sail with TALONS as its first payload as part of open-water testing off the coast of California.

TALONS is part of DARPA’s Phase 1 research for Tern, a joint program between DARPA and the U.S. Navy’s Office of Naval Research (ONR).

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[*] posted on 19-8-2017 at 12:11 PM


DARPA’S TALONS tested on USS Zephyr

18th August 2017 - 14:30

by The Shephard News Team



DARPA's Towed Airborne Lift of Naval Systems (TALONS) prototype has been tested on board the US naval coastal patrol vessel USS Zephyr, DARPA announced on 15 August.

The low-cost, elevated sensor mast was evaluated over three days near Naval Station Mayport, Florida.

TALONS demonstrated routine and safe operation from the ship’s deck under a variety of sea states and wind conditions without affecting the ship’s operational capability. During the tests, the system significantly improved the ship’s ability to detect, track, and classify contacts of interest. It also increased communications range between the ship and remote platforms such as the Zephyr’s rigid hull inflatable boats.

TALONS is designed to be towed behind boats or ships, carrying ISR instruments and communications payloads of up to 150lbs at altitudes between 500 and 1,500ft, in order to extend the vessel's ISR and communications range.

Scott Littlefield, program manager in DARPA’s Tactical Technology Office, said: ‘We’re very pleased with the USS Zephyr testing, which showed that a future system based on TALONS could provide operational benefits for even small navy vessels.

‘In the next year, we will continue our cooperative relationship with the US Navy and work toward fully automating launch and recovery, which would make the system even easier to use on manned vessels and compatible with unmanned surface vessels.’

TALONS is part of DARPA’s phase one research for Tern, a joint programme between DARPA and the US Navy’s Office of Naval Research.
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[*] posted on 21-8-2017 at 08:12 AM


Everything old is new again.

The Germans used a towed auto-gyro from U-boats to extend the visual horizon to allow them to more easily find targets.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Focke-Achgelis_Fa_330





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[*] posted on 21-8-2017 at 09:18 AM


Long time ago now, but I actually met someone who flew the gyrocopter off a U-boat. He was a qualified pilot but a U-boot man through and through, one of the very few to survive the war from the originals. Nice bloke but definitely had a "1000-yard stare" about him................
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[*] posted on 21-8-2017 at 07:49 PM


USN destroyer collides with tanker in South China Sea, 10 sailors missing

Ridzwan Rahmat - IHS Jane's Defence Weekly

21 August 2017

Key Points
- A US Navy guided-missile destroyer has collided with an oil and chemical tanker at the eastern approaches of the Singapore Strait in the South China Sea
- Incident is the third mishap to involve an Arleigh Burke-class destroyer in the region since June 2017


USS John McCain , seen here after the collision on 21 August 2017. (Royal Malaysian Navy)

The US Navy’s (USN’s) Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS John McCain (56) collided with a 183 m Liberian-registered oil and chemical tanker near Singapore on 21 August, leaving five sailor injured while another 10 have been reported missing.

A statement by the US Seventh Fleet on the same day said that collision took place at 05:24 h local time while John McCain was underway “east of the Straits of Malacca and Singapore”.

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[*] posted on 21-8-2017 at 09:22 PM


From what I have read, the destroyer apparently lost steering.



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[*] posted on 22-8-2017 at 12:14 PM


Amid accidents and sailor deaths, US Navy's top officer questions readiness of Japan-based ships

By: David B. Larter   2 hours ago


Guided-missile destroyer John S. McCain moored pier side at Changi Naval Base, Republic of Singapore following a collision with the merchant vessel Alnic MC while underway east of the Straits of Malacca and Singapore on Aug. 21. (Grady Fontana/Navy)

The Navy’s top officer is eyeing U.S. 7th Fleet based in Yokosuka, Japan, after four accidents in one year have resulted in three collisions, a grounding, seven sailors dead and 10 missing as of Monday afternoon. 

The fleet, which is led by Vice Adm. Joseph Aucoin, is now under direct scrutiny after Chief of Naval Operations Adm. John Richardson directed his four-star fleet boss, Adm. Phil Davidson, to determine if 7th Fleet ships are ready to do the basics of their jobs.

"[The collision is] the last in a series of incidents in the Pacific Fleet in particular, and that gives great cause for concern that there is something out there that we’re not getting at," Richardson told a group of reporters Monday afternoon. "So I’ve conferred with senior leadership in the Navy and in the department. We are taking a much more aggressive stance at this point to get to that level of understanding."

Richardson, who ordered a vague ”operational pause” earlier in the day, said he was directing Fleet Forces Command head Davidson to look at training of sailors in 7th Fleet  while they are forward deployed.

“There’s the longer-term review that I’ve asked Adm. Davidson, down in fleet forces command, to undertake,” Richardson said.

“This will be a broader effort, looking at a number of things. One being, what is the situation out in Japan with our forward deployed naval forces out there, how are they executing their business? I just want to understand that more deeply in terms of training, generating that readiness that we’ve asked them to achieve, and then certifying that readiness.”

The scrutiny comes on the heels of the second major at-sea disaster since June, which has crippled two of the Navy’s ballistic missile defense ships at a time when the threat from the Nuclear-armed Kim regime in North Korea is rapidly increasing.

John S. McCain collided with the Liberian-flagged merchant vessel Alnic MC just east of the Singapore Strait entering the Strait of Malacca at 5:24 a.m. local time. The Alnic, which is three times the size of McCain, is an oil and chemical tanker.

The search for the 10 missing sailors is ongoing, as of Tuesday morning local time, Monday evening on the East Coast. 

The scrutiny is likely to put pressure on Aucoin, the 7th Fleet Commander, after a run of accidents among his ships that has little precedent in recent Navy history. 

When asked if Pacific Fleet Commander Adm. Scott Swift still had confidence in Aucoin to lead 7th Fleet, a spokesman said that was not the commander’s immediate focus.

When asked if Pacific Fleet Commander Adm. Scott Swift still had confidence in Aucoin to lead 7th Fleet, a spokesman said that was not the commander’s immediate focus.“Right now the Navy’s focus remains on the active search and rescue for the ten missing Sailors and ensuring the safety and care of the ship, the crew and families.”

Aucoin is slated to turn over 7th Fleet in September with Rear Adm. Philip Sawyer, who will likely be the one in the hot seat to implement the changes mandated in the ongoing review.
Richardson said his review will encompass navigation and safety practices, as well as a larger look at the state of the surface force. The review should be done quickly, but did not put a firm time-frame on it.

Operational pause 

In the immediate aftermath of the accident, Richardson announced a Navy-wide ”operational pause,” but it was unclear what that meant.

The pause, which Richardson said would last one-to-two days, would be a chance to review the basics. 

“You devote some time, at the command level, where you sit down with those teams, and those teams will be dynamic depending on what sort of command you’re talking about, and you do an assessment and review of those fundamental practices that are, fundamental I guess, to safe and effective operations,” he said at the press conference.

What the pause looks like would be largely up to the commanders in the fleet but he would give some guidance, he said.  

“I’m not going to determine how they should get a this,” Richardson said. ”I’m going to provide some guidance on things we do want to address but leave it to [commanders] to determine specifics.”

Jerry Hendrix, a retired Navy captain, said an ”operational pause” is like a safety stand-down, which can be ordered after everything from a rash of DUIs at a command or to address larger fleet-wide issues.

“Basically its decision to take the individual commands in the region and give them a period of time to focus on safety,” Hendrix said “But it‘s not as if you can pull every ship back into port, so I’m not sure how they are going to accomplish this.”
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[*] posted on 22-8-2017 at 11:49 PM


Quote: Originally posted by ARH  
From what I have read, the destroyer apparently lost steering.


There is a rumour going around the Destroyer was 'hacked' which I think hilarious.

The damn thing got T-Boned...

Apparently the Chinese have learned how to hack a set of binoculars and loud hailers...




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[*] posted on 23-8-2017 at 11:33 AM


Remains of McCain sailors found aboard ship as the search continues

By: David B. Larter   13 hours ago


Damage to the portside is visible as the Guided-missile destroyer USS John S. McCain (DDG 56) steers towards Changi naval base in Singapore following a collision with the merchant vessel Alnic MC Monday, Aug. 21, 2017. (MC2 Joshua Fulton/U.S. Navy via AP)

WASHINGTON – U.S. Navy divers have discovered the remains of some of the 10 missing sailors inside the damaged compartments on board the destroyer John S. McCain.

Malaysian Navy forces discovered additional remains at sea as the search continues into its second day.

The head of U.S. Pacific Fleet announced the discovery Tuesday evening in Singapore, where McCain is in port as the divers continue to try and access spaces flooded after a collision with an oil and chemical tanker three times its size.

“The divers were able to locate some remains in those sealed compartments during their search today,” said Adm. Scott Swift said. Additionally, the Malaysian navy has reported that they have located potential remains. We are working to confirm and identify those remains. As more info comes in, we will make it available.”
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[*] posted on 23-8-2017 at 11:37 AM


Multinational search for missing US Navy sailors expands in Asia

By: Mike Yeo   9 hours ago


Guided-missile destroyer USS John S. McCain (DDG 56) arrives pier side at Changi Naval Base, Republic of Singapore following a collision with the merchant vessel Alnic MC while underway east of the Straits of Malacca and Singapore on Aug. 21. (Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Joshua Fulton/U.S. Navy via Getty Images)

MELBOURNE, Australia – The multinational search and rescue for sailors missing from the U.S. Navy destroyer USS John S. McCain following a collision with an oil tanker near Singapore has expanded, even as remains of some of the missing have been located inside the flooded compartments of the ship.

Both Singapore and Malaysia have increased the number of assets taking part in the SAR operations for the 10 sailors initially reported missing following the collision, while Indonesia has also started scouring the waters off its islands closest to where the collision occurred. Australia has also offered an aircraft to assist in the search, according to a media statement from Singapore’s Maritime and Port Authority on Tuesday.

The new, expanded search area covers more than 1,100 square miles, with Singapore and the U.S. covering the center of the identified search area while Malaysian and Indonesian assets are covering the north and south.

The collision occurred in waters where there is an unresolved maritime boundary dispute between Singapore and Malaysia, and both have said the collision occurred in their respective territorial waters and have laid claim to leading the search operation. That said, the disagreement has not interfered with the search operation so far.

U.S. Navy MH-60S helicopters and Marine Corps MV-22 tiltrotors from the amphibious assault ship USS America are also involved in the search, while the Republic of Singapore Air Force has deployed a C-130 transport and a Fokker 50 maritime patrol aircraft to join two patrol vessels each from the Singapore Navy and police coast guard already on scene. A Singaporean Super Puma helicopter had earlier evacuated four of the five sailors injured in the collision to a hospital on Monday morning.

Malaysia has also contributed ships and aircraft from its armed forces and the Malaysian Maritime Enforcement Agency in the search. A Royal Malaysian Navy patrol vessel, the KD Handalan, found a body on Tuesday afternoon local time, approximately eight nautical miles west of the site of the USS John S. McCain’s collision.

Speaking to media at Changi Naval Base in Singapore where the John S. McCain is now berthed, Pacific Fleet Commander Admiral Scott Swift said the body will be handed over to the U.S. Navy for identification, and has not yet been identified as a sailor from the damaged ship. Swift also disclosed that divers scouring the flooded compartments have located an unspecified number of human remains.

The USS America is also currently at Changi Naval Base, where she is providing messing and berthing services to John S. McCain crew members and supporting damage control efforts on board which are focused on dewatering the ship and restoring auxiliary systems.

The John S. McCain collided with the oil tanker Arinc MC near the entrance of the Singapore Straits east of Singapore in the early hours of Monday as she was headed to the Southeast Asian island nation for a port visit. The Yokosuka-based Arleigh Burke-class destroyer was badly damaged in the collision, which resulted in several flooded compartments on board due to the hole that was punched in her port side.
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[*] posted on 23-8-2017 at 06:18 PM


Navy Launches USNS Hershel 'Woody' Williams

(Source: US Naval Sea Systems Command; issued Aug 21, 2017)

SAN DIEGO --- The Navy launched Expeditionary Sea Base (ESB) Hershel 'Woody' Williams (ESB 4) at the General Dynamics NASSCO shipyard, Aug. 19.

The launch of ESB 4 involved slowly flooding the launching dock with water until the ship could freely float for the first time. Following launch, the ship completes construction and final outfitting before going to sea to complete a series of tests and trials prior to delivery in early 2018.

"We're making tremendous progress on this ship" said Capt. Scot Searles, Strategic Sealift and Theater Sealift program manager, Program Executive Office Ships. "We'll begin powering many of the ships engines and systems as early as next month as we prepare to get underway for sea trials in the coming months."

The ESB will primarily support Aviation Mine Countermeasure and Special Operations Force missions. In addition to the flight deck, the ESB has a hangar with two aviation operating spots capable of handling MH-53E equivalent helicopters, accommodations, work spaces, and ordnance storage for embarked force, enhanced command, control, communications, computers, and intelligence to support embarked force mission planning and execution and reconfigurable mission deck area to store embarked force equipment to include mine sleds and rigid hull inflatable boats.

GD-NASSCO is currently under contract to build ESB 5 which started fabrication in January 2017 and the keel laying is planned for early next month. They are also the construction yard for the Navy's T-AO John Lewis-class fleet oilers.

As one of the Defense Department's largest acquisition organizations, PEO Ships is responsible for executing the development and procurement of all destroyers, amphibious ships, special mission and support ships, and boats and craft.

-ends-
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[*] posted on 23-8-2017 at 07:40 PM


USN flexes LCS’ missile capabilities off Guam amid threats from North Korea

Ridzwan Rahmat - IHS Jane's Navy International

22 August 2017


A harpoon missile launched from the missile deck of the littoral combat ship USS Coronado (LCS 4) off the coast of Guam in August 2017. Source: US Navy

Key Points
- The US Navy has demonstrated the Littoral Combat Ship’s anti-surface capabilities near Guam
- Missile firing comes in the wake of threats by North Korea to launch missiles at the Western Pacific island, and demonstrates the LCS’ lethal capabilities even while on overseas deployments

Against the backdrop of recent threats by North Korea launch ballistic missiles at Guam, the US Navy (USN) conducted a live-firing of the Boeing RGM-84D Harpoon Block 1C missile from a warship off the coast of the island territory on 22 August.

The missile, which was fired from the Independence-class Littoral Mission Vessel USS Coronado (LCS 4) struck “a surface target at significant distance beyond the ship's visual range”, said the USN in a statement, without giving specific details of the target’s location. “ Coronado 's successful firing of the harpoon over-the-horizon missile system demonstrates the lethality of LCS while deployed overseas,” the service added.

The USN also disclosed that an MQ-8B Fire Scout unmanned aerial system, and one MH-60S Seahawk helicopter were deployed in the firing to provide targeting support. Both aircraft are part of Coronado 's rotary-wing air detachment.

Coronado is currently on a rotational deployment in the Asia-Pacific region. The vessel is the first LCS platform to deploy with an over-the-horizon anti-ship capability, given its four-cell launcher system that can deploy the Harpoon missiles. The weapon system, which was installed onboard the LCS in 2016, enables the ship to engage surface targets from a stand-off range of about 50 n miles, according to information from Jane’s Weapons: Naval.

The RGM-84D BLOCK IC can be equipped with warheads of up to 221.6 kg (488 lb). The all-weather, over-the-horizon (OTH) weapon can be deployed against a range of surface objectives, and can approach its targets via either sea-skimming or low-apogee trajectories.

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[*] posted on 26-8-2017 at 11:43 AM


In an LCS first, drone supports targeting mission for missile

By: Mike Yeo   9 hours ago


A Harpoon missile launches from the missile deck of the U.S. Navy littoral combat ship Coronado off the coast of Guam on Aug. 22, 2017. (MC2 Kaleb R. Staples/U.S. Navy)

MELBOURNE, Australia ― The U.S. Navy has for the first time used a UAV to provide over-the-horizon targeting information and damage assessment for a missile fired from onboard a ship.

In an exercise off Guam on Aug. 22, the littoral combat ship Coronado fired an RGM-84D Harpoon Block 1C missile that successfully struck a surface target at significant distance beyond the ship’s visual range, according to a U.S. Navy news release.

The release said a Northrop Grumman MQ-8B Fire Scout drone and a Lockheed Martin MH-60S Seahawk helicopter, both part of Coronado’s rotary-wing air detachment, provided targeting support for the Harpoon missile.

Speaking to Defense News, the commander of the Navy’s Task Force 73, Rear Adm. Don Gabrielson, said the Coronado’s MH-60S and MQ-8B used radar, electro-optical systems and other sensors to locate the target, pass targeting information back to the ship via data link to refine the firing solution, monitor and assess the missile, and then carry out damage assessment on the target. He noted that this is the first time the U.S. Navy has done so.

The pair of MQ-8B Fire Scout unmanned helicopters onboard the Coronado are fitted with the Telephonics Corporation’s AN/ZPY-4(V)1 multi-mode radar along with the FLIR Systems Brite Star II day-and-night electro-optical turret with a laser-target designator, and they are the first radar-equipped Fire Scouts to deploy onboard the LCS.

This is the second time the Coronado has fired a Harpoon missile, with the ship firing one in July 2016 during the Rim of the Pacific exercise prior to its arrival in Singapore for rotational deployment. The missile was fired as part of a validation program for the missile mounting, and it did not hit its target that time.

The Coronado is nearing the tail end of its one-year rotational deployment to Singapore that started in October last year.

Singapore has agreed to eventually host up to four LCS vessels at its Changi Naval Base on a rotational basis, and Gabrielson has hailed the Coronado’s ongoing deployment as “successful from the perspective of both operations and sustainment” in a region that has “over 50,000 islands in the arc from the Philippines to India.”

According to Gabrielson, some of the highlights of the year include the demonstration of the LCS expeditionary maintenance capability when it carried out a preventive maintenance availability at Cam Ranh Bay, Vietnam, and taking part in coordinated counter-piracy patrols with the Philippines.

Gabrielson told Defense News that following exercises off Guam, the Coronado will head to Sri Lanka and Indonesia in the next month, where the ship will continue training and interacting with those countries’ respective navies and personnel.

The flexibility built into the LCS design was also touched on by Gabrielson, who noted that the “modularity will be really important in the future to keep the platform relevant.” The LCS is designed to carry out a variety of missions using different mission modules that will be driven by requirements.

This is especially pertinent in the Indo-Asia-Pacific region with its various maritime security challenges, and Gabrielson expects that with “the modularity in systems and people, the ship is going to appear to be proficient in many different techniques and tools, and is an important capability to maintain the security in the region”.

Looking forward, Gabrielson confirmed that the end of 2018 will see two LCS vessels in Singapore on rotational deployments for the first time, with both to be drawn from the Independence-class trimarans that were assigned to the West Coast in the wake of a 2016 LCS review. Five Independence-class ships have been commissioned into service, with three other ships currently being fitted out, another three being built by Austal and a further three on order.
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[*] posted on 26-8-2017 at 03:16 PM


Pentagon Contract Announcement

(Source: US Department of Defense; issued Aug 24, 2017)


Flank array sonars are visible in this picture of the USS Coronado before its christening. Electric Boat has won a contract to develop and produce a new generation of very large sonar arrays. (EB photo)

General Dynamics - Electric Boat Corp., Groton, Connecticut, is being awarded a $64,217,408 cost-plus-incentive-fee and firm-fixed-price contract for a large vertical array (LVA) fixture, LVA first article and provisioned items orders.

The LVA delivers acoustic detection capability to submarines.

This technology allows for production and outboard installation of very large arrays while minimizing impact to naval architecture, hydrodynamics, and submarine signatures.

This contract includes options which, if exercised, would bring the cumulative value of this contract to $882,142,220.

Work will be performed in Groton, Connecticut (69 percent); Syracuse, New York (11 percent); York, Pennsylvania (9 percent); Jacksonville, Florida (8 percent); Depew, New York (2 percent); and El Cajon, California (1 percent), and is expected to be completed by August 2019.

Fiscal 2017 research, development, test and evaluation (Navy) funding in the amount of $13,129,253 will be obligated at time of award and will not expire at the end of the current fiscal year.

This contract was competitively procured on the basis of full and open competition via the Federal Business Opportunities website, with two offers received.

The Naval Sea Systems Command, Washington, District of Columbia, is the contracting activity (N00024-17-C-6245).

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[*] posted on 28-8-2017 at 06:05 PM


US recovers bodies of remaining crew members killed in USS John S McCain collision

Ridzwan Rahmat - IHS Jane's Defence Weekly

28 August 2017

Divers from the US Navy (USN) and US Marine Corps (USMC) have now recovered the remains of all 10 crew members killed in a collision involving the Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS John S McCain (DDG 56) and a merchant vessel.

The remains were recovered from aboard the stricken destroyer, a statement from the US Seventh Fleet confirmed on 28 August.

In the same statement, the service has also identified the names of all 10 personnel killed in the collision, which took place in the South China Sea at the eastern approach into the Singapore Strait on 21 August. “The incident is under investigation to determine the facts and circumstances of the collision,” the service added.

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[*] posted on 28-8-2017 at 08:05 PM


Published: Sunday, 27 August 2017 12:49

European Naval Shipbuilders Weighing their Options for US Navy FFG(X) Program
 
Most major European naval shipbuilding companies are closely reviewing their options for the U.S. Navy FFG(X) program. Contacted by Navy Recognition, BAE Systems (United Kingdom), Naval Group (France), Fincantieri (Italy) and Navantia (Spain) acknowledged looking at the RFI. TKMS (Germany) and Damen (Netherlands) didn't return phone calls or emails................EDITED

See Link for the rest of the article: https://navyrecognition.com/index.php/focus-analysis/naval-t...
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[*] posted on 29-8-2017 at 04:42 PM


How the US Navy's fleet has been on a collision course for years

By: David B. Larter   1 day ago


U.S. Navy guided-missile destroyer Fitzgerald arrives at its mother port U.S. Naval Yokosuka Base, Kanagawa prefecture, on June 17, 2017. The U.S. and Japan launched a major search operation to find seven missing American sailors on June 17 after their destroyer collided with a container ship, crushing the side of the military vessel. (Kazuhiro Nogi/AFP via Getty Images)

WASHINGTON — The second deadly collision in as many months between a U.S. destroyer and a larger, slower commercial ship in Asian waters has shaken the U.S. Navy to its foundations and raised questions about the fleet’s readiness in the most congested and volatile region on Earth.

The collision between the McCain and an oil tanker three times its size outside the Strait of Malacca was the most recent of four incidents in the U.S. 7th Fleet, which has included three collisions and a grounding that caused an oil spill in Tokyo Bay.

While these accidents have been shocking, with a total of 17 sailors killed, there have been signs that all is not well in the 7th Fleet or the U.S. Navy more broadly for some time.

A series of warnings and alarming incidents have raised red flags about forward-deployed ships, which operate at a much higher tempo than their stateside counterparts but have also seen readiness eaten away by too much time at sea and too little time to train and maintain.

That will be the subject of a review ordered by Adm. John Richardson, chief of Naval Operations, who directed Fleet Forces Command head Adm. Phil Davidson to look at the training and readiness of forward-deployed sailors in Japan.

“There’s the longer-term review that I’ve asked Adm. Davidson, down in fleet forces command, to undertake,” Richardson said.

“This will be a broader effort, looking at a number of things. One being, what is the situation out in Japan with our forward-deployed naval forces out there? How are they executing their business? I just want to understand that more deeply in terms of training, generating that readiness that we’ve asked them to achieve and then certifying that readiness.”

‘We weren’t ready’

Davidson will not be the first to look at readiness in the 7th Fleet. In 2015, the Government Accountability Office reported that the high pace of operations was taking a heavy toll on ships forward-deployed to Japan.

Among the findings was that the break-neck pace of operations was robbing those ships of needed training and maintenance. Ships stationed in Japan spent on average 42 more days out to sea than their stateside counterparts, the GAO found.

“GAO … found that the high pace of operations the Navy uses for overseas-homeported ships limits dedicated training and maintenance periods, which has resulted in difficulty keeping crews fully trained and ships maintained,” the report read.

And that wear-and-tear has taken a significant toll on the condition of the ships that come back to the states from Japan after a rotation forward.

The amphibious assault ship Essex is a case in point. The big deck was in terrible condition when it returned to the states from Japan in 2012, according to the GAO report. Years of deferred maintenance led to the costliest depot maintenance period in the U.S. Navy’s history, the report said, and raised questions about the attention the Navy paid to its material condition while deployed overseas for 12 years. The ship also suffered damages when it collided with the oiler Yukon off the California coast in 2012.

“During this depot maintenance, the Essex required over twice the amount of maintenance work the Navy expected to perform,” the report reads. “According to the Navy Surface Maintenance Engineering Planning Program documentation, the Navy used 364,280 labor days on the Essex compared to the 177,206 labor days that were planned for this depot availability.”

Similar issues arose with the guided-missile cruiser Cowpens, which was stationed in Japan until 2013 when the crew of the cruiser Antietam swapped with Cowpens to accompany the cruiser home to either be repaired or decommissioned.

When the Antietam’s Capt. Robert Tortora assumed command of Cowpens, he reported “significant deficiencies in the material condition of the ship,” according to a U.S. Navy investigation into a commanding officer relief in 2014.

But despite the condition of the ship, it was quickly turned around and sent back to the Western Pacific for a troubled deployment that ended in the ship’s commanding officer, top enlisted sailor and chief engineer being canned.

Fleet bosses fast-tracked the ship for a full deployment three months after its San Diego homecoming, a target it missed by almost two months while the ship was undergoing more than $7 million in repairs, according to the investigation.

“We’re weren’t ready for an operational deployment,” said a former senior Cowpens crew member interviewed at the time. “Get underway, pull into ports, show the flag — we could do that. But we weren’t ready to be operational.”

Despite extensive repairs prior to leaving Japan and after it pulled into San Diego, crew members interviewed at the time said that they had the impression the repairs were temporary fixes to merely survive the deployment and get back to the U.S. for a more extensive overhaul.

Wholeness

Those kinds of ill-conceived decisions to push unready ships forward to meet operational demands have become increasingly commonplace as budget cuts have eaten into primarily training and maintenance accounts. And this is common not just in the Western Pacific, but fleetwide.

In an effort to find a long-term solution, former Navy Secretary Ray Mabus pushed hard to preserve shipbuilding to reverse a lengthy decline in the number of ships in the fleet.

Over nearly two decades, the fleet has dropped from 333 ships to 272 ships, but the number of ships deployed at any one time has stayed steady at about 100 ships, according to a 2015 study by Bryan Clark, an analyst and former senior aide to retired Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Jon Greenert.

“So if you just do simple math, that would indicate that each of the ships in the Navy is doing 20 percent more work and being deployed 20 percent more than its predecessors back in 1998,” Clark said when the report was released.

“The demand signal hasn’t dissipated, it has only gotten worse,” he added.

Those looking for parties at least partly responsible for the increasing demands on the fleet can look no further than the Office of the Secretary of Defense.

Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, when he was the four-star commander of all U.S. forces in the Middle East, demanded the U.S. Navy provide two aircraft carriers and their associated support ships between 2011 and 2013 until across-the-board budget cuts that year forced the Pentagon to cancel the two-carrier requirement.

That move, which was intended to deter Iranian aggression, forced the Navy from 6.5-month deployments to nine-and 10-month deployments just to cover the Navy’s presence requirements while the fleet desperately tried to work through the resulting maintenance backlogs.

The extended deployments, which the Navy has struggled to bring back under seven months, exacerbated creeping deferred maintenance issues that were made even worse by the budget sequestration cuts.

The Navy only started to get the problem in hand after convincing combatant commanders and senior DoD leaders to let the Navy gap carrier presence in both the Persian Gulf and the Western Pacific starting in the fall of 2015.

These kinds of trades on presence in the Pacific and Persian Gulf in favor of maintenance and training are vital to keeping a healthy fleet and its sailors healthy, former Fleet Forces Command head Adm. John Harvey said in a February interview.

“My mantra as Fleet Forces Command was always the wholeness for the fleet for the long term,” he said. “That always runs into the insatiable demand for everything that Navy brings to the combatant commanders.”

“It has to be clear that to make these wonderful ships, aircraft and submarines available for the long term, you have to pay attention to maintenance,” he added. “And for our people to perform correctly, you have to pay attention to training.”
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[*] posted on 30-8-2017 at 07:15 AM


Common sense thoughts, but it points to a serious willingness by the USNs operational and strategic leadership to overlook significant shortfalls in the name of having a US flag flying somewhere, no matter how dangerous that deployment might actually be.

God help the US Navy if it actually had to fight with forward-deployed ships, and where is the most likely location for hostile action?




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[*] posted on 31-8-2017 at 03:28 PM


Our Navy is Broken, and That is a Bad Thing

By Jerry Hendrix

August 30, 2017


U.S. Navy photo via AP

The fleet’s problems stem from decades of flat acquisition budgets and declining ship numbers.

The recent string of ship collisions in the western Pacific is a clarion call to the American nation that its Navy is on the brink of combat ineffectiveness. This dismal condition is the result of a long string of irresponsible budgetary actions and strategic mistakes on the part of the nation’s leaders. While it is true that the string of mishaps has, thus far, been limited to one region of the world, the underlying contributing factors of a steady demand for 85-100 deployed ships, a shrinking fleet, and shorter and inadequately resourced maintenance and training periods are eroding the fleet’s effectiveness everywhere. The unique stresses of the western Pacific simply present the ships operating there as the canaries in the proverbial coal mine.

Americans should be alarmed. Our entire economy is supported by maritime trade. Navy ships guarantee the free navigation of the high seas. Free navigation undergirds free trade, and free trade enables access to the lower-cost goods that populate the shelves of the nation’s big-box economy. Restricted access to the world’s oceans would trigger higher prices, rapidly rising inflation and an overall weakening of the American economy.

The trend towards constrained maritime commons is already evident.

Foreign development of long-range cruise and ballistic missiles threaten to block approaches to vast stretches of the open oceans, forcing both military and commercial ships to take longer routes in order to remain safe, adding both time and costs to production deliveries. Russia is seeking to establish control over the Baltic Sea, Black Sea and even portions of the Mediterranean. China is pursuing outright sovereignty over the South China and East China seas, even building artificial islands to establish illegal territorial claims. Should these claims be allowed to stand, the concepts of free navigation and free trade will erode, along with the United States’ position in the world.

The Navy’s problems stem from decades of flat acquisition budgets and declining ship numbers. The fleet has shrunk from over 500 ships at the end of the Cold War to 277 ships today. 

However, during this period, the Navy has been called upon to provide the same level of peacetime naval presence and wartime support, placing every increasing material strain on fleet ships and aircraft. Flat budgets with rising operational tempos have further hollowed out the fleet by siphoning off training and maintenance resources. The results of these actions can be seen in the recent parade of errors over the past few months that resulted in three collisions and one incident where a multi-billion dollar cruiser ran aground. Naval professionals attribute these errors to the conflicting demands within the current operational cycle.

Navy ships, unlike Army brigades, are continuously deployed to uphold the nation’s interests. Upon returning home from deployment a ship and enters a shipyard to replace broken equipment and make major repairs and upgrades. Following this period, the ship and its crew normally moves on to a series of training evolutions as its bridge, combat information center and engineering teams gain experience together under a range of simulated conditions. Finally, the ship deploys once again in support of established national interests.

The Navy needs to bring back ships in its ready reserve, extend the lives of ships scheduled for decommissioning, and boost the number of ships under construction.

This cycle worked well when the Navy was large enough to allow time for each of these steps to be fully accomplished, but as the fleet decreased and the demand to maintain a hundred ships forward deployed remained, time had to be taken away from either the maintenance or training schedules. A few years ago, during the height of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, maintenance suffered. More recently training was compromised, resulting in less experienced bridge, combat information center and engineering teams.

The solution is actually relatively simple. The Navy knows that it needs to grow its fleet. It announced last December that the minimum fleet required to protect American national interests is 355 ships. That’s also a fleet large enough to regain a balanced equilibrium in its maintenance-training-deployment cycle. The sooner the Navy can get to this number, the better. To do this, the service can bring back ships held in its ready reserve “ghost fleet,” invest in extending the lives of ships presently scheduled for decommissioning, and increase the number of ships under construction. All of these solutions will cost money and require the Congress to overturn the ill-conceived 2011 Budget Control Act and its indiscriminate sequester cuts.

There is an old proverb: “For the want of a nail, a kingdom was lost.” The fate of our Navy is about more than the nation’s defense and national security. Naval forces are the key enablers of the national economy and day-to-day life. The Navy is also the embodiment of national prestige and power. Collisions at sea and the loss of sailors’ lives is giving the nation a glimpse of its own possible future.
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[*] posted on 1-9-2017 at 02:51 PM


US Navy leader considers unmanned vehicles to increase power

By: Jennifer Mcdermott, The Associated Press   7 hours ago


In this Tuesday, July 31, 2012, file photo, Christopher Del Mastro, head of anti submarine warfare mobil targets stands next to an unmanned underwater vehicle (UUV) in a lab at the Naval Undersea War Center in Middletown, RI. (Stephan Savoia/AP)

NEWPORT, R.I. — President Donald Trump and Navy leaders say the nation needs about 350 ships, roughly 75 more ships than the fleet has today.

But there isn’t money in the defense budget to buy a lot of new ships at once, and they take years to build.

Adm. John Richardson, the chief of naval operations, says they could get closer to the target faster by counting unmanned vessels with capabilities similar to a manned ship — a new twist on the definition of a ship.

Unmanned undersea vehicles currently used by the Navy aren’t at the point now where they could replace manned platforms. While they can complete a task to support a mission, they can’t complete an entire mission on their own, and none are weaponized, according to the Navy.

Richardson brought senior officers to Newport, Rhode Island, this month to talk about accelerating their development. The future Navy is going to be very different from today’s fleet, he said.

“I can guarantee that it’s not going to be building more of the same thing we have right now,” he said. “Because that will not be the Navy that the nation needs to secure itself and promote its prosperity.”

Richardson said he’s trying to figure out how to increase naval power as quickly as he can because the Navy is being challenged at sea by very capable foreign naval forces. He said he’s looking at vehicles that can do a range of things, including acting as sensors and carrying weapons, and can be networked in with the rest of the fleet.

At the Naval Undersea Warfare Center Division Newport, researchers are adapting commercial, off-the-shelf unmanned undersea vehicles for use by the military.

Dozens of unmanned undersea vehicles are being used by the Navy to sense oceanographic conditions and look for mines, with supervision by Navy personnel, said Jenny Roberts, the deputy for undersea influence at the Navy’s Undersea Warfare Division.

In this Tuesday, July 31, 2012, file photo, the "Razor," an autonomous underwater vehicle (AUV) sits in a lab at the Naval Undersea War Center in Middletown, RI. (Stephan Savoia/AP)
Technological advancements in autonomy, endurance, command and control and other areas are needed before the Navy could assign anything more complex, like surveillance, she added.

The Navy could potentially get by with fewer ships if some of the larger, more capable unmanned vehicles could someday reliably do some of the easier missions ships do, but it’s not a one-for-one replacement, said Bryan Clark, a senior fellow at the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments.

An unmanned vehicle could lay mines and conduct surveillance but it couldn’t board a pirate ship or help train a foreign Navy, added Clark, the lead author on a paper about the Navy’s future force.

“It doesn’t mean you buy an extra-large unmanned undersea vehicle and buy one less submarine,” he said. “You have to figure out to what degree it replaces a submarine and do the math.”

Small unmanned undersea vehicles are 3 inches to 10 inches in diameter and cost less than $1 million, and medium ones are 10 inches to 21 inches and cost up to about $3 million, Roberts said. Large unmanned undersea vehicles are 21 inches to 84 inches and cost tens of millions.

Extra-large vehicles are greater than 84 inches in diameter. The Navy doesn’t currently have any of that size, Roberts said.

The Congressional Budget Office has estimated that the cost of building and operating 355 ships would average $102 billion annually through 2047, which is more than one-third higher than the amount appropriated for fiscal year 2016 for today’s fleet. Richardson has said that he thinks it’ll cost far less than that prediction.
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[*] posted on 4-9-2017 at 02:26 PM


Lawmakers to grill Navy officials over fatal mishaps

By: Joe Gould and David B. Larter   1 day ago


Tugboats from Singapore assist the U.S. Navy guided-missile destroyer John S. McCain as it steers toward Changi Naval Base, Singapore, following a collision with the merchant vessel Alnic MC while underway east of the Straits of Malacca and Singapore on Aug. 21, 2017. (Joshua Fulton/U.S. Navy)

Analyst: Readiness budget shortfalls an unlikely culprit
WASHINGTON — U.S. lawmakers plan to closely question the Navy over a string of fatal mishaps at sea, when officials appear on Capitol Hill next week, said Rep. Rob Wittman, who chairs the House Seapower and Projection Forces Subcommittee.

A joint hearing of the House Readiness and Seapower Subcommittees on Sept. 7 will probe “underlying problems” with readiness associated with the collisions of the Arleigh Burke-class destroyers Fitzgerald and John S. McCain, two months apart over the summer. The incidents left dead 10 of the McCain’s sailors and seven of the Fitzgerald’s.

Even before the McCain and Fitzgerald collisions, there were two prior incidents involving the Japan-based U.S. 7th Fleet including a grounding and oil spill in Tokyo Bay and a collision with a Korean fishing boat.

Set to testify at the hearing are the U.S. Navy’s vice chief of naval operations, Adm. Bill Moran; its director of surface warfare, Rear Adm. Ronald Boxall, and the Government Accountability Office’s director of defense force structure and readiness issues, John Pendleton.

Wittman, R-Va., recently returned from a trip to Japan where he visited the stricken destroyer Fitzgerald and spoke with crew members.

The trip had a profound effect on the lawmaker, who said Congress needs to makes sure the Navy gets to the bottom of what led to the string of increasingly serious incidents. “It’s just unbelievable the amount of damage to [Fitzgerald] and see what sailors went through on that ship,” Wittman said. “I think it causes all of us to ask some fundamental questions about what is happening within the Navy that allowed these incidents to occur.”

Congress will be seeking what measures, beyond a brief operational standdown, the Navy is taking to address shortcomings; what specifically the Navy “at every level” is doing to diagnose the problems that led to the accidents; and what is the initial assessment of factors that led to the accidents and what Congress can do to help, Wittman said.

“These are the most advanced warships in the world,” he said. “They can do some miraculous things with Aegis and missile defense. But one of the most basic elements of our Navy is to be able to safely navigate. And that means not running into things or having things run into you.”


Slideshow: CSBA analysis of Navy readiness funding

A readiness crisis?

House Armed Services Committee Chairman Mac Thornberry, R-Texas, has often warned about a readiness crisis in the military.

“We ask a lot of our men and women in the Navy. The time they spend at sea is increasing, while their ships age and their funding gets cut. These are just the conditions that can lead to an increase in the kinds of accidents we are witnessing,” he said in a statement.

Navy readiness-related funding has been trending higher virtually every year, according to Katherine Blakeley, a defense budget expert with the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments. She studied the issue as part of forthcoming analysis of the president’s 2018 request for Defense Department operations and maintenance funds.

“If you look at those funding levels between 2009 and 2017, Congress has actually appropriated a smooth, upward line,” she said. “In every year except for two, it’s pretty much on the nose for what the Navy requested.”

While there was a smooth, upward trend for Navy maintenance and depot appropriations from $10.4 billion in 2011 to $13 billion in 2017, Navy budget lines that most directly contribute to near-term operational training were flat at about $2.5 billion annually, except for a dip in 2015 to $2.4 billion.

“From a training perspective it doesn’t look like there is a real pile of missing money for Navy sailors, Navy pilots and flight-support crew,” Blakeley said.

Budget caps do not appear to be the cause either, according to Blakeley. Funding levels have been consistently higher than future Pentagon budget plans offered by former Defense Secretary Bob Gates before Congress passed budget caps that some argue artificially depressed defense budgets.

“That says to me it needs more inquiry, and it’s not a question of there being no money,” she said. “Maybe the Navy is wrong in their estimation of how much money is needed, but Congress has consistently been appropriating more.”

A key question for lawmakers to ask is what percentage of the appropriated funding is being spent, Blakeley said. The Air Force has had problems with using training dollars because there are not enough ready aircraft, and it’s unclear whether the Navy faces a similar issue.


170617-N-XN177-155 YOKOSUKA, Japan (June 17, 2017) The Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Fitzgerald (DDG 62) returns to Fleet Activities (FLEACT) Yokosuka following a collision with a merchant vessel while operating southwest of Yokosuka, Japan. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Peter Burghart/Released)

Another question is whether the Navy has been requesting as much for operations and maintenance as it has needed.

Tom Callender, a former Navy director of capabilities, said that often cuts in the Navy budget request mandated by the Office of the Secretary of Defense were taken out of the service’s operation and maintenance account.

“By cutting the operations money, I’m cutting the flying hours, and we’re seeing issues with aircraft in the Marine Corps,” said Callender, now with the Heritage Foundation. “What I used to be able to do as a junior officer is take a week to get my guys qualified and evaluate my own proficiency, and that’s gone by the wayside.”

Callender tied what he sees as a lost focus on basic seamanship and navigation to an inadequately sized Navy and its maintenance shortfalls.

“The Navy’s not big enough and we don’t have enough sailors manning our fleets,” Callender said. “When they’re underway, they’re devoted to operations at hand and what maintenance they can get done. And what’s been left by the wayside is the time devoted to training in port and underway.”

Callender also pointed to cultural issues, including changes in the career path for officers in recent years and an over-reliance on technology for navigation.

“There needs to be a culture change in the surface community, a come-to-Jesus looking at refocusing on basics, and it is going to take money,” he said.

Todd Harrison, the director of defense budget analysis at Center for Strategic and International Studies said it would be wrong to view the issue as solely about shortfalls, given the defense budget today is as high as it was at the peak of the Reagan buildup and given the fleet is much smaller than it was in the 1980s.

Still, in line with Blakeley’s assessment, Harrison said the tough question for Navy leaders is whether they knew they had readiness problems they did not address in budget requests to Congress.

“The question we should be asking is: If the Navy knew it had a readiness problem and that the crews were not adequately prepared for basic navigation and safe operations, then why were they allowed to go to sea?” he said. “If the Navy knew they weren’t ready, they should have never left port.”
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[*] posted on 5-9-2017 at 02:15 PM


SECNAV Announces Strategic Readiness Review

(Source: US Navy; issued Sept 01, 2017)

WASHINGTON --- Today, Secretary of the Navy Richard V. Spencer announced the formation of an independent subject matter expert team to conduct a Strategic Readiness Review in response to the recent increase in surface fleet incidents.

"The Navy has had a tragic increase in the number of surface fleet incidents resulting in significant loss of life and injury," said Spencer. "These incidents are unacceptable and demand a thorough and comprehensive review, which is why I have formed an independent subject matter expert team to conduct a Strategic Readiness Review and I look forward to receiving the proposed corrective actions. As we mourn the loss of our Sailors, we must improve upon the way we operate."

The Strategic Readiness Review will run concurrent with and complement the U.S. Fleet Forces-led Comprehensive Review. Results are expected 30 days after the Comprehensive Review.

The findings of both reviews will result in policy recommendations built upon validated analytics and a full review of existing policies to determine what is being measured, what is being rewarded, and the intended and unintended consequences of those policies.

For more information on the Strategic Readiness Review, click here.

http://www.navy.mil/navydata/people/secnav/Spencer/Message/S...

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[*] posted on 7-9-2017 at 04:12 PM


A Dozen Reasons Small Aircraft Carriers Don't Make Much Sense

(Source: Forbes; issued Sept 05, 2017)

The U.S. Navy is building a new class of large-deck, nuclear-powered aircraft carriers that eventually will replace all ten of the Nimitz-class carriers in the current fleet. Called the Ford class -- the lead ship is named after President Gerald R. Ford -- the new carriers will host more aircraft and generate a third more sorties per day while requiring less manpower and greatly boosting on-board generation of electricity. Virtually every feature of the new carriers from their flight decks to their nuclear reactors has been redesigned.

This transformation is overdue. Development of the existing carrier fleet began during the 1960s, when manpower was cheap and the information revolution still lay decades in the future. Each successive ship in the Nimitz class was upgraded as new technology became available, but if you want a truly modern ship then you need to start over, and that's what the Navy has done. Construction of the USS Gerald R. Ford began in 2008 and the ship has now been commissioned. Construction of a second Ford-class carrier commenced in 2013.

The Navy estimates that second carrier will cost $11.4 billion to build, which as chance would have it is almost exactly the amount of money the federal government spends each day. With only one carrier scheduled to be built every five years, the cost of modernizing the carrier fleet is little more than a rounding error in federal budget deliberations. Nonetheless, a handful of critics (mostly outside the Navy) is trying to rekindle an old debate about whether it would make more sense to buy smaller carriers that cost less money to build and operate.

There are several ideas floating around about what a small carrier might look like. For example, Captain Pete Pagano (USN-Retired) proposed in an August 29 essay published by the Center for International Maritime Security that the Navy build a new class of "sea control ships" based on amphibious assault vessels used to lift Marine expeditionary units. These would in effect be small aircraft carriers hosting vertical-takeoff jumpjets and various rotorcraft that could take over some of the missions currently assigned to Nimitz and Ford carriers.

Carriers displacing 45,000 tons of water such as Pagano proposes would be similar in size to France's Charles de Gaulle or the legacy USS Midway. They would host far fewer aircraft than the large-deck carriers, which have over four acres of deck space and displace 100,000 tons. Pagano says his sea control ship would "complement" the large-deck carriers, but in a fiscally-constrained world where federal deficits are headed back to a trillion dollars annually, they would probably end up being substituted instead.

The Navy has been having big-versus-small debates about the composition of the carrier fleet since World War II, and if we go through another such round the large-decks will prevail once again on the merits. So before Congress spends a lot of time and money relearning what most naval experts already know, let's briefly list the most obvious reasons why buying smaller carriers simply doesn't make much sense.

…/…

When the various disabilities of the small carrier concept are scrutinized in light of operational and fiscal realities, it becomes clear there is no analytic foundation for such an initiative. Large-deck, nuclear-powered aircraft carriers are a signature feature of U.S. military power delivering unique warfighting advantages to the joint force.

Rather than diverting money to less capable carriers, it would make more sense to accelerate the construction of the Ford class with an aim of operating more large-deck carriers and reducing stress on the fleet. (end of excerpt)

Click here for the full story, on the Forbes website.

(EDITOR’S NOTE: The author of the above Op-Ed is the CEO of the Lexington Institute which, he notes, “receives funding from many of the nation’s leading defense contractors, including Boeing, Lockheed Martin, Raytheon and United Technologies.”

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[*] posted on 8-9-2017 at 09:14 AM


US Navy worked around its own standards to keep ships underway: sources

By: David B. Larter   10 hours ago

WASHINGTON — The U.S. Navy’s top officer in the Pacific is reviewing a program that allowed ships from the Japan-based U.S. 7th Fleet to operate with expired certifications amid a wide-ranging probe into two deadly collisions that killed 17 sailors and caused untold hundreds of millions of dollars in damage to two destroyers, three sources with knowledge of the decision told Defense News.

Adm. Scott Swift has taken on direct supervision of the “risk assessment management plan” program, a system otherwise known as RAMP that allowed the local destroyer squadron, fleet trainers and stateside commanders to keep their ships on patrol even if their qualifications in critical areas such as damage control, navigation and flight deck operations had lapsed.

The U.S. Government Accountability Office is set to testify Thursday that nearly 40 percent of the Japan-based cruisers and destroyers were operating without valid warfare certifications.

The widespread use of the RAMP system alarmed Navy officials when they began examining readiness issues inside the fleet, raising questions why fleet leaders tolerated the degraded readiness that had taken root in 7th Fleet, even as the demand for its strained ships is at historic highs. And while it’s impossible to draw a straight line between degraded readiness and a series of damaging accidents in the Pacific, experts said the issues are a symptom of an overstressed fleet taking too many risks to meet its demands.

It’s unclear when the RAMP system was put in place, but several retired senior Navy officials were unaware of the program when asked about it. What has become clear, however, is that the system was used routinely and with increasing frequency in 7th Fleet over the past two years.

Now that system is under direct scrutiny by Swift and is part of the inquiry led by fleet boss Adm. Phil Davidson into how 7th Fleet operates.

U.S. Navy Secretary Richard Spencer addresses two recent collisions between Navy destroyers and merchant ships in the Pacific region, and lays out his reasoning for holding two separate safety reviews.

The GAO will testify before members of the House Armed Services Committee that the system appears to have taken firm root since its 2015 report that showed that the Navy was shorting its readiness and training in 7th Fleet in exchange for increased presence in the region.

“This represents more than a fivefold increase in the percentage of expired warfare certifications for these ships since our May 2015 report,” GAO Defense Capabilities and Management Director John H. Pendleton’s testimony read, according to a copy obtained by Defense News sister publication Military Times.

CNN first reported the GAO’s testimony concerning the rate of lapsed certifications in 7th Fleet.

Ships in 7th Fleet are considered deployed at all times and achieve their certifications in a different manner than ships stateside. A destroyer in San Diego, for example, returns from an overseas deployment and begins a 36-month cycle where the ship is maintained and the crew is trained in increasingly intense operations until the ship is fully qualified and sent back overseas.

But in Japan, qualifications happen on a 24-month revolving basis, according to Navy officials. If the ship is unable to maintain its qualifications — engineering operation, anti-surface warfare, anti-submarine warfare, etc. — the squadron commander and/or task force commander then works with the ship’s commanding officer and fleet trainers to get the ship back on track. That system is overseen by the 7th Fleet commander and the top surface warfare officer, Naval Surface Force Pacific, in this case Vice Adm. Thomas Rowden.

But those kinds of fixes are intended to be temporary and not a standard operating procedure as it appears to have become, said Bryan Clark, a retired submariner and analyst with the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments.

“It’s the kind of thing you’d want to put in for a temporary period for an uptick in demand, then return to the standards of training,” he said. “So it seems like the Navy went into this as a kind of mitigation strategy and it seems like it‘s sort of became the operational model they’ve been working off of for some time now — at least the last two years.”

The issue of strained readiness among Japan’s high-operational tempo ships is not new and comes in ebbs and flows, according to several sources familiar with 7th Fleet operations who spoke on background. The issues, however, have become even more pronounced as the threat of a nuclear exchange with North Korea has spiked. Most of the surface ships in Japan are equipped to try and shoot down missiles fired at allies or even U.S. territories such as Guam.

There is a standing requirement that the Navy has a set number of ballistic missile defense shooters underway at any given time as a check on North Korea. Both the destroyers Fitzgerald and McCain are ballistic missile defense-enabled ships.

The workarounds in 7th Fleet are yet another sign of an alarming decline in readiness triggered by a Navy too small for what it’s being asked to do, said Jerry Hendrix, a retired Navy captain and analyst at the Center for a New American Security.

“The news reports about the waivers being used to keep ships underway are deeply troubling, and it highlights the real challenge of maintaining readiness in 7th Fleet and in the Pacific,” Hendrix said. “It also highlights that the fleet is not large enough to do every step of the process in getting ships qualified while maintaining its operational commitments.”
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[*] posted on 8-9-2017 at 09:23 AM


Navy says tight budget, stress on fleet don't excuse crashes

By: Richard Lardner, The Associated Press   1 hour ago

WASHINGTON — A senior U.S. Navy officer told a congressional oversight panel Thursday that the hectic pace of military operations and a constrained military budget don’t excuse two warship accidents in the Pacific region that killed 17 American sailors and led the sea-going service to order a broad investigation into its performance and readiness.

“No matter how tough our operating environment, or how strained our budget, we shouldn’t be and cannot be colliding with other ships and running aground,” Adm. William Moran, the vice chief of naval operations, told members of the House Armed Services Committee. “That is not about resourcing; it is about safety and it is about leadership at sea.”

Moran said the Navy is “shocked” by the collisions involving the USS John S. McCain in August the USS Fitzgerald in June.

Ten sailors aboard the destroyer USS John S. McCain were declared missing after their ship crashed into a Liberian-flagged oil tanker in coastal waters off Singapore. Seven sailors died when another destroyer, the USS Fitzgerald, hit a container ship off Japan.

John Pendleton of the Government Accountability Office said the Navy is “treading water” in a push to keep up with operational demands that have put a heavy strain on the force. Pendleton said GAO found that more than a third of the warfare certifications for cruiser and destroyer crews based in Japan, including certifications for seamanship, had expired as of June.

That represents “a more than a fivefold increase in the percentage of expired warfare certifications for these ships” over the last two years, according to Pendleton.
Overall, four Navy vessels have been involved in accidents this year in the Pacific.

The Navy relieved the commander of the U.S. Navy’s 7th Fleet of duty shortly after the McCain crash. Adm. Scott Swift, commander of the U.S. Pacific Fleet, said he’d relieved Vice Adm. Joseph Aucoin, a three-star officer, “due to a loss of confidence in his ability to command.”

A month before the Fitzgerald’s accident, a South Korean fishing boat collided with the USS Lake Champlain guided-missile cruiser off the Korean Peninsula while it was operating in the western Pacific as part of the 3rd Fleet’s USS Carl Vinson aircraft carrier strike group. No one was injured in the May 9 mishap.

On Jan. 31, the USS Antietam guided-missile cruiser ran aground near the Yokosuka base that is the home port for the 7th Fleet, damaging its propellers and leaking about 1,100 gallons of hydraulic fuel into Tokyo Bay. The ship’s commander was relieved from duty.

Although the Defense Department has a budget of just over $600 billion for the 2017 budget year, senior military officials have repeatedly argued that more money is needed to halt an erosion in the military’s readiness for combat. They want Congress to repeal a 2011 law that set strict limits on military spending and forced a reduction in the number of ready-to-fight combat units.

Moran said the Navy’s operational demands continue to grow even though its fleet has shrunk dramatically.

“The Navy has deployed, on average, about 100 ships around the world each day, collectively steaming thousands of under way days each year, despite having the smallest battle fleet since before World War I, and significantly smaller than the Navy we had immediately after 9/11 over a decade ago,” he said.
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