Tuesday, November 26, 2019

"To Be Determined"

To be determined.  I suppose that's a fitting title for this post, and it has a few different possibilities for what that means.  How this post will actually work out is somewhat TBD.  It'll probably be another stream of consciousness post, with my points being all over the map.  It worked for me last time though so why not?  TBD also works for how a Navy mission, one that's near and dear to my bank account, will turn out.

Sarge's post on Thursday showed a picture of the USS Independence.  I have fond memories of the Indy back when I flew off of her in Japan.  But that was when she was the venerable Aircraft Carrier CV-62.  The one he displayed was the much maligned Littoral Combat Ship Independence.

USS Freedom (top) and USS Independence (LCS 1 and 2 respectively)                                            USNI

"These two ships will be the cornerstone of our future Mine Countermeasures capability."* I could have written that same sentence back when I began a career as a Mine Warfare (MIW) Requirements Officer back in 2010, but we're still waiting.  I just finished up a conference at work where we discussed the status of the current systems and the transition to the future.  But because we've been talking about that transition for so long, the systems we're supposed to get have been made nearly obsolete by more modern sensors on improved unmanned vehicles. 

MK-18 MOD 2 UUV                                                               US Navy

Those old ships and aircraft are very long in the tooth.  However, they're actually doing really well for us considering how they're wooden vessels and high-time (flight hour) helicopters that we've had since the late 80's.  These '74 Buicks as we affectionately call them, are maintenance intensive, but we've got some outstanding mechanics that have kept them running for us. Unfortunately, the bean-counting sharks in DC want to get rid of them before the future systems are ready.  It would be one thing if the money saved would go right back into the MCM budget, to help upgrade the systems in the MCM Mission Package, but there's an Ohio Class replacement sub to develop, Joint Strike Fighters to build, and nuke carriers to refuel.  MIW is waaaaay down at the bottom of the list, just above the Sea Bees, and just below the commissary.

The problem with this plan is a little section that Senator John McCain inserted into the 2017 National Defense Authorization Act:

Sec 1045:  PROHIBITION ON USE OF FUNDS FOR RETIREMENT OF LEGACY MARITIME MINE COUNTERMEASURES PLATFORMS.   WAIVER.—The Secretary of the Navy may waive the limitations if the Secretary certifies to the congressional defense committees that the Secretary has— (1) identified a replacement capability and the necessary quantity of such systems to meet all combatant commander mine countermeasures operational requirements that are currently being met by the AVENGER-class ships and SEA DRAGON helicopters...

MH-53E towing a MK-105 Electromagnetic Minesweeping Sled.

That means the Navy has to keep the old stuff until the new stuff can take over.  Except, they're doing it anyway, claiming to Congressional staffers that by decom'ing a few of them next year, they'll have lots of money and parts to keep the rest of them running.  The parts is a given, but the money?  We'll have to see (TBD).  This ain't my first rodeo so I think it'll evaporate into the Navy ether.  

When the Mission Package does finally limp across the finish line, it will be underwhelming.  The entire system was only supposed to provide the Carrier Strike Group with an organic MCM punch-through capability, not the full capability of the ships and aircraft.  But then the CNO decided it will be the sole replacement for the legacy systems.  It may replace them, but it can't fill their shoes. How it will do for us is also TBD.   

As much as I join in the maligning of LCS, it's the future of MCM, warts and all, so I'm reluctantly on board.  Once we get the systems, I'm confident the sailors will figure out the best way use them- how to deal with the warts.  And I'll continue to work on the needed improvements and what comes after.  After what you might ask?  After we decide they aren't good enough, after we can't afford to upgrade them, and after we FINALLY decide to put the EOD community's vasty superior unmanned underwater vehicles (UUVs) on the ship.  In OPNAV's defense, they are outfitting us with additional UUV systems in units known as Expeditionary MCM Companies, but that's barely a stop-gap.

I read a great article this week about fake, fabricated and/or slanted news.  Here's a few lines from it:

"The story made Obama look bad. Hence the story was removed. Not updated or corrected, removed."

"Try to remember this one, because it’s instructive. People think news organizations flat-out fabricate stories. That isn’t often the case. Fake news is a problem that pops up here and there, but the much more systematic and deeply entrenched attack on truth is the casual, everyday bias of reporters."

And finally:  "News outlets have six ways from Sunday of getting you to think what they want you to think, none of which involve making up stuff."

Something else I wanted to mention is a few shows I've been entranced with recently.  Amazon Prime has a new season of Jack Ryan out now.  It's very good.  Jack Ryan could almost be considered the American version of James Bond, but Jack is a more reluctant hero.  Almost an antihero.  The opening sequence is really well done.

The only issue I have with that clip is the dog tags.  In the Tom Clancy books, Jack was a graduate of Boston College and he was from an Irish-Catholic family.  Hollywood, continuing in its Godless ways, replaced that denomination with "No Preference."  I just bite my tongue and let it go.  

Sarge and I both enjoy the character Mitch Rapp in Vince Flynn's novels.  He's more the James Bond type than Ryan, but while the books sold well, the lone movie adaptation  American Assassin didn't break any records at the box office.  So Bond's place in movie history is secure.  I think the fact that Vince Flynn, another Irish-Catholic, passed away at the peak of his career didn't help Mitch's future.  Interestingly enough, Tom Clancy died the same year.  I don't think he'd be enamored by what Hollywood changed.  The character's religion wasn't an integral part of the books, but it wouldn't hurt the TV show either.  

Another show I'm watching is Treadstone on USA network.  It's a spin-off of the Jason Bourne movies.  Slick production, lots of action, worth a look.  The Man in the High Castle is out with its final season as well.  One movie I plan to view over the Thanksgiving break that might interest Sarge and Beans is The King (Henry V) on Netflix.  Speaking of royalty, my wife and I enjoy The Crown which just had its latest season released.  Episode three had some hilarious limericks.  Listen to them below if you dare.

Here's mine:  
There was an old Prince from Great Britain,
who illegally became totally smitten.
He thought nothing was finer
than sex with a minor.
So in the royal family he's no longer fittin'.  

By the way, it's Thanksgiving week.  I hope you remembered last Sunday to set your scales back 15lbs.

Anyway, enjoy your pie.  Yeah, the turkey too I suppose.

*I discovered that I actually wrote about MIW in my very first post here at The Chant.  My first foray into pithy part-time political posting. 


  1. Why do we need minesweepers? I mean, every ship can be a minesweeper.

    1. (Though I imagine that joke gets... tiresome if you’re in the business.)

    2. Yes but as we say in the business every ship can be a minesweeper... Once!

    3. When you think about it, sailing a flotilla of LCS (both variants) in front of a CVBG to detonate sea mines might be the perfect mission for the LCS. And it creates artificial reefs (the fish win too).

  2. Ahhmmm.....a bear.... guessing there are a few CVN skippers with clenched jaws after reading you......(heh heh). That Prince limerick, BADDA BOOM! As a landlubber my two cents isn't worth even that but I have doubts about the LCS class being able to perform MCM. It seems that the MCM measures in the US Navy have been the red-headed step-child and now that the Navy has a few LCSs hanging about....."let's have the LCS do MCM". But as I already said......two cents. Good post Tuna, that earlier link was informative.

  3. I fully understand that mine warfare is not as important as other mission areas, until it is! They are using hope as a strategy.

  4. I had a feeling that LCS was doomed when it came time to pick one hull. The Navy chose two.

    Mine warfare is damned important and without dedicated mine warfare assets we can kiss the littorals goodbye.

    A timely post Tuna, well done!

    1. The concept of a modular, shallow draft, high-speed vessel capable of doing just about anything is... beguiling. But like a SUT (sport utility truck,) the actuality is they suck at everything. The whole LCS program should be a warning for future procurement managers to never repeat and never forget. But, of course, the procurement system still goes on and on and on...

      The Army is pushing a new caliber, preferably in a caseless form, because some old fart general from Vietnam hates the 5.56mm caliber and is also a lobbyist for a company pushing a new caliber, preferably in a caseless form.

      The Navy is still pie-in-the-sky planning on FFX, wanting to waterjet wonder their way into a fighting frigate, while anything they do will be outclassed, outfought, out-multimissioned and outshined by the Coast Guard's National Security Cutter.

      And the Navy should have gone with the widebody version of the S-3 War Hoover for COD, but instead went with the stupid Osprey which can't carry a full engine. Like who needs to transport a jet engine for a 1,000 miles or more to a carrier...

      The Army (again) is still futzing with the M113 APC replacement program, as both Bradley and Stryker were supposed to be interim replacements for the whole fleet of M113s and M113 variants. The Ground Combat Vehicle was a 10 year program that went... nowhere. The Armored Multi-Purpose Vehicle is the next gen GCV pie-in-the-sky program and it looks to be going... nowhere. So we keep extending the interim programs while planning the next next gen armored carrier base system to add infantry, ambulance, mortars, gun systems, command capability, transport, cargo, repair, recovery, drone support, helo, space defense systems, antigrav, nbc systems, fusion technology, phase plasma rifles, gauss (railgun) rifles, etc. to...

      Air Force still trying to make the F-35 the A-10 replacement while still futzing around with an A-10 Light program (when they should have gone with the OV-10X for half the price and twice the engines of the Tucano) and also not knowing what part of them will be yanked away for the Space Forces.

      Space Forces doesn't even have a uniform, though something classy in a black or midnight blue... Maybe the Space Forces can finally get around to making the next-gen Space Suit that NASA forgot to design or specify for when the current suits were supposed to be replaced, in the 2000s...

      Marines? Well, the Marines have always taken everyone's cast off, clapped out, knackered garbage and made do. And nothing looks to be changing, as their AAV(used to be LTVP, the tracked thingy) replacement program is on it's 3rd try and they've been about as successful as the Army has been in fully replacing the M113...

      Coast Guard? They're the only ones who seem to be able to field next-gen equipment without it going overbudget and underperforming. Witness the National Security Cutter (which should be the next gen FFX for the Navy, but that's my opinion...) Though the Congress has forced some bad helo decisions on them.

    2. Umm... Beans, I think you keep misspelling "futzing" jus' sayin'. 😉

    3. My dad was an orficer. So he used high-fallutin' words like 'futz.' Futzing around, to futz with, to be futzed with.

      Fuc$ and all it's variants is an enlisted thing...

      To use Fuc$ and it's variants within reach of mom or dad would actually incur the wrath of the Celt... soap in the mouth. (Celts were supposedly the first to make soap, if you actually listen to one of them rave about the startling accomplishments of the Celtic world that doesn't include killing, death, or stuffing something into an animal's inside tubes and bladders...)

      Plus, OldAFSarge tries to run a high-class blog, not full of foul-mouthed vitriol, but alluding to foul-mouthed vitriol.

    4. Sarge, the two hulls was a strategic move to keep more shipyards open. We only have 4 (really 3.5) that can build .mil ships, down from 50 or more after WWII. Yes, it's a political move too, but we need the building capacity in case of war. The original plan was to have the other yard build the chosen hull, but the designs and the manufacturing are so different that we couldn't ensure a stable build.

  5. When I glanced at that dogtag the NO PREF fairly leaped off the screen at me and I started a mad confirmation search before reading the following paragraph. They say great minds think alike, so I'm afraid it's bad news for you Tuna!

    You made a couple of great and complementary points. It seems to me that just as the media don't really invent fake news but only spin information, so the U.S. Military (or DOD if you prefer) didn't really intend to castrate itself, it just happened and they're telling themselves that the testosterone shots will make it all better.

    While I like to throw rocks at the present iteration of our military (in my day sonny!) I also understand completely that the fault of the present state of pre-Pearl Harbor disrepair is entirely down to myself and my fellow 300 million Americans. To bring this rather disjointed thought together, American grownups are either going to have to start acting like adults or the whole thing is going to run off the rails. For instance, Adults need to either stop watching and reading the propaganda and dig out their own news (there's an entire interwebs, fer cryin' out loud), or have the discipline to only ACTIVELY watch and read and immediately compare/contrast the propaganda to the decent gouge they've discovered by expending a bit of time and brain sweat.

    The reality of the world is that there really are some near-peer(ish) forces out there who can hurt us very badly indeed with a bit of inspired leadership and planning. There are also forces presently considered joke forces who can also hurt us badly if they decide to do so and are clever about it.

    Finally, I talk with young people from time to time and observe what a lot of younger people actually do. I'm pretty impressed by a lot of what I see and hear. Most of them aren't fooled by the bs at all. They're going to savage my generation in the history books and rightly so. But I think they'll be able to unfiretruck the mess.

    And that's more than enough of that.

    1. Our nation definitely has ADD when it comes to our policies, our promises, and the big picture.

  6. MIW is at the bottom of the priority list, but nothing would be easier than for any country, or non-country actors dumping a few mines of any vintage, any national origin into the channels entering Chesapeake Bay or San Diego, or the approaches to sub bases Kings Bay or Keyport. Even dumping 55 gallon drums filled with sand would tie up the ports for weeks or longer.

    The "MCM modules" for LCS may show up eventually, maybe even before the hulls corrode away and are decommissioned. There may even be a few of the (way too many) LCS "seaframes" actually dedicated to hauling MCM modules instead of the other mythical warfighting modules. But, they will never be in sufficient numbers, or the needed locations to do much of value.

    A far better approach, which might be affordable and achievable before the end of this century, would be your EOD UUVs hauled about by commercial fishing boats taken up for naval service, possibly even a USNR mission. Certainly not ideal, certainly not a total replacement for the Avenger and Sea Dragon assets, but something we might be able to actually have to clear at least our own waters so we can get real warships to the war. We NEED minesweep capability, but LCS does not and will not provide it.
    John Blackshoe

    1. Big Navy is a heavy gambler, betting on LCS MCM, and for no 50 gallon drums.

  7. Jack Ryan is supposed to be a reluctant action hero, more of the spy-master than the spy. Let's see... In one book he gets fruity with the IRA. In another he... no, that's Clarke. In another he... no, that's Clarke and Ding. And Clarke and Ding, and Clarke and Ding, and Clarke and Ding...

    Ryan is the reluctant political warrior and analyst supreme. He's the guy who figures out what's going on and takes action by sending other people to do the work, while taking the much dirtier work of Washington politics.

    And all throughout, his Catholic upbringing forms a strong part of what he is and how he reacts. His strong conservative (not Republican) political morals get him in trouble with superiors and other Washington Critters (Liz from the Cutter administration being one of them.)

    Turning him into America's James Bond is a travesty. Clarke (and then Ding) was and is the Tom Clancy counterpart to Bond. And very American, very very American in his (then their) values and mores.

    Grrrr. I hate when someone buys an intellectual property and then FUBARS it up. It's like Disney taking a fairy tale, keeping the names but changing the plot to protect the innocent (the fish dies in L'il Mermaid, she DIES!!!!!!)

    As to the British Royal Family, they have some issues fer shure, dude. First, the Vanishing Prince Andrew, and then that American girl pulling Prince Harry farther and farther down the merry path of fruitcakeville. And all the while, the Queen seeths...

    1. I had forgotten about Clark. You're right, it wasn't Ryan who was the action star. It's been a while since I read his books!

    2. Clark's origin story, "Without Remorse," is a pretty brutal book, dealing with death, doom, destruction and evil, all in the United States, and then Clark goes back to the Southeast Asia area...

      Then there's the Ding meets Clark episode, then Clark trains Ding, Ding marries Clark's daughter... Clark and Ding train John's son...

      All good stories. Series goes off the rail a tad during the post-John Ryan's presidency... But still good books.

    3. I remember it all well now, but the Jack Ryan Jr. books (post Clancy) and the TV show had clouded my memories.

  8. As to general stupidity in Government, McCain's name keeps coming up. Friggin RINO. How much better the world would have been if he had not ever ever ever got near politics? Probably a small but significantly measurable amount.

  9. Gotta enter my two cents.
    So the local fish wrap in Sac reported that the county was dropping their support and dropping the Winter Sanctuary program and shifting to other homeless shelters.
    The story is true, as far as it goes.
    What they failed to mention is that it only affected the program within the city of Sacramento.
    The sheltering in the outlying communities will continue as before.
    The fallout from the announcement is that several of the facilities that provided overnights for the guests have dropped out and now there is a scramble to find new locations with volunteers to assist.

    I wonder how much ink and newsprint was saved by not telling the entire story?

    1. My city actually spends money to house homeless in hotels during really cold days. Nothing like encouraging the bums to hang around...

    2. They don't want the shelters within the Sac City limits? That's just going to put homeless on the streets. Better than what NYC does- a one way bus ticket or flight to Cali cities.


Just be polite... that's all I ask. (For Buck)
Can't be nice, go somewhere else...

NOTE: Comments on posts over 5 days old go into moderation, automatically.