What did you do in the Cold War, Dad?

The Other McCain’s coauthor, Kevin Trainor, has penned a book, part autobiography, part essay, and part biography of military notables.

Kevin served in the Cold War Army in Europe, a time of high tensions, but no action. And not every soldier has tales of derring do. For most of us, being in the Army, however proud and honorable our service, was really, just a job.

Kevin’s story is often funny, sometimes, quite dark, but always quite real.

It’s a quick read, only 128 pages, but it’s only $0.99, so go download it.

Commander’s Policy Letter Implements Rule for Playing Eagles Song – John Q. Public

If you’ve never been to Thule Air Base in Greenland, don’t go. It’s cold, desolate, and reminiscent of a Siberian prison colony.But if you do go, make sure you have reliable transportation. You’ll want to leave as soon as you get there.Which brings us to an entertaining chapter in the story of Gen. John Hyten, commander of US Air Force Space Command, who found himself stranded at the icy outpost for four extra days earlier this year after paying an official visit, his airlift plagued by a series of perfectly sequenced maintenance problems. Accompanied by his spouse and entourage, Hyten did what people stuck at Thule generally do … he turned up at the local watering hole to soak up whatever entertainment could be found. This is where the story gets interesting.

Source: Commander’s Policy Letter Implements Rule for Playing Eagles Song – John Q. Public

Go read the whole thing. It’s hilarious.

The Russian Navy

After the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, the impressive blue water fleet built up by Admiral of the Fleet Gorshkov soon disintegrated into almost utter irrelevance. Russia simply had no money to maintain the fleet. Further, many of the hulls were obsolescent, held in service to artificially boost fleet size. 

Russia simply scrapped, abandoned, or sold off huge chunks of the fleet, focusing on maintaining a kernel of capability, primarily its nuclear armed ballistic missile submarine force.

Beginning about the middle of the first decade of the 20th century, however, as Russian economic fortunes began to improve, renewed emphasis was placed on naval capability.

The Office of Naval Intelligence recently released an overview of the Russian Navy’s past, and its current status.

[scribd id=293684910 key=key-BmJoy4imPSNSO7cY8nEK mode=scroll]

Take note that the first emphasis in renewed shipbuilding was on strategic capital ships. The top priority was to develop and deploy a new class of strategic ballistic missile submarines. The uttermost priority for Russia must be to continue to field a credible nuclear deterrence force.  After that, only then does submarine building focus on attack submarines.

Contrast that with developments in the surface forces. Shipbuilding capability, particularly for warships, is quite limited. And so rather than stress building large combatants, they’ve focused on building small, but quite capable, light combatants. New classes of corvettes, light frigates, and guided missile frigates are in production. Only after serial production of these types will Russia begin development of guided missile destroyers.

Note also that concurrent with our own Navy’s CNO’s emphasis on payloads over platforms, the Russians have taken a similar stance. Whereas our own LCS has a main battery consisting of a 57mm gun and Hellfire short range missiles, the Russian light warships have a Vertical Launch System capable of firing either the KALIBER series or YAKHONT series cruise missiles.

And Russia was sending a message recently when its corvettes and frigates used KALIBER cruise missiles launched from the Caspian Sea to attack targets in Syria. The targets almost certainly would have been easier to service via air strikes from Russian jets based in Syria. But that wouldn’t have served to remind a whole host of nations that Russia has a currently fielded capablity to conduct deep strike missile attacks at will from a stand off range that renders the launch platforms invulnerable.

The Russian Navy is unlikely to rise again to challenge the US Navy (nor the PLAN) for control of the high seas across the globe. But it is showing that it is becoming a genuine power in the region capable of complex operations and effective results.

Hagel: The White House Tried to ‘Destroy’ Me | Foreign Policy

“Whether it was the right decision or not, history will determine that,” Hagel told Foreign Policy in a two-hour interview, his first extensive public comments since he was forced out of his position in February.

“There’s no question in my mind that it hurt the credibility of the president’s word when this occurred.”In the days and months afterward, Hagel’s counterparts around the world told him their confidence in Washington had been shaken over Obama’s sudden about-face. And the former defense secretary said he still hears complaints to this day from foreign leaders.

Source: Hagel: The White House Tried to ‘Destroy’ Me | Foreign Policy

Hagel was dumb to accept the nomination in the first place.  Of course Obama and his cabal in the NSC, particularly Susan Rice, would attempt to keep all decision making authority in the White House. And of course, the decisions would be based on what produced good optics for Obama, not what was in the best interests of the nation.

Seriously, everything this administration does is based on how it looks, not on anticipated outcomes.

Civilian found living in barracks on Fort Bragg | Military & Fort Bragg News | fayobserver.com

Investigators are looking into how a civilian was able to move into barracks reserved for Fort Bragg’s 3rd Special Forces Group.A spokesman for the group confirmed the unit discovered a civilian living in the barracks on Wednesday and reported the matter to Fort Bragg’s Provost Marshal’s Office.The spokesman could not provide additional details, but said the situation was under investigation.

Source: Civilian found living in barracks on Fort Bragg | Military & Fort Bragg News | fayobserver.com

Apparently, this guy had a stolen access card, and claimed to be on TDY to attend an EOD course.


Israel Retires the Skyhawk

After 48 years and 263 airframes, the IDF has this week finally retired the mighty A-4 Skyhawk.

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lRTF7jWJh1Q]

That leaves Argentina, Brazil and Singapore* as the remaining users.

*Well, arguably the US still uses it, as Draken International contracts to provide services to the Navy and Air Force.

LCS buy truncated, and SecDef chides SecNav

`First, someone made a move in the right direction in the LCS program, about 32 hulls too late, but I’ll take it.

Secretary of Defense Ash Carter has ordered the Navy to trim its total buy of Littoral Combat Ships to 40 and down select to a single shipbuilder and design for the class as part of its fiscal year 2017 budget, according to a memo obtained by USNI News.

The directive to trim the service’s planned total of 52 planned LCS and Frigate hulls and direct the savings into other programs was contained in the Monday letter from Carter to Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus.

The new plan would call for a building only six LCS between fiscal years 2017-2020 – eight less than the Navy’s submitted in its 2017 plan – and directs the Navy to down select to a single shipyard and a single hull type in 2019.

USS Freedom (LCS-1), left, and USS Independence (LCS-2) in 2012. US Navy Photo

The insanity of having two different yards building two completely different hulls with two completely different combat systems was supposed to have been addressed half a decade ago, but SecNav Ray Mabus just punted on that rather than face the complaints of the congressional representation of the loser.

Why is two different hulls/combat systems bad? Well, it costs twice as much to develop, for one thing. But that’s already a sunk cost. From the beginning, LCS was supposed to have two designs. But it was also intended to downselect to one for mass production.  Two different hulls, and two different combat systems means the Navy now has to maintain two entirely separate maintenance pipelines, and two different school systems to train crews. Worse, even though the Navy is finally going to one design, it will still have several of the losing design in the fleet, and be required to support them for their entire service lives.

The announcement is one thing. But as they sometimes say, the medium is the message- as Bryan McGrath notes in a post at Information Dissemination,

What struck me most about this memo was its almost parental tone of disappointment. I told a friend yesterday that it sounded like a letter a young man would get in college from his father when he had serially overspent his allowance. One rarely sees THIS level of bluntness in correspondence between the policy elephants. Which brings me to the most shocking part of this memo—that it wasn’t classified or limited in its distribution in ANY way. Either OSD utterly failed to appreciate the gravity of the memo and simply overlooked its control, or there was a desire for it to be leaked to the media. And while I generally tend to follow the rule of “when faced with a choice between villainy and incompetence in a bureaucracy, choose incompetence”, in this case it appears that the darker view applies.

Emphasis mine.

Air Force to have enlisted pilots for first time since World War II

It’s happening: Enlisted airmen will be allowed to fly some remotely piloted aircraft.Air Force Secretary Deborah Lee James announced Thursday that enlisted airmen will be able to fly RQ-4 Global Hawks, unarmed RPAs that fly high-altitude reconnaissance missions.“There are no weapons on the RQ-4. However, there are not limitations on enlisted members employing weapons,” said Air Force spokesman Lt. Col. Christopher Karns. “The Air Force employs enlisted airmen on other aircraft where they are responsible for employing lethal force where necessary.”Currently, the Air Force is not considering allowing enlisted airmen to fly other RPAs, such as the MQ-1 Predator or MQ-9 Reaper, Karns said in an email Thursday to Air Force Times.

Source: Air Force to have enlisted pilots for first time since World War II

The ever increasing demands of the RPA community, coupled with some bad personnel management choices, and some structural/economic issues leaves the Air Force with a crippling shortage of available pilots.

Which is kinda funny, because most folks who garner a commission in the Air Force just want to fly.

There’s an obvious solution here that the Air Force will simply never embrace.

Warrant officers. The Air Force is the only branch of service without them.

But flying warrant officers could be a viable community. You’d probably not really have success simply restricting them to RPA only (they’d get burned out just as fast as commissioned officers) but you could easily design a career path where warrant officers spent time as RPA pilots, and then spent tours in other communities. No, the Air Force would never let them into the fast jet community. But how about in the Undergraduate Pilot Training field? Or some of the more esoteric Special Operations or rotary wing fields? Or have a secondary career track, such as specialists in aviation safety or engineering?