December 25, 2020

Open Thread 68

Merry Christmas, everyone! I don't have much to say beyond that, except that usual OT rules are in effect.

Overhauls for 2017 are Huascar Parts one and two, the South American Dreadnought Race, Dreadnoughts of the Minor Powers and Armor parts one and two. 2018 overhauls are The First South Dakota Class, Commercial Aviation Part 3, Spot 1 and Electronic Warfare parts one, two and three. Lastly, 2019 overhauls are Short-Range Aircraft Missiles, Riverine Warfare - Southeast Asia Part 2, Billy Mitchell Part 3 and, appropriately for today, warships with Christmas lights.


  1. December 25, 2020quanticle said...

    Reposting, because it was at the end of the last open thread:

    Identify the ships!

    Hint: There are four navies represented in the photo.

    (I have blacked out some hull numbers so as to make the challenge more interesting).

    I will post the unedited image, along with the answers on New Year's Day.

  2. December 25, 2020Blackshoe said...

    I have tried multiple browsers on multiple computers and have not been able to get the image to work at all.

  3. December 25, 2020Anonyomus said...

    Happy Holidays.

  4. December 25, 2020ryan8518 said...

    Posted in rot13 Gur fuvc va gur sbertebhaq vf gur WF Banzv, sbyybjrq ol gur HFF Avzvgm, gur VAF Ivxenzqvgln, naq gur UZNF Onyyneng

  5. December 26, 2020DampOctopus said...

    I reached the same conclusion as ryan8518 ... though I admit that I first guessed the exercise in which the photo was taken, looked up the ships involved, then checked them against the photo.

    UZNF Onyyneng looks like she's had some changes to her superstructure since my 2012 reference photo, which seems to be due to the NZPNC upgrade (warning: spoiler on mouseover).

  6. December 27, 2020Johan Larson said...

    The Globe and Mail newspaper has an article today about increasingly disruptive radical Islamic groups in Africa. Under Trump, fighting them was not considered a priority. Wonder if Biden will step up the efforts?

    Africa today is more insecure than ever. Islamist insurgencies are gaining increasing agency across the vast sub-Saharan lands of the Sahel, Somalia and now northern Mozambique, and fundamentalist forces allied to the Islamic State and al-Qaeda are growing stronger. The Mozambican civil war threatens to spill northward into Tanzania and southward into additional provinces in the country.

    And yet, the waning Trump administration in the United States is electing to retreat in the face of these challenges. The U.S. is withdrawing the 700 American special soldiers who have spent years, with some success, training and assisting a 1,000-strong Somali commando unit to combat al-Shabab, a jihadi terror group that has destabilized Somalia’s cities, towns and villages since about 2006 with deadly bombings on roads and buildings. The Trump White House has also ignored the worsening fracas in Mozambique, and it has threatened to take surveillance and attack capabilities away from U.S. detachments near the Sahara.

    Also, given the extent of Chinese investments in Africa, what are they doing about it?

  7. December 28, 2020bean said...

    I have one more book recommendation before the USNI sale ends. Warship Builders is a recent book that covers US shipbuilding during WWII, as well as some comparisons to other nations. It's by far and away the best look I've seen at the subject, and I suspect that the So You Want to Build a Battleship - Construction posts are in for some heavy revision based on it.

  8. December 29, 2020Neal said...


    If you happen to be scanning through this section perhaps you can answer this. A few months ago I read (blazes if I can remember where however) through the reports on the McCain and Fitzgerald incidents/accidents and was curious if the Navy has any fatigue mitigation programs/models at all.

    Having a background in long-haul aviation I know that moving anything, whether an aircraft, a ship, or the family on vacation, is going to involve "back of the clock" operations. Being tired, and quite likely fatigued, is often inescapable.

    I also realize that it is each crewmembers responsibility to perform a bit self assessment and speak up if not fit for duty. The aviation world has been slowly pulled from the 1950's into the modern era (still excluding cargo ops to one extent) in this respect and some surprising progress has been made.

    Yet a ship of the line with lots of officers and ratings is obviously a seriously complex operation and I can imagine the Navy is not staging rest and relaxation cruises. It goes without saying that it has has duties to perform that most often supercede any one crewmember being in need of a visit to the Land of Nod.

    The question then is it a "suck it up and get it done" attitude 24/7 or is rest ever factored on? It was on one of the accidents where I read that an officer was starting a shift after having already been awake for over 20 hours getting things "done." That's leaning pretty far forward in the saddle by most definitions.

    Stuff like this is a young man and woman's game to be sure, but is there any serious attempt to provide one of the best insurance policies of all--some extended rack time?

    And notice I didn't even start in on rotating the root of many major, and varied, incidents throughout the years.

    @Johan Good question. I know The Economist has reported on that question being raised by allies. Just stepping away is certainly not going to make the problem go away. It will be interesting if there is an immediate reversal of the withdrawal.

  9. December 30, 2020quanticle said...

    I just came across this somewhat tongue-in-cheek design study that seeks to answer a question that probably none of you were asking: what would a luxury submarine look like?

    H.I. Sutton asks what kind of submarine would a modern Captain Nemo captain, and Nautilus 2020 is his answer.

  10. December 30, 2020Anonymous said...

    Why not a luxury submarine? Surely there are rich people who'd like to see under the water.

  11. December 30, 2020bean said...

    Rich people seem to get their underwater fix from the minisubs on their superyachts. From this list, those seem to be mostly in the 2-4 person range, going down a couple hundred meters and able to stay down for a few hours. Which seems like plenty for just about anything you'd actually want to do underwater, unless you're really into LARPing as a Bond villain. And even then, it's probably cheaper to install a volcano lair in your yacht.

  12. December 31, 2020John Schilling said...

    @Quanticle: I love that they included a pipe organ; have to pay homage to the classics. But for true Nautilus heritage (and mad-scientist insanity) they need to be using sodium-sulfur batteries rather than lithium-ion.

    Here's a study by someone who wanted to actually sell luxury submarines, but AFIK never found a buyer.

    But, as noted in my recreational-diving effortpost on DSL, most of the ocean is boring. The visibility is comparable to the foggiest day you've ever seen above water, and most of what you could see is sand, rocks, mud, more sand, more mud, and a very occasional fish. The spots with interesting stuff are definitely worth seeing, but nobody is going to be very interested in looking out the portholes while in transit.

    And, habitable volume underwater is much more expensive basically always a surface yacht with some sort of underwater excursion capability, e.g. one of the minisubs bean noted. Or, for the not-rich, a liveaboard dive boat.

  13. January 01, 2021Blackshoe said...

    To continue a tradition I started at another website:

    Here are all the books I read this year.

    @Neal: I do have some thoughts on your question, and will get back to you in a couple days.

  14. January 01, 2021quanticle said...

    As promised, here is the unedited photo.

    The four ships in the photo are (from background to foreground):

    • HMS Ballarat, an ANZAC-class frigate of the Royal Australian Navy
    • INS Vikramaditya, a Kiev-class aircraft carrier of the Indian Navy
    • USS Nimitz, a carrier of the eponymous class from our very own USN
    • JS Murasame, the lead ship of her class in the Japanese Navy
  15. January 01, 2021quanticle said...

    Whoops, that first one should read HMAS Ballarat, not HMS.

  16. January 03, 2021Blackshoe said...

    @Neal Larson: Naval Aviation has a pretty robust sleep program that requires 8 uninterrupted hours before a flight (among other things). Whether they took that from the Air Force or both came up with it on their own in the post-Vietnam military safety revolution is something I don't know. My understanding is that the submarine community doesn't stress it as hard as NAVAIR, but also days are weird to them anyway (IIRC, they basically exist on an 18-hour schedule that ends up having no connection to the natural circadian rhythm anyway).

    The Surface Force has...nothing. It's been a problem for a long time; one SWO I note said that "SWO doesn't have a culture of sleep-deprivation, it has a cult of it". Suck it up and drink some coffee/Monster (or both!) is the way it's been, probably going back to World War 2.

    From my own personal experience, I know I've done 40 hours straight with no sleep. I do know a guy who hit 50 (as a submariner, though, which goes against my earlier comment. But he was the AWEPS on a boomer and they have some intense drills). Probably doing more damage to me was the prolonged-little sleep (vice the short-term no sleep); I spent about two years never getting more than 4 or 5 hours of sleep a day. Also I worked in CIC, so I worked in a cold, dark place lit only by computer screens, which is not an ideal place to work when you are tired. It reached the point where I actually turned my rack lights on to go to bed-I had completely reversed the normal circadian rhythm. I do not think I was the worst sleeper onboard; some of the department heads definitely got less.

    I will also confess to at least twice falling asleep standing up.

    The problem is well-known in the SWO community; the first time I remember Officialdom noting it as a problem was the PORT ROYAL grounding in 2009 (second time in two comments I've gotten to mention that one, huh). IIRC the report noted that the CO had gotten something like three hours of sleep the night before the evolution and an average of four over the three days of sea trials. As noted, it was a major factor discussed in especially FTZ's collision (I've seen less discussion about it relating to JSM's collision, and frankly JSM's collision is not one that is talked about a lot in general for lots of reason).

    Now, is something being done about it? IMHO, not really. They did make a good effort when they tried to implement the Circadian Rhythm watchbill that bean mentioned in his post on watches. But that seems to have died a natural death. I know there was a new instruction that hit the street not long ago implementing a program to require more sleep. But functionally all these changes end up doing is creating more administrative requirements to keep track of/manage without generating more resources to fix the problem.

    Fundamentally, the need for this always runs up against the hard budgetary reality that fixing this doesn't require smarter management or "deckplate leadership" or something, it requires budgetary expenditure to buy bodies and to fix the basic problem of large amounts of especially deck watches being done OJT. Good ideas keep running into hard budgetary realities that have been the norm for the Navy since basically the Clinton admin.

    Unfortunately, right now our system can work by placing the onus of meeting requirements on ships, and thus the organizations that create/resource those requirements get let off the hook. I used to think it would take dead sailors and sunken ships to correct this. Apparently it will take more than 17 dead sailors (and one burned-out, if not quite "sunken", ship).

    TLDR, yes, sleep-deprivation among watchstanders and personnel is a known problem on ships, has long been an accepted part of the culture; yes, we should probably figure out how to do what NAVAIR and the USAF did and stop it because it's really, really bad; no, it's not going to change because we don't have a system right now where we really can make those changes.

  17. January 03, 2021Lambert said...

    I wonder what causes/caused more impairment on warships: modern sleep deprivation or historical rum.

  18. January 03, 2021bean said...


    I'd guess historical sleep deprivation is the equal of either. A typical seaman in the age of sail would only expect to get 4 hours of sleep a night, based on the watch schedules I've seen.

  19. January 03, 2021Neal said...

    Thank you Blackshoe. I appreciate your response as it affirms those concerns that I had as I was reading the reports that a science-based approach to fatigue mitigation is either clearly absent within the fleet and/or is simply ignored.

    The tragic thing is that the impairments that accompany fatigue are established science at this point. "Motoring through," "Getting it done," etc., are all fine buzzwords and phrases, but cannot paper over the very real physical and cognitive limitations of a fatgued human. We think of it as being, in worst case, a character flaw, when in fact it is a quite real physiologically based issue.

    I know this sounds cynical, but it seems that the Navy leadership is saying that it is aware of the reality and very real immediate and long-term costs of operating with fatigued crews, but they aren't going to make any changes. They will incurr those costs as they come and just hope they are, no pun intended, not on their watch.

    Sadly we just have to sit back and await another foul-up in which the leadership has the collective vapours and quickly assigns blame but doesn't make root-cause changes. Time for them to get out of the 18th century!

  20. January 03, 2021AlexT said...

    Asking from a state of absolute ignorance: are there things which occupy people's time, especially at sea, which could/should really be put off until the ship is safely in port? Needless paperwork or administrative tasks and such? Not saying administration isn't important, but it could be maybe delayed and/or heavily optimized. Remembering my (fortunately brief) experience working in a large organization, a relatively small percentage of activity was lucrative; it wasn't uncommon to spend more time getting the reporting software to work, than doing the actual work that was being reported about.

  21. January 03, 2021Doctorpat said...

    I used to work in sleep medicine.

    The statistic that sticks with me is that after 18 hours awake our reaction time and judgement have deteriorated to the same point as if we were just over the legal limit of blood alcohol for driving (0.05% - depends on where you live I suppose).

    And 18 hours is nothing. That's you woke up at 6am and now you're driving home at midnight. Nobody would think twice about that, you wouldn't even think you were pushing yourself at all. At the same time, most people would think you were being a bit of a fool if you were driving after slamming down 3 tequilas.

  22. January 03, 2021echo said...

    I've always wondered how much of the root problem came from reducing paper manpower requirements through promises of automation. The newer Burkes have a lot more crew, but also way more things to take care of.
    Or is it a deployment issue?

    Hope I haven't asked this before, but have you ever written something about funnel routing? Was just looking at SMS Emden and ships of a similar vintage, and got curious how things changed between the 3/4-stacks and consolidated columns of the... 30s?

  23. January 04, 2021bean said...

    I don't think I have. The very short version is that there's a cost/weight penalty to trunking boiler uptakes together, but it's sometimes worth it. I suspect that they were able to design them better by the 30s, reducing the performance penalty, and you also needed less space for the boilers of that era, thanks to improvements in engineering. But the other big factor is that by the 30s, they were quite concerned about sky arcs, and didn't want a bunch of stacks blocking the fire of the AA guns. That can change the equation quite a lot.

  24. January 04, 2021quanticle said...

    Thanks, Blackshoe, for that excellent write-up about sleep (and the lack thereof) among surface warfare officers.

    Has anyone else seen any explicit attempts to address this with the plans to expand the Navy to 355 ships? I'm asking because all the reporting I've seen has been all about hulls, hulls, hulls. I haven't seen anything about where and how we're going to pay for the people to operate those hulls.

  25. January 05, 2021Johan Larson said...

    I guess I'm wondering where all that work that is keeping sailors from getting decent rest is actually going. A Halifax-class frigate has a complement of 198. If it is just cruising along and maintaining vigilance, but not at battle stations, what is going on that requires the continual efforts of even 100 people?

  26. January 06, 2021bean said...

    Conspiracy theory: Combat Fleets of the World was first published in English in 1977, as a defensive reaction in the aftermath of the 75 reclassification. British usage dominated in the runup to that because of their monopoly of the naval reference trade, and translating Combat Fleets meant that the USN could protect itself from similar attacks in the future.

  27. January 06, 2021quanticle said...

    What was the '75 reclassification?

  28. January 06, 2021bean said...

    Try here. My take on it is coming at some point before too long, but the conspiracy theory didn't really fit.

  29. January 15, 2021Blackshoe said...

    A lot of great questions, so I'll try and answer as best I can on them:

    @AlexT: ironically, people actually plan to shift some work from in port to underway periods, because at the end of an in port day, you get to go home to your own bed and family (if you are not on duty). Isolation from those temptations makes it easier to knock out some more work.

    @echo: the lack of manpower is a major, major problem. The Burkes were designed for 349 personnel onboard. Normal deployment complement when I left the active force was 280. USS FIRSTSHIP deployed in the 2008 timeframe with under 200. USS SECONDSHIP probably stayed at 250-ish, but we had an air det so that added some extra bodies (albeit not all that useful bodies). Lack of extra bodies drives a lot of the other problems we have, which I will discuss below.

    As far as what people are doing instead of sleeping: maintenance, training, preservation (cleaning/painting), and preparing for inspections. A lot of it is dumb admin that doesn't enhance the combat effectiveness of our force much, but it still needs to be done. Training is a factor of you having to study and learn about future jobs and work towards extra qualifications like ESWS or SWO, or studying for promotions for enlisted personnel. Also because most of our training system is OJT, so guys have to spend time as Under Instructions learning to stand watches.

    Lack of personnel probably affect the maintenance and preservation side the most (and training to some extent as well), since the maintenance decks are built around having a certain number of personnel onboard to do the maintenance (each maintenance action has a specific amount of time it is supposed to take to complete), and there's no easy way to re-work those checks (guy on USS FIRSTSHIP noted that if he worked his sailors 6 days a week, 24 hours a day, he could accomplish all his maintenance checks, by the book). Preservation is a manpower-intensive job that takes a lot of time and a little skill to do right, but when you don't have either, you end up making #RustTwitter annoyed (not that RustTwitter is going to spend time needle-gunning and laying on/laying off).

    The problem with the dumb admin and inspections is that even if they are dumb and unimportant, they still have to be done because often there is someone who checks on them and will (or at least can) report to their bosses about why you, USS SHIP, has failed to meet the requirements of SECNAVINST 1234.69I, and what your plan to meet those requirements. The old heads attribute a lot of this to email, since email allows any random person to wear his or her bosses' rank in a way they couldn't when you had to route things via Naval Message Traffic.

    The end result of this is ever-increasing amounts of requirements (at the least, preservation is a delaying action that you are always losing) have to be met by finite resources given to ships, and it's ultimately up to the ships to at least say they are meeting those requirements. And it takes everyone working really hard to get the numbers to look right enough that everyone believes them.

    Sailors could get more sleep if they were willing to just openly lie and/or ignore all the requirements and dare people to do something about it. Mutiny isn't that popular, fortunately or unfortunately.

    @quanticle: there is no plan to fix this problem. In as much as someone has a plan, they think we're just going to cut the crew size on newer platforms and that will make it all work out because magic. IIRC, after FTZ/JSM collisions, someone noted there were around 8000 unfilled/unfunded billets in the Surface Fleet. There's no plan to fix that. It would take a lot of money, and still might not work.

    Theoretically, the abortion that was Sailor 2025 (if it's still happening) was also going to magically fix that by magically making things better via the power of buzzwords, but I have no clue if anyone cares about that anymore.

  30. January 15, 2021Jade Nekotenshi said...

    My nightmare experience about manning was Joint Warrior 2009. We were seriously shorthanded in radio to the point where we had a supplemental person supplied by DESRON plus our (mustang former IT1) COMMO was standing watches with us, and we were still running an 18 on, 6 off schedule just to not fall any further behind. The ETs were even worse off - one had a heart attack (bad luck), and because he was the only one who worked on HF radios, we had an ETC and the EMO (mustang officer who had been an ETCS) down working on gear because they both kinda knew that piece of equipment.

    You can't keep that up for long before something or someone breaks.

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