With close military encounters on opposite sides of the world, Russia is sending a message to the West

The British Royal Navy destroyer HMS Defender arrives in the Black Sea port of Batumi on June 26, 2021.
British destroyer HMS Defender in the Black Sea port of Batumi, June 26, 2021.

  • Russia’s military had close encounters with its US and European rivals in the Black Sea and the Pacific Ocean in June.
  • The incidents and exercises were messages about Russia’s military capabilities, experts told Insider.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Close encounters between Russia’s military and US and European forces in June were signals from Moscow to its rivals about its capabilities and how it was willing to use them, experts said this month.

On June 23, Russian combat aircraft flew over the British destroyer HMS Defender as it conducted an “innocent passage” near Crimea.

Russia claimed it fired warning shots and dropped bombs near the warship, which the UK denied, though the British defense minister said Russian jets performed maneuvers that were “neither safe nor professional.”

In the same area a day later, Russian jets repeatedly flew close to Dutch frigate HNLMS Eversten while conducting mock attacks, creating what the Dutch Defense Ministry called “a dangerous situation.”

Eversten’s commander said it was in international waters and that the Russian actions were “irresponsible and unsafe.”

Those incidents have “a larger message,” said Matthew Rojansky, director of the Wilson Center’s Kennan Institute.

A Russian fighter jet flying past the HNLMS Eversten in the Black Sea
A Russian fighter jet flying past the Dutch frigate HNLMS Eversten in the Black Sea, June 24, 2021.

“Moscow is increasingly willing and able to enforce what it sees as territorial and operational red lines, and Crimea and the Black Sea are a major focus of attention,” Rojansky told Insider.

Tensions remain high after Russia’s 2014 seizure of Crimea from Ukraine, and Moscow has sought to “set the precedent” that it controls its territorial claims there, Rojansky said, citing the 2018 Kerch Strait incident.

“All this traces back to Putin’s words in March 2014, when he justified the Russian seizure of Crimea as being about keeping NATO out,” Rojansky added.

Russia’s military drilled around Crimea throughout the end of June and early July, focusing on attacking the ships of “a notional enemy.” The US- and Ukrainian-led exercise Sea Breeze also kicked off in late June and was the largest iteration in its 21-year history, with 32 countries participating.

Moscow described Sea Breeze as “openly anti-Russian,” but US and NATO officials stressed that it was defensive in nature and done in accordance with international law.

“It’s one of the most robust Sea Breeze exercises we’ve conducted to date, and we’re proud of that,” chief Pentagon spokesman John Kirby said July 6.

F-35 fighter jet over HMS Queen Elizabeth aircraft carrier
Aircraft from HMS Queen Elizabeth during an exercise in the Eastern Mediterranean Sea, June 2021.

The Black Sea incidents also overlapped with Russian and British-led exercises in the Eastern Mediterranean Sea.

British aircraft carrier HMS Queen Elizabeth, sailing with US F-35B fighter jets aboard, conducted exercises and combat operations against ISIS during the final days of June.

US and British jets found themselves in a “cat-and-mouse” game with Russia, which angled to keep an eye on them as Russian warships and aircraft conducted reconnaissance and air-defense drills.

Their proximity was not a coincidence, according to Michael Kofman, research program director in the Russia Studies Program at CNA.

Russia has deployed more forces to its improved military facilities in Syria, while the UK is putting HMS Queen Elizabeth, its newest carrier, through real-world testing during its maiden deployment.

“A force-on-force interaction that’s not planned is probably one the best ways to generate these kind of lessons and experience for the Royal Navy,” Kofman said on a recent podcast, adding that Russia used “the British deployment as an opportunity to essentially … train strike missions against NATO ships.”

‘Ready and present’

The Russian navy Varyag missile cruiser ensuring air defence in the Mediterranean Sea.
Russian guided-missile cruiser Varyag.

Mid-June also saw a major Russian exercise in the central Pacific Ocean, with warships and aircraft conducting what Russian officials called their largest exercise there since the Cold War.

Much of their activity was several hundred miles from Hawaii, but US officials said some Russian ships came within 30 nautical miles of the islands.

Russian long-range-bomber operations during the exercise twice prompted US F-22 fighters to scramble for potential intercepts, though US officials said Russian aircraft never came close to Hawaii. (US and Russian aircraft regularly intercept each other over the Pacific.)

The exercise was “unprecedented” in its size and its distance from Russia, according to Carl Shuster, a retired US Navy captain who was director of operations at US Pacific Command’s Joint Intelligence Center in the 1990s.

“The Soviet Navy never conducted exercises this close to the Hawaiian Islands,” Shuster told Insider.

“The Russian political statement was ‘we’ve returned as a Pacific maritime power and can reach your territory just as you are reaching ours in the Black Sea,'” Shuster added. “The target audience of course was the Russian people and the American leadership.”

US Navy cruiser USS Chosin and Russian Navy destroyer Marshal Shaposhnikov
Russian destroyer Marshal Shaposhnikov, foreground, with US guided-missile cruiser USS Chosin in the Yellow Sea, March 31, 2006.

The Pacific exercise – which took place around the Biden-Putin summit in Switzerland – was also a demonstration of military capability, featuring what Moscow called “the tasks of detecting, countering and delivering missile strikes against an aircraft carrier strike group.”

The ships involved included guided-missile cruiser Varyag, Russia’s Pacific Fleet flagship, and destroyer Marshal Shaposhnikov, which carries Kalibr missiles, a weapon that worries US commanders and “presented the potential military threat that gave the message credibility,” Shuster said.

US military forces “remain ready and present in the Indo-Pacific,” Lt. Col. Martin Meiners, a Pentagon spokesman, told Insider, calling it the US’s “priority theater.”

The Russian warships that conducted the Pacific exercise returned to port earlier this month, but encounters between Russian and NATO forces in the Black Sea and the Pacific have continued. Russian officials continue to call the HMS Defender incident a “provocation” and warn about future run-ins.

“Russia will continue to foil such actions using the harshest methods, regardless of the nationality of the violator,” Mikhail Popov, deputy secretary of Russia’s Security Council, said this week.

Read the original article on Business Insider

How a cheap Swedish submarine ‘ran rings’ around a US aircraft carrier and its sub-hunting escorts

USS Ronald Reagan
USS Ronald Reagan.

  • In 2005, the US Navy’s new aircraft carrier, USS Ronald Reagan, sank after being hit by torpedoes.
  • This didn’t happen in combat but during a war game pitting a carrier task force, and its anti-submarine escorts, against a Swedish sub.
  • That sub, HSMS Gotland, pulled off that feat despite being a relatively cheap diesel-powered boat.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

In 2005, USS Ronald Reagan, a newly constructed $6.2 billion aircraft carrier, sank after being hit by multiple torpedoes.

Fortunately, this did not occur in actual combat, but was simulated as part of a war game pitting a carrier task force including numerous antisubmarine escorts against HSMS Gotland, a small Swedish diesel-powered submarine displacing 1,600 tons. Yet despite making multiple attacks runs on the Reagan, the Gotland was never detected.

This outcome was replicated time and time again over two years of war games, with opposing destroyers and nuclear attack submarines succumbing to the stealthy Swedish sub.

Naval analyst Norman Polmar said the Gotland “ran rings” around the American carrier task force. Another source claimed US antisubmarine specialists were “demoralized” by the experience.

How was the Gotland able to evade the Reagan’s elaborate antisubmarine defenses involving multiple ships and aircraft employing a multitude of sensors? And even more importantly, how was a relatively cheap submarine costing around $100 million – roughly the cost of a single F-35 stealth fighter today – able to accomplish that? After all, the US Navy decommissioned its last diesel submarine in 1990.

Swedish submarine Navy
Sweden’s HMS Gotland with the USS Ronald Reagan in the background.

Diesel submarines in the past were limited by the need to operate noisy, air-consuming engines that meant they could remain underwater for only a few days before needing to surface. Naturally, a submarine is most vulnerable, and can be most easily tracked, when surfaced, even when using a snorkel.

Submarines powered by nuclear reactors, on the other hand, do not require large air supplies to operate, and can run much more quietly for months at a time underwater – and they can swim faster while at it.

However, the 200-foot-long Swedish Gotland-class submarines, introduced in 1996, were the first to employ an Air Independent Propulsion (AIP) system – in this case, the Stirling engine. A Stirling engine charges the submarine’s 75-kilowatt battery using liquid oxygen.

With the Stirling, a Gotland-class submarine can remain undersea for up to two weeks sustaining an average speed of 6 mph – or it can expend its battery power to surge up to 23 mph. A conventional diesel engine is used for operation on the surface or while employing the snorkel.

The Stirling-powered Gotland runs more quietly than even a nuclear-powered sub, which must employ noise-producing coolant pumps in their reactors.

The Gotland class does possess many other features that make it adept at evading detection.

It mounts 27 electromagnets designed to counteract its magnetic signature to Magnetic Anomaly Detectors. Its hull benefits from sonar-resistant coatings, while the tower is made of radar-absorbent materials. Machinery on the interior is coated with rubber acoustic-deadening buffers to minimize detectability by sonar.

The Gotland is also exceedingly maneuverable thanks to the combined six maneuvering surfaces on its X-shaped rudder and sail, allowing it to operate close to the sea floor and pull off tight turns.

Swedish navy submarine HMS Gotland in San Diego
HMS Gotland in San Diego Harbor during Fleet Week San Diego, October 1, 2005.

Because the stealthy boat proved the ultimate challenge to US antisubmarine ships in international exercises, the US Navy leased the Gotland and its crew for two entire years to conduct antisubmarine exercises. The results convinced the US Navy its undersea sensors simply were not up to dealing with the stealthy AIP boats.

However, the Gotland was merely the first of many AIP-powered submarine designs – some with twice the underwater endurance. And Sweden is by no means the only country to be fielding them.

China has two diesel submarine types using Stirling engines. Fifteen of the earlier Type 039A Yuan class have been built in four different variants, with more than 20 more planned or already under construction.

Beijing also has a single Type 032 Qing-class vessel that can remain underwater for 30 days. It believed to be the largest operational diesel submarine in the world, and boasts seven Vertical Launch System cells capable of firing off cruise missiles and ballistic missiles.

Russia debuted with the experimental Lada-class Sankt Peterburg, which uses hydrogen fuel cells for power. It is an evolution of its widely produced Kilo-class submarine. However, sea trials found that the cells provided only half of the expected output, and the type was not approved for production.

However, in 2013 the Russian Navy announced it would produce two heavily redesigned Ladas, the Kronstadt and Velikiye Luki, expected by the end of the decade.

Other producers of AIP diesel submarines include Spain, France, Japan and Germany. These countries have in turn sold them to navies across the world, including to India, Israel, Pakistan and South Korea.

Submarines using AIP systems have evolved into larger, more heavily armed and more expensive types, including the German Dolphin-class and the French Scorpene-class submarines.

Indian Navy Scorpene-class submarine Karanj
The Indian Navy’s third Scorpene-class submarine, Karanj, at its launch in Mumbai, January 31, 2018.

The US Navy has no intention to field diesel submarines again, however, preferring to stick to nuclear submarines that cost multiple billions of dollars. It’s tempting to see that as the Pentagon choosing once again a more expensive weapon system over a vastly more cost-efficient alternative. It’s not quite that simple, however.

Diesel submarines are ideal for patrolling close to friendly shores. But US subs off Asia and Europe need to travel thousands of miles just to get there, and then remain deployed for months at a time. A diesel submarine may be able to traverse that distance – but it would then require frequent refueling at sea to complete a long deployment.

Remember the Gotland? It was shipped back to Sweden on a mobile dry dock rather than making the journey on its own power.

Though the new AIP-equipped diesel subs may be able to go weeks without surfacing, that’s still not as good as going months without having to do so. And furthermore, a diesel submarine – with or without AIP – can’t sustain high underwater speeds for very long, unlike a nuclear submarine.

A diesel sub will be most effective when ambushing a hostile fleet whose position has already been “cued” by friendly intelligence assets. However, the slow, sustainable underwater speed of AIP-powered diesel submarines make them less than ideal for stalking prey over vast expanses of water.

These limitations don’t pose a problem to diesel subs operating relatively close to friendly bases, defending littoral waters. But while diesel submarines may be great while operating close to home – the US Navy usually doesn’t.

Navy submarine
US Navy fast-attack submarine USS Asheville and US 7th Fleet flagship USS Blue Ridge in the Philippine Sea.

Still, the fact that one could build or acquire three or four diesel submarines costing $500 to $800 million each for the price of a single nuclear submarine gives them undeniable appeal.

Proponents argue that the United States could forward deploy diesel subs to bases in allied nations, without facing the political constraints posed by nuclear submarines. Furthermore, advanced diesel submarines might serve as a good counter to an adversary’s stealthy sub fleet.

However, the US Navy is more interested in pursuing the development of unmanned drone submarines. Meanwhile, China is working on long-enduring AIP systems using lithium-ion batteries, and France is developing a new large AIP-equipped diesel submarine version of its Barracuda-class nuclear attack submarine.

The advent of cheap, stealthy and long-enduring diesel submarines is yet another factor placing carriers and other expensive surface warships at greater risk when operating close to defended coastlines.

Diesel submarines benefitting from AIP will serve as a deadly and cost-effective means of defending littoral waters, though whether they will can carve out a role for themselves in blue-water naval forces operating far from home is less clear.

S├ębastien Roblin writes on the technical, historical and political aspects of international security and conflict for publications including the The National Interest, NBC News, Forbes.com and War is Boring. He holds a master’s degree from Georgetown University and served with the Peace Corps in China. You can follow his articles on Twitter.

Read the original article on Business Insider

How ‘Top Gun: Maverick’ got cameras inside the cockpit of a F/A-18 fighter jet

Top Gun Maverick
  • Promotion for “Top Gun: Maverick” is starting to pick up as the November 2021 release date approaches.
  • In a recent interview, director Joseph Kosinski described how his crew pushed the technological envelope to create the movie’s in-flight action scenes.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

The long-delayed sequel to “Top Gun” is slated for November 2021, and promotion for “Top Gun: Maverick” is starting to pick up as the release date approaches.

Paramount Pictures partnered with the YouTube show “Could You Survive the Movies?” for an interview with director Joseph Kosinski about how his crew pushed the technological envelope to create the movie’s in-flight action scenes.

The new clip is an addition to the “Could You Survive the Movies?” episode that explores the science behind the original 1986 movie. Series host Jake Roper joined Kosinski for the conversation highlighted in the new clip.

Kosinski reveals that he studied to be an aerospace engineer before getting into the filmmaking game. That makes sense because the director behind sci-fi movies such as “TRON: Legacy” and “Oblivion” always has shown a bent for cutting-edge movie technology.

To help the actors get their performances right, the crew built a replica of an F-18 Super Hornet cockpit on the ground, and Kosinski rehearsed each scene with the actors before they did the actual scene inside a jet screaming across the sky.

Boeing F/A 18 Super Hornet
An F/A-18 Super Hornet.

Since the team was inventing new ways to film airborne action, the process could be incredibly slow.

“Some days, we’d work a 16-hour day and get 40 seconds of footage; 25 cameras running simultaneous,” Kosinski reveals to Roper in the clip.

The big reveal in the interview is that cinematographer Claudio Miranda worked with Sony to develop a new camera system called the Rialto, which is an add-on to Sony’s popular Venice 6k camera. Kosinski says they captured the footage using six Rialtos on each plane, with four cameras facing the actor and two cameras facing forward.

The images featured in the video suggest a kind of hybrid setup, because it looks like at least two Venice units are included in the four-camera array that’s facing the actors. The Venices are definitely too large to be connected to the front-facing cameras.

The Rialto comes with a 9-foot cable that allows it to connect to a Venice unit, so it looks like the filmmakers figured out places to stash the Venice units around the plane.

Even though the photos make the Venice look like a monster piece of gear, the unit weighs only 8.6 pounds and the Rialto extension units weigh 3-4 pounds. To anyone who lugged around digital cameras when they first arrived on the market, this will seem like impossible news. Welcome to the future.

You can play with this tech yourself if you’ve got the cash or qualify for Sony’s interest-free financing. A Venice body retails for $42,000, and a Rialto starts around $12K. Then you need lenses and all the other rigging. You can get started for around $65,000, but $100K would give you a ton of options.

You can watch the entire interview for yourself below.

Read the original article on Business Insider

4 years before the Navy started blasting its new aircraft carrier, this team started planning to protect nearby animals

Navy aircraft carrier Gerald Ford during shock trials
US Navy aircraft carrier USS Gerald R. Ford during shock trials in the Atlantic Ocean, June 18, 2021.

  • The Navy put its new through shock trials, meant to test its response to nearby explosions, in June.
  • More than four years before the first blast, a team of scientists went to work to protect marine wildlife.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

More than four years before the explosive went off beside the aircraft carrier Gerald R. Ford on June 18, a team of scientists began making plans for the ship’s shock trials. Their goal, however, was not battle readiness – they were trying to protect marine wildlife.

The process of planning the Ford’s shock trials began in 2016, according to Tom Douglas, the environmental impact director for the Navy’s shock trials.

“Planning for these are three to five years, if not a little bit longer,” he said. “It takes quite a bit of effort.”

Shock trials have a long history in the Navy, going as far back as World War II when the service discovered that “near miss” explosions still had the potential to incapacitate a ship.

As a result, the Navy conceived the test – which usually involves setting off explosives at various depths and distances from the ship – as a way to assess the impact of the shock and vibrations of a close blast on a ship’s equipment, a scientific report commissioned by the Navy explained.

Navy cruiser Arkansas shock trials explosion
US Navy guided-missile cruiser USS Arkansas during a shock test, March 17, 1982.

However, setting off a large explosion underwater also has the potential to disorient and disrupt the normal patterns of life or kill nearby marine life. As a result, environmental considerations now factor into the Navy’s decision-making.

One of the key aspects of the planning process involves choosing a location and time to conduct the trials. Douglas’ team considered one of four locations available to conduct the test, ultimately settling on a site off the coast of Jacksonville, Florida.

“As far as surveys that have been conducted today, it has the lowest density of marine life, for any of the shock trial areas that we could utilize,” Bridget Watts, an expert working with the shock trial team, said. “We have gone back and looked at the past 50 years of wind and weather data to determine that June and July are the most optimum time of the year,” Douglas added.

The team also works the timing of the trial around the marine life that is in the area.

Douglas said that they have an “exclusion period” based on the migratory patterns of the North Atlantic right whale, one of the world’s most endangered large whales with less than 400 left alive today.

“We definitely want to do no harm,” Douglas said.

The Navy’s overall record on marine life preservation is a bit more mixed. For example, the service has been sued several times over the past two decades by environmental groups over its use of sonar in submarine exercises.

Last year, as part of its regular permit renewal, the Navy asked the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) to increase the number of marine animals it harasses, harms, or kills in tests and training on the Pacific Coast.

Washington Gov. Jay Inslee said the allowed level of “incidental taking” – the regulatory term for anything from disrupted behavior to injury or death of a marine mammal – “unacceptable” in a letter to the regulator.

Navy amphibious ship Mesa Verde explosion during shock trials
US Navy amphibious transport dock USS Mesa Verde during a shock test off the Florida coast, August 16, 2008.

Five conservation directors from the state said in a joint letter to the NMFS that, “The approval of such a high level of incidental take without requiring any additional mitigation measures represents gross neglect.”

The permission was granted on November 9, 2020, though with a requirement to institute shutdowns and delays if marine mammals are sighted within certain distances and to limit sonar use in some areas.

On the day of the trial, the team deployed a group of observers, veterinarians and scientists aboard the carrier to help ensure that marine life is not harmed.

The Navy creates a 3.5 nautical mile area around the ship – a mitigation zone – in which no marine life can be located before the blast goes off.

“We have about 10 or 12 people on the target vessel whose entire job is monitoring the area around the mitigation zone as well as the area near [the] ship,” Douglas said.

Said Douglas: “The blast radius has potential harm to small animals out to one to two kilometers. We monitor three times that distance.”

If the team spots animals or cannot assess the entire mitigation zone effectively, it can halt the trial.

“There are several points … where the CO of the ship and the shock trail officer request a ‘go/no go’ from the chief scientist,” Douglas said.

US Navy aircraft carrier USS Gerald R. Ford undergoing full-ship shock trials
USS Gerald R. Ford during shock trials in the Atlantic Ocean, June 18, 2021

Capt. Jeremy Shamblee, the executive officer of the Norfolk-based Ford, noted that the team delayed the trial twice.

After the blast, the team continues to monitor the area for days, using a boat and aircraft.

“Surveillance is partially geared on just making sure that we’ve covered those areas enough and give them enough time to be able to find someone that either we can help or that we have to deal with or that we recover them [so] we can learn something from it,” Dr. Michael Walsh, one of the veterinarians who assists in the trials, said.

All told, more than 30 people are involved in the environmental aspect of the shock trials on the Ford.

Shamblee said the ship is hoping to wrap up the other two explosions that are planned for the trial by August.

Once the Ford’s trials finish, Douglas said his work will go on.

“We’re always … looking for increased science,” Douglas said. “How can we better look at lessons learned from this? How can we better do the next shock trial?”

– Konstantin Toropin can be reached at konstantin.toropin@military.com. Follow him on Twitter @ktoropin.

Read the original article on Business Insider

The US Navy is shelving its dream of a powerful electromagnetic railgun to develop hypersonic missiles and other weapons

hypersonic projectile railgun
  • The US Navy is putting its dreams of an electromagnetic railgun on hold to pursue other weapons.
  • A Navy spokesperson told the AP that pausing railgun research frees up funds for hypersonic weapons.
  • The Navy has been working on a railgun since 2005, but now the Navy appears to be calling it quits.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

The US Navy has decided to shelve the research and development of an electromagnetic railgun to build other weapons, such as hypersonic missiles and lasers, the Associated Press reported, citing a Navy spokesperson.

The Navy has been working on a railgun, a cannon that uses electricity rather than gunpowder to fire high-speed rounds out to distances beyond current naval guns, since 2005 and has invested over $500 million in the project, but the service’s proposed fiscal year 2022 budget cut all funding for the railgun, The Drive first reported in June.

The Navy move “to pause the [electromagnetic railgun] program is consistent with department-wide reform initiatives to free up resources in support of other Navy priorities, to include improving offensive and defensive capabilities such as directed energy, hypersonic missiles, and electronic warfare systems,” Lt. Courtney Callaghan said in a statement, adding that research would be preserved should the Navy decide to restart the program.

Her comment is in line with the Navy’s latest budget request, which notes that “railgun technology and knowledge attained will be documented and preserved” and “railgun hardware will be realigned to maximize its sustainability to facilitate potential future use.”

Avascent Group defense analyst Matthew Caris told the AP that “the railgun is, for the moment, dead.”

Unlike traditional guns, the railgun propels projectiles forward using an armature between two rails that can be accelerated forward using a magnetic field generated by strong electrical currents pulled from a surface ship’s electrical supply.

A high-velocity projectile leaves the gun at speeds up to seven times the speed of sound. The kinetic energy is theoretically enough to inflict serious damage on a surface ship without the explosives.

Defense companies BAE Systems and General Atomics both built electromagnetic railgun prototypes for the Navy, and the service has conducted live-fire testing during the development process.

As the US worked to develop a railgun, China also expressed interest in this advanced combat technology. In 2018, images appeared online of what appeared to be a Chinese tank landing ship equipped with a railgun. The next year, Chinese state media reported that Chinese warships would “soon” have railguns.

Not much has come out on the project since then, and it is unclear if this is still an area of interest for China.

For the US Navy, there has long been some expectation that if the service developed a working railgun, it would use it to arm its Zumwalt-class destroyers, which have been in need of new weaponry.

Instead, the US Navy intends to arm these warships with hypersonic missiles, specifically the Conventional Prompt Strike weapon currently in development.

Commenting on US Navy investments in the development of railgun technology, former Navy officer and defense expert Bryan Clark previously told Insider that “you are better off spending that money on missiles and vertical launch system cells than you are on a railgun.”

The railgun, even with its range of more than 100 miles, lacks that many missiles. The rounds are more powerful than those of standard deck guns, but they are less powerful than a missile. And the gun has usage limitations, is high maintenance, and would likely put a strain on the ship.

“It’s not useful military technology,” Clark told Insider.

US Navy leadership has said that the service plans to field hypersonic missiles aboard a Zumwalt-class destroyer by 2025, at which point it will move to arm its Virginia-class submarines. The Navy expects each Zumwalt destroyer to carry up to 12 hypersonic missiles.

Hypersonic weapons can fly at speeds of at least Mach 5, but it is their maneuverability, unpredictability, and unusual flight path that makes them particularly dangerous. Existing air- and missile-defense systems are not well suited to countering this type of threat.

Because these weapons are difficult to defeat, hypersonic missiles have become a key area of strategic competition between the US and its rivals China and Russia.

Read the original article on Business Insider

The US captured one of its most important military outposts from an enemy who didn’t even know it was at war

US troops plant US flag on Guam during WWII
US officers plant the American flag on Guam eight minutes after Marines and soldiers landed on the island, July 20, 1944.

  • In June 1898, the US Navy sailed to Guam to capture the island from the Spanish.
  • The Spanish, who didn’t know they were fighting the US, surrendered the island without a fight.
  • Guam is still a US territory, and it now hosts some of the US’s most important military bases.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

In eight months of fighting in 1898, the US secured its status as a global power by defeating Spain in the Spanish-American War.

Fought on two continents, the war had a number of important moments for the US military. It led to the independence of Cuba (with the US as the dominant power there) and to US control of Puerto Rico, the Philippines, and Guam.

While there were battles in both Puerto Rico and the Philippines, Guam was taken without a fight. Indeed, the Spanish on the island had no idea they were even at war.

An important stop

Map of Guam in the Pacific
Guam was an important stopover point between the Americas and the Philippines.

In the 1898, the big prize for Spain and the US in the Pacific was the Philippines. Guam was an important stop between the Americas and the Philippines, but neither Spain nor the US paid much attention to it.

The Americans had already positioned Commodore George Dewey’s Asiatic Squadron off China in anticipation of striking the Spanish fleet at Manila. But after a May 9 meeting of the US Navy War Board, which was formed to develop a strategy for the war, it was decided that Guam should also be taken to support operations in the Philippines.

To seize it, Secretary of the Navy John Long issued sealed orders to Capt. Henry Glass of the USS Charleston, a protected cruiser en route from California to Manila.

In Honolulu, Charleston was joined by three troop transports. As instructed, Glass only read his orders after leaving Hawaii on June 4.

“You are hereby directed to stop at the Spanish Island of Guam,” the orders read. “You will use such force as may be necessary to capture the port of Guam, making prisoners of the Governor and other officials, and any armed force that may be there.”

Glass was also ordered to destroy any Spanish fortifications or naval vessels he encountered.

Complete surprise

Navy cruiser Charleston in harbor at Agana Guam
USS Charleston at the entrance to the harbor of Agana, Guam, June 20-21, 1898.

Though the orders said the operation “should not occupy more than one or two days,” Guam’s defenses were not entirely known, so while en route Charleston’s crew spent days firing on practice targets in the ocean.

Charleston arrived off Guam on the morning of June 20. Encountering only an abandoned fort and no Spanish ships in Agana, the capital city, Glass ordered his ship to sail to Apra Harbor.

To the crew’s disappointment, the only vessel there was a Japanese trading ship. Charleston fired several shots at Fort Santa Cruz to see if it was occupied, but it was also abandoned.

Spanish officials soon sailed out to meet Charleston in two small boats, one of which had a US flag on its topsail.

Upon boarding the Charleston, the Spaniards apologized. They had interpreted Charleston’s gunfire as a salute, and they told the Americans they could not respond in kind because of a lack of gunpowder.

The Capt. Henry Glass monument on Guam
The Capt. Henry Glass monument on Guam.

It turned out the island hadn’t communicated with Manila since April 14 – 11 days before the US declared war on Spain – and no Spanish Navy vessel had visited Guam in 18 months.

Glass told the Spaniards that their countries were at war and that he was taking over the island. He demanded Guam’s governor, Don Juan Marina, surrender the island in person aboard Charleston.

The delegation returned, and Marina requested to speak to Glass on the island instead, as he was not legally allowed to board a foreign warship.

The next day, Glass sent an envoy to demand the Spanish surrender and gave them a half-hour to comply. Twenty-nine minutes later, Marina surrendered.

The island’s garrison, which had fewer than 60 men, was disarmed and taken as prisoners aboard one of the transport ships, as were Marina and other Spanish officials.

The Americans then set sail for Manila, where they assisted Dewey for the rest of the war.

An important base

B-29 over runway at Harmon Field Guam during WWII
A B-29 bomber over the runway at Harmon Field, Guam, April 13, 1945.

After the surrender, Glass personally examined Fort Santa Cruz, where he raised the American flag.

The fort itself “was entirely useless as a defensive work, with no guns and in a partly ruinous condition,” Glass wrote in a report to Long.

Glass described the other forts on the island as having “no value,” and that the only guns that could be found were obsolete cast-iron guns used for saluting “but now condemned as unsafe even for that purpose.”

While the Spanish had neglected Guam, the US turned it into an important base.

The Japanese captured it on December 10, 1941, but the US retook it in a bloody 21-day battle in summer 1944, and used it as a base for B-29 bombing missions for the rest of the war.

Air Force Cope North Guam
An eight-plane formation over Guam during exercise Cope North 21, February 9, 2021.

Guam is now home to roughly 170,000 people, and its importance for the US military has only increased.

It is now the US’s “most critical operating location west of the international dateline,” Adm. Philip Davidson said before retiring as head of US Indo-Pacific Command earlier this year.

The major bases on Guam are Andersen Air Force Base, which often hosts US long-range bombers, and Naval Base Guam, which is home to a submarine squadron and is frequently visited by other warships.

It also hosts some 7,000 US military personnel, with more arriving as the Marine Corps relocates 5,000 Marines from Okinawa as part of a realignment plan. Their new home, Camp Blaz, is the Corps’ first new base in 68 years.

US Navy 7th Fleet USS Blue Ridge Guam
US, Australian, Japanese, and South Korean naval ships in Apra Harbor at US Naval Base Guam, May 22, 2019.

Guam is an unincorporated US territory, meaning people born there are US citizens but have limited political rights while they live there.

The US presence there has often irritated the local population, as when thousands of US sailors were quarantined there after a COVID-19 outbreak aboard the aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt in spring 2020.

The US military presence also makes Guam a target.

North Korea has threatened it specifically in the past, and the island is believed to be a focal point of Chinese plans to neutralize US bases in the region in case of conflict.

China’s DF-26, its first conventionally armed ballistic missile capable of reaching Guam, has been dubbed the “Guam Killer.”

Read the original article on Business Insider

The US Navy practiced blasting an aircraft carrier for the first time in 34 years. Here’s what it’s testing.

Navy aircraft carrier Gerald Ford during shock trials
US Navy aircraft carrier USS Gerald R. Ford during shock trials in the Atlantic Ocean, June 18, 2021.

  • The Navy’s newest aircraft carrier, USS Gerald R. Ford, went through shock trials on June 18.
  • Shock trials are meant to test how a warship’s systems handle the stresses of combat.
  • It’s the first time a US carrier has undergone these tests since the USS Theodore Roosevelt in 1987.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

This month, the US Navy released images and footage of its newest carrier, USS Gerald R. Ford, going through shock trials 100 miles off the Florida coast.

The tests, done with the crew aboard, involved detonating a 40,000-pound explosive off of Ford’s starboard side. The explosion was so strong that it registered 3.9 on the Richter scale – roughly equivalent to a small earthquake.

It was the first of three such trials for the Ford – the next two will feature detonations closer to the ship – and was the first time a US carrier has undergone these tests since the USS Theodore Roosevelt in 1987.

While the US Navy is debating the usefulness of shock trials, the fact that they are being done on the Ford indicates that the Navy is serious about maximizing the ship’s survivability against 21st-century threats.

Old tests for new threats

Navy aircraft carrier Gerald Ford during shock trials
Ford during shock trials on June 18, 2021.

Shock trials are meant to test how well a ship’s systems and components hold up during combat and are not uncommon.

USS Jackson and USS Milwaukee, both littoral combat ships, underwent shock trials in 2016.

The amphibious transport dock USS Mesa Verde and the amphibious assault ship USS Wasp, both of which carry aircraft, went through shock trials in 2008 and 1990, respectively. USS Arkansas, a nuclear-powered guided-missile cruiser, did them in 1982.

What is unusual is the fact that the Navy conducted the shock trials on the first Gerald R. Ford-class carrier in service. The Navy typically conducts shock trials on later vessels of a given class.

Navy amphibious ship Mesa Verde explosion during shock trials
A 10,000-pound charge rocks USS Mesa Verde off the Florida coast, August 16, 2008.

The decision to subject Ford to the trials may be motivated by the Navy’s desire to ensure that the carrier is combat-ready the moment it begins its first deployment, which is expected to be in 2022.

US Navy officials have acknowledged the increasing prevalence of modern anti-ship weaponry, particularly China’s DF-21D “carrier killer” and DF-26 “Guam killer” missiles.

A recent Congressional Research Service report on the Ford-class cited China as an adversary “with highly capable anti-ship missiles” that raised questions about “the prospective survivability” of carriers in a conflict.

The same report also noted that live tests had shown that Ford “has limited self-defense capability” against anti-ship cruise missiles.

New systems and capabilities

Navy aircraft carrier Gerald Ford during shock trials
Ford during shock trials, June 18, 2021.

The Ford also has a number of new systems and capabilities that aren’t on its Nimitz-class predecessors and haven’t faced combat conditions.

A new weapons elevator system, designed with modern munitions in mind, is meant to reduce how long it takes to arm aircraft.

The new Electromagnetic Aircraft Launch System uses linear induction motors instead of steam to power the carrier’s catapults, ensuring faster, smoother, and more efficient takeoffs for fixed-wing aircraft.

Ford’s new arresting system, known as Advanced Arresting Gear, also uses electromagnetic technology. In addition to decreasing the stress on landing aircraft, the new arresting gear allows larger unmanned aerial vehicles like the MQ-25 Stingray to land on the Ford.

Navy cruiser Arkansas shock trials explosion
US Navy guided-missile cruiser USS Arkansas during a shock test, March 17, 1982.

Ford also has a new Dual Band Radar system. While Nimitz-class carriers have multiple rotating radars, Ford has one stationary multi-purpose radar that is more sensitive to aerial threats and easier to operate and maintain.

The Navy says that the new systems together allow the Ford’s air wing to conduct 33% more sorties and reduce the number of crew needed to run the ship to about 4,500, down from the roughly 5,000 needed aboard Nimitz-class carriers.

Ford’s two A1B nuclear reactors, which are of totally new design, generate almost three times more power than the A4W reactors used on Nimitz-class carriers, increasing Ford’s electrical power capacity and generation substantially.

That power capacity allows Ford to reliably power all of its new high-tech systems and leaves the door open for possible upgrades to add systems like direct-energy weapons.

Carriers of the future

US Navy aircraft carrier USS Gerald R. Ford undergoing full-ship shock trials
Ford during shock trials on June 18, 2021

While the capabilities of the new systems are impressive, Ford has faced a number of setbacks, and a lot of work remains ahead.

Ongoing delays on the weapon elevators meant that not all of them were ready when the shock trials started, which means they won’t be fully tested during the trials.

Moreover, the Navy accepted the new carrier without it being able to handle the F-35C, which was supposed to be the backbone of the Ford’s air wing.

The jet still can’t fly from the Ford, but Navy officials say they hope to have at least six air wings with F-35s by 2025.

Navy aircraft carrier John F. Kennedy
The aircraft carrier John F. Kennedy is launched into the James River on February 28, 2020.

Despite the setbacks, the Navy hopes that Ford, which was commissioned in 2017, will start its maiden deployment in 2022.

Once the shock trials are finished, the Ford is expected to enter a month-long maintenance period, the carrier’s sixth so far, which will fix any damage from the trials and install the final upgrades.

A second Ford-class carrier, the John F. Kennedy, is currently being fitted out, while a third, the Enterprise, is in the early stages of construction. Those carriers are scheduled to be delivered to the Navy in 2024 and 2028, respectively.

The fourth Ford-class carrier was ordered in 2019 and is scheduled for delivery in 2032. It will be named after Pearl Harbor hero Doris Miller, the first Black recipient of the Navy Cross.

Read the original article on Business Insider

Russia’s newest submarines are ‘on par with ours’ and sailing closer to the US, top commanders say

Russian Navy Yasen submarine Kazan
Russian Yasen-class submarine Kazan in Severomorsk, on Russia’s Arctic coast, June 1, 2021.

  • The head of US Northern Command and the Navy’s top officer warned lawmakers about Russian submarines.
  • US commanders have cited Russia’s increasingly capable submarines as cause for concern.
  • Those subs are also spending more time near US coasts, reflecting a growing risk to the homeland.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

The US commander responsible for North America and the Navy’s top officer warned lawmakers this month about Russia’s increasingly capable and active submarines, which they say are operating closer to US shores.

Air Force Gen. Glen VanHerck and Navy Adm. Michael Gilday are the latest officials to express concern about Russia’s submarine fleet, which is smaller than its Soviet predecessor but has improved considerably in recent years.

Asked about threats “below the nuclear threshold” at a June 15 House Armed Services subcommittee hearing, VanHerck – who leads US Northern Command and NORAD – said Russia and China are “developing capabilities” below that threshold “to hold the homeland at risk.”

“Those capabilities would include very quiet submarines,” VanHerck said. “Russia just fielded their second Sev-class submarine, which is on par with ours.”

Russia submarine Arctic
Russian Yasen-class submarine K-560 Severodvinsk.

VanHerck appeared to be referring to Russia’s Yasen-class nuclear-powered attack submarines, which NATO calls the Severodvinsk class. The second Yasen-class boat, Kazan, was commissioned on May 7.

Kazan is also the first sub of the Yasen-M sub-class, which has upgrades such as new quieting technology and a quieter reactor. Russia plans to add five more Yasen-Ms to its fleet by the end of the decade.

“Within a five-year period or so, they’ll have eight to nine of those submarines, which will be a persistent, proximate threat off of our East and West coast that we haven’t had ever in the past,” VanHerck said.

At a House Armed Services Committee hearing on June 17, Gilday, who is chief of naval operations, defended the Navy’s request for only eight new ships in 2022 by citing Russian submarine activity.

Four of those ships, including the first new TAGOS-class ocean-surveillance ship, are support ships “that we can’t wait on any longer,” Gilday said.

TAGOS ships have “a very unique capability to do wide-area search for submarines,” Gilday added. “If I look at Russia these days, well, not so long ago Russia only operated their submarines during a certain period of the year. Now they’re a pretty persistent threat against the East Coast of the United States, and so those kinds of capabilities become more and more important.”

The request also includes two Virginia-class attack submarines designed to hunt enemy submarines and armed with cruise missiles capable of long-distance strikes.

US ocean-surveillance ship USNS Effective in dry dock
US ocean-surveillance ship USNS Effective in dry dock in Yokosuka, Japan, September 13, 2007.

Vice Adm. Daryl L. Caudle, commander of Naval Submarine Forces, and Vice Adm. Andrew Lewis, who is responsible for the East Coast as head of 2nd Fleet, have expressed similar concerns, warning that the US is no longer “a sanctuary” and that the East Coast is no longer “a safe haven.”

That concern is driven by the development of the Kalibr cruise missile, which gives Russian subs a land-attack capability.

The Kalibr’s range of 1,000 miles to 1,500 miles would allow Russian subs to strike strategically valuable targets, such as ports, in the US and Europe.

“Russia has developed a capability through long-range cruise missiles that provide a very low radar cross-section that are incredibly challenging to detect,” VanHerck said at the June 15 hearing in response to a question about cruise-missile threats.

In addition using bombers and surface ships, “Russia has developed capabilities from undersea with their advanced, very quiet, nearly on par with our submarines to field that capability,” VanHerck added, without mentioning the Kalibr specifically. “So I’m very concerned about the cruise-missile defense of the homeland.”

Russian submarine launching Kalibr cruise missile
Russia’s Veliky Novgorod and Kolpino submarines fire Kalibr cruise missiles at ISIS bases in Syria, September 14, 2017.

At a hearing in April, VanHerck said Northern Command didn’t see “indications” that a peer competitor was likely to attack the US “right now.”

But VanHerck cautioned that the capabilities those competitors were developing could “influence” the US military’s “ability to project power on our timeline.”

Since the end of the Cold War, the US hasn’t had to do “a lot of thinking” about threats like those posed by air- and sea-launched cruise missiles or by new weapons like hypersonic missiles, said Mark Gunzinger, an expert at the Mitchell Institute for Aerospace Studies.

“Those are the kinds of threats that keep our combatant commanders awake at night,” Gunzinger told Insider in October.

Read the original article on Business Insider

The US Navy’s only forward-deployed aircraft carrier has left the Pacific to cover the Afghanistan pullout

US Navy aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan (CVN-76)
US Navy aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan (CVN-76) sailed through the Indian Ocean this week into the 5th Fleet area of operations to cover the withdrawal of troops and equipment from Afghanistan

  • The US Navy’s only forward-deployed carrier is no longer in the Pacific.
  • USS Ronald Reagan is moving into the Middle East to support the withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan.
  • Some questioned whether the move shows the US isn’t focused enough on countering China.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

The Japan-based US Navy aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan has left the Pacific and is now moving into position in the Middle East to cover the withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan.

The aircraft carrier, which is home-ported in Yokosuka, Japan in the 7th Fleet area of operations, has entered the 5th Fleet for the first time since 2012.

This is the first time that a Japan-based carrier has been sent to the Middle East since the USS Kitty Hawk deployed to the region in 2003 to support the invasion of Iraq, according to USNI News.

The carrier is accompanied by the cruiser USS Shiloh and destroyer USS Halsey and will “provide airpower to protect US and coalition forces as they conduct drawdown operations from Afghanistan,” the Navy said Friday.

The US military is currently in the process of withdrawing troops from Afghanistan, where it has been fighting for nearly two decades, in accordance with an agreement with the Taliban negotiated during the last administration and upheld by the Biden administration.

US Central Command, which oversees operations in the Middle East, said this week that the military has completed more than 50% of the retrograde process, which involves pulling out personnel and equipment and turning over bases and other facilities to the Afghan military.

The Pentagon’s plans to relocate the Ronald Reagan to support the withdrawal were first reported in late May by the Wall Street Journal, which argued in a later editorial that the move “highlights the US Navy’s dearth of ships to meet its military missions,” an important topic as the Biden administration thinks about what the future fleet should look like.

Questions have also been raised about whether or not the decision to relocate the Ronald Reagan sends the wrong message, one that contradicts US assertions that the strategically-significant Indo-Pacific region and China are top priorities, but the Pentagon has said this is not the case.

Pentagon press secretary John Kirby told reporters in early June that the US military wants to make sure that it has “the ability to keep this a safe and orderly withdrawal.”

“And there are ample, I would say, military capabilities in the Indo-Pacific region aside from the Ronald Reagan to meet our security commitments to our allies,” he added.

The US military still has a carrier in the Pacific, specifically the USS Carl Vinson, which has been conducting carrier air wing qualifications in the vicinity of Hawaii.

The commander of US Third Fleet said recently that the Vinson, as well as the other ships in the strike group, were “positioned to respond if called.”

Read the original article on Business Insider

How the US Air Force sank the Navy’s plans for a new ‘supercarrier’ after World War II

Artist rendering of Navy aircraft carrier USS United States
An artist’s conception of US Navy aircraft carrier USS United States in October 1948.

  • USS United States was to be the lead ship of a new class of supercarriers after World War II.
  • It faced a number of design issues but was ultimately undone by pushback from the Air Force.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

In the history of the United States Navy, there has only been one vessel to enter service with the name USS United States, and it was actually one of the original six frigates that served as the core of the Navy in the first half of the 19th century. Three other vessels were to bear the name, including a Lexington-class battlecruiser.

However, there was also the USS United States (CVA-58), which was meant to be the lead ship of a new class of supercarriers developed after the Second World War.

Its design was seen as ambitious and even cutting edge but was likely entirely impractical and as a result just five days after her keel was laid down, the program was canceled.

A true flat top

Model of Navy aircraft carrier USS United States
A preliminary design model of Navy aircraft carrier USS United States during seakeeping tests in 1947.

In July 1948, President Harry S. Truman approved the construction of five new “supercarriers,” for which funds had been provided in the Naval Appropriations Act of 1949.

The carrier was a radical departure from the World War II-era flattops and in some ways evoked the “streamline moderne” of the Art Deco architecture and design movement that became common with post-war automobiles and aircraft.

The proposed 65,000-ton carrier (83,000 tons fully loaded) would feature a flush-deck that was designed to launch and recover large aircraft of 100,000 pounds, which in turn could carrier the nuclear weapons of the era that weighed as much as 5 tons.

The vessel was to be 1,000 feet long, without an island, and equipped with four aircraft elevators and four catapults. The flush deck was meant to provide more space for large bombers – although those would have to be secured to the flight deck as it would have been impossible to move them up or down in an elevator to the hangar.

However a small hanger was provided for the fighter escort – and as the design evolved, more space was given for the fighters. It was planned that the vessel’s air wing would be made up of about a dozen bombers as well as nearly 50 fighters.

Whereas the primary mission was to carry long-range bomber aircraft, the United States-class was also intended to provide tactical air support for the air and amphibious forces, as well as to conduct sea-control operations.

Massive size and costs

Navy aircraft carrier USS United States under construction
Workmen lay the 15-ton keel plate and initial shell plate of USS United States in a dry dock in Newport News, Virginia, April 18, 1949. The carrier was cancelled on April 23.

Designed as a conventional carrier, it would require eight Foster-Wheeler boilers and four Westinghouse turbines, which could produce 280,000 hp while four screws could allow the massive vessel to reach speeds in excess of 33 knots.

Construction costs were estimated to be around $190 million ($2.05 billion in 2020 dollars), while the cost of the task force to accompany the massive warship would have driven the total price tag to more than $1.265 billion.

The design was also not without some issues.

The lack of an island meant the ship lacked a position for radar, but also other command-and-control capabilities. A small tower-like platform could help direct movement on the flight deck, but radar, navigation, war planning, and other operations would have been relegated to a specially outfitted command ship cruiser.

Instead of being the flagship of a strike group, the United States and the other carriers would have been floating airfields or arsenal ships.

Issues such as smoke from the power plants and how it would be diverted away from the flight deck had to be resolved. And again the Navy’s bombers would have to remain on the flight deck during an entire voyage.

Navy aircraft carrier USS United States under construction
The keel plate of USS United States in a construction dry dock in Newport News, Virginia, on April 18, 1949.

It wasn’t an enemy adversary that eventually “sank” the project, but rather the United States Air Force, which had viewed the carrier as an embodiment of the Navy’s nuclear aspirations.

The Joint Chief of Staff seemed to agree that the carrier’s main function would only serve to duplicate the role of the Air Force. Just days after the keel of the lead vessel had been laid down, the program was canceled.

Secretary of the Navy John Sullivan immediately resigned, while the subsequent “Revolt of the Admirals” resulted in Adm. Louis Denfeld being relieved of his position as Chief of Naval Operations.

It didn’t mark the end for the supercarrier, and instead, just five years later the Navy moved forward with the more conventionally figured USS Forrestal-class.

As nuclear weapons shrank in size it was also determined that a massive warship designed to accommodate carriers wasn’t required. In the 1950s, nuclear weapons were sent to sea on the USS Franklin D. Roosevelt – a carrier far smaller than the planned USS United States.

Peter Suciu is a Michigan-based writer who has contributed to more than four dozen magazines, newspapers and websites. He regularly writes about military small arms, and is the author of several books on military headgear including “A Gallery of Military Headdress,” which is available on Amazon.com.

Read the original article on Business Insider