Pontifications: Remaking the Armed Services

Hamilton (5)

By Scott Hamilton

April 20, 2015, c. Leeham Co. A news item last week caught my eye about the Defense Department, defense spending and recapitalizing the US Armed Forces.

I don’t normally follow defense items at Leeham News and Comment. LNC is pretty much all-commercial, all the time. I’ve stepped outside this to follow commercially-derived air force tankers (Boeing 767, Airbus A330) and the P-8 Poseidon (the Boeing 737). I took rides on Trident nuclear ballistic missile subs and reported thusly. But this news article, which came about two weeks after my visit to Wall Street where some defense programs were discussed, prompts me to ask: Since we can’t afford the monies required to recapitalize the Armed Forces, what do we do?

I’m going to throw some ideas out and see where they land. I have no doubt some will be blasphemy. But here goes. Read more

Searching for MH370

We hesitate these days to link to CNN for pretty much anything having to do with missing Malaysian Airlines flight MH370 after the sorry spectacle the network made of itself during the height of the searches, but CNN.com has an interesting story about the prospective next step.

CNN.com reports that there is a possibility, though it may be remote, that sound sensors might have picked up the impact of the flight hitting the ocean.

This isn’t as far-fetched as it might seem.

Way back in the 1960s, US Navy sensors, designed to listen for Soviet submarines, were used to help locate the USS Scorpion, a nuclear attack sub that disappeared on its way home from the Mediterranean. Only when the boat was overdue did the Navy raise the alarm.

The search for the Scorpion is described in the book, Blind Man’s Bluff: The Untold Story of American Submarine Espionage (1998). The submarine’s last moments were faintly heard on SOSUS noise detectors thousands of miles away. (Some believe the sub was sunk by a Soviet submarine. Blind Man’s Bluff outlines the investigation which concluded a torpedo malfunctioned inside the sub, breaching the hull and ultimately causing the sub to sink below crush depth. The implosion was what was heard on the SOSUS network. We are friends with a Rear Admiral (Ret.), who was in the submarine service as a skipper/executive officer at the time who supports the torpedo explanation.)

If there is anything to the CNN.com story, considering that science and equipment is far advanced vs the 1960s, perhaps there is some hope to pinpoint that impact of MH370 to within a reasonable perimeter.

To the next President and next Congress: Maybe Sequestration should happen after all for the long-term good

As voters go to the polls today, we’ve turned our thoughts to Sequestration and the impact on Defense budgets.

Defense sequestration is widely view as a disaster for national defense and for employment. Sequestration requires a cut of $500bn over 10 years, or $50bn a year. Spending for FY2013 is $902.3bn, according to government figures, excluding the Afghan war. A $50bn cut would be 5.5%.

We certainly acknowledge the adverse impact of cutting $50bn from next year’s budget, but we can’t help but wonder if there isn’t 5% that is “fat.” Parochially, Boeing’s KC-46A tanker is on the hit list for cuts. Given the difficulty it took in getting to this contract and the pressing need to replace the KC-135, we would hope this program would survive.

But we’re thinking on a higher plain.

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Trident subs pass milestone

I’m going to deviate from the usual editorial “we” and the usual Airbus and Boeing focus to share with readers my trip last week on a Trident nuclear submarine, referenced in this previous post.

Through my association as a columnist for Armed Forces Journal magazine, I was privileged to receive an invitation for a two day, two night embark on an SSBN sub in connection with the Navy’s recognition of the milestone 1,000th mission of the D-5 Trident missile.

The D-5 Trident missile serves as the submarine force’s principal nuclear deterrent. The SSBNs are one of three triads that protect this country against our adversaries. The land-based ICBM and the USAF represent the other legs of the triad, but the SSBNs today represent 54% of the deterrent force.

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Go ‘Bama

We’ll be off line for five days while we go for a ride:

USS Alabama, SSBN 731: Source Wikipedia

We write for Armed Forces Journal magazine and for the next few days we will be on a Trident nuclear submarine. Eight years ago we had the opportunity to have a short ride on the USS Alabama. It’s not Airbus or Boeing, but it’ll be more fun.

Update, February 18: We’re back from our trip on the USS Maryland into the Atlantic. We need a few days to catch up and then we’ll write a piece, probably during the weekend, about this embark.

USS Maryland, SSBN 738: Source-US Navy