Category Archives: modern military conflict

Happy Tax Day: First LCS makes last deployment

210412-N-NN369-1046 SAN DIEGO (April 12, 2021) Littoral combat ship USS Freedom (LCS 1) returns to Naval Base San Diego from her final deployment, April 12. Freedom returned after supporting Joint Interagency Task Force South’s counter illicit drug trafficking mission in the Caribbean and Eastern Pacific. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Jessica Paulauskas)

Via 3rd Fleet:

SAN DIEGO (April 12, 2021) – The inaugural littoral combat ship returned from a U.S. Fourth Fleet deployment, April 12.

Littoral combat ship USS Freedom (LCS 1) was deployed to support Joint Interagency Task Force South’s mission, which includes counter illicit drug trafficking in the Caribbean and Eastern Pacific.

“The success of this deployment is a testament to the hard work and dedication of Freedom’s Sailors and our embarked detachments,” said Cmdr. Larry Repass, Freedom’s commanding officer. “Every Sailor and U.S. Coast Guardsman on this mission has lived up to Freedom’s motto of ‘Fast, Focused, Fearless,’ and they have made great contributions to maritime security in the region.”

During their deployment, the crew of Freedom and a detachment from Helicopter Sea Combat squadron 23 completed joint operations with a Coast Guard Law Enforcement Detachment in support of counter-illicit trafficking, improving Navy-Coast Guard naval warfighting readiness and interoperability. Additionally, Freedom sailed with naval assets from both El Salvador and Guatemala, strengthening naval partnerships and improving regional readiness.

Written off by Big Navy as a beta test vessel for an increasingly troublesome class of under-armed warships not even worthy of being deemed a frigate and too expensive to upgrade, Freedom is set for decommissioning in September just shy of her 13th birthday.

In related news, it turns out these ships, designed to be inexpensive and, let’s face it, expendable, cost almost as much ($70 million per year per hull) as a full-sized guided-missile destroyer ($81 million) to operate. 

SOCOM Getting More Precision rifles

When it comes to new guns for SOCOM, the command’s FY21 budget justification book details that over the past two years 1,562 MK27s (Glock 19 Gen 4s) were acquired along with 1,930 Upper Receiver Groups-Improved (URG-Is), 250 new Personal Defense Weapons, and 450 new ASRs.

ASR?

Oh, that would be the Multi-Role Adaptive Rifle/MK22 Advanced Sniper Rifle award issued by the U.S. Special Operations Command in 2019 to Barrett as part of an effort to continue “development of enhanced capabilities to improve performance” of “individual sniper weapons to engage out to 1500 meters.”

The MK22 is a version of Barrett’s popular MRAD bolt gun, which can be swapped between three different calibers on the fly, hence the “Multi-Role Adaptive Rifle” abbreviation.

Barrett just pulled down a $50~ milly contract for ASRs from the Army, btw.

Triple 7 Bonus

Chaos Battery, 4th Battalion, 319th (Airborne) Field Artillery Regiment, of the Army’s forward-deployed 173rd Airborne Brigade, recently fired the 155mm Bofors Mark II Bonus round while working with French Army alpine troops in Canjures on 7 March. The Sky Soldiers are using their airmobile BAE Systems M777 “Triple 7s” howitzer alongside the Chasseurs Alpins and their distinctive CAESAR 6×6 truck-mounted guns.

Developed in partnership with France-based Nexter, the Bonus MkII has a range of up to 22 miles and deploys a pair of independent submunitions that scan for targets on their descent, firing through the weak top armor of tanks and AFVs. Unlike smart shells like the Copperhead, which has to be radar-guided, the Bonus is fire-and-forget due to the nature of its autonomous submunitions.

More on that from a BAE propaganda film, below.

Behind the scenes of being a ‘Bee stuck in the mud of Camp Shelby

Spending most of my life on the Mississippi Gulf Coast, interacting with friends and co-workers who had spent time as one of the Navy’s most unsung sailors– Seabees– has been common as about half of the Bees in the country are based in Gulfport. Lots of great guys who always seem to have a sense of humor, and for good reason.

You often see those sad, tan and green convoys heading from Gulfport up Highway 49 to Camp Shelby, a Guard base that always felt stuck in 1943 to me, so they could get their annual field combat training in.

Which, knowing Gulf Mississippi, is always wet and miserable. 

180820-N-ZI635-258 CAMP SHELBY, Miss. (Aug. 20, 2018) Seabees stand inside their fighting position during Naval Mobile Construction Battalion (NMCB) 133’s field training exercise (FTX) at Camp Shelby. FTX provides a robust training environment where Seabee forces plan and execute multiple mission essential tasks including convoy security, force protection, and camp buildup prior to deployment. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class George M. Bell/Released)

You know what they say, “If it ain’t raining, we ain’t training.”

Speaking of which, the Navy just posted a great 13-minute doc following the Bees of historic Naval Mobile Construction Battalion 133 (NMCB 133) on a recent three-week FTX at Shelby, which sounds better than it is.

New Sentinels for the Persian Gulf

This weekend Coast Guard Sector Key West waved goodbye to the newly delivered Sentinel (Webber)-class Fast Response Cutters USCGC Robert Goldman (WPC 1142) and USCGC Charles Moulthrope (WPC 1141). The 154-foot cutters were recently delivered by Bollinger and were purpose-built for their new mission.

The two cutters are headed to the Arabian Gulf in support of Coast Guard Patrol Forces Southwest Asia in Bahrain. They are equipped with the CG-HALLTS system, a hailer that has laser and LRAD capabilities, as well as a special S-band radar with full-time 360-degree coverage, and other goodies. 

If you note, they four have Long Range Acoustic Devices (LRADs) on the O-1 deck as well as four Sierra Nevada Modi RPS-42 S-Band pulse doppler radar arrays on their masts. The cutters’ Mk38s are also painted FDE.

Note the 270-foot Famous-class medium endurance cutter USCGC Mohawk (WMEC-913) in the background– the last class in American service with a MK 75 OTO.

As noted by the Coast Guard:

PATFORSWA works with Naval Forces Central Command to conduct maritime operations forwarding U.S. interests. These efforts are to deter and counter disruptive countries, defeat violent extremism, and strengthen partner nations’ maritime capabilities to secure the maritime environment in the Central Command area of responsibility.

Under Naval control, PATFORSWA first deployed to the region in 2002 in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom with six Reagan-era 110-foot Island-class patrol boats and has been extensively involved with Iranian Revolutionary Guard forces there ever since, augmenting the Navy’s 170-foot Cyclone-class PCs.

Much more capable craft than the aging 110s, the FRCs are expected to replace the latter on a one-for-one basis.

The Ghost of Robert Rogers, now taking the Queen’s schilling

One of the key figures in the historically abhorrent but no less entertaining AMC series Turn, portrayed by Angus Macfadyen, was Robert Rogers, the famed irregular whose unit excelled in combat along the frontier during the French and Indian War.

Color mezzotint of a representation by Johann Martin Will of Robert Rogers, published by Thomas Hart Anne S K Brown Military Collection

Known as Wobomagonda (white devil) among the Abenakis, the frontierman gave birth to what was known then as “ranging” warfare, with his men being the Rangers, a scratch unit that had American Indians as well as freedmen in its ranks.

His men were no red-uniformed line infantry, ready for set-piece battle. 

Knötel, Herbert, Rogers Rangers, 1758. Ranger of Rogers’ Company. Summer dress (1949)

Knötel, Herbert, Rogers’ Rangers, 1758. Ranger of Spikeman’s Company, Winter dress (1949)

His most lasting piece of military guidance is, of course, his 28 Rules of Ranging also seen in as a more concise 19 Standing Orders.

A defacto loyalist, as in 1775 he still nominally held a British officer’s commission, Rogers tried to wrangle an appointment from Washington but was spurned, which led him to raise the Queen’s Rangers in 1776– a unit he was cashiered from the next year. The Queen’s Rangers, led at the time by the unremarkable Maj. James Wemyss was decimated at Brandywine when used as traditional infantry, leading the unit to be resurrected by John Graves Simcoe. After the war, the Rangers were sent to Canada and quietly disbanded.

As noted by the British Army today, “After the loss of the North American colonies, the British Army lacked a forested frontier where it could usefully employ a ranger unit and the capability ceased to exist in its pure form,” with later “Ranger” units such as the Central London Rangers, The Connaught Rangers, The Royal Irish Rangers, and The Sherwood Rangers Yeomanry, holding the name as more of an honorific title than as descriptor for a force designed for a specialist ranger role, or that they used unconventional tactics.

Now, the newly formed Ranger Regiment in the British Army– to be stood up with volunteers drawn from across the infantry as well as from four battalions folded into its organization, 1 SCOTS, 2 PWRR, 2 LANCS, and 4 RIFLES — will officially carry the legacy of the American-born Robert Rogers.

True to form, it will be part of the Army Special Operations Brigade and will be tasked with “unconventional action.

As per the Army:

While the new Rangers might not have to abide by the original 28 Rules of Ranging – including turning up to evening parade with a ‘firelock, sixty rounds of powder and ball, and a hatchet,’ they will be self-sufficient and highly resourceful, just like the Rangers of the past.

Ice Station Zebra, Russian 2021 Edition

As part of Russian wargames in the Arctic, three Russki submarines just surfaced from under the ice, a pretty decent show of force for the region and a nice ICE-EX for any nation.

From the Russian Ministry of Defense:

Today, the Supreme Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation, Vladimir Putin, listened via video conference call to the report of the Commander-in-Chief of the Russian Navy, Admiral Nikolai Yevmenov, on the ongoing Umka-21 complex Arctic expedition. Admiral Nikolay Evmenov reported that since March 20, 2021, in the area of ​​the Franz Josef Land archipelago, Alexandra Land island and the adjacent water area covered with continuous ice, under the leadership of the Main Command of the Navy, a comprehensive Arctic expedition “Umka-2021” is being conducted with the participation of the Russian Geographical Society … “For the first time, according to a single concept and plan, a complex of combat training, research and practical measures of various directions is being carried out in the circumpolar regions,” the Commander-in-Chief of the Navy emphasized.

During the expedition, according to Admiral Nikolai Evmenov, 43 events are envisaged, of which 35 have been completed to date, including 10 jointly with the Russian Geographical Society. All activities of the expedition are carried out as planned. The Commander-in-Chief of the Navy said that more than 600 military and civilian personnel and about 200 models of weapons, military and special equipment were involved in the expedition. All planned activities take place in harsh climatic conditions: in the area of ​​the expedition, the average temperature is minus 25-30 degrees Celsius, the thickness of the ice cover is up to 1.5 meters, the wind in gusts reaches 32 meters per second.

Admiral Nikolai Evmenov reported to Vladimir Putin that within the framework of the Arctic expedition, for the first time in the history of the Russian Navy, three nuclear submarines surfaced from under the ice in a limited area with a radius of 300 meters; flight to the polar region with refueling in the air of a pair of MiG-31 fighters with the passage of the geographic point of the North Pole; practical torpedo firing by a nuclear submarine from under the ice, followed by equipping a hole at the torpedo’s ascent point and lifting it to the surface; tactical exercise with a subdivision of the arctic motorized rifle brigade in adverse weather conditions.

“Based on the results of the measures taken, the samples of weapons, military and special equipment participating in military-technical experiments have generally confirmed their tactical and technical characteristics in conditions of high latitudes and low temperatures,” said the commander-in-chief of the Russian Navy. Admiral Nikolai Evmenov also added that the Arctic expeditions of the Navy will continue in the future.

As noted by The Drive, the three subs are all top-shelf boomers: 

[T]wo sails belonging to Delta IV class submarines, also known as Project 667BDRM Delfins. It’s possible that the third boat could be either a member of the Borei class, or the lone Borei-A class submarine presently in service, the Knyaz Vladimir. The Borei and Borei-A designs are Russia’s most advanced ballistic missile submarines.

Little Blue Men en masse

It appears that a huge flotilla of 220 People’s Armed Forces Maritime Militia vessels are massed at Julian Felipe Reef in the West Philippine Sea, notably inside what the Philippines sees as its EEZ.

Via the Philippines National Government:

The National Task Force for the West Philippine Sea (NTF-WPS) received a confirmed report from the Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) that around two hundred twenty (220) Chinese Fishing Vessels (CFVs), believed to be manned by Chinese maritime militia personnel, were sighted moored in line formation at the Julian Felipe Reef (Whitsun Reef) on March 7, 2021.

The Reef is a large boomerang-shaped shallow coral reef at the northeast of Pagkakaisa Banks and Reefs (Union Reefs), located approximately 175 Nautical Miles west of Bataraza, Palawan. It is within the Philippine Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) and Continental Shelf (CS), over which the country enjoys the exclusive right to exploit or conserve any resources which encompass both living resources, such as fish, and non-living resources such as oil and natural gas.

Founded in the 1950s as something kind of akin to the U.S. Coast Guard Auxillary, the CMM has grown massively in size over the past 20 years and has increasingly been on the “front lines” of China’s expansion into the Pacific in the past decade or so, in short, using government-sponsored fishing ships equipped with PLAN-capable satellite communication terminals and manned by trained paramilitary crews in lieu of official naval assets. This includes the persistent 2009 interference with USNS Impeccable (T-AGOS-23), the 2011 harassment of Vietnam’s survey vessels (Viking II and Binh Minh), swarming the USNS Howard O. Lorenzen (T-AGM-25) in 2014, the ongoing Scarborough Shoal standoff (Tanmen Militia) and the Haiyang Shiyou-981 oil rig standoff.

Pretty uniform…

Peacetime training for CMM’s “little blue men” includes target identification, intelligence collection methods, and operation of communication terminals, typically running at least 15 days per year to include one of political education. During times of war, it is expected that CMM trawlers and longliners will be used for scouting and recon purposes, resupply of outposts, and minelaying.

Basically the old “Russian trawlers” of the Cold War, only in supersized numbers. 

USS ABNAKI (ATF-96) Keeping the Soviet Trawler GIDROFON under surveillance in the South China Sea, December 1967. K-43379

British Army Future: Fewer Soldiers, but adding Rangers

With General Sir Mark Carleton-Smith billing it as the “right solution for the Army” the latest recast of the British military will include the “Future Soldier” program that is “more agile, more integrated and more expeditionary – ready for the next challenge, not the last.”

Among the cuts will be dropping the Army’s official desired active strength from 82,040 today to 72,500 by 2025 (excluding 2,900 Gurkhas, whose numbers, if anything, are expected to increase). However, with historic lows in recruiting and retention (after all who wants to spend all of the 20s and 30s in an endless repeat of forever wars in the Sandbox while London bathes in wokeness?) current actual strength is only about 76,500 personnel (sans Gurkhas), so the slice is not that deep.

For a historical perspective, the strength of the 1991 Gulf War/Ulster-era British Army was 295,000– down from 700,000 at the time of Suez and the typical 1980s Cold War strength of 325,000. This dropped to below 200,000 in 2006 and under 100,000 a decade later. 

The latest integrated defense review, “Defence in a Competitive Age” terms Russia as “the greatest nuclear, conventional military and sub-threshold threat to European security,” and China as “by far the most significant geopolitical factor in the world today.” As such, it sets aside a fresh £23bn for new Army vehicles (Ajax, Boxer and, Challenger III), long-range rocket systems, drones, electronic warfare, and cyber capabilities.

As far as unit changes:

The Infantry will be restructured into four divisions. These divisions will comprise a balanced number of battalions offering the full range of infantry roles. No cap badges will be deleted nor any redundancies required.

A new Ranger Regiment will be the vanguard of this expeditionary posture as part of an Army Special Operations Brigade. This Regiment’s four all-arms units will be aligned with the new Divisions of Infantry and initially seeded from the current Specialised Infantry Battalions: 1 SCOTS, 2 PWRR, 2 LANCS and 4 RIFLES. They will be able to operate in complex, high-threat environments, taking on some tasks traditionally done by Special Forces. This work will involve deterring adversaries and contributing to collective deterrence by training, advising and, if necessary, accompanying partners. The Army will establish this Regiment in August and invest over £120m over the next four years in equipping it.

Meanwhile, the Royal Navy will keep both of their brand-new F-35 Lightning Carriers, although the numbers of actual F-35s to be acquired will only allow for one FAA/RAF air wing with the U.S. Marine Corps backfilling the British flattops with Devil F-35Bs. However, the number of legitimate surface escorts and attack submarines will continue to atrophy.

And the beat goes on…

Gurkhas Still Gurking, Despite the Coof

In the past, we’ve extensively covered the Nepalese Gurkhas and, how their continued overseas (basically mercenary) service in the British Army, Indian Army, Royal Brunei military, and Singapore Police Force, is both highly sought-after by the contracting branch and life-changing for the Gurkha.

While the recent COVID restrictions have wrought havoc around the globe, the Brits still managed to have the required 340-strong Gurkha trainee draft fully fleshed out “despite one of the most challenging selection procedures in history.”

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