Category Archive 'US Navy'
28 Apr 2012

Forgetting Mahan

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Alfred Thayer Mahan

The Obama Administration is pursuing the characteristic democrat preference for dramatic reductions in defense expenditures which would seriously impact US Naval strength. Seth Cropsey and Arthur Milikh remind us of the intimate connection between American prosperity, commercial success, and world leadership and the philosophy of naval preeminence advocated in Alfred Thayer Mahan’s 1890 strategic study “The Influence of Sea Power Upon History: 1660-1783.”

The world’s waterways are of themselves neutral and without a preference for the state that governs them. Different states bring their own order of governing the seas, and the US brings with it liberal economics. It is difficult to imagine serious discussions of international maritime law, or treaties that establish a law of the seas, had the Soviet Union emerged victorious in the Cold War.

America’s allies in the Pacific are currently being pressed more immediately by the Chinese than we are. They see, as Americans tend not to, that the US is in a long-term competition with China, and recognize, as we don’t, that the Chinese desire slowly to push US sea power out of the international waters close to them. The only force standing in the way of such a transition, which would destroy a complex web of alliances for the US in the Pacific, is our current sea power.

Alfred Thayer Mahan offers the intellectual arguments that address what the US stands to lose economically and militarily—and all that China will gain—if there is a profound shift of power in the Western Pacific. Commerce, he believes, plays to the natural advantage of an enterprising people who are largely free to act upon their judgment and enterprising spirit. But commercial advantage and our enterprising spirit relies equally on the ability to keep open the oceanic arteries through which commerce must be able to flow. This equation is set on its head when prosperity becomes an important instrument to justify single-party rule—as in China, where freedoms of commerce are restricted by the state’s pressing requirement, for example, to employ millions; by an understanding of commercial freedom that is wholly separate from political freedom; and by a parallel view of sea power that sees the interruption of commerce as a personal threat to those who rule the state.

Mahan saw correctly that American greatness depends on dominant sea power. He understood the close connection between domestic prosperity and maritime preeminence. The acceptance of his ideas at the beginning of the twentieth century helped immeasurably in encouraging both, the condition of which is the only one in the memory of Americans alive today.

14 Jun 2011

Alaska Sign

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02 May 2011

Better Late Than Never

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Osama bin Laden was residing in a mansion in Abbottabad, Pakistan, about 80 miles north of Islamabad. The compound was located just north of a hospital for women and children and a movie theater and roughly 800 feet to the east of the Cantt Police Station.

Just short of a decade after the 9/11 attacks, the United States has brought Osama bin Laden to justice.

Bin Laden was found by tracking a courier identified by Guantanamo detainees, according to “a senior White House official.”

MSNBC:

After the terror attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, “detainees gave us information on couriers. One courier in particular had our constant attention. Detainees gave us his nom de guerre, his pseudonym, and also identified this man as one of the few couriers trusted by bin Laden.”

In 2007, the U.S. learned the man’s name.

In 2009, “we identified areas in Pakistan where the courier and his brother operated. They were very careful, reinforcing belief we were on the right track.”

In August 2010, “we found their home in Abbottabad,” not in a cave, not right along the Afghanistan border, but in an affluent suburb less than 40 miles from the capital.

“When we saw the compound, we were shocked by what we saw: an extraordinarily unique compound.”

The plot of land was roughly eight times larger than the other homes in the area. It was built in 2005 on the outskirts of town, but now some other homes are nearby.

“Physical security is extraordinary: 12 to 18 foot walls, walled areas, restricted access by two security gates.” The residents burn their trash, unlike their neighbors. There are no windows facing the road. One part of the compound has its own seven-foot privacy wall.

And unusual for a multi-million-dollar home: It has no telephone or Internet service.

This home, U.S. intelligence analysts concluded, was “custom built to hide someone of significance.”

Abbottabad, Pakistan, named for the 19th century British officer General Sir James Abbott, who pacified and governed the district 1849-1853, is described in Wikipedia as “well-known throughout Pakistan for its pleasant weather, high standard educational institutions and military establishments.”

American justice (and military operations) proceed rather slowly. The courier was identified in 2007, his area of operation ws identified in 2009, Osama’s compound was identified last August, and they were planning the assault since February. The president and the National Security Council Five pondered what to do in the course of five meetings since Mid-March, and President Obama only finally gave the go-ahead order last Friday, April 29th.

The raid was executed by a U.S. Joint Special Operations Command Special Mission Unit (SMU) from the United States Naval Special Warfare Development Group (DEVGRU — formerly known as Seal Team Six). The seal team unit arrived via two helicopters, one of which had mechanical difficulties and has been reportedly destroyed by US forces. Other US personnel operated as spotters on the ground, and a drone was deployed overhead just in case.

A firefight (yet to be described in detail) occurred in which Osama bin Ladin, one of his sons, two couriers, and a woman whom the ever-chivalrous Muslims attempted to use as a human shield were killed.

Amusingly, Sohaib Athar, a Pakistani who tweets as Really Virtual, essentially live blogged the attack on Twitter.

22 Feb 2011

US Navy Sending a Message to Iran

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The USS Enterprise makes an imposing presence in the Suez Canal. (AFP photo)

DEBKAfile reports that Iran’s recent decision to send two warships through the Suez Canal for “exercises” with Syria provoked an overwhelming display of naval force by the United States.

Thursday night, Feb. 17, the aircraft carrier USS Enterprise, escorted by missile cruiser USS Leyte Gulf and the fast supply ship USNS Arctic, headed south through the canal. By Friday morning, they were through and taking up position opposite the Kharg cruiser and Alvand missile destroyer of the Iranian Navy’s 12th Flotilla, which were waiting to enter the Suez Canal at the southern Red Sea entrance.

Furthermore, since the first week of February, the USS Kearsarge, another aircraft carrier, was posted in the Great Bitter Lake opposite Ismailia and the canal’s main routes with a large contingent of marines aboard.

The USS George Washington carrier and the USS Carl Vinson were additionally deployed in the Gulf of Aden, the latter having been moved from the Pacific.

A battle of nerves is therefore underway.

The Iranian warships found themselves cheek to jowl with a major concentration of America naval might piling up in the Red Sea and Suez and were not sure what would happen if they went forward with their mission to transit the Suez Canal for the Mediterranean for the first time in 30 years on their way to Syria.
Sunday night, the Canal authorities announced another 48 hours delay shortly after Tehran state TV claimed the warships were already through to the Mediterranean.

And, finally, the USS Abraham Lincoln carrier was quietly transferred from Bahrain, headquarters of the US Fifth Fleet amid the anti-government uprising, to a point opposite the Iranian Gulf coast.

This pile-up of US naval, air and marine might at strategic points in the Middle East is a warning to meddlers to keep their hands off the revolutions, uprisings and protests sweeping Arab nations. It carries a special message for Tehran that the Obama administration will not permit the Islamic Republic’s rulers to make military and political hay from the unrest – in Bahrain or anywhere else.

By positioning the Enterprise opposite Iran’s 12th Flotilla at the Red Sea entrance to the Suez Canal on Feb. 17 Washington has confronted Tehran with a hard dilemma, which was practically spelled out by US State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley a day earlier: “If the ships move through the canal, we will evaluate what they actually do,” he said. “It’s not really about the ships. It’s about what the ships are carrying, what’s their destination, what’s the cargo on board, where’s it going, to whom and for what benefit.”

This was the US spokesman’s answer to the debkafile disclosure of Feb. 16 that the Kharg was carrying long-range surface missiles for Hizballah. It raised the possibility that the moment they venture to sail into the Suez Canal, the two Iranian warships will be boxed in between the Enterprise and the Kearsarge and called upon the allow their cargoes to be inspected as permitted by the last round of UN sanctions against Iran in the case of suspicious war freights.

07 Jan 2011

The Enterprise Video Affair

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Spook86 puts Captain Honors’ grabasstical videos in perspective, speculates on who leaked them to the Virginia Pilot and why, and points out that the lame-stream media generally failed to report a much more impressive scandal featuring an abusive female officer.

[W]hy didn’t anyone raise red flags three or four years ago when Captain Honors was producing those tasteless (but amusing) skits?

We’re guessing that the brass viewed Honors as an effective leader. Unit morale is one of the responsibilities of a ship XO (executive officer), and it looks like Captain Honors inherited a very unhappy crew on Enterprise. Apparently, most of the sailors appreciated his efforts and we’re guessing that the “Big E’s” efficiency improved under his watch. So, the brass was willing to look the other way.

Incidentally, we are not trying to condone Captain Honors morale efforts. While the videos that have found their way into the public realm, we’re also remind us that the Navy has its own, unique culture. Bawdy skits, offensive humor and other customs have long been used to relieve the monotony that sets in after months at sea. It was in this tradition that Honors produced his videos, and judging by the comments on various Facebook pages and other on-line forums, his efforts were appreciated.

But even if his motives were focused on crew morale and mission accomplishment, you still have to ask the essential question: what was Captain Honors thinking? We assume that the former carrier commander was aware that his videos were making their way around the fleet. And surely he knew it was just a matter of time before they showed up on YouTube. The fact they weren’t on-line (until the Virginian-Pilot got hold on them) is another testament to the popularity and respect that Honors earned from his sailors.

They understood that on-board “morale videos” were intended for the crew–and no one else. It was one more shared experience that bonded them together during months of training and long periods at sea. It’s a concept that is almost alien to anyone who hasn’t been a sailor, or part of the wider military community.

You see, there’s something about shared hardships and camaraderie that bring people together–or drive them apart. In that environment, you quickly discover which senior officers genuinely care about their troops, and the ones that are more interested in that next promotion. Captain Honors clearly fell in that latter category, even if his efforts at morale-boosting have been deemed inappropriate. …

As for the “source” of the tapes, it was clearly an inside job. We can’t point to a specific individual, but there are two prime categories of suspects. The first (and most obvious) are individuals who received a poor performance report from Captain Honors (former department heads on the Enterprise would be in that group, along with E-8s and E-9s who were evaluated by Honors since taking command, or during his previous tour as XO).

There’s also the possibility that Honors was torpedoed by one of his peers. As a Naval Academy grad, Top Gun graduate, decorated aviator and tours as a carrier XO and commander, Owen Honors was on track to become an admiral. Now, with his career in tatters, there is no chance he will ever reach flag rank. We’re guessing that Owens was up for his first star in the next year or so–and a presumptive choice for promotion, had the scandal not erupted. Instead, Owens is toast, and there will be one more opening when that board meets. It wouldn’t be the first time that a cut-throat Captain or Colonel has deliberately sabotaged a colleague, to enhance their own chances at promotion.

One final thought: if you’re so inclined, do a Google search for Captain Owens, then do the same thing for Captain Holly Graf. Readers will recall that Captain Graf was fired as skipper of the USS Cowpens last summer, for “cruelty and maltreatment of her crew.” That was the Navy’s description of her actions–not ours. Mark Thompson of Time correctly described her as a “female Captain Bligh” who verbally abused her crew and even throttled a Royal Navy exchange officer who served on her pr evious command, the USS Winston Churchill.

In case you’re wondering, that web search for Graf produces fewer results than a similar query for Captain Honors. But more importantly, much of the coverage of the Graf controversy was limited to Navy Times and military blogs (Time was a notable exception among the MSM). Outside of military circles, few have heard of “Horrible Holly” Graf. Meanwhile, the Honors scandal has been front-page news around the world. We’re not surprised.

26 Sep 2010

Helicopter Hotdogging Gets Pilots Grounded

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AOLNews reports that the Navy (which had to pay for some repairs) was less appreciative than millions of viewers on the Internet of those helicopter pilots’ daring and legerdemain. The helicopters were Sikorsky MH-60R Multi-Mission aka “Romeos.”

Two Navy pilots from San Diego have been grounded after their helicopters dipped into Lake Tahoe last week. The Sept. 13 incident was caught on a dramatic video, which shows the two choppers hovering just above the water. At one point, one of the $33 million aircraft seems to lose control and flip over into the lake, but the pilot manages to bring it back up out of the water.

Both helicopters droped into the lake because they did not have enough power to stay in their hovering positions. …

The helicopters were on their way back to the air station in San Diego after an air show in Sacramento. They were headed to Lemoore Naval Air Station south of Fresno for refueling when the incident occurred.

Afterward, the helicopters had to land at Lake Tahoe airport for repairs. The incident caused between $50,000 and $500,000 in damage to the choppers.


24 Oct 2009

34% Pregnant Sailors at Some Stations

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Spook86 discusses the impact of egalitarianism-at-all-costs on the Navy presently. Just wait until Obama makes his move and abolishes Don’t-Ask-Don’t-Tell for even more unintended consequences.

As the Navy brass prepares for a “co-ed” submarine force, they might consider the impact of human biology on other elements of the service.

Navy Times reports that some shore commands in Norfolk, Virginia are heavily staffed by pregnant sailors, and some commanders are complaining about the lack of proper manning to carry out their missions.

The problem–and leadership complaints–resulted in an investigation by the Navy IG. According to the IG report, some of shore-based organizations in the Norfolk area have pregnant sailors in up to 34% of their billets. And due to restrictions associated with their medical condition, the sailors (in many cases) cannot perform all of their assigned duties, placing an added strain on shore commands. …

Talk to Navy officers and senior NCOs and you’ll get a real earful on the effects of this problem. While acknowledging that many female sailors are simply trying to balance a naval career against their desire to start a family, others are gaming the system, they say. In some cases, they say female sailors become pregnant to avoid a projected deployment, or get out of an assignment they don’t like.

Years ago, sailors who became pregnant while on active duty were immediately dismissed from the service. By comparison, today’s family-friendly Navy goes to great lengths to accommodate pregnant sailors, and there’s not much a Captain or Master Chief can do except grit their teeth and suck it up.

You’d think the IG report would offer a cautionary tale for the submarine force and its plan for mixed-gender crews. Running an attack boat or a boomer takes an exceptionally well-trained, cohesive team of officers and enlisted members. Simply stated, the silent service can’t afford the kind of turnover caused by pregnancies in other Navy organizations.

But such concerns are being ignored in the rush to break down one last bastion of male service.

13 Apr 2009

Seal Snipers Pot Pirates at 30 Yards

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Washington Post:

The operation to rescue Capt. Richard Phillips involved dozens of Navy SEALs, who parachuted from an aircraft into the scene near dark Saturday, landing in the ocean. The SEALs were part of a group of Special Operations forces involved in the effort, according to military officials. …

At one point Saturday, the pirates opened fire on one of the smaller U.S. Navy craft that approached.

As the seas grew rougher, the Bainbridge offered to tow the lifeboat to calmer waters, and the pirates agreed, linking up the lifeboat to the destroyer with a towing cable that left 75 to 80 feet between the two vessels. Phillips at the time was tied up in the lifeboat, having been bound — and occasionally beaten — by the pirates ever since he had attempted to escape by jumping into the water on Friday, the officials said.

Meanwhile, one of the pirates, estimated to be between 16 and 20 years old, asked to come aboard the Bainbridge to make a phone call. He had been stabbed in the hand during an altercation with the crew of the Maersk Alabama and needed medical care. “He effectively gave himself up,” a senior military official said. …

Meanwhile, one of the pirates, estimated to be between 16 and 20 years old, asked to come aboard the Bainbridge to make a phone call. He had been stabbed in the hand during an altercation with the crew of the Maersk Alabama and needed medical care. “He effectively gave himself up,” a senior military official said. The Navy then allowed that pirate to speak with the others in hopes that he could persuade them to give up.

The three other pirates, however, showed signs of growing irritation, as the Bainbridge, 18 miles from shore, towed the lifeboat further out to sea. …

“In the last discussion, they said, ‘If we don’t get what we want, we will kill the captain,’ ” the official said.

Soon afterward, two pirates moved to one of the hatches of the lifeboat and stuck their heads out. The third pirate advanced toward the captain and pointed his AK-47 straight at Phillips’s back, the rifle touching it or inches away, the official said.

U.S. military observers thought that Phillips was about to be shot. SEAL snipers, who were positioned on a deck at the stern of the Bainbridge, an area known as the fantail, had the three pirates in their sights. The on-scene commander gave the snipers authority to fire.

“As soon as the snipers had a clear shot at the guy who had the rifle, they shot him and the other two in the hatches,” the senior military official said.

CNN 2:14 video

Even from the fantail of a destroyer rising and falling with the waves, 75-80′ (22.9-24.4 m.) shot with telescopic sight-equipped sniper rifles chambered in 7.62mm or .300 Winchester Magnum would be virtually unmissable. Those Navy snipers were shooting fish in a barrel.

It just doesn’t work to wave guns around, threatening a hostage, while trained marksmen have drawn a bead on your cranium.

All this shows that the pirates were more than a little naive, having evidently bought into an international image of a United States paralysed by moral inhibitions that proved to be exaggerated. The Obama administration does deserve credit for refraining from finding some advanced European interpretation of International Law declaring pirates to be a specially protected category of persons.

1:21 Seal sniper video

25 Jan 2009

More Catch and Release? US Navy Intercepts Iranian Rockets Meant For Gaza

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The Jerusalem Post story indicates that the Obama administration is, so far at least, willing to take limited action against Iranian surrogate operations aimed at Israel.

The interception of an Iranian arms ship by the US Navy in the Red Sea last week likely was conducted as a covert operation and is being played down by the US military due to the lack of a clear legal framework for such operations, an American expert on Iran told The Jerusalem Post on Saturday evening.

International media reported that an Iranian-owned merchant vessel flying a Cypriot flag was boarded early last week by US Navy personnel who discovered artillery shells on board.

The ship was initially suspected of being en route to delivering its cargo to smugglers in Sinai who would transfer the ammunition to Hamas in Gaza, but the US Navy became uncertain over the identity of the intended recipient since “Hamas is not known to use artillery,” The Associated Press cited a defense official as saying.

It was then allowed to sail toward the Suez Canal, where Egyptian authorities have been asked to conduct another search of the vessel, according to the report.

Debkafile (voice of Mossad) leaks:

The Iranian ship boarded by a US Navy Coast Guard team on the Red Sea last week before it could smuggle arms to Hamas is now disclosed by DEBKAfile’s military sources to have tried to trick the search team by enclosing its rocket cargo in secret compartments behind layers of steel. Furthermore, our sources reveal, the US has not yet found a harbor in the region for carrying out a thorough search. …

The Americans decided not to give the Israeli Navy a chance to seize the vessel and tow it to Eilat for fear of a Tehran ultimatum to Jerusalem, followed by Iranian attacks on Israeli naval craft patrolling the Gulf of Aden and Red Sea. …

But the US and Egyptian governments are in a fix. To break the Iranian ship’s holds open and expose the rockets destined for Hamas, the facilities of a sizeable port are needed. It would have to be Egyptian because the other coastal nations – Eritrea, Sudan and Somalia – are hostile or controlled by pirates. Both the US and Egypt are hesitant about precipitating a full-blown armed confrontation with Iran. The timing is wrong for the new Barack Obama administration, which is set on smoothing relations with Tehran through diplomatic engagement. Cairo has just launched a campaign to limit Tehran’s aggressive drive in the Middle East but does not want a premature clash.

DEBKAfile’s Iranian sources disclose that the ship’s captain had orders not to resist an American boarding team but impede a close look at its freight. The Navy Coast Guard searchers first found a large amount of ordnance and explosives in the ship’s hold, which the Iranian captain claimed were necessary for securing Iranian freighters heading from the Red Sea to the Suez Canal. But then, the US searchers using metal detectors perceived welded steel compartments packed with more hardware concealed at the bottom of the hull.

The option of towing it to a Persian Gulf port for an intensive search was rejected because the Gulf emirates hosting US bases were almost certain to shy away from involvement in the affair. Moreover, Tehran would be close enough to mount a naval commando operation to scuttle the ship before it was searched.

Our military sources estimate that eventually the US government may decide to let the Iranian arms ship sail through the Suez Canal out to the Mediterranean for lack of other options.

Naturally. Mustn’t provoke the mullahs by interfering with their shipments of rifles to the Indians. Who knows? They might become hostile and start supporting terrorism or building WMD.

07 Dec 2008

Army Lost the Last Seven Times to Navy

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But enterprising West Point cadets exact some revenge by a daring daylight helicopter strike on Annapolis.

3:22 video

04 Dec 2008

Overheard on VHF During Air Flight

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From Xavier:


This exchange was overheard on the VHF Guard (emergency) frequency 121.5 MHz while flying from Europe to Dubai.

Air Defense Radar: “Unknown aircraft at (location undisclosed), you are in Iranian airspace. Identify yourself.”

Aircraft: “This is a United States aircraft. I am in Iraqi airspace.”

Air Defense Radar: “You are in Iranian airspace. If you do not depart our airspace we will launch interceptor aircraft!”

Aircraft:; Roger that. This is a United States Navy F-18 fighter jet. Send ’em up!”

Air Defense Radar: …………… (no response … total silence)

29 Aug 2008

The Palin Strategy

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Noemie Emory, in the Weekly Standard, explains why the choice of Sarah Palin is a brilliant strategic move.

1. Steps on the story of Obama’s speech (and convention), and possibly the bounce coming from them, and wipes them off the news cycle. The Sunday news shows will be all-Palin, all of the time.

2. Sends Republicans into their convention on a huge head of steam.

3. Wipes out the image of McCain as the crotchety elder and brings back that of the fly-boy and gambler, which is much more appealing, and the genuine person.

4. Revs up the base AND excites independents, which no one else in the party, or perhaps in the world, could have accomplished.

5. Puts youth, change, and history on both of the tickets.

6. May detach some young people, especially women.

7. May attach some women pissed off about Hillary.

8. As a pro-life super-achiever, puts feminists in a tizzy.

9. Revives some of the double-edged nature of the Democratic primary, which featured a black vs. a female trail-blazer, and put both sides on notice on sensitivity issues. Democrats used to raising charges of racism against Obama’s critics may face charges of sexism and/or condescension if they try to diss her.

10. Steps on Obama’s claims to have been a reformer, as he reformed nothing (much less the corrupt mare’s nest of Chicago arrangements), while she was a dragon-slayer up in Alaska.

11. As a mother of five, one a Down Syndrome baby, helps her side take on the Democrats on abortion extremism and the Born Alive bill.

12. Reignites the deep and unhealed stresses inside the Democrats, some of whom will now wonder more loudly than ever why they didn’t pick Hillary.

13. Counters Michelle in a way Cindy couldn’t.

14. Counter-intuitively, makes the issue of Obama’s light resume more potent than ever. Her lack of experience is no more than his is. And he’s–to use a term from Alaska, and the Iditarod–their lead dog.

McCain displayed with this selection a boldness and willingness to gamble uncharacteristic of Washington politicians. It’s more in the spirit of the US Navy, going completely on the offensive and being willing to risk everything to deliver a decisive blow in a form the enemy could never have anticipated and prepared for.

I don’t think McCain came up with all of this himself, but he is clearly getting some very clever advice these days, to which he is paying attention. He may very well be president yet.

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H/t to Karen L. Myers.

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