May 29, 2020

Open Thread 53

It's time once again for the Naval Gazing open thread. Talk about whatever you want, even if it's not military/naval.

Amazon Prime seems to be the service for naval/military movies. (I promise I am not getting paid by Jeff Bezos.) Recent ones I've watched include Run Silent, Run Deep, the Final Countdown and Strategic Air Command. The first is based on the novel of the same name, and is decent, if not quite as good. The Final Countdown is conceptually extremely silly, but has lots of very cool 1980-era carrier ops footage. The only thing that really annoyed me was in the scene where they're launching the strike against the Japanese fleet. Why did you fly off three Prowlers? They won't get their first air-search radar for another 6 months! And Strategic Air Command is extremely mediocre of plot, but has a ton of extremely nice aerial and ground footage of B-36s and B-47s.

2018 overhauls are There Seems to be Something Wrong with Our Bloody Ships Today, Millennium Challenge 2002, Auxiliaries Part 1, Falklands Part 2, my review of The New Maginot Line and the first three parts of my Jutland series. 2019 overhauls are the pictures of my early visits to museum ships, the Falklands glossary, the Montana class, So You Want to Build a Modern Navy - Aviation Part 4, Battleship Aviation Part 2 and Shells at Jutland.


  1. May 29, 2020redRover said...

    Thoughts on China's apparent invasion of India?

    It's only been a slight incursion, but it seems like China is capitalizing on the rest of the world being hamstrung by Corona to push their more aggressive priorities in both India and Hong Kong.

  2. May 29, 2020Aula said...

    Thoughts on China’s apparent invasion of India?

    Nothing new (or newsworthy) there; it's the same kind of crap they've been doing for the last 70 years.

  3. May 29, 2020quanticle said...

    Are we referring to the brawl that occurred around Ladakh? If so, I agree, there's nothing new here. Brawls like this have been occurring for years and years.

    That said, I did find this apropos political cartoon. There is something darkly amusing about two modern nuclear-armed militaries deliberately resorting to the most primitive weapons known to man -- fists and rocks -- in order to prevent a potentially disastrous escalation.

  4. May 29, 2020quanticle said...

    In commercial shipping news, the Norwegian coatings company Jotun and the Swedish engineering firm Semcon have collaborated to create a sort of roomba for ship hulls. Called HullSkater, this robot can wander a ship's hull scrubbing it of the bacterial biofilms that allow other forms of fouling to get started. Unlike a Roomba, HullSkater is not fully autonomous. Rather, it's piloted remotely via a 4G cell connection. It can clean a hull in between 2 and 8 hours, depending on the size of the ship.

    HullSkater is currently in trials, and the hope is that a commercial rollout can begin this summer. If HullSkater is a success, Semcon hopes to create an entire range of cleaning robots, with increasing levels of autonomy.

  5. May 29, 2020Chuck said...


    It's the strangely comical dance resulting from working to avoid anything that directly involves escalation while simultaneously trying to look as unafraid as possible. My personal favorite example is the famous Operation Paul Bunayn.

  6. May 29, 2020Alexander said...

    I'm not sure if the comment about restarting the “So You Want to Build a Modern Navy” series is new, but if it is, and you are refreshing the participants, sign me up.

  7. May 29, 2020cassander said...

    I'd be up for the modern navy series as well.

  8. May 29, 2020Blackshoe said...

    The fact that the PRC is pushing in more units (combined with other things since COVID) against India is aggressive for the PRC's normal gameplan.

  9. May 29, 2020bean said...

    That's old, and I really should have edited it out. That series, for whatever reason, stopped being interesting, and is now dead.

  10. May 29, 2020echo said...

    Does anyone know where to get organization charts for navy vessels? I'd like to get a basic understanding of how it all works, but it seems like there's much less information out there than there is for the army.

  11. May 29, 2020bean said...

    Unfortunately, those are very hard to find. For WWII, there's a basic overview here.

  12. May 29, 2020Blackshoe said...


    See here for something more modern; this is a [pretty good breakdown] (, see also here and here. Note that both of these look right for a small surface combatant (eg a cruiser, destroyer, or frigate). An amphib would be slightly different, and a carrier VERY different (here's an older carrier organization that still looks pretty close). And then, something like LCS is even more different. I could fill in more details as necessary.

  13. May 29, 2020Neal said...

    In the last open thread there was an interesting discussion of the Vietnam war. Obviously a topic that has been written about so extensively that it makes book shelves groan and props open many a door, but I am not sure if the basic question has ever been, or ever could be, answered. Wondering what you all think.

    That question of course is if the U.S. had early on, say during Rolling Thunder, cut off all port access in the North and went seriously Downtown* on targets in/around Hanoi.

    I had always found it to be too facile an answer that this would have been a guaranteed game changer. I also doubted the easy answers given regarding Linebacker and Linebacker II/The Christmas bombings although there are some decent arguments put forth in their description.

    The reason for my skepticism, in which I am not alone of course so nothing novel there, is that no matter what the North conceded at the negotiations table would it have ever held? I understand shutting ports would have been a high impact difficulty for the North, but could we have enforced it indefinitely?

    It seems that only a decade plus a few years after the Chinese had surprised us in Korea that we were understandably cautious about seeing a repeat (even if it were feasible or probable mind you). Thus is seems we went after any and all targets except those that, in retrospect, seem to have been among the most obvious and the most effective.

    In your readings, have any of you come across a reasonable level of scholarship regarding this?

    Having said that I still have this nagging feeling that it all would have been for naught anyway. I know that after the difficulties in Cuba and Berlin Kennedy wanted to show U.S. resolve in SE Asia, but were the warning signs not there? Heck, Graham Greene spelled it out in the early 1950's in The Quite American--probably the best book about the Vietnam War even though it was written well before it and uses the French efforts as a backdrop.

    *Downtown in the Air Force of that time (and seemingly from the Navy from those I have spoken with) seems to have been a rather fungible/flexible term. For the F-105 guys it meant going deep north and into the most dangerous areas--particularly during the Rolling Thunder period. I had the opportunity to fly with some guys who did exactly that and they had a firm opinion as to what areas had posed the most danger. Then there were those who might have been in a C-7 Caribou yet contended they were dropping supplies "Downtown." Seems like a term that extended to fit the story being told...

  14. May 29, 2020bean said...

    I'm definitely in the camp that believes Hanoi couldn't have stood against the US if we'd been serious in the mid-60s. If Haiphong is closed, their ability to get supplies goes way down. And if the US sends a clear signal that we're not screwing around, they're likely to fold. As it was, the Johnson administration was so concerned with not escalating and sending signals that we were interested in peace, the North Vietnamese accurately realized that we weren't actually interested in winning, and figured they could wait us out. But that's a much better strategy when the other side isn't trying to win.

    Relevant books I'd recommend are Dereliction of Duty by HR McMaster and Norman Friedman's The Fifty-Year War.

  15. May 29, 2020Neal said...

    Thanks for the recommendations Bean. I just put them in the Amazon cart.

    For those who noticed Bean's reference the the SAC movie but just want to see some great footage of the B-36 without having to see the full movie, here is an outstanding 7 minute clip:

    There are 4 known surviving B-36s. One is at Wright-Patt which, along with the XB-70, are worth the trip alone. 1 is in Omaha at the SAC museum, one at Pima, and one at Carswell. A jaw-dropping airplane to see.

    Fun fact: In the Final Countdown the aerial scenes were executed off Key West NAS. They used a variety of aircraft to film the sequences and in one, you can see a Tomacat, in blower, pull up less than 100 feet off the water leaving quite a tail. There was an A-6 that ended up being right above (not part of the scene but being used as coordination) that afforded a full view to the setup and how close to a loss it was. The A-6 was piloted by the grandson of Cassian Young--of MoH fame and whose namesake ship resides in Boston.

  16. May 30, 2020cassander said...


    Had something like the Paris accords been achieved in 1967 instead of 1972, the US would have been in a far stronger position to actually enforce its provisions. Not so much militarily, but from a domestic political POV, which is what really mattered in the end.

  17. May 30, 2020Lambert said...

    The Sino-Indian border doesn't seem a bad place to be aggressive for aggression's sake.

    Nobody wants to move enough troops and materiel right up into the tibetan plateau to escalate meaningfully. The land itself, a mix of arid mountains and mountainous desert, is hardly worth fighting over either.

  18. May 30, 2020echo said...

    Thanks for the links guys. I'd only found one of those; don't know if my google-fu has gotten weak, or if their search has gotten worse, but it kept trying to give me militarytimes puff pieces about how comfy the new carriers are.

    So since everyone loves space navies:
    The U.N. Spacy is worried about having to conduct operations in the main asteroid belt, where hidden anti-ship missile batteries make the environment too dangerous for drone carriers to maneuver.

    What's the name of the expensive boondoggle vessel produced by the resulting development program?

  19. May 31, 2020Johan Larson said...

    Forgotten Weapons has a nifty video about the naval 20 mm Oerlikon automatic cannon. Used by all sides of WWII, which is nice work if you can get it.

  20. May 31, 2020bean said...

    It seems a bit odd that Forgotten Weapons would do that. I certainly haven't forgotten the Oerlikon, nor has anyone who studies naval warfare in WWII.

    Actually, I think I've found a paradox here.

  21. May 31, 2020Johan Larson said...

    "Forgotten Weapons" isn't really about forgotten weapons. It's about small arms in general, tilting toward odd and historic guns in particular, and sometimes venturing some distance away to artillery and tanks.

  22. May 31, 2020Alexander said...


    Wouldn't the drone carrier just send some of its drones? Failing that, I suppose it might have some sort of escort for defence against missiles and drones that it could send. Call it a star destroyer?

  23. May 31, 2020echo said...

    Forgotten Weapons has done the AR-15 as well as the AR-11, but it's catchier than calling it "Things You May Have Forgotten About Weapons You May Or May Not Know Of".
    And tbh the Oerlikon doesn't get much popular recognition, falling into the general public's interest gap between 50BMG and Really Big Guns.

    I'm making some possibly dumb assumptions about deltaV, based off Children of A Ded Earth. So drones need carriers (or buses) with nuclear drives to get them onto a trajectory, and their own chemical rockets are limited to doing circularization burns when they get there.

    So drone carriers can assault a planetoid without getting danger-close themselves, and drones can get close enough for target discrimination in a cluttered orbital environment. (there may not be stealth in space, but try telling the difference between a school bus and a missile bus from light seconds away)
    But drones can't hop from one asteroid miner rebellion to another, like the UN needs to do on behalf of Earthcorp Mining Ltd.

    It's silly, but I liked the idea of a sci-fi space navy having all the same procurement problems ours does.

  24. May 31, 2020Alexander said...

    It may depend on how patient you can be about moving from asteroid to asteroid. Of course, once the drones have confirmed the bogey is not a threat (potentially by rendering it thus) a recovery vessel with less thrust but more delta V can come and fetch it. That could be the carrier itself, or perhaps a drone.

  25. May 31, 2020bean said...

    Watched the forgotten weapons video, and I have a nitpick. The 32% of Japanese aircraft from 1941 to 1944 should be Japanese aircraft shot down by naval AA fire. The whole-war number for the Oerlikon in naval AA is 28%, which is reasonably close. But fighters got a lot of planes, too.

  26. May 31, 2020Mike Kozlowski said...

    "There are 4 known surviving B-36s. One is at Wright-Patt which, along with the XB-70, are worth the trip alone. 1 is in Omaha at the SAC museum, one at Pima, and one at Carswell. A jaw-dropping airplane to see."

    There is another. : )

    Chanute AFB, IL, had an RB-36H on display - it was disassembled and sent out to the Castle Air Museum in CA. The Carswell bird, after a noble but ultimately futile effort to restore it to flying status, was repossessed by the USAF and sent to Pima.

    And there was technically a fifth 'survivor' - the #2 YB-36, which was originally at the USAF Museum until 1959. Replaced by 52-2220 which is currently at the Museum, it was in the process of being scrapped when Walter Soplata got hold of it for his 'collection' in Newbury, OH. What was left was at least theoretically restorable to static display, but like so much of Mr. Soplata's property it ended up rotting. Apparently it was junked after Mr. Soplata's death, and the only reasonably current reference I can find for it is September 2019, where an outfit called Plane Tags announced they were making...well, tags out of it.

  27. May 31, 2020wubbles said...

    I don't think widening the war in 1965 would have worked. The insurgency in South Vietnam pre-Tet wasn't that reliant on aid from North Vietnam, and the weaknesses in the South Vietnamese government that lead to its collapse would still be there. Cutting off Haiphong hurts, but the mountains separating Vietnam and China and the diplomatic difficulties could be overcome.

    Air power alone won Yugoslavia, but that's about it. I don't see anything happening but a long bloody war. Maybe if Diem wasn't Catholic.

  28. May 31, 2020Neal said...


    Thanks for that update/information. Wish more had survived.


    I wonder though if the Indians concerns are valid about the Chinese tapping off/damming too much water from the headwaters of what becomes the Brahmaputra river.

    This seems to be in a different area from where these little dustups occur from time to time and I cannot remember if the Chinese actual have any projects in progress, but it was mentioned in an Economist article that I recall from a couple years ago as being just one of many points of friction between the two countries.


    That seems to be part of the 64K question, and one that US. officials were seemingly staggering slow off the mark to determine just how much of the resistance in the South was both organic and/or self sustaining enough.

    Although I would agree with Cassander about the leverage, was it really something that would have held?

  29. June 01, 2020Philistine said...

    The Final Countdown is one of my favorite movies. Sure the time travel premise is bonkers, but it's tolerably well executed for what it is. And if you can get past the premise, it's nice to watch a cast of characters who take logical, methodical steps to figure out what's happened to them and what to do about it without having to rely too much on plot convenience to give them the answers. The carrier and aerial operations footage is really nice, too.

    If you watch the movie, you'll recognize the scene Neal was talking about when you see it. Apparently that F-14 was being flown by an inexperienced pilot, and he started that maneuver rather lower than he should have. But since he DIDN'T crash the bird, it makes for a fantastic moment on the screen.

  30. June 01, 2020Doctorpat said...

    The U.N. Spacy is worried about having to conduct operations in the main asteroid belt, where hidden anti-ship missile batteries make the environment too dangerous for drone carriers to maneuver.

    What’s the name of the expensive boondoggle vessel produced by the resulting development program?

    Are we talking about the vessel class? Presumably it'll be a destroyer or frigate of some kind. Everything else is.

    Long range drone carrier space frigate

    As for the actual vessel. A UN Space vessel.

    UNSS Unanimous Decision or

    UNSS Negotiated Settlement

    Though more realistically

    UNSS Greta Thunberg

  31. June 01, 2020cassander said...


    the resistance in the south was never really organic and always relied on northern support. reduce the supplies and you can re-direct a lot of the southern military away from the border and towards whoever is left in the south. And maybe after getting cut off the north decides to pull tet a few years early, with similar results.

  32. June 02, 2020Johan Larson said...

    Was participation in WWII a choice for the US? Could the Americans realistically have stayed out of the war?

  33. June 02, 2020redRover said...

    Was participation in WWII a choice for the US? Could the Americans realistically have stayed out of the war?

    Define "realistically".

    I think the most aggressively pacifist case you can lay out is that the US takes a more hands off approach to Europe and only fights the Pacific war.

    However, the Pacific war seems pretty baked in post-Pearl Harbor, though stretching even more I suppose you could have no Pacific war if Japan were less aggressive in their territorial aims in the Pacific and focused more on China/Korea/Vietnam.

    I also think the long term question is, if the US stays out of Europe, how do they deal with the end game? If Russia wins, you probably end up with something pretty close to reality as it happened, though with the Russians in a stronger Cold War position (maybe). If Germany wins, or has some kind of negotiated peace (e.g. Russia gets all the way to Germany without help from the Western Allies, because France is occupied and the UK is much weakened by not having US support, and thus Germany is more successful at their U-boat campaign while being able to dedicate more forces to the Eastern Front, the Russians may not have the desire to continue fighting all the way to Cologne to unilaterally conquer Germany, and thus settle) then who knows what happens?

  34. June 02, 2020Johan Larson said...

    Suppose in the Pacific the US keeps selling oil to the Japanese, and insists on holding on to the Philippines. What happens? The Japanese grab and rule much of China as a colony. Is that obviously unacceptable for some reason?

  35. June 02, 2020Daib said...

    The tens of millions of extra Chinese civilians that would die in that scenario might think so. Total Japanese victory in China, however unlikely, might also mean a much tougher fight with a richer Japan and larger IJN down the line.

  36. June 02, 2020Blackshoe said...

    Was participation in WWII a choice for the US? Could the Americans realistically have stayed out of the war?

    IMHO, the answer to both questions is "Yes", but becomes true fairly early in the situation (re-election of FDR to a third term is basically the dividing line for me).

    Read a book awhile ago called A War It Was Always Going to Lose, that discussed some of the lead up to the war in the Pacific (with a main thesis of "Neither side really wanted to go to war, both tried to communicate that to the other, both still ended up doing it"). It's based off a monograph that the author did, and I do agree with the comment that it worked better as a monograph.

    Anyway, to summarize, obviously past Pearl Harbor, war is impossible to avoid. However, I think a US that wasn't led by Roosevelt (or someone else not as Atlanticist) might not have been as deeply committed to supporting Britain et al pre-PH, and consequently might have been able to make clear to: A), Europe that they didn't care about participating in the apparent European ritual of self-slaughter, and we will stick this war out, thank you kindly B) Japan that they didn't care about supporting the Europeans in maintaining their colonial empires (see part A) as long as Japan didn't threaten our colonial empire.

    Whether Japan would have believed us if we had said that is questionable to me. Also, the US that would have said these things and meant them is probably also one that elects Eugene Debs president at some point, and that's a very different US than I can even really imagine, so this is mostly building castles in the sky.

    A more interesting possibility for me is if Hitler had not unilaterally declared war in Dec 1941 (his treaty with Japan was defensive only). Given that American leadership had already decided on a European-focused strategy at this point, it would have been really awkward to continue to try and focus on Europe and Germany after Pearl Harbor.

    @Johan Larson: Interestingly, per the book I quoted above, Japan made the decision to go to war with the US before the oil embargo (inasmuch as they had already decided to invade Malaya and the Dutch East Indies, which they thought-probably wrongly-would lead to an inevitable declaration of war from the US).

  37. June 02, 2020quanticle said...

    I'm surprised that no one has mentioned the Open Door Policy that the United States maintained with regards to China. The oil embargo imposed by the US on Japan was not the first step that the US took in response to Japanese expansionism in China but rather was the latest in a series of escalatory sanctions taken in response to perceived Japanese aggression against US interests in China.

    I disagree that a different President would have kept the US out of war with Japan. At the time that Roosevelt took office, the open-door policy with regards to China was well established, and I don't think a prospective Republican administration would have abandoned a 50-year-old tenet of American foreign policy lightly.

    I don't think it's as simple as the US administration telling Japan, "You can have your empire so long as we can have ours." The US had, at that time, committed to ensuring equal access to the Chinese market to all major powers, and it would have been a major loss of prestige for the United States to back down from that position, especially in the face of an "upstart" power like the Japanese.

    In addition, Japanese encroachment onto the Dutch East Indies was seen at the time as directly threatening to US interests. Japan was seen as an opportunistic power, and Secretary of State Hull stated directly that Japan's respect for US interests in the Pacific was proportional to the firmness of the United States' defense of those interests.

    The way I see it, the one scenario that allows the US and Japan to avoid war is if the Japanese wait until Nazi Germany manages to force Great Britain (and its European allies) to the negotiating table. Then, it's possible that the Japanese, as treaty allies of the Germans, could have picked up chunks of the British and Dutch empires in Asia as part of that hypothetical peace deal, obviating the need for military conquest.

  38. June 02, 2020Philistine said...

    Of course the flip side of the question is, "Was there any way Japan could afford to leave the US out of the war?" I'm not sure there is. If the Japanese want to expand into French Indochina, Malaya and the DEI, which they very much do, the Philippines are going to sit astride their SLOCs like the Sword of Damocles. (If that sounds familiar, it should: it's the same reason the US went back into the PI in 1944-45.) Any future conflict with the US, then, could see Japan cut off from the resources of SE Asia in short order - especially given a few more post-Washington Treaty years to build up defenses in the PI.

  39. June 02, 2020redRover said...


    That's a good point, though I think if the Japanese had consolidated their control over Malaysia/Indochina they would be in a better position to deal with a US intervention from the Philippines.

    But really, the issue seems to be how comfortable Japan and the US would be with having close colonies to each other while living with tensions short of war. Certainly the fact that we ended up in a war suggests the answer is "not comfortable enough", but if we are to go along with JL's thesis, it requires assuming somewhat less aggressive/maximalist aims for both the US and Japan.

    (And also possibly the knock on impacts of what Australia/NZ think about it relative to their involvement in Europe. (e.g. Australia suffered a third of its dead in Europe))

  40. June 04, 2020bean said...

    A miracle has occurred! The window for protests on the FFG(X) award closed earlier this week, with a grand total of... no protests! I can't remember another big program recently where we've seen that.

  41. June 04, 2020quanticle said...

    @bean Stop calling out the FFG(X) program's successes and overall sensibility! You'll jinx it!

    Next thing we know, there will be some kind of horrible unfixable flaw resulting from the US Navy's decision to increase the size and range of the FREMM. Or the electronics won't work. Or a congressperson will inexplicably get mad at it and try to end the program prematurely. Or we'll get a new Secretary of the Navy and/or Defense Secretary who thinks that surface ships are obsolete and that the Navy's true priority should be getting the Columbia-class out ASAP. Or... something.

    All I'm saying is that I get real nervous when the early stages of a program go this well. Makes me feel like there's another shoe about to drop.

  42. June 04, 2020bean said...

    Counterpoint: the Navy's last three major surface shipbuilding programs have ranged from extremely messy (Ford) to outright disaster (Zumwalt). At some point, they were going to get it right.

  43. June 04, 2020quanticle said...

    Also, were there any protests over the awarding of the Virginia-class submarines to General Dynamics Electric Boat? I don't recall any major controversy over that program (and it also seemed to go rather smoothly).

  44. June 04, 2020bean said...

    The Virginias are the standout naval procurement program of the 21st century so far. I kind of doubt there were protests given that the program was split close to 50/50 between EB and Newport News, who are the only other submarine yard in the country.

  45. June 04, 2020Lambert said...

    Who decided that all the AFSPC airmen should become USSF 'space professionals'?

    It's impressive to be able to make a title with 'space' in it sound uncool.

  46. June 04, 2020Chuck said...


    Apparently people found the term "spacemen" too silly, a topic that was apparently broached in the Space Force netflix show. Not me though, if I could be called a Spaceman Chuck I would insist on it.

  47. June 04, 2020Blackshoe said...

    Counterpoint: the Navy’s last three major surface shipbuilding programs have ranged from extremely messy (Ford)

    Hey, don’t give Surface Forces the blame for Ford; while they may technically be a “surface” ship, they are owned by NAVAIR (and NR, I should note on edit/repost)

  48. June 04, 2020bean said...

    I wasn't trying to beat up on the surface forces. If we're looking for scalps over this, we can start with one D. Rumsfeld, who is the one responsible for a lot of the problems with all three ships.

  49. June 05, 2020quanticle said...

    Speaking of the Fords, have they fixed the problems they were having with the elevators yet? I know they got EMALS working (or, at least, "working" to a point where Richard Spencer could say they were working with a straight face). Last I heard, they were still working on the elevators, and Spencer was saying that the elevators would be ready Real Soon Now™, but that was two SecNavs ago, so I'm wondering if there have been any substantial updates I've missed in the meantime.

  50. June 05, 2020AlexT said...

    Who decided that all the AFSPC airmen should become USSF ‘space professionals’?

    Always imagined they'd be called 'spacers'. Ranks like spacer, spacer first class, etc. Stormtrooper would be better, but maybe too much, too soon.

  51. June 05, 2020Johan Larson said...

    The Space Force should have adopted Army ranks. They work just fine. And nobody is likely to confuse the rocket-jockeys with the ground-pounders. Just tweak the Major General/Lieutenant General ranks, which are obviously reversed.

  52. June 05, 2020bean said...

    Ford is operating aircraft right now, and it looks like the weapon elevators are mostly fixed, too.

  53. June 05, 2020cassander said...


    I think Rumsfeld gets a bad rap on the ford. the 4 things that caused the biggest issues were the radar, elevators, EMALS, and AAG. The radar was a mess only because the zumwalt was a mess, so let's put that to one side. The other 3 things pretty much all had to happen at the same time, because they all required a lot more electrical power than their predecessors, and EMALS and AAG required substantial redesigns of the ship's internal layout. It would have nuts to go through all the expense of designing a new hull and a new reactor to power one or two of those things, and then another new design and reactor for the other one or two. it was a rare case where going for a lot of new technology at once made sense. Sure, there were going to be overruns, but there always are, and spreading them out over 2 or 3 ships wouldn't make them less expensive. The Navy is to blame for ford. Them or HI.

    @Johan Larson

    I'm fine with whatever ranks they want, as long as they all have space, star, or sky in front of them. And I'll never call the head of space force anything besides Sky Marshal.

  54. June 06, 2020quanticle said...

    And I’ll never call the head of space force anything besides Sky Marshal.

    I prefer Strategos, myself.

  55. June 06, 2020bean said...

    The Navy initially planned to do spiral development across 2 or 3 carriers, and then Rumsfeld intervened and said that they were going to do all the changes at once. Norman Friemdan gave details on this in an article in the October 2019 Proceedings, although it looks like the paywall is back up.

  56. June 06, 2020Johan Larson said...


    If the Space Force decides they should have a Sky Command Master Chief Petty Officer, I may let fly a dirty word or two.

  57. June 06, 2020cassander said...


    I've read it, and loathe as I am to disagree with Friedman, I fail to see how spiral development would have helped. There was no way to avoid doing EMALS, a new reactor, AAG, and a new hull all at the same time. I guess they could have gone with conventional elevators, but they'd presumably have ended up with the same problems on JFK, and a ford that was eventually going to get an expensive re-fit for new elevators. And that's assuming that the new elevators fit in the same space as hydraulic ones would, which seems doubtful. If they don't you need a more than minor hull re-design.

  58. June 09, 2020quanticle said...

    It's a shame that Space Force is a sub-branch of the Air Force, and not the Navy. Why? Because it precludes the creation of Space Marines.

  59. June 10, 2020Doctorpat said...

    Who cares about the space force rank titles?

    What matters is the uniforms: why are they camo?

    There is no need to try to blend in to the background of... nothing. The space force has every opportunity to start from scratch and come up with something that looks good. If nothing else there is a century of SF movies, and millenia of actual real uniforms, to go over and just choose the niftiest.

    (Yes, I know, uniforms come and go each decade, but rank structure lasts for centuries.)

  60. June 10, 2020bean said...

    Presumably for the same reason the Navy Working Uniform is camo. It makes them feel important. At least the NWU Type III looks slightly less hideous, although they really should use the shipboard uniform ashore, too.

  61. June 10, 2020AlexT said...

    There is no need to try to blend in to the background of... nothing.

    But they aren't rocket jockeys yet. As long as they're based planetside, they need to blend into wherever they're stationed.

    But having Generals instead of Admirals, that's heresy.

  62. June 10, 2020quanticle said...

    The Harvard Law Review has a pretty interesting article on the legal situation surrounding the Northwest Passage. The short version is that Canada maintains that the Northwest Passage is internal waters, while the US maintains that it's one of the "straits which are used for international navigation" under Article 37 of the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS III). While the Northwest Passage was largely ice bound, this was a moot question, and the US and Canada could amicably agree to disagree. However, as global warming opens the Arctic waters to commercial and military shipping, the uncertain legal status of the Northwest Passage is becoming untenable.

    The article looks at the two tests Article 37 defines for determining whether the Northwest Passage meets the standard for a strait used for international navigation:

    • Geographic -- whether the strait connects two bodies of water that can be considered high seas
    • Use -- whether the strait is used for international navigation

    Canada asserts that the Northwest Passage, because it has not been historically used for international navigation, constitutes Canadian territorial waters. The article disagrees. The article argues that the correct test is potential use, i.e. whether the strait could be used for international navigation from one part of the high seas to another. Since it clearly can, the Northwest Passage should be considered international waters, and not Canadian internal waters.

  63. June 11, 2020quanticle said...

    I just read a short article about the allegedly impending launch of the Russian Navy's latest submarine, the Khabarovsk. While the article itself has little of value, it did set me to thinking.

    The Khabarovsk's primary armament, it seems, will be the Status 6 "Poseidon" nuclear powered torpedo, of which it will have 6. Looking at the specifications on this thing, it has to be the most pointless naval weapons system I have ever seen. While it can be armed with a conventional warhead, doing so would make a V2 look like a downright cost effective bargain by comparison. So, presumably, it will be a nuclear armed torpedo. But that leads to the second problem: a nuclear armed, nuclear powered torpedo is a pointless weapon. There are far easier and cheaper ways to target carrier battle groups, and of course, nuclear torpedoes are nowhere near as effective at damaging inland targets as submarine launched ballistic missiles. And given how large one of these UUVs is, it's no surprise that the submarine only carries six. In fact, I'm rather surprised that they managed to even fit that many. Meanwhile, even a small ballistic missile submarine can carry a dozen SLBMs (and Russia's own Borei-class carries 16), which is a far greater deterrent than 6 enormously expensive, nuclear powered, nuclear armed kamikaze mini-subs that will, in all likelihood, get intercepted long before they reach any target.

    So what am I missing? Is Russia's Ministry of Defense really this dumb? Or do you think that the "nuclear torpedo" is a cover for something else? Does anyone here want to take a crack at steelmanning the case for Poseidon?

  64. June 11, 2020Alexander said...

    Can't you launch nuclear powered torpedoes from the shore? Send them out on their own 'deterrence patrol' and then come back for servicing. I'm sure that they are intended to attack costal cities, rather than carrier groups. Perhaps a more important consideration would be the cost effectiveness of the torpedoes themselves compared to ballistic missiles, but I can imagine an argument that having an alternative method of delivering nuclear warheads makes developing defences against all of them harder. For example, if the Soviet Union had developed a system that could intercept Pershing II, GLCM might still have been effective, or alternatively having FOBS as a compliment to ICBMs. It's probably also worth noting that all of these ended up getting traded away in treaties, which might be Russia's desired outcome for Poseidon. I suspect John Schilling would have a better idea though.

  65. June 11, 2020Lambert said...

    At what point does a smart weapon become a fully autonomous killbot?

    I feel like nuclear deterrence patrol torpedoes/unmanned midget subs are a different thing from e.g. cruise missiles.
    I suppose some of the more advanced loitering munitions start to blur the lines.

  66. June 11, 2020bean said...

    Poseidon looks to me to be a response to Russia freaking out over our BMD programs. Viewed any other way, it's a stupid idea. Actually, even through that lens, it's pretty stupid, (bombers and cruise missiles are the way to go) but I shall remember to bring it up the next time I run into a BMD skeptic.

    Deploying autonomous nuclear weapons is a terrible idea, and I doubt even Putin's Russia would trust a computer to decide if it wants to use nuclear weapons. Actually, make that particularly doubt, if Soviet procedures are anything to go by. But that means you have to talk to the things. And that's hard to do, particularly when you're doing it with something of that size.

    And I don't give good odds of it getting through, either. It has a nuclear reactor, which inherently produces noise. And it's too small to take advantage of a lot of the techniques developed to silence SSNs and SSBNs. You definitely can't use natural circulation, and I doubt you can raft the thing, either.

  67. June 11, 2020David W said...

    The Poseidon talk raises a different question in my mind. Is there such a thing as an anti-torpedo torpedo, along the lines of the Standard being a defense against ship killer missiles? It seems like everything I've read about torpedo defense is decoys or manuevers, but the general principle seems like it would apply just as well to torpedoes.

    And if not, why not? Is it a sensor issue?

  68. June 11, 2020bean said...

    It's something that's been discussed on and off for decades, and they've never quite been able to make it work. I think it's mostly sensors. Trying to hit a fast-moving object underwater with another fast-moving object underwater is hard. But there have been some promising signs recently, and I think the USN has some sort of low-key hard kill system installed on the carriers these days.

  69. June 11, 2020Chuck said...


    Deploying autonomous nuclear weapons is a terrible idea, and I doubt even Putin’s Russia would trust a computer to decide if it wants to use nuclear weapons.

    That is the whole idea of this machine, you know. Deterrence is the art of producing in the mind of the enemy... the FEAR to attack. And so, because of the automated and irrevocable decision-making process which rules out human meddling, the autonomous nuclear weapon is terrifying and simple to understand... and completely credible and convincing.

  70. June 11, 2020quanticle said...

    Poseidon looks to me to be a response to Russia freaking out over our BMD programs.

    I thought that was what their hypersonic glide vehicle was for.

    This is one of the reasons I'm having such a hard time wrapping my head around Poseidon. No matter what use case you look at, there's another system that does the same job, better, cheaper and with much less development risk.

  71. June 11, 2020bean said...


    Strangelove aside, there's a reason that such systems don't actually get built. The Russians have come closest, but even Perimetr is usually kept switched off, despite being on land, with full access to a bunch of sensors that will reduce the probability of a false positive. Trying to get an acceptable degree of confidence that your autonomous minisubmarine won't go crazy and nuke New York? Good luck with that.


    I don't think hypersonic glide vehicles are a complete solution to the BMD problem, though. They're somewhat more maneuverable than ballistic RVs, but less than you'd think. But if that's the problem, then cruise missiles seem to beat Poseidon on every possible metric, except "sounds like a supervillain plan".

  72. June 11, 2020John Schilling said...

    "But they aren’t rocket jockeys yet. As long as they’re based planetside, they need to blend into wherever they’re stationed."

    So, digital camouflage in grey. That way they can blend in to the cubicle walls when a senior officer shows up with a tasking.

  73. June 11, 2020Chuck said...


    Focusing on one solution to a problem only applies if you are actually developing those solutions. In the case of vaporware, the more the merrier. Claim you're building them all and let your opponents figure out which are real.

  74. June 11, 2020Blackshoe said...

    @quanticle Well, one advantage for Status 6 is that it is not covered by any treaty right now. So it's not banned by anything, and it would take a lot of work to get it banned!

  75. June 11, 2020Neal said...


    Your question about the killbots seems to be a question that, for all the world's impressive technological advances, seems to still be out of reach. I am not sure anyone has the answer to this even though I has been tackled with great rigor by experts in the field.

    Apart from all the other "loops" that have been described over the years, the most basic one, as it has always been throughout history, is the simple "see, think, and act" process.

    Obviously sensor technology has aided greatly in seeing, but thinking and acting flawlessly with autonomous systems can be fraught with pitfalls. Not that human monitoring or intervention is foolproof of course (and can indeed in some cases lead to worse outcomes, but it is difficult to know where the line is. After all, were it not for the likes of Stanislav Petrov we might not be enjoying the opportunity to raise the question at all.

    Where can an error propagation start, how quickly can it build, and what is necessary to both recognize it and correct it? Add to that what error rate would we accept. We have all seen tests of some pretty impressive kit--kit that far outstrips human capability but still...

    Regarding uniforms, I don't see why just having the Space Force wear something like AF blues wouldn't work. If your are working in an office why not office like attire. I hated wearing a flight suit or BDUs when working in the office. It was both silly and uncomfortable.

  76. June 11, 2020quanticle said...


    Yeah, that's a good point. This whole thing might be a red herring, and the Khabarovsk might just be normal run-of-the-mill SSN when it finally debuts. That was supposed to be sometime this month, but we'll see. The Russian Navy's timelines are positively Musk-ian in their optimism.


    Also a good point, though, with the rate that the US and Russia are abandoning arms controls treaties, more and more old Cold War tech is coming back into vogue. After all, now that START II is dead, Russia can use MIRVs once more on its SLBMs (which is yet another response to potential US ABM systems).

  77. June 11, 2020Johan Larson said...

    Just put them in space-black and silver like Kimball Kinnison's Galactic Patrol and some other fellows who won't soon be forgotten.

  78. June 12, 2020quanticle said...

    Yeah, black and silver is definitely a good look for a Space Force.

  79. June 15, 2020Blackshoe said...

    On the subject of uniforms: SPAFOR should be applauded here for just using the USAF pattern (which is of course in itself basically the Army's OCP) rather than trying to create something new for the new force (or worse, try to create something "cool", which is how the Navy ended up with the NWU-1 pattern). It's pretty logical to just go with that until they can come up with some thing more befitting a Space Force, which probably isn't a budgetary priority right now.

    One day, Space LeMay will come along to re-create the nascent force in His Own Image, and he will create new uniforms. And then Space Zumwalt will come along to make new uniforms to inspire a new feeling for the by-then disconsolate SPAFOR. But until then, these work fine. I do agree with Neal that the whole Warrior Wednesday trend of "Wearing field uniforms in office environment" is sad and a symptom of the dysfunctionality of our military, but such is life.

  80. June 16, 2020Doctorpat said...

    Maybe the nuclear powered torpedo, like the nuclear powered cruise missile, is a Russia attempt at the Star Wars strategy. 1. Figure out what could be mocked up, or at most lab-bench-prototyped by your lab boys for a nominal cost (nominal by military expenditure standards.) 2. BUT would cost the enemy a vast fortune to try to match if they think it's a real project. 3. Make up all the power-points, press releases etc. to hype it into a major deal. The power-point people weren't doing anything useful anyway. 4. Wait while the other side goes broke.

    The USA could do this with Star wars because they had much more money, and already had a vast tech lead in the area of sensors, computers and lasers etc.

    The Russians might think they can do this with nuclear propulsion because the USA would have to tie itself in knots to meet their internal standards for nuclear safety, which Russia can skimp on (especially if they are just doing a one-off semi-fake.)

    Though as the Nenoksa accident showed, the Russians can't skimp as much as they thought.

    Lastly, even if the enemy isn't fooled into overspending, you can then trade away your "new program" in a disarmament deal in return for something you are actually concerned about. "We will give up our (snigger) nuclear powered missile program if you give up your drone refueling aircraft."

  81. June 17, 2020bean said...

    The big problem with that plan is that there's no way the US invests in a nuclear-powered cruise missile program. The environmentalists would go ape, and it's a stupid idea anyway. I initially thought it was all a bluff, but that looks to be ruled out by recent events. Not sure what's going on now.

  82. June 17, 2020quanticle said...

    “We will give up our (snigger) nuclear powered missile program if you give up your drone refueling aircraft.”

    The problem with that strategy is that, when it comes to disarmament, countries trade nukes for nukes. So trading drone tankers for a nuclear anything would be out of step with historic precedent.

    I can, on the other hand, see nuclear cruise missiles and nuclear torpedoes being used as bargaining chips for a "ABM 2.0" treaty that once again curtails the US' ballistic missile defense research.

  83. June 17, 2020Chuck said...

    I like Doctorpat's idea about using the nuclear torpedo as a bargaining chip. It is attractive in the sense that we wouldn't build a comparable system since Russia doesn't deploy carrier groups (and Russia's fleet doesn't need our help to sink.)

    Considering the safety issues mentioned in the same comment, Russia might also see an autonomous sub as an attractive option going forward. A system like that could be smaller, less complex mechanically, and wouldn't require highly trained crews. (This obviously ignores the Brobdingnagian problems of command and control while undersea) Maybe this torpedo could be a step in that direction?

  84. May 21, 2021Emilio said...

    @Johan Larson

    "Just tweak the Major General/Lieutenant General ranks, which are obviously reversed."

    Nope, they are good this way, because the complete title of the first is 'SERGEANT' Major General, only the Sergeant part got dropped with use, just like the 'Captain' was dropped from a 4 star CAPTAIN General... :-)

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