Friday, February 8, 2019


Speaking of capital ships:  Great video below of the Navy testing out their new catapult on the USS Gerald Ford.  This is the EMALS (Electromagnetic Aircraft Launch System) they are launching trucks with.   I think this is an older video just recently published, since an actual aircraft launch was done from the Ford in July 2017.

Built by General Atomics of Predator fame.  Per Wikipedia EMALS accelerates aircraft smoothly, putting less stress on airframes than steam catapults.  The "EMALS also weighs less, is expected to cost less and require less maintenance, and can launch both heavier and lighter aircraft than a steam piston-driven system. It also reduces the carrier's requirement of fresh water, thus reducing the demand for energy-intensive desalination."  But there have been major reliability issues with EMALS.  That despite the Wiki hype, which maybe was taken from a General Atomics brochure?   ComNavOps' blog "NavyMatters" back a year ago debunked several of those claims.  And Commander-in-Chief Bonespurs thinks we should go back to steam power.

The Ford has just come back from her shakedown cruise.  Perhaps we'll soon know whether it worked satisfactorily?

If so I would hope it is also quieter and generates less heat than steam catapults.  I spent many months of an extended cruise bunking in quarters directly below the steam catapult of the USS Coral Sea back in 79.  I was constantly deafened plus steamed, poached, and parboiled when trying to sack out during flight operations.  And with the extra speed from an EMALS launch I assume you would get fewer aircraft going in the drink because of not getting enough speed off the deck and no lift.  If of course they address all the previous reliability issues.  And perhaps with this system you don't need to be sailing at 30 knots into the wind in order to launch?

So I wish the Navy and General Atomics well in working out the bugs.  Not just because of the high heat and noise I was treated to, but also because of the high failure rate of steam catapults.  They are multi-technology systems requiring hydraulics and electric as well as steam.  And they are hard to maintain also.  Nimitz Class carriers have four steam catapults just to ensure one is always working: quadruple backup.


  1. Ah yes, life on a carrier is not...quiet. I remember my last cruise my squadron intel officer's stateroom was at the bow of the ship right under where catapult #2 ended. #2 was the most-utilized catapult.

    There's something to be said for technology that works. Steam catapults have proven to be reliable but I can understand the disadvantages and therefore the desire for something new. However, emag catapults will have their own set of downsides. The most important consideration is reliability, especially in combat conditions.

    1. Not so reliable as I recall. But then I was on the Coral Sea, an old ship. The hull was laid down in 1944.

      And somewhere on the web (can't find it now) I read that Nimitz class was having reliability problems with their cats also. And it took forever to fix them.

  2. Some of the bugs won't be solved. The electrical system has a layout that requires to shut down all catapults if one is to be repaired.

    1. I'm betting they will get an upgraded workaround for that.

      But my experience was that even with steam cats you did not repair them during flight ops for safety reasons.

  3. BTW, a simple system using normal electric motors pulling a cable combined with a jump ski might have been the simplest, best solution - it would even have allowed for very rapid rate of take-offs of fighters for emergency intercept missions (assuming fighters on deck are fuelled and loaded with basic A2A munitions).

    Germany used a system ("Landflugzeugschlueder") with a normal piston engine on land in 1942. It was replaced with RATO, but it was able of astonishing acceleration for 15 ton bombers.

    And then there's this
    which the USAF and USN/USMC apparently have forgotten about.

  4. I remember SATS. Cut someone in half once with a loose flying cable.

    Time to reset for the next launch was a restraint I recall. And the take-off weight of those those A-4 Skyhawks in that video were only half as much as an F/A-18. For the F-8 Crusader shown starting at 42 seconds, the max take-off weight was maybe 65% of the F/A-18. But that F-8 looked slick carrying no weapons so subtract another two and a half tons so make that 55%.

    1. USAF and USN never used it to my knowledge. The Air Force likes those 4,000 meter runways at a minimum for their fighters, and all blacktop.

    2. The A-4 was more lightweight, but it also had a poor thrust:weight ratio.
      Short take-off is generally easier with modern aircraft than in the 60's.
      Some of the modern fighters could take off vertically for intercept missions if there was some erector that moved them from 0° to 90°.

  5. Troops on the ground loved the A4. It could get down in the dirt. It was better than the A10 for CAS. Who needs T/W ratio other than silk scarf fighter jockeys or astronaughts?

    "Short take-off is generally easier with modern aircraft than in the 60's."
    Explanation please!

    1. Short take-off is about three things:
      (1) thrust (high trust/weight means high acceleration),
      (2) low weight (a relatively clean intercept configuration with AAMs only) and
      (3) high lift wings that allow take-off at low speed (modern combat aircraft can fly with high angle of attack, which creates huge lift and can be sustained with high thrust/weight only).

      A Typhoon with basic AAM armament (4 AMRAAM, 2 Sidewinder equivalents) can take off in 500 m, and that appears to be a very careful textbook figure:
      In other words; 500 m is the required runway length, take-off to 15 m altitude actually happens at a shorter distance, less than 300 m (F-16C can do 330 m).

      1960's aircraft had worse thrust/weight ratio and no high AOA capability.

  6. OT, sort of, but some pretty ugly looks into overtasking in the 7th Fleet and the inevitable results:

    and here:

  7. I still have a headshaking sort of reaction to the entire notion of a USS Jerry Ford. Jerry Ford? Seriously? I mean...why not a Franklin Pierce or Warren Harding while we're at it. ITSM that there are enough "famous battles and ships" names to knock off this name-them-after-semi-famous-people kick we seem to be on.

  8. I recall the Fitzgerald incident. At the time there was a lot of speculation about AIS spoofing. And speaking of AIS, I don't understand why the Fitz or any other warship could not broadcast a bogus AIS when in heavy shipping lanes in peacetime. Yeah, I get the OPSEC argument. But surely some smart guys at the Office of Naval Research and Naval Operations Security Support Team could work together to rig up a system that provides BOTH safety AND security.

    Why was the skipper sleeping in his quarters? Why not nap in the Captain's chair on the bridge like most did during WW2?

    No starboard lookout on watch. WTF!

    Radar? Both ops and maintenance were a mess. But that appears to have been whitewashed.

  9. For the naming of CVN-78, blame John Warner if you must.

    But at least it was named after someone who served in the Navy. Jerry had been on a Baby Carrier, the USS Monterey, in WW2. Unlike the Ike, the Carl Vinson, the Theodore Roosevelt, the Stennis, the Lincoln, the Washington, the Truman, and the Ronnie Raygun.

    Ford saw action in the Pacific. And I note that his ship, the Monterey, rolled 25 degrees during Halsey's Typhoon. Much more than what the Fitz rolled at that collision. I thought those destroyers could take 49 or 45 degree rolls?

  10. If you go to the second link, it’s worse. Seems like multiple individuals were warning that the ops tempo was too high, crew levels too low, and training too sketchy to deal w equipment and maintenance issues that were not being addressed. These accidents were a question of when, not if. What a mess.

  11. Admiral Davidson, commander of U.S. Indo-Pacific Command, needs his head straightened instead of arguing with members of the Senate Armed Services Committee. Video from yesterday of Davidson, getting into an exchange over ship collisions with Maine Senator Angus King.

    And the Admiral is an SWO. You would think he would be more simpatico. Try to solve the problem instead of whitewashing it. His argument of but-what-about-the-ships-that-didnt-collide? was best answered by Hope Hodge Seck of who said: "I would like to take this moment to point out the eight family members I haven't murdered."

    Or by Pentagon reporter Jeff Schogel who tweeted: "This reminds me of 2005 and 2006 when then Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld was scolding the media for not reporting on all the cars in Iraq that didn't explode on a particular day."

  12. Agreed...but with a certain amount of understanding that these CINCs don’t get a say in things like manning and optempo. They’re being asked to make way too many bricks with way too little straw.

    But to try that sort of whataboutism is ridiculous. You’d think this joker would be happy to scream for help instead of trying to pop smoke.

  13. Wait, the regional commanders get to request forces for their regional mission. They can tell the navy to rather deploy 5 properly manned and trained ships than 7 with some of the latter inadequately trained and manned.

    1. I'm not sure it works that way even for the CINCs. I think they can ASK for the smaller number of warships with full crews.

      But I'm not sure they can keep them. Personnel assignments in the Army are centralized, so I suspect the Navy is similar. Sailors who DEROS, or who ETS, may not be replaced, so those fully-manned warships may be leaking sailors over time.

      I'm not trying to let the CINCs off the hook; if they have too many missions for their capability it's their job to make a fuss about it - especially in the bogus "war on terror" setting. There's NO existential threat here; it's not like refusing to deploy one or two DDGs is going to let the Islamic State Marine Corps storm ashore on Redondo Beach.

      But it's really We the People who should be making a fuss about this, too. We've let these idiotic cabinet wars go on WAY too long.

    2. The theaters to request forces they think they need for their missions, they often don't get what they request. I spent most of my time in a high-demand, low-density specialty (CSAR) and saw the COCOM's fight it out over our assets.

      Not sure how relevant that is in this case. These ships did not have the proper manning, had poor leadership and lacked sufficiently trained personnel.

  14. Both the Fitz and the McCain are Arleigh Burke Class Destroyers. I've seen complaints by some Navy Officers that one of the issues with the Burkes is its multimission character. They have been tagged to do ballistic missile defense, AAW, ASW, ASuW (anti-surface), shore fire support, VBSS, and in some cases even mine countermeasures. How do you train for all those missions, on top of all the other HR type training passed down from on high, etc?

    As Andy said in a previous blog: "If the Navy is having systemic issues with ship-handling 101, you have to wonder what other skills have atrophied."

    1. The problem is that navies (almost all of them) are semi-pro in quality.
      They think of going to see not as a calling and life of sailors, but as a period.

      I blogged on how we should get a 'sailor for life' model, with navy sailors beign part of a crew for 20, 30 years. Similar to how some coastguards, water police departments and such work.
      The small ships and boats (such as minehunters) could be the personnel test ships, where they weed out those not fit for a life as a shipboard navy sailor.
      Only subs should use the common model becuase of the extra burdens on the crew.

  15. Sven -

    That is how it was done in many navies in earlier centuries. Back to the future! You might have to restructure the compensation system.

  16. Here's a telling line from the second article:

    “I personally made the assumption, and I have made the assumption for many, many years that our forward-deployed Naval force in Japan was the most proficient, well-trained, most experienced force we had, because they're operating all the time,” said Moran, who is reportedly next in line to become the Navy’s top commander.

    “I've made the assumption. It was a wrong assumption, in hindsight.”

    I've noticed that continuous operations actually degrade proficiency. Continuous operations lead to shortcuts and tend to narrow the skills that are used (leading to skill fade elsewhere. Operations without actual fights also lead to an increased willingness to believe one's own propaganda (we're the best!), while training exercises can have humbling moments that hammer home lessons in a safe environment.*

    But hey - maybe the USN (and other western navies) will be lucky and only ever face d-grade threats. Because when the threat is d-grade, you can get away with only being c-grade.

    * - even if no western military has ever actually lost an exercise!

    1. I don't recall where I read this, but the U.S. Army did a study of infantry performance in WW2, and the determination was, unsurprisingly, that combat performance is a parabola.

      For the first X number of days and weeks (it was up to about two weeks, IIRC) most individuals are fairly useless; they either don't recognize the risk/reward aspects of their combat actions, or over- or under-estimate them. Obviously, a lot of them get killed or wounded in this time, so their progress stops.

      From that point to another XX point - a couple of months or so of fairly continuous combat - the survivors are working at as close to peak efficiency as they'll get. They know enough to know when to take a chance and when to sit tight, etc. They've figured out how to work together in groups.

      But...after that, the cumulative effects of stress, fear, just trying to stay alive, degrades both the individuals and units. After something like 90 days about half of them are essentially ineffective. After something like six months pretty much everyone who's still alive is toast.

      I suspect that these sorts of extended deployments work the same way at a slower and less dramatic rate. A LOT of military service, even in wartime, is a really, REALLY boring slog. You just get tired of every day being mind-numbingly identical Groundhog Day, and that's the ticket to sloppiness and short-cutting.

      What sort of baffled me about the second article was the small note about how the forward-deployed warships were typically undermanned, but that CONUS-based ships were at 100% of their authorized strength. Seems perfectly backwards. I wonder what the priority was for the Navy Department to want to have it so ass-backwards?

    2. Military history also shows that long-time veterans are of little use in the offence, but very sturdy defenders. It's been obvious in many cases, good examples are Napoleon's Old Guard at Waterloo and Montgomery's desert veterans in Tunisia.

      About the 100% authorised strength thing; that may be about people trying to avoid or get out of deployments, including pregnancies.

    3. I'm sure that there's a crap-ton of people hiding from deployments. They suck, especially repeated one. But that's supposed to be BuPers' job; hunting down these slackers and getting them out so the hardworking schmoes can get back for some down time.

      And, sure, it's less scary to defend than attack. But my guess is that even defending will be too much for some people at some point.

      IIRC it was Tony Herbert in his book Soldier who likened the ability to perform under combat stress as a well. Some people have a deep well of resilience and can go back again and again. Some people don't. Most are somewhere in between.

      But pretty much everybody's well has a bottom, and when you get there, you're done. Attack,'re just used up. Until then you can "refill" the well with breaks from the stress and fear. But when the well is dry? It's dry, and you need to find a simple little low-stress job for that person to do. He or she can still help, but fight? No. That's a done deal.