Adm. T.S. Rowden, Commander, Naval Surface Force, on the joys of “DL” — the future of warfighting:
Distributed Lethality requires increasing the offensive and defensive capability of surface forces, and guides deliberate resource investment for modernization and for the future force. Providing more capabilities across surface forces yields more options for Geographic Combatant Commanders in peace and war.
In order to achieve the desired outcome of this strategy, we must rededicate the force to attain and sustain sea control, retain the best and the brightest, develop and provide advanced tactical training, and equip our ships with improved offensive weapons, sensors, and hard kill/soft kill capabilities. Pursuing these ends will enhance our capability and capacity to go on the offensive and to defeat multiple attacks. By providing a more powerful deterrent, we will dissuade the first act of aggression, and failing that, we will respond to an attack in kind by inflicting damage of such magnitude that it compels an adversary to cease hostilities, and render it incapable of further aggression.
The above footage, posted last week by Chinese media, shows the People’s Liberation Army Navy’s only aircraft carrier, Liaoning, deploying with a couple of escorts at sea and moving around some Shenyang J-15 (China’s modded Su-33) fighters on deck. The blueberry camoed (oh come on!) crew even gets in some pretty decent flight ops in beautiful weather and calm seas.
Around the 3-minute mark there is a good bit of canned footage of self-defense weapons tests of a 30mm CIWS and a Flying Leopard 3000 Naval (FL-3000N) RAM-type system.
The 67,000-ton Admiral Kuznetsov-class strike carrier took some 29 years to build and switched hands at least three times during that process before the PLAN finally put her in fleet service in 2012.
The ski jump is very different…
CDR Salamader’s blog over at USNI cued me into just how bad the West-Pac missile gap is between the USN and PLAN:
From the Autumn issue of the Naval War College Review, Lieutenant Alan Cummings, USN, has a must-read article, A Thousand Splendid Guns.
I’ll let you read the full article, but there are two images that provides an overview of our ASCM shortfall in crisp profile.
When looking at the Chinese Navy in WESTPAC, how do our surface units that can or should carry ASCM line up – just in quantity?
In short, we have no problem meeting the Chinese in naval tonnage, but they have a huge advantage in distributed lethality by having way more platforms, each filled with (often longer range) ASCMs, making it possible to smother a U.S. task force or two with hundreds of incoming ship killers.
Sure, we have Aegis and lots of SM-2s, so we can swat a lot, but what of taking out those Chinese frigates and destroyers in turn? Our own Harpoon program has been whittled down so far over the years that we’d have to bank on submarines (who may be up to their necks in schools of PLAN smoke boats already), lucky TLAMs and even SM-2s used in surface mode to help even the odds.
As for our closest naval allies, the Royal Navy is expected to be left without an ASCM capability between 2018-2020. Such a gap is being caused by the planned retirement of the Sea Skua missile in early 2017 and the 2018 retirement of the SWS60 Harpoon. A limited anti-ship capability will only return when the Sea Venom/ANL lightweight anti-ship missile is equipped on the Wildcat HMA.2 helicopter in late 2020 and that is mainly meant to take out small FAC-style vessels. No funded program is in place by the UK for a Harpoon replacement, however.
Good thing the Army is looking into cross-domain fires. As PAC commander Adm. Harry Harris says, “I think the Army should be in the business of sinking ships with land-based ballistic missiles.”
The ship’s projected $20 million all-up price tag and its $15,000 to $20,000 daily operating cost make it relatively inexpensive to operate. For comparison, a single Littoral Combat Ship runs $432 million (at least LCS-6 did) to build and run about $220K a day to operate– but of course that is a moving target.
We’ve also talked about their Towed Airborne Lift of Naval Systems (TALONS) U-boat kite program which is a low-cost, fully automated parafoil system designed to extend maritime vessels’ long-distance communications and improve their domain awareness.
Towed behind boats or ships, TALONS could carry intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance and communications payloads of up to 150 pounds between 500 and 1,500 feet in altitude—many times higher than current ships’ masts—and greatly extend the equipment’s range and effectiveness.
So it makes sense that now video has emerged from DARPA of Sea Hunter taking its para-sail for a drag.
Now if they Navy can just cough up 50-100 of these, with ASW weapons and an automated C-RAM to avoid being splashed by enemy aircraft wholesale, and keep it from running $30 billion– then you have a real sea control ship when it comes to denying an area to the bad guy’s subs.
So the Navy is conducting operations with two (2) carrier strike groups in the Far East, which has China all puffy ( “The U.S. picked the wrong target in playing this trick on China,” the People’s Daily, the official newspaper of the ruling Communist Party, said in a commentary. )
Below: The Nimitz-class aircraft carriers USS John C. Stennis (CVN 74) and USS Ronald Reagan (CVN 76) conduct dual aircraft carrier strike group operations in the U.S. 7th Fleet area of operations in support of security and stability in the Indo-Asia-Pacific.
“No other Navy can concentrate this much combat power on one sea or synchronize the activities of over 12,000 Sailors, 140 aircraft, six combatants and two carriers.” – Rear Adm. Marcus A. Hitchcock, commander of Carrier Strike Group 3
Which reminds me of this classic image from 1990:
Ten ships of Task Force 155 gather during Operation Desert Storm. Leading the formation at left is the aircraft carrier USS Saratoga (CV 60), flanked by the guided missile cruisers USS San Jacinto (CG 56), top, and USS Thomas S. Gates (CG 51). At center is the nuclear-powered guided missile cruiser USS Mississippi (CGN 40) flanked by the aircraft carriers USS America (CV 66), top, and USS John F. Kennedy (CV 67). At rear are, from top, the guided missile destroyer USS Preble (DDG 46), the guided missile cruisers USS Philippine Sea (CG 58) and USS Normandy (CG 60) and the guided missile destroyer USS William V. Pratt (DDG 44).
Sadly, almost every single one of these ships in the 1990 image save for four are razor blades or reefs now. Only three of Ticos shown above are still in the active fleet (Gates, a non-VLS ship, was decommissioned 2005) while JFK is on red lead row pending possible museum donation.
Here at LSOZI, we are going to take off every Wednesday for a look at the old steam/diesel navies of the 1859-1946 time period and will profile a different ship each week. These ships have a life, a tale all of their own, which sometimes takes them to the strangest places. – Christopher Eger
Warship Wednesday May 18, 2016: Spanish gunboats a-go-go
Here we see the General Concha-class cañonero (gunboat) Elcano shortly after she became the USS Elcano (PG-38) because of the activities of one Commodore Dewey. She would go on to serve 44 hard years in total.
Laid down 3 March 1882 by Carraca Arsenal, Cadiz, Spain, Elcano was a small warship, at just 157’11” between perpendiculars (165′ oal), and tipping the scales at just 620-tons with a full load. Slow, she could only make 11-ish knots. However, what she could do was float in just 10 feet of water and carry two 120mm low angle guns, a single 90mm, four Nordenfelt QFs and two Whitehead torpedo tubes around the shallow coastal littoral of the Philippines where the Spanish were having issues with the locals that often involved gunplay.
Sisters, designed for colonial service, included the General Concha, Magallanes, and General Lezo, they were officially and maybe over ambitiously listed as “Crucero no protegido de 3ª clase” or 3rd class protected cruisers.
Described as “pot-bellied,” Elcano had a quaint Victorian era ram bow and carried a mixed sailing rig for those times when coal, never plentiful in the PI, was scarce. She was commissioned into the Armada Española in 1884, arriving in Manila late that year. Like most of the 18 or so Spanish ships in the region (to include sister General Lezo), she was commanded by Spanish officers and manned by Filipino crews.
Her peacetime service was quiet, spending more than a dozen years puttering around the archipelago, waving her flag and showing off her guns. Then came the Spanish-American War.
Just five days after a state of war between the U.S. and Spain existed, on April 26, El Cano came across the U.S.-flagged bark Saranac—under Captain Bartaby—carrying 1,640 short tons (1,490 t) of coal from Newcastle, New South Wales, to Iloilo, in the Philippines for Admiral Dewey’s fleet and captured same with a shot across the bow.
You see the good Capt. Bartaby, sailing in the days without wireless and being at sea for a week had missed the announcement of hostilities and said into Iloilo harbor to the surprise of El Cano’s skipper, who dutifully placed the ship under arrest. Bartaby was able to cheat a Spanish prize court by producing convenient papers that Saranac had been sold for a nominal sum to an English subject just days before her capture, though she had sailed into a Spanish harbor with the Red White and Blue flying. We see what you did there, Bartaby, good show.
Dewey lamented this loss of good Australian coal, which was hard to find in the Asiatic Squadron’s limited stomping grounds after the Brits kicked them out of Hong Kong. Incidentally, the Saranac was the only U.S. ship captured during the war compared with 56 Spanish vessels taken by Yankee surface raiders.
Speaking of which…
The rest of Elcano‘s very short war was uneventful save for being captured during the Battle of Manila Bay 1 May 1898 along with the rest of the Spanish Pacific Squadron under Admiral Patricio Montojo after Dewey battered his way into the harbor.
Her three sisters all had more final run-ins. General Concha fought at San Juan, Puerto Rico and narrowly escaped capture only to wreck herself on a reef off Morocco in 1913. General Lezo was ruined by a magazine explosion and sank just after Manila Bay. Magallanes, escaping destruction in Cuba, was discarded after sinking at her dock in 1903.
As for Elcano, her Spanish/Filipino crew was quickly paroled ashore at Cavite, and she languished there for six months under guard until being officially taken over by the U.S. Navy on 8 November.
Refitted for use to include swapping out her Spanish armament for American 4″/40cals (and plugging her 14-inch bow tubes), she was commissioned as USS Elcano (Gunboat No. 38) on 20 November 1902– because the Navy had a special task for the shallow water warship.
You see, once the U.S. moved into the PI, they used a series of captured and still-floating near-flat bottomed former Spanish gunboats (USS Elcano, Villalobos, Quiros, Pampanga and Callao) to protect American interests in Chinese waters. These boats, immortalized in the book and film the Sand Pebbles, were known as the Yangtze Patrol (COMYANGPAT), after the huge river system they commonly haunted. The first modern patrol, started in 1903, was with the five Spaniards while two more gunboats, USS Palos and Monocacy, built at Mare Island in California in 1913, would later be shipped across the Pacific to join them while USS Isabel (PY-10) would join the gang in 1921.
Elcano was based at Shanghai from February 1903, her mission to protect American citizens and property, and promote friendly relations with the Chinese– sometime promoting the hell out of them when it was needed. She kept this up until 20 October 1907 when she was sent back to Cavite for a three-year refit.
During this time, she served as a tender to 1st Submarine Division, Asiatic Torpedo Fleet, with the small subs of the day having their crews live aboard the much larger (dry-docked) gunboat.
Recommissioned 5 December 1910, Elcano took up station at Amony in China, and resumed the monotony of river cruises in China’s decidedly strife-ridden countryside that included bar fights with British gunboat crews, welcoming visiting warlords with an open hand (and a cocked 1911 under the table), sending naval parties ashore to rescue random Westerners caught in riots and unrest, besting other USN ships’ baseball teams to the amusement of the locals, and just generally enjoying the regional color (though libo groups were ordered to always go ashore in uniform and with canteens).
In August 1911, Elcano and the rest of the patrol boats were joined by the cruisers USS New Orleans and Germany’s SMS Scharnhorst and Gneisenau in Hankow for the unrest that came along with the anti-monarchist putsch that ended the Manchu dynasty.
There, Elcano participated in an impromptu naval review along with other arriving vessels from Austro-Hungary, Japan, France, Russia and a six-ship task force dispatched by the British. The ceremony’s true purpose: keep an eye on the nearly one dozen semi-modern Chinese warships in the harbor to make sure a repeat of the Boxer Rebellion didn’t spark. During this period, Elcano‘s men joined others in the International Brigade, sending 30 bluejackets with their Colt machine guns in tow to help guard the Japanese consulate. They were relieved ashore later in the year by a company of the British Yorkshire Light Infantry and a half-regiment of Siberian Cossacks shipped in for the task.
Elcano would get a short break from Chinese waters when the U.S. entered WWI, being recalled to Manila Bay to serve as a harbor gunboat, patrolling around Corregidor from April 1917-Nov. 1918, just in case a German somehow popped up. Then, it was back to the Yangpat.
Meanwhile in China, as the putsch of 1911 turned into open revolution and then Civil War, Elcano and her compatriots in the Yangpat were ever more involved in fights ashore, landing troops in Nanking in 1916 along with other nations during riots there, in Chungking in 1918 to protect lives during a political crisis, and again in March 1920 at Kiukiang (now Jiujiang on the southern shores of the Yangtze), where Elcano‘s sailors acted alone, and then at Ichang where she landed a company of Marines for the task and remained as station ship and floating headquarters until September 1922.
These two letters from Elcano sailors from the 1920 volume of Our Navy, the Standard Publication of the U.S. Navy. Note the mention of the ship’s baseball team, hooch at $1.20 a quart, and the retelling of how 60 bluejackets cleared the streets of Kiukiang by bayonet point:
During this service, Elcano proved a foundry for future naval leaders. Stars rained upon her deck, as no less than six of her former skippers went on to become admirals including Mississippian later Vice Adm. Aaron Stanton “Tip” Merrill, who picked up the Navy Cross at the Battle of Blackett Strait in 1943 by smashing the Japanese destroyers Murasame and Minegumo without a single casualty.
Between 1923-25, armed landing teams from Elcano went ashore and stayed ashore almost a half-dozen times in two extended periods in Shanghai during unrest and street fights between rival factions.
In March 1927, Elcano along with the destroyers USS William P. Preston, USS Noa, and the RN’s HMS Emerald took a “mob of undisciplined Nationalist soldiers” under intense naval gunfire outside of Nanking when the American Consul General John C. Davis and 166 others were besieged at the Standard Oil compound on Socony Hill.
It would be Elcano‘s last whiff of cordite.
By 1926, the seven veteran river gunboats were all worn out and the navy went shopping for replacements. With dollars always short in the Navy budget, it just made sense to build these new boats in China, to save construction and shipping costs. These new ships consisted of two large 500-ton, 210-foot gunboats (USS Luzon and Mindanao); two medium-sized 450-ton, 191-foot boats (USS Oahu and Panay) and two small 350-ton, 159-foot boats (USS Guam and Tutuila).
Once the new gunboats started construction, the five old Yangtze Patrol ships’ days were numbered. In November 1927, Elcano became a barracks ship in Shanghai for the newly arriving crews of the PCUs and by 30 June 1928, she was decommissioned after some 14 years of service to Spain and another three decades to Uncle Sam.
Elcano was stripped of all useful material, some of which went to help equip the new Yangpat boats, then towed off the coast and disposed of in a Sinkex by gunfire on 4 October 1928. Two of her former companions in arms suffered the same fate. Villalobos (PG-42), model for Richard McKenna’s San Pebbles, was likewise sunk by naval gunfire 9 October 1928, and joined by the ex-Spanish then-USS Pampanga (PG-39) on 21 November. The days of Dewey’s prizes had come and gone, with the Navy getting a good 30 years out of this final batch.
Of the other Spanish armada vessels pressed into U.S. Navy service, Quiros (PG-40) was previously sunk as a target in 1923, and Callo (YFB-11) was sold at Manila the same year where she remained in use as a civilian ferry for some time.
However, in Nanjing, on an unidentified monument there, is a series of Navy graffiti left by those Yankee river rats, if you look closely, you can just make out USS Elcano under USS Chattanooga.
They were there.
Displacement: 620 long tons (630 t)
Length: 165 ft. 6 in (50.44 m)
Beam: 26 ft. (7.9 m)
Draft: 10 ft. (3.0 m)
Installed power: 1,200 ihp (890 kW)
2 × vertical compound steam engines
2 × single-ended Scotch boilers
2 × screws
Speed: 11 kn (13 mph; 20 km/h)
Spanish Navy: 115
U.S. Navy: 99-103
2×1 120mm/25cal Hontoria M1879
1x 90/25 Hontoria M1879
4×1 25/42 Nordenfelt
2x 356mm TT (bow)
4×1 3pdr (37mm) guns
2x Colt machine guns
1x 3-inch Field gun for landing party along with Lewis guns and rifles, handguns and cutlasses
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