FOD Fireball’s Observations of the Day September 3rd through 7th 2017

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Invest in People and Not Just Platforms

As the US Naval investigations of the two broadside collisions with much slower commercial vessels, resulting in the death of 17 sailors, Congressional inquirers are also ramping up.   Rep. Rob Wittman, R-Va., (below left) the chairman of the House Armed Services’ Sea Power and Projection Forces Subcommittee,

traveled to Japan to visit the fleet and speak with Navy leaders and sailors about what Congress can do to help get the service back on track. This subcommittee was scheduled to conduct hearings on September 7th looking at Navy readiness and what it calls “underlying problems associated with the USS Fitzgerald and the USS John S. McCain.”  Questions will be asked as to whether the Navy is stretched with more demands to patrol not only the Asia-Pacific region but to provide security for the Indian Ocean and Persian Gulf as well as European-Atlantic areas.  “They’re having to do more with less,” said Seth Cropsey, a former deputy undersecretary of the Navy in the Reagan and Bush administrations and now a senior fellow at the Hudson Institute. Since the Cold War, he said, “the fleet size has been decreasing the whole time while commitments have been increasing.”  And while new technology may be helpful, these are basic seamanship issues.  Some basic questions need to be addressed: do we have enough people aboard our ships?  Are they receiving adequate training?  Are they operating as they were trained?  Are our ships being maintained in a manner as to be fully ready for any encounter?  We know our aircraft maintenance programs lack the time and funding to improve readiness and it’s well known the nation’s shipyards are overworked and struggling to get ships through maintenance cycles.  How can we move forward with additional investment in ships and planes when we can’t take care of the one’s we have?  And the same can be said for our sailors who have been asked repeatedly to do more with less.  There are limits.  Have we reached them?  The more advanced the technology introduced into the fleet and into the hands of potential adversaries, the greater the demand on the men and women in the Navy.  Not only must they be able to operate more advanced systems, they also must not forget how to operate without them.  The ancient art of celestial navigation is just one of the most obvious ways the Navy has sought to ensure operational integrity regardless of how well technology is working.  When you drive a car these days, it is easy to become reliant on a screen shot provided by a camera, but that doesn’t mean you should not also glance in the rearview mirror or look out the window. The same principle applies to the high-tech U.S. Navy.  The service needs to maintain a high level of technical proficiency while retaining the ability to operate in a potential environment of technical denial.  We need to invest in our people and not just our platforms.  That’s the Fireball opinion for the day.  Comments?


Those Cheating Red Sox Get Caught

Michael S. Schmidt of the New York Times reports that, after an investigation, Major League Baseball has determined that the Red Sox illegally used an Apple Watch to steal signs from the Yankees.  The Red Sox hosted the Yankees in mid-August for a three-game set, winning two of the three games. Yankees GM Brian Cashman filed a complaint to the commissioner’s office using video of the Red Sox dugout which showed a trainer looking at his Apple Watch, then relaying a message to players. Presumably, this information allowed the hitters to know what pitch was coming.  When confronted by the commissioner’s office, the Red Sox admitted that trainers had been receiving signals from video replay personnel, which was then relayed to the players. It’s not known how long the Red Sox have been at it, but it’s been “at least several weeks,” according to Schmidt. The Red Sox contend that manager John Farrell, GM Dave Dombrowski, and other front office personnel were not aware of the operation.  Liar, liar, pants on fire.  Nothing happens in a major league dugout without the knowledge and approval of the manager.  In a bit of gamesmanship, the Red Sox filed a complaint of their own to the commissioner’s office, alleging that the Yankees use a YES Network camera exclusively to steal signs. The Red Sox also accused the Indians of stealing signs after Game 1 of the ALDS last year.  Stealing signs is not forbidden by the rulebook, but using technology to do so is. So the Red Sox are clearly at fault here and will likely face some sort of punishment. Schmidt did not speculate as to what that could be.  In this case they were using Dustin Pedroia, the Red Sox second baseman to relay the signs.  For his part, Pedroia didn’t deny it and actually said it’s part of the game.  My recommendation would be a multi-game suspension without pay for Pedroia and a major fine for the Red Sox, owing the fact these individuals and likely others intentionally colluded in an attempt to influence the outcome of the game.  Comments?


NY Yankees Lose a Legend

The New York Yankees have lost a beloved coachscoutmanager and executive, Gene “Stick” Michael.  He passed away at 79 from a heart attack on 07 September.  Stick played as a shortstop in Major League Baseball for the Pittsburgh PiratesLos Angeles DodgersNew York Yankees, and Detroit Tigers from 1966 to 1975. After his playing career, Michael managed the Yankees and Chicago Cubs, and served as the Yankees’ general manager. Most importantly, Michael built the Yankees team which became a dynasty in the late 1990s.  In 1990, Michael was hired as general manager of the Yankees.   As general manager, he built the Yankees’ farm system, as they developed young talent rather than trading it away, as they had done in the 1980s with little success. During Michael’s tenure as general manager, the Yankees drafted or signed such notable players as Mariano RiveraAndy PettitteDerek JeterJorge Posada (collectively known as the Core Four), and others. Further, he traded for Paul O’NeillThis foundation paid off with Yankee championships in 1996, and from 19982000. However, Michael was fired before the Yankees dynasty began, as a result of the fallouts from the 1994 strike, which ruined the Yankees having the best record in the American League that year in 1995.   He will be particularly missed on “Old Timers Day” when Gene Michael took particular interest in making up the lineups for both teams, keeping every player informed on when they’ll play and why.  He loved the game of baseball and will be missed by fans, players and members of the Yankee family.  “Stick was a pillar of this organization for decades,” Yankees owner Hal Steinbrenner said in a statement. “He knew the game of baseball like few others did, and was always willing and excited to talk about it with anyone in earshot. His contributions to the Yankees over the years have been immeasurable. He loved baseball and this organization, and he will be profoundly missed.”  GM Brian Cashman added. “He was both a friend and mentor to me, and I relied upon his advice and guidance throughout my career. He did it all in this industry — player, coach, manager, general manager and scout — and his knowledge base was second to none. My condolences go out to his family, friends and all those he touched throughout his lifetime in the game. I will miss him.”  Buck Showalter, who Michael hired to be the Yankees skipper in 1992, said he had to pull over to the side of the road when his wife called him with the tough news Thursday.  And today, 07 September the Yankees played an afternoon game against Buck’s Orioles in Camden Yards and beat the O’s 9 – 1.  “He was the best baseball man I ever saw,” the Orioles manager said before his club faced the Yankees in Baltimore. “He never missed on an infielder.”  In my opinion, many of those monuments in Monument Park are the direct result of Stick’s initiative.  He was truly one of the best baseball minds of all time.  RIP Stick.


Pakistan Betrayed By China At BRICS Summit

Pakistan was likely of the belief that China might be able to protect them from the kind of world-wide critic of their internal policies after President Trump announced his Afghanistan policy last week, criticizing safe havens for Islamist terrorists on Pakistani soil.  While the Islamic country’s politicians and government officials refuted Trump’s claims that Pakistan was supporting militant groups near its border with Afghanistan, they heaved a sigh of relief when Chinese officials came to their support against Trump.  Therefore, it was quite natural for Islamabad to expect that the BRICS nations – Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa – would not criticize Pakistan-based militant groups during their recently held summit in the Chinese city of Xiamen.  But after Trump’s censure, Xi Jinping’s China, too, expressed its worry about the jihadi groups that many experts say are Pakistan’s proxies in the region.  “We, in this regard, express concern about the security situation in the region and violence caused by the Taliban, ‘Islamic State'(IS)…, al Qaeda and its affiliates, including the Eastern Turkistan Islamic Movement, the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan, the Haqqani Network, Lashkar-e-Taiba, Jaish-e-Mohammad, TTP and Hizb ut-Tahrir,” the BRICS leaders said in a joint declaration.  Pakistan’s Foreign Minister Khawaja Asif is planning to visit China and Russia in the coming days to garner support for his country in the wake of Trump’s criticism. The BRICS statement makes his task more difficult.  “The declaration is a clear message to Pakistan that the international community, including China and Russia, are not ready to tolerate Pakistan’s jihadi proxies. We must not forget that Islamist groups also pose a threat to China, which is battling a religiously motivated insurgency in its western Xinjiang province,” Dr. Aman Memon, an international relations expert at the Islamabad-based Preston University, told reporters.  “The situation is equally alarming for Russia, which is wary of Islamists in Central Asian states,” Memon said, adding that it was high time that Pakistan reviewed its policies regarding jihadi groups.  We’ll see, but the underlying element here is that China wants peace in Pakistan, at least in those areas where they have already invested heavily where it’s “ One Belt, One Road” is being planned.  The strategy underlines China’s push to take a larger role in global affairs with a China-centered trading network.  And our old buddy Vladimir Putin is involved here investing in the New Eurasian Land Bridge, a railway that connects China to Central Europe through Kazakhstan and Eastern Europe. Economic corridors extend across the Eurasian land mass including in regions on the periphery like the Russian Far East. The Russian government established Russian Direct Investment Fund and China Investment Corporation, a Chinese government investment agency, partnered in 2012 to create the Sino-Russian Investment Fund, which concentrates on opportunities in bilateral integration.   Follow the money.



North Korea Threatens China’s Power Ambitions in Asia

It was not lost on Chinese leader’s that North Korea chose to use the opening of the BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China, South Africa) Conference to detonate their latest nuclear test.  In doing so this was a statement from North Korea to China that, “Even you our largest trading partner cannot control our nuclear development program.”  China has made it no secret that its long term goal is to replace the United States as the major power in Asia and to assume what it considers to be rightful position at the center of the fastest growing and dynamic region of the world.  The US remains the dominant military power, but India and Japan, China’s traditional rivals have diminishing influence in the face of China’s general show of force.  A nuclear North Korea presents its own set of problems.  China’s path to dominance requires American withdrawal and a message to our allies and neutral nations in the region that America cannot be trusted to defend you with its nuclear umbrella, but that you’ll get used to the Chinese nuclear umbrella instead.  But as North Korea nuclear ambitions threatens to draw the United States into the region and thus complicates China’s efforts to diminish US influence while at the same time trying to deal with an unstable East Asian government with nuclear weapons.  China of course doesn’t want to see a unified Korea with strong US ties on its border, and currently North Korea provides that buffer.  If however, North Korea continues to alienate Japan, enrage the US and irritate South Korea might these two Asian nations feel obligated to develop nuclear weapons of their own.  That could seriously affect regional diplomacy.  That could initiate a new Cold War in Asia and could label China as the enabler of nuclear proliferation in the region and reducing its influence in Asia.  Another Fireball opinion.  Comments?


Treaty of Paris Signed 

The Treaty of Paris was signed on 03 September 1783 in Paris by representatives of King George III of Great Britain and representatives of the United States of America on September 3, 1783, ended the American Revolutionary War. The treaty set the boundaries between the British Empire in North America and the United States, on lines “exceedingly generous” to the latter.  Details included fishing rights and restoration of property and prisoners of war.  This treaty and the separate peace treaties between Great Britain and the nations that supported the American cause — FranceSpain, and the Dutch Republic — are known collectively as the Peace of Paris.  Only Article 1 of the treaty, which acknowledges the United States’ existence as free sovereign and independent states, remains in force.  Peace negotiations began in April 1782, and continued through the summer. Representing the United States were Benjamin FranklinJohn JayHenry Laurens, and John AdamsDavid Hartley and Richard Oswald represented Great Britain.  The painting left shows the American delegation, but the British delegation refused to pose and thus the painting was never finished.  The treaty was signed at the Hotel d’York (presently 56 Rue Jacob) in Paris on September 3, 1783, by Adams, Franklin, Jay, and Hartley.  Regarding the American Treaty, the key episodes came in September, 1782, when the French Foreign Minister Vergennes proposed a solution that was strongly opposed by his ally the United States. France was exhausted by the war, and everyone wanted peace except Spain, which insisted on continuing the war until it could capture Gibraltar from the British. Vergennes came up with the deal that Spain would accept instead of Gibraltar. The United States would gain its independence but be confined to the area east of the Appalachian Mountains. Britain would take the area north of the Ohio River. In the area south of that would be set up an independent Indian state under Spanish control. It would be an Indian barrier state.  However, the Americans realized that they could get a better deal directly from London. John Jay promptly told the British that he was willing to negotiate directly with them, cutting off France and Spain. The British Prime Minister Lord Shelburne agreed. He was in full charge of the British negotiations (some of which took place in his study at Lansdowne House, now a bar in the Lansdowne Club) and he now saw a chance to split the United States away from France and make the new country a valuable economic partner.  The western terms were that the United States would gain all of the area east of the Mississippi River, north of Florida, and south of Canada. The northern boundary would be almost the same as today.  The United States would gain fishing rights off Canadian coasts, and agreed to allow British merchants and Loyalists to try to recover their property. It was a highly favorable treaty for the United States, and deliberately so from the British point of view. Prime Minister Shelburne foresaw highly profitable two-way trade between Britain and the rapidly growing United States, as indeed came to pass.  Great Britain also signed separate agreements with France and Spain, and (provisionally) with the Netherlands.  In the treaty with Spain, the territories of East and West Florida were ceded to Spain (without a clear northern boundary, resulting in a territorial dispute resolved by the Treaty of Madrid in 1795). Spain also received the island of Minorca; the Bahama IslandsGrenada, and Montserrat, captured by the French and Spanish, were returned to Britain. The treaty with France was mostly about exchanges of captured territory (France’s only net gains were the island of Tobago, and Senegal in Africa), but also reinforced earlier treaties, guaranteeing fishing rights off Newfoundland. Dutch possessions in the East Indies, captured in 1781, were returned by Britain to the Netherlands in exchange for trading privileges in the Dutch East Indies, by a treaty which was not finalized until 1784.




LTG Yoshio Tachibana Surrenders Bonin Islands Aboard USS Dunlap

Yoshio Tachibana was a lieutenant general of the Japanese Imperial Army. (below left).  He was commander of the Japanese troops in ChichijimaOgasawara Islands, also known as the  Bonin Islands and was later tried and executed for the Chichijima incident, a war crime involving tortureextrajudicial execution and cannibalism of American prisoners of warBy mid-1945, due to the Allied naval blockade, Japanese troops on Chichijima had run low on supplies, and Tachibana’s senior staff turned to cannibalism. However, it should be noted that while daily ration of rice at Chichijima had been reduced from 400g per person a day to 240g, the troops were in no risk of starvation. The true purpose of cannibalism was for increasing the troop morale as well as terrorizing the prisoners. In August 1944 and February/March 1945 in what came to be known later as the “Ogasawara Incident”, Tachibana, known to his staff as a sadistic, alcoholic commander, issued an order that all American prisoners of war (downed aviators) be killed.  George H. W. Bush was also shot down in the area, but closely managed to evade capture and being consumed.  Two prisoners were beheaded in a public ceremony and per an account in Time Magazine, their livers were immediately cut from their bodies and served as sukiyaki.  It was not disputed that eight prisoners of war were executed, and some of the bodies were butchered by the division’s medical orderlies and portions were eaten by the senior staff of the Japanese garrison.  At the end of the war, Tachibana and his staff were arrested by the American occupation authorities and were deported to Guam, where they stood trial for war crimes in connection with the Ogasawara Incident in August 1946.  However, as cannibalism was not covered under international law at the time, Tachibana was charged with “prevention of honorable burial” in addition to his execution of prisoners, and along with four other defendants, was sentenced to death by hanging.  Flyboys: A True Story of Courage should be required reading.


 The French Arrive At Last

The Battle of the Chesapeake was one of the most crucial battles of the American Revolutionary War.  This was a naval battle that took place near the mouth of Chesapeake Bay on 5 September 1781. The combatants were a British fleet led by Rear Admiral Sir Thomas Graves (below left) and a French fleet led by Rear Admiral Francois Joseph Paul, the Comte de Grasse (below right). The battle was strategically decisive, in that it prevented the Royal Navy from reinforcing or evacuating the forces of Lieutenant General Lord Cornwallis at Yorktown, Virginia. The French were able to achieve control of the sea lanes against the British, allowing them to provide the Franco-American army with siege artillery and French reinforcements—all of which proved decisive in the Siege of Yorktown, effectively securing independence for the Thirteen Colonies.  We don’t hear a great deal about this encounter as it took place between the British and the French navies and the fledgling American navy was not a participant.  Admiral de Grasse had the option to attack British forces in either New York or Virginia; he opted for Virginia, arriving at the Chesapeake at the end of August. Admiral Graves learned that de Grasse had sailed from the West Indies for North America and that French Admiral de Barras had also sailed from Newport, Rhode Island, and he concluded that they were going to join forces at the Chesapeake. De Grasse arrived at Cap-Français on 15 August. He immediately dispatched his response to Rochambeau’s note, which was that he would make for the Chesapeake. Taking on 3,200 troops, De Grasse sailed from Cap-Français with his entire fleet, 28 ships of the line. Sailing outside the normal shipping lanes to avoid notice, he arrived at the mouth of Chesapeake Bay on August 30, and disembarked the troops to assist in the land blockade of Cornwallis.  Two British frigates that were supposed to be on patrol outside the bay were trapped inside the bay by de Grasse’s arrival; this prevented the British in New York from learning the full strength of de Grasse’s fleet until it was too late.  Graves sailed south from New York with 19 ships of the line and arrived at the mouth of the Chesapeake early on 5 September to see de Grasse’s fleet at anchor in the bay. De Grasse hastily prepared most of his fleet for battle—24 ships of the line—and sailed out to meet him, and the two-hour engagement took place after hours of maneuvering. French and British patrol frigates each spotted the other’s fleet around 9:30 am; both at first underestimated the size of the other fleet, leading each commander to believe the other fleet was the smaller fleet of Admiral de Barras. When the true size of the fleets became apparent, Graves assumed that de Grasse and Barras had already joined forces, and prepared for battle; he directed his line toward the bay’s mouth, assisted by winds from the north-northeast.  De Grasse had detached a few of his ships to blockade the York and James Rivers farther up the bay, and many of the ships at anchor were missing officers, men, and boats when the British fleet was sighted.  He faced the difficult proposition of organizing a line of battle while sailing against an incoming tide, with winds and land features that would require him to do so on a tack opposite that of the British fleet.  At 11:30 am, 24 ships of the French fleet cut their anchor lines and began sailing out of the bay with the noon tide, leaving behind the shore contingents and ships’ boats.  Some ships were so seriously undermanned, missing as many as 200 men, that not all of their guns could be manned.  De Grasse had ordered the ships to form into a line as they exited the bay, in order of speed and without regard to its normal sailing order.  By 1:00 pm, the two fleets were roughly facing each other, but sailing on opposite tacks.  In order to engage, and to avoid some shoals (known as the Middle Ground) near the mouth of the bay, Graves around 2:00 pm ordered his whole fleet to wear, a maneuver that reversed his line of battle, but enabled it to line up with the French fleet as its ships exited the bay.  This placed the squadron of Hood, his most aggressive commander, at the rear of the line, and that of Admiral Francis Samuel Drake in the van (the lead). Admiral Louis de Bougainville‘s Auguste was one of the first ships out. With a squadron of three other ships Bougainville ended up well ahead of the rest of the French line; by 3:45 pm the gap was large enough that the British could have cut his squadron off from the rest of the French fleet.  At this point, both fleets were sailing generally east, away from the bay, with winds from the north-northeast.  The two lines were approaching at an angle so that the leading ships of the vans of both lines were within range of each other, while the ships at the rear were too far apart to engage. The French had a firing advantage, since the wind conditions meant they could open their lower gun ports, while the British had to leave theirs closed to avoid water washing onto the lower decks. The French fleet, which was in a better state of repair than the British fleet, outnumbered the British in the number of ships and total guns, and had heavier guns capable of throwing more weight.  In the British fleet, Ajax and Terrible, two ships of the West Indies squadron that were among the most heavily engaged, were in quite poor condition.  Graves at this point did not press the potential advantage of the separated French van; as the French centre and rear closed the distance with the British line, they also closed the distance with their own van. One British observer wrote, “To the astonishment of the whole fleet, the French center were permitted without molestation to bear down to support their van.  The need for the two lines to actually reach parallel lines so they might fully engage led Graves to give conflicting signals that were interpreted critically differently by Admiral Hood, directing the rear squadron, than Graves intended. None of the options for closing the angle between the lines presented a favorable option to the British commander: any maneuver to bring ships closer would limit their firing ability to their bow guns, and potentially expose their decks to raking or enfilading fire from the enemy ships. Graves hoisted two signals: one for “line ahead”, under which the ships would slowly close the gap and then straighten the line when parallel to the enemy, and one for “close action”, which normally indicated that ships should turn to directly approach the enemy line, turning when the appropriate distance was reached. This combination of signals resulted in the piecemeal arrival of his ships into the range of battle.  Admiral Hood interpreted the instruction to maintain line of battle to take precedence over the signal for close action, and as a consequence his squadron did not close rapidly and never became significantly engaged in the action.  It was about 4:00 pm, over 6 hours since the two fleets had first sighted each other, when the British—who had the weather gage, and therefore the initiative—opened their attack.  The battle began with HMS Intrepid opening fire against the Marseillais, its counterpart near the head of the line. The action very quickly became general, with the van and center of each line fully engaged.  The French, in a practice they were known for, tended to aim at British masts and rigging, with the intent of crippling their opponent’s mobility. The effects of this tactic were apparent in the engagement: Shrewsbury and HMS Intrepid, at the head of the British line, became virtually impossible to manage, and eventually fell out of the line.  The rest of Admiral Drake’s squadron also suffered heavy damage, but the casualties were not as severe as those taken on the first two ships. The angle of approach of the British line also played a role in the damage they sustained; ships in their van were exposed to raking fire when only their bow guns could be brought to bear on the French.  The French van also took a beating, although it was less severe. Captain de Boades of the Réfléchi was killed in the opening broadside of Admiral Drake’s Princessa, and the four ships of the French van were, according to a French observer, “engaged with seven or eight vessels at close quarters.”  The Diadème, according to a French officer “was utterly unable to keep up the battle, having only four thirty-six-pounders and nine eighteen-pounders fit for use” and was badly shot up; she was rescued by the timely intervention of the Saint-Esprit.  The Princessa and Bougainville’s Auguste at one point were close enough that the French admiral considered a boarding action; Drake managed to pull away, but this gave Bougainville the chance to target the Terrible. Her foremast, already in bad shape before the battle, was struck by several French cannonballs, and her pumps, already overtaxed in an attempt to keep her afloat, were badly damaged by shots “between wind and water.”  Around 5:00 pm the wind began to shift, to British disadvantage. De Grasse gave signals for the van to move further ahead so that more of the French fleet might engage, but Bougainville, fully engaged with the British van at musket range, did not want to risk “severe handling had the French presented the stern.”  When he did finally begin pulling away, British leaders interpreted it as a retreat: “the French van suffered most, because it was obliged to bear away.”  Rather than follow, the British hung back, continuing to fire at long range; this prompted one French officer to write that the British “only engaged from far off and simply in order to be able to say that they had fought.”  Sunset brought an end to the firefight, with both fleets continuing on a roughly southeast tack, away from the bay.  The center of both lines had engaged, but the level of damage and casualties suffered was noticeably less. Ships in the rear squadrons were almost entirely uninvolved; Admiral Hood reported that three of his ships fired a few shots.  The ongoing conflicting signals left by Graves, and discrepancies between his and Hood’s records of what signals had been given and when, led to immediate recriminations, written debate, and an eventual formal inquiry.  That evening Graves did a damage assessment. He noted that “the French had not the appearance of near so much damage as we had sustained”, and that five of his fleet were either leaking or virtually crippled in their mobility.  De Grasse wrote that “we perceived by the sailing of the English that they had suffered greatly.”  Nonetheless, Graves maintained a windward position through the night, so that he would have the choice of battle in the morning.  Ongoing repairs made it clear to Graves that he would be unable to attack the next day. On the night of 6 September he held council with Hood and Drake. During this meeting Hood and Graves supposedly exchanged words concerning the conflicting signals, and Hood proposed turning the fleet around to make for the Chesapeake. Graves rejected the plan, and the fleets continued to drift eastward, away from Cornwallis and the Chesapeake.  On 8 and 9 September the French fleet at times gained the advantage of the wind, and briefly threatened the British with renewed action.  French scouts spied Barras’ fleet on 9 September, and de Grasse turned his fleet back toward Chesapeake Bay that night. Arriving on 12 September, he found that Barras had arrived two days earlier.  Graves ordered the Terrible to be scuttled on 11 September due to her leaky condition, and was notified on 13 September that the French fleet was back in the Chesapeake; he still did not learn that de Grasse’s line had not included the fleet of Barras, because the frigate captain making the report had not counted the ships.  In a council held that day, the British admirals decided against attacking the French, due to “the truly lamentable state we have brought ourself.”  Graves then turned his battered fleet toward New York, arriving off Sandy Hook on 20 September.  United States Navy historian Frank Chadwick believed that de Grasse could have thwarted the British fleet simply by staying put; his fleet’s size would have been sufficient to impede any attempt by Graves to force a passage through his position. Historian Harold Larrabee points out that this would have exposed Clinton in New York to blockade by the French if Graves had successfully entered the bay; if Graves did not do so, Barras (carrying the siege equipment) would have been outnumbered by Graves if de Grasse did not sail out in support.



Viktor Belenko Defects In MiG-25

On September 6, 1976 when Lieutenant Viktor Belenko of the Soviet Air Defense Forces flew his Mikoyan-Gurevich MiG-25P “Foxbat” aircraft from near Vladivostok in the Far East of the Soviet Union to Hakodate Airport in Hokkaido Prefecture of Japan.  On September 6, 1976 Belenko and several other pilots from his squadron of the Soviet Air Defense Force took off from Chuguyevka Air Base around 300km from Vladivostok on a training flight. Belenko followed the flight plan at first climbing before descending rapidly and heading out to sea.  Belenko’s map of Hokkaido had only shown Chitose Air Base, and he had planned to land there. He had expected to be intercepted and escorted by military aircraft to a military base, either Chitose or another one. However, the weather was very cloudy and the Japanese ground radar was not able to adequately track Belenko’s aircraft. The Japanese F-4s were new aircraft, only having entered JASDF service in 1974. However, they had poor “look down shoot down” radar and were unable to locate the aircraft either.  With fuel running low and needing to land quickly, he finally located Hakodate Airport in southern Hokkaido.  Belenko circled Hakodate three times and landed at the airport with around 30 seconds of fuel remaining. On landing he almost hit a Boeing 727 airliner that was taking off. Hakodate Airport was too short for his aircraft, so despite deploying the plane’s parachute the front landing gear’s tyre burst and the aircraft ran off 240 meters off the end of the runway. It finally stopped just before the ILS antenna.  Belenko was arrested by Hokkaido police for violating Japanese airspace and firearms offences. When interviewed by the police, he requested political asylum in the US.  The Soviet Union requested an interview with Belenko and for him to be returned to their custody. On September 7th Belenko was moved to Tokyo and on the 8th the US announced that it had granted him political asylum.  On September 9th a representative from the Soviet embassy met with Belenko and tried to convince him to return to the USSR, but was unsuccessful. After that Belenko left Japan on a Northwest Orient Airlines flight for the US.  On September 9th the Ministry of Justice gave jurisdiction over the MiG to the Defense Agency.  The Soviet Union insisted that Belenko had lost his way and later that he had been drugged by the Japanese. Japanese fishing vessels were seized and their crews imprisoned in what was thought to be retaliation for Japan not returning Belenko and not sending the MiG back promptly.  I got to know Viktor personally over the years after a couple of his debrief visits to US military units.  After his release from “protective custody,” I invited him to tell his story to pilots at NAWCWPNS Pt Mugu.  He stayed at my house and we grilled steaks and drank some beers with other Navy pilots.  Viktor was a smart individual and a quick learner.  Through some other contacts I have I know he was granted unprecedented access to US technology and also was involved in interviewing nearly every Soviet and pilot defector of that era.  Interestingly, the two Soviet KGB agents who met with him and tried to convince him to return to the Soviet Union, both later defected themselves.  And he claimed he contributed to the senior KGB officer in Soviet Embassy in Washington DC defection in 1992.  He’s a ‘colorful’ individual who hated the life of citizens under the Soviet state, but he did betray the trust reposed in him and was a traitor to his country.



F-22 Takes Flight

On September 7, 1997, the Lockheed Martin F-22 Raptor took off from Dobbins Air Reserve Base in Marietta, Georgia.  Lockheed Martin Aeronautics Company Chief Test Pilot Alfred P. (“Paul”) Metz made the first flight of F-22A Block 1 Engineering and Manufacturing Development Prototype, c/n 4001, call sign, “Raptor 01.” The F-22 is a fifth-generation, single-seat, twin-engine, all-weather stealth tactical fighter aircraft developed for the United States Air Force (USAF). The result of the USAF’s Advanced Tactical Fighter program, the aircraft was designed primarily as an air superiority fighter, but also has ground attackelectronic warfare, and signal intelligence capabilities.  The F-22 Raptor is a fifth-generation fighter that is considered fourth generation in stealth aircraft technology by the USAF.  It is the first operational aircraft to combine supercruisesupermaneuverability, stealth, and sensor fusion in a single weapons platform.  The Raptor has clipped delta wings with a reverse sweep on the rear, four empennage surfaces, and a retractable tricycle landing gear. Flight control surfaces include leading-edge flapsflaperonsaileronsrudders on the canted vertical stabilizers, and all-moving horizontal tails; these surfaces also serve as speed brakes.   The use of internal weapons bays permits the aircraft to maintain comparatively higher performance over most other combat-configured fighters due to a lack of aerodynamic drag from external stores. The F-22’s structure contains a significant amount of high-strength materials to withstand stress and heat of sustained supersonic flight. Respectively, titanium alloys and composites comprise 39% and 24% of the aircraft’s structural weight. Key avionics include BAE Systems EI&S AN/ALR-94 radar warning receiver (RWR), Lockheed Martin AN/AAR-56 infrared and ultraviolet Missile Launch Detector (MLD) and Northrop Grumman AN/APG-77 active electronically scanned array (AESA) radar. The MLD features six sensors to provide full spherical infrared coverage.  The RWR is a passive radar detector with more than 30 antennas blended into the wings and fuselage for all-round coverage. The prime contractor, Lockheed Martin, built most of the F-22’s airframe and weapons systems and did its final assembly, while Boeing provided the wings, aft fuselage, avionics integration, and training systems.  The high cost of the aircraft, a lack of clear air-to-air missions due to delays in Russian and Chinese fighter programs, a ban on exports, and development of the more versatile F-35 led to the end of F-22 production.  A final procurement tally of 187 operational production aircraft was established in 2009, and the last F-22 was delivered to the USAF in 2012.

A 90th Fighter Squadron F-22A Raptor escorts a Russian TU-95 Bear flying near the Alaskan NORAD Region airspace Nov. 22, 2007. This marked the first time a Raptor was called upon to support the ANR mission. (U.S. Air Force photo)

The Raptor has had several issues with its OBOGS (Onboard Oxygen Generating System) and pilots have experienced a decreased mental status, including losing consciousness. There were reports of instances of pilots found to have a decreased level of alertness or memory loss after landing.  F-22 pilots have experienced lingering respiratory problems and a chronic cough; other symptoms include irritability, emotional lability and neurological changes.  A number of possible causes were investigated, including possible exposure to noxious chemical agents from the respiratory tubing, pressure suit malfunction, side effects from oxygen delivery at greater-than-atmospheric concentrations, and oxygen supply disruptions. Other problems include minor mechanical problems and navigational software failures.  The fleet was grounded for four months in 2011 before resuming flight, but reports of oxygen issues persisted. I never got to fly the aircraft, but did a fair amount of work of some of systems upgrades.  When it’s working well, it is very, very, very capable.



Blitz Of London Begins

On September 7, 1940, the Blitz of London began with the German Luftwaffe attacking the city with 348 bombers escorted by 617 fighters. After dark, a second wave of 247 bombers attacked using the fires from the earlier attack to guide them. Roughly 1000 Londoners were killed that first night and London was bombed.  The Germans conducted a mass air offensive against industrial targets, towns and cities, which began with raids on London towards the end of the Battle of Britain in 1940, a battle for air superiority between the Luftwaffe and the Royal Air Force over the United Kingdom. By September 1940 the Luftwaffe had failed to gain air superiority and the German air fleets (Luftflotten) were ordered to attack London, to draw RAF Fighter Command into a battle of annihilation.   Adolf Hitler and Reichsmarschall Hermann Göring, commander-in-chief of the Luftwaffe, ordered the new policy on 6 September 1940. From 7 September 1940, London was systematically bombed by the Luftwaffe for 56 out of the following 57 days and nights.  Most notable was a large daylight attack against London on 15 September.  The Luftwaffe gradually decreased daylight operations in favor of night attacks to evade attack by the RAF, and the Blitz became a night bombing campaign after October 1940. The Luftwaffe attacked the main Atlantic sea port of Liverpool in the Liverpool Blitz and the North Sea port of Hull, a convenient and easily found target or secondary target for bombers unable to locate their primary targets, suffered the Hull BlitzBristolCardiffPortsmouthPlymouthSouthampton and Swansea were also bombed, as were the industrial cities of BirminghamBelfastCoventryGlasgowManchester and Sheffield. More than 40,000 civilians were killed by Luftwaffe bombing during the war, almost half of them in the capital, where more than a million houses were destroyed or damaged.  In early July 1940 the German High Command began planning Operation Barbarossa, the invasion of the Soviet Union.  Bombing failed to demoralize the British into surrender or do much damage to the war economy; eight months of bombing never seriously hampered British war production which continued to increase.  The greatest effect was to force the British to disperse the production of aircraft and spare parts.  British wartime studies concluded that cities generally took 10 to 15 days to recover when hit severely but exceptions like Birmingham took three months.  The German air offensive failed because the Luftwaffe High Command (Oberkommando der LuftwaffeOKL) did not develop a methodical strategy for destroying British war industry. Poor intelligence on British industry and its economic efficiency, led to OKL concentrating on tactics rather than strategy. The bombing effort was diluted by attacks against several sets of industries instead of constant pressure on the most vital.  Between 20 June 1940, when the first German air operations began over Britain, and 31 March 1941, OKL recorded the loss of 2,265 aircraft over the British Isles, a quarter of them fighters and one third bombers. At least 3,363 Luftwaffe aircrew were killed, 2,641 missing and 2,117 wounded.  Total losses could have been as high as 600 bombers, just 1.5 percent of the sorties flown. A significant number of the aircraft not shot down after the resort to night bombing were wrecked during landings or crashed in bad weather.