Eighty Years Ago

Reichskabinett Adolf Hitler86145

On this date eight decades ago, the last gasp of Germany’s post-war Weimar Republic was heard.  Assailed from left and right, Communists, Spartacists, Monarchists, and National Socialists, the 14-year Republic fell amidst the torchlight parades in honor of Germany’s new Chancellor, Adolf Hitler.   Just three and a half weeks later, the burning of the Reichstag signaled a crisis upon which the new Reich Government would eagerly act.  The issue of the so-called “Reichstag Fire Decree”, properly titled Verordnung des Reichspräsidenten zum Schutz von Volk und Staat (“Order of the Reich President for the Protection of People and State”), quickly followed:

On the basis of Article 48 paragraph 2 of the Constitution of the German Reich, the following is ordered in defense against Communist state-endangering acts of violence:

Articles 114, 115, 117, 118, 123, 124 and 153 of the Constitution of the German Reich are suspended until further notice. It is therefore permissible to restrict the rights of personal freedom [habeas corpus], freedom of (opinion) expression, including the freedom of the press, the freedom to organize and assemble, the privacy of postal, telegraphic and telephonic communications. Warrants for House searches, orders for confiscations as well as restrictions on property, are also permissible beyond the legal limits otherwise prescribed.

Next, of course, came the dissolution of the Reichstag under Article 48 of the Weimar Constitution, all but cementing Adolf Hitler as dictator of Germany.   Signed by the elderly Hindenburg, whose death in August of 1934 allowed Hitler to subsume the title of Reich President, the so-called Enabling Act began twelve years of virtual martial law inside Germany.    Hitler, of course, soothed those who were alarmed by promising restraint:

“The government will make use of these powers only insofar as they are essential for carrying out vitally necessary measures…The number of cases in which an internal necessity exists for having recourse to such a law is in itself a limited one.”

A mania to act, to “do something”.   Taking advantage of a crisis for political gain.   Assigning collective guilt to a segment of society.  A state-controlled media eager to help make the case that political opponents represented domestic enemies.  An unchecked overreach of government power toward its people and the dissolution of civil liberties.   And, finally, in the late summer of the next year, complete subservience of the Army and its leadership, whose oath had previously been to the Constitution of the Republic now dissolved.

Eighty years ago today, it all began in earnest.

Littoral Combat Ships- How not to buy ships

Lots of LCS news going around the last couple days. First, Undersecretary of the Navy Bob Work released a summary of the development of the program in a Naval War College report:

[scribd id=122722216 key=key-23oqq8zpghk5zb4xvdpe mode=scroll]

CDR Salamander takes his usual poke at the bear.

I don’t think one can hang this on Rumsfeld if that is part of this angle; I don’t think it is, but it can be read as such. So, in a word; no.
LCS was and is a product of senior leadership from Admirals Clark, Mullen, and especially Roughead. Without their full-throated advocacy and willing smoke screens, LCS would not have survived – for good or bad.
I enjoy this next bit as, for those who missed it, it catches perfectly the “we are smarter than everyone who came before … all is new, and don’t question by beautiful vision…” vibe that resonated throughout the Chain of Command at the time[,]

And I think he’s right. Go read his whole post, and the comments, especially the one  comment about the perils of thinking outside the box.

A fundamental conceptual flaw in the modern construct of “transformation” is its emptiness. Any idiot can “think out of the box,” as many idiots tend to be serial practitioners. But, to achieve useful out-of-box thoughts, one has to thoroughly understand ones “box” in the first place. Historically transformation thinkers, like Mahon, were professionals who had deeply studied, practiced and achieved high levels of expertise. They tend to have thoroughly decomposed and analyzed their profession and craft though broader lenses, so that possibilities were understood in context with real world constraints…

Galrahn at Information Dissemination has a scalding piece on just what  a dogs breakfast the development of the LCS program has been.

The OPNAV Report put together by Rear Admiral Samuel Perez was completed early last year and is so brutally honest about the Littoral Combat Ship the Navy can’t even release a declassified version for public consumption because it would, legitimately, be too embarrassing and likely damage the non-existent credibility of the LCS program. The OPNAV Report was exactly what the Navy asked for, an honest assessment of what is needed to fix the Littoral Combat Ship, and it turned out that honesty was also brutally ugly. God bless Rear Admiral Perez for doing a wonderful job that legitimately may actually save the Littoral Combat Ship program. Noteworthy, Rear Admiral Perez got promoted for his good work before he was sent off to the State Department where his career will likely end and no one will ever hear from him for the rest of his career. I’d love to be wrong on that last point, but historically when a Flag Officer gets sent to the State Department, it is like the Russians sending a General to command a remote barracks in Siberia.

Much to my surprise, even as he writes such a devastating post, he still comes to the conclusion that LCS is the way forward. It ain’t, but that’s an argument for another day.

USS Freedom LCS-1

There has been both a historical model for development of ships for the Navy, (cue QM’s rally cry for the return of the General Board) and a current programmatic program, under the DoD 5000 series regulations, for program management.

Prior to the advent of Robert McNamara as SecDef, for the most part, each service pursued its own procurement strategies. If the Army wanted a tank, it designed a tank (or contracted someone to do it for them). The Air Force didn’t feel the need to consult the Army or the Navy when laying out the specifications for a new bomber.  And of course, the Navy thought it best knew what characteristics any new ship should have.

McNamara is famous for forcing the services to find commonality across platforms with checkered success. Nudging the Air Force to buy the F-4 Phantom and the A-7 Corsair worked out pretty well. But trying to cram two entirely different mission sets into the TFX led to the F-111 fiasco.

But more than just forcing the services to cooperate on particular platforms, he effectively rescinded service authority to manage weapons systems procurement. If the Air Force wanted to buy a new plane, it had to justify to the Office of SecDef (OSD) the role and mission of the plane, and explain why that role and mission should be an Air Force role. For a notional example, should the Air Force have bought the A-10 as a close air support platform, or would that money have been better spent on tube and rocket artillery or other weapons for the Army?  The point being, before any major procurement program began, the services had to explain what role or mission they needed to fulfill, what were the best alternatives to fulfilling that role, what was the best platform needed to fulfill that role, and explain how they intended to do so.  Oversight from OSD was there to provide some rationality, and to avoid duplication of effort, and theoretically impose some joint interoperability at the same time. Over the years, this process has been codified into law.

While this leads to a good deal of bureaucratic complexity, it’s not an unalloyed evil, either. The process tends to keep some semblance of rationality in the process. Benchmarks for capability and cost can be reasonably forecast and thus provide feedback on the health of the program.

Sadly, in the case of the Littoral Combat Ship, all this went out the window. Read the embedded article by Under Secretary Work, and you’ll see that the LCS outside the mainstream process took place with little outside “red teaming” of the concept.  Originally the LCS concept was sold as almost a technology demonstrator. It was, as such, a very high risk program. Virtually every part of the program was untried. New hull forms, construction standards and techniques, new combat systems, new manning and deployment concepts, new “mission modules” that are being developed concurrently (every one of which appears to be in utter disarray).  And yet, somehow, a technology demonstration program suddenly became the centerpiece of the next generation of small(ish) surface combatants.

At the same time, the US Navy is facing block obsolescence of several platforms. The FFG-7 OHP frigates are tired and due for replacement. The Navy’s small (and shrinking) fleet of mine countermeasure ships is increasingly unable to support the needs of the fleet. The small number of Navy PC class ships, designed to support special operations forces, are worn out, and overworked.  And so the LCS, which were sold as a new concept in fleet operations, evolved into the replacement for these ships. And it isn’t even a jack of all trades, let alone master of none. It’s more like the 3 of clubs.

CDR Salamander above says not to lay the blame at Rumsfeld’s feet. Well, to be honest, I do, for once, “Blame Bush!”  With the Bush Administration focused on operations in Iraq and Afghanistan, he and Rumsfeld paid scant attention to the Navy’s shipbuilding program. They gave a generous amount to the Navy’s Shipbuilding Construction and Repair budget, and pretty much left the Navy up to its own devices after that. Little strategic guidance about what fleet numbers, composition, roles, and missions should be. Even less oversight was given to ship characteristics.  With little oversight from the normal DoD 5000 process, successive senior uniformed leadership, particularly CNOs, had excessive influence on the development of the LCS program, and were able to shout down complaints and concerns from other folks, particularly the end users of the eventual LCS ships.

Galrahn wants to look forward with the LCS program. And to some extent, yeah, the Navy better figure out what they’ll do with LCS, because like it or not, it’s coming.

But we also need to look back to see how this mess happened to avoid repeating the mistaken process that brought the Navy to this point.

Ethics for the CEO

Most of us who have worn a uniform like to think of ourselves as pretty ethical people. And for the most part, we are. But we’re not perfect, either.

Of course, most people that haven’t worn the uniform like to think of themselves as pretty ethical people.

USA Today had a fascinating  article about a program at the Marine Corps Base Quantico where students from civilian institutions are invited to a three day course. Under stress and confusion, do you make the ethical choice?

First, watch the video. It’s brief but informative. Then read the article. 

Air Search Radar

Before I delve into the Aegis system, I want to talk a little about air search radar. You’ll need a bit of fundamental understanding of it to understand why Aegis was a leap forward from its predecessors.

Radar stands for Radio Detection and Ranging. The radar set sends a pulse of radio frequency energy out, stops transmitting, and waits for any return signal. After a given time, whether any signals have returned or not, it transmits again.  When pulses are reflected back, by measuring the time elapsed from transmission, and dividing by 2, and knowing the speed of light, the range can be determined. Knowing what direction the antenna was pointing at when the pulse was transmitted gives the bearing.

These pulses are very short, and the “pulse repetition frequency” may be as high as several thousand per second. Note, this frequency is how many times a second the radar transmits. It is not the frequency of the radar energy transmitted.

We’ve all seen countless war movies or airline disaster movies where the tense radar operator is hunched over a scope watching for blips on the screen.  That round top-down scope is what is known as a PPI, or Plan Position Indicator. Generally, such a radar is what is known as 2D, or Two Dimensional. That is, it indicated the range and bearing from the radar. But in air search, knowing the altitude of the target is also critical.

Early 2D radars used a  parabolic antenna. The antenna itself is not the transmitting element. Rather, the RF energy from the transmitter is fed through a waveguide. This waveguide is a hollow steel tube that channels the energy to a feedhorn. The feedhorn is positioned shortly in front of the antenna and directed toward the antenna.  By shaping the parabolic antenna, the actual shape of the radar beam could be managed. Upon leaving the feedhorn, the RF energy would be reflected off the face of the antenna, and out toward the target. Energy reflected from the target would strike the antenna, and if you remember your high school math (I don’t!) be reflected to the feedhorn, where it would go back down the waveguide, to the amplifiers and receivers and eventually converted to display on the PPI.

The radar beam, known as a lobe, on these 2D radars is very narrow in azimuth. But it is very wide in elevation, so that targets at both low and high altitude can be detected.

So we’ve managed to determine the range and bearing of a target. But how to determine its altitude?

Well, the first radars to address this were known as height-finders. They were basically the same radar and antenna mounted perpendicular to the 2D set.  Pointed along the line of bearing determined by the 2D set, the heightfinder antenna would nod up and down, while projecting a lobe that was wide in azimuth, but very fine in elevation. By measuring the elevation angle, and the range to the target, the ship could, with a little help from Pythagoras, determine the altitude of the target.

There were two problems with heightfinders. First, the heavy antenna mounted high on a ship already near its load limits was bad for the ship stability. Many ships in the fleet simply couldn’t carry such a burden. Second, it was a slow process to slew the heightfinder to the correct bearing, and determine the target altitude. With the ever increasing speeds of aircraft in the 1940s and 1950s, that meant there would be very little reaction time available to any ship. And if there were multiple raids inbound, the ship could well be overwhelmed with targets, what is now called a saturation attack. There had to be a better way.

As electronics improved, and understanding of RF energy likewise improved, and further improvements in signal processing arrived on scene, radar engineers learned they could project a pencil beam radar, on thin both in azimuth and elevation, directly from a waveguide, without reflecting it off a parabolic dish. A sizeable antenna would still be needed to receive the reflected signal, but a fairly precise lobe could be sent. By stacking a series of these waveguide emitters vertically, a series of lobes that scanned sequentially from bottom to top could be sent. Each lobe in this stack had its own frequency. Rather than running several different waveguides through the mast and up to a rotating antenna, instead, a single waveguide was used, but the emitting portion was called a slotted waveguide. Simply put, the RF energy is sent out of very precise slots cut into the antenna. But the slots are of varying sizes. Since slot size is critical to propagation of the signal, only the RF energy of the proper frequency for a desired lobe will propagate, and only through the desired slot. Each slot is also aligned to send its lobe at a specific elevation angle. Thus, a single waveguide is all that is needed.

These slotted waveguide radars could quickly determine not only the range and bearing to a target, but also provided altitude information. While not as precise as a heightfinder, it was sufficient to either control friendly interceptors, or cue onboard fire control radars to the target. These radars are said to be 3D radars, and are sometimes described as scanning mechanically in bearing, and electronically in elevation.  The first 3D radar in US service was the SPS-39, quickly replaced by the SPS-52 and SPS-48. Oddly, of the two, the SPS-52 was the smaller, less powerful and less capable radar, designed to fit on smaller warships such as frigates. It has since been retired from US service. The SPS-48, on the other hand, was designed for larger ships, such as cruisers and aircraft carriers. It has evolved over the last 40 years, with improvements to the transmitter for power and reliability, and in the signal processors to reduce the noise to signal ratio.


Some radars, rather than using the slotted waveguide, use the similar stacked lobe concept to provide 3D coverage, but use a phase modulation method to control the elevation of a given lobe of a vertical scan.

These 3D radars are still very useful, and for most jobs, quite sufficient. Indeed, in certain applications, they still outperform their successors. But one problem with them is that the antenna rotates rather slowly. For instance, the SPS-48G(V) rotates at either 7.5 rpm or 15rpm. This gives a “refresh rate” of either 8 or 4 seconds. A lot can happen in 4 seconds.

We’ll take a look to the solution to that problem in our post in Aegis.

The Perils of a Standing Army

When the Founding Fathers wrote the Constitution, they did so with the memory of the oppression of the British Army fresh in their minds. It may have been the policies of King George III that inflamed their passions, but it was the troops of the Crown that made those policies reality. With the knowledge that a standing army was the primary tool of repression of any government, they took steps to prevent such an occurrence here.

The Constitution names the President the Commander in Chief of the Army and Navy.  But the power to raise armies and maintain navies* is granted to the Congress. Coupled with the power of the purse in the House of Representatives, this was a check on any standing army with visions of control of the people. To further make this point, Congress was constrained in that no appropriations of funds could be for more than two years for any army. From the ratification of the Constitution through the end of World War II, these restrictions helped ensure that our Army was quite small, forming mostly a core of competent professionals around which a citizen army of the militia could be built. And even since the end of World War II, our Army, while quite expensive, is still, as a percentage of the population, quite small.

The 2nd Amendment, of course, was also a check on standing armies that might seek to usurp the liberties of free men. Likewise, the 3rd Amendment served as as further check. The passage of the Posse Comitatus Act of 1878 was again a check upon the use of the Army as a tool of repression.

But while our forefathers went to great lengths to protect us from the tyranny of a domestic army as a tool of repression, have we allowed our municipal armies to become the de facto standing armies they guarded against?

When the Constitution was ratified, there was simply no such thing as a municipal police force. Law enforcement, a power of the separate states, was the role of the county sheriff (an elected official) and if needed, the local militia.  It wasn’t until well into the 1800s that the idea of a city police force was even raised.  Not until 1828 would Philadelphia establish our first police department.  While police departments for large cities were rapidly established, rural areas still, for another century, depended solely on the sheriff and his deputies. The establishment of a municipal department in virtually every city, town, hamlet and burg is a fairly recent development. And note, every county still has its sheriff’s department. While some counties in some states may restrict the sheriff primarily to running the county jail, most have their own patrol forces.

While there is no obvious constitutional restriction on states, counties and municipalities forming police departments, there sure are a lot of them.

Wikianswers tells us:

There are as of 2006, 683,396 full time state, city, university and college, metropolitan and non-metropolitan county, and other law enforcement officers in the United States. There are approx. 120,000 full time law enforcement personnel working for the federal government adding up to a total number of 800,000 law enforcement personnel in the U.S.

That’s bigger than the US Army, by a fair amount. And every single policeman is there solely for domestic use.  Theoretically, our 4th, 5th, and 6th Amendment rights protect us from the depredations of any police force. But anyone who has had even the most cursory interaction with law enforcement will know that the deck is stacked in favor of the power of the state (that is, the police) and not the accused.

It’s not so much that people in power, such as police chiefs, sit around plotting ways to usurp power from the people. Like the road to Hell, the path to tyranny is paved with good intentions. Frustrated by incidents of crime, police departments come up with “common sense” solutions such as this:

“[Police are] going to be in SWAT gear and have AR-15s around their neck,” [Police Chief Todd] Stovall said. “If you’re out walking, we’re going to stop you, ask why you’re out walking, check for your ID.”

Stovall said while some people may be offended by the actions of his department, they should not be.

“We’re going to do it to everybody,” he said. “Criminals don’t like being talked to.”

[Paragold Arkansas Mayor Mike] Gaskill backed Stovall’s proposed actions during Thursday’s town hall.

“They may not be doing anything but walking their dog,” he said. “But they’re going to have to prove it.”

[ … ]

The bolding is mine.

The citizens of America are a free people. Absent probable cause, no officer of any kind has any right to demand anyone identify themselves, nor justify what it is they are doing. The whole point of America is the ability to go about ones business.

Mayor Gaskill and Chief Stovall may well be frustrated by crime in Paragold, AR. But that doesn’t mean the Constitution suddenly can be waived.

If crime is truly an issue in Paragold, perhaps they should follow in the footsteps of a city with a very low crime rate. Say…. Kennesaw, Georgia.

Update: There appears to be some citizens that aren’t thrilled with the department’s plans. But while I was reading the article, this bit popped out to me:

Stovall explained Dec. 14 that while he had not consulted an attorney regarding the patrols, the department was within its right to implement the controversial stop-and-ID policy based on crime statistics and citizen complaints about rising crime in their neighborhoods.

First, rights aren’t based on statistics nor complaints. Those rights cannot be waived by one group of citizens for any other. They are inalienable. Secondly, the police force HAS NO RIGHTS. It has the authority granted to it by the citizens. That authority is conditional on the continued consent of the citizenry.  But again, no group of citizens may grant the authority of any agent of government to usurp the rights of other citizens.

*Naval forces were seen as less likely to be agents of domestic repression, hence the ability to maintain a navy.

Seven Reasons Why Women-in-Combat Diversity Will Degrade Tough Training Standards – News & Commentary – Center for Military Readiness

Seven Reasons Why Women-in-Combat Diversity Will Degrade Tough Training Standards – News & Commentary – Center for Military Readiness.

Go. Read the whole thing. It’s the single best article I’ve read that shows that standards for training WILL be degraded.

The problem is, the reality of combat cannot and will not change.

I just finished re-reading Rick Atkinson’s excellent “An Army at Dawn” about the campaign in North Africa in World War II. The creampuff training US divisions went through before the invasion led directly to deplorable casualties, opportunities lost, and defeats in battle.

The Army then at least had the excuse that they were simultaneously trying to build the infrastructure to enlarge the Army, train soldiers, and deploy the force all at the same time. Among the very first things the Army did with the lessons learned in North Africa was change the training at home.

What’s our excuse now?

Finally, the tail end of the article reminds us of a good point. It’s not the role of the President, SecDef nor service chiefs to make this decision to allow women into combat.

Congress alone has the constitutional authority to provide for the regulation of the Army and Navy. When did the 1994 combat exclusion law lapse?



More Info on the USS Guardian.

As you might imagine when a wooden ship crashes into a coral reef at about 13 knots, the ship immediately got lodged into the coral and became unable to pull out. All indications are that the little wooden minesweeper simply didn’t have the engine power to pull itself off the reef, but even if she would have had enough power, backing off the reef could have caused even more damage to the wooden hull and potentially ripped the ship apart further thus sinking her right there on the reef. From what i understand, the ship took on water almost immediately upon grounding. In many ways, this is a worse case scenario where a wooden ship meets coral and loses, where as a steel hulled vessel with more engine power likely would have suffered much less damage and would potentially have been able to dislodge itself.

USS Guardian (MCM 5) is flooded internally to the tide line, with the Auxiliary Machine Room and Pump Room completely flooded. There is coral underneath the hull in both the Auxiliary Machine Room and the Engine Room. The internal bulkhead between the Auxiliary Machine Room and the Engine Room is no longer water tight, and the several internal bulkheads are slowly losing integrity. There are also several cracks in the superstructure, and as you can see in the photo there are several holes in the hull along the length of the ship.

via Information Dissemination: Operation Guardian.

Over at CDR Salamander’s, I asked when was the last time the US Navy lost a ship by grounding. I was quite surprised to learn it wasn’t very long ago. In 2000, the USS La Moure County (LST-1194) ran hard aground during exercises in Chile, and was a total constructive loss.

Tug VOS Apallo stands by USS Guardian (MCM-5)

T-X Competition Moves Forward, Despite Funding Challenges

Amid a cloud of uncertainty over how the U.S. Air Force’s next-generation trainer jet program will be funded, the service will hold an Industry Day this week as competitors learn more about the aircraft’s requirements.

For three days starting Jan. 29, industry will descend on Wright Patterson Air Force Base in Ohio for a series of meetings with Air Force officials.

“It’s a program that needs to happen, and it is by no means clear how to fund it,” said Richard Aboulafia, an analyst with the Teal Group.

T-X Program Needs

Despite a push by the Air Force, acquisition funds for the T-X program were not included in the fiscal 2012 budget. Because the federal government is operating under a continuing resolution that leaves the budget at 2012 levels, the program will be unfunded as long as the continuing resolution is in effect. Senior Defense Department officials have made it clear they don’t know if or when the resolution will be replaced with a new budget.

The winner of the T-X competition will replace Northrop Grumman’s T-38 Talon, in use since 1959. “The T-38 needs a replacement system by sometime in the 2020s,” Aboulafia said, a deadline that means the replacement program needs to be up and running “by the end of this decade” at the latest.

via T-X Competition Moves Forward, Despite Funding Challenges | Defense News | defensenews.com.

The T-38 is easily one of the more successful aircraft designs around. In  an age when supersonic aircraft still had decidedly deadly handling characteristics, Jack Northrop designed on that was safe enough to be used as a trainer, cheap and easily maintainable enough to be bought in large numbers, and durable enough to be in use over 50 years later. In fact, the Air Force recently upgraded the jets in its fleet to the T-38C configuration. Aerodynamically, nothing has changed. Most of the changes were to update the avionics to better conform to what pilots will see when they move on to operational aircraft.

And that’s what will be the major issue in the replacement, the T-X program. There are any number of airframes and powerplant combinations out there that would be at least minimally acceptable. The issue will be designing and integrating a cockpit display that will ease the student’s transition into his future mount.

A student pilot will spend about 18-24 months learning to fly. A very large part of that training is not so much about the actual stick and rudder movements, but learning to use the instruments of the airplane to build situational awareness. Changing the instruments is very disorienting to the student, and relearning a new panel takes time. And in flying, time isn’t just money, it’s a LOT of money.

CDR Salamander: Well, that is one way to be a ship’s last CO

Caught between the jagged coral of an ocean reef and Filipino environmental and political concerns, the U.S. Navy announced it will cut up the trapped USS Guardian and take it away piece by piece.

“Our only supportable option is to dismantle the damaged ship and remove it in sections,” Rear Adm. Tom Carney, commander of the salvage effort, said in a prepared statement released in conjunction with a Tuesday morning, Jan. 29 press conference at the Philippine Coast Guard facility in Puerto Princesa on the island of Palawan.

via CDR Salamander: Well, that is one way to be a ship’s last CO.

Yikes! As soon as I’d seen the news that USS Guardian had rotated and was no longer head on with the reef, I was afraid this would be the outcome.

Anybody recall the last time the Navy lost a commissioned vessel to grounding?

And it’s not like we’re chockablock full of minesweepers.