Category Archives: Air and Naval Weapons

Guard Aircrew & Civilians Team Up for Rescue

Plenty of prior practice training together paid off Thursday, as civilian mountain rescuers and a South Carolina Army National Guard Black Hawk crew teamed up to pluck an injured hiker from a narrow ledge at Table Rock State Park. The hiker suffered a terrifying 70-foot fall Wednesday, and the ground rescuers couldn’t get to him.

They could get to another ledge about 70 or 80 feet away. They could talk to him, and determined that he was not injured seriously; but he couldn’t climb up or down the sheer rock face. It wasn’t going to be an ordinary mountain rescue — it was a job for a helicopter.

The SC-HART mission team, afterward. Splotchy suits: SC ARNG. Black suits: Civilian rescue team.

Could the Guard help? Fortunately, the Guard trains with first responders in aquatic rescue, forming the ad hoc South Carolina Helicopter Aquatic Rescue Team (SC-HART). The mountain rescue guys kept up the encouragement through the long, cold night, and then the next morning the Guard scrambled an experienced aircrew, and picked up a team of SC-HART rescue men that they had worked with before.

The South Carolina Army National Guard UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter and crew deployed from McEntire Joint National Guard Base in Eastover. They picked up a team of rescuers from Pickens County at the South Carolina National Guard’s Army Aviation Support Facility 2 in Greenville, prior to moving to Table Rock to conduct the rescue.

“It was key to use a helicopter to rescue the hiker. Due to difficult conditions, the rescuers on the ground couldn’t reach him,” said Chief Warrant Officer 4 Tripp Hutto, Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 2nd Battalion, 151st Aviation Regiment UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter pilot. “We could see from the air, it looked like the closest they could get to him was about 80 feet.”

The crew ran a rescuer down to the injured hiker using the Black Hawk’s winch, and then winched them both back up.

The hiker was airlifted from the mountain at around 9:25 a.m. after reportedly being stranded for several hours after suffering a fall of approximately 70 feet.

via South Carolina Helicopter Aquatic Rescue Team rescues hiker in Pickens County | Article | The United States Army.

Fortunately, the hiker survived the tumble without major injuries, and his most serious condition was hypothermia. With the patient aboard the helicopter, the question was, how best to get him to the hospital? A Black Hawk is a big, heavy helicopter, and most medevac helicopters are much smaller and lighter — and hospital pads are built to suit. Landing the Black Hawk at the hospital would be risky. Given the non-life-threatening injuries, the sensible thing was to land in an open area, and transfer the hapless hiker to a terrestrial ambulance.

Lots of people hike for the adventure, but sometimes they get some extra adventure. Welcome to the club of rescued-by-Black-Hawk, kid.

Something the Navy is Doing Right

We’ve been very hard on our squidly brethren for the hash they have made of shipbuilding and procurement, with the jury out on the futuristic but seven-billion-dollar Zumwalt DDGs, the ongoing avalanche of disaster that’s the defenseless, offenseless and half-billion-dollar-apiece LCS imbroglio, and we haven’t even gotten into some of the problems with building a carrier around scheduled inventions. Now, the guys in the cute sailor suits haven’t done this all alone; they’e had an enormous assist from a meddling (and grifting) Congress, and the soi-disant defense industrial base. (That’s the guys who pay the bagmen lobbyists who pay off the Congressmen). Hell, even Fleet Week in San Diego is bankrupt. But since we often step into these pages to flog the Navy like Jack Tar of 1812, we owe it to point out where volcanic action or something analogous raises islands of competence above Mean Bozo Level. And the Navy has one program, at least, that seems to be going right: the Arleigh Burke DDG production “restart.”

USS Rafael Peralta in the Yard

Even though the program is split between two shipyards to minimize efficiency and maximize Congressional peculation, that’s still not as bad as the LCS-doggle where the yards are building completely different ships, with little interchangeable but some nuts and bolts and the Navy Jack. (Well, and the absence of effective armament. Both classes of LCS have that in common). And the first ships seem to be coming in on time. Bath Iron Works just got the thumbs-up from the Navy after acceptance trials of the first ship of what the Navy calls the Flight IIA Aegis Burkes, USS Rafael Peralta, DDG-115. The ship be transferred to Navy authority next month, then will reposition to the Pacific for commissioning next summer. In this video, Peralta gets underway for sea trials on November with a tug in attendance “just in case” (but no propulsion casualties were had). (Warning… excessive fuzz guitar soundtrack!)

Even better, Peralta represents the survival of the noble old Naval tradition of naming ships after sea-service heroes. Sergeant Rafael Peralta was a Marine NCO who earned a posthumous Navy Cross in Iraq, diving on a grenade when mortally wounded and saving his squad to punch the tickets of the men who killed him and threw the ‘nade. He’d enlisted in the Marines on the day he got his green card as a legal permanent resident. “Be proud of me, bro… and be proud of your country,” he wrote to his kid brother shortly before his death. (Ricardo Peralta also served his country as a Marine). Appropriately, DDG-115’s motto is Fortus ad Finem. It’s a hell of a legacy to live up to.

DDG-116, too, will be named for a Naval hero: Lieutenant Thomas Hudner MOH, who bellied in his Corsair behind enemy lines in Korea to try to save the life of another Corsair pilot trapped in a wrecked plane. (He did not succeed, and was himself rescued by helicopter, but the nerve it took to try boggles the mind. We met Hudner, and he was a great and humble guy). Meanwhile, the other shipyard has two Naval heroes coming up, DDG-113 John Finn (Navy Aviation Ordnance Chief who improvised AA guns at Pearl Harbor) and DDG-114 Ralph Johnson (another Marine who had a rendezvous with a ‘nade).

Unfortunately, after that the ships succumb to Ray Mabus names: mostly grifting Congressmen and Senators. (How about a Congressional ban on this naming-for-dollars, before we wind up with USS Geico Enterprise and SSN-6969 Bank of America Topeka?) Several of the class are yet to be named, and if he runs close to form the lame duck SecNav is probably penciling in USS Trigglypuff, USS Trayvon Martin, and USS Bowe Bergdahl.

The Flight IIA Aegis relaunch hasn’t been flawless — Peralta’s schedule slipped six months to let Bath focus on the Zumwalts, and the follow-on ships are even later — but compared to the LCS disaster or the Zumwalt cost overruns, it looks like the sort of thing the Navy used to do. Indeed, the program’s probably as successful as it is because Mabus’s energies were diverted elsewhere, and he wasn’t able to bring his own manic strain of Social Justice Micromanagement to bear.

For More Information:

Ave atque Vale, F-4 Phantom

The hulking, smoking jet that pilots compared to a combat rhinoceros first flew in the 1950s, and served the Navy first, then the Air Force from 1963-2016. On 22 December 16, a small formation of Phantoms — one decorated in the style of the jet’s peak years of Vietnam — lifted off from Holloman AFB, New Mexico, for the mighty jet’s last flight bearing the stars and bars of the US national insignia and flying an Air Force mission.

Here’s a video from the Alamogordo, NM, News:

The News had reporters on the scene.

To give you an idea on how old the Phantom is: when it first flew, most cars had yet to grow tailfins. Eisenhower was President. The company that designed and built it (McDonnell, which specialized in Naval fighters) is gone, merged with another old aviation firm (Douglas Aircraft, the Southern California giant), which is also gone, bought by Boeing in the Clinton-era forced mergers. In the end, just 14 of the jets were airworthy at an aerial target squadron, and retiring them in favor of the F-16s coming in lets them get rid of all the F-4 specific parts and tools, and move on. The fate of the remaining jets is uncertain: some are likely to go to AMARC to be spares for the handful of remaining foreign operators, others may wind up as ground targets on a range somewhere.

The one privately-operated Phantom, the Collings Foundation’s, is rumored to be dependent on military maintenance and retired from the airshow circuit some time ago.

The Phantom was a jet of the video age, so naturally there’s a bunch of videos of this final flight. Here’s one, mostly air-to-air video with a suitable soundtrack — the chorale from Beethoven’s 9th Symphony — that’s under three minutes long. A hit single.

And here’s a longer (much longer) all-shot-from-the-ground film of nearly thirty minutes (think of it as one side of an album, if you’re old enough to remember those, as most former Phantom pilots do).

Finally, here are a couple of Phantom greatest hits. First, found video of a Phantom-vs-MiG air-to-air kill. Moshe Shargal and his buddies went diving at Ras Mohammed every Yom Kippur, and he brought his video camera… and has authentic if shaky video of an Israeli Phantom flaming a MiG at very low altitude. Hebrew voice-over, by Shargal, with English subtitles.

For those of a more historical turn of mind, the indispensable Jeff Quitney has a 1967 too-hip-for-the-Navy USAF pilot training film. In it, filmmakers quiz an F-4 instructor pilot about the characteristics of the jet, as they put a film together. (Hey, anything to keep fighter jocks awake in training).

Best thing about the video? The slams that “Doug,” the pilot, delivers to “the swing-wing.” This is a mildly subversive line-level counterstrike against the McNamara-specified “switchblade Edsel,” the F-111, that was undergoing extreme teething problems at that time.

And finally, a fine collection of Phantom buzz jobs, flat out on the deck in Nevada. Not the fastest jet in this milieu (that would have been the F-105) but fast enough to be thrilling to watch.

Ave atque Vale, F-4 Phantom, the survivors of the 5,500 or so of you have earned your place in the hearts and minds of your countrymen (and the allied jet drivers who flew you, as well).

Hat tip, Russ Niles at AvWeb.

Before the USS Albacore, there was the V80

Long before the United States experimented with a tuna-shaped submarine, the Germans did. The V80 was an experimental, unarmed research sub (and therefore a perfect analog of Albacore) that was intended to test new technology in propulsion and hydrodynamics. First underway in 1939, it was never commissioned into the Deutsche Kriegsmarine, formally, but it was intended to show the way forward in submarine technology.

Indeed it did — but not in time to benefit the Germans.

The two revolutionary technologies in the V80 were air-independent propulsion and improved hydrodynamics, from using a streamlined, tuna-like shape. In addition to the attempt to lower the form drag on the vessel, great attention was paid to eliminating all the usual parasitic producers of turbulence on then-current boats: handrails, drain holes, rivets and plates and bulges. In addition to the main benefit, speed, the V80 demonstrated that a cleanup of the sub’s shape and skin could greatly reduce its sonar signature.

Its name came from Versuchs (test) and its displacement, 80 tons.  It had bunkerage for 21 tons of concentrated (“High Test”) H2O2 which gave it a range of only 50 nautical miles at its ultimate top speed of 28 knots. It carried a crew of 4 and no arms at all.

The AIP installation used in the V80 was a hydrogen peroxide catalytic turbine. The engine, and the sub, were designed by rocket-engine and H2O2 expert Dr. Ing. Hellmuth Walter, whose fertile mind and sharp pencil also provided the rockets that drove the Me163 fighter jet and that were used as JATO boosters by German aircraft.

In the engine, the peroxide was exposed to a catalyst and produced an exothermic reaction that drove the turbine with the output gases: oxygen and steam (water vapor). With the efficient  (for the day) engine and the sub’s special shape, the V80 set speed records — 23 knots in 1939.

Admiral Karl Dönitz immediately grasped the potential of this technology, and Walter went to work designing larger boats. There was, first, a double class of weaponized research vessels, the Type XVIIA and XVIIB boats. Then there was the Type XVIII. None of these was made in quantity, or in time, to have a combat impact.

After the war, these technologies were pursued for a while, but they had safety implications that ultimately sidelined them, especially after the advent of nuclear power. The Russians use peroxide propulsion for some torpedoes (which caused the loss of the submarine Kursk and its crew), and in recent years, air-independent propulsion has made a comeback.

Sources: U-boat Types: The Walter Boats: The Walter U-boat Types. Retrieved from: U-boat Types: The Walter Boats: V80. Retrieved from:


Each LCS is Worth More as Scrap

Earlier today, we wrote, “Now if they could just stop paying a half a billion for the million dollars’ worth of scrap aluminum that is a Littoral Combat Ship, we’d be getting somewhere.” However, it’s been pointed out to us that there is not a million dollars worth of scrap in an LCS. 

Value of the Littoral Combat Ship
Combat Value = 0
Scrap Value = $702,635.20
DWT (metric) = 797
Deadweight pounds (MT x 2204) = 1756588
Assuming it’s all Aluminum, Al scrap/pound (average) = $0.40

Conclusion: Scrap Value > Combat Value.

Ergo, the best way to recover value from these ships is to go straight from the building yards to the wrecking yards. However, it would destroy less value not to build them in the first place.

Mabus Strikes his Colors on Ratings

Mabus joins the ranks of those, like HMS Java in the foreground here, who tangled with the US Navy and lost.

It was a stinging defeat for the cruelest, most bitter enemy the American Navy has ever faced.

Ray Mabus’s decision to eliminate Navy enlisted ratings, which was approved by a slew of yes-man admirals including current CNO Adm. John Richardson and Chief of Naval Personnel Vice Adm. Robert Burke, and a slew of yes-man master chiefs including current MCPON Steven Giordano and his predecessor MCPON Mike Stevens, has been quietly reversed in a Christmas Week memo. Mabus’s signature was absent, with the loss of face for the Secretary’s defeat accruing to his camp follower, Richardson.

The Navy Times noted that it was all Mabus’s initiative, originally, to eliminate what he saw as an obstacle to social engineering. Imagine what greater heights the social imbroglio might have reached in the anticipated Clinton administration, where Mabus imagined himself SecDef; but, alas for the prospect of mandatory gender transitions, it was not to be.

[T]he decision was made by Navy Secretary Ray Mabus, whom multiple sources described as eager to announce the new policy before his impending departure after more than seven years atop the the sea service. Mabus, the first to broadcast this new policy Sept. 29, was motivated by a fervent desire to promote gender neutrality across the Navy and the Marine Corps, which he also oversees. He was presented with four options for removing the word “man” from nearly two dozen job titles — what the Navy calls ratings — and opted for the most extreme option.

Mabus, sources said, was determined to put ratings reform in motion — and on the record — before he leaves office. Gender integration, while Obama’s directive, has become a hallmark of Mabus’ tenure as Navy secretary. And he’s upset plenty of people along the way, notably within the Marine Corps, which has reluctantly opened its ground combat units to women and modified many of its job titles as well, though not to the extent that the Navy has.

The idea was always top-down, and never popular in the ranks:

When the order came down to provide feedback about possible gender-neutral ratings changes, most sailors were cynical, the [unnamed to prevent retaliation by Stevens, Giordano, et. al.] command master chief said. Many, wondered why the Navy was prioritizing the issue. “No one,” he added, “not a single sailor — across paygrade and gender lines — I spoke with saw the need to change the names of ratings based on gender neutrality.”

It was really unpopular in the ranks, and Mabus, a career politician who never has been popular in the ranks himself, did his politico’s Brave Sir Robin emulation and bugged out, leaving career naval politician Adm. Richardson holding the bag:

“I underestimated how fiercely loyal people were to their rating, I’ve gotten a fair amount of feedback on that,” Richardson said … Dec. 6 at Naval Air Station Fallon in Nevada.

” … So we kind of [underestimated] the loyalty with which people affiliated themselves with that rating tribe. So as we go forward, we’ll learn.”

The rapid cancellation of the centuries-old tradition generated an overwhelmingly negative response from sailors.

With the Trump defense team including actual, not political, leadership in DOD and the Service Secretary positions, Richardson put his name on a backpedal; Mabus realizes that saving Richardson’s career is one way to save some of his social justice warrior legacy in the Pentagon — apart from gutless, gunless ships named for his fellow politicians.

But, as we said in the lede to this post, Richardson has backpedaled on Mabus’s behalf. Sure, he’s doing it to avoid being relieved in January, but a good decision made for a bad reason can still be a good decision. As a wise old man once told us, “The most important thing a bad decision means is that you now need to make a new decision.”

Effective immediately, enlisted sailors will officially regain their ratings, the traditional job titles that have inspired a deep cultural loyalty and that have defined enlisted career tracks for generations, Navy officials said.

The extraordinarily rare move comes after a fierce backlash from the fleet….

Adm. John Richardson, the chief of naval operations, called it a “course correction” and acknowledged the overwhelmingly negative reaction from the fleet was a key factor in the decision.

Well, that and the likelihood that the incoming SecNav would want the ass-kissing Richardson’s resignation on his desk, along with that of the even-more-ass-kissing Giordano (Stevens has already retired, although they could recall him for keelhauling or something). Never underestimate the power of career fear on those who rise high via suckuppery.

The reversal did not surprise many sailors, though many believed it would come after a new Navy secretary takes over early in 2017.

Now if they could just stop paying a half a billion for the million dollars’ worth of scrap aluminum that is a Littoral Combat Ship, we’d be getting somewhere. 

V-22 Crash was a Refueling Mishap

This is what aerial refueling looks like from the copilot seat (Marine V-22 commanders sit in the right seat, as in helicopters).

As you may have learned, the Marines stuffed an MV-22 tiltrotor into the sea off Okinawa this week. Preliminary indications are that the powered-lift aircraft struck the refueling drogue or hose with one tilt-rotor, and with one rotor damaged, the pilots made a precautionary landing in shallow water. But under the water the bottom was rocky and uneven, and the aircraft broke up. The USNI Blog:

Tuesday’s MV-22 Osprey crash off the coast of Okinawa occurred while the crew was conducting an aerial refueling operation at night and damaged the aircraft, with the crew choosing to land the aircraft in the water instead of risking flying over civilian homes on the Japanese island, the commanding general of III Marine Expeditionary Force said in a press conference.

Aerial refueling is one of the hardest things you can do, right up with landing on a ship. But doing it at night, using night vision devices, adds complexity — and deletes any depth perception.

Lt. Gen. Lawrence Nicholson said in a press conference today that the rotorcraft was conducting aerial refueling operations over the sea when the rotor blades struck the refueling line, damaging the aircraft.

“After the aircraft was unhooking, it was shaking violently,” Nicholson said of the Osprey from Marine Aircraft Group 36, 1st Marine Aircraft Wing. “The pilot made a decision to not fly over Okinawan homes and families. He made a conscious decision to try to reach Camp Schwab and land in the shallow water to protect his crew and the people of Okinawa.”

Risky. But then, flying with damaged composite rotors is riskier.

During the landing in rocky shallow waters, the aircraft broke apart, with Associated Press photos showing the aircraft sitting in the water with the wings broken apart from the body of the plane.

As a precaution, Nicholson temporarily halted all MV-22 flight operations under Marine Forces Japan until he is “satisfied that we have reviewed our checklists and safety of flight procedures.”

Still, during the press conference he praised the crew’s decision to put the aircraft in the water instead of risk lives onshore.

I’m very proud of our young pilot, I’m very proud of the decision he made not to try to get to Futenma, not to try to get to Kadena, but to try to get to shore and try to land as close to the beach as possible,” he said. “An incredible decision under very very difficult circumstances.”

Losing the plane is bad, but losing the crew would have made it much worse. And Japanese civilians are extremely unhappy that American aircraft fall from the sky from time to time. An incident with fatalities on the ground could get the US the bum’s rush out of Japan, or at least Okinawa, entirely.

The photos in this blog post should give you some idea of just how hairy this refueling, which takes place with both aircraft flying straight and level at about 200 knots, can be. If the photos don’t get the idea across, this video should do the trick:

Fortunately, while the aircraft was a total loss, the crewmen were all recovered safely from the ocean. Two of them were sufficiently injured to need treatment, not just a check-up, at the hospital, but all are expected to return to duty.

The investigation continues. For the time being, the V-22s in Japan are grounded. Since a mechanical problem is not suspected now, it seems likely the investigation will focus on procedures, training, and flight hours. Aviation budgets have been squeezed, and that definitely included training hours, but it’s too early to say whether that is a factor in this mishap.

Little Crappy Stories of Little Crappy Ships

130802-N-YU572-023The Littoral Combat Ship, the strange bifurcated class of toothless surface combatants-minus-combat-capabilities, continues to produce headlines. The lame-duck Social Justice Secretary of the Navy, Ray Mabus, paid little attention to sailors, apart from undermining them, and less to ships, apart from giving them names that would assure he continued to be the Georgetown lion of his dreams. And he leaves the incoming DOD and Departent of the Navy with a large, weak, defenseless problem that’s going to build to dozens of worthless ships, if it’s not sharply stopped.

Item: LCS Has Zero Chance of Completing a 30-Day Mission

And that’s not a combat mission, for which even the ships’ coin-operated spokesmen are starting to admit the ships are completely unsuited. That’s just steaming somewhere for 15 days and coming back, maintaining combat readiness, without breaking down.

The current fleet of eight ships “have a near-zero chance of completing a 30-day mission, the Navy’s requirement, without a critical failure of one or more seaframe subsystems essential for wartime operations,” Michael Gilmore, the Pentagon’s Director of Operational Test And Evaluation.

Ish Kabibble, that’s not sounding too good.

“The miracle of the LCS didn’t happen,” said Paul Francis of the Government Accountability Office. “We are 26 ships into the contract and we still don’t know if it can do its job.”

Originally scheduled to begin service in 2008 at a cost of $220 million per ship, its cost has doubled to $478 million each. And although ships have been commissioned and deployed, they are yet to be equipped with the systems that would allow them to perform their primary missions, and won’t be until 2020.

This is what happens when your front office Schedules a Revolution® and waits back for the boffins to deliver. The entire program has yet to produce a single ship that can defend itself from, well, anything. These things can go into harm’s way — if each one is provided with escorts to tackle the anti-air, anti-surface, and anti-submarine missions that the LCS can’t do.

twice-as-defenseless-as-oneOn the bright side, they do have smaller crews than previous ships, so even though more are destined to go down with all hands, there are fewer “all hands” to go down with each one of ’em.

Is the best answer to pull the plug and stop throwing more money after the sunk costs on what would become, were the balloon to go up, sunk ships?

Francis [the GAO guy — Ed.] said that while Congress also failed to exercise proper oversight on the program while it was spinning out of control, it still has a chance to inject some discipline into the next phase of the program by not approving a “block buy” of future ships.

“You are going to be rushed again, you are going to be asked to put in upfront approval of something where the design isn’t done, we don’t have independent cost estimates, and the risks are not well understood,” Francis said. “You’ll be told ‘it’s a block buy, we’re getting great prices, and the industrial base really needs this.'”

Francis recommended Congress not approve a block buy and instead demand that the Navy have a design competition in which it can downselect from two alternatives, and he further recommended hard questions be asked about whether continuing the program is worth the estimated $14 billion cost. Lockheed Martin and Austal USA are each building separate classes of the ship.

Congress has been all about sending cash to the districts where these turkeys are built. But seriously, the yards could be building Burkes or, hell, even Fletchers and we’d at least have ships with working propulsion, radars and guns. One of these against a Fletcher, who wins?

Item: Mabus’s Navy Pencil-Whipped Shock Trials

The Navy’s determination to keep beating this dead horse across the finish line has caused some, shall we say, honor violations. It seems, according to testimony in Congress, that the shock trials, under which explosions are set off near a ship to see if it can survive the sort of near-miss one expects in warfare, were, there is no other word, frauduent.That’s true of both subclasses of LCS. Maritime Executive:

[T]he shock trials for the Independence and Freedom-class Littoral Combat Ships were conducted at “reduced severity” due to concerns about the possibility of damage.

“The Navy argued that the reduced severity approach was necessary because they lacked specific test data and a general understanding of how the non-Grade A systems . . . would respond to shock.”

Even these squib tests were cut short on the Freedom-class vessel trial, for fear that even at one-third power, the blast would overwhelm the ship’s fragile systems.

[T]he Navy was concerned shocking the ship at the increased level of that trial would significantly damage substantial amounts of non-hardened equipment, as well as damage, potentially significantly, the limited amount of hardened equipment, thereby necessitating costly and lengthy repairs.

Navy officials including VADM Thomas Rowden, Commander of Naval Surface Forces, and Assistant Secretary of the Navy Sean Stackley (one of Mabus’s Social Justice Warriors), argued that the ships shouldn’t be tested like combat vessels, and shouldn’t be delayed by the testing other ships undergo, because the Navy needs them urgently for showing the flag, not for combat.

They further argued that the new ships’ frequent dead-in-the-water propulsion casualties were “routine,” and should just be accepted.

Rowden and Stackley also provided a detailed account of the two vessel classes’ recent propulsion casualties. They reported that two of five occurred due to operator error: the first involved improper setup of a lube oil service system on the USS Fort Worth’scombining gear; the second was attributed to a poor fix for a “routine failure” of an attached seawater pump’s mechanical seal, which allowed saltwater to enter one of the diesel main engines on the USS Freedom. 

Of the remaining three, one failure was due to saltwater contamination of a steering hydraulic system; one to improper shaft alignment; and one to a software control issue affecting a new model of high speed clutch.

McCain Calls out Navy Witnesses for False Information

VADM Rowland and Social Justice Deputy Secretary Stackly also got taken to the woodshed by Senate Armed Services Committee éminence grise, John McCain (R-AZ). McCain, a retired naval officer himself, made it clear that the Navy’s beloved all-but-unarmed LCSes were only a symptom of a deeper problem, the more serious problem being the Navy’s dishonesty with the public, Congress, and perhaps, itself.

John McCain, chair of the Senate Armed Services committee and a longtime skeptic of the Littoral Combat Ship program, criticized the Navy for allegedly providing incorrect information regarding the prospects of the LCS and its mission packages. He called on the service to prevent future overruns and shortfalls in its acquisition programs.

“The reason I’m frustrated and other members [of the committee] are is that we can only make decisions based on the information we get. If that information is incorrect or false . . . then how can we function effectively for the people we represent?” McCain said. “I hope that our witnesses understand that we have to bring this to a halt. And fooling around on the fringes has proven to be unsuccessful.”

Neither Stackley nor Rowland responded directly to McCain’s charge of dishonesty, merely reciting boilerplate defenses of the embattled ships.

Around Your Navy

Apologies to the growing cadre of non-US-ian readers, but most of you haven’t got much in the way of Navies, have you? (A direction in which we’re trending). Some of you haven’t got much in the way of armies, either — we were shocked to learn the dreaded German Panzer force is, count ’em, four operational tank battalions (+1 operational training battalion). But the US still is trying to have a Navy, despite a sex and social-justice obsessed upper management echelon, which makes these items interesting about Your Navy, if you’re a fellow Yank. If you’re one of our overseas friends, just think about this as Those Silly Yankees, #32767.

Item: Navy Blows over 130,000 Sailors’ PII, Shrugs.

A Navy contractor lost the complete Personal Identifying Information, including Names, Dates of Birth, and Social Security Account Numbers, of 134,386 sailors to an unknown hacker in October. Notified by the contractor, Hewlett Packard, the Navy sat on this information for just under a month. No one is being held accountable, and the Navy plans simply to provide the usual year of credit monitoring that has allowed other Washington agencies to escape any consequences for irresponsible data mishandling.

Payments to HP under the contract continue uninterrupted. The careless individual who put the Navy data on an unsecure laptop continues to draw pay under this contract.

Use of the term “sailors” in Navy official correspondence and PR on the matter suggests than the victims are all enlisted personnel. That might explain why Big Haze Gray is so apathetic about the breach.

Item: The CO Up and Quit

This has happened approximately zero times until this week, but you can bet it has taken the E-Ring by storm this morning: the Commanding Officer of USS Rushmore walked down the gangplank for the last time, and turned in her chit.

The “her” is why the E-Ring is abuzz; as a Valuable Diversity Bean, Commander Sarah DeGroot was, to pilfer a phrase, more equal than the other animals, at least to the sex-obsessed denizens of the big offices. Navy Times:

Cmdr. Sarah DeGroot told the head of Amphibious Squadron 3, Capt. Homer Denius, on Monday that she was resigning as the Rushmore’s CO. Three sources were unable to immediately specify why she’d taken this highly unusual and likely career-ending move.


Rushmore is an LSD, which in the Navy is not a mind-altering drug but a dock landing ship, which can launch landing craft from a floodable welldeck and helicopters and powered-lift aircraft from a short flight deck. Ships like Rushmore are also often used as flag and command vessels for amphibious and special operations.

Prior to taking command of Rushmore on 1 Mar 16, DeGroot was her XO.  At that time, Rushmore was starting a “maintenance availability” and remains in the shipyard. It does not appear to have put to sea, ever, under De Groot. At her change of command, in, the Navy released the following:

De Groot was born in Long Beach, California, received her commission, 3rd Mate commercial license, as well as Bachelor of Sciences in Marine Biology and Marine Transportation in 1998 from Texas A&M, Galveston Maritime Academy. She reported to the Rushmore as the executive officer after serving as the director of Combat Systems and Tactics Training, as well as lead tactical action officer mentor at Afloat Training Group San Diego.

So she was probably a ROTC scholarship student at that maritime academy (for the Regular and not Reserve commission).

“You have done incredible things over the nearly two years I have been [executive officer]. It has been a joy to be a part of your unbelievable accomplishments,” said De Groot. “Because of your exceptional achievements, I know without a doubt that I am the most blessed commanding officer coming into the seat because of [the crew of Rushmore].”

De Groot’s sea tours include USS Pearl Harbor (LSD 52) as the first division officer and the electrical officer, USS Constellation (CV 64) as the combat systems maintenance officer, USS Rushmore (LSD 47) as the 1st lieutenant and Destroyer Squadron (DESRON) 50 as the force protection officer.

She served ashore at the Navy’s Operational Test and Evaluation Force as a C4I systems liaison officer and as the flag secretary for Commander, Naval Surface Force Atlantic.

That’s an interesting career, with tech jobs alternating with command, and heavy on the PHIBRON assignments… almost a career gator. The Flag Secretary strikes us as an unusual job for a non-Academy type. Wonder what Commander Salamander thinks of this? Let’s check… hmmm. Nothing, yet.

Item: Functionally Unarmed Ship Named for Anti-Gun Activist to be Commissioned

The 10th Littoral Combat Ship, USS Gabrielle Giffords, has passed a set of acceptance trials not involving weapons firing, which is deprecated in today’s Navy. It did, however, demonstrate lots of proof-of-bugout-capability. Giffords is one of the few Ray Mabus ship names that seems to fit. The human Giffords is a former politician who was shot in the head, and became an anti-2nd-Amendment activist as a result; the ship Giffords is as unarmed and defenseless as its namesake was on the day, and would like the citizenry to be for all time.  Here’s hoping they keep it far away from superior surface combatants, such as Somali and Yemeni pirate dhows.

150224-N-EW716-002 MOBILE, Ala. (Feb. 24, 2015) An aerial view of the future littoral combat ship USS Gabrielle Giffords (LCS 10) during its launch sequence at the Austal USA shipyard. The launch of the Gabrielle Giffords marks an important production milestone for the littoral combat ship program. (U.S. Navy photo/Released)

MOBILE, Ala. (Feb. 24, 2015) An aerial view of the future littoral combat ship USS Gabrielle Giffords (LCS 10) during its launch sequence at the Austal USA shipyard. The launch of the Gabrielle Giffords marks an important production milestone for the littoral combat ship program. (U.S. Navy photo/Released)

Like all the two-hull bipolar class of Littoral Combat Ships, Giffords can’t fight against aircraft, surface ships, shore installations, or submarines. It does, however, provide commander and command master chief billets and can launch and recover rigid-hull inflatable boats. That last capability may come in handy if it ever has to engage the patrol boats of a third-world navy, by allowing its selected-by-diversity-beancount officers to abandon ship without getting moistened.

It does have a fairly good turn of speed, if all the gadgetry is working, and decent stealth, if all its gadgetry (radar, radio, etc) is not working; thus, it will be capable of flight from enemies in littoral or deep water alike, making it the very Brave Sir Robin of surface combatants. (If “combatant” is really the word. But the Navy hates to admit these are “surface targets.”)

The LCSes that are not being named by SecNav Mabus for politicians and activists of his party, are being named for cities, names once reserved for cruisers, but the Navy seems to have given up on building cruisers: too many icky guns, too much versatility, too much triggering combat power.

Item: Navy Can’t Even Squeeze a Ship Through the Panama Canal Any More

Not if the ship is the science-fiction looking DDG-1000 USS Zumwalt, the new ship that’s so experimental that the Navy gave up on buying ammunition for it. The Zumwalt class are supposed to have an all new engineering setup that works a little like a diesel-electric locomotive, to provide previously unprecedented levels of electrical power from a non-nuclear ship. This juice is intended to power weapons of the future, but it’s having a hard time powering propulsion of the present.

USS Zumwalt, fitting out in October, 2013.

USS Zumwalt, fitting out in October, 2013.

Sam LaGrone at the USNI Blog:

A defense official told USNI News on Tuesday the repairs could take up to ten days.

The ship lost propulsion in its port shaft during the transit and the crew saw water intrusion in two of the four bearings that connect to Zumwalt’s port and starboard Advanced Induction Motors (AIMs) to the drive shafts, a defense official told USNI News on Tuesday. The AIMs are the massive electrical motors that are driven by the ship’s gas turbines and in turn electrically power the ship’s systems and drive the shafts.

That sounds like an attempt to minimize the event, as LaGrone also tells us that:

Both of the shafts locked during the passage and the transit had to be completed with tugs. The ship made minor contact with lock walls in the canal resulting in minor cosmetic damage.

That the ship made “minor contact with lock walls” and there isn’t an accompanying press release with the words “relieved when commanders determined they had lost confidence” hints at an unexpected event.

Following the transit, the Navy determined the ship couldn’t continue to its new homeport at Naval Station San Diego without additional repairs.

This is engineering casualty Nº 3, at least, for the new ship. It crapped out once, precommissioning, on arrival in Virginia from its builders, Bath Iron Works.


USS Zumwalt in Newport, 8 Sep 16

The latest casualty follows an incident in September following the ship’s transit from shipbuilder General Dynamics Bath Iron Works, Maine to Naval Station Norfolk, Va. in which the crew discovered “a seawater leak in the propulsion motor drive lube oil auxiliary system for one of the ship’s shafts,” the Navy told USNI News at the time. A service official told USNI News the most recent incident is similar. The service has narrowed down the likely problem to lube oil coolers leaking. The service replaced all four lube oil coolers following the September casualty.

If it’s the same part again, that’s probably not the planned service life. On the plus side, maybe they could store lots of lube oil coolers in the space taken up by empty magazines?

And then it lost propulsion again, sometime in October.

Following its Oct. 15 commissioning, Zumwalt suffered additional unspecified engineering trouble around the time arrived at Naval Station Mayport, Fla. and spent extra time repairing and testing the propulsion system, USNI News understands.

Zumwalt entered the Panama Canal following a successful port visit to Colombia last week – a visit which the service intended to skip if it thought the engineering problems would continue, several defense officials told USNI News.

Zumwalt has a number of tests and evaluations that it must undergo before actually joining the fleet, a date that was already projected gauzily to about two years in the future, and is certain to slide further now, possibly into 2019. That is not as much of a limitation as it sounds like, though, because the decision not to procure the only ammunition the Zumwalt class guns’ magazines can handle, means that, like the functionally unarmed LCS vessels, it is incapable of more than “presence patrols,” or showing the flag in uncontested seas and ports.

While this looks like something to keelhaul a few admirals over, everything suffers teething when it’s new (to put it in firearms terms many of you will understand, many are alive that remember the M16 controversy, and you can read about the unsatisfactory initial deployment of the gas-trap M1 Garand in the 1930s; even the first AK-47 had to be hastily redesigned on the fly). And the more complex something is, the more likely you are to have teething problems — and you’d better believe an all-electric guided missile destroyer is fiendishly complex.

The ship’s engineering plant – the Integrated Power System (IPS) – is arguably the most complex and unique in the service. Installing and testing the system — that provides ship additional power margins to power high energy weapons and sensors — was a primary reason the ship delivered months late to the service.

The DDG-1000 class is also very expensive on a unit basis because the three units left after cuts must bear all the overhead and RDT&E expense of the entire project.

The other two DDG-1000 ships will be named, one for a Naval hero as was long the custom of the Navy for destroyers, SEAL MOH recipient, DDG-1001 USS Michael Monsoor, and the other, thanks to lame duck SecNav Ray Mabus, for a politician of Mabus’s party, DDG-1002 USS Lyndon B. Johnson. They will benefit from anything learned with Zumwalt’s revolutionary but fragile propulsion system — but still go to sea with empty magazines.

Item: To End on a Positive Note, HoverJug to Go to Sea Soon

In additional news, an Marine force will soon be deploying with a full squadron of F-35 STOVL aircraft on its baby carrier. So there is that.

PT 305 Leaves the Nest

Obviously, we picked the wrong week to go to New Orleans, because this week, PT 305 left the restoration building. (Thanks to jfre in the comments and OTR in texts for the heads-up). The Higgins-built PT Boat is a rare survivor. (Ask anyone with experience with either wooden boats in general, or Allison engines in general, to explain the miracle of something, that combined two such short-lived and low-survival-rate items, surviving to be restored, to you. We grew up with a wooden Penbo boat and are expert in hand sanding).

Yesterday, we used a photo from the National World War II museum’s website of a much earlier stage of PT-305’s restoration. At this point, they were addressing the 13 feet that previous owners had shaved off her, so that she could be an oyster boat without requiring a USCG Captain’s License (all boats >65 feet need Documentation and a licensed captain, so the poor 305 got its tail docked).


Here’s a picture from a March article, showing how much further along the restoration had gone…


And the March article at Fox News included quotes from two sailors who went to war on this actual boat in 1944.

U.S. Navy Torpedoman 1st Class James Nerison was part of the PT-305 crew patrolling off the coast of Corsica in 1944 when a pair of German destroyers locked onto them. The Higgins Industries Patrol-Torpedo boats were known for their speed and maneuverability, but they were up against superior Nazi firepower.

The young sailor was referring to a 5-gallon can with chemicals that emitted smoke as a distraction. He was given the approval to toss the container over the side, and the German warships quickly started firing at it as PT-305 slipped off into the darkness.

“We got off to one side and they weren’t able to find us that night,” Nerison said.

Joseph Brannan, Lawrence Petroni, Gregory Dosch, and George Rowland relax on the bridge and chart house of PT-305. Two swasktikas represent a German Flak lighter that PT-305 sank during the Invasion of Elba in 1944, and an Italian MAS boat she sank near Leghorn, Italy in 1945. (Joseph Brannan)

Joseph Brannan, Lawrence Petroni, Gregory Dosch, and George Rowland relax on the bridge and chart house of PT-305. Two swasktikas represent a German Flak lighter that PT-305 sank during the Invasion of Elba in 1944, and an Italian MAS boat she sank near Leghorn, Italy in 1945. (Joseph Brannan)

The California native’s experience is just one of many among the 44 officers and enlisted men who called PT-305 home during World War II. Now Nerison, along with Joseph Brannan, a former 1st class gunner’s mate who also served on PT-305, hope to ride the boat once again.

A volunteer crew, which includes people from all walks of life — from students to architects — has already worked more than 100,000 hours on the project at the museum’s restoration pavilion.

Period photos guided the resto crew in painting the 305 boat to match its wartime appearance (link).

Period photos guided the resto crew in painting the 305 boat to match its wartime appearance (link).

The boat was restored, in part, with $205,000 in Kickstarter donations from people like you. It was definitely worth saving:

The battle-hardened boat, which operated in the Mediterranean along the coasts of southern France and Northern Italy, conducted more than 77 offensive patrols and operations, fought in 11 separate actions and sank three German ships during its 14-month deployment, according to the museum.

PT-305 also conducted reconnaissance missions, landed troops on occupied coasts and carried generals, making most of its movements at night underneath the cover of darkness.

“German planes would see you in the daytime and come out of nowhere and strafe you and bomb you,” Brannan, 93, told

“There were no railings on the outside of the boat and we never lost anyone,” he added.

Brannan, an Arkansas native who said he was “very excited” about the project, started serving on PT-305 in December of 1944.

In June 1945, Brannan and Nerison’s squadron [MTB Squadron 22 -ed.] returned to New York from the Mediterranean and the war ended before PT-305 could be overhauled for deployment to the Pacific.

But the boat didn’t look the same as the first time it crossed the Atlantic.

Nerison, who wanted a fix for the stuffiness of the crew’s quarters, said when the crew was based in Saint Tropez in Southern France after fighting began to subside, he managed to find some brass portholes at a boatyard.

A PT Squadron in the Med, possibly at St. Tropez.

A PT Squadron in the Med, possibly at St. Tropez.

Now, there’s a TV Series we’d watch — PT boats based in St. Tropez, tangling with German Stukas and E-Boats by day, and French women by night! Kind of like McHale’s Navy, but serious.

He asked the skipper if he could install one on each side of the boat — and the problem was solved.

“That was a modification that I don’t think any other PT boat in the Navy had at the time,” Nerison told

Following the war, the Navy burned 118 boats off the coasts of the Philippines to downsize its fleet.

Only a handful of PT boats survived – PT-305 being one of them – and it was sold as military surplus for $10 along with the rest of the squadron, the museum said.

There’s more good stuff in Norman’s article, so you know what we’re going to tell you to do next: Read The Whole Thing™!

PT-305's original flags: combat flown battle flag (top), commissioning pendant (below).

PT-305’s original flags: combat flown battle flag (top), commissioning pendant (below). donated by Mitch Cirlot, sone of the late plankowner Joe Cirlot, who was the last “original” to rotate off the boat.

A more recent story by the same Greg Norman on Fox gives an overview of the Boat’s history and restoration, and covers the boat’s transit by wide-load vehicle and barge to its new home. The video is absolutely incredible. (If it doesn’t embed here, do follow the link).

PT-305, its masts removed for transit through the streets, then went the rest of the way by barge. In the med, German barges packed with flak guns were one of its opponents!

PT-305, its masts removed for transit through the streets, then went the rest of the way to its new home by barge. In the Med, German barges packed with flak guns were one of its opponents!

PT-305 will be used in Lake Ponchartrain (a big lake north of New Orleans) to provide rides for paying passengers — as a fund-raiser for its own maintenance and operation, and for the museum. It will have its own custom boat house. There’s a launch party in March! And tours of the boat, and 90-minute rides ($350), begin in April.


For more on the 305 boat, there’s a category at the Museum blog, a Friends of PT-305 Newsletter you can sign up for, and its own website:

Hmmm… anyone up for a trip to the launch party?