June 11, 2021

Open Thread 80

It is time for our usual Open Tread. Talk about whatever you want, even if it's not naval related, so long as you avoid culture war topics.

We are going to have our next meetup next weekend, at 1 PM Central (GMT-5) on Saturday the 19th. Hope to see some of you there.

2018 overhauls are Jutland parts three, four, five, six and seven, So You Want to Build a Modern Navy - Coast Guard Part 1, Ship History - New Jersey, Museum Review - USS Alabama and Falklands Part 3. 2019 overhauls are Shells at Jutland, my one-post summary of Jutland, Battleship Aviation Part 3, A Brief History of the Submarine, Inky's review of the Haifa Clandestine Immigration and Naval Museum and Falklands Part 15. 2020 reviews are Jutland - The Blockade, Tomahawk Part 4, Coastal Defenses Part 3 and Soviet Battleships Part 3.

Comments

  1. June 11, 2021ike said...

    So my father shared a few stories from his time in the merchant marine - in particular going to the Baltic in the early 80's. The beer in Leningrad was terrible, and there was no beer to be had at all in Danzig. Apparently according to old-timers on board, all the ports in Europe after the war, looked like Leningrad did that day.

  2. June 12, 2021Anonymous said...

    ike:

    The beer in Leningrad was terrible

    Wouldn't the local alcoholics have been drinking vodka?

  3. June 12, 2021Johan Larson said...

    So, has anyone had a look at the US FY22 defence budget? I went looking for a useful overview, and the best I could find (here) is kind of overwhelming at more than a hundred pages.

    The main thing I came away with was the focus on China. Russia, Iran, and various bands of Islamic radicals may be issues, but China is the real threat.

  4. June 12, 2021Johan Larson said...

    So, has anyone had a look at the US FY22 defence budget? I went looking for a useful overview, and the best I could find (here) is kind of overwhelming at more than a hundred pages.

    The main thing I came away with was the focus on China. Russia, Iran, and various bands of Islamic radicals may be issues, but China is the real threat.

  5. June 12, 2021DampOctopus said...

    Another acquisition project running into trouble: Australia's new class of submarines.

    The existing Collins-class vessels are a class of six conventional attack submarines built from 1990 to 2003 in partnership with the Swedish designer Kockums. These experienced various problems during their construction and early operation, with much finger-pointing as to who was to blame, but are now apparently giving good service.

    These are planned to be replaced by twelve vessels of the Attack class, again to be constructed in partnership with the designer. The winning bid in this case, selected in 2016 for a US$39b contract, is a French design for a non-nuclear version of their Barracuda class, which would be (I think) unusually sophisticated for a conventional submarine.

    This project has now run into trouble. The existing Collins-class boats are being upgraded, presumably as a contingency measure in case the deal for their replacement is delayed or cancelled.

    Australian requirements would possibly be better met by a longer-ranged nuclear submarine, given its long coastlines and occasional need for blue-water operations alongside US forces. But it has little domestic nuclear expertise, so it would depend heavily on its allies for training and refueling - and nuclear power would, in any case, be politically controversial. Even if the current deal were to be cancelled, and the project rebid, the nuclear option would remain unlikely.

  6. June 12, 2021Lambert said...

    How important are relations between the RAN and the RNZN?
    Operating SSNs (of a French design, no less) risks alienating the Kiwis.

  7. June 12, 2021bean said...

    Australia is having trouble procuring submarines? Really?

    Given how much trouble the Collins class was, I'd be surprised if this went smoothly. Nuclear makes a lot of sense for their missions, but as you say, it's politically unlikely. Dealing with the French probably didn't help.

  8. June 12, 2021Philistine said...

    @DampOctopus,

    And yet Australia is still far ahead of Canada, where the Victoria-class boats are not AIUI "giving good service" and the Government has yet to even start trying to define the requirements for a replacement AFAICT.

    @Lambert,

    I'm going to heroically resist the temptation to ask "What RNZN?" and confine myself to guessing "Not very." But I will observe that both of the combatant vessels in RNZN service have operated alongside the USN in recent memory, so the mere fact of operating SSNs can't be too much of a deal-breaker.

  9. June 12, 2021DampOctopus said...

    @Lambert:

    Relations between the RAN and the RNZN are important, but wouldn't be affected by the RAN acquiring nuclear submarines: as Philistine says, the RNZN does operate alongside the USN. What it would do is prevent RAN nuclear boats (like those of the USN) from docking at NZ ports, due to NZ legislation. Probably not a big deal.

    @Philistine:

    Oh, wow, those Victoria-class boats are not giving anything remotely close to good service. When all four boats spend a combined total of zero days at sea over the course of 2019, that's not a good sign. And I don't see any more evidence of a replacement programme than you do.

    Perhaps the RCN is spending all its budget on its planned fifteen Type 26 frigates, almost as many as the RN (eight) and RAN (nine) combined.

  10. June 13, 2021Neal said...

    A shout out to Bean’s most excellent Part 6 of his Coastal Defenses series.

    As luck would have it, the book I ordered some six months (or more) ago, Festungsbau an Nordsee und Ostsee arrived yesterday. I tucked into it last night and, while not quite past page 60 yet, I am finding it to be a rich description of the fortresses, bastions, forts, etc. that the Germans constructed on their northern coasts and islands. I know this might seem like an extraordinarily focused slice of the historical pie, but it is revealing quite a bit about German coastal defense thinking up to WW1 and how the perceived threat from Britain dictated fort placement and armament.

    The author is an architect and seems to have worked closely with the German military archivists in Freiburg, a professor of naval history in Hamburg, and the Marine museum in Bremerhaven. I am pleased that such the records survive and there are those curating them.

    I will obviously have more when I finish, but I am enjoying how it augments Bean's research on coastal defenses and the thinking that went into their placement, construction, and armament.

    A few quick takeaways so far.

    1. I had erroneously thought that the German northern ports had robust defenses going back to the formation of the Hanseatic League. Well, there were a few but robust would not have been the word to describe them as I had weapons technology to fire shore to ship was, among a number of factors, a long time in coming. The idea of a planned Northern Germany coastal defense that was in any way, however loosely, with a fleet did not start to take shape until around 1867 when Prussia folded the Austrian fleet into the “Norddeutschen Bund.” Yet it was after the Franco-Prussian war of 1870-71 when things begin to move—importantly with the reparation funds France was forced to pay that could fuel such projects. Then, as we know, along comes Kaiser Wilhelm II and Alfred von Tirpitz and their desire to build Germany as a major Naval power…

    2. The general idea after the arrival of this dynamic duo was that most monies would be sunk into the construction of the capital ships, but that coastal defenses needed to be integrated into fleet plans and would require formal budgeting—sometimes enough for the job and sometimes on a leftover or catch as catch can basis. The decision was made early that two factors would guide this coastal defense planning. The first was that Britain would be the sure enemy. The second was that while the Russian fleet could not be completely ignored in the Baltic, the concentration must be on the North Sea as the British were much more of a sea danger (Nordsee verus Ostsee).

    3. The engineers and planning staff looked at both what defenses were extant at the time and those that had worked in the past. The author discusses at some length the French military engineer Sébastien Le Prestre de Vauban, 1633-1707, who was brilliant in both defensive fort/fortress/bastion construction as well as offensive techniques against fortified positions. In his 57-year career he oversaw 33 full scale fortifications scores of smaller ones and really set the standard for European fortification standards. As an aside, the Vietnamese forces at Dien Bien Phu took the French emplacements by employing, in part, Vauban’s three trench offensive strategy. Also studied were Italian and Dutch construction methods as well as the Martello Towers of which the British had built 164 some of them to defend against any forces Napoleon would try to land in Southeast England. I have to admit I had not heard of Vauban nor of other fortification designers like Menno Baron van Coehoorn. They really poured a lot of thought into both large scale (city defense for example) as well as smaller emplacements.

    4. Of course the construction of coastal fortifications was a game, as it was everywhere, of one-upmanship for the German planners. Thick stone fortifications were great things in history up until around the Franco-Prussian war, but then explosives were developed that could breach stone pretty readily so the Germans decided drew upon their burgeoning steel industry to provide what was needed for modern defense construction. Again, their eyes were on the British and what they could throw at them.

    5. The Germans were sticklers about planning both for defending against threats out on the waters, but gave a surprising amount of heed to a land force that could attempt to take the fortifications from behind—a real risk if the British could manage to get a mobile contingent onto land. Bean mentions how this was the later the case in in Port Arthur.

    6. A glance at the map helps a lot in understanding in whaqt the Germans were facing in building out their defenses. Some of their ports lie just inland—those like Rostock and Bremerhaven. Kiel and Luebeck are a couple more miles from the open water while Hamburg is, of course, well down the Elbe. The Germans took their top three tasks in this situation to be defending the ports and all the infrastructure of building (Werfts) and provisioning the fleet, to prevent any landings of the British near important areas, and to integrate defenses directly with the fleet when its vessels were maneuvering in coastal/island seas and waterways. They had a good amount of coast to defend and from what I can tell they gave a lot of effort in that integration issue as to what the fleet itself could/should handle and what the coastal batteries could provide or at least augment.

    All these words to say that I am surprised at how significantly the German coastal defenses were dictated by what was perceived to be the threats the British could pose. I want to be careful in my reading, but they really seemed to fear that the British would steam close to shore to disembark some kind of landing force (how real that threat could have ever been is not discussed) or more, realistically, to shell ports and the ships in and around them.

    I’m pleased that there are German historians, both amateur and professional, who have worked to provide light on a topic that falls well into the shadows of the great Naval rivalry with Britain.

    Now to see what they constructed, how they situated the defenses, and what they armed them with.

  11. June 13, 2021Neal said...

    Correction. I didn't mean to imply that there were no coastal fortifications of any significance in the northern German coastal areas before Kaiser Bill and company--quite the opposite as this readership knows. In fact, the authors provide illustrations of very impressive "Festungs" including a quite detailed one of Danzig from 1660.

    What I meant to say was there was not a standardized fortification system that was robust enough, in the German leadership's view to stave off an enemy at distance/ off shore. Poor wording on my part as Danzig, being just one example of many, having had a formidable system of redoubts to welcome any enemy that would have tried to sail directly down the river Weichsel (now the Martwa Wisla I believe it to be called).

  12. June 13, 2021ike said...

    @Neal

    I am glad your book came in.

    I would love to hear more about stuff in the Baltic. It seems to get forgotten about most of the time.

    I checked my sources, and I cannot find anything about the Prussians taking any Hapsburg ships as spoils of war in '67.

  13. June 13, 2021Anonymous said...

    DampOctopus:

    Australian requirements would possibly be better met by a longer-ranged nuclear submarine, given its long coastlines and occasional need for blue-water operations alongside US forces. But it has little domestic nuclear expertise, so it would depend heavily on its allies for training and refueling - and nuclear power would, in any case, be politically controversial. Even if the current deal were to be cancelled, and the project rebid, the nuclear option would remain unlikely.

    All true, to make things worse there may only be one supplier if they do the sensible thing which may make it not so sensible.

    Lambert:

    Operating SSNs (of a French design, no less) risks alienating the Kiwis.

    What would they do, send their fighter jets to bomb it?

    Philistine:

    And yet Australia is still far ahead of Canada, where the Victoria-class boats are not AIUI "giving good service" and the Government has yet to even start trying to define the requirements for a replacement AFAICT.

    Canada originally wanted real submarines but the US tried to block them and were able to force the British to pull out leaving only France (and it seems Canada didn't really want real submarines all that badly).

    If that were to repeat than it'd knock the US and UK out, Australia wouldn't buy from Russia or China assuming those countries would even sell (China not now given current geopolitics and even Russia might be wary of selling advanced stuff to such a close US ally) and India doesn't really have the experience in operating real submarines (but if the replacement of the Attack class is to be a real submarine…).

  14. June 13, 2021Neal said...

    @Ike

    Good catch. I went back to re-read the author's description a few times and he seems to be saying that Prussia had an insignificant fleet prior to 1867 ("unbeduetende" is the word he uses) but after the defeat of Austria in the Seven Weeks War it integrated what it did have into the Norddeutschen Bund.

    I took the author's use of the word "integrated" to mean that it had also folded in what it might have gained from Austria's concessions in defeat, but on looking at it again that was a mistaken assumption on my part.

    Thanks for catching that.

  15. June 13, 2021Grant said...

    What was the status of the large British monitors under the Washington Treaty? Three of them (Erebus, Terror, and Marshal Soult) served into the thirties. Since they had 15” guns, the treaty would classify them as capital ships, but they aren’t included in the total British tonnage. In Jane’s Fighting Ships 1931 they are all classed as gunnery training ships, but they wouldn’t count as demilitarized since they still mounted their main guns. Did everyone pretty much agree that they were too slow to matter and ignore them? Or was there a clause I missed while reading the treaty documents?

  16. June 13, 2021bean said...

    @Neal

    Thanks for that. Nothing terribly surprising (some of the stuff you remark on, like land defenses, I knew about but didn't dwell on) but it will be useful if/when I ever get around to writing that book on coastal defenses.

  17. June 13, 2021bean said...

    @Grant

    Good question. I'd guess that they were classified as "not capital ships" because they were under 10,000 tons. Obviously, you couldn't build something like that under the treaty, but stuff that was already built was grandfathered in, particularly when nobody had any particular incentive to object to it because it's a monitor.

  18. June 13, 2021cassander said...

    @johan

    I'll be sending out the analysis I do for work this week with the discussion group email. You'll get a nice pivot table with all the programs for all the services consolidated together in a readable format. If anyone else wants to see it, let me know. I don't want to post it, but I'm happy to email it.

  19. June 13, 2021cassander said...

    @dampoctopus

    I've said for years that the Aussies chose wrong. they should just buy soryus. No one makes a diesel sub that meets their needs, but they came closest. Well, they could in theory make some sort of deal to pay for/lease/co-operate some Astutes with the RAN, but it's been most of a century since they did something like that, and I don't think any country is going to be willing to spend that much money on crucial national assets that they can't really operate/maintain on their own.

  20. June 13, 2021Doctorpat said...

    @Neal,

    they really seemed to fear that the British would steam close to shore to disembark some kind of landing force (how real that threat could have ever been is not discussed)

    Didn't the discussions about the British attacking Germany in WWI have a section about "of course we'd like to launch an amphibious attack on the German ports, but 1. The battle of Jutland left the German fleet far too dangerous to risk 2. German coastal defence would make this too dangerous.

    So the existence of said coastal defence is (one of the reasons) WHY said threat never materialised?

    @Anonymous Operating SSNs (of a French design, no less) risks alienating the Kiwis.

    What would they do, send their fighter jets to bomb it?

    Australia and NZ have a huge amount of cooperation and interaction between their military, economy etc. They share a national football league. They are currently the only countries that their citizens can easily travel to.

    Causing difficulties between the two nations would damage (both) far before any direct action would be contemplated.

    Australia wouldn’t buy from Russia or China ... and India doesn’t really have the experience in operating real submarines...

    The other candidate Australia was looking at for a submarine supplier was Japan.

  21. June 13, 2021Philistine said...

    @cassander

    IIRC the RAN got very close to buying Soryus on technical grounds, but the deal fell through because the Japanese wanted to build the boats in Japan while the Australians insisted on building them in Australia.

    Astutes might well make sense for Australia. They might well make even more sense for Canada, which similarly has long coastlines, the occasional need to conduct blue-water operations alongside the USN, and adds a major requirement to be able to conduct under-ice operations in the Arctic. And the British might well love to sell Astutes - or even licenses to build them! - to the RAN and RCN. Pity it'll never, ever happen.

  22. June 13, 2021ike said...

    Remind me what she wants the submarines for in the first place. From what I remember, her big security challenge is preventing smuggling across her huge sea-boarder with Asia.

  23. June 14, 2021Neal said...

    @Bean. True. Probably the only thing that might qualify as new so far is the sense that the Germans, now unified, felt as if they were playing catch up in applying/adapting land fortress construction principles to coastal defenses that could parry their perception of British threats. As you mentioned in your series though, lots of countries were trying to figure out how to modernize CD.

    @Doctorpat Good point but I'm only so far into the northern coast and port story at the stage not long after Prussian successes against Austria and then France. I will be interested in learning if, once they started massively pouring concrete and up through the war, if there was a moment when they were at last confident that their defenses were more than adequate to rebuff any close-in action by the British. Of course, as we know, eventually the blockade became the real problem, but by golly they seemed to be taking the coastal defense task pretty seriously all of a sudden in these early years when they decided to float a big fleet!

  24. June 14, 2021Anonymous said...

    cassander:

    Well, they could in theory make some sort of deal to pay for/lease/co-operate some Astutes

    There's probably enough US technology in them for the US to be able to block it like they did when Canada tried to buy real submarines.

    cassander:

    and I don't think any country is going to be willing to spend that much money on crucial national assets that they can't really operate/maintain on their own.

    Anything with a computer if you don't have the source code you can't do that and I don't think the US has been very willing to share source code for the F35 with those they export it to (I'm sure China has a copy though) so it probably isn't really all that different from buying F35s.

    Philistine:

    IIRC the RAN got very close to buying Soryus on technical grounds, but the deal fell through because the Japanese wanted to build the boats in Japan while the Australians insisted on building them in Australia.

    I've seen that used as an example of how Japan is having trouble entering the defense export market.

    Philistine:

    Astutes might well make sense for Australia. They might well make even more sense for Canada, which similarly has long coastlines, the occasional need to conduct blue-water operations alongside the USN, and adds a major requirement to be able to conduct under-ice operations in the Arctic.

    Canada also has a nuclear industry so is in a better position to support them and if they really wanted to they're in a better position to go it alone (but the CANDU is not suitable for naval use).

    ike:

    Remind me what she wants the submarines for in the first place. From what I remember, her big security challenge is preventing smuggling across her huge sea-boarder with Asia.

    Middle power (dominant in its immediate region) with the feeling that it should have a powerful, well equipped military that can handle a range of tasks, some of which require at least submersible surface vessels to do (yes, they'd prefer not to need to do the sinking enemy troop transports mission but do feel they need the capability of doing it).

    Dealing with smugglers may be what the RAN is mostly doing these days, but preventing Australia from being invaded is their most important mission and the one their real warships are specified to be able to do.

  25. June 14, 2021AlphaGamma said...

    @ike:

    The beer in Leningrad was terrible

    If it was Baltika, it still is!

    @Anonymous: Until recently, beer in Russia was classified as a soft drink...

    (This is a slight exaggeration, but it was much less regulated than vodka or wine, and was officially considered a foodstuff)

  26. June 14, 2021cassander said...

    @philistine

    Yeah, the japanese screwed up the business side of the equation, largely out of inexperience, I think. See also how they've been pushing the P-1 really hard, and are shocked, shocked that no one is buying it. Another reason I wanted australia to get the Soryus was to get the Japanese some experience dealing with foreign customers so they learn not to do things like build a p-8 knockoff with 4 bespoke engines.

  27. June 14, 2021Alexander said...

    At the rate BAE is building Astutes, I don't think Australia would be getting any from the UK anytime soon, especially with the Dreadnoughts in the queue. There are quite a few Trafalgar (and Swiftsure) boats lying around they could make an offer on, though I (and the Canadians) wouldn't recommend it.

  28. June 14, 2021Doctorpat said...

    Until recently, beer in Russia was classified as a soft drink...

    Yeah, there's a reason for that.

    When I was visiting the Leningrad Institute of Mines (Yes, Leningrad. It was a while ago.) the local beer was 2.5c per bottle (about 350 mL). Which is super, super cheap. But overpriced.

    The bottle claimed to be 8 proof, about 4% alcohol. But we had a lab available so we measured it. It was about 0.25%. Which would also be classified as a softdrink in Australia.

    It also tasted like water that had been used for washing old bread. At 2.5c each it was not worth it, so we bought 55c Lappen Kulta beer imported from Finland. Or 80c for a litre of Vodka.

    (That was a fair price for the vodka. About the same price as a litre of petrol, and a similar taste.)

  29. June 14, 2021Ian Argent said...

    Why did the US block the canadians from buying subs (And is presumed that they would block the aussies from doing same)? Or is it more that the US wants to block them from buying non-US gear? (We sell howitzers and fighters to both countries, for goodness sake)

  30. June 14, 2021bean said...

    Or is it more that the US wants to block them from buying non-US gear?

    Given the state of the US nuclear ship construction industry these days, the big problem with that would be getting slots for the export subs. Boise (IIRC) spent like two years waiting for yard time and unable to dive.

    Also, the Biden Administration finally announced a SecNav candidate, Carlos Del Toro. Del Toro at least has 22 years in the Navy, an order of magnitude improvement over Ray Mabus, so he probably won't do as many stupid things. It's taken them a worryingly long time to nominate him (Spencer was confirmed in July 2017, but he was Trump's second candidate) and both the Army and Air Force had nominees back in April. So while it's finally nice to have a name, I'm slightly concerned by the Biden Administration's attitude towards the Navy.

  31. June 15, 2021Doctorpat said...

    Given the state of the US nuclear ship construction industry these days, the big problem with that would be getting slots for the export subs.

    I would not be the slightest bit surprised if one arm of a large organisation (any large organisation, government or private) was pulling dirty tricks to make sales while another arm was so overloaded it couldn't actually fulfil those sales.

    I've seen similar stunts pulled multiple times.

  32. June 15, 2021Anonymous said...

    cassander:

    so they learn not to do things like build a p-8 knockoff with 4 bespoke engines.

    They didn't screw up the C-2 as badly at least (maybe not even at all).

    Ian Argent:

    Why did the US block the canadians from buying subs (And is presumed that they would block the aussies from doing same)?

    It seems they were concerned that Canada's submarines would get in their way.

  33. June 15, 2021DampOctopus said...

    The Australian government would be unlikely to buy Astutes from the UK for a reason unrelated to their nuclear propulsion: they want to support their local shipbuilding industry. Same reason (if Philistine and Anonymous are correct, above) they chose not to buy Soryus.

    The most plausible option for a nuclear Attack-class submarine might be the one suggested by a former RAN submariner here: build them in Australia, but with imported reactors. France would presumably be willing to license Barracudas under those terms, given that they're already doing the same with a non-nuclear variant, and the UK and US would (I think) be likely to make similar offers with Astutes and Virginias.

    The sovereignty issues are probably surmountable. You'd need a few years of joint reactor operation for skills exchange before the RAN could operate them on its own. Australia lacks the capability for a mid-life refuelling, but that's unnecessary for modern SSNs - and besides, the US, UK and France would all be able to assist with that, and it's unlikely for Australia to end up on poor terms with all of those countries in 30 years.

    The primary (and, I think, sufficient) obstacle to Australian SSNs is still just public opinion about nuclear power.

  34. June 15, 2021Blackshoe said...

    Cannot link right now because I am on my tab, but Popular Mechanics is reporting the Us Navy's railgun is dead, with no funding in the FY22 budget.

  35. June 15, 2021bean said...

    USNI isn't reporting anything of the sort yet, but we'll see.

    @cassander

    Could I get a copy of that spreadsheet?

  36. June 16, 2021Doctorpat said...

    At least publicly, the major objection to Australia buying subs from Japan was lingering ill feeling from WW2.

    I thought this was exaggerated and anachronistic, until I brought the subject up with a guy old enough to remember being directly threatened by Japanese troops. He was adamant that Japan could not be trusted militarily.

    (Doesn't stop him driving a Mazda though.)

    Such people are a very small minority, but they are probably one that still has the ear of senior military and government leaders.

    (This example I'm thinking of is on a first name basis with two senators for example.)

  37. June 16, 2021ike said...

    I keep forgetting that Australia had her colonies invaded.

  38. June 16, 2021bean said...

    Technically, they weren't Australian colonies, but it's easy for outsiders to underestimate the impact the Pacific War had on Australia. The vast majority of tourists I ran into at the various Singaporean military sites were Australian.

  39. June 16, 2021ike said...

    @bean

    I am having a little trouble following your point. Are you emphasizing that the conquests from Germany were tied up with the LoN mandate system? If so, remember that Australian control of the SE of the island predated the League.

  40. June 16, 2021bean said...

    Ack. I was thinking about Malaya, not the Bismarks and New Guinea. You are correct, some of those were Australian colonies.

  41. June 16, 2021Anonymous said...

    DampOctopus:

    France would presumably be willing to license Barracudas under those terms, given that they're already doing the same with a non-nuclear variant

    They're already helping Brazil get real submarines.

    DampOctopus:

    and the UK and US would (I think) be likely to make similar offers with Astutes and Virginias.

    The UK would need US permission to make such an offer, something that was not forthcoming when Canada tried to buy real submarines.

  42. June 16, 2021bean said...

    @Anonymous

    While there is a useful philosophical point to be made by calling nuke boats "real submarines", I think it's mostly just confusing people.

  43. June 16, 2021Doctorpat said...

    I think a couple of clarifications of my story and related background are required:

    • This guy I work with, though currently Australian, grew up in Northern China (he was Russian, there was a Russian city in Harbin. Even today a lot of the "Chinese" in Harbin have blonde hair and blue eyes.) He recounts stories of seeing neighbours hung from trees when he was 5 years old. This is a story where the USSR invading is the happy ending.

    • Australia was bombed in WW2. The city of Darwin was largely destroyed. Even Sydney was shelled (from a submarine) though ineffectually. The school I went to had historical displays about how it was evacuated into the mountains during the war.

  44. June 16, 2021Neal said...

    @Doctorpat

    I across a thread last year on a forum that mentioned the bombing of Darwin so my ears perked up when you mentioned it.

    One gent even mentions that the Japanese dropped more munitions on Darwin in 1942 than they did on Pearl Harbor although he does not provide a reference. I know the Americans did use Darwin on occasion as a submarine fueling stop to/from their base at Fremantle but did not count on it early in the war.

    https://www.pprune.org/jet-blast/626408-darwin-australia-world-war-2-a.html?highlight=Darwin+australia

    Is it true that the wharf workers (wharfies you call them?) in Oz were often a serious impediment to the flow of personnel and cargo in/out of the ports? One story even has them standing down when returning POWs were being repatriated.

    As an aside, it was also there that I found a good discussion of the rescue craft the British were using in the Channel.

    3x500hp Napier Sea Lions or Merlins. Did Oz having something similar in use around New Guinea? Not so much for rescue, but in roles similar to the PT boats the U.S. used? https://www.pprune.org/jet-blast/609362-sea-shall-not-have-them-question-about-watercraft.html

  45. June 16, 2021Blackshoe said...

    On the subject of the US selling nuke subs to Canada (or anyone else): the real issue is that the US doesn't like anything related to its nuclear submarines to get too far from their control. The fear is information spilling over to hostile actors.

    If it makes you feel any better, know that they don't trust the rest of the Navy with much, either.

  46. June 17, 2021Doctorpat said...

    @Neal,

    One gent even mentions that the Japanese dropped more munitions on Darwin in 1942 than they did on Pearl Harbor although he does not provide a reference.

    Yes, that comparison appears in various sources. But remember that Pearl Harbour was bombed once, Darwin was bombed 64 separate times between Feb 1942 and November 1943.

    I know the Americans did use Darwin on occasion as a submarine fueling stop to/from their base at Fremantle but did not count on it early in the war.

    Darwin was a large naval base, had a lot of army based there, and was used as the base for aircraft doing bombing raids on Japanese in Indonesia. If you look at a map you can see that Darwin is within flying distance of where Japan was trying to establish oilfields in "the Dutch East Indies".

    Is it true that the wharf workers (wharfies you call them?) in Oz were often a serious impediment to the flow of personnel and cargo in/out of the ports? One story even has them standing down when returning POWs were being repatriated.

    Yes. I remember when I was a kid that old guys who'd fought in the war were still VERY dark about that. I remember being told by one guy that his brigade in New Guinea actually had some warfies get drafted and turn up in the jungle. And that they all died in the first battle. From "friendly fire".

    True story? I can't say. But that was the attitude. People were telling that story with a smile in the 1980s.

    Though the dock workers became less directly confrontational once the USSR stopped being an Axis power.

    The "Painters and dockers union" was generally considered Australia's mafia until they were finally broken up in the 1970s. Obviously the dock workers are in a prime position for any smuggling activity, which was the major part of Australian crime.

    3x500hp Napier Sea Lions or Merlins. Did Oz having something similar in use around New Guinea?

    Sorry, not something I know anything about. Now if you wanted to know about hidden (from air raids) resource bunkers and fuel tanks in North Queensland then that would be a different matter.

  47. June 17, 2021Neal said...

    @Doctorpat

    Can you recommend a quick and easy read on the attacks on Darwin and the general overall threat to Nothern Australia. I knew the Japanese had bombed Darwin, but I had no idea that they had "visited" so many times.

    I am pouring over the map to see where they would have launched land based bombers from. I assume they also had moved Naval assets in to support those attacks.

    The reason I ask that, just like a few posters on that thread I listed, I frankly had no idea that the Japanese had attacked that frequently. I had read, going all the way back to high school in the late 70s about the Australians fighting in PNG and especially on/over the Owen Stanley range--which, even then, struck me as being an absolutely horrific battles space, but after that the info available was rather thin.

    Last year when I was doing a deep dive (pun intended) into U.S. submarine ops in that region, I realized that as an American, I just didn't have good knowledge of what was going on West of Port Moresby unless it was way northwest in Singapore/Malaysia.

    It was only recently that I learned that there were those in Washington scrambling to find out if there were rails links across Oz so if thing went bad in the east (in other words, if the Japanese could have slowed shipping on the east coast of Oz) maybe supplies could be shipped into Perth and tran-shipped onward...needless to say that thought didn't go far.

    Thanks for the info on the dock workers. Didn't the Australian military have to take over control of some of the ports in order to assure cargo actually was being moved and not pilfered until there was nothing left?

  48. June 19, 2021Fionn said...

    Last year I posted an article about the Irish government and their plans to do something about the air defence situation (mostly down how there isn't any). So today's Irish Times has a nice long article discussing the situation, as the Irish Aviation Authority (the civil regulatory body in charge of Irish airspace) have made a submission to the commission formed to determine what to do about the situation, or at least provide some recommendations. Initially at least the IAA is requesting primary radar coverage plus some light fighters, more along the lines of "air policing" than "air defence".

    However, as the article states further down, funding for the Irish defence forces is currently extremely tight as it is, with the naval service barely being able to keep the current fleet in service due to manpower shortages (matches what I've been told by a friend who very reluctantly quit their commission due to the amount of time spent at sea). Given the current financial headwinds (COVID, potential international tax changes, housing crisis) I can't see where the government would find the money for this.

    https://www.irishtimes.com/news/ireland/irish-news/the-gaping-gap-in-ireland-s-airspace-defence-1.4597124

  49. June 19, 2021ike said...

    I was about to make a flippant comment about the merits of paying Britain to do it. Then, I realized the current situation is 'Have Britain do it, but not pay her'.

  50. June 20, 2021DampOctopus said...

    Note that the UK military accepts recruits from the Republic of Ireland, as well as from member countries of the Commonwealth. The RAF is partly Irish-staffed, though entirely UK-funded.

    It seems to me that acquiring a decent ground-based radar capability is the minimum the RoI should be considering: it's essential if they plan to operate a real air force, and still helpful if they plan to continue relying on the RAF. And, from a sovereignty point of view, it's better to be requesting assistance in policing your airspace than to rely on someone else to decide when it's necessary.

  51. June 20, 2021muddywaters said...

    @Neal: Wiki says the first and largest day of raids was from 4 carriers (including Sōryū) and 2 land bases, and dropped a larger number of bombs but less total weight than Pearl Harbor.

  52. June 20, 2021Neal said...

    @muddywaters

    Thank you kindly for that link. It was most informative.

  53. June 21, 2021Doctorpat said...

    @Neal, You might also look at Australia's Secret War about the warf strikes

    https://www.amazon.com/Australias-Secret-War-Unions-Sabotaged/dp/0980677874

    Though be aware that not everyone agrees with all the events and interpretations in said book. It has clearly an anti-union slant.

    And I've walked the route over the Owen Stanley range in New Guinea that the Australians and Japanese fought over. It was tough work doing it just carrying enough supplies for your walk, without weapons, supplies for once you got there, and getting shot at on the way.

  54. June 21, 2021quanticle said...

    Tanner Greer, known for his commentary and analysis of Chinese government and military policy, has a post on his blog, The Scholar's Stage, about the logic of a first strike against US fixed assets, most notably airbases, in the event of a future heightening of tensions over Taiwan. He notes that, unlike in land warfare, naval warfare does not favor the defense. Unlike a land army, a fleet caught by surprise cannot dig in or conduct a fighting retreat. As a result, victory at sea goes to the force that can effectively attack first.

    Normally that point is taken to mean that a surprise attack must come from the PLA. However, Greer notes that the logic of the first strike applies more US forces as it does to the PLA. As a result, the US military is an underappreciated potential driver of escalation in a crisis. It might very well be our admirals pushing for a decisive first strike against the PLA, under the assumption that a PLA first strike would knock our fleet back enough to allow China to present the US with a fait accompli, either with regards to Taiwan or in a dispute in the South China Sea. As the old saying goes, the best defense is a good offense, and so US commanders may very well push for a pre-emptive attack in order to prevent the PLA from launching theirs.

    I have one dispute and one question about the article. First, Greer (uncharacteristically glibly, in my opinion) assumes that the US can disperse its forces among a number of bases. He says that, in the event of heightened tensions over Taiwan, he hopes that US commanders would be "smart enough" to disperse their forces across Japan's many airfields. But don't the Japanese get a vote in this? In the past, the Japanese people have been very wary of increases in US military presence in Japan. Most notably, this wariness led to the cancellation of the two Aegis Ashore deployments. Won't a dispersal of US forces from their current concentrated locations at Kadena, Yokosuka and Okinawa result in much greater push-back from the Japanese population?

    Secondly, and more importantly, the key underlying assumption behind Greer's thesis in this post is that sea battles favor the attacker in a way that land battles do not. How true is this assumption? Greer says that "digging in" is impossible at sea. Is that true? Are there any instances where a naval force has successfully escaped a surprise attack?

  55. June 21, 2021bean said...

    I think Greer at the very least overstates his case. Anyone in The Year of Our Lord 2021 who is talking about an attack on US bases who doesn’t at least mention BMD (if only to say that he/she is skeptical for reasons discussed in this linked article) is hard to take seriously. Even if you’re not particularly bullish on BMD capabilities, it’s hard to be so confident that they won’t work to base that kind of first-strike planning around it. (And this, kids, is why missile defense isn’t destabilizing.)

    As for surviving a surprise attack, I’d point to the Marianas Turkey Shoot. Not a complete surprise, but it was a sharp rebuttal to the prewar doctrine that believed the first attack would win a carrier battle. The Japanese got the first strike in cleanly, and still lost thanks to radar and the CIC.

  56. June 21, 2021Blackshoe said...

    My experience frankly inclines me to believe that there is little to worry about the USN striking the first blow.

    The idea of the US deciding it needs to launch a first blow makes a lot of tactical and operational sense; it does not make much strategic or administrative sense, though.

  57. June 21, 2021Neal said...

    @Doctorpat

    Many thanks for the link as well as the caution going in as the author's slant.

    It was in the late seventies when, as a teen, I read William Manchester's American Ceasar. I was most struck by his description of the fighting in/over the Owen Stanley range. As per his description the point troops, both Allied and Japanese, could only move a few meters at a time. The heat, sickness, the weight of the gear they were carrying, and the need to hack through the vegetation completely sapped the fittest of them in no time. I envy your getting hike the terrain to see it first hand.

    I cannot remember Manchester's words exactly without looking up the passage, but the takeaway was that the Allies, as if there were really a question, were now doubly sure of how hard a fight lay ahead.

  58. June 22, 2021T. Greer said...

    Perhaps I wrote that Japan dispersal line with more hope than evidence. I have written about this issue before (arguing that this is what the US needs to push for, along with dispersed basing -- see here https://foreignpolicy.com/2019/09/04/american-bases-in-japan-are-sitting-ducks/). My hope is that we will actually see this happen as the Japanese start to take things more seriously. There is evidence that they are--witness the four statements various Tokyo functionaries have made about Taiwan being a "redline" and so forth. The question is whether we can bluntly communicate to them the necessity and if they can sell it to their own people.

    Marianas Turkey Shoot is an interesting case. In the book I reference (Hughes' Fleet Tactics he discusses how over the course of the Pacific War the power of a defensive fighter screen grew with time, and has some interesting statistical tables to demonstrate the fact. The Marianas battle was further hampered though by the very shoddy training of the Japanese pilots in the air. When the Japanese shifted from dive bombers to proto missiles (for what else were the kamikaze attacks?) the fleet had trouble adapting.

    re: strategy vs. tactics -- that is of course the entire point of the warning. At times the logic of strategy and tactics will diverge, and we must be prepared at that day to keep a lid on tactics before it goes too far.

    Glad you enjoyed the piece gents.

  59. June 22, 2021bean said...

    In the book I reference (Hughes’ Fleet Tactics he discusses how over the course of the Pacific War the power of a defensive fighter screen grew with time, and has some interesting statistical tables to demonstrate the fact.

    I am skeptical of Hughes (as he's one of the main perpetrators of the LCS fisaco) but in this case, he's obviously right, thanks to better radar and, more importantly, better doctrine.

    When the Japanese shifted from dive bombers to proto missiles (for what else were the kamikaze attacks?) the fleet had trouble adapting.

    The fleet adapted pretty well. The kamikazes were a harder problem than previous air attacks, but they figured it out pretty fast, as far as it was possible to deal with them.

  60. June 23, 2021Doctorpat said...

    @Neal, Another point about my walk on the Kokoda trail. (The trail from Port Moresby to Kokoda over the Owen Stanley mountains.) When I walked it there was maybe a group of 3 or 4 going through each day. When you have 1000 times that (Moving light artillery. With pack mules and horses.) the fairly OK trails we were on would turn into mud baths. Making every step a struggle.

    On defense vs. attach at sea: isn't the deciding factor the ratio between your short range vs. long range weapons?

    In WW2 they started out with lots of torpedo and bombing aircraft (long range) and insufficient AA guns (short range). By later in the war the USA had heaps of AA so the balance shifted to defense being far more effective.
    In 2020 we'd need to compare the power of missiles and aircraft (long range) vs. short range missiles and point defense.

    If you go nuclear of course attack dominates.

    The introduction of lasers might shift the balance to defense, but we aren't there yet.

  61. June 23, 2021bean said...

    The RN is back in the carrier strike game! Starting on the 18th, British and USMC F-35Bs flying from Queen Elizabeth hit ISIS targets, the first time the British have flown carrier strikes in a decade. BZ to the RN.

    @Doctorpat

    In WW2 they started out with lots of torpedo and bombing aircraft (long range) and insufficient AA guns (short range). By later in the war the USA had heaps of AA so the balance shifted to defense being far more effective.

    Not exactly. Better AA definitely mattered, but a bigger fraction was the vast improvements in methods for using defensive fighters. Pre-radar, there was little hope that fighters could actually intercept incoming raids.

  62. June 23, 2021Ian Argent said...

    @Bean " Pre-radar, there was little hope that fighters could actually intercept incoming raids. "

    The bomber will always get through? Interesting.

  63. June 23, 2021bean said...

    "The bomber will always get through" was slightly different. That was based on some periods where the development of bombers was a generation or so ahead of fighters, and the bombers themselves were faster than the fighters. At sea, the situation was that detection was still via Mk 1 eyeball, and unlike on land, you couldn't put out observers nearly as easily. So the odds of picking up an incoming raid in time to vector in interceptors was very low. Radar pushed detection out far enough to make interceptors practical again.

  64. June 23, 2021cassander said...

    On the subject of the bomber will get through, allied bombers almost always did. Even the famous pyrrhic victories like the Schweinfurt mission saw heavy damage done and the vast majority of attacking planes get in and dropping their bombs, and that was attacking a very heavily defended target at very long range. Lighter bombers had more trouble getting through, but the difficulty with heavy bombers was inflicting damage worth the cost more than getting through.

  65. June 24, 2021Neal said...

    The Defender was, according to the British not fired upon. According to the Russians however, warning shots were fired. In which direction however, they have failed to say.

    The MoD statement:

    Ministry of Defence Press Office @DefenceHQPress "No warning shots have been fired at HMS Defender.

    The Royal Navy ship is conducting innocent passage through Ukrainian territorial waters in accordance with international law."

    Since the Crimean peninsula is internationally recognized as belonging to the Ukraine I like that this is made clear.

    I wonder if this is because the British have a carrier group in the Med (to which the Defender is apparently attached) and Putin has been reading the news about the QE strike package and decided to make a scene.

    ...or is this just the equivalent of Russian bombers testing UK airspace defense response times. In other words another day at the office and nothing new?

  66. June 24, 2021Alexander said...

    It is a bit odd. I think that the Kremlin are essentially trying to claim that they chased off Defender, and that you cannot carry out FONOPs without a strong response. I'd say it's posturing rather than anything more serious, but it suggests that more frequent transits are required if NATO aren't prepared to accept Russia's claim over the peninsula.

  67. June 24, 2021Alexander said...

    Parallels with the below:

    https://www.voanews.com/europe/russian-mystery-weapon-claim-seen-sign-military-weakness

  68. June 24, 2021quanticle said...

    Jonathan Beale, the BBC reporter aboard the Defender published some video from aboard the ship as it was transiting through the disputed area. In it, you can clearly see Russian planes conducting overflights, and you can hear some shooting in the distance, the target of which is unclear. There is no video of Russian planes dropping anything in the Defender's path, but I don't think that's indicative of anything one way or the other.

    There's good footage of the Russian warships that were trailing the Defender, which might be of more interest here.

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