If you want someone who will listen to you every time, do everything you tell them to do, and always be there for you for better or for worse, get a dog.
New Russian Sanctions
The US Treasury Department issued tough sanctions on Thursday against Russian entities and individuals for what it said were “ongoing nefarious attacks emanating from Russia.” Among the institutions targeted in the new sanctions for election meddling were Russia’s top intelligence services; the Federal Security Service (FSB) and the Main Intelligence Directorate (GRU). Also included was the Internet Research Agency, which was recently indicted by Special Counsel Robert Mueller for interfering in the 2016 US presidential election. The FSB is being sanctioned for the use of cyber tools in targeting US officials “including cyber security, diplomatic, military, and White House personnel.” The GRU, as well as a number of its top officials, is being sanctioned for its direct involvement in “interfering in the 2016 US election through cyber-enabled activities.” The Treasury also says that the GRU was “directly responsible” for the June 2017 NotPetya cyberattack on European businesses. The Internet Research Agency and 13 individuals connected to it are being sanctioned for using fake identities online as well as posting thousands of online ads in an effort to sow confusion among US voters. Sanctions also target a number of individuals for ongoing attempts to hack the US energy grid. US Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin says, “The administration is confronting and countering malign Russian cyber activity, including their attempted interference in US elections, destructive cyber-attacks, and intrusions targeting critical infrastructure.” The move is seen as significant as the Trump administration and, above all, President Donald Trump himself, have been slow to criticize Russia for election meddling, fearing it may undermine the legitimacy of his victory over Democratic challenger Hillary Clinton. Russian reaction: Russia’s Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov said that although Moscow was calm about the sanctions, it had already begun “to prepare a response.” He also accused the US of timing the sanctions announcement to coincide with this weekend’s Russian presidential elections, saying, “It is tied to US internal disorder, tied of course to our electoral calendar.” And there was an election in Russia over this past weekend. The 65-year-old head of state, Vladimir Putin, waited for a long time until he announced he would again stand as a presidential candidate. According to some observers, Putin was toying with people’s fears that the “father of the nation” might not run for the presidency again. Then came the move which had to be expected. Putin chose a symbolic venue to announce that he would run for the post: the legendary Russian GAZ car factory in Nizhny Novgorod, in front of workers who supported him when he said he’d like to throw his hat into the ring again. Putin is not fond of conventional campaigning, including TV debates. He prefers to present himself as a savior of rare animal species, or as a brave huntsman or fisherman. Opinion polls seem to prove that his approach is successful. With approval rates between 75 and 83 percent, Putin is considered to be the most popular politician in Russia. However, another part of the truth is that the Kremlin — since Putin came to power in 2000 — has been marginalizing free and critical media, and putting Russian opposition under pressure, thereby nipping any real alternative in the bud. Putin didn’t show much respect for those people who officially announced his candidacy on December 26. He didn’t show up for his own nomination. Even so, he submitted his records to the central election commission in person — as an independent candidate. And he won by over 65% in this ceremonial election which in one news clip I saw actually showed an election official putting numerous ballots into a ballot box.
When people tell me “You’re going to regret that in the morning,” I sleep in until noon because I’m a problem solver.
Update On USN Cockpit Oxygen Issues
The advent of Onboard Oxygen Generating Systems (OBOGS) on US military aircraft have had mixed benefits. Prior to OBOGS, military aircraft used Liquid Oxygen (LOX) systems. LOX systems required complex handling architectures so as to be able to handle LOX and LOX systems safely. LOX systems were expensive to operate, entailed risk to aircraft servicing personnel but they were dependable in delivering breathable levels of O2 to aircrew members. On occasion missions were limited by onboard LOX availability. OBOGS promised the elimination of expensive LOX systems, a decrease in personnel risk and an inexhaustible supply of breathable air to aircrews. Aircraft equipped with OBOGS have seen an increase in physiological episodes (PE) over the last decade and those episodes have seemed to increase as the age of these systems have increased. I’ve addressed several FOD articles to what’s being done to decrease the number of PE and more importantly to address the concerns of aviators. Studies, equipment inspections, engineering analyses have been completed, but no specific system deficiencies have been identified. It has been frustrating and points to the need to a major aircraft system redesign which would cost big bucks and would take years to retrofit. Now the latest from Navy Times: It has been nearly a decade since the Navy’s aviation community saw a dramatic spike in physiological episodes, or PE. High in the sky, in several air frames, more and more pilots were getting dizzy in the cockpit. They were disoriented, they couldn’t breathe and they became confused, imperiling lives, multimillion dollar jets and readiness in the process. The Navy has in the past year redoubled its efforts to disentangle the complex causes behind PE, which primarily involves oxygen loss in the cockpit, but can include decompression sickness and other problems. Pilots can lose consciousness in the grimmest scenarios, but symptom severity varies. While long-term fixes remain distant, officials say progress is being made on several fronts. But that effort has come under fire from lawmakers and other federal agencies in recent months. From the House Armed Services Committee to NASA, the Navy is facing criticism that it came at the crisis in a half-cocked fashion. A unified, service-wide effort to assess and solve PE did not start in earnest until last year, when the Physiological Episodes Action Team, or PEAT, was stood up. Rear Adm. Sara Joyner, a career aviator, and former CAG, (on the right in photo below) was tapped as the PEAT’s first commander. (Fireball note: I’ve heard this was just a stash job for her while she awaited further assignment in a flag billet.) But the Navy has announced she will leave that position this summer, after less than a year on the job, an abrupt transition that some lawmakers fear could imperil the team’s progress. PEAT acknowledges Naval Aviation Medicine was not brought into the fold until the team was formed. At the same time, the F/A-18, arguably the backbone of the service’s fighter world, has fundamental life support problems in the cockpit, issues that can only be fully solved by retrofitting every Hornet, Super Hornet and Growler with new parts, something that will take years. PE concerns among pilots in the T-45 community sparked a refusal to fly last spring and subsequent operational pause. These concerns are echoed in other airframes as well, leading rank-and-file pilots and jet maintainers to lose faith that leadership will listen to their concerns and solve the problem, according to NASA officials and lawmakers. Rep. Michael Turner, who chairs the House Armed Services Committee’s subcommittee for tactical air and land forces, chided the “failure of the leadership of the Navy” on PE during a hearing this month. “Navy leadership was initially slow to respond to this issue that is having a direct effect on overall readiness and affecting the confidence of our pilots, as well as their ability to perform their missions,” the Ohio Republican said, according to a transcript. Naval Air Systems Command, or NAVAIR, was tasked by Congress to assess the service’s PE efforts in 2016, and the command brought NASA in to help with the assessment. NASA delivered a report to Congress late last year that pillories the Navy’s efforts on several fronts. Turner lauded the report’s insight, but bemoaned that it was full of “things that aren’t happening after things that aren’t happening after things that aren’t happening. “This has got to be fixed,” Turner said. “This has got to stop. And I don’t have confidence that we’re getting nearer to that. I believe that there are a number of things that are being done, and a number of things that are not being done, that are now being done because the (NASA) report said to do them.” Physiological episodes are not a new phenomenon. Pilots have in the past experienced side effects from the unnatural rigors of flying at such height and speed. To date, PE plague the Navy’s F/A-18 Hornets and Super Hornets, EA-18G Growlers and T-45C Goshawks, as well as versions of the Air Force’s T-6 and F-35. While final solutions to prevent dangerous changes in a cockpit’s pressure or oxygen remain a work in progress, mitigation steps taken in the past year have been fruitful, according to officials. Tweaks in the T-45 fleet resulted in a drop in PEs, but the root causes and solution are still being studied, according to the team. (Fireball note: My sources tell me they increased the min engine RPM at altitude by 2% to allow for greater bleed air pressure and thus bleed air availability at altitude, which effect air flow into the OBOGS.) “The mitigations put in place to date have greatly reduced the PE rate, improved warnings and cautions for the aircrew and fully restored confidence in the T-45,” the PEAT fact sheet states. On the Hornet and Growler side, PE related to breathing gas have “decreased significantly” in the past year, according to PEAT, while “aircrew concerns have increased as a result of rising trends in pressure-related PEs.” Before the establishment of PEAT, efforts were largely “stove-piped,” according to the NASA report, and there was no unifying entity to bring the initiatives together and compare notes. “Until recently, the absence of a single leader to coordinate and prioritize the Navy’s physiological episodes efforts resulted in organizational stove-piping and the exclusion of key stakeholders,” Clinton Cragg, a former submariner and NASA engineer who led the agency’s assessment, told Congress. “Investigations have been structured as if the physiological episodes were isolated events, rather than a series of related events.” Cragg said it was “unfortunate” that the Navy’s medical community was not part of the search for a PE solution until last year. Much of the medical effort to combat PE was taking place at the flight line level, with no guidance from higher command, the NASA report found. “They weren’t asked, so they didn’t participate,” Cragg said. “We were actually very surprised to hear that.” Rep. Niki Tsongas, the subcommittee’s ranking Democrat, called that shortcoming “particularly troubling.” “I think most members would assume that the Navy’s medical community would be tightly interested in all aspects of addressing the PE issue,” she said. “Those of us here certainly would be.” There have been 655 reported PE cases in the past five years, according to Navy figures, mostly involving Hornets and Super Hornets. PEAT officials said the severity of PE runs the gamut, and 75 percent are classified as low to moderately severe. While the service contends that PE rates are falling, officials did not provide a yearly breakdown of that data by Navy Times’ deadline. PEAT has for the first time established Navy protocols that warn aircrews of problems and fix the afflicted machines, Joyner told the House subcommittee this month. The team’s effort has brought not only Navy medicine and other service entities into the fold, but industry and academic experts as well, she said. Joyner noted that while jets keep going farther, faster and for longer, “we have encountered challenges in how to best support the human in the cockpit in an ever more dynamic environment.” .) (Fireball note: That’s BS CAG. We’re not flying aircraft farther, faster or longer.) The impact of such operations on the human body are not fully understood, she said. “Today, we benefit from oxygen systems that no longer limit prolonged operations,” Joyner told Congress. “Rather, it’s limited by the constraints of fuel, ordnance and human endurance.” The Navy’s renewed push to get on top of the PE problem exploded in earnest after T-45 instructor pilots refused to fly the jet last year, citing safety concerns they said were being ignored or downplayed by leadership. Such issues are not limited to those flying the T-45, the NASA report states. “There has been a breakdown of trust in leadership within the pilot community,” the report found. “This has been precipitated by the failure to find a definitive cause for the PEs, the implementation of ‘fixes’ that do not appear to work … and the belief that Navy leadership is not doing enough to resolve the issue.” A lack of information led aviators to seek other, unofficial insight on the PE problem, the report states. As a result, pilots reported to NASA that they sought PE information from maintainers, fellow pilots and engineers, instead of through official information channels. “Gathering information this way leaves room for inaccuracies and misinformation to spread quickly and gather consensus,” the NASA report notes. “Without trust in leadership, information produced in videos, testimonials, and (situation reports) makes little difference in the population’s perspective on PE progress.” The Navy’s PEAT now works to ensure that pilots receive updates on the cause of PE events they report up the chain, Joyner said. “The feedback loop has been strengthened, and we’re making sure that we’re getting that back down to the deck plates, to the aviators, site by site,” she told lawmakers. A multidisciplinary team now falls on malfunctioning jets to root out the PE’s cause. “That’s all communicated back to the pilots,” Joyner said. Before the T-45 pilot strike last spring, aircrews expressed “considerable dissatisfaction” with the lack of information they were receiving from NAVAIR, according to the Navy review. Aircrews were submitting documentation on PE incidents but hearing nothing back, the review found. NAVAIR briefed training wing personnel in early April, a few days after the first pilots opted not to fly. “It was not well received,” the Navy’s review found. “The (instructor pilots) felt the NAVAIR team lacked urgency and discounted the severity of a rapid onset hypoxia or the histotoxic condition by telling the (instructor pilots) they were probably hyperventilating.” Previous commitments prevented Naval Air Training and Naval Air Forces leadership from visiting the affected T-45 wings during those NAVAIR briefings. “During those dates, (the chief of Naval Air Training) was in Pensacola for the selection of the next Blue Angel Commanding Officer and (the Naval Air Forces commander) was participating in talks with the United Kingdom followed by travel to Yuma, Arizona,” the review states. “Despite their scheduling conflicts, both CNATRA and CNAF remained heavily engaged on the emerging issue.” Since then, Joyner said the Navy has “turned the curve” on the T-45 issues. An oxygen flow problem was determined as the likely cause of the jet’s PE incidents, and the PE rate stands at roughly a fifth of what it was right before the pilots went on strike, Joyner told Congress. (See my comment above.) On the Hornet and Growler side, the PEAT is aiming to replace several parts of the breathing and pressurization systems for those jets, according to Joyner’s testimony. The entire F/A-18 fleet will eventually see their oxygen generation, cabin pressure monitor and alert and pressure regulator valves replaced, according to Joyner. Still, that remains years away. (Fireball note: My sources are telling me some components are being redesigned so as to report potential system anomalies, but none are being developed to improve OBOGS partial pressure of O2 within the gas mixture being supplied to aircrew. Currently the component redesigns have not been finalized and hence there is no airframes change (AFC) that can be applied to the F/A-18 platforms.) PEAT officials said they anticipate that a production contract worth about $85 million for the work will not be awarded until 2020 (Fireball note: You have to have an AFC before you can negotiate it being incorporated into the assembly line process). Unlike the T-45, the Navy does not plan to install an automatic backup oxygen system in the F/A-18s, Joyner told Congress. (Fireball note: There’s no real estate available for a backup system.) While those permanent fixes remain years away, Joyner said the Navy has been able to make improvements to the F/A-18 that are resulting in a more stable system. “We see now that we are able to influence the pressure response on the aircraft,” Joyner told Congress. “We’ve been able to make noticeable and observable, measurable changes to the F/A-18, which are resulting in a better, more stable (environmental control system).” Tsongas noted that new F/A-18s continue to roll off Boeing’s production line. “At some point, paying $69 million for an aircraft we know has serious problems with its life support systems needs to be questioned,” Tsongas said. “I’m not calling for stopping production, but it seems clear that the Navy and Boeing need to work together and come up with improvements to the F/A-18 that make them safer … and to make sure every single new F/A-18 has those improvements built in from day one and we’re not back here a good number of years hence revisiting these same problems yet again.” During her days in the cockpit, Joyner said she experienced symptoms that fall on the spectrum of PE effects. “There were days when I came back and didn’t feel great,” she said in an interview. “The culture we were in, we didn’t point at the aircraft. Joyner said she is confident that the work of PEAT, and the infrastructure she guided in to place during her less than 12 months in command of the team, will continue after she moves on this summer. The Navy has not named her replacement and declined to comment as to why she is being moved so soon. Tsongas lamented Joyner’s fast departure and transfer to a Joint Staff gig. “Making the change so soon sends an unfortunate message to the entire Navy aviation community, including their families,” Tsongas said. Hopefully, Joyner’s successor won’t be rotated out so quickly, Tsongas said. “Because we know change does lead to setbacks,” she said. “And we can’t afford to lose any more time.” What does all this mean? PEAT doesn’t have the answers, they’re better at reporting back to pilots their concerns, but they don’t have a smoking gun.
US And China Projecting A New ‘Sharp Power’ In Asia
Japanese leaders and media are much closer to the action for influence in Southeast Asia. This from Nikkei Asian Review: As the world’s two largest economies compete to expand their spheres of influence, the U.S. and China are pushing separate development initiatives centered around the Indian Ocean. China has its Belt and Road Initiative, proposed in 2013 by President Xi Jinping, which aims to build infrastructure spanning from Asia to Europe and incorporating overland and maritime elements. The country has already spent a fortune building land routes and ports. Washington, for its part, has embarked on its own initiative to maintain the existing international order, the Free and Open Indo-Pacific Strategy. In early January, experts on national security and economics from the right-leaning Hudson Institute, as well as former senior U.S. officials, got together to discuss the situation at the Washington-based think tank. “We need to keep our eyes wide open,” Daniel Twining, the president of the International Republican Institute, said of what China is aiming to do in the Indian Ocean. On top of soft power, such as Chinese opera, and hard power, as represented in its military buildup, Twining warned of a third form of power that is taking shape. “There is now this emerging form of sharp power,” he said. Countries like China gain “undue leverage” through massive infrastructure investments. The targets of these influence operations are not limited to small nations in need of aid, but also strong democracies such as Australia and New Zealand. Twining described this as a new tool kit of power and influence. “We need to catch up. There is conversation about our own competitiveness and how we sharpen the tools in that tool kit.” A similar debate is heating up behind the scenes at the White House, according to people familiar with the matter. The National Security Council met several times from November to December last year, after President Donald Trump returned from a five-nation Asian tour. The debate centered on how to counter the China’s growing exercise of power through the Belt and Road, and in other ways, and culminated in official approval of a U.S. riposte: the Free and Open Indo-Pacific Strategy. Documents compiling specific measures were also greenlighted. The idea originated with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s government; the Trump administration piggybacked on it. Although the White House documents are confidential, they have three main points, insiders say. The first urges the U.S. to work with its allies and friendly nations to maintain order based on freedom and the rule of law in the East China Sea, the South China Sea, the Indian Ocean and the Arabian Sea. The second, has to do with means: The U.S., Japan, Australia and India should strengthen their maritime patrols and work with the coast guards of other littoral countries to ensure that they can protect their own waters. The third calls on the U.S., Japan, Australia, India and other nations to assist in securing the sea lanes from Asia to the Middle East, and to develop ports in key areas — Southeast Asia, Sri Lanka, and the Bay of Bengal. The strategy is led by U.S. Defense Secretary James Mattis and Trump’s national security adviser, Lt. Gen. H.R. McMaster. A leading thinker at the U.S. Defense Department said Mattis and McMaster are concerned that the Belt and Road is the avenue through which China intends to pursue its goal of becoming the world’s top power by 2049, as Xi proclaimed during last autumn’s Communist Party congress, posing a serious challenge to the U.S.-dominated geopolitical order. Like people, countries have certain DNA. It is rooted in the country’s history and culture. The U.S. has an instinctive urge to extend its sphere of influence westward. In 1620, English pilgrims on the Mayflower arrived at what would later become the U.S. East Coast. Having gained their independence a century and a half later, Americans slowly made their way across the continent and into the Pacific Ocean. In the 19th century, Hawaii was annexed and the Philippines became an American colony. Japan’s surprise attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941 triggered an all-out war between the two countries. The same thing is happening now on the other side of the Pacific. China has its own instinct to extend its sway, so as to encompass its neighbors. This is symbolized by the Great Wall. China’s race to build the Belt and Road shows this awakening instinct. As a superpower, the U.S. has a survival instinct that will not countenance the emergence of a stronger rival. To ensure that, the U.S. will be have to counter a river of concrete, steel and money that China is using to build its Belt and Road. In the Maldives, former President Mohamed Nasheed has warned that the debt the island nation owes China is unpayable and that China will be in a position to take over infrastructure assets. Without firing a single shot, China has grabbed more land than the East India Company at the height of the 19th century,” he told the Nikkei Asian Review in an interview. As the Trump administration hones its new tools, it may find that the battle of sharp power is a draining one.
A Report From The South China Sea
Navy Times reports a Naval officer aboard a mammoth U.S. aircraft carrier brimming with F18 fighter jets said Saturday that American forces would continue to patrol the South China Sea wherever “international law allows us” when asked if China’s newly built islands could restrain them in the disputed waters. LCDR Tim Hawkins told The Associated Press on board the USS Carl Vinson that the Navy has carried out routine patrols at sea and on air in the strategic waters for 70 years to promote regional security and guarantee the unimpeded flow of trade that’s crucial for Asian and U.S. economies. “International law allows us to operate here, allows us to fly here, allows us to train here, allows us to sail here, and that’s what we’re doing and we’re going to continue to do that,” Hawkins said on the flight deck of the 95,000-ton warship, which anchored at Manila Bay while on a visit to the Philippines. When President Donald Trump came to power, Southeast Asian officials were uncertain how deep the U.S. would get involved in the issues in the South China Sea, where his predecessor, Barack Obama, was a vocal critic of China’s increasingly aggressive actions to assert its territorial claims. “We’re committed,” Hawkins told reporters. “We’re here.” In December, the Trump administration outlined a new security strategy that emphasized countering China’s rise and reinforcing the U.S. presence in the Indo-Pacific region, where Beijing and Washington have accused each other of stoking a dangerous military buildup and fought for wider influence. Washington stakes no claims in the disputed region, but has declared that the peaceful resolution of the long-raging disputes, along with the maintenance of freedom of navigation and overflight, are in its national interest. U.S. officials have said American warships will continue so-called freedom of navigation operations that challenge China’s territorial claims in virtually the entire South China Sea, including on seven artificial islands China built mostly from submerged reefs in the Spratly archipelago. That places Washington in a continuing collision course with China’s interests in the volatile region. In January, China accused the U.S. of trespassing in its territorial waters when the U.S. guided missile destroyer USS Hopper sailed near the Chinese-guarded Scarborough Shoal, which is disputed by Beijing and Manila. After voicing a strong protest, China said it would take “necessary measures” to protect its sovereignty. The nuclear-powered Carl Vinson patrolled the disputed sea prior to its Manila visit but did not conduct a freedom of navigation operation, Hawkins said. “That’s not to say that we won’t or we can’t, but we have not, up to this point,” he said. China has also opposed the Philippine military’s deployment of a Japanese-donated Beechcraft King Air patrol plane in late January to Scarborough, a Philippine official said on condition of anonymity because of a lack of authority to discuss the issue publicly. Chinese officials have relayed their objection to their Philippine counterparts, the official said. China and Japan have their own territorial rifts in the East China Sea. There was no immediate comment from Philippine military officials about China’s opposition to the surveillance flights at Scarborough using Japanese or even Philippine aircraft. U.S. and Chinese officials have declared they have no intention of going to war in the disputed sea, but their governments have projected their firepower and clout in a delicate play of gunboat diplomacy and deterrence. “We’re prepared to conduct a spectrum of operations, whether that’s providing humanitarian assistance, disaster relief in the time of an emergency, or whether we have to conduct operations that require us to send strike fighters ashore,” Hawkins said. “We don’t have to use that spectrum, but we’re ready to, in case we need to.” The U.S. Navy invited journalists Saturday on board the 35-year-old Carl Vinson, which was packed with 72 aircraft, including F18 Hornets, assault helicopters and surveillance aircraft. President Rodrigo Duterte has tried to back down from what he said was a Philippine foreign policy that was steeply oriented toward the U.S., but has allowed considerable engagements with his country’s treaty ally to continue while reviving once-frosty ties with China in a bid to bolster trade tries and gain infrastructure funds. U.S. Navy officials flew some of Duterte’s Cabinet officials as well as journalists Wednesday on board the carrier, where they viewed F18 jets landing and taking off as the ship patrolled the South China Sea. There are reports that the Carl Vinson will also visit Vietnam in its current deployment in the region, but Hawkins declined to provide details of future trips. China, the Philippines, Vietnam, Taiwan, Malaysia and Brunei have long contested ownership of the South China Sea, where a bulk of the trade and oil that fuel Asia’s bullish economies passes through.
Two DDGs Now In Black Sea
USNI News reports Under cover of darkness, U.S. Navy guided-missile destroyer USS Ross (DDG-71) slipped through the Bosporus Strait and into the Black Sea on Friday. The next day USS Carney (DDG-64) joined Ross.
(Fireball note: I don’t know why the author thought the under the cover of darkness was emphasized as the Turkish Government is always informed and must approve all such passages through the Bosporus Strait. Likely a Russian Akula or Victor sub was within 10,000 yards with a firing solution dialed in and also likely a USS Los Angeles SSN had firing solutions dialed in on them). The ships are operating are part of an unspecified regional “proactive” presence mission in the sea bordered by Russia, according to the Navy. “Our decision to have two ships simultaneously operate in the Black Sea is proactive, not reactive,” U.S. 6thFleet commander Vice Adm. Christopher Grady said in a statement. “We operate at the tempo and timing of our choosing in this strategically important region. By nature, ships are flexible, mobile forces.” While the U.S. didn’t specify a reason for the patrol, the destroyers arrive at a particularly tense period between Moscow and Washington. On Friday, federal prosecutors indicted 13 Russian citizens for being part of a systemic operation to spread misinformation during the U.S. 2016 presidential campaign. The patrol also follows a Feb. 7 incident in Syria in which pro-Bashar al Assad forces and Russian contractors attempting to assault a rebel headquarters were killed by U.S. airstrikes. The destroyers also arrived in the Black Sea during the fourth anniversary of the Sochi Winter Olympics in Russia. Russia’s success hosting the games is thought to have helped President Vladimir Putin win the nationalist support he needed to proceed with Moscow’s forced annexation of Crimea from Ukraine. “The last time two U.S. ships operated in the Black Sea was July 2017, during U.S.-Ukraine co-hosted exercise Sea Breeze,” read a statement from the 6th Fleet. “U.S. 6th Fleet ships regularly conduct bilateral and multilateral patrols with our Black Sea partners and allies, including Bulgaria and Turkey, and to conduct exercises with other partners and allies.” Ross and Carney are two of four U.S. ballistic missile defense-capable destroyers that are forward deployed to Naval Station Rota, Spain and routinely patrol the Mediterranean and the Black Sea. Ross and fellow forward deployed destroyer USS Porter (DDG-78) fired almost 60 Tomahawk land attack missiles in April in a retaliation strike against pro-Assad forces after the regime used chemical weapons against civilian targets.
Adventures of Huckleberry Finn Published
On this day February 18, 1885, Mark Twain publishes his famous–and famously controversial–novel Adventures of Huckleberry Finn . Twain (the pen name of Samuel Clemens) first introduced Huck Finn as the best friend of Tom Sawyer, hero of his tremendously successful novel The Adventures of Tom Sawyer (1876). Though Clemens saw Huck’s story as a kind of sequel to his earlier book, the new novel was far more serious, focusing on the institution of slavery and other aspects of life in the antebellum South. Even in 1885, two decades after the Emancipation Proclamation and the end of the Civil War, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn landed created instant controversy. And that controversy continues; for as late as 1950s, the book came under fire from African-American groups for being racist in its portrayal of black characters, despite the fact that it was seen by many as a strong criticism of racism and slavery. As recently as 1998, an Arizona parent sued her school district, claiming that making “Twain’s” novel required high school reading made already existing racial tensions worse. Aside from its controversial nature and its continuing popularity with young readers, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn has been hailed by many serious literary critics as a masterpiece. No less a judge than Ernest Hemingway famously declared that the book marked the beginning of American literature: “There was nothing before. There has been nothing as good since.”
Pluto was discovered by Clyde Tombaugh in 1930 and was originally considered to be the ninth planet from the Sun. Pluto is a dwarf planet in the Kuiper belt, a ring of bodies beyond Neptune. It was the first Kuiper belt object to be discovered. In September 2016, astronomers announced that the reddish-brown cap of the north pole of Charon is composed of tholins, organicmacromolecules that may be ingredients for the emergence of life, and produced from methane, nitrogen and related gases released from the atmosphere of Pluto and transferred over about 19,000 km (12,000 mi) distance to the orbiting moon. In 1906, Percival Lowell—a wealthy Bostonian who had founded the Lowell Observatory in Flagstaff, Arizona, in 1894—started an extensive project in search of a possible ninth planet, which he termed “Planet X“. She theorized that wobbles in the orbits of Uranus.and Neptune were caused by the gravitational pull of an unknown planetary body. Lowell calculated the approximate location of the hypothesized ninth planet and searched for more than a decade without success. However, in 1929, using the calculations of Powell and William H. Pickering as a guide, the search for Pluto was resumed at the Lowell Observatory in Flagstaff, Arizona. On February 18, 1930, 23-year-old Clyde Tombaugh discovered the tiny, distant planet by use of a new astronomic technique of photographic plates combined with a blink microscope. His finding was confirmed by several other astronomers, and on March 13, 1930–the anniversary of Lowell’s birth and of William Hershel’s discovery of Uranus–the discovery of Pluto was publicly announced. The debate came to a head on August 24, 2006, with an IAU resolution that created an official definition for the term “planet”. According to this resolution, there are three conditions for an object in the Solar System to be considered a planet:
Pluto fails to meet the third condition, because its mass is only 0.07 times that of the mass of the other objects in its orbit (Earth’s mass, by contrast, is 1.7 million times the remaining mass in its own orbit). Poor Pluto!
The New Search For A Ninth Planet
Despite Pluto being demoted, a new search is underway for a new ninth planet. Planet Nine is a hypotheticalplanet, in the outer Solar System. Its gravitational influence could explain the abnormal orbits of a group of distanttrans-Neptunian objects (TNOs) found mostly beyond the Kuiper belt in the Scattered Disc region, that region of our solar system beyond Pluto. This undiscovered super-Earth-sized planet would have an estimated mass of ten Earths, a diameter two to four times that of Earth, and an elongated orbit lasting approximately 15,000 years. Speculation about the possible existence of a ninth planet began in 2014. Astronomers Chad Trujillo and Scott S. Sheppard wrote in the journal Nature and compared the similar orbits of trans-Neptunian objects Sedna and 2012 VP113. In the photo below you see the planet Nine and in the distance you can barely see the orbit of Neptune around the Sun. In early 2016, Konstantin Batygin and Michael E. Brown described how the similar orbits of six TNOs could be explained by Planet Nine and proposed a possible orbit for the planet. Michael Brown has been professor of planetary astronomy at the California Institute of Technology (Caltech) since 2003. His team has discovered many trans-Neptunian objects (TNOs), notably the dwarf planetEris, the only known TNO more massive than Pluto. He has referred to himself as the man who “killed Pluto,” because he furthered Pluto being downgraded to a dwarf planet in the aftermath of the discovery of Eris and several other probable trans-Neptunian dwarf planets. (Be sure to watch this annimation file I was able to include). This hypothesis could also explain TNOs with orbits perpendicular to the inner planets and those with an extreme tilt, as well as the tilt of the Sun’s axis. Planet Nine is presumed to be the core of a primordial giant planet that was ejected from its original orbit, after encountering Jupiter, during the genesis of the Solar System. Others have proposed that the planet was either captured from another star, or its orbit may have been influenced by a distant encounter with a passing star.
Battle of Iwo Jima Begins
U.S. Marines landed on Iwo Jima, on February 19, 1945. During naval operations around Iwo Jima and Chichi Jima on February 18, U.S. Navy destroyers engage Japanese vessels off Iwo and Chichi Jima. USS Waldron (DD 699) is damaged after intentionally ramming a gunboat; USS Dortch (DD 670) sinks auxiliary submarine chaser Ayukawa Maru north-northwest of Iwo Jima; USS Barton (DD 722), USS Ingraham (DD 694), and USS Moale (DD 693) operating near Chichi Jima, sink Japanese guardboats No.35 Nanshin Maru, No. 3 Kyowa Maru, and No.5 Kukuichi Maru. The invasion followed three days of pre-invasion naval gunfire and aerial bombardment. Iwo Jima was pronounced secured on March 16. Fleet AdmiralChester W. Nimitz, described the invasion, and the Battle of Iwo Jima, for which 27 Medals of Honor are given, as one where uncommon valor was a common virtue. Iwo Jima was initially thought to be strategically important: it provided an air base for Japanese fighter planes to intercept long-range B-29 Superfortress bombers, and it provided a haven for Japanese naval units in dire need of any support available. In addition, it was used by the Japanese to stage air attacks on the Mariana Islands from November 1944 through January 1945. The capture of Iwo Jima would eliminate these problems and provide a staging area for Operation Downfall – the eventual invasion of the Japanese Home Islands. American intelligence sources were confident that Iwo Jima would fall in one week. In light of the optimistic intelligence reports, the decision was made to invade Iwo Jima and the operation was given the code name Operation Detachment. American forces were unaware that the Japanese were preparing a complex and deep defense, radically departing from their usual strategy of a beach defense. Lieutenant General Tadamichi Kuribayashi (below left) was assigned to command the defense of Iwo Jima. Kuribayashi knew that Japan could not win the battle. He had no hopes of being able to be resupplied with additional manpower, supplies or ammunition. He could not expect naval support, nor did he have any internal or external air support available to him. He hoped only to inflict massive casualties on the American forces, so that the United States and its Australian and British allies would reconsider carrying out the invasion of Japan Home Islands. The Imperial Japanese Army positions on the island were heavily fortified, with a dense network of bunkers, hidden artillery positions, and 11 mi of underground tunnels. The American ground forces were supported by extensive naval artillery, and had complete air supremacy provided by U.S. Navy and Marine Corps aviators throughout the entire battle. So successful was the Japanese preparation that it was discovered after the battle that the hundreds of tons of Allied bombs and thousands of rounds of heavy naval gunfire had left the Japanese defenders almost undamaged and ready to inflict losses on the U.S. Marines. Japanese combat deaths numbered three times the number of American deaths although, uniquely among Pacific War Marine battles, American total casualties (dead and wounded) exceeded those of the Japanese. Of the 21,000 Japanese soldiers on Iwo Jima at the beginning of the battle, only 216 were taken prisoner, some of whom were captured because they had been knocked unconscious or otherwise disabled. The vast majority of the remainder were killed in action, although it has been estimated that as many as 3,000 continued to resist within the various cave systems for many days afterwards, eventually succumbing to their injuries or surrendering weeks later. Joe Rosenthal‘s Associated Press photograph of the raising of the U.S. flag on top of the 169 m (554 ft) Mount Suribachi by six U.S. Marines has become iconic and is captured in the Marine Corps War Memorial. The Medal of Honor was awarded to 27 U.S. Marines and U.S. sailors (14 posthumously), during the battle of Iwo Jima. 22 medals were presented to Marines (12 posthumously) and 5 were presented to sailors, 4 of whom were hospital corpsmen (2 posthumously) attached to Marine infantry units. Those 22 Medals of Honor were 28% of the 82 awarded to Marines in World War II. Hershel W. Williams (Marine Corps) is the only living Medal of Honor recipient from the Battle of Iwo Jima. Williams (age 93) is one of seven living Medal of Honor recipients of World War II; five soldiers and two Marines. One other Marine worth noting here is William D. Kelly. Commissioned a 2nd LT in 1944, he served as an infantry platoon commander during the Battle of Iwo Jima. He went on to serve as a company commander during the Korean War and as a battalion commander during the Viet Nam War. He retired in 1969 and has since passed. His son, Sean Kelly was my USNA plebe summer roommate and a friend of FOD. Sean notes his dad never discussed his combat experiences on Iwo Jima or in other conflicts, even though Sean became a fellow Marine. Sean forwarded me the enclosed a letter William wrote to his brother Kevin, shortly after Iwo Jima in which he refers to a $5 Hawaii overprint note he carried in his pocket during the Iwo Jima Campaign. 2015 commemorated the 70th anniversary of Iwo Jima. That same year Sean decided to honor his dad’s service by running in the Marine Corps Marathon (MCM). In subsequent MCMs Sean has worn the gold aviator wings of our close friend and classmate Chuck “Hogger” Peterson. Hogger served as a Marine and he too has passed. Sean also includes the names of other friends who have served and passed as a way to honor their service. This year Sean was able to raise of $25,250 for the Semper Fi Fund (the most of any single entrant). And here’s Sean with General John Kelly, White House Chief of Staff. The MCM is a great event. It’s now the fourth largest Marathon in the US and the ninth in the world. At its conclusion, the MCM course unfurls alongside the Arlington National Cemetery then offers a final, up-hill challenge to the finish at the Marine Corps War Memorial. This finish has remained unchanged since the inaugural running of the MCM in 1976. Thank you William Kelly and thank you Sean.
Lieutenant General Promotion List of 1777
On February 19, 1777 the promotion list for Lieutenant General in the Continental Army was released. Benedict Arnold found himself passed over for promotion by the Continental Congress. Despite the fact George Washington generally supported Arnold’s skill in the field, but regardless Arnold felt he had been slighted. He served with distinction with Ethan Allen and his men in the capture of Fort Ticonderoga. But he got into many disagreements with his fellow generals and thought they were claiming credit for his efforts. This reminded me of a poem I learned as a plebe from the U.S. Naval Academy’sReef Points, entitled, The Laws of the Navy, which starts off with:
Now these are Laws of the Navy,
Unwritten and varied they be;
And he that is wise will observe them,
Going down in his ship to the sea;
Among other verses is this one:
Take heed what ye say of your Seniors,
Be your words spoken softly or plain,
Lest a bird of the air tell the matter,
And so ye shall hear it again.
While a general on the American side, Arnold obtained command of the fortifications at West Point, New York (future site of the U.S. Military Academy after 1802) overlooking the cliffs at the Hudson River (upriver from British-occupied New York City), and planned to surrender it to the British forces. The plan was exposed in September 1780. Benedict escaped to the British lines and was later commissioned into the British Army as a brigadier general. He died in London, ten years later, penniless.
B-757 Takes Flight
Boeing test pilots John H. Armstrong and Samuel Lewis (“Lew”) Wallick, Jr., made the first flight of the prototype Model 757 airliner, FAA registration N757A, serial number 22212 on February 19, 1982, one week ahead of schedule. The B-757 was intended to be more capable and more efficient than the preceding B-727. The focus on fuel efficiency reflected airline concerns over operating costs, which had grown amid rising oil prices during the Yom Kippur War of 1973. As development progressed, the 757 increasingly departed from its 727 origins and adopted elements from the 767, which was several months ahead in development. To reduce risk and cost, Boeing combined design work on both twinjets, resulting in shared features such as interior fittings and handling characteristics. Computer-aided design, first applied on the 767, was used for over one-third of the 757’s design drawings. In early 1979, a common two-crew member glass cockpit was adopted for the two aircraft, including shared instrumentation, avionics, and flight management systems. In October 1979 the nose was widened and dropped to reduce aerodynamic noise by six dB, to improve the flight deck view and to give more working area for the crew for greater commonality with the 767, as the T-tail was substituted by a conventional tail earlier in the year. Cathode-ray tube (CRT) color displays replaced conventional electromechanical instruments, with increased automation eliminating the flight engineer position common to three-person cockpits. After completing a short conversion course, pilots rated on the 757 could be qualified to fly the 767 and vice versa, owing to their design similarities. A new aft-loaded shape which produced lift across most of the upper wing surface, instead of a narrow band as in previous airfoil designs, was used for the 757’s wings. The more efficient wings had less drag and greater fuel capacity, and were similar in configuration to those on the 767. A wider wingspan than the 727’s produced less lift-induced drag, while larger wing roots increased undercarriage storage space and provided room for future stretched versions of the aircraft. The 757 was produced in two fuselage lengths. The original 757-200 entered service in 1983; the 757-200PF, a package freighter (PF) variant, and the 757-200M, a passenger-freighter combi model, debuted in the late 1980s. The stretched 757-300, the longest narrow-body twinjet ever produced, began service in 1999. Boeing still owns that original B-757 N757A. I’ve got a lot of time B-757 having flown both the -200 and the -300 for more than 4000 hours at NWA and in this first B-757aircraft as it was converted to a Flying Test Bed supporting the F-22 aircraft and does other research work as well. as a testbed for Lockheed Martin F-22 Raptor avionics and sensor integration. The Boeing-owned aircraft was fitted with a canard above its cockpit to simulate the jet fighter’s wing sensor layout, along with a forward F-22 fuselage section with radar and other systems, and a 30-seat laboratory with communication, electronic warfare, identification, and navigation sensors.
LT “Butch” O’Hare Navy’s First Flying Ace
On February 20, 1842 LT Edward “Butch” O’Hare, became the Navy’s first flying ace when he single-handedly attacked a formation of nine heavy bombers approaching his the USS Lexington. He shot down five and seriously damaged a sixth. Previously to this historic flight, Lieutenant John Thach, then executive officer of VF-3, discovered O’Hare’s exceptional flying abilities and closely mentored the promising young pilot. Thach, who would later develop the Thach Weave aerial combat tactic, emphasized gunnery in his training. Photo above is of John Thach in the lead with Butch O’Hare on his wing. In 1941, more than half of all VF-3 pilots, including O’Hare, earned the “E” for gunnery excellence. Even though he had a limited amount of ammunition, he managed to shoot down or damage several enemy bombers. On April 21, 1942, he became the first naval recipient of the Medal of Honor in World War II. He was promoted to LCDR. In a mere four minutes, O’Hare shot down five Japanese G4M1 Betty bombers–bringing a swift end to the Japanese attack. With his ammunition expended, O’Hare returned to his carrier, and was fired on accidentally but with no effect by a .50-caliber machine gun from the Lexington. O’Hare’s fighter had, in fact, been hit by only one bullet during his flight, the single bullet hole in F4F-3 Wildcat port wing disabling the airspeed indicator. According to Thach, Butch then approached the gun platform to calmly say to the embarrassed anti-aircraft gunner who had fired at him, “Son, if you don’t stop shooting at me when I’ve got my wheels down, I’m going to have to report you to the gunnery officer.” O’Hare’s final action took place on the night of November 26, 1943, while he was leading the U.S. Navy’s first-ever nighttime fighter attack launched from an aircraft carrier. During this encounter with a group of Japanese torpedo bombers, O’Hare’s Grumman F6F Hellcat was shot down; his aircraft was never found. In 1945, the U.S. Navy destroyer USS O’Hare (DD-889) was named in his honor. On September 19, 1949, the Chicago, Illinois airport was renamed Chicago’s commercial airport O’Hare International Airport to honor O’Hare’s bravery. The airport displays a Grumman F4F-3 museum aircraft replicating the one flown by Butch O’Hare during his Medal of Honor flight. The Grumman F4F-3 Wildcat on display was recovered virtually intact from the bottom of Lake Michigan, where it sank after a training accident in 1943 when it went off the training aircraft carrier USS Wolverine (IX-64). In 2001, the Air Classics Museum remodeled the aircraft to replicate the F4F-3 Wildcat that O’Hare flew on his Medal of Honor flight. The restored Wildcat is exhibited in the west end of Terminal 2 behind the security checkpoint to honor O’Hare International Airport’s namesake. I always go see it when I’m passing through KORD.
Id est quod id est. It is what it is, but it sounds a lot smarter in Latin.
Five Officers Referred To An Article 32 Hearing
In an extremely rare event, the Navy has decided to charge five officers with negligent homicide for their roles in the two fatal ship collisions, the USS John S. McCain (DDG-56) (being moved aboard MV Treasure below left) and the USS Fitzgerald (DDG-62). In the early morning hours of 17 June 2017, the USS Fitzgerald (also being moved below right) was involved in a collision with the container shipMV ACX Crystal, seriously damaging the destroyer. Seven of Fitzgerald‘s crew were killed. Several others were injured, including her commanding officer, Commander Bryce Benson. The John S. McCain was involved in a collision with the merchant ship Alnic MC on 21 August 2017 off the coast of Singapore, which resulted in the deaths of ten of her crew, and left another five injured. I don’t recall a case in recent Navy history where accident at sea has triggered such criminal charges. Navy Times is reporting The Navy on Tuesday laid out the charges that would be presented at what is called an Article 32 hearing, which will determine whether the accused will go to trial in a court-martial. No doubt paving the way for the severe charges was the significant loss of life in the two collisions. “What’s different here is the loss of life,” said Eugene Fidell, an expert in military law who teaches at Yale Law School. “The victims’ families are obviously devastated by this, the Navy obviously feels it has an obligation to them as well to its own standards.” The Fireball guess would be the cases will end with plea bargains and the officers are more likely to be dismissed from the service, lose their retirement or receive other administrative punishments. Again according to Navy Times, in one of the few relatively recent similar cases, two Marine officers were tried on charges of negligent homicide and manslaughter for piloting a small twin-engine military plane into a cable holding a gondola in Italy in 1998. The wing of the twin-engine Prowler was flying too low when it sliced through the cable, sending 20 civilians in the cable car plummeting to their deaths. The two officers were found not guilty of those charges, but were later found guilty of obstruction of justice for destroying a video taken during the flight. (There were a number of issues in this case which certainly warranted dismissal of the charges). Commanders involved in other ship collisions have largely avoided any type of homicide or manslaughter charges. In the case of the Ehime Maru and USS Greeneville collision on 9 February 2001, Greenville (SSN-772) conducting an emergency main ballast tank blow off the coast of Oahu while hosting several civilian “distinguished visitors”, mainly donors to the Battleship Missouri Memorial, the Greeneville struck the 191-foot (58 m) Japanese fishery high school training ship Ehime Maru (えひめ丸), causing the fishing boat to sink in less than ten minutes with the death of nine crew members, including four high school students. The commander of the Greeneville, Commander Scott Waddle, accepted full responsibility for the incident. However, after he faced a court of inquiry, it was decided a full court-martial would be unnecessary and Commander Waddle’s request to retire was approved for 1 October 2001 with an honorable discharge. The Navy said Wednesday that preliminary hearings for the five officers charged in the Fitzgerald and McCain collisions will likely be held in the coming weeks in the Washington, D.C., region, but exact locations and dates are not set yet. The hearing officer will decide whether there is enough evidence for the cases will go to a trial by court-martial and what specific charges will be brought against the officers, based on that evidence. The maximum punishment for negligent homicide is three years in prison and dismissal from the Navy. For a conviction on that charge, Fidell said, prosecutors must prove the officer was guilty of “simple negligence” that resulted in the deaths. In addition to the negligent homicide charge, several officers are also facing charges of dereliction of duty and endangering a ship. The maximum punishment for the dereliction of duty charge is three months in jail, and the maximum punishment for endangering a vessel is two years in jail. The Navy conducted a series of investigations and reviews into the two collisions, concluding that the accidents were the result of poor judgment, bad decision-making and widespread training and leadership failures by the commanders and crew who didn’t quickly recognize and respond to unfolding emergencies.
The Thomas fire has burned more than 132,000 acres (so far and the fire is only 5% contained) of sage and chaparral covered hillsides fanned by ever shifting Santa Ana winds with gusts up to 70 MPH. I lived in the Ventura area for many years and have two friends directly impacted by the fires. One has seen his ranch at the end of Wheeler Canyon (where I have stayed many times) completely overrun by the fires. He lost one of his two work barns, over ten pieces of heavy equipment (bull dozers, cranes, backhoes, water truck, fuel truck, etc.). His house was saved only because he had installed three times the required amount of stored water tanks on top of the hill. He has also lost hundreds of oak trees that graced this beautiful hillside ranch. Several of his neighbors have lost their homes. (Downtown Ventura – power turned off – photo right).Another good friend sent me photos of the house they used to own burned to the ground. I have yet to hear from a couple other people I know in the area. The funky La Conchita area has been saved so far, but the fire has jumped US 101 in the area and threatens beach homes. Come this winter, they’ll have to contend with mudslides. They could use our prayers and those firefighters and all the first responders could use some good luck!
Some Things To Be Concerned About These Days or Fireball Rants
Taxes: It seems certain the GOP’s tax reform bill will pass. It’s unclear as to whether or not it will actually benefit middle class tax payers. Corporations in the US are doing very well and making lots of money as evidenced by the stock market gains over the last several years. I’m not sure why reducing their tax rate will help all Americans benefit. What is certain is that in permanently lowering the corporate tax rates we should see increased dividends, more stock buybacks, increased infrastructure growth and increased investment growth. That may help with the need for additional workers and perhaps some increases in wages. The temporary tax cuts to individuals will look nice for a couple years, but then expire. That’s a future tax increase for individuals. The richest Americans will see great benefits in the lowering of the estate tax and changes in pass-through income as well. Despite the president’s repeated claims to the contrary, the biggest gains in the tax bill go to wealthy individuals, heirs and business owners, like Trump. Most taxpayers will see modest tax cuts immediately but the bottom 20% of households would receive an average tax cut of $40 in 2019 – an amount dwarfed by the benefits for the richest households and corporations. And this tax cut comes with huge increases in our national debt. Few economists forcast the revenue loss from the tax cuts will be offset by revenue growth. The Tax Policy Center estimates the tax reform framework would increase the federal debt to $2.4 trillion in the first ten years. Congress’ own Joint Committee on Taxation predicts it will add about $1 trillion to deficits over the next decade, even factoring in economic effects. That number could be understating the cost, since Republicans also say they plan to renew measures that expire under the bill, reducing its cost on paper. Whatever that huge number is, our children will be saddled with this additional debt. Additionally I’m concerned the removal of the state and local tax deductions included to finance lower taxes will adversely affect high tax states like New York, New Jersey and California will cause huge ripples throughout these regions when it comes to spending and housing.
Geopolitics: North Korea seems to grow more unstable by the day. President Donald Trump’s power plays and insulting rhetoric have increased the potential for war on the Korean peninsula but have done nothing to decrease the North Korean plans for its nuclear weapons program and potential sale of a nuclear weapon to another state or a non-state actor. While China may or may not have applied some pressure to North Korea, they are certainly not taking all the steps they could take to affect the actions of North Korea. China is a major player intent on applying their increased influence in the Asian theatre including the South China Sea and their development of the Silk Road to the Middle East. Russia continues to apply their own brand of political and economic pressure throughout the globe. Now with Putin’s announcement he will run for “reelection,” Russia will continue to fill any possible void US interests around the world. Make no mistake – they want to defeat us at each and every turn of events. I see nothing but the potential for new violence in the Middle East because President Trump just recognized Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. What happened to making a deal here? All US presidents have realized the complexity and the criticality of Jerusalem to peaceful negotiations in the region – except Trump. The US has lost its advantage as an honest broker with the Palestinians and with other Moslem countries in the region and the US got absolutely nothing from this deal. Our most ardent allies in Europe and in the Middle East have condemned this action and it certainly appears as if we have any influence and indeed our own self interests. WTF?
Mueller Investigation: The President and his team have every right and I expect them to communicate with foreign governments through both formal and informal channels. It’s been that way since central governments were established. In many cases the informal channels are as important as the formal channels in that they can relay personal thoughts and expectations of major world leaders. It may be politically embarrassing when they become public knowledge and when the subject manner is trying to dig up dirt on your opponent, but it’s not against the law. But what you can’t do is lie to the FBI or to the Mueller investigation as to the communication event or try to pretend it never happened. The truth will come out, because too many people are involved, even when establishing private meetings. The near impeachment of Richard Nixon and the impeachment of Bill Clinton were not about the acts of the Watergate break-in nor sex with Monica Lewinski, but were about lying to investigators and lying to a grand jury. It’s likely to be embarrassing to the President but unless he can be found to have actively and with intent obstructed justice, he’ll be off the hook, but there’s a lot more drama to be played out.
Health Care: The quality of health care in the US has never been the issue. The cost of health care has been and remains the concern. I think the average American worker is poorer than we believe without significant savings available for an unexpected event. Health care costs are taking an ever-increasing share from workers’ paychecks. If given the choice between health care and other family requirements, needs, or desires, many will choose the latter. As long as Washington allows insurers to dictate how much you pay for health care and prescription drugs the more it is going to hurt all of us and it will hurt the economy as a whole. The Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) is not funded in 2018 and has been defunded by the latest continuing resolution signed by President Donald Trump. CHIP pays for health care for more than 9 million kids across the country. It’s a joint state-federal plan, part of the Medicare and Medicaid family of government health insurance. CHIP isn’t controversial. Republicans and Democrats alike generally support the program, which makes sure children get health care if their parents are poor and even if their parents are not covered by any other insurance, including Medicaid. What is controversial is whether to offset paying for CHIP with cuts elsewhere in government spending, and there’s also debate over whether funding should be guaranteed for a couple of years, or for longer. CHIP’s 2017 budget was $16.6 billion. The current federal budget has slashed it to $12 billion, but Congress has to allocate that funding.
Cyber Attacks: I think we’ve just begun to see the influence of cyber warfare and cyber attacks. When you look at the conventional order of battle for North Korea you see a bunch of aging Soviet jets and tanks and artillery pieces. But when you look at their cyber warfare capability you see a totalitarian regime with little other technology (I’m speaking of their non-nuclear capabilities). We have known North Korea has pursued cyber warfare since the 1980’s and has targeted banks, universities, and other organizations, mostly in South Korea. What is surprising is they divulged their capabilities in their biggest revealed hack with the the breach of Sony Pictures, which saw the leak of unreleased films and embarrassing emails of studio executives in 2014, because they didn’t like an satirical movie. The Snowden leaks, which revealed the NSA had placed “covert implants” in routers and firewalls around the world, which would give the intelligence agency great insight into where an attack came from. And later comments from then Director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI ) James Comey were clear: “We could see that the IP addresses they used … were IPs that were exclusively used by the North Koreans. It was a mistake by them. It was a very clear indication of who was doing this. They would shut it off very quickly once they realized the mistake, but not before we saw them and knew where it was coming from.” North Korea has approximately 6,000 trained hackers in its military ranks, a defector from the country told the BBC. The defector taught computer science at a Pyongyang University and said many of his former students went on to the hacking unit known as Bureau 121. Little is known about the North Korea’s cyber warfare agency, though it does seem to employ considerable computer expertise. With its Sony Pictures breach, the hackers used a common method to gain access called spear-phishing and were able to steal credentials for a systems administrator, enabling them to burrow inside the systems for at least two months to map out their plan of attack. “They were incredibly careful, and patient,” one person briefed on the investigation told The New York Times. The current commander of United States Forces KoreaGeneralVincent K. Brookstold Senate leaders last month. (photo below left) “While I would not characterize them as the best in the world, they are among the best in the world and the best organized.”
Brooks was speaking before the Senate Armed Services Committee for a hearing regarding his nomination to take over all forces in South Korea. The 57-year-old general took over that post late last month. That an Army general would warn of North Korea’s growing progress in cyberspace comes as the Pentagon ramps up its own efforts in what it calls the “cyber domain” after the release of a new cyber strategy in April 2015. In it, the military proposed 133 teams for its “cyber mission force” by 2018, 27 of which were directed to support combat missions by “generating integrated cyberspace effects in support of … operations.” A successful act of cyber terrorism could have major technology disclosures as well as financial consequences.
Continuing Resolution Passes
U.S. lawmakers on Thursday averted a government shutdown this week by passing a new funding extension to keep federal operations running for two more weeks, in the hopes of reaching a broader budget consensus before Christmas. The vote was 235 -193 in the House and 81-14 in the Senate. Senate Armed Services Committee Chair John McCain was a notable “no.” McCain, R-Ariz., has railed against stopgap funding, and budget instability more broadly, for wreaking havoc on the military. “Every day we spend on a Continuing Resolution is a day that our military must try to do more with less, modernization is delayed, and readiness is degraded,” he said in a statement. Now the question for lawmakers is whether they can reach a deal on appropriations for all of fiscal 2018 — which began on Oct. 1 — or whether they’ll have to scramble another short-term funding patch over the next 15 days. “There’s still a lot of work to be done,” said Pennsylvania Republican Rep. Charlie Dent, chair of the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Military Construction and Veterans Affairs and co-chair of the moderate Tuesday Group. “We have to reach a budget agreement, we have to pass a second CR taking us into the new year — and accidents can happen.”
Confessions of a C-2 Greyhound COD Pilot
Enclosed is a link to a really good article about the life of the C-2 COD pilot sent to me by Friend of FOD Mule. Thanks Mule. It was announced on December 8, 2017 The U.S. Navy is sending a team of deep-water salvage experts to search for the transport plane that crashed into the western Pacific Ocean in November. The Navy said is a statement that while “the aircraft’s last position on the surface of the water is known, the depth of water in that area exceeds 16,000 feet, beyond the capabilities of salvage assets in theater.” The salvage experts deployed from Washington will be led by the Navy’s Supervisor of Salvage and Diving. The team will board a salvage vessel in Japan and then proceed to the crash site where the group will search for the aircraft’s emergency relocation pinger. “If the search is successful, additional deep water salvage assets will deploy to survey and recover the aircraft,” the Navy said. When I was Maintenance Officer and the Indian Ocean XO of VF-21 (because they took our XO and made him the O-in-C of the Beach Det at NAS Cubi Point, Philippines) we invited the COD pilots to use our ready room when they were aboard USS Constellation (CV-64). Why – because they carried the mail, brought us fresh vegetables from the A&P in Oman, but mostly because they brought us t-shirts from the Philippines that we in turn sold throughout the ship. (They had amazing control over what went on their aircraft.) We gave them some flight boots, and some flight suits (because theirs smelled bad and we didn’t want to get hydraulic fluid on our ready room chairs) and got them free accounts for the autodog soft ice cream machine in the dirty shirt wardroom. So we weren’t that altruistic. At one time our Officers Mess Treasury exceeded $13,000. You probably couldn’t get away with that these days. On our transit back from that IO cruise, we purchased and brought back 87 cruise boxes of liquor and stored it in the ship’s empty magazines. That was more than the rest of the ship combined. But that’s another story. Anyway the COD pilots were good guys, unappreciated for the most part and flying some really old airframes. We lost a C-2 last week. I covered it briefly in the November 20 through 22 edition of FOD. I recalled our old COD pilot, Tom “Bean Pole” Sawyer (his real name) –because he was about 6’2” and likely weighed 125 lb. I hope he’s doing well somewhere. Anyway enjoy:
In case you’re in one of these areas and are interested, The Navy’s Blue Angels squadron has released updates to their 2018 air show schedule, as well as a full 2019 tour calendar, the Navy announced. Modifications to the 2018 Blue Angels schedule include:
Cancellation of March 17-18 shows in Tuscon, Arizona
Addition of April 28-29 shows in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina
Addition of October 13-14 shows in Minden-Tahoe, Nevada.
Remembering the USS Flasher (SS-249)
I wrote this story for the previous edition of FOD for December 4th, but those editors chopped it, for no good reason, so here tis. The USS Flasher (SS-249) was a Gato-classsubmarine which served in the Pacific during World War II. She received the Presidential Unit Citation and six battle stars, and sank 21 ships for a total of 100,231 tons of Japanese shipping. Flasher arrived at Pearl Harbor from New London 15 December 1943 to prepare for her first war patrol, for which she sailed 6 January 1944. Bound for her patrol area off Mindoro, she sank her first target 18 January, sending a 2,900-ton former gunboatYoshida Maru to the bottom. Adding to what would be the greatest total of enemy tonnage credited to an American submarine in World War II, she sank the freighter Taishin Maru off Manila 5 February, and sank two cargo ships of the same convoy on 14 February. Flasher arrived at Fremantle, Australia 29 February to refit. The 2 vessels sunk 14 February 1944 were the Minryo Maru and the Hokuan Maru. These names appear later in that the names of the vessels sunk were not known to Flasher and were only assigned after the war was over. Sometimes major combatants could be identified however. Flasher made her third war patrol in the South China Sea, where on 28 June 1944 she contacted a heavily escorted convoy of 13 ships. She made a cautious approach, undeterred by the escort, and shortly after midnight 29 June, broke into the convoy to sink a freighter (Nippo Maru) and badly damage a large passenger cargo ship. Her next victim was a freighter (Koto Maru), sunk 7 July. Twelve days later, Flasher sighted the cruiserŌi escorted by a destroyer. Two attacks, each followed by a heavy depth charge retaliation from the destroyer, sufficed to sink the cruiser, a fact confirmed several hours later when a periscope observation revealed only the destroyer in sight. Seven days later, she sank another important target, a merchant tanker (Otoriyama Maru), and the same day damaged another tanker (Tosan Maru) later sunk by one of her sisters. With all her torpedoes gone, Flasher put back for Fremantle, where she replenished and refitted between 7 August and 30 August. During her fourth war patrol, in the Philippines, Flasher headed a coordinated attack group which included two other submarines, Hawkbill and Becuna. Although she was on lifeguard station during the air attacks preliminary to the invasion of the Philippines during part of this patrol, Flasher sank three ships, a light cruiser (Saigon Maru) on 18 September, a transport (Ural Maru) on 27 September, and a cargo ship (Taibin Maru) on 4 October. She returned to Fremantle 20 October. Heading the same attack group, Flasher now commanded by Lieutenant Commander G. W. Grider, sailed on her fifth war patrol 15 November 1944, bound for Cam Ranh Bay. On 4 December one of her companions reported a tanker convoy, and Flasher set a converging course. As she made her approach in a heavy downpour, a destroyer suddenly loomed up before her, and Flasher launched her first spread of torpedoes at this escort. The destroyer (Kishinami) was stopped by two hits, and began listing and smoking heavily. Flasher got a spread of torpedoes away at a tanker before she was forced deep by a second destroyer, which dropped 16 depth charges. Rising to periscope depth, Flasher located the tanker burning and covered by yet a third destroyer. Speedily reloading, she prepared to sink the destroyer and finish off the tanker, and though almost blinded by rainsqualls, she did so with a salvo of four torpedoes, two of which hit the destroyer (Iwanami), and two of which passed beneath her, as planned, to hit the tanker (Hakko Maru). Once more, a counter-attack forced Flasher down, and when she surfaced she found no trace of the two damaged destroyers. The tanker, blazing away, was still guarded by three escorts until abandoned at sunset, when Flasher sank her with one torpedo. The two destroyers, both found after the war to have been sunk, were Kishinami and Iwanami. Flasher contacted another well-guarded tanker convoy on the morning of 21 December 1944, and she began a long chase, getting into position to attack from the unguarded shoreward side. In rapid succession, Flasher attacked and sank three of the tankers (Omurosan Maru, Otowasan Maru and Arita Maru), receiving no counter-attack since the enemy apparently believed he had stumbled into a minefield. One of these tankers was the largest Flasher sank during the war. The other two tankers had displacements similar to each other, were tied for third largest. Refitting at Fremantle once more between 2 January and 29 January 1945, Flasher made her sixth war patrol on the coast of Indochina. Contacts were few, but on 21 February she sank a sea truck (I couldn’t find a photo of this, but I assume it’s a small shallow draft vessel used as a supply ship) by surface gunfire, and 4 days later sank a cargo ship (Koho Maru) with torpedoes. She completed her patrol upon her arrival at Pearl Harbor 3 April 1945, and sailed a few days later for a West Coast overhaul. Bound for Guam on a seventh war patrol at the close of the war, Flasher was ordered back to New London, where she was decommissioned and placed in reserve 16 March 1946, attached to the Atlantic Reserve Fleet. On 1 June 1959 the Flasher was struck from the Naval Vessel Register. She was sold for scrap on 1 June 1963. Her conning tower was removed and placed on display as a memorial at the entrance to Nautilus Park, a Navy housing area in Groton, Connecticut. It was then moved to the intersection of Thames St. and Bridge St. where it is the centerpiece of the World War II memorial that honors the 52 U.S. submarines and their valiant crews lost during the war.
While there are a bunch of KC-46’s of one form or another flying as part of the test program, the first Boeing KC-46A tanker plane, expected to be delivered to the U.S. Air Force next year, completed its first flight, the company has announced. Boeing announced Tuesday that it will miss its deadline to deliver the first plane to the U.S. Air Force by Dec. 31. The contract calls for 18 KC-46A planes to be delivered by October 2018, a deadline 14 months later than originally planned. The most serious of three recent flaws seen in the plane is multiple incidents of its retractable boom scraping the aircraft receiving fuel during aerial refueling, Bloomberg News reported on Sunday.
As the Japanese attacked Midway Island, 1st Lt. George H. Cannon USMC remains at his post until all of his wounded men are evacuated, though severely wounded himself. Because of his dedication to his men, Cannon dies due loss of blood from his wounds. For his “distinguished conduct in the line of his profession”, Cannon is posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor.
Captain Mervyn Sharp Bennion (USNA ’10), commanding officer of USS West Virginia (BB 48), evidenced apparent concern only in fighting and saving his ship, and strongly protested against being carried from the bridge. For devotion to duty and courage during the Pearl Harbor attack, Bennion is awarded the Medal of Honor.
Ensign Francis C. Flaherty remains in his turret, holding a flashlight so the remainder of the turret crew could see the escape, onboard the sinking USS Oklahoma (BB-37) thereby sacrificing his own life. For devotion to duty and courage during the Pearl Harbor attack, Flaherty is awarded the Medal of Honor.
LCDR Samuel Glenn Fuqua (USNA ’23) rushes to the quarterdeck of USS Arizona, where a large bomb hits and penetrates several decks, and the explosion starts a severe fire and also stuns and knocks him down. Upon coming to, he begins to direct the firefighting and rescue efforts. A tremendous explosion forward appears to make the ship rise out of the water, shudder and settle down by the bow. Flames envelope the forward part of the ship and spread, as wounded men pour out of the ship to the quarterdeck. Despite the mayhem, Fuqua keeps calm under pressure and continues to direct the firefighting efforts so that the wounded could be taken from the ship, and in so doing inspires everyone who sees him. Realizing that the ship cannot be saved and that he was the senior surviving officer aboard, he orders the crew to abandon ship. Fuqua remains on the quarterdeck until satisfied that all personnel that could be had been saved, after which he leaves the ship with the last boatload. He is awarded the Medal of Honor — for his actions in World War II during the attack on Pearl Harbor.
Chief Boatswain Edwin Joseph Hill leads his men of the line-handling details of USS Nevada (BB-36) to the quays, casts off the lines and swims back to this ship. Later, while on the forecastle attempting to let go the anchors, he is blown overboard and killed by the explosion of several bombs. Chief Hill earned Medal of Honor that day for his distinguished conduct in the line of his profession, extraordinary courage, and disregard of his own safety during the attack on the Fleet in Pearl Harbor.
Ensign Herbert C. Jones organizes and leads a party in supplying ammunition to the antiaircraft battery of the USS California (BB-44) after the mechanical hoists were put out of action. Jones is then fatally wounded by a nearby bomb explosion and when two men attempt to take him from the area which was on fire, he refuses to let them, saying, in words to the effect, Leave me alone! I am done for. Get out of here before the magazines go off. He was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor for his actions during the attack on Pearl Harbor.
Rear Admiral Isaac C. Kidd (USNA ’06) immediately goes to the bridge and as the commander of battleship division one, he courageously performs his duties as Senior Officer Present Afloat until his flagship, USS Arizona blows up from magazine explosions and he is killed by a direct bomb hit on the bridge. He was a posthumous recipient of the Medal of Honor. I lived briefly in the room dedicated to his honor in Bancroft Hall at the U.S. Naval Academy during some summer program.
As the mechanized ammunition hoists are put of action in USS California (BB-44), Chief Radioman Thomas James Reeves, on his own initiative, in a burning passageway, assists in the maintenance of an ammunition supply by hand to the antiaircraft guns until he is overcome by smoke and fire, resulting in his death. He posthumously received the Medal of Honor.
As his station in the forward dynamo room aboard the USS Nevada (BB-36) becomes almost untenable due to smoke, steam, and heat, LCDR Donald Kirby Ross forces his men to leave the station and performs all the duties himself until blinded and unconscious. Upon being rescued and resuscitates, he returns and secures the forward dynamo room and proceeds to the aft dynamo room where he is again rendered unconscious by exhaustion. Again recovering consciousness, he returns to his station where he remained until directed to abandon it. He received the first Medal of Honor of World War II.
Chief Aviation Ordnanceman John William Finn mans a .50-caliber machine gun mounted on an instruction stand in an exposed section of the parking ramp, under heavy enemy machine-gun strafing fire. While painfully wounded, he continued to man the gun and return the enemy’s fire with telling effect throughout the enemy strafing and bombing attacks. He was at last persuaded to leave his post to seek medical attention after being specifically ordered to do so. After receiving first-aid, the chief returned to the squadron area and actively supervised the rearming of returning planes. Chief (later Lieutenant) Finn earned the Medal of Honor that day for his extraordinary heroism, distinguished service, and devotion above and beyond the call of duty during the attack on the Fleet in Pearl Harbor. At the time of his death, Finn was the oldest living Medal of Honor recipient, the last living recipient from the attack on Pearl Harbor, and the last United States Navy recipient of World War II.
On the morning of December 7, 1941, very few American fighter pilots were able to get airborne to fight the Japanese attackers. Ken Taylor and George Schwartz were two of them. Second Lieutenants Kenneth Marlar Taylor and George S. Welch took two Curtiss-Wright P-40B Warhawk fighters from a remote airfield at Haleiwa, on the northwestern side of the island of Oahu, and against overwhelming odds, each shot down four enemy airplanes: Welch shot down three Aichi D3A Type 99 “Val” dive bombers and one Mitsubishi A6M2 Type 0 (“Zero”) fighter. Taylor also shot down four Japanese airplanes. Although both officers were nominated for the Medal of Honor by General Henry H. (“Hap”) Arnold, they were awarded the Distinguished Service Cross. Why were they denied the MOH? Because they didn’t have permission to take-off.
A U.S. Navy C-2 Greyhound engaged in Carrier Onboard Delivery aircraft carrying 11 people crashed in the Philippine Sea south of Japan on Wednesday as it flew to the aircraft carrier Ronald Reagan and three people were missing. “Search and rescue efforts for three personnel continue with U.S. Navy and Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force (JMSDF) ships and aircraft on scene,” the U.S. Seventh Fleet said in a news release. The C-2 has had a good safety record and has not been involved in a fatal accident since 1973 and has been in service for more than fifty years.
North Korea Back On The List As A State Sponsor of Terrorism
I was a bit surprised North Korea was not already on the list of State Sponsors of Terrorism. President Trump announced on 21 November his administration would redesignate North Korea to this category which carries with it additional sanctions (how many more can there be?). So, practically speaking this redesignation is more symbolic than practical, as the most serious sanctions have already been put in place, and to date those sanctions have not had the desired effect of persuading North Korea to either abandon or negotiate regarding their nuclear weapons program. The North spent 20 years on that list before being removed in 2008 by the George W. Bush administration for meeting nuclear inspection requirements. Pyongyang later violated the agreement. In a speech to the South Korean national assembly two weeks ago, Trump cited atrocities carried out by the Kim regime and called the North “a hell that no person deserves.” Among other acts, Kim’s regime stands accused of carrying out the assassination of his half brother, Kim Jong Nam, with a chemical nerve agent at a Malaysian airport in February. “Importantly, this is just continuing to point out North Korea’s illicit, unlawful behaviors internationally,” United States Secretary of StateRex Tillerson said at the White House daily briefing Monday. “And we felt it was important to reimpose the designation for that reason.” Tillerson cited other recent sanctions from the United States and the United Nations on the North and added that the redesignation “continues to tighten the pressure on the Kim regime, all with an intention to have him to understand, ‘This is just going to get worse until you’re ready to come and talk.'” Iran, Sudan and Syria also are on the list, which is administered by the U.S. Department of State. According to that agency, sanctions for those nations on the list include “restrictions on U.S. foreign assistance; a ban on defense exports and sales; certain controls over exports of dual use items; and miscellaneous financial and other restrictions.”