Lexington's Incomplete Modernization and Her Sinking At Coral Sea

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When the massive hulls of battlecruisers Lexington (CC-1) and Saratoga (CC-2) were designated to be completed as aircraft carriers  under provisions of the 1922 Washington Treaty, they represented a multi-generational leap forward for aircraft carrier design.  Eight hundred and eighty-eight feet long and displacing more than 44,000 tons loaded, these sleek monsters were capable of 33+ knots (some tales that Sara and Lex reached 40 knots during Fleet Problems in the late 1930s have never been verified) and could carry almost ninety aircraft.

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They were, in fact, far more modern in the 1920s than the fragile and short-range airplanes they carried.  Other than the mammoth IJN Shinano (built on the hull of the third Yamato), which never operated with aircraft, Lexington and Saratoga were the largest aircraft carriers built until the Midways entered service post-war.  They were 12 knots faster than the battle fleet, and potentially capable of powerful, far-ranging strikes not conceived of before they entered service.

USS Lexington Class Firing

The design of Lex and Sara was still largely experimental, and contained some oddities that time and experience would either correct or eliminate.  Famously, these two aircraft carriers were armed with a heavy cruiser’s guns.  Each carried eight 8-inch/55 caliber Mk IX naval rifles in specially contrived twin mounts.  The gun housings lacked armor, consisting of little more than splinter shields, in order to save topside weight.  (While the mounting of heavy caliber guns seems in retrospect an anachronism, doubts about the ability of aircraft to actually engage and sink surface ships who might cross paths with the carriers were well founded in the early 1920s.  Despite Billy Mitchell’s experiments, the age of dominance of air power had not yet arrived for the world’s navies.  Indeed, the loss of HMS Glorious in 1940 and the sinking of three more aircraft carriers by gunfire over the course of the war might give more justification to the heavy main battery than commonly believed.)  The aligning of the centerline of the flight deck with the hull centerline was discovered to necessitate significant ballast to port to offset the weight of the island.  All future designs, starting with Ranger (CV-4) would have the appropriate offset of flight deck centerline on the hull.

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Both vessels were given what was for the time a massive anti-aircraft battery.  Twelve of the new 5″/25 caliber Mk 10 AA guns were fitted, six on each side in single mounts, and controlled by the then-state of the art Mk 19 director.   A number of .50 (12.7mm) caliber machine guns installed in 1929 comprised the sole light AA capability.   As the size, speed, and lethality of carrier aircraft increased through the 1930s, however, it was soon clear that the .50 caliber machine guns were of dubious utility, and the development of the heavier 1.1″ (27.6mm) quad mount machine guns began.  Design delays in the 1.1″ AAMG were the impetus for the mounting of a number of 3″/50 caliber AA cannon until the design was ready for fielding, which occurred in early 1941.  The 1.1″ AAMG turned out to be a mixed bag.  When working properly, the 1.1″ proved effective in action, but maintenance and reliability issues, and the obvious requirement for a heavier projectile in the AA role against modern aircraft, led to the shipping of the famous twin and quad 40mm Bofors AA cannon beginning in mid-1942 on most US warships.

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However, that decision was still in the future when plans were drawn up in 1940 to modernize Lexington and Saratoga as Pacific war clouds gathered.   It was planned to remove the 8″/55 Mk IX mounts on both vessels, and replace them with four twin Mk 12 mounts carrying the highly effective 5″/38 caliber dual purpose gun mated to Mk 37 gun directors, two mounts per director.   The 5″/38 was more accurate than its predecessor, and had an effective ceiling of 37,200 feet, 10,000 feet higher than the 25 caliber gun.  In addition, the plans called for the replacement of the elderly Mk 19 directors, first developed in 1925, with the newer Mk 33.  The Mk 19 was incapable of computing for dive bombing, and was almost entirely ineffective at tracking 250-knot aircraft now fielded by the Japanese, further restricting the effectiveness of the 5″/25 to under 17,000 feet.

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The coming of war in December of 1941 meant that Lexington would be a desperately needed asset, and indeed she was active for the first four months in the Pacific war as a part of Task Force 11.  During a brief refit in late-March, 1942, Lexington’s 8″/55 mounts were landed, but the Mk 12 5″/38 mounts (and Mk 37 directors) to replace them were not installed, as Lexington was desperately needed in the fight against the Japanese Navy.  In addition, the Mk 33 directors destined for the older 5″/25 batteries were likewise not fitted.  In place of the planned 5″/38s, a temporary installation of more 1.1″ AAMGs and some 20mm Oerlikon cannon was instead completed.

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Photographs of Lexington as she steamed into the Battle of the Coral Sea are noteworthy for the absence of her familiar 8″/55 mounts, and omission of the 5″/38 mounts which Saratoga would receive while being repaired from torpedo damage a couple of months later.   What Lexington was left with for anti-aircraft defense was a heavy battery of older 5″/25 guns whose effectiveness was hampered by outdated fire control, and light AA in insufficient numbers to effectively defend her.   Whether this made any difference in the loss of Lexington is anyone’s guess, but the possibility certainly exists.  The mating of the 5″/38 with the Mk 37 director was the most lethal anti-aircraft combination to go to sea in World War II.   Perhaps such a combination could have caused the Japanese torpedo and dive bombers who fatally struck Lexington on 8 May 1942 to have missed, or might have destroyed them before they struck the ship.   What is indisputable, however, is that Lexington was sent into action against a modern and capable enemy with equipment and weapons that were known to be obsolete and lacking in combat effectiveness.  Operational tempo had restricted the US Navy’s ability to sufficiently modernize a capital ship to acceptable standards to meet the requirements of combat at sea.  Despite the very recent rapid expansion undertaken in America’s shipyards, the United States went to war in the first six months in the Pacific with the Navy it had, not the one it would require to fight and win.

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There is a lesson in there, somewhere.

 

SECDEF Fired: Hagel Goes Under the Bus

Chuck Hagel

Big news this morning that Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel has been fired by President Obama.  Big news, but not surprising.  Hagel has openly contradicted the President several times, especially regarding the Administration’s rather childish assertions regarding the necessity of ground forces in the fight against ISIS.   You will hear various stories about how this was Hagel’s idea, and of course, the media will dutifully report as fact the White House’s version of events.  But that version will be as accurate and honest as WH proclamations on Benghazi, the IRS, Fast and Furious, ISIS intelligence failures, etc.

Though Hagel was not known as a deep thinker, the idea that he somehow couldn’t grasp the deeper and more complex defense issues smells like the intellectual elitism of the self-proclaimed far-left “ruling” class.  It is far more likely that Hagel attempted to keep Obama and his National Security Council grounded in reality, only to be poo-pooed and brushed aside by the overwhelming cacophony from the Marxist ideologues that have the President’s ample ears.   I was never a big Chuck Hagel fan, as he was a Global Zero guy whose viewpoints at various times bordered on the curious, but as SECDEF I thought he was one of the few at the top of the Defense structure with the spine to stand up to the rampant amateurish stupidity that emanated from 1600 Pennsylvania.  We could have done far worse.  We certainly might going forward.

Whether talks were “initiated” by Hagel or not, the nature of those talks were probably discussions about whether Obama was going to keep tossing aside wise counsel or not in favor of the childlike and naive rantings of his fellow-travelers.  And, the answer today seems to be a resounding YES.  Obama will continue to march forward in secular progressive lockstep to the Internationale, wreaking the concomitant damage on US security, foreign relations, and national power.

Funny that the Secretary of Defense that HE chose, to replace another that had had enough (Panetta), is now thought not to be up to the job.  One has to wonder who is.  Michele Flournoy has been mentioned, along with Ash Carter.  One has to think Bob Work is in the mix.  All are far too talented to want to serve out the last two years of the military train wreck that is the Defense Department under Obama.   It is like being hired to coach the Washington Generals, and being told you are expected to win.

Jerry Hendrix Discusses Rep. Randy Forbes' Assertion That the US Navy Has No Strategy

Jerry Hendrix, late of the Naval Historical Center and now a fellow at CNAS, addresses a letter from Randy Forbes (R-VA) to CNO Admiral Greenert.  Read it all on DefenseOne.com.

A response, but certainly not a rebuttal.  I think the good Captain (Retired) is spot on with his assertions of the victory of the “Technical Rickovers” over the “Humanities Mahans”.   And that the very lack of being able to verbalize the importance of seapower is a major factor in the dearth of strategic eloquence from our Navy leadership.

When senior admirals speak strategically, their message can be summarized as “we do what we do because we have always done what we have done. The oceans are peaceful, we created that environment, and there is no need to change the formula.”

Indeed.  We are saddled with senior Navy leadership that assiduously avoids meaningful discussion about why the US Navy is building a fleet so entirely contrary to the requirements of the Cooperative Strategy.  Inherent in that avoidance is the unwillingness to discuss true ship numbers, or anything approaching a proposition for a high-low mix.  We have ever-smaller numbers of very large and very expensive warships which bodes poorly for forward presence.  The result is an increasing tally of unmet requirements, and of capital ships being employed in very low-end missions, to the detriment of other missions more appropriate and important.

That shipbuilding is a colossal mess, with LCS being the poster-child, should be no surprise.  This is the Navy, after all, that has its senior leadership in critical c0mmand positions offering up such gems as the Navy’s mission not being war at sea, and the most dangerous threat to US interests in the Pacific is not China or North Korea, but global warming.  And, though less openly now, the rather curious assertion that forcible entry is no longer possible or required, that somehow the sea as strategic or operational maneuver space is an outmoded idea.

Have a read, folks, and let me know what YOU think of Hendrix’s assertion.

Salvage

An interesting and informative look at the truly herculean effort sometimes overlooked in the epic that was World War II.

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Salvaging and reclaiming tanks and vehicles destroyed in combat was sometimes a disturbingly gruesome task, as the late Belton Cooper wrote so eloquently about.   But the salvage effort was truly impressive, and saved the cost of manufacture, transport, and time to supply the gigantic American arsenal in Europe and the Pacific with the spare parts needed to keep fighting.

Lazarus Calls for Executing Plan URR with Tico Reduced Commission Proposal

Information Dissemination contributor (and Salamander Front Porch regular) Lazarus lays out a good plan which should ring slightly familiar.  Laz’s post contains far more practical information than my conceptual musings, and I am very pleased to see the ideas be floated in such a widely-read forum as ID.

A Ticonderoga class cruiser shorn of most of its combat systems, operations, and supply departments would qualify for nucleus crew status. A U.S. nucleus crew might spend a week to 10 days per quarter underway with these opportunities spread out rather than concentrated in one at sea event. Underway periods need be no greater than 24 hours in duration in order to provide elements of basic crew training. Crews could eat pre-prepared meals for short underway periods, and a shore-based centralized supply office could support individual ship’s logistics and maintenance support needs. All CGs selected for such a program would be assigned to geographic areas relatively free from foul weather sortie requirements. The program would need to be flexible in order to be resilient through periods of fluctuating budget support.

Lazarus points to the wear and tear that the Ticos have endured, and is far more diplomatic than I have been about the cause of their “rapid aging”.

Shortfalls in training and maintenance in the decade of the 2000’s as highlighted in the Balisle report further indicate the class has been proverbially “put away wet” without necessary attention as well.

In short, a bunch of senior Naval Officers, including a number of Admirals, decided that skimping on maintenance and manpower was a good way to save money.  For all of their MBAs and other service experience, that cabal of Officers cost this country and its Navy BILLIONS of dollars in premature retirement of fully capitalized assets, by formulating a stupid and short-sighted plan that ignored the very fundamentals of equipment operation that any Vocational High School Equipment Maintenance and Repair teacher could have taught them in ten minutes.

I do hope someone is listening at Big Navy.  Otherwise more valuable assets and taxpayer treasure go down the drain for the stubborn stupidity of our Navy’s leadership.

IPCC Warns on Global Warming, after the Coldest Winter in US in a Century

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Well, we have reached the last day of March in 2014.  Just in time for the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change to send out another alarmist shill about Global Warming/Climate Change.   Anthropogenic Climate Change, to be exact.  Requiring “action”.   Which is a code-word for “money”.    Otherwise, disaster, death, murder, rape, starvation is sure to ensue.  You get the idea.  Seems like we have heard it all before, dunnit?

Of course, Socialist-Communist American President Barack Obama is solidly behind such “action”.  Especially since that action has the desirable side-effect of destroying our capitalist economy and providing further excuse for even more crushing environmental regulation, exponentially expanding the statist command economy he desires so much.   Vice President Biden, he of the “perfect skin”, is in full agreement.  Which means, it seems, that the inside of his head is not quite as well-kept as the outside.

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We are to believe, of course, that the natural cycle of changes in the Earth’s climate which we have proof occurred hundreds of millions of years before man came to be, is now entirely our fault.  And that the massive and growing number of skeptics in the scientific community remain “just a few deniers”.

Let’s give some local flavor to the debate.   Where I live, March 2014 has had a mean temperature nearly NINE DEGREES below normal.  That is an astounding figure.  In March of 2012, when we had temperatures in the 70s for several days and the global warming alarmists were in full frenzy, the mean temperature was just 7.2 degrees ABOVE normal.   Despite their prognostications of certain doom, March of 2014 is actually significantly colder than March of 2012 was warm.   Such is also not in isolation.  The previous 12 months have been a full 2.0 degrees below their average since 2006.   Talk about “hockey stick” graphs.

Nationally, the US just experienced the coldest six months in more than 100 years.  Since the winter of 1911-12.  If that is true in the US, it is very likely true in Canada and Mexico.  For the last six months, at least one quarter of the globe has been significantly colder than the norm.   Climate scientists have already been caught red-handed manipulating data sets to produce “global warming” outcomes.  As have US agencies.   These aren’t mistakes.  Not errors in calculation.  They are LIES.

Our President, not surprisingly, is using those lies to perpetuate HIS agenda, and the agendas of his political and financial supporters.   For people like Barack Obama, the truth is something to be avoided at all costs.   That should surprise nobody.  After Benghazi, Obamacare, the IRS scandal, Fast and Furious, “red lines”, etc., he can be called an inveterate liar.

And it shouldn’t surprise us that Obama embraces the Global Warming anti-capitalists.  It isn’t like he doesn’t have a history of hanging out with Weathermen.

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It would seem that the “just a few deniers” have a few things to say.    It makes a good read.

It is Difficult to Overstate Our Diplomatic Incompetence

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A resurgent Russia, under a ruthless and savvy autocrat, is flexing its muscles in Eastern Europe.  Communist China is threatening our allies and our interests in the Pacific.  That same Russia and China appear headed for closer relations.  Iran, thanks to the feckless naivete of Obama and Kerry, are poised to have nuclear weapons, with which they have vowed to destroy Israel.  North Korea, in league with that very same Iran, continues to act provocatively, with full approval of the PRC, despite public protestations to the contrary.  The “Arab Spring” has unleashed radical Islamists throughout the region.  Russian influence throughout the Middle East has been exponentially enhanced by America’s “leading from behind” fiasco.  We are without a viable grand strategy, and are slicing our Armed Forces to well below the levels at which we can defend our interests and deter our adversaries.

So what is Secretary of State John Kerry’s “critical mission” in his message to his diplomatic corps?

“Protecting our environment and meeting the challenge of global climate change is a critical mission for me as our country’s top diplomat,” Kerry said in the letter issued on Friday to all 275 US embassies and across the State Department.

Yep.  Climate change.  America’s foreign policy team is being pushed around and laughed at for the pathetically weak milquetoasts they are.  Our credibility in the world is sinking alarmingly.   Our adversaries and rivals are acting with impunity, virtually without fear of repercussion from what remains (for the time being) the most powerful nation on earth.  Our allies are frantically scrambling to fill the security gap where America once stood.  What strategic leverage we might have, abundant sources of fossil fuel energy, is being deliberately suppressed by these same far-left “environmentalists” in the name of “saving the planet”.

An editorial this Friday in the leftist rag that passes for the local paper here in Upper Valley of Vermont tried to make the argument that somehow Republicans were being disingenuous in claiming Obama to be a strong-arm quasi-dictator on the one hand, while accusing him of being pathetically weak on the other.   Of course, the columnist assiduously avoided the fact that Vladimir Putin (and Rouhani in Iran, Assad in Syria, etc.) is immune to intimidation by Eric Holder, or Lois Lerner, or Kathleen Sibelius.  Foreign policy means dealing with people whom cannot be silenced by Obama being able to sic the apparatus of government upon those who defy him.   Alinsky’s “rules for radicals” work for domestic politics, when opponents are not willing to kill and starve and imprison on a massive scale to achieve their goals.   But ideologues like Hillary Clinton, and John Kerry, and Barack Obama are way out of their element in dealing with foreign leaders who understand REAL power.  Leaders who call their bluffs regarding “red lines” and “severe consequences”, and such.  Which results in President Obama “prancing around swinging his purse at Moscow”, as SKK so eloquently expressed.  Putin and Lavrov have shown utter contempt for Obama and Kerry, and it is not difficult to understand why.

So in place of actual statesmanship, John Kerry injects tripe about “climate change”.  (Which used to be “global warming”, if you are keeping score, until far-left environmentalists could no longer obscure the fact that the world was not, in fact, getting warmer.  Not to be confused with “global cooling”, which 40 years ago was the “settled science”, until they could no longer obscure the fact that the world was not, in fact, getting cooler.)  It is not at all clear how a diplomat in an embassy or a consulate can quite go about “elevat(ing) the environment in everything we do”, or how that got to be the job of a diplomat in the first place.  Oh, wait.  Because it was one of John Kerry’s “causes”.

“The environment has been one of the central causes of my life.”

Right.  Along with claiming America was “the world’s monster”, advocating for wealth-redistribution statist socialism, collaborating with our nation’s enemies (worthy of a drone strike?), and fomenting anti-American sentiment wherever he went.    Oh, and avoiding taxes due on his yacht (where he spent significant time during the recent Egypt crisis and then lied about it, by the way).   And jet-setting to any of several multimillion-dollar homes.   No word on whether advancing America’s strategic interests appears anywhere in there.

And it ain’t like his boss drove a Prius to his Florida golf vacation.  Which comes just weeks after his Hawaii golf vacation.

The United States will pay a terrible price for the mind-boggling incompetence resident in the people entrusted with our foreign policy.  They, themselves, the Kerrys and Obamas, the Hillarys, they won’t.  But we will.  It is difficult to overstate that incompetence.  Though, between last week’s appearance on Meet the Press, and this inane memo to our diplomats this week, Kerry seems as if he is sure giving it a try.

A US-Japan Littoral Combat Ship Design?

The Diplomat has the story.  The possibility is certainly intriguing.  One can assume rather confidently that Japanese naval engineers are somewhat less enamored of “revolutionary”, “transformational”, and “game-changing” as we seem to be here at NAVSEA.  Japanese ship designs, particularly in smaller units, have always been excellent.  Fast, sturdy, powerful units for their size.

…analysts contend that the trimaran would likely be a lighter variant of the U.S. Navy’s 3,000-tonne littoral combat ship (LCS), a platform designed primarily for missions in shallow coastal waters.

According to reports in Japanese media, the high-speed J-LCS would give the Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force (JMSDF) the ability to quickly intervene during incursions by Chinese vessels near the Senkaku/Diaoyu islets and other contested areas of the East China Sea. Chinese analysts speculate that the J-LCS could be intended as a counter to the PLA Navy’s (PLAN) Type 056 corvettes and Type 022 fast-attack boats, two types of vessels that could be deployed to the region should relations continue to deteriorate. Furthermore, early reports indicate that the slightly enlarged hull of the 1,000-tonne-plus vessels could accommodate SH-60K anti-submarine helicopters and MCH-101 airborne mine countermeasures (AMCM) helicopters.

If Chinese analysts are correct, and I hope they are, it is possible we will see a smaller, better-armed, more lethal, less fragile, and significantly less expensive warship which will be suitable for combat in the littorals.  Our lack of “low-end” capability to handle missions ill-suited for AEGIS cruisers and destroyers, such as mixing it up with ASCM-armed frigates and fast-attack craft, is nothing short of alarming.  It would be of benefit to the US Navy to scrutinize the results of such a design, which at first blush sounds much closer to the “Streetfighter” concept than either current LCS design, and that of the Cyclone-class Patrol Cutters.

It sure as hell would be an improvement over current designs.  Especially if the “joint” US-Japanese LCS actually shipped the weapons systems and capabilities required and didn’t stake success on as-yet undeveloped “modules” whose feasibility has come increasingly into question.