October 13, 2023

Open Thread 141

It's time once again for our regular Open Thread. Talk about whatever you want, so long as it isn't Culture War.

First, I am in DC this weekend for a meetup, and readers in the area are invited. Come to Cassander's house (1002 N St NW) at 7 pm on Saturday. There will be interesting company and excellent food. Or if you're in the mood for it, I'm taking a group to Udvar Hazy earlier that afternoon, and will post details if anyone is interested. Feel free to come even if you aren't a typical member/don't comment/etc.

Second, USNI News recently published a long piece on a P-8 patrol over the South China Sea that is well worth reading.

Third, I will repeat my call for guest content and/or questions I can answer in a relatively short amount of time for the upcoming semi-hiatus.

Overhauls are Going back to Iowa, MSC Part 2, and for 2022, Marine Detachments and my review of the San Diego Maritime Museum.


  1. October 13, 2023redRover said...

    Third, I will repeat my call for guest content and/or questions I can answer in a relatively short amount of time for the upcoming semi-hiatus.

    I don't know how amenable this is to a short answer, but I think there are two intertwined areas that could be interesting, especially in light of the recent focus on ammunition needs for Ukraine, particularly for artillery shells (but also everything else). 1. An overview of the modern defense industrial base, both the capital side (ships, tanks, planes, etc.) and for consumables (shells, missiles, etc.), as well as the long tail of logistic needs like meals, spare parts, and so forth. 2. How that impacts future war planning, and how that planning flows back to the industrial base. In particular, I'm thinking about how NATO has consistently been forced to ask the US for stores after even relatively short conflicts (e.g., flying in missiles and bombs during the Libyan intervention), and how the ongoing operation in Ukraine is draining western artillery ammunition stores. It suggests a few possibilities, none of which seem ideal: - A focus on capital goods has depleted our consumables and stores production, and we in effect can't sustain even a Ukraine level conflict to say nothing of a near peer conflict - A near peer conflict would be shorter, higher intensity, and more focused on high value weapons that aren't as available to Ukraine (i.e., fighting China would be done with JDAMs and Tomahawks rather than M109s, so it doesn't make sense for the DoD to focus on low value stores - The DoD is betting that in a near peer conflict we could unlock production capacity significantly more rapidly than we're currently doing (which seems unproven) - Something else?

  2. October 13, 2023Anonymous said...

    The US isn't going all out to help Ukraine, at least in the way they would if the US itself were fighting an existential war.

  3. October 14, 2023John Schilling said...

    I think it's mostly that military forces in peacetime pretty much always massively underestimate the level of ammunition consumption in a major war. If you use target-range or training-exercise (or worse, theoretical) Pk values, and you assume your people are only going to be shooting at real and important targets, you get one number for the quantity of shells/missiles/etc you'll need to destroy all the important targets. Then you find out the hard way that real wars aren't fought on a target range, and the real number is much much larger. Yes, you included a fudge factor for real wars being messy, but real wars are messier than you ever imagined.

    I don't think anybody has a real plan for how they're going to deal with this, and I don't think emergency production increases are going to help much in a high-intensity conflict between peer competitors.

  4. October 14, 2023ryan8518 said...

    But at least on the plus side, you can kinda keep rough order of magnitude tabs on the stocks that other side is maintaining for consumables and plan on at least matching that - not a panacea because for example the US may choose to use China as the pacing threat, blow a disproportional portion of the arsenal in a conflict in the middle east, and then be left w/ a 10 year hole to try and make up - but such is the risks

  5. October 20, 2023redRover said...

    @John Schilling

    I don’t think emergency production increases are going to help much in a high-intensity conflict between peer competitors.

    I'm sure it will help on the margins, but especially given how specialized things are it seems like there is a large risk that you run out of stores in the warehouse before you can adequately ramp up production.

    Even in WWII, which had relatively simpler armaments and a more adaptable industrial base, it probably took two years to fully mobilize. A war in which you go all out for three months until the warehouse is empty, and then have to deal with supply shortages seems less than ideal.

  6. October 20, 2023Hugh Fisher said...

    Possibly short question: what are the longest lead items for a modern warship? Back in the days of battleships you had to order the main gun barrels, and the reduction gearing for the turbines, a few years in advance. Today is it gas turbines, VLS cells, phased array radars?

  7. October 20, 2023redRover said...

    @Hugh Fisher

    Strictly going by lead times today, probably still the reduction gears or armaments (or reactors for nukes).

    But I think if you were to really try to ramp production and go all out, it would show up in a lot of places, not least of which would be sufficient assembly space and personnel. US ship building is basically all defense related already, and the workforce and supply chain is all sized for the current state of peacetime operations.

  8. October 27, 2023muddywaters said...

    I have two vaguely-connected ideas I might write, but this is not a promise: - Gunlaying / Percy Scott's revolution - partly based on this. Imagine yourself shooting. - Gun accuracy over history, with numbers to the extent that they exist. (There definitely are some for all of the gun's intrinsic spread, target practice scores, and estimated hits in actual combat, but obviously all of these have their limitations.) Was the c.1905 fire control revolution really a revolution compared to the normal rate of progress?

  9. October 28, 2023Hugh Fisher said...

    Another possible short question: review of "Fleet Tactics" by Captain Wayne Hughes.

  10. October 28, 2023bean said...

    I actually have a copy, but reviewing it would require reading it, which I'm disinclined to do given how much damage Hughes has wrought with his ideas, most notably LCS.

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