Category Archives: modern military conflict

Florida reboots their (likely not a Secret Police) State Guard

A phenomenon of WWII was, with state militias being redesignated as part of the National Guard under the 1903 Dick Act, once the Guard was federalized in 1940 and soon deployed overseas in 1941-42, the “Homeland” was left without anything to ward off potential Axis attacks other than local police (itself depleted by a loss of men joining the colors, remember, even “Bert the Cop” from Its a Wonderfull Life did his bit!) and boy scouts.

This led to the formation of the Civil Air Patrol to span the skies and the Corsair Fleet of the USCG Auxillary to patrol the seas, both composed of volunteers who, at least at first, just used their own equipment.

To stand sentinel at factories, vital chokepoints, and potential targets like bridges and railway yards– as well as provide the governor muscle during times of local need such as natural disaster and riots– states formed “State Guard” units from those too old, too young, or too 4-F to head overseas but still had a desire to serve. Sort of like Dad’s Army but in American format.

California State Guard’s 5th Inf. Regiment at Camp Rubidoux, 1942, note the M1917s and recycled CCC jackets

Florida Defense Force Personnel at U.S.O. Jacksonville. 1942. Spottswood Studio Collection. The Florida Defense Force, later known as the Florida State Guard, formed in 1941, numbered 2,100 men in 36 units two years later. It was disbanded in 1945.

We’ve talked about assorted State Guard forces in WWII several times. As a throwback to this, nearly every state has laws authorizing state defense forces still on the books.

There was something of a resurgence in SG formations during the darkest spots of the Cold War, then another post-9/11 with a Homeland Security flavor. Today, at least 17 states, plus Puerto Rico, have “active” SDFs or State Guards each with different levels of activity, support, with a (squishy) force strength of approximately 14,000 individuals nationwide.

With that, Gov. Ron DeSantis in Florida last week announced $3.5 million to reestablish the Florida State Guard. Envisioned to be a 200-member unit, “The establishment of the Florida State Guard will further support those emergency response efforts in the event of a hurricane, natural disasters, and other state emergencies. The $3.5 million to establish the Florida State Guard will enable civilians to be trained in the best emergency response techniques.”

Chapter 251 of the Florida Statutes authorizes the formation, organization, and rules regarding a Florida State Defense Force.

According to the group pushing for the reactivation:

The proposed Florida State Defense Force (SDF) would be a voluntary professional military corps who offers support in totality to the Florida National Guard (FLNG). Operations in security operations, engineering, transportation, chaplaincy, emergency management, legal, and medical services among others operational areas.

​The Florida SDF will be comprised of retired, prior service military personnel and selected professional individuals who volunteer their time and talents in further service to their state.

The Horror!

The move from DeSantis, rumored to be a potential POTUS candidate in 2024, has brought lots of handwringing and overheated pearl-clutching from political opponents. They compared the nascent FSG to something akin to Modero’s notorious colectivos, the Tonton Macoute of “Papa Doc,” or Castro’s “popular revolutionary vigilance detachments.”

U.S. Rep. Charlie Crist, a Democrat running for governor next year, tweeted, “No Governor should have his own handpicked secret police.”

Florida Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried, another Dem running to replace DeSantis, echoed, “Can’t believe I have to say this, but Florida doesn’t need a paramilitary force that only answers to @RonDeSantisFL. Millions of Floridians know what it’s like to live under regimes like this — and came to our state to escape them. This must be stopped.”

Come on

I was in the Mississippi State Guard for a decade, joining around 1998 when it was battalion-sized (and even boasted a platoon-sized MP “company” drawn mostly from state-certified LEOs), totaling about 500 or so members, with a lot of those being ghosts. Drills were supposed to be monthly, but usually were held quarterly, with attending members having to eat their own uniform, chow, and travel costs. However, both Camp Shelby and Camp McCain made their barracks facilities open to the MSG, which was helpful, although, naturally, you had to supply your own fire watch and CQ folks (been there, did that).

From my own experience, and talking to members of other states’ units, State Guards are pretty innocuous, focusing on delivering Red Cross 1st Aid training (I was an instructor for decades), pushing FEMA’s Emergency Management Institute (EMI) training, and joining the non-profit national State Guard Association (SGAUS) to complete that group’s Military Emergency Management Specialist (MEMS) Academy– which is basically the EMI with extra steps. All of these are vanilla programs and none of which stress secret police squads, weapons training, giving “helicopter rides” to political opponents, or standing to serve as “build your own Wolverine resistance group” primers.

I saw a lot of good in my time with the MSG, as the group helped out in a lot of ways ranging from providing honor guards and funeral details to helping with toy and food drives besides their bread-and-butter emergency management/support. Kinda like overgrown boy scouts in camouflage. They asked for nothing from the state, which was good, because they wouldn’t have gotten it!

In short, not a chance of a state guard doubling as a terror squad, unless you are afraid that your pot of old coffee will be drained– and $3.17 in pocket change left behind.

I left around 2009 after the MP company (which responded during Hurricane Katrina and other statewide emergencies) was disbanded and the group kinda just devolved into an old boys club with all the 50 or so remaining active members (half of which were designated chaplains regardless of actual theological certifications) seemingly promoted to full colonel and above. “We are a cadre division with three brigades!” was the motto every time a promotion round was announced. But I digress.

From what I understand, the MSG has revitalized off and on in recent years, even trying to form another MP “battalion.” Good on ’em if so!

My thoughts on Florida rebooting their State Guard? Great! I think every state should have such a volunteer force ready for community service. As long as the group tries, and is successful in recruiting to keep new blood revitalizing it, it can do a lot of good.

Incidentally, the Floridan Army National Guard contends they have the longest Western military tradition in the country, dating back some 456 years: 

According to the Florida National Guard State Historian’s Office, the “first muster” took place on Sept. 16, 1565 when Pedro Menendez de Aviles gathered around him the soldiers of his small Spanish army, as well as the civilian settlers that had accompanied him to the newly established presidio town of St. Augustine. He was about to march north to the French settlement of Fort Caroline near the mouth of the St. Johns River, with the purpose of driving out the “usurpers of Spanish land.”

Because his plan called for the use of the majority of his regular soldiers, Menendez drew upon Spanish laws governing the militia, or milicia, in an imperial province. As both the civil governor and commander-in-chief of the military establishment he had the authority to call all free male settlers in the presidio province to active service. That first muster in St. Augustine consisted of about 50 men.

The exact location of that first muster is unknown, but local historians and archeologists believe it lies a few miles north of the present site of the Florida National Guard headquarters.

In the earliest tradition of the Citizen-Soldier, the musters of the late 1500s and early 1600s were not much more than simple gatherings of able-bodied men in the town square. It wasn’t until 1671 that volunteer militia units were organized in St. Augustine.

Greg Moore, a Florida National Guard historian, said that while the English militia tradition in the Massachusetts Bay Colony is credited with giving the modern National Guard its earliest organized regiments, it is a fact of history that the Spanish first brought the European tradition – men available for short terms of military service in time of war or domestic turmoil – to the New World … first in Cuba and Puerto Rico, then to the continent at St. Augustine.

Queen’s new Rangers Low Crawling to a Reality

UK Defence Secretary Ben Wallace last week announced that The First Battalion of the Royal Regiment of Scotland, The Royal Scots Borderers (1 SCOTS), will be recast as the initial backbone of the British Army’s new Ranger Regiment, a force which will ultimately have four battalions when fleshed out. These will eventually be made up of the transferred 2nd Battalion, Princess of Wales’s Royal Regiment (2 PWRR); the 2nd Battalion, Duke of Lancaster’s Regiment (2 LANCS); and the 4th Battalion, The Rifles (4 RIFLES).

The Royal Scots Borderers, 1st Battalion The Royal Regiment of Scotland (1 SCOTS) march down the Royal Mile after accepting the Freedom of the city of Edinburgh on behalf of the Regiment. Photo by Mark Owens/HQScot. MOD/Crown copyright

The Royal Regiment of Scotland’s other battalions will continue to be based in Scotland for now at least with 2 SCOTS staying in Edinburgh and 3 SCOTS staying in Inverness until 2029 before moving to Leuchars – forming an integral part of a new Security Force Assistance Brigade. The Scots Dragoon Guards will remain as a Light Cavalry Regiment based out of Leuchars.

As for the Rangers, it is envisioned they would be a quick-deploying special operations-ish group, seemingly falling shy of SAS and about the same level as the Paras only without the chutes or the RM Commandos but without the amphibious skillset. 

The British Army has also in the past week unveiled the cap badge of The Ranger Regiment, a Peregrine Falcon clasping a Ranger scroll. The badge will be worn on a gun-metal beret, augmented by the shoulder flash of the old WWII Special Service Brigade, two Fairbairn-Sykes fighting knives:

The Ranger Regiment is very proud of its new cap badge which takes inspiration and spirit from the Peregrine Falcon; fast, agile and fiercely loyal to its partner, it operates around the world in all environments including deserts, mountains and cities. It has been designed to demonstrate a new capability for the Army.

It follows a long history of birds being used as emblems and logos around the world. Peregrine derives from the medieval Latin word ‘peregrinus’ which means wanderer. It is the most geographically dispersed bird of prey and can be found on every continent, less Antarctica. The Peregrine Falcon is also the fastest bird on the planet, with a diving speed of over 200 miles per hour.

While many regiments have a cloth badge for officers and a metal badge for soldiers, everyone serving in the Ranger Regiment will wear a metal badge, irrespective of rank.

Of course, the badge is already drawing flak due to the fact that it looks a whole lot like the Osprey badge worn by the Rhodies of the old Selous Scouts, the controversial and oft-smeared Rhodesian Army irregulars that did all sorts of nastiness during the Bush Wars in the late 1970s.

Ranger Falcon. vs Rhodie Osprey

And the beat goes on…

Philippines flexing over demands they unreef their ancient LST

We’ve talked in the past about the 2,000-tons of tetanus shots that is the mighty BRP Sierra Madre (L-57), formerly the ex-USS Harnett County LST-821, which has been grounded on Ayungin Shoal (Second Thomas Reef) in the South China Sea since 1999, serving as a forward base for a squad-sized group of PI Marines and a Navy radioman. The move came as a counterstroke to China’s controversial, and likely unlawful, armed occupation of Mischief Reef— barely 200 kilometers from the Philippine island of Palawan– in 1995.

Well, in recent weeks, the Chinese have aggressively prevented resupply and rotation of the guard force on the Sierra Madre, warning off civilian vessels approaching the condemned LST with water cannons.

Finally, on 22 November, two civilian boats, Unaizah May 1 and Unaizah May 3, were able to tie up next to the Sierra Madre and unload, while a Chinese coast guard ship in the vicinity sent a RIB with three persons to closely shadow the effort, taking photos and videos, acts the Philipines described as “a form of intimidation and harassment.”

To this, China says Ayungin Shoal is “part of China’s Nansha Qundao (Spratly Islands)” and has told the PI to quit the reef and scrap the rusty outpost.

From Defense Secretary Delfin N. Lorenzana on China’s demand to remove BRP Sierra Madre on Ayungin Shoal:

Ayungin Shoal lies within our EEZ where we have sovereign rights. Our EEZ was awarded to us by the 1982 UNCLOS which China ratified. China should abide by its international obligations that it is part of. 

Furthermore, the 2016 Arbitral award ruled that the territorial claim of China has no historic nor legal basis. Ergo, we can do whatever we want there and it is they who are actually trespassing.

With that, Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) chief, Lt. Gen. Andres Centino, on Monday said that his leadership would ensure better living conditions of the troops manning the BRP Sierra Madre, refurbishing the vessel in place as a permanent government post. 

Mic drop.

Buzos Tácticos!

The Buzos Tácticos de la Armada de Chile, literally the Tactical Divers of the Chilean Navy, are an elite part of the 300-strong Comando de Fuerzas Especiales (COMFUES) commando unit. Dating in its current form back to just 2005 when both Marine and Navy units merged to create the current format, Chile has maintained a frogman unit continually since 1959 when it was formed with help from the British SBS and Italian COMSUBIN types.

Today, they continue to train regularly with both NATO combat swimmer units and the SEALs, and it shows.

The Buzos Tácticos show lots of U.S./NATO influence. I mean just dig those shorty Colts, multicam, boonies, and Dragers! (Photo: Armada de Chile)

The country’s defense ministry last week posted an interesting 6-minute doc on the Buzos Tácticos that, even if you don’t speak Spanish, really needs no subtitles. Lots of helicasting, Drager rebreather use, kayak teams, raider boats, and the like. Curiously, they also are trained in hazardous SAR and hard hat salvage/construction diving as well, skillsets that could have other applications in wartime or counter-terror ops.

Anyway, enjoy!

Lemmy & Dusty underway in the Orient

Accompanying the German frigate Bayern (F217) on IDP 21-22, the ship’s historic seven-month/30,000-mile Indo-Pacific Deployment is a small force of 11 Seebataillon Marines for VBSS purposes along with a Marineflieger detachment of two 1990s-vintage Westland WG-13 Super Lynx MK88a ASW helicopters. The Lynxes are Serial 415 Register 83+17 (“Lemmy”) and Serial 397 Register 83+26 (“Dusty”).

Great shot of the Bayern standing off Mt. Fuji with Lemmy and Dusty airborne. The Germans plan to replace the aging Lynxes with new NH90 Sea Tigers in the next few years, BTW

While the helicopters left Germany back in August without nose art, they have since gotten a lot saltier while underway in the Der Ost.

These images were captured by sharp-eyed Japanese shutterbug Seasons4100 last week while Bayern was at the Tokyo International Cruise Terminal.

Yup, Lemmy as in the Motorhead frontman and Dusty as in Joe Michael “Dusty” Hill of ZZ Top fame, both recently passed.

Although Dusty is carrying some likely NSFW nose art, possibly a tribute to the ZZ Top song “Crimson Witch.”

It should be of no surprise that, when the German Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary to Japan, Dr. Clemens von Goetze, led a Japanese delegation on board for a nighttime reception, the Marines were strategically placed in front of the nose art.

40 Years of Japanese Aggressors

Formed on 17 December 1981, the Hikou kaihatsu jikkendan (Tactical Fighter Training Group) is the Japan Air Self-Defense Force’s dedicated aggressor squadron. Flying Mitsubishi-built T-2 trainers at first, they upgraded to domestically-made F-15DJs in 1990. Like American OPFOR squadrons, they wear a mix of dissimilar schemes meant to mimic Warsaw Pact/NorK/PLAAF warplanes.

Of course, the JASDF has lots of interaction with the real deal on a regular basis, scrambling alert aircraft to intercept Soviet err, Russian Bears as well as dealing with increasingly heavy Chicom traffic in recent years. 

Based at Komatsu Air Base– a former IJN seaplane base with easy access to a large training airspace over the Sea of Japan– the aggressor group is winding up for their 40th-anniversary celebration next month.

The problem is, how do you run a special livery in a squadron full of special liveries? The answer: 40th-anniversary drop tanks!

Operation Tornado ’82

The naval combat in the Falklands War of 1982 was hugely influential for today’s fleets as it reinforced just how hard modern ASW is, underlined the relevance of light aircraft carriers (England was set to dispose of them before the conflict), pointed out the danger of aluminum superstructures (although this is now falling on deaf ears it seems), and highlighted the nightmare of fighting even laughable quantities of anti-ship missiles.

Another thing it did was point out that naval gunfire support for ground combat troops operating in the littoral was still very relevant.

With the British deploying two light brigades (3 Commando and 5 Guards including three Royal Marine Commando battalions, two Para battalions, and a battalion of the Scots Guards, another of the Welsh Guards, and a Gurkha battalion) to retake the islands from upwards of 10,000 Argentines, the Brits had very little in the way of organic artillery the task force was able to bring with them 8,000 miles south.

While the Argies had access to modern 155mm guns, the Brits were handicapped with only five batteries of 105mm light howitzers (three from 29 Commando and two from 4th Field Artillery) which, with a precious handful of helicopters on hand, were slow to move forward to support the front line.

For instance, in one operation against Goose Green, where the Argentines had 30 guns emplaced and well-supplied, just 12 RN Sea King sorties were allocated to move artillery forward enabling 28 British artillerymen, three guns, and 1,000 shells to stage for the battle.

Likewise, the 40 or so Harriers flying from two carriers offshore had their hands full with attempting to secure local air superiority and could divert precious few sorties to support the Marines, Paras, and Guards ashore.

That’s where the assorted 4.5-inch Mark 8 and QF Mark VI naval guns of the British task force’s eight gun-armed destroyers and nine gun-armed frigates came in.

Chilean Frigate Almirante Condell (PFG-06) working her 4.5″/45 (11.4 cm) QF Mark VI in 1999. Two Leander frigates were built by Yarrows in Scotland for the Chilean Navy during the 1970s. The twin 4.5 is of the same type mounted on two RN frigates— HMS Yarmouth and HMS Plymouth– during the Falklands, each firing about 1K rounds during the short war. U.S. Navy Photograph No. 990705-N-5862D-001.

4.5″/55 (11.4 cm) Mark 8 Mod 0 on HMS St. Albans F83. Royal Navy Photograph. The Mark 8 was fitted to most of the gun-armed British frigates and destroyers in the Falklands.

Capable of delivering a 55-pound HE shell to targets up to 18,000 yards away (24,000 for the longer Mark 8), they also had a very high rate of fire, with even the older guns capable of 12-14 rounds per minute. With these small warships (most of the frigates hit 2,500-3,250 tons while the destroyers only went about 5,000) often still able to carry 800 to 1,000 shells in their magazines and able to operate in as little as five fathoms of seawater, they were called inshore to deliver the goods.

At Goose Green, HMS Arrow (F173) fired 22 pre-dawn Mk 8 star shells and 135 rounds of 4.5-inch HE in the course of a 90-minute bombardment. She would have fired more had her gun not jammed and put her out of action.

Dubbed Operation Tornado by the Royal Navy, individual frigates and destroyers were soon dispatched on nightly gun runs to plaster Argentine positions with harassment and interdiction fire (H&I) then fall back to the relative safety of deep water during the day. In their mission, they received shot correction from buried and heavily camouflaged commando patrols from SAS and SBS as well as ANGLICO teams from 148 Battery. Slated for disbandment just before the Falklands, the 30 or so gunners and observers of 148 (Meiktila) Battery Royal Artillery proved invaluable, calling very accurate fire down on Argentine bunkers, trenches, and guns.

At first, the “strafe” would only send less than 200 rounds downrange but this would soon double and even triple, with as many as 750 shells being the norm three weeks into the campaign.

One Argentine remembered after the war:

We were very demoralized at that time because we felt so helpless. We couldn’t do anything. The English were firing at us from their frigates and we couldn’t respond.

HMS Yarmouth (F101), an older modified Type 12 frigate laid down in 1957, fired over 1,000 shells from her main guns (twin 4.5s), mostly during shore bombardment that included supporting the Scots Guards during the Battle of Mount Tumbledown.

The Royal Navy Rothesay-class frigate HMS Yarmouth (F101) underway during the Falklands War on 5 June 1982. Yarmouth´s unofficial nickname was “The Crazy Y”. CC via Wikipedia

Her sister ship, the circa-1958 HMS Plymouth (F126) fired 909 4.5 inch shells and was the first British warship to enter liberated Port Stanley harbor.

In one harassment mission of Port Stanley’s airport, the destroyer HMS Cardiff (D108) fired 277 shells.

Besides shore bombardment runs, the frigate HMS Alacrity (F174) used her 4.5-inch gun to engage and sink the 3,000-ton Argentine supply ship ARA Isla de los Estados, which blew up after a hit ignited her cargo of jet fuel and ammunition. Likewise, Yarmouth intercepted and engaged the Argentine coaster ARA Monsunen with her twin 4.5 guns west of Lively Island, driving her aground.

These offshore bombardment missions also enabled the RN to set up Mirage/Skyhawk traps by taking a Type 42 destroyer delivering NGFS ashore and adding a Type 22 frigate to it which stood a further 10-20 miles out to sea. The idea was that the Type 42’s 4.5-incher would bring out an Argentine airstrike the next morning, which would be downed by the combined Sea Dart/Sea Wolf missiles of the two warships. This was known as a Type 64 group and was credited with bagging at least two Argentine Sky Hawks.

The missions, close to shore, proved dangerous. On 12 June 1982, the destroyer HMS Glamorgan (D19) was attacked with an MM38 Exocet missile, fired from an improvised shore-based launcher just after she supported the Royal Marines’ capture of the Two Sisters hill outside of Stanley. The Exocet claimed 14 of Glamorgan’s crew.

Nonetheless, the mission continued.

The frigate HMS Ambuscade (F172), according to her war diary, fired 58 rounds in the area of Port Stanley airfield on 30 May, went back for a second run on the night of 7/8 June during which she fired 104 shells. On the night of 13 June, the frigate fired 228 4.5-inch shells in support of 2 Para’s assault of Wireless Ridge in company with fellow tin cans HMS Active (220 rounds fired) and HMS Avenger (100 rounds fired). Not bad considering Ambuscade suffered from a cracked hull and broken stabilizers throughout the war.

Sadly, the only British civilian casualties of the Falklands War came from naval bombardment, with the frigate HMS Avenger (F185) landing shells on a residence just outside Argentine-occupied Port Stanley, killing three locals and wounding several others. The forward observer had not been aware of their presence in the area and, in post-war analysis, it was found that the ships’ gun beacon MIP radar malfunctioned and was set on the wrong datum.

4.5″/55 (11.4 cm) Mark 8 Mod 0 on HMS Avenger F185 in January 1992. U.S. Navy Photograph No. DN-SC-92-04971.

In all, some 8,000 4.5-inch shells were fired by Royal Navy escorts during the two-month Falklands Islands conflict, compared to some 17,000 105mm shells lit off by the Army’s gunners. In many cases, the larger naval shells, fitted with proximity fuses that detonated them 10 yards off the deck rather than after they were buried in the soggy sub-polar moss of the Falklands landscape, were considered more effective. 

Still, the lesson was learned and the Batch 3 Type 22 frigates, constructed after the Falklands, were designed to carry 4.5-inch guns whereas their preceding classmates were missile-only. Further, instead of disbanding, the elite forward observers of 148 Battery are still very much active as part of the Commando Gunners of 29 Commando.

Importantly, the Royal Navy today still mounts 4.5s on all of their frigates and destroyers– a factor the U.S. Navy, with its preference for a 57mm main gun on everything smaller than an Aegis destroyer, could probably learn from.

For more information on artillery used in the Falklands, see the relevant section in Firepower in Limited War by Robert Scales and the 27-page scholarly paper Under Fire: The Falklands War and the Revival of Naval Gunfire Support by Steven Paget.

DOD Annual China report: Could have 1K Nukes by 2030, has 355 Naval Units

Fresh from the folks over at the Pentagon/DIA:

The Defense Department today released its annual 192-page report on military and security developments involving China, commonly referred to as the China Military Power Report.

The report provides background on China’s national strategy, foreign policy goals, economic plans and military development.

“The report provides a baseline assessment of the department’s top pacing challenge, and it charts the modernization of the PLA throughout 2020,” a defense official said Tuesday. “This includes the PLA developing the capabilities to conduct joint, long-range precision strikes across domains; increasingly sophisticated space, counterspace, and cyber capabilities; as well as the accelerating expansion of the PLA’s nuclear forces.”

A key revelation in the report are China’s advancements in its nuclear capability, including that the accelerated pace of their nuclear expansion may enable China to have up to 700 deliverable nuclear warheads by 2027.

“The accelerating pace of the PLA’s nuclear expansion may enable the PRC to have up to about 700 deliverable nuclear warheads by 2027,” the official said. “And the report states that the PRC likely intends to have at least 1,000 nuclear warheads by 2030 — exceeding the pace and the size that we projected in the 2020 China Military Power report.”

The report also reveals that China may have already established a nuclear triad, which includes the ability to launch such missiles from the air, ground and sea.

“The PRC has possibly already established a nascent ‘nuclear triad’ with the development of a nuclear-capable, air-launched ballistic missile and improvement of its ground- and sea-based nuclear capabilities,” the report reads.

New to the report this year is a section on the Chinese military’s chemical and biological research efforts. It says China has engaged in biological activities with potential dual-use applications and that this raises concerns regarding its compliance with the Biological and Toxins Weapons Convention and the Chemical Weapons Convention.

The report concludes that China continues to be clear in its ambitions to be competitive with world-class military powers, the DOD official said.

“The PLA’s evolving capabilities and concepts continue to strengthen its ability to fight and win wars, to use their own phrase, against what the PRC refers to as a ‘strong enemy’ — again, another phrase that appears in their publications. And a ‘strong enemy,’ of course, is very likely a euphemism for the United States,” he said.

According to the report, a big part of China’s effort to match the strength of a “strong enemy” involves major modernization and reform efforts within China’s army. Those efforts include an ongoing effort to achieve “mechanization,” which the report describes as the Chinese army’s efforts to modernize its weapons and equipment to be networked into a “systems of systems” and to also utilize more advanced technologies suitable for “informatized” and “intelligentized” warfare.

Also of significance are China’s efforts to project military power outside it’s own borders.

“The PRC is seeking to establish a more robust overseas logistics and basing infrastructure to allow the PLA to project and sustain military power at greater distances,” the DOD official said. “We’re talking about not just within the immediate environments, environments in the Indo-Pacific, but throughout the Indo-Pacific region and indeed, around the world.” The official said China’s army has sought to modernize its capabilities and improve its proficiency across all warfare domains, so that, as a joint force, it can conduct the range of land, air, and maritime operations that are envisioned in army publications, as well as in space, counterspace, electronic warfare and cyber operations.

A big takeaway is the number of naval battle force units (355 including more than 145 major surface combatants) which, for those keeping count at home, would make the PLAN the largest naval force on the planet in size although not likely in tonnage as the U.S. Navy still fields a smaller number of much larger units (10 CVNs vs 3 smaller CVs, 9 carrier-sized LHDs, 68 x ~9,000-ton Burkes and more building et. al)

The PLAN is arranged in three primary fleets, all, by nature of geography, very central to the Western Pacific

Then there is the country’s increasingly capable Rocket Force, which is all about area denial out to the Second Island Chain.

Do you see what I see?

Then the growing nuclear arsenal, which can reach all of the U.S. save for South Florida. 

Of course, this is all theoretical MADness…

The full report, here.

Access Denied: A New Role for the Marines in the WestPac

Official caption: “Nissan Atoll, Green Islands, South Pacific, 31 January 1944: Inside enemy territory, a recon party lands, senses keyed up for sounds of the Japanese troops known to be present. A perilous fact-finding mission is underway.” The SMLEs and Mills bombs on the men in the center of the landing craft point to Commonwealth troops in Marine frogskin camo. The non-camo’d fellows at the ramp are likely USCG. A Marine is at the rear

Gen. David H. Berger, who celebrated his 40th anniversary in the USMC and is currently serving as the Marine’s 38th Commandant, wrote an excellent piece in this month’s Proceedings on the subject of “Stand-in Forces,” the pared-down direction the service is going towards in which they can (quietly) seize and hold forward areas with small units to deny access to larger sea forces.

From Berger’s piece:

Small, lethal, low signature, and mobile, stand-in forces (SIF) are relatively simple to maintain and sustain, designed to operate across the competition continuum within a contested area as the leading edge of a maritime defense-in-depth. Depending on the situation, SIF may include elements from the Marine Corps, Navy, Coast Guard, special operations forces, interagency forces, and allies and partners. This last element is the most critical: every aspect of these deployments must be carried out in close partnership with host nations and partners. Whenever U.S. forces operate in a host nation, they must do so with the full involvement of that nation in conceptualizing and executing the overall mission.

The main ideas behind the SIF concept are deceptively simple. First, find a potential adversary’s people and things (such as weapon systems, sensor systems, submarines, etc.) in a given area, and then track them at a level that facilitates targeting by fleet or joint weapons until they leave that area. This finding and tracking effort starts as soon as the possible target is identified and continues at every point along the competition continuum. Next, SIF must be hard for a potential adversary to find by maintaining a low signature, moving frequently and unpredictably, and using deception. If armed conflict begins, use knowledge of the adversary to help the fleet or other elements of the joint force attack quickly and effectively, blind the adversary, and deny him maritime areas to disrupt his plans and force him to move into other places where SIF and the fleet have an advantage.

Stand-in forces’ enduring function emerges from these straightforward ideas: win the reconnaissance and counter-reconnaissance fight in support of the fleet and joint force—and do so at every point on the competition continuum.

The full piece, which is a good read, is here.

In very related news, the Navy/Marine Corps Expeditionary Ship Interdiction System (NMESIS), which recently proved capable of hitting a target in a SINKEX at least, is set to become operational in 2023 with the newly formed 3rd Marine Littoral Regiment. Basically, a pack of Naval Strike Missiles on a remote control JLTV truck platform, the unmanned launcher can be landed by LCAC, LCU, or the planned new Light Amphibious Warship (LAW) LST design as well as (likely) by the CH-53 or C-130.

Naval News talked to the USMC about the NMESIS system, including this gem on why it is remote controlled.

Naval News: Why is the launcher “unmanned” ? Is it because it is intended to be controlled by company (i.e. small) sized Marine units ? Or is it because NMESIS is intended to be deployed on remote islands or locations with no human operators on those islands?

USMC: The launcher is remotely operated in order to enable a smaller, more expeditionary deployable capability. Additionally, remote firing position increases personnel survivability. Marine crews are still expected to be in the vicinity to provide security for the systems.

Food for thought.

A Navy Marine Expeditionary Ship Interdiction System launcher, a command and control vehicle and a Joint Light Tactical Vehicle are transported by a U.S. Navy Landing Craft Air Cushion from Pacific Missile Range Facility Barking Sands, Hawaii, out to U.S.S. San Diego, Aug. 16, 2021. The movement demonstrated the mobility of a Marine Corps fires expeditionary advanced base, a core concept in the Marine Corps’ Force Design 2030 efforts. U.S. Navy and Marine Corps units came together from across 17 time zones as they participated in Large Scale Exercise 2021. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Luke Cohen, released)

Post-9/11 M1911s Downrange

Other than a couple of heirlooms that are steeped in family history, the most cherished firearm in my collection is the Colt M1911A1 mixmaster that I received through the Civilian Marksmanship Program via the “Army’s attic” at Anniston Army Depot.

I just refer to it as “No.24” for obvious reasons. Gotta love the 19-year old PFC that probably put the dummy mark on it…

So far about 20,000 of these veteran pistols have been transferred to the CMP over the past few years from the Army’s stockpile of about 100K held in long-term arsenal storage at Anniston. The guns, remnants of more than two million produced for the Army between 1912 and 1945, were withdrawn from front-line duty in the mid-1980s, replaced by the M9 Beretta.

However, to be clear, some of these guns were very much in recent 21st-century martial service.

Retired Green Beret Jeff Gurwitch covers the “re-adoption” of the M1911A1 by U.S. Special Forces after 9/11 in the below very interesting video. The half-hour piece covers the timeline, how it was employed, accessories, and its performance in Iraq and Afghanistan.

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