April 17, 2020

Open Thread 50

It's time once again for our Open Thread. Talk about whatever you want, even if it's not military/naval related.

First, how is everybody doing during the quarantine? Personally, Lord Nelson and I are OK, although I'm looking forward to when this is over and I can get out of the house more.

Second, if you're looking for a way to pass the time, I'd suggest Aurora, a free space-based 4X game. The C# version has just been released, bringing with it vastly improved performance. The best way to describe Aurora is probably a three-way cross between RTW2, Civilization (or maybe Stellaris) and Microsoft Excel. Alternatively, Dwarf Fortress in Space, but without quite the same level of constant struggle to keep everything from falling apart. You're in charge of an empire, making decisions ranging from broad strategy to exactly how big the thermal sensors on your latest warship will be. You research technology, then build components, then design ships using them. For a certain kind of person (myself included), it's incredibly compelling, once you get past the very steep learning curve and lack of graphics.

Do note that the C# release was only on the 12th, so the game is still being updated rapidly, and a lot of updates require you to overwrite your save. This won't be a huge problem for new players, who can expect to throw away several games before they get the hang of it.

If Aurora doesn't appeal, there's also the USNI, who have opened their archives for free for the next few months, and who are offering member pricing and free shipping on all book orders. This isn't as good a deal as the Christmas sale, but it's still a good one if you want to build up your naval library.

2018 overhauls are Early Dreadnoughts, ASW in WWII Forces, Sensors and Weapons and my review of Iowa. 2019 overhauls are the Iowa class, the Tulsa Air and Space Museum, Shells parts one and two, Jim Pobog's story about Black Oil and Falklands Part 13.


  1. April 17, 2020Alexander said...

    So, the F4 Phantom is/was a pretty flexible aircraft. Did anyone ever propose a carrier that embarked mostly Phantoms, in a similar manner the way the F/A-18 now makes up most of a carrier's air wing? What factors changed between the 1960s and the 2010s that led to a much smaller range of aircraft flying from carriers?

  2. April 17, 2020Ian Argent said...

    Multi-role airframes. You don't need to maintain the logistical footprint required for a squadron of Phantoms and a squadron of Intruders, when the Super Hornet can haul as many bombs as the Intruder for an attack mission, or carry the air to air load of aPhantom when doing CAP. You just carry two squadrons of Super Hornets.

    (Gross oversimplification, but...)

  3. April 17, 2020cassander said...


    The reason that the F/A-18 has that terrible non-standard designation is because there were originally going to be two versions, an F-18 with the avionics for going after air targets and an A-18 with the avionics for bombing ground targets. Then they were able to make multi-function displays that could switch modes to do either and the two types became one.

    When the Phantom was in its heyday, multi-mode displays and avionics weren't an option, so you'd need differently configured aircraft anyway. I believe that the F-4 could carry a similar payload to the A-6 (not sure at what range), but it wouldn't have had the A-6's bombing computers, and would have been considerably less good at the A-6s role. True multi-role aircraft with multi-role avionics were one of the distinguishing features of Gen 4 fighters, along with turbofan engines and relaxed stability and digital flight controls.

  4. April 18, 2020Alexander said...

    Okay, so the F4 could carry bombs, but it didn't have the same ability to drop them accurately that the A3/A4/A6 etc had, because its avionics were intended for air to air combat. An attack version of the Phantom would have simplified logistics somewhat, but you wouldn't have got the same benefits that multirole aircraft bring. Have I got that right? This now makes me wonder, if the F/A-18 had required two versions, would Tomcats and Intruders have stuck around longer?

  5. April 18, 2020bean said...

    Pretty much, and probably not. The multirole nature of the Hornet was inevitable thanks to improvements in computers, and the Intruder was famously much longer-ranged than the legacy Hornet. It went away because they needed to cut costs at the end of the Cold War. Tomcat was retired for pretty much the same reason, but somewhat later.

    I am a little bit surprised that they didn't build a ground-attack Phantom, particularly as the Phantom actually started as a ground-attack plane that was repurposed. I'd guess that the USN Attack community didn't want that because they didn't trust the conversion job.

  6. April 18, 2020Ian Argent said...

    It's worth noting that the Super Hornet (the F/A-18) is almost, but not quite, an entirely new aircraft type from the original Hornet.

  7. April 18, 2020Alexander said...

    So the main changes are the availability of multirole aircraft, and the lack of a big cold war budget that would permit the operation of multiple specialist airframes. If they'd decided to develop an attack version of the Phantom instead of the Intruder, and later the Corsair, and phased out other aircraft where possible, what sort of capabilities would have been lost? Range/payload/loiter time for the Intruder, Skywarrior, close support efficiency and operating cost for the Skyraider and Skyhawk, and perhaps speed from the Vigilante? I'm assuming similar avionics to the Intruder, and developedment costs covered by the money that would otherwise have been spent on the Intruder

  8. April 18, 2020Ian Argent said...

    Once multi-role avionics are available, the single-role combat aircraft is on its way out. Reducing the number of airframe types on the carrier means your logistics footprint is significantly reduced.

  9. April 18, 2020Philistine said...

    The F-4Attack almost certainly would not have replaced the A-7 - the Corsair II was developed specifically to be a light attack aircraft replacing the A-4, and that would likely happen no matter what happened at the heavy end of the air group. I'm not considering the A-1, A-3, and A-4, which are the wrong generation and were expected to be phased out "soon" anyway, or the A-5, which simply didn't work (and couldn't be made to work).

    So at first blush you'd be trading the range/payload performance of the A-6 for the speed and relative maneuverability of the F-4. A fully attack-optimized F-4 might well have seen airframe and powerplant revisions to narrow that gap, but it's hard to speculate on the characteristics of an aircraft which AFAIK nobody never even seriously considered building. (And yes I know McDonnell originally pitched the Phantom to the Navy as the AH, but an attack-specific derivative of the F-4 would certainly differ substantially from that initial proposal.)

  10. April 19, 2020Alexander said...

    So realistically, you'd have only been replacing the A6 with the F4-Attack. If it had the same degree of commonality to the F4, as the Corsair did to the Crusader (i.e. not that much) then there might not even have been significant savings on maintenance. So that provides me with a satisfactory explanation for why that didn't happen.

    New question: Why doesn't the Navy have heavy and light carrier aircraft now? Would the advantages of two different types of multirole aircraft still be there? Is it just that it would cost too much to design, build and operate two different fleets, or has technology advanced to the point where one type can cover both roles (how?)? Looking at the Air Force, you can kind of see the Raptor and Raider as heavy, single role aircraft, compared to the Lightning as a lighter multirole fighter.

  11. April 19, 2020John Schilling said...

    I just rewatched the movie "Battleship", for the first time since it came out - what can I say, quarantine is changing my standards. And a thought occurs.

    In the final act, a scratch multinational crew acting on their own initiative takes over a vessel that is not a commissioned warship of any navy. The senior officer present is I believe Captain Yugi Nagata, JMSDF. I'm not entirely certain of the protocols here, but shouldn't the Missouri have sailed into her final battle under the command of a Japanese captain?

  12. April 19, 2020Ian Argent said...


    The USN has to fit their logistic footprint into a much smaller space than the USAF does, and has to worry about a much thinner and more fragile supply chain - compare a major airbase to a CVN. Just because the USAF can afford to operate x different types of airframes doesn't mean the USN can.

    Up until the late seventies/early eighties they had to make do because the avionics weren't up to multirole. Now we can build true multi-role all-weather aircraft, that can operate off a CATOBAR carrier and perform all the missions a carrier air wing is called upon to do, including go up against a peer ground-based air force. (Now, we still need support aircraft such as tankers and AWACS, but a single carrier can now put up its entire air wing armed for air superiority, clear out the enemy aircraft, recover them, and then rearm the same airframes for a mixed package of ground attack, SEAD, and air superiority.)

    The USN's requirements for aircraft are wildly different from the USAF's (and from every other combat aircraft operator, since the USN is the only serious operator of CATOBAR CVNs)

  13. April 19, 2020Neal said...

    In case anyone is interested in WW2 submarine books and has not read, Theodore Roscoe's 1949 (with printings through 1958) United States Submarine Operations in World War Two, it is a reference work worthy of adding to your library. It serves as an excellent adjunct to the narratives by Clay Blair and others in painting, what I am discovering to be, great descriptions of both the tactical and strategic levels of operations.

    It is a hefty volume to be sure--around 500 pages and what I guess to be a door-stop weight of well over five pounds.

    Granted Roscoe was at the time of writing not afforded insight into the span of code-breaking operations the U.S. Navy and others were employing, but that does not diminish its value.

    Interestingly, in the preface Roscoe makes no claim that he is writing an official history of the topic. Perhaps his claim was borne of modesty or that he felt that historians would tread this ground in subsequent years with more archival materials hand. Either way, it is hard not to consider this a significant contribution and perhaps the he standard by which all others are judged.

    As I mentioned regarding Blair's works, I am not sure if a deft and gifted historian will ever write as extensively on this period so this might be the permanent record...

    Three quick notes. It is always a pleasure to see how well edited many works were back in that day. Publishing houses had a corps of excellent editors and they ensured a high-quality product. Sadly, as we know, that is not always the case these days.

    Second, Roscoe includes some very cool charts that show sub and other attacking forces, year by year, in the destruction of the Japanese Merchant Marine. Excellent use of colored radii to show the range of action. One picture is worth a thousand words.

    Third, if we did not know better, one would be forgiven of suspecting some hijinks by a staff planner in playing with the consonance of the names of the boats that were chosen to sail at any given time. The Pollack, Pompano, and Plunger sent out from Mare Island. The Snapper, Sailfish, Stingray, and Seal reaching Tjilatjap within a week of each other. Porpoise and Pickeral on station. Brill and Bluegill going out around the same time. You get the idea.

    Good stuff if you want, no pun intended, to dive deep into the subject.

  14. April 20, 2020Philistine said...

    @Alexander - The question is founded on an incorrect assumption. The Legacy F/A-18s are, and have been since their conception, the "light" end of the Navy's fleet mix. They replaced the A-7 in service, and now they are in turn being replaced by the F-35C. The "heavy" end of the mix is currently represented by the Super Hornet, which has little in common with the earlier A-D models beyond the F/A-18 designation and a deceptively similar general shape. Super Hornets replaced both the A-6 and F-14 on carrier decks, and will (eventually, if things go according to plan) be replaced by the result of the F/A-XX program.

  15. April 20, 2020quanticle said...

    Gwern linked me this absolutely fascinating post on the process of cleaning up and salvaging equipment in the aftermath of World War 2.

    Of particular note is the discussion on efforts to clean up sea mines, the salvaging and burial of the hulk of the Admiral Scheer, the overall cleanup of German harbors, the scrapping of IJN submarines, the fates of Dunkerque and Strasbourg, and the overall sad state of Toulon Harbor, which wasn't fully cleared of wreckage until 1958, more than a full decade after the war had ended.

    The post then moves on to the scrapping of the IJN, focusing on the efforts to scrap Ise, Ibuki, Oyodo and various other miscellaneous ships, submarines and other naval paraphernalia.

    One thing that stands out is that, unlike US Navy surplus ships, which were usually turned into profitable steel scrap, the Japanese scrapping effort was often unprofitable by peacetime accounting standards. Acetyline and carbide had to be imported into Japan, and Japanese economy was such a shambles that there was not nearly the same demand for steel as there was in the United States after the war.

    It's an interesting piece overall, and presents a decent overview of how the various allied powers cleaned up the detritus of war after World War 2 had ended.

    PS: @Neal Show some courage! Intend your puns!

  16. April 20, 2020echo said...

    We've been talking about aircraft, but how does training affect multi-role aircraft? Are today's pilots as well trained for both air superiority and strike missions as as their single-role predecessors were?

    I can definitely imagine they are given how much time they spend flying over my house, but I know that armies have had trouble keeping multi-role ground forces in shape. Especially for complex missions little skill overlap, like Soviet "in/direct fire" artillery, or US "artillery but really you're convoy escorts" units.

  17. April 20, 2020bean said...


    The Hornet was definitely intended to be on the light end of the Navy's mix when it was introduced, but the Super Hornet replaced it, too. The last USN Legacy Hornet deployment was in 2018. These days, the Blue Angels are very possibly the only active-duty USN pilots flying the thing. Any that deploy are USMC planes. The light/heavy distinction basically went away at the end of the Cold War.


    WWII after WWII is great. I got a bunch of stuff on battleship/catapult aviation from there.


    Modern simulators are very good, and modern aircraft systems are a lot easier to use than the systems of 40 years ago or more. The first Paveways required the backseater of the designating aircraft to manually track the target through the scope of the designator. With JDAM, it's merely a matter of programming in where you want it to hit, flying to within the are the weapon tells you it can hit from, and pushing the release button. I've had a chance to get familiar with both a late-70s text-based system and its modern replacement, and the modern one is vastly easier to learn.

  18. April 20, 2020cassander said...


    In addition to what bean says, USAF fighter squadrons have specialties, or a “designed operational capabilities”. They get a broad range of training, but have designated primary and secondary missions that are their main focus. I don't have a list of the specialties or how many squadrons have each, but it's not a total free for all.

  19. April 20, 2020Alexander said...

    So why did the light/heavy distinction disappear? And is there any trace of it in the Air Force, with their greater variety of Aircraft?

  20. April 20, 2020Athenae Galea said...

    It took me a while to notice this, but what was going on with WW2 anti-aircraft weapons? Unless I'm misunderstanding something (entirely possible), the 20mm Oerlikon and 88mm FlaK were contemporaneous. That's an enormous difference in calibre! Were they performing vastly different tasks? Could someone explain what I'm missing, please?

  21. April 20, 2020bean said...


    Not sure. The carriers are pretty empty these days, so there wasn't a lot of point in keeping smaller/lighter planes around from that side. And I guess they just had the cash to buy all Super Bugs. The USAF does pretty much still have a distinction, which was F-15/F-16, and should have transitioned to F-22/F-35, but that ran into trouble with the F-22 buy.

    @Athenae Galea

    They were intended for different roles. Basically, if you're shooting at something down low, the best option is a big machine gun, because it can put lots of steel in the air and it's easy to aim. Hence the 20mm. At higher altitudes, you don't need to aim as fast and the 20mm shells can't actually get that high, so you use something like the 88 firing time-fuzed shells.

  22. April 20, 2020cassander said...


    I'd think that part of the reason the distinction fell off was the declining utility of light aircraft. If every aircraft is going to be a multi-role aircraft with sophisticated and expensive radars, computers, etc. the lighter aircraft are going to get relatively more expensive and thus less attractive.

  23. April 20, 2020John Schilling said...

    To elaborate on antiaircraft guns: You want the largest number of the smallest shells that can A: reach the target without too much curviness in the trajectory and either B1: carry a proximity fuze if you know how to build one or B2: destroy the target aircraft with a single hit. If the smallest shell that can reach the target aircraft is way bigger than you need to destroy it, but you don't know how to build proximity fuzes, you might as well put a time fuze on it and see if you can get lucky with a near miss.

    At the beginning of WWII, a 20mm shell could destroy the sort of tactical aircraft that would be attacking front-line troops or the like, and could reach on a reasonably flat trajectory a distance beyond the accurate bombing or strafing distance of such an aircraft. That's what the 20mm guns were for. By the end of WWII, airplanes were tougher and some of them had rockets for stand-off attacks on ground troops, so you really wanted something in 37-40mm even if it couldn't fire as many shells as quickly. But there were still a lot of not-completely-useless 20mm guns and factories tooled up to mass-produce more.

    But if the enemy doesn't insist on accurate bombing, he can drop bombs from high altitude. Much less effective, but if it means the enemy planes can keep coming back and you can't touch them, they'll eventually get the job done. So you need some guns that can reach as high as planes can fly, which at the start of WWII meant 88mm or so. Those are overkill on a direct hit, and the Germans didn't know how to build proximity fuzes, so they got time fuzes. And needed a great deal of luck even so, but at least they kept the bombardiers scared and that's better than nothing. Sometimes they got lucky and actually shot a plane down.

    It also helps that a 20mm automatic cannon firing small explosive shells is also a murderously effective way of dealing with enemy infantry at close to medium range, and an 88mm cannon firing armor-piercing shells was a first-rate antitank weapon and with explosive shells a decent field artillery piece.

  24. April 21, 2020Alexander said...

    Thanks to everyone who answered my questions about carrier aircraft. I feel like I have a better understanding of why the number of types aboard a carrier decreased over past half century.

  25. April 21, 2020echo said...

    But there were still a lot of not-completely-useless 20mm guns

    Plus at least one nation still flying delicate aircraft quite literally right into your guns. I'd have to recheck the AA posts, but weren't Kamikazes difficult to track effectively with 5" and even 40mm director systems if they were lucky enough to slip in close?

    Now I'm curious about radar direction for ground-based AA guns. The US and UK had radar vans with at least their heavy mobile AA, but the 88s on German flak towers still look manually trained!

    @bean & cassander
    That makes a lot of sense. Once your avionics can handle multiple roles, having the entire carrier wing flexibly available for CAP must outweigh any advantage a single squadron of Tomcats has.

  26. April 21, 2020bean said...

    In practical terms, kamikazes require more damage to put down than conventional aircraft of the same construction. Reports from the Pacific stated that the only real utility of the 20mm battery was to alert men belowdecks that a kamikaze was about to hit. 40mm was the smallest gun that worked effectively in the time available, and even it was marginal. Re directors, you're thinking of the Mk 37 5" directors. 40mm directors handled the threat just fine.

    I'm far from an expert on German land-based AA, but I'd guess they didn't have enough radars to give every gun or battery its own.

  27. April 21, 2020quanticle said...

    I’d think that part of the reason the distinction fell off was the declining utility of light aircraft.

    I think "light" aircraft still have utility. The US used the OV-10 Bronco quite extensively in Vietnam, where it had a pretty decent record conducting armed reconnaissance and close air support for infantry on the ground. More recently, the USAF has been conducting trials for the OA-X light attack aircraft program, with the recognition that using a B-1 or F-35 to blow up an Afghan drug lab or terrorist training camp may not be the most efficient use of resources.

    I'd argue, however, that the true successor to the "light" aircraft is the UAV. These days, a Reaper fulfills much of the same roles that manned light aircraft did in previous conflicts, with much less risk to pilots, greater endurance, and lower cost.

  28. April 21, 2020John Schilling said...

    "Plus at least one nation still flying delicate aircraft quite literally right into your guns"

    As bean says, the 20mm really wasn't enough for that. Certainly a Zero that's taken a couple of 20mm hits is no longer airworthy, but it can still crash perfectly well - and it can probably still control where it crashes, at least for a few more seconds. The 40mm can e.g. blow off a wing, and it can reach far enough that even lesser damage will leave the wobbly half-controlled kamikaze wobbling all the way out of the hit envelope.

  29. April 21, 2020cassander said...


    That makes a lot of sense. Once your avionics can handle multiple roles, having the entire carrier wing flexibly available for CAP must outweigh any advantage a single squadron of Tomcats has.

    I'd push back on this a bit and say that as aircraft got more expensive to develop and more capable of being multi-role, the advantages of having multiple types dropped and the benefits of a single type rose.


    I'm a big believer in light aircraft, but we're not really talking about that sort of light aircraft here. What we mean is something like a day fighter or light attack jet like an A-7, both considerably bigger and more expensive than an OV-10 or Super Tucano.

  30. April 21, 2020bean said...


    There are plenty of uses for light aircraft, and it's a good point that UAVs fill most of those roles today, but carrier real estate is extremely expensive, and it doesn't make sense to fill it with anything but high-end aircraft.

  31. April 23, 2020AlexT said...

    How would a carrier under emcon run a UAV fleet? Are they autonomous enough to be told "patrol this area, keep quiet, break silence if you see something unusual", or do they require constant shepherding?

    For that matter, what are the benefits of lighter aircraft? Is it still expected to dogfight and pull tight maneuvers, or have missiles fulfilled their promise from long ago and made air combat into 3d chess?

  32. April 23, 2020quanticle said...

    The benefit of lighter aircraft is that they're more fuel efficient, can operate from less sophisticated bases and smaller vessels (i.e. dirt fields and amphibious landing vessels) and, most importantly, have greater time-on-target, during which they can loiter and guide ground-based fires or other aircraft in addition to conducting attacks themselves. If we consider UAVs to be "light aircraft" (or at least fulfilling the same role as a light aircraft), we also get reduced risk to personnel, since the operator isn't physically inside the vehicle.

    Light aircraft aren't really supposed to be dogfighting or conducting air-to-air combat, and if they find themselves in that situation, it's a sign that something has gone seriously wrong. Light aircraft are supposed to be used in a permissive aerial environment, where the adversary's anti-air capabilities either never existed in the first place (e.g. insurgencies or brushfire wars) or were destroyed ahead of time by other aircraft or ground forces.

    A light aircraft is great if you want an eye in the sky who can come down and strafe, rocket, or maybe Hellfire some jeeps or pickup trucks as the need arises. But if you're in a situation where the enemy has any kind of half-decent AA (like even a SA-6) a light aircraft is going to be in serious trouble.

  33. April 23, 2020quanticle said...

    In other carrier-related news, there's word of a Department of Defense study that recommends that the Navy's carrier fleet be cut to 9, from the current figure of 11 carriers. In exchange, the Office of the Secretary of Defense is proposing that the Navy buy 65 "lightly manned" corvettes, and an additional 15 missile frigates.

    Fortunately, cutting the number of carriers is going to require Congressional approval, which, given the fact that it's an election year, isn't going to come any time soon.

  34. April 23, 2020bean said...

    Oh, goodness. It's like Rumsfeld all over again. Didn't we learn from LCS? Small ships just aren't that effective. I hope this dies the death it deserves.

  35. April 23, 2020bean said...


    But while that describes Tucanos and UAVs just fine, it doesn't describe the USN's light attack aircraft, the A-4 and A-7. Both of those were designed for front-line combat with the Soviets. In that case, I think it was a matter of a significant cost delta with bigger platforms. The A-4 was designed as the minimum platform capable of carrying a nuclear weapon, and the A-7 was the result of the reorientation towards the conventional mission, with low cost as a prime driver. Both the F-4 and A-6 are around 60,000 lb MTOW, with two engines and two crew. The A-7 is 40,000 lb, one engine and one crew. There's going to be a big procurement and operations cost delta, probably enough to swamp any savings from the commonality between the F-4 and the AF-4, particularly when the Corsairs already exist. When building from scratch or bringing on new airplanes, the situation is different.

  36. April 23, 2020bean said...

    Note to the St. Petersburg Tourism Board: While your website on the fortifications of Kronstadt has many interesting details I was not able to find elsewhere, the phrase "it was armed with ruffled cannons in mid 19th century" has a major error.

    (Yes, this might have something to do with a Coastal Defenses post.)

  37. April 23, 2020quanticle said...

    Maybe the tsar was more interested in the aesthetic considerations of his forts than their combat effectiveness and ordered ruffles on his guns so that they would be pretty.

  38. April 23, 2020bean said...

    This might explain why they were so ineffective when the British came calling...

  39. April 24, 2020Ian Argent said...

    Given that I'm involved in an online game of Diplomacy right now as Russia, this comment digression has kicked my giggle box right over.

  40. April 24, 2020Neal said...

    Reports coming out that Captain Crozier might be reinstated. I am hesitant to post a link until there is something more substantive, but it is indeed an interesting story to watch develop.

  41. April 25, 2020Bobbert said...

    Speaking of light aircraft, does anyone know why the airforce hates the warthog so much? Is it really just 'the army loves it and supporting the army is bitch-work'?

  42. April 25, 2020John Schilling said...

    @bobbert: Pretty much. The Air Force wants to dogfight MiGs at Mach umpty-something, or bomb Berlin, er, Moscow, er, maybe Beijing or Tehran now? The stuff we make cool movies about their ancestors having done during World War II. When's the last time anybody made a cool movie about someone doing close air support?

    Anything with a pointy nose that we can at least pretend will dogfight MiGs gets an F-designation and the Air Force likes it. Even if it's really a light bomber, e.g. the F-111 or F-117. Anything that we can at least pretend will bomb Moscow, gets a B-designation and the Air Force likes it. See the F-111 becoming the FB-111 when it became theoretically possible for it to reach Moscow. Combat aircraft that can do neither, get A-designations and are passed off to the Navy or the scrapyard at the first opportunity. Can't actually give them to the Army, because that would undo the greatest victory in USAF history.

  43. April 25, 2020quanticle said...

    The reason (as I understand it) the F-117 is an "F" is the same reason it's "117", even though it came out after the numbering reset: it was all a ploy to convince any Russian spies that the program was actually and older fighter program rather than a modern light-bomber/attack aircraft program.

    Re: Capt. Crozier, Reuters says that a Navy board looking into the firing has recommended that Capt. Crozier be reinstated, but the ultimate decision is still up to Secretary Esper, who is waiting for the final written report before he makes a final decision.

  44. April 26, 2020Neal said...

    @Quanticle Re: Capt. Crozier, Reuters says that a Navy board looking into the firing has recommended that Capt. Crozier be reinstated, but the ultimate decision is still up to Secretary Esper, who is waiting for the final written report before he makes a final decision.

    It seems that the SecDef is requiring a significantly deeper and broader investigation than what was accomplished by the Navy alone. That is not to demean, from my reading, the Navy's efforts, but rather raise this up to purview over the acting secretary and any interplay with the JCS.

    In other words to me at least, officials want to see more documentation than just the letter writing compaign by an O-6 up to his direct reports and others.

    My guess is the Navy completed its step and now the SecDef is going to analyze the entire set up. We will soon know if Esper if the man for the task. Interesting days next week.

  45. April 26, 2020Bobbert said...

    @John Schilling

    So, the solution is a series of big budget Hollywood movies glamorizing the heroics of WWII Stuka pilots?

  46. April 27, 2020quanticle said...


    Might be easier and more palatable to make some big budget Hollywood movies glamorizing the heroics of Bronco pilots in Vietnam.

  47. April 27, 2020Alexander said...

    Wouldn't a modern A-10 successor either be a drone, or more like the Lightning? And the Lightning has a pointy nose, and could shoot down MiGs, so it's probably sufficiently glamorous already. Can a film make Reapers cooler? You might want two protagonists, one on the ground facing the enemy, and one at home operating the drone. How much do we end up focusing on Las Vegas casinos rather than trailers in the desert?

  48. April 27, 2020Doctorpat said...

    You might want two protagonists, one on the ground facing the enemy, and one at home operating the drone.

    I'm reminded of the Eddie Murphy movie (back when EM was funny) "Best Defense". You had a "hero" who was developing a cooling subsystem for an electronics system. Actually turned out pretty entertaining. Doesn't sound possible but they pulled it off.

  49. April 27, 2020bean said...

    I'd say the modern A-10 successor is the Lightning. The low-down model of CAS the A-10 was designed to support hasn't really in serious wars since the 70s, maybe earlier. Today, we do it via PGMs from medium or high altitude, and the A-10 doesn't have a big advantage there. It's fine for what we've been doing in Iraq and Afghanistan, but a Super Tucano would be very nearly as effective and a lot cheaper. I remember reading that the alternative to retiring the 280 A-10s at one point was 330 F-16s because of fleet costs, and I'll gladly take the extra 50 airframes.

  50. April 27, 2020John Schilling said...

    @bobbert: We've already had one recent movie glamorizing the exploits of a WWII dive bomber pilot. Let's not try that again.

  51. April 27, 2020quanticle said...

    The Australian Strategic Policy Institute a short, but interesting article on the tradeoffs that Australia faces with its submarine modernization program.

    Specifically, it considers the problem of propulsion. Australia has specified that its new submarines should be non-nuclear, so that leaves a choice between conventional diesel-electric (i.e. diesel + lead-acid batteries), diesel-electric + air-independent propulsion, or diesel-electric with lithium-ion batteries.

    Conventional diesel electric is the safest choice, from a cost and reliability perspective. This technology is well proven, and offers the best "sprint" performance underwater, as lead-acid batteries have good energy density, and can handle deeper discharge cycles without risking damage to the battery cells. On the downside, this option offers the shortest underwater endurance, and would require the submarine to either surface or snorkel in transit to its patrol area, increasing its vulnerability to enemy surveillance.

    Diesel-electric with air-independent propulsion offers much greater underwater endurance, but it comes at the cost of sprint performance. Air-independent propulsion systems can't offer the same amount of power as battery systems, and require a significant amount of space, which either means fewer battery cells, or compromises in capability. While submarines operating under air-independent propulsion can be quite stealthy, the lack of sprint power leaves the submarine vulnerable to counterattack after it attacks its target.

    Lithium-ion batteries offer both high-power and high-endurance, but have significant challenges of their own. First and foremost: safety. Lithium-ion batteries are notorious for catching fire, including a fire and explosion that led to the loss of 14 Russian sailors aboard a Russian deep-sea submarine. Any design with lithium-ion batteries will require significant safety engineering to ensure that overcurrent and short-circuit protections can be maintained even in worst-case accident and combat damage scenarios.

    Although many say that AIP and lithium-ion are obvious choices for future conventionally powered submarines, upon closer examination, it's not obvious that they're superior technologies for a long-range conventionally powered patrol submarine. As a result, it's entirely possible that Australia's new submarines will have a propulsion system that would be familiar to any submarine skipper from 1944.

  52. April 28, 2020AlphaGamma said...

    Earlier, I got a recommendation from this site for Salvage: Code Red on Amazon Prime. Unfortunately, the show isn't available to Prime users outside the US.

    Fortunately, this meant that while unsuccessfully Googling alternative ways to watch it, I found the Svitzer Salvage videos. They're a series of publicity films on a similar subject made by Svitzer, a Dutch salvage company. The first one, which I've watched, is excellent in a 70s sort of way...

    Youtube playlist here

  53. April 29, 2020bean said...

    That looks very neat. Thanks for sharing.

  54. April 30, 2020Directrix Gazer said...

    It appears that Fincantieri's FREMM has won the contract to build the US Navy's new class of FFGs.

  55. April 30, 2020Directrix Gazer said...

    Er, I should say that Fincantieri has won the contract, and the new FFG will be an Americanized FREMM.

  56. April 30, 2020quanticle said...

    In other small-ship news, the US Navy has "accepted delivery" of the USS Zumwalt. The press release says that DDG 1000 will "transition from combat systems activation to the next phase of developmental and integrated at-sea testing".

    I'm not quite sure what this means, but the US Navy seems to be hyping it up as a major milestone, even though, to my untrained eye, it seems like it's just transitioning from one not-yet-ready step to another.

    The Navy is also saying that the second ship of the Zumwalt class, the Michael Monsoor is coming along faster than expected, as the lessons learned in the setup of the Zumwalt have been put to good use in the setup and activation of that ship.

    Finally, today I learned that the third ship of the Zumwalt-class will be named... the USS Lyndon B. Johnson. Please allow me to register another protest at how utterly broken the current Navy naming conventions are. There is no justice in a world where Gerald Ford gets an aircraft carrier named after him, while Lyndon Johnson, who was far more historically significant, gets a white-elephant destroyer.

  57. April 30, 2020quanticle said...

    To add insult to injury, Lyndon Johnson was never an admiral in the Navy, which, in a sane world, would have automatically disqualified him as a potential namesake of a destroyer.

  58. April 30, 2020bean said...

    Good for Fincantieri. That seems like a reasonable choice for FFG(X), and much better than the LCS.

    As for the USN's destroyer naming scheme, it's naval heroes, not admirals. Johnson was in the Navy, but he doesn't qualify. The carriers are a mess. Essentially, Ford was named by the Bush administration, while the Obama administration got to name the third Zumwalt. If I was SecNav (note to President Trump, I am available) I'd name them with the traditional WWII names.

  59. May 03, 2020Carlos Tomas said...

    Hello there, I know is bit late but I got to congratulate you, love your page is amazing, now to the issue. Is to ask you about what consists the armored boxes on the county class cruisers? How they work? Layout and the stuff, I can't find no where to an answer.


  60. May 03, 2020bean said...

    Basically, they were just boxes around the magazines. 4" sides, 2.5" decks and protection fore and aft. The early treaty cruisers were extremely weight-constrained, and this was the only way they could get enough protection over the magazines. This was apparently at least somewhat driven by the specter of what happened to the battlecrusiers at Jutland. Unfortunately, that's about all I can offer. I don't have an internal layout available, and I checked both Friedman's British Cruisers and Raven & Roberts British Cruisers of WWII. My best information is on the later Town class ships.

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