Quotulatiousness

November 21, 2017

QotD: The naval “rule of three”

Filed under: Britain, Military, Quotations — Tags: , — Nicholas @ 01:00

The RN [Royal Navy], and every other seagoing Navy out there operates its ships on a rotational basis. This simple concept can best be described as ‘the rule of three’. Namely, for every ship that is on the front line at sea right now on live operations (e.g. fully stored, fuelled and munitioned and operating under a specific operation), you require a further two ships in the pipeline. The first is the one that’s just come home and gone into refit or lower level readiness. This is because the crew need to take leave, parts need replacing and the ship needs maintenance. The second is the ship that will replace the ship deployed, and this vessel will usually be in some point of the force generation cycle, which involves final bits of maintenance, trials, basic sea training and more advanced sea training and any other targeted work to get her ready to sail. This is a complex process that takes many months to fully prepare a ship to sail.

Over a couple of years life, a ship is programmed by the RN planners (a special breed of people possessed of wisdom, foresight and very little hair left at the end of their tour) to come out of a refit, work up, complete all trials and training, deploy for 9 months, return home and then wind down before going in for the next cycle of refit and repair. This cycle is either repeated, or broken up by the occasional deep multi-year refit to extend her life or fit major new equipment.

In simple terms this means that to keep 5-6 ships deployed, you need a force of roughly 17-18 escorts at any one time. Possessing 19 escort ships does not mean that 19 ships can go to sea on operations. It means you have got the ability to keep 5-6 ships deployed on station indefinitely.

This may sound a technicality, but is actually really important to understand. What distinguishes the RN from a lot of coastal navies is that sustaining this sort of deployment is routine business – the RN accepts that it goes to sea across the globe and plans this as a routine activity. For many navies, an ‘out of area’ deployment is a major investment of time and support and training, and is something that may occur once every 4-5 years, not every day of the year.

Sir Humphrey, “No – the Royal Navy is not a global laughing stock”, Thin Pinstriped Line, 2017-09-15.

November 16, 2017

QotD: Carrier cynicism

Filed under: Britain, Media, Military, Quotations — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 01:00

If you are a follower of UK defence matters, then it seems to be traditional that you must be find a reason, any reason, to naysay and be downbeat about something good. The recent sailing of QUEEN ELIZABETH (QEC, and of course, not yet an HMS), is a good example of this. There were tweets and moans aplenty about an aircraft carrier supposedly without aircraft, about it being empty for years across a barren flight deck with tumbleweed and adrift deck hockey quoits the sole occupants, and of course that’s assuming a 17-year-old hacker hadn’t somehow taken charge of the ship using its SHOCK HORROR Windows XP system that’s not actually connected to the internet to somehow do something bad. This is without mentioning the near orgasmic levels of excitement the media wound themselves up into with the prospect of the vessel running into the side of the dockyard or being stuck under the Forth Bridge.

In reality the opening days of the QE’s sea trials could not have gone better for the Royal Navy and the MOD. An outstandingly effective PR operation managed to secure a great deal of national media coverage of this event, and most of the main papers had photos of the ship at sea. Some highly astute programming ensured that a pair of Type 23 frigates and a pair of Merlin helicopters were immediately available to ostensibly provide cover, but arguably in reality provided the nation with several years of stock footage of British carrier groups at sea. Within a couple of days the first landing was achieved, thus slaying the ‘but she’ll have no aircraft’ argument, and the internet is awash with glorious photos of the biggest warship ever built outside of the United States of America at sea. To top it all off, some sharply pointed jibes towards the Russians by the Secretary of State for Defence managed to elicit a strong reaction, suggesting the Bear is not as thick skinned as it wishes to portray itself to be.

Sir Humphrey, “Some Brief Thoughts on QUEEN ELIZABETH sailing”, Thin Pinstriped Line, 2017-07-03.

November 12, 2017

The Great Ships Ironclads Documentary

Filed under: History, Military, Technology, USA — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas @ 04:00

History Of Wars
Published on 6 Sep 2016

With their menacing dark silhouettes belching fire and smoke, the Ironclad warships of the mid 19th century burst onto the naval scene like hulking metal monsters. Combining iron plating, steam propulsion and the biggest and most powerful guns afloat, the Ironclads represented a radical advance over all previous warships.

November 11, 2017

In memoriam

Filed under: Britain, History, Military — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas @ 03:00

A simple recognition of some of our family members who served in the First and Second World Wars:

The Great War

  • A Poppy is to RememberPrivate William Penman, Scots Guards, died 16 May, 1915 at Le Touret, age 25
    (Elizabeth’s great uncle)
  • Private Archibald Turner Mulholland, Argyll & Sutherland Highlanders, mortally wounded 25 September, 1915 at Loos, age 27
    (Elizabeth’s great uncle)
  • Private David Buller, Highland Light Infantry, died 21 October, 1915 at Loos, age 35
    (Elizabeth’s great grandfather)
  • Private Walter Porteous, Durham Light Infantry, died 4 October, 1917 at Passchendaele, age 18
    (my great uncle)
  • Corporal John Mulholland, Argyll & Sutherland Highlanders, wounded 2 September, 1914 (shortly before the First Battle of the Aisne), wounded again 29 June, 1918, lived through the war.
    (Elizabeth’s great uncle)

The Second World War

  • Flying Officer Richard Porteous, RAF, survived the defeat in Malaya and lived through the war
    (my great uncle)
  • Able Seaman John Penman, RN, served in the Defensively Equipped Merchant fleet on the Murmansk Run (and other convoy routes), lived through the war
    (Elizabeth’s father)
  • Private Archie Black (commissioned after the war and retired as a Major), Gordon Highlanders, captured at Singapore (aged 15) and survived a Japanese POW camp
    (Elizabeth’s uncle)
  • Elizabeth Buller, “Lumberjill” in the Women’s Land Army in Scotland through the war.
    (Elizabeth’s mother)
  • Trooper Leslie Taplan Russon, 3rd Royal Tank Regiment, died at Tobruk, 19 December, 1942 (aged 23).
    A recently discovered relative. Leslie was my father’s first cousin, once removed (and therefore my first cousin, twice removed).

For the curious, the Commonwealth War Graves Commission and the Royal British Legion provide search engines you can use to look up your family name. The RBL’s Every One Remembered site shows you everyone who died in the Great War in British or Empire service (Canadians, Australians, New Zealanders, South Africans and other Imperial countries). The CWGC site also includes those who died in the Second World War.

In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.

Lieutenant Colonel John McCrae, MD Canadian Army Medical Corps (1872-1918)

November 10, 2017

The future of the Royal Marines

Filed under: Britain, Military — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas @ 03:00

A few months back, Sir Humphrey took a look at the British Royal Marines and suggested that they need to “re-marinize” to avoid just being light infantry that wear a different cap badge:

HMS Albion conducts amphibious operations with Landing Craft Utility (LCU) during Exercise Grey Heron off the coast of Portsmouth in 2007.
The Albion Class, Landing Platform Dock ships (LPD) primary function is to embark, transport, and deploy and recover (by air and sea) troops and their equipment, vehicles and miscellaneous cargo, forming part of an Amphibious Assault Force.
(Photo via Wikimedia)

The challenge for the Royal Marines [RM] right now is that they look particularly vulnerable targets, with a highly specialised core role that is increasingly unlikely to be used in anger. The RM and the RN [Royal Navy] have long had a slightly odd, and at times, uneasy relationship. It is often forgotten these days that the role of amphibious warfare isn’t something that really took off until WW2, and that the RM have only been leading on it for about 70 years. Until that point they were arguably merely light infantry embarked on ships and the odd landing party.

[…]

The key point where things began to change was arguably OP HERRICK. At this point the Corps transitioned from being an organisation which fought from the sea onto the land, to one that spent many years focusing on being a land based warfighting force. The depth of commitment to HERRICK meant that the Corps lost a lot of its links to the wider RN; speaking to friends who served in the RM, many remark that during the HERRICK years the RM did very little with the RN at sea. This would have been fine for a short operation, but for a multi-year commitment it meant that an entire generation of Officers and NCOs were growing up who excelled at conventional land warfare, but who had lost touch with their maritime roots.

At the same time, there was a growing sense in some parts of the RN that the RM was arguably a money pit that cost the RN a significant amount of time, money and platforms, but which delivered very little for the RN itself. Tellingly, during the worst years of the piracy issues in Somalia, the RN had to rely heavily on RNR ratings to form ships protection teams, not RM in part reportedly because the RM was so focused on Afghanistan. At a time when the RN was taking heavy cuts to ships and other platforms as part of budget reductions to help deliver success in Afghanistan, there was perhaps some resentment that the Corps delivered little, yet absorbed a huge amount of the Naval Service budget. What is the point of having an amphibious fleet, and maritime amphibious helicopter capability, if your amphibious troops are stuck in a cycle of deploying only to a landlocked country?

[…]

In the current security environment that the UK faces, it is hard to see a need for a major amphibious lift capability to conduct opposed operations. This may sound like heresy to say, but if you consider that any major beach landing would be fraught with risk, and require major military support and logistical access to a port and airhead quickly to succeed, it is hard to see the circumstances where the UK and US would want to conduct such an operation. The political circumstances are such, that it is difficult to see the UK willingly wishing to indulge in a full scale amphibious assault against a hostile nation with a brigade sized force anytime in the future.

There are plenty of situations where the ability to transport equipment and people is vital – for instance conducting a NEO [Noncombatant Evacuation Operation], or moving troops and supplies into a friendly country ahead of a wider land conflict. There are also circumstances where an ‘amphibious raid’ capability is equally important – the ability to quickly send a small number of troops ashore via helicopter or fast landing craft to conduct a specific mission, or diversionary raid is extremely useful.

[…]

For the RM, the chance to re-embark at sea and focus on maritime counter piracy and security could be an opportunity to rebrand and reinvent the organisation, giving it a new lease of life. There is a real and pressing need to marinize the RM again, getting them used to being at sea, not permanently working ashore. At the same time it would free up a lot of highly trained infantry soldiers who could train to deliver boarding teams, and maritime counter piracy duties. This is a deeply complex role that requires a lot of training and support to get right, and is only going to grow in importance over the next few years.

Investing in niche roles such as this, or protection of nuclear weapons, and coupling this with a smaller ability to land raiding parties not brigades has the benefit of making the Corps far more valuable to keep in the long term. Right now it is arguably a light infantry brigade which has some other secondary duties tagged on the side. This is fine, but there are plenty of light infantry brigades out there, and probably too many soldiers in the Army as it is. If the RM were to refocus onto being sea going soldiers again, and deliver a small range of capabilities very well, then this makes them far harder to scrap entirely.

October 31, 2017

The adage “When you get a free good, you use a lot more of it” also applies to the military

Filed under: Middle East, Military, USA — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas @ 05:00

John Stossel talks to Erik Prince, the founder of Blackwater:

The military uses contractors to provide security, deliver mail, rescue soldiers and more. Private contractors often do jobs well, for much less than the government would spend.

”We did a helicopter resupply mission,” Prince told me. “We showed up with two helicopters and eight people — the Navy was doing it with 35 people.”

I asked, “Why would the Navy use 35 people?”

Prince answered, “The admiral that says, ‘I need 35 people to do that mission,’ didn’t pay for them. When you get a free good, you use a lot more of it.”

Prince also claims the military is slow to adjust. In Afghanistan, it’s “using equipment designed to fight the Soviet Union, (not ideal) for finding enemies living in caves or operating from a pickup truck.”

I suggested that the government eventually adjusts.

”No, they do not,” answered Prince. “In 16 years of warfare, the army never adjusted how they do deployments — never made them smaller and more nimble. You could actually do all the counter-insurgency missions over Afghanistan with propeller-driven aircraft.”

So far, Trump has ignored Prince’s advice. I assume he, like many people, is skeptical of military contractors. The word “mercenary” has a bad reputation.

He moved on after selling Blackwater, and dabbled in fighting piracy:

In 2010, Prince sold his security firm and moved on to other projects.

He persuaded the United Arab Emirates to fund a private anti-pirate force in Somalia. The U.N. called that a “brazen violation” of its arms embargo, but Prince went ahead anyway.

His mercenaries attacked pirates whenever they came near shore. His private army, plus merchant ships finally arming themselves, largely ended piracy in that part of the world. In 2010, Somali pirates took more than a thousand hostages. In 2014, they captured none.

Did you even hear about that success? I hadn’t before doing research on Prince. The media don’t like to report good things about for-profit soldiers. Commentator Keith Olbermann called Blackwater “a full-fledged criminal enterprise.” One TV anchor called Prince “horrible … the poster child for everything wrong with the military-industrial complex.”

When I showed that to Prince, he replied, “the hardcore anti-war left went after the troops in Vietnam … (I)n Iraq and Afghanistan they went after contractors … contractors providing a good service to support the U.S. military — vilified, demonized, because they were for-profit companies.”

If we don’t use private contractors, he added, we will fail in Afghanistan, where we’ve “spent close to a trillion dollars and are still losing.”

H/T to Stephen Green for the link.

October 27, 2017

The ever-shrinking Royal Navy

Filed under: Americas, Britain, Military — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 05:00

In The Register, Gareth Corfield suggests that the Ministry is considering flogging off more RN ships to South America to try to balance the budget:

UK Defence Secretary Sir Michael Fallon has denied that vital British warships may be quietly sold to South American nations as part of the ongoing defence review, according to reports.

Helicopter carrier HMS Ocean, already earmarked for sale to Brazil when she is withdrawn from the Royal Navy next year, may be joined by Type 23 frigates, according to respected defence industry magazine Jane’s.

The Type 23s are the backbone of the Royal Navy’s anti-surface and anti-submarine capability. They are the fighting teeth of the RN, used to ward off potentially hostile surface ships and submarines alike.

Current plans are for the new Type 26 frigate to replace the ageing but capable Type 23s. These new ships are set to enter service from the middle of the next decade, with the old leaving service on the (approximate) basis of “one in, one out”.

HMS Albion conducts amphibious operations with Landing Craft Utility (LCU) during Exercise Grey Heron off the coast of Portsmouth in 2007.
The Albion Class, Landing Platform Dock ships (LPD) primary function is to embark, transport, and deploy and recover (by air and sea) troops and their equipment, vehicles and miscellaneous cargo, forming part of an Amphibious Assault Force.
(Photo via Wikimedia)

Two crucial amphibious warships, HMSes Albion and Bulwark, are rumoured to be on the chopping block of current defence cuts. Without these two ships, the Royal Navy cannot carry out amphibious landings, in the sense of “put Royal Marines in smaller boats that they can sail to beaches”. Both ships (only one is in service at any one time because we have neither the money nor manpower to run both at once) are fitted with big ramps and well docks allowing troops and vehicles aboard to be quickly loaded into landing craft.

Without its amphibious landing capability, the UK would not have been able to take the Falkland Islands back from Argentinian invaders after the 1982 invasion.

October 25, 2017

History of the Royal Navy 1914 to 1970

Filed under: Britain, Germany, History, Military — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 04:00

James Lyon
Published on 16 Jun 2016

October 19, 2017

Iran vs Saudi Arabia (2017)

Filed under: Middle East, Military, Technology — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas @ 04:00

Binkov’s Battlegrounds
Published on 13 Oct 2017

Find out how a match-up between two middle east powerhouses would unravel. With a special accent on a hypothetical scenario without other countries being a factor

October 18, 2017

Are There Parts of German WW1 Warships in Space?

Filed under: Germany, History, Military, Space, Technology, USA — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas @ 02:00

Real Engineering
Published on 19 Jul 2017

October 17, 2017

Brazil in World War 1 – The South American Ally I THE GREAT WAR Special

Filed under: Americas, History, Military — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 04:00

The Great War
Published on 16 Oct 2017

Though joining the war later than most, Brazil was the only South American nation to play an active role, albeit a brief one. After initially declaring neutrality in August 1914, a series of sunken ships and dead Brazilians on behalf of the Germans’ submarines forced Brazil’s hand, as anti-German sentiment in the country rose during the first three years of the war. With newly acquired ships, Brazil was ready to join the war as a naval power. Her involvement may not have lasted long, but it did earn Brazil a seat at the table during the Versailles peace conference.

September 25, 2017

Great Northern War – V: Rise and Fall – Extra History

Filed under: Europe, History, Military, Russia — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas @ 04:00

Extra Credits
Published on 23 Sep 2017

Charles XII narrowly escaped the Russian pursuit, with help from the Ottoman Empire. But the weak points in his army had been clearly exposed. Northern Europe united against him – but of course, Charles XII responded by launching a fateful counter-offensive into Norway.

September 17, 2017

But is it full of eels? If not, feel free to visit the British Hovercraft Museum

Filed under: Britain, History, Military, Technology — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 03:00

In their continuing series of “Geeks’ Guide to Britain”, The Register takes a trip to the former HMS Daedalus, a Fleet Air Arm seaplane training base that is now home to the Hovercraft Museum:

Did you know that the word “hovercraft” was once patented? And did you know that Great Britain is a world leader in the design and manufacture of the floaty transporters, and has been for half a century?

These and other surprising facts – including that some of the largest commercial hovercraft ever to be used in revenue service spent their lives shuttling booze cruisers back and forth across the English Channel – can be found at the Hovercraft Museum, at Lee-on-Solent in the south of England.

A century ago, what is now the site of the museum was known as HMS Daedalus and used as a Fleet Air Arm seaplane base. Back in the early days of aviation, and especially naval aviation, the station was at the forefront of naval and aviation technology alike. Seaplanes and skilled pilots were in great demand by the Royal Navy for anti-submarine patrols, and a new training base had to be set up to fill the service’s demand.

Thus came about the “temporary” Naval Seaplane Training School at Lee-on-Solent, with the new training school being based around a large local property, Westcliffe House. Slipways and hangars were duly erected, with the former leading down into the waters of the Solent itself; of the latter, one of the original J-class hangars, capable of being erected by just 15 men, survives to this day.

[…]

To truly appreciate the hovercraft, one should actually ride one of the things. This is easily done by a short journey along the coast from Lee-on-Solent to Britain’s only scheduled hovercraft service, which operates between Portsmouth and the Isle of Wight.

Operated by Hovertravel, whose sister company Griffon Hoverwork also builds the craft operated by the company, the service runs about every half an hour during the day, with more frequent services during the morning rush hour and a gradual winding-down into the evening.

September 7, 2017

Argentina expresses interest in laser death-beam-equipped USS Ponce

Filed under: Americas, Military, Technology, USA — Tags: , — Nicholas @ 03:00

Those sneaky Argentines, trying to grab some surplus seagoing laser switchblade technology:

The U.S. Navy Afloat Forward Staging Base (Interim) USS Ponce (AFSB(I)-15) conducts an operational demonstration of the Office of Naval Research (ONR)-sponsored Laser Weapon System (LaWS) while deployed to the Arabian Gulf.
Date. 16 November 2014 (via Wikimedia)

Argentina reportedly wants to buy the US Navy’s laser death ray testbed warship, the fearsomely named USS Ponce.

According to the Mail on Sunday, the Argentinians are interested in buying the 46-year-old former landing platform (dock) from the American Navy when she is decommissioned next year.

“Senior Pentagon sources have confirmed talks are ongoing with the Argentinians over a Landing Platform Dock vessel capable of launching 800 troops, six helicopters and 2,000 tons of equipment into a war zone,” reported the paper, contrasting this with the Royal Navy’s HMS Ocean, which is very similar to the Ponce’s original configuration.

As regular readers know, the mighty Ponce has spent the last few years blasting various targets into bits using a shiny new $40m laser cannon and the US Navy even deployed her to the Gulf a few years ago.

To North American readers: if you’re wondering why this reads a bit oddly even by ordinary Register standards, it’s because the word “ponce” in British usage is a bit, um, odd. It’s taken as read that the primary purpose of an Argentine-flagged Ponce would sooner or later be intended for use in “liberating” the Falkland Islands:

The Ponce would be far from the first former US warship acquired by Argentina. In 1951 the Second World War cruiser USS Phoenix, a veteran of the Pearl Harbour attack by Japan, was bought by Argentina. She was renamed ARA General Belgrano – and sunk by British nuclear submarine HMS Conqueror during the 1982 Falklands War. Doubtless the same fate would befall the Ponce if Argentina tried the same trick again.

August 22, 2017

How to Pronounce German Ship Names – World of Warships & Historical Background

Filed under: Gaming, Germany, History, Military — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 02:00

Published on 8 Aug 2017

Pronunciation of German ship names from World of Warships with some background information on the person and location.

Military History Visualized provides a series of short narrative and visual presentations like documentaries based on academic literature or sometimes primary sources. Videos are intended as introduction to military history, but also contain a lot of details for history buffs. Since the aim is to keep the episodes short and comprehensive some details are often cut.

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