Centennial of ANZAC Landings at Gallipoli

Today marks another significant centennial of the Great War.  (Yesterday marked the centenary of beginning of the Armenian Genocide.)  The ANZAC landings at Gallipoli took place on 25 April 1915.  It is a very special ANZAC Day.  From last year:

anzac hat

Today is the 25th of April.  It is ANZAC Day, commemorating the 99th anniversary of the landings of 31,000 men of The Australian Division, and the Australian-New Zealand Division (reinforced with two batteries of mountain guns) on the crescent-shaped portion of beach known as Ari Burnu, forever after known as Anzac Cove.


The ANZAC landing began before dawn on 25 April 1915, and was initially unopposed,  By mid-morning, however, Turkish troops under LtCol Mustapha Kemal had reacted strongly and taken the landing beaches and the precariously shallow Dominion positions under rifle, machine gun, and artillery fire.  Unable to move forward, and hanging onto hillside rocks and scrapes, ANZAC Commander MajGen Sir William Birdwood asked to have the beach-head evacuated.


The Royal Navy argued that such an evacuation, particularly under fire, was impractical.   So Birdwood was ordered to stay, with the advice given by General Sir Ian Hamilton to “dig, dig, dig!”.  It is from this message, many conclude, that the ANZACs became known as the “diggers”.    Despite herculean efforts and near-suicidal courage, including the tragically costly landings at Sulva Bay in August of 1915, the stalemate was never broken.  Unable to advance, with no evacuation possible, the ANZACs remained locked in their initial positions, enduring conditions even more horrendous than those on the Western Front, until finally pulled out as a part of the general evacuation of the Gallipoli Operation in December of 1915.


ANZAC Day has become a day of remembrance for all Australian and New Zealand war dead, but remains especially poignant for the nearly 13,000 Australian and New Zealand soldiers who gave their lives in the foothills of the Bari Sair Mountains, in the eight months of hell on Earth that was Anzac Cove.

At the going down of the sun,

and in the morning,

we will remember them.

PC- Nope, not Political Correctness.

The United States Navy has traditionally shunned smaller ships. It has also traditionally found them pretty handy in every war.  Let’s take a look at the smallest named combatants in the current inventory, the Cyclone class PCs.

The Cyclone class PCs, or Patrol Coastal, were originally intended to support SEAL teams, replacing the early PB MkIII class 65’ patrol boats. To speed procurement, an existing design sold to foreign navies was adapted to US standards.

The PC is 179’ long, has a beam of 25’, displaces 331 tons, and has a speed of up to 35 knots. Powered by four Paxman diesel engines, at a 12 knot cruising speed, they have an endurance of about 2000 nautical miles. The crew of five officers and 24 enlisted man an armament of two Mk 38Mod2 stabilized 25mm guns, and a collection of various other smaller machine guns, such as M2 .50cal and M240 7.62mm guns. There is currently a program to provide the PCs with the BGM-176 Griffin missile for a more robust anti-surface capability.


The 14 ships of the class were commissioned between 1993 and 1996. Unfortunately, even before deliveries were complete, it became apparent they were rather poorly suited to their intended special warfare role. And as noted, the Navy traditionally shuns smaller ships. And so, by 2000, the US was already looking to divest itself from the PC program. The lead ship of the class, PC-1 Cyclone,* was decommissioned, and transferred to the US Coast Guard. Three additional ships were also transferred. Cyclone herself was subsequently transferred to  the Philippine Navy.

The Coast Guard was not thrilled with the poor endurance and high fuel consumption of the ships, but given how few ships they had, they took what they could get.

In the meantime, after the attacks of 9/11, and especially the invasion of Iraq in 2003, the US Navy found itself ever more concerned with maritime security operations in the Arabian Gulf (or Persian Gulf). Much of that consisted of providing security to Iraqi oil facilities in the gulf. In addition, interdicting smuggling, providing force protection for friendly forces, and simply keeping an eye on shipping in the region were critical tasks.  And when it comes to tasks like that, a single ship, no matter the type, can only cover a relatively small geographic footprint. That is to say, numbers matter more than combat power. And while we have a large navy, it would be impossible to deploy sufficient cruisers, destroyers and frigates to the region to effectively fulfill those mission. 

And so the Navy soon found the PC as quite valuable in these missions. The  three ships still with the Coast Guard were transferred back to the US Navy and placed back into commission.  And rather than deploying the ships for six to nine months in the region, followed by a lengthy transit back to the US, the Navy decided to permanently base the ships in the Gulf, and simply rotate crews on a scheduled basis. Right now, 10 of the 13 ships are stationed in the Gulf. The remaining three are supporting (similar) operations in the Caribbean while based out of Mayport, FL.

In spite of being in very high demand in the Gulf, the PC community is still something of the red-headed stepchild of the Surface Warfare navy. Naval Special Warfare has pretty much given up on them, and Surface Warfare is focused far more on the DDG-51 Burke and getting the LCS program to resemble something like a useful asset. The ships have gone through an extensive rehabilitation, but they were designed for a  service life of 15 years, and rehab can only stretch that for so long.

There are limitations to the ships as well. To steal a comment from a piece over at CDR Salamander’s :

We also need to remain cognizant of all that is wrong with what is small.

-Vulnerability. Small surface craft have historically proven to be extremely vulnerable to attack from the air. Employing them prior to gaining aerial supremacy could have costly consequences. Due to their limited size, single hits from most current air- and surface-launched missiles would be a mission kill and likely kill or wound a significant percentage of the crew. Recoverability and damage control suffer due to small crew size and limited space and weight for DC equippage.

-Limited Payload. Size constraints limit magazine capacity. Stability issues when mounting things like ASCMs topside. A robust logistics train needs to be established to keep them properly armed in the even hostilities break out.

-Endurance. This is a killer. It dramatically increases the footprint we would need to effectively operate. In lieu of that, some sort of tender would need to be developed. Again, logistics train into theatre issues.

That’s all very true. Unfortunately, the commenter urges a much larger replacement, in the corvette sized category. Which bumps up against the LCS program. The Navy simply won’t look at anything that close in size.

And further understand, these PCs are incredibly vulnerable to any but the most modest threats at sea. Against any other real warship, they are facing near certain destruction. But that is the whole point. The PC, as used today, is intended to release expensive warships for those missions that need a warship. The PC is relegated to far less risky, but still necessary missions. And it does those mission as a much, much lower cost, in terms of ship cost, operating cost, and in manpower needed to crew the ships.

Matthew Hipple, who usually writes at CIMSEC, teamed up with some fellow PC community officers to pen a piece in USNI’s Proceedings magazine to sing the praises of the PC:

PC capabilities come with comparatively low costs in manning, resource consumption, and payload. The footprint in personnel and resources is minimal. In raw numbers, a guided-missile destroyer (DDG) is crewed by enough sailors to man ten PCs—a second Forward-Deployed Naval Forces (FDNF) PC fleet. For a year’s regular operation, the FDNF PC fleet uses less fuel than a deployed DDG under way for two months. Additionally, PCs need no tugs, no cranes, and only minimal line handlers for entering port. These austere characteristics are ideal for commanders seeking operational and engagement opportunities.

The PC’s payload also makes it comparatively advantageous for some operations and engagement. Beyond merely “being there,” presence is observing the pattern of life and engaging local forces. Day-to-day observation, security, and engagement do not require platforms with Tomahawks or a well deck. From South America to the South Pacific, PC-type vessels are the preferred option for the regular business of maritime security. In this light, a guided-missile cruiser or DDG might not be only an over-application of resources for engagement but also less compatible. For a small footprint, PCs are an unobtrusive and complementary member of the local civilian and military maritime community.

One of the issues facing the PC community is that, as noted, the ships are getting old. And the Navy has no Program of Record for replacing them. In the comments at CDR Salamander’s, as always when discussing ship programs, there are a ton of suggestions for what the “perfect” PC replacement program should be. The problem is, all the nice stuff most folks want costs a lot of money. Every time you add a capability to a ship, be it a weapon, a sensor, additional manpower, speed, endurance, it adds to the size and cost of the ship. And as you drive up the cost of the ship, you bot
h reduce the numbers of ships you can possibly buy for a given slice of the shipbuilding budget, and you inexorably increase pressure to add even further capabilities to a ship. After all, if you’re going to build a ship n sized, should it also include x system, just like every other ship class that size? Pretty soon, you find yourself going from a 300 ton patrol ship, to a 2500 ton corvette, and suddenly, you start to grasp how the Navy ended up with the half billion dollar LCS.

My own preference would be to see a virtual repeat build of the current Cyclone class. Failing that, I’d actually accept a considerable step down in capability, and buy 25 or so of the Coast Guard’s new Sentinel class patrol boats.

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=I5l4bAoixwI]





*All ships in the class received wind themed names.

A Quick History of US Navy Flight Deck Tractors

Aircraft carriers have limited deck space in which to position and move aircraft on the flight deck. This is where a rather unsung workhorse of US Naval Aviation come into its own. To move these aircraft around, the Navy uses flight deck tractors.

Flight deck tractors first started to make an appearance on flight decks during the intense Pacific campaigns of World War 2. It was discovered that man-handling aircraft to position them for flight operations took too much time. The first integration of the flight deck tractor was actually just a plain old US Army Willy Jeep:

Here's a Willy's Jeep towing a Grumman Avenger during World War 2.
Here’s a Willy’s Jeep towing a Grumman Avenger during World War 2.

The tow tractors also became necessary because of the increased weight of aircraft like the SBDs, Grumman Avenger and Hellcat. Willy’s Jeeps served as aircraft tractors on fleet carriers (Yorktown and Essex classes) as well as on smaller ships (Independence, Bogue, Sangamon, Casablanca classes) till the end of the war.

At the same time the US Navy adopted the Clarktor 6 Tractor which was already in use with the USAAF. The Clarktor 6 was based on a pre-war commercial tractor design. These tractors were in use on Lexington, Essex and Midway class carriers till the mid-1950s:

Here's a Clarktor 6 towing a newly built F2H-1 Banshee at the McDonnell factory in St. Louis, MO.
Here’s a Clarktor 6 towing a newly built F2H-1 Banshee at the McDonnell factory in St. Louis, MO.

The BNO-40 flight deck tractor was also based on a pre-war commercial design that entered US Navy service in 1943. These tractors served on most USN carriers, including veterans like USS Enterprise (CV-6), Essex and Midway class attack carriers, Independence class light carriers and even the smaller Bogue, Sangamon, Casablanca and Commencement Bay class escort ships. By the mid-1950S these tractors also service with the French Navy aboard the R96 La Fayette (ex USS Langley) and R97 Bois Belleau (ex USS Belleau Wood):

BNO-40 flight deck tractors aboard the USS Ticonderoga CV-14 during Okinawa operations.
BNO-40 flight deck tractors aboard the USS Ticonderoga CV-14 during Okinawa operations.

The introduction of jet aircraft to US Navy flight decks in the 1950s posed a whole new set of problems with flight deck tractors. The US Navy introduced the MD-1 flight deck tractor which was the first equipped with a gas turbine unit to assist in starting the modern jet powered aircraft. For this reason they become known by the name “huffer.” Huffers served on the served on Essex / Oriskany, Midway and Forrestal / Kitty Hawk class carriers of the U.S. Navy until mid 1960s. They were also used by the Royal Canadian Navy aboard the HMCS Bonaventure:

Here's an MD-1 with an A-4 Skyhawk.
Here’s an MD-1 with an A-4 Skyhawk.

Introduced in the early 1960s, the MD-3 tow tractor was the first purpose-built flight deck tractor. Introduced in the 1960’s the MD-3 featured a low profile to fit under the nose of modern naval aircraft. To cope with the larger size of aircraft at the time, the MD-3 was also larger and heavier than its predecessors. The MD-3 also featured a gas-turbine starter but also space of a fire extinguisher. The MD-3 served on all US Navy carriers (all classes included the CVN-68 class) and amphibious assault ships of the era:

Here an MD-3A tows an S-3A Viking from VS-28 aboard the USS Forrestal (CV-59).
Here an MD-3A tows an S-3A Viking from VS-28 aboard the USS Forrestal (CV-59).

The current flight deck tractor found on all aircraft carriers and amphibs is the A/S-32A-31A. Introduced in the 1990’s, the -31a looks like the MD-3 but is longer as it has a new starter unit and contains a place to stow equipment. The -31A is powered by a 3 stroke diesel engine, an automatic transmission. Although rear wheel driven the -31A has power assisted steering up front:

Here's an A/S32A-31A tow tracor on the aircraft carrier flight deck.
Here’s an A/S32A-31A tow tracor on the aircraft carrier flight deck.

The newer SD-2 is a version of the A/S32A-32A designed specifically for use in the aircraft hangar deck. Due to the even more restricted space below the SD-2 has a castoring wheel that enables to fit aircraft into the tighter spaces found on the hangar deck. The SD-2 also does not need to tow bar as the aircraft are handled by an attached brace on the tractor that fits into the nosegear:

SD-2 tow tracor on the flight deck.
SD-2 tow tracor on the flight deck.

Tow tractors enable carriers and other aircraft operating ships to rapidly reposition aircraft to facilitate a rapid tempo of flight operations. Keeping in mind, IYAOYAS, tow tractors and their aviation bosun mates enable that ordinance to be on target in a timely manner. As with other member of the Naval Aviation team,  They give creditibilty to US Naval power.

Muskogee War Memorial and the USS Batfish

This is one of those happy accidents that you have to be ready for when traveling. For our trip to Oklahoma, I wanted my kids to learn about the different Native American tribes. After some reading and research, I decided on the Five Civilized Tribes Museum in Muskogee. In hindsight, I should have focused on the Cherokee in Tahlequah. The Five Civilized Tribes Museum consists entirely of “Andrew Jackson moved us here, here’s some art.” The art was good but unsatisfying for the left-brains of the family.

A pamphlet stand for area attractions included one for the USS Batfish. A submarine in land-locked Oklahoma? This deserved further investigation.

The USS Batfish is a Balao-class submarine.

Continue reading “Muskogee War Memorial and the USS Batfish”

Salient Visible Characteristics of Fighting Ships

from Fahey’s “Ships and Aircraft of the US Fleet

I have a knack for finding interesting militarily historical artifacts and after reviewing my purchases at the second annual Pritzker Military Museum and Library booksale, this is a lesson I keep having to relearn. I had that feeling I should purchase that copy of Fahey’s  “The Ships and Aircraft of the U.S. Fleet“, in this instance, available there as a 5 volume set, which already having a tendency to listen to feeling, I purchased.

I found a document from the Office of Naval Intelligence dated 11 March 1942 titled: “Salient Visible Characteristics of Fighting Ships.” It provides an interesting glimpse of what the US Navy was like during World War 2. Thusly:

Hesitation caused by the uncertainty as to whether a vessel is friend or foe may lose for the aviator his opportunity to attack, and for the naval officer may result in the loss of a ship or failure to discharge a mission or destroy an enemy vessel.

Heady and still very relevant stuff especially for those currently deployed.

Below you’ll see my pictures of some of the document. Enjoy:











JS Izumo joins the fleet.

The largest Japanese naval vessel since World War II, the JS Izumo, has joined the Japanese Maritime Self Defense Force.

An undated photo of JS Izumo (DDH-183) underway. The ship commissioned on March 25, 2015. JMSDF Photo

Sam LaGrone, as always, brings us the news.

A 24,000-ton helicopter carrier has formally entered the fleet of Japan’s Maritime Self Defense Force (JMSDF) on Wednesday making the ship the largest warship Japan has fielded since the close of World War II.

The commissioning ceremony JS Izumo (DDH-183) — the first of two for the JMSDF — was held in Yokohama and attended by Defense Minister Gen Nakatani.

Billed by the Japanese as a platform to assist in anti-submarine warfare (ASW) and humanitarian aid and disaster relief (HADR) operations, the ship has flared regional tensions in neighbors— China especially — who view the ship as a power projection platform with a historically aggressive name.

I suppose it is theoretically possible for Izumo and her sister ship to serve as power projection platforms, but they’re certainly not optimized for it.

The ships really are configured as anti-submarine helicopter carriers (though for political reasons, they’re designated Helicopter Destroyers).

This is the second class of helicopter carriers the Japanese have built in recent years. The earlier, slightly smaller class of two Hyugas weighed in at around 19,000 tons full load. Interestingly, the Hyugas carry a more robust self defense fire control system and weapon suite. The Izumo appears to carry only the most basic self defense systems. Both classes carry impressive sonar systems.

Of course, large ships like this aren’t intended to operate independently. Instead, they form the centerpiece of an escort group with other surface ships, destroyers and frigates, to provide a “bubble” of ocean that is denied to enemy submarines, surface ships, and air assets. The Japanese actually built a class of destroyers specifically to provide escort to these larger helicopter destroyers.  Add in one of their formidable Kongo or Atago class Aegis destroyers, and a couple of conventional destroyers or frigates, and you have a very potent surface force.  But it is a sea control force, one that can deny an enemy use of a particular portion of the sea. The JMSDF lacks the ability to project power ashore and influence the enemy there. And that is, of course, by design, and in accordance with the Japanese constitution drawn up by MacArthur after World War II.

Destroyer Escort

Here’s a training film from World War II days as the DE program was ramping up. It’s apparently intended as an orientation for new sailors assigned to new construction.

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=09tLc4O7s9I]

The DE program was really almost wholly a result of Franklin Roosevelt. The Navy didn’t have a prewar plan for mobilization construction of the DE type, unlike many other combatants. It intended to use 173’ PCs and full size DD ships. Roosevelt helped the Navy change its mind. The DE program was hugely successful, with several hundred being commissioned between 1942 and the end of the war.

Further, the wartime DE program led to the further development of what we today call frigates. Quartermaster will tell us in the comments about his days aboard USS Courtney, a direct descendant from the wartime DE design.

With the exception of the extremely austere Claude Jones class, pretty much every post-war ocean escort class was quite successful. The various classes shared a few common traits. First, they were not intended to sail with the main striking force of the fleet, the carrier battle groups (though shortages of escorts meant they often did). They were balanced general combatants intended to escort amphibious shipping, replenishment groups, and merchant convoys. They emphasized anti-submarine warfare, but did not ignore anti-surface and anti-air warfare, if only for self defense.

They also tended to fill those seemingly endless extra missions that the Navy finds itself tasked with, but not requiring a more robust warship.

The last of the FFG-7 Oliver Hazzard Perry class frigates will be leaving the fleet shortly, to be replaced by the LCS, bringing to a close a 70 year history of ocean escorts in the US Navy.

Climbing the rigging, underway.

I shared video of a US Navy sailor laying aloft aboard the USS Constitution recently. As noted, it’s one thing to take the lubber’s hole on a nice sunny day, while safely moored. Here’s what it looks like underway.

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IprZEi-yaDo]

Jannik Rathke was, apparently a student aboard the sail training vessel Sorlandet, which was operating as a part of a maritime school in Canada.

Lay Aloft! Climbing the foremast of USS Constitution

Which, wow, that’s a fair bit of cordage involved.

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rr2FWtb7rIk]

The caption from YouTube:

CHARLESTOWN, Mass. (Oct. 29, 2014) Boatswain’s Mate 3rd Class Pablo Solano climbs to the top of USS Constitution’s foremast during the crew’s final climbing evolution prior to Constitution being de-rigged in preparation for her entry into dry dock 1 in Charlestown Navy Yard scheduled for spring 2015.

I always get a tad queasy and dizzy watching stuff like this. Do note that our cameraman climbs the foremast, and the foretopmast, up to the crosstrees, but doesn’t climb the next segment, up the foretopgallant. Which, when making sail in the old days, not only would our sailor climb that, he’d be accompanied by quite a few others. And no safety harnesses back then. And while the weather this day in Charlestown was just about perfect, many a time sailors laid aloft in less than pleasant conditions. At night.

Yo ho, no wonder a bottle of rum was needed for the sailor’s life!

Offensive ASuW- Range and the Kill Chain

So, the surface navy side of the US Navy is starting to get serious about reestablishing a credible offensive capability against enemy surface forces. ‘bout damn time.

It should be noted that offensive ASuW is currently, and will continue to be, primarily the province of  tactical airpower and submarines. One great strength of our way of war is our ability to fight asymmetrically, using our system of systems against enemy platforms. Why get into a toe-to-toe slugfest with enemy surface ships if you have better ways of doing business?

But that approach presumes that an individual ship or small task force has immediate access to either airpower or a submarine. If that’s not the case, our notional force must be able to defend itself, and take the offense. The goal of a military force, after all, is to make his life miserable, not to make yours safe.

Jon Solomon, who’s been doing some great stuff at Information Dissemination, writes about one aspect that has been getting a lot of press, but not so much deep thought- the range discrepancy between most US anti-ship missiles, and those of potential enemies

The U.S. Navy is clearly at a deficit relative to its competitors regarding anti-ship missile range. This is thankfully changing regardless of whether we’re talking about LRASM, a Tomahawk-derived system, or other possible solutions.

It should be noted, though, that a weapon’s range on its own is not a sufficient measure of its utility. This is especially important when comparing our arsenal to those possessed by potential adversaries. A weapon cannot be evaluated outside the context of the surveillance and reconnaissance apparatus that supports its employment and the overall size of its inventory.

One of the original variants of the Tomahawk missile was the TASM, or Tomahawk Anti-Ship Missile. It could deliver a 1000lb warhead to a range of about 250 nautical miles at about 500 miles per hour. We fielded this capability in the early 1980s, but by the early 1990s, the TASM was withdrawn from service.


Because even though we had a missile that could fly 250nm, what we didn’t have was a reliable way to detect, localize, classify, identify, and track a target at that range. Oh, sometimes, use of SH-60B LAMPS III helicopters could make it theoretically feasible. But for the most part, it wasn’t practical. Most of the time when a potential target was found at 250nm, it was found by tactical air. And that brings us right back to tactical air being a preferred ASuW system.

Mr. Solomon uses some math in his post to illustrate some of the challenges that mean the maximum range of a missile isn’t the same as the maximum effective range, yet less the optimum engagement range.

Suffice it to say, the side that generally has the better ability to leverage Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance (ISR) assets to line up its targets is likely to prevail in any missile duel.

We’re reminded of an early criticism of the Spruance class destroyers- that they looked very lightly armed compared to their Soviet counterparts bristling with missiles and guns. What that overlooked was that the SpruCans were instead heavily laden with sensors, such as onboard helicopters, that gave them a better ability to see the battlespace, while still carrying sufficient weapons to dominate that battlespace. The Soviet counterpart, by contrast, was a deadly threat if, and only if, it could find the enemy.

Since the collapse of the Soviet Union (and its fleet) the Navy has stressed the sensor side of the sensor to shooter relationship. With the resurgence of a potential blue water foe, the Navy is again attempting to balance that relationship with a boost to the shooter side.