Navy

Trump orders U.S. to develop polar ice-breaking fleet for Arctic, Antarctic regions

President Trump ordered his administration on Tuesday to develop a polar icebreaking fleet for the Arctic and Antarctic by the end of the decade, saying it’s necessary for national security. “To help protect our national interests in the Arctic and Antarctic regions, and to retain a strong Arctic security presence alongside our allies and partners, the United States requires a ready, capable, and available fleet of polar security icebreakers that is operationally tested and fully deployable by fiscal year 2029,” Mr. Trump said in the order. He also wants to identify two new bases in the U.S. for the fleet, and two international bases. Mr. Trump further ordered federal agencies to look into leasing options from “partner nations” as a bridge to a permanent U.S. fleet, due to the aging status of the U.S. Coast Guard heavy icebreaker Polar Star, which was commissioned in 1976. The president directed Acting Homeland Security Secretary Chad Wolf, in coordination with the departments of State, Defense, Commerce, and the Office of Management and Budget, to “lead a review of requirements for a polar security icebreaking fleet acquisition program to acquire and employ a suitable fleet of polar security icebreakers, and associated assets and resources, capable of ensuring a persistent United States presence in the Arctic and Antarctic regions in support of national interests and in furtherance of the National Security Strategy and the National Defense Strategy.” Defense News reported last month that the U.S. Navy is making regular trips to the Arctic Circle after an absence of 30 years, including a four-ship patrol sailing in the Barents Sea. Three of the four ships were destroyers based in Rota, Spain, in an operation spearheaded by the U.S. Navy’s 6th Fleet.

Navy builds 10 new heavily armed frigate warships

The Navy’s vision and mission scope for its emerging new combat-capable frigate includes the ability to destroy swarming small boat attacks, operate undersea and aerial drones, support carrier strike groups, conduct disaggregated operations, attack enemies with an over-the-horizon missile and engage in advanced surface and anti-submarine warfare. These plans for the ship are taking a large step forward, following the Navy’s recent ship development award to Marinette Marine Corp. for up to 10 new Guided Missile Frigates (FFX(X)). Concepts for the ship include an advanced, heavily armed frigate with a stronger, reinforced hull, space armor, over-the-horizon missiles and a wider complement of additional high-tech weapons. Sure enough, according to Navy officials, the ship is now being designed as much more than a “toughened” Littoral Combat Ship, but a ship with an even wider combat scope to include additional air-defenses, AEGIS radar systems and major missile attack options with Mk 41 Vertical Launch Systems. Following years of debate and deliberation regarding what particular weapons and technology configuration would ultimately take shape for the new vessel, the service appears to have identified a handful of specifics. In a Navy report, service officials identified some of the intended missions and weapons applications for the ship. Initial specs include Enterprise Air Surveillance Radar, a Baseline Ten AEGIS Combat System, a Mk 41 Vertical Launch System (VLS) and MK 57 Gun Weapon Systems, among other things. This kind of baseline configuration is of course engineered with the technical foundation necessary to integrate new weapons, computer technology, electronics and information warfare systems as they emerge. The Navy described it as having “countermeasures and added capability in the EW/IO (Electronic Warfare/Information Operations) area with design flexibility for future growth.” Upon initial conception, it was not instantly determined that the new ship would include VLS; clearly the service saw the need to more heavily arm the new ship, in keeping with its increased lethality and Distributed Maritime Operations strategic approach for aggressively arming its surface fleet for major warfare on the open seas. Navy officials said that the new FFG (X) “will have multi-mission capability to conduct air warfare, anti-submarine warfare, surface warfare, electronic warfare, and information operations.” As part of its attack strategy for the ship, Navy officials add the ship will “will incorporate Standard Navy systems across the radar; combat system; command, control, communications, computers and intelligence; and launcher elements.” Along these lines, arming the ship with EASR radar is consistent with this plan, as the radar is also arming amphibs and some carriers as a Raytheon-built multi-mission air-defense system. The deal, which is a contract for detailed design and construction, includes a measure of flexibility, meaning the Navy and its industry partners are likely to continue refining requirements and potential weapons and technology for the ship as it further comes to fruition. Significantly, the Navy’s emerging weapons and technology structure for its frigate seem to align with some of the service’s initial requirements, mission scope and technology for the ship. A Navy statement several years ago said the platform will “employ unmanned systems to penetrate and dwell in contested environments, operating at greater risk to gain sensor and weapons advantages over the adversary.” A well-armed ship, which is what the emerging structure of the ship clearly seems to be, is consistent with the Navy’s previously articulated plan for the ship, which envisioned a platform that could travel in substantial aggregated combat scenarios such as Carrier Strike Groups and Expeditionary Strike Groups. In addition, it is clear that the service seeks a ship able to function autonomously, control undersea and aerial drones and perform disaggregated or more independent missions. For instance, the Navy’s Request for Information for the Frigate released several years ago states: “concepts of employment for this type of ship will include integrated operations with area air defense capable destroyers and cruisers as well as independent operations while connected and contributing to the fleet tactical grid. Additionally, this platform must defend against raids of small boats.” The ship will be manned with a crew of up to 200 sailors, Navy officials say. A follow-on deal is planned for 2026.

U.S. Navy releases three ‘unidentified aerial phenomena’ videos

The Pentagon on Monday publicly released three mysterious videos of “unidentified aerial phenomena” captured by military personnel over the past 15 years and admitted that the objects seen in the clips still cannot be explained. Two of the videos were taken in January 2015 and another was taken in November 2004. All of the clips have been released and posted online by the Naval Air Systems Command. While the Pentagon has previously confirmed that the videos — which have been circulating on the internet for years — are real, Monday’s announcement marks a significant shift for the military. It’s the first time the Pentagon has shared the information with the public through official government channels. “The U.S. Navy previously acknowledged that these videos circulating in the public domain were indeed Navy videos,” Pentagon spokesperson Sue Gough said in a statement. “After a thorough review, the department has determined that the authorized release of these unclassified videos does not reveal any sensitive capabilities or systems, and does not impinge on any subsequent investigations of military air space incursions by unidentified aerial phenomena. DOD is releasing the videos in order to clear up any misconceptions by the public on whether or not the footage that has been circulating was real, or whether or not there is more to the videos. The aerial phenomena observed in the videos remain characterized as ‘unidentified.’” Monday’s release includes three pieces of raw video footage and a host of accompanying documents and other files, though much of the written information has been redacted. In one 34-second video clip, a small, bright object can be seen flying in front of the camera before disappearing. It then reappears, and the camera follows it for about 20 seconds before the clip ends You can watch the videos HERE.

Go ahead and click on the text above, if you haven’t already…and you be the judge.      🙂

Trump says he’s instructed Navy to ‘destroy’ any Iranian gunboats harassing US ships

President Trump said Wednesday that he’s instructed the U.S. Navy to “shoot down and destroy” any Iranian gunboats harassing American ships, in the wake of a tense encounter in the Persian Gulf. “I have instructed the United States Navy to shoot down and destroy any and all Iranian gunboats if they harass our ships at sea,” Trump tweeted. The encounter happened last week. Six U.S. Navy warships were conducting drills with US Army Apache attack helicopters in international waters off Iran last Wednesday when they were repeatedly harassed by 11 Iranian Islamic Revolutionary Guard Navy vessels, the U.S. Navy’s 5th Fleet reported. The Iranian ships repeatedly crossed in front and behind the U.S. vessels at extremely close range and high speeds, including multiple crossings of one ship, the Puller, with a 50-yard closest point of approach and within 10 yards of another ship, the Maui’s, bow, a 5th Fleet statement said. The Navy also reported that the USS Paul Hamilton, USS Firebolt, USS Sirocco and USCGC Wrangell, as well as the Puller and Maui, were involved in the exercises. The U.S. crews responded by issuing multiple warnings via radio—including five short blasts from the ships’ horns and long-grange acoustic noise maker devices, but received no response from the IRGCN, the Navy’s 5th Fleet said in a statement. After approximately an hour, the Iranian vessels responded to the radio queries, before maneuvering away from the U.S. ships and increasing the distance between them, according to the Navy. The Navy said that the Iranian’s dangerous and provocative actions “increased the risk of miscalculation and collision” and were in violation of international maritime “rules of the road.” The Navy also said they were not in accordance with international law to act safely with other vessels in the area. The incident last week came one day after Iranian gunmen stormed a Hong Kong-flagged tanker in the Strait of Hormuz before quickly leaving when they learned the vessel was from China. The U.S. Navy, Coast Guard, Marines and Army have been conducting joint interoperability operations in the Gulf since March. The president’s directive also comes several months after hostilities between the U.S. and Iran which included an attack at the U.S. Embassy compound in Iraq that U.S. officials blamed on Iran. In response, the U.S. carried out a strike that killed Iranian Gen. Qassem Soleimani. Also, earlier this month, the president sent a stark warning to Iran, after claiming that Iran was planning a “sneak attack” on U.S. troops in Iraq. “Upon information and belief, Iran or its proxies are planning a sneak attack on U.S. troops and/or assets in Iraq. If this happens, Iran will pay a very heavy price, indeed!” Trump tweeted.

This is so great!  FINALLY, a President is saying enough is enough.  For FAR too long, presidents of BOTH parties have allowed this crap to continue unchecked.  President Trump is showing leadership and, believe me, the troops in the field (and at sea) appreciate this.  They know their Commander in Chief has their back.  Excellent!!     🙂

U.S. expands Navy presence in Caribbean. Is military action against Maduro more likely?

When President Donald Trump weighed the options earlier last year to address the political and humanitarian consequences of Nicolás Maduro’s tight grip on power in Venezuela, he realized his harsh rhetoric against the South American leader was not backed up by a show of force in the region. That was corrected Wednesday, as Trump, surrounded by the country’s top officials, announced an expanded military presence near the Venezuelan shores that had been unseen for decades. Secretary of Defense Mark Esper, National Security Council Director Robert O’Brien and Attorney General William Barr all said during the press conference that the additional military is meant to crack down on “counternarcotics operations,” but is also aimed at denying funds to Maduro and his closest allies, who have been recently indicted in the U.S. on drug trafficking charges. “When we started the maximum pressure policy in January, the president analyzed what our military assets were in the Western Hemisphere because obviously, all the options were and are on the table,” a senior administration official told the Miami Herald. “There was no balance; most of our assets were in the Middle East, Asia, etc., so he asked to recalibrate those assets to have the necessary presence in the hemisphere to see where this situation was going” regarding Venezuela, he added. The move was in line with Trump’s longtime belief that the U.S. should not spend resources on faraway regions, the official said. The shift from considering Maduro “illegitimate” to being publicly labeled a “narco-terrorist” provided a rationale for the military moves, despite government data suggesting Venezuela is not a primary transit country for U.S.-bound cocaine. The official also cited the destabilization that the Venezuelan political and humanitarian crises have caused in the region, with millions of Venezuelans overwhelming neighboring countries such as Colombia, as another imperative to expand U.S. military presence in the hemisphere. Colombian President Iván Duque was one of the loudest voices asking for more support to deal with the migrants but also with the “narco-terrorists” of Colombia’s two main guerrilla groups, the FARC and the ELN, both harbored by Maduro in Venezuela. Esper published a list of the forces mobilized for the mission, including Navy destroyers, Coast Guard cutters, Navy littoral combat ships, helicopters, Navy P-8 patrol aircraft, along with Air Force E-3 AWACS and E-8 JSTARS to carry out airborne surveillance, control, and communications. The operation includes security forces assistance brigades. At the press conference Wednesday, Gen. Mark Milley, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said there were “thousands” of sailors, Coast Guardsmen, soldiers, airmen and Marines involved. Some experts have been surprised by some of the assets mobilized to the region. “There is some serious military hardware listed here,” said Adam Isaacson, the director of the Defense Oversight program at the Washington Office on Latin America. I can’t recall the last time there were U.S. Navy destroyers in the Caribbean or the eastern Pacific coast [on operations, not exercises]. And each E-3 AWACS plane costs more than a quarter-billion dollars,” he said on Twitter. According to the U.S. Southern Command, in charge of carrying out the operation in the Caribbean and the Pacific Eastern coast, those aircraft have been in use in the region. “AWACs is one of the aircraft we have used to conduct detection and monitoring operations in the past,” José Ruiz, a media relations officer at Southcom, told the Miami Herald. “Insofar as Navy ships are concerned, flight-deck capable ships are one of the assets that comprise the kind of force package that enables the disruption of illicit drugs flowing into the U.S.” Such Coast Guard “force packages” — patrol aircraft, ships with flight decks, helicopters and law enforcement detachments — are standard in counternarcotics operations, Southcom’s commander, Navy Adm. Craig Faller, has been advocating for more resources for counternarcotics operations in Central and South America. In a congressional hearing in March, he announced that U.S. military presence would increase in the region in terms of ships, aircraft, and security forces to “reassure partners” in combating “illicit narco-terrorism.” News of the operation has unsettled Venezuelan leaders and revived hopes within the Venezuelan population that a U.S. military action against Maduro is in the making.

Ya never know..  Maduro is probably terrified he might end up like former Panamanian dictator Manuel Noriega, whom we captured back in 1989 for similar narco trafficking reasons, and put him in federal prison.  We’ll, of course, keep an eye on this developing story.  For more, click on the text above.

China targeting U.S. Navy warships with electromagnetic weapons

China has called for using electromagnetic attacks on U.S. warships transiting the South China Sea, according to a state-run Chinese outlet. The Communist Party-affiliated organ Global Times, quoting a military expert, said the use of nonlethal electromagnetic and laser weapons should be used by the People’s Liberation Army to expel American warships from the disputed sea. The report followed China’s potentially dangerous use of a laser against a Navy P-8A maritime patrol aircraft near Guam last month, and an earlier lasing two years ago of C-130 aircraft near China’s military base in Djibouti on the coast of Africa. The article was published Tuesday, the same day the Pacific Fleet announced on Twitter that the aircraft carrier strike group led by the USS Theodore Roosevelt, and the USS America, an amphibious assault carrier and leader of an expeditionary strike group, were conducting exercises in the South China Sea. The training exercise for both strike groups included flight maneuvers, air defense tests and surface-support mission exercises, the fleet said in a report on the exercises. At one point, Marines carried out a simulated visit, board, search and seizure exercise on the guided missile cruiser USS Bunker Hill, according to the report. “Training with multiple platforms really enhances the overall combat capability of the force,” said Capt. Kurt Sellerberg, commanding officer of the Bunker Hill. “Cruisers and destroyers, being multi-mission platforms, can complement and support strike operations with the Marine Air Wing (MAW) from the America [Expeditionary Strike Group].” The large-scale military maneuvers are a direct challenge to China’s claims to control 90% of the South China Sea, despite an international court ruling several years ago rejecting those claims. The Global Times report said the carrier operations marked the third time in the past week that U.S. warships have “trespassed” into the sea. The Pentagon has said repeatedly that it regards the sea as international waters and frequently conducts freedom of navigation operations through the sea. Other recent warship operations included the passage of the guided missile destroyer USS McCampbell on March 10 to waters near the Paracel Islands in the northern part of the sea and maneuvers by the America and a littoral combat ship, the USS Gabrielle Giffords, on March 13.

For more, click on the text above.  Thanks to veteran Pentagon journalist, and author Bill Gertz for that excellent piece.

The Naval Academy is deteriorating so badly, its mission to train midshipmen is under threat

Leaking pipes. Moldering walls. Condemned offices and balconies. Plumbing that can’t handle its load and a stormwater system dumping unfiltered rainwater into the Severn River. These aren’t the issues of a long-abandoned factory. They describe the current condition of the Naval Academy. Infrastructure at the naval institution in Annapolis has degraded to the point of threatening the school’s ability to train and educate midshipmen, according to a report by the Naval Audit Service. The 2018 audit, obtained by The Capital Gazette through a Freedom of Information Act request, details failing buildings, classrooms and athletic facilities — which in some cases actively leak, overheat and threaten user safety. Buildings including Nimitz Library and Macdonough Hall were built decades ago but never fully updated, causing critical systems to outlive their usefulness. Auditors fear the conditions jeopardize academy accreditation, endanger midshipmen and visitors, and violate several federal laws. The report took stock of 13 unfunded maintenance or renovation projects spread among 15 facilities between March 6, 2017, and April 26, 2018. Ten of these facilities are highly important to the academy mission, according to its internal rating system. But of those 10, four rated “poor to fair” and five rated “failing to poor” at supporting the academy’s ultimate goal — to ready midshipmen for naval service. The auditors found a maintenance backlog exacerbated by steep funding cuts after the Naval Academy lost its Flagship Institution designation to the 2013 federal budget sequester. The designation promised the academy funding for both regular repairs and major renovations. To dam the deluge of problems, the Navy restored the Flagship Institution designation for the academy, Naval Postgraduate School and Naval War College. The academy will get $15 million every other year, beginning in fiscal year 2020. The Navy will also support the maintenance budget at a higher level. “USNA concurs with the findings of the audit,” Cmdr. David McKinney, a Naval Academy spokesman, said in a prepared statement. “We look forward to addressing the discrepancies in the report and with additional funding look forward to ensuring the Naval Academy remains a modern Flagship Institution for the Navy.” The Naval Academy continues to do emergency maintenance — including recent repairs to the Bancroft Hall roof and the Leahy Hall roof that was blown off during a wind storm last year, said Ed Zeigler, a spokesman for Naval District Washington. But to fund large-scale infrastructure projects, the school competes for money against other projects in the Washington, D.C., Naval District. The academy submits projects to the district, which prioritizes and passes them on to Shore Mission Integration Group, a Navy body responsible for balancing priorities at sea and on the shore. Even with the new money, it would take years to address all of the problems listed in the audit.

Indeed..  For more, click on the text above.

US Navy to use Xbox controllers on highly sophisticated submarines

Virginia-class submarines, equipped with some of the U.S. Navy’s most highly advanced and sophisticated technology, will soon use Microsoft Xbox 360 controllers to operate the periscope. Unlike the traditional rotating tube periscope, these submarines use photonic masts that display the images on screens, so multiple Navy personnel can view at once. But the problem with the photonic masts is that they’re controlled by a complex joystick, which junior officers and sailors described as “clunky” and “real heavy,” Lt. j.g. Kyle Leonard, the USS John Warner’s assistant weapons officer, told the Virginian-Pilot. In addition, the current system used to operate the photonic mast and imaging panels costs about $38,000, the newspaper reported. The idea of using an Xbox controller stemmed from a collaboration effort between Lockheed Martin and Navy officials looking for a less expensive solution, and a way to incorporate everyday technology. “That joystick is by no means cheap, and it is only designed to fit on a Virginia-class submarine,” Senior Chief Mark Eichenlaub, the USS John Warner’s assistant navigator, told the Virginian-Pilot. “I can go to any video game store and procure an Xbox controller anywhere in the world, so it makes a very easy replacement.”

How great is this?!?  To read more, click on the text above.     🙂

US nuclear sub returns flying pirate flag, sparking speculation

One of the United States’ most advanced nuclear submarines returned to port in Washington state this week flying a Jolly Roger, a move steeped in maritime lore and mystery. The images of the USS Jimmy Carter, a Seawolf-class nuclear-powered submarine passing through the Hood Canal, were posted to a Pentagon media site and Twitter page. They show the skull and bones flying beside the American flag, the Washington Post reported. The 450-foot-long Carter is one of three in its class and designed to conduct covert sea operations, the paper reported. The sub also was filmed returning from its last patrol in April with the Jolly Roger flying from the conning tower. The black flag emblazoned with a skull and crossbones is of significance, says Scottish journalist Ian Keddie, who posted one of the photos on Twitter. The tradition of flying it dates to 1914, during World War I, when a British submarine sank the German battle cruiser Hela, according to the historical book “Submarines at War 1939-45,” the paper reported. When the HMS E-9 returned to port, Lt. Cmdr Max Horton raised the iconic pirate flag to signal that its crew had sunk an enemy warship. British naval fleets have honored the tradition sporadically ever since. It was not immediately clear why the Carter returned to its home port observing a British tradition, according to the paper. U.S. submarine activity is reportedly rarely discussed by the Pentagon, and the vessels operate in secrecy. The paper pointed out that the flag display could represent the success of a more covert mission. The Carter is able to deploy unmanned submersibles and probably splice undersea cables, all while using specially outfitted thrusters to almost hover off the ocean floor. One of the Seawolf class’s namesake subs participated in the Cold War-era operations, in which U.S. subs tapped Soviet communication lines that were underwater.

Nearly two-thirds of Navy planes grounded due to years of budget cuts

Years of budget cuts have taken a toll on the Navy’s fleet of strike fighters. Nearly two-thirds of the Navy’s strike fighters are sitting unused because there is not enough money to repair them, according to DefenseNews.com. The Navy has had to deal with declining budgets in recent years even though the demand for military aircrafts carriers remains the same. Congress was unable to produce a budget before the October 1 start of the 2017 fiscal year. Political leaders say Congress’ inability to pass the military budget on time is hurting the fleet. In addition to the grounded planes, there isn’t enough money to fix the Navy’s ships, either. Maintenance of ships have been canceled or deferred. When military vessels are finally brought in for repair, it often takes more time to complete the work. Some submarines in the fleet have been out of service for long periods of time — in some cases more than four years. One sub, the Boise, even lost its diving certification because it was out of commission for so long. Officials claim that if more money doesn’t become available soon, another five submarines could lose certification, according to the military news agency. The Navy has been unable to obtain the money needed to move around service members and their families to new assignments, and about $440 million is needed to pay sailors. It also claims 15 percent of its shore facilities are in dire shape and in need of repair, replacement or demolition. The Navy is not the only military branch dealing with money woes. The Army, Marine Corps and Coast Guard have also complained they are underfunded and need a financial infusion to stay afloat. The Trump administration is now making an effort to boost military spending. The Pentagon recently delivered a $30 billion spending bill to Congress to help rebuild the armed forces. Also this week, vice chiefs from the Air Force, Army, Navy and Marine Corps will testify before both the House and Senate’s Armed Services Committee. “I think we have a great opportunity to do the right thing for the country,” said Rep. Mac Thornberry, R-Texas, the chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, according to the Associated Press. “I’m pretty optimistic that it will actually happen.”

Let’s hope so, Congressman..  This is beyond outrageous, and inexcusable.  But, it’s what 8 years of Obama has done to our  military.  Unreal..