Saturday, May 10, 2014

On Course To Midway: The Battle of Coral Sea

By the Naval History and Heritage Command, Communication and Outreach Division
The Battle of Coral Sea, fought in the waters southwest of the Solomon Islands and eastward from New Guinea, was the first of the Pacific War’s six fights between opposing aircraft carrier forces. Though the Japanese could rightly claim a tactical victory on “points,” it was an operational and strategic defeat for them, the first major check on the great offensive they had begun five months earlier at Pearl Harbor. The diversion of Japanese resources represented by the Coral Sea battle would also have significant consequences a month later, at the Battle of Midway.
The Coral Sea action resulted from a Japanese amphibious operation intended to capture Port Moresby, located on New Guinea’s southeastern coast. A Japanese air base there would threaten northeastern Australia and support plans for further expansion into the South Pacific, possibly helping to drive Australia out of the war and certainly enhancing the strategic defenses of Japan’s newly-enlarged oceanic empire.
The Japanese operation included two seaborne invasion forces, a minor one targeting Tulagi, in the Southern Solomons, and the main one aimed at Port Moresby. These would be supported by land-based airpower from bases to the north and by two naval forces containing a small aircraft carrier, several cruisers, seaplane tenders and gunboats. More distant cover would be provided by the big aircraft carriers Shokaku and Zuikaku with their escorting cruisers and destroyers. The U.S. Navy, tipped off to the enemy plans by superior communications intelligence, countered with two of its own carriers, plus cruisers (including two from the Australian Navy), destroyers, submarines, land-based bombers and patrol seaplanes.
Japanese Aircraft Carrier Shokaku 1941 Courtesy Government of Japan
Courtesy Government of Japan
Preliminary operations on May 3-6 and two days of active carrier combat May 7-8 cost the United States one aircraft carrier, a destroyer and one of its very valuable fleet oilers, plus damage to the second carrier.
The Japanese, however, were forced to cancel their Port Moresby seaborne invasion. In the fighting, they lost a light carrier, a destroyer and some smaller ships. Shokakureceived serious bomb damage and Zuikaku‘s air group was badly depleted. Most importantly, those two carriers were eliminated from the upcoming Midway operation, contributing by their absence to the defeat of the Japanese fleet viewed by many as the turning point of the war.
 Photo # NH 82117 USS Lexington launching torpedo planes, circa 1929
Build Up to the Battle
Good communications intelligence allowed the U.S. Pacific Fleet to prepare to meet the planned Japanese offensive against Port Moresby, though available resources provided little margin for error. The freshly overhauled carrier Lexington (CV 2), rushed out from Pearl Harbor, joined Yorktown (CV 5) in the probable action area on May 1, doubling Rear Adm. Frank Jack Fletcher‘s carrier forces and bringing along another experienced flag officer, Rear Adm. Aubrey W. Fitch. These carriers and their escorts engaged in several days of refueling from the oilers Neosho (AO 23) and Tippecanoe (AO 21), while awaiting the arrival of two Australian cruisers to reinforce the six already on hand.
On May 3, a small Japanese naval force carried out a landing at Tulagi, on the northern side of the Coral Sea, where they quickly established a seaplane base to provide reconnaissance deeper into Allied waters. Leaving Lexington behind and detaching Neosho to join her, Rear Adm. Fletcher took Yorktown off to interfere with the landings. On the morning of the 4th, his planes hit the invasion force. Though results were modest, to some extent due to humid air fogging the dive bombers’ sights, the destroyer Kikuzuki was fatally damaged and a few other ships and seaplanes were sunk.
Fletcher then turned back south, rejoining Fitch on the 5th to top off his fuel tanks. The Japanese were now advancing into the Coral Sea with the Port Moresby invasion force and the separate covering force and aircraft carrier striking force. Both the American and Japanese carrier commanders spent the 6th moving westward, unaware just how close they had come — at one point they were but 70 miles apart!
The Battle Begins
The first day of the carrier battle of Coral Sea, May 7, 1942, saw the Americans searching for carriers they knew were present and the Japanese looking for ones they feared might be in the area. The opposing commanders, Rear Adm. Fletcher and Japanese Vice Adm. Takeo Takagi and Rear Adm. Tadaichi Hara, endeavored to “get in the first blow”, a presumed prerequisite to victory (and to survival) in a battle between heavily-armed and lightly-protected aircraft carriers.
Both sides, however, suffered from inadequate work by their scouts and launched massive air strikes against greatly inferior secondary targets, which were duly sunk, leaving the most important enemy forces un-hit.
Japanese scouting planes spotted the U.S. oiler Neoshoand her escort, the destroyer USS Sims (DD 409), before 8 a.m. in a southerly position well away from Rear Adm. Fletcher’s carriers. Reported as a “carrier and a cruiser,” these two ships received two high-level bombing attacks during the morning that — as would become typical of such tactics — missed. Around noon, however, a large force of dive bombers appeared. These did not miss. Sims sank with very heavy casualties andNeosho was reduced to a drifting wreck whose survivors were not rescued for days.
Meanwhile, a scout plane from Yorktown found the Japanese covering force, the light carrier Shoho and four heavy cruisers, which faulty message coding transformed into “two carriers and four heavy cruisers.” Yorktown and Lexington sent out a huge strike: 53 scout-bombers, 22 torpedo planes and 18 fighters. In well-delivered attacks before noon, these simply overwhelmed the Shoho, which received so many bomb and torpedo hits that she sank in minutes. Her sinking was marked by some of the battle’s most dramatic photography.
Japanese aircraft carrier Shōhō Courtesy Government of Japan
Japanese aircraft carrier Shōhō
Courtesy Government of Japan
Adding to the confusion, if not to the score, Japanese land-based torpedo planes and bombers struck an advanced force of Australian and U.S. Navy cruisers, far to the west of Adm. Fletcher’s carriers. Skillful ship-handling prevented any damage. Australia-based U.S. Army B-17s also arrived and dropped their bombs, fortunately without hitting anything.
All this had one beneficial effect: the Japanese ordered their Port Moresby invasion force to turn back to await developments. Late in the day, they also sent out nearly 30 carrier planes to search for Fletcher’s ships. Most of these were shot down or lost in night landing attempts, significantly reducing Japanese striking power. The opposing carrier forces, quite close together by the standards of air warfare, prepared to resume battle in the morning.
Fight that Would Impact Battle at Midway
Before dawn on May 8, both the Japanese and the American carriers sent out scouts to locate their opponents. These made contact a few hours later, by which time the Japanese already had their strike planes in the air. The U.S. carriers launched theirs soon after 9 a.m., and task force commander Rear Adm. Fletcher turned over tactical command to Rear Adm. Fitch, who had more carrier experience. Each side’s planes attacked the other’s ships around 11 a.m. At that time the Japanese were partially concealed by thick weather, while the Americans were operating under clear skies.
Planes from Yorktown hit Shokaku, followed somewhat later by part of Lexington‘s air group. These attacks left Shokaku unable to launch planes, and she left the area soon after to return to Japan for repairs. Her sister ship, Zuikaku was steaming nearby under low clouds and was not attacked.
The Japanese struck the American carriers shortly after 11 a.m., and in a fast and violent action, scored with torpedoes on Lexington and with bombs on both carriers. For about an hour, Lexington seemed to have shrugged off her damage, but the situation deteriorated as fires spread throughout the ship. She was abandoned later in the day and scuttled. Yorktown was also badly damaged by a bomb and several glancing blows, but remained in operational condition.
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Friday, May 9, 2014

Russian ICBM Force Modernization: Arms Control Please! Categories: ArmsControl, Nuclear Weapons, Russia

Russian ICBM Force Modernization: Arms Control Please!

Click image for larger version.
By Hans M. Kristensen
In our Nuclear Notebook on Russian nuclear forces from March this year, Robert S. Norris and I described the significant upgrade that’s underway in Russia’s force of land-based intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs).
Over the next decade, all Soviet-era ICBMs will be retired and replaced with a smaller force consisting of mainly five variants of one missile: the SS-27.
After more than a decade-and-a-half of introduction, the number of SS-27s now makes up a third of the ICBM force. By 2016, SS-27s will make up more than half of the force, and by 2024 all the Soviet-era ICBMs will be gone.
The new force will be smaller and carry fewer nuclear warheads than the old, but a greater portion of the remaining warheads will be on missiles carried on mobile launchers.
The big unknowns are just how many SS-27s Russia plans to produce and deploy, and how many new (RS-26 and Sarmat “heavy”) ICBMs will be introduced. Without the new systems or increased production of the old, Russia’s ICBM force would probably level out just below 250 missiles by 2024. In comparison, the U.S. Air Force plans to retain 400 ICBMs.
This disparity and the existence of a large U.S. reserve of extra warheads that can be “uploaded” onto deployed missiles to increase the arsenal if necessary drive top-heavy ICBM planning in the Russian military which seeks to maximize the number of warheads on each missile to compensate for the disparity and keep some degree of overall parity with the United States.
This dilemma suggests the importance of reaching a new agreement to reduce the number deployed strategic warheads and missiles. A reduction of “up to one-third” of the current force, as recently endorsed by the new U.S. nuclear employment strategy, would be a win for both Russia and the United States. It would allow both countries to trim excess nuclear capacity and save billions of dollars in the process. 
Phased Deployment
Introduction of the SS-27 has come in two phases. The first phase, which last from 1997 to 2013, involved deployed the single-warhead type (SS-27 Mod 1; Topol-M) in silos and on road-mobile launchers. The silo-based version was deployed first, replacing SS-19s in the 60th Missile Division at the Tatishchevo missile field outside Saratov. The deployment was completed in 2013 (see picture below) after 60 SS-27 Mod 1 missiles had been lowered into former SS-19 silos at a slow pace of less than 4 missile in average per year.
An SS-27 Mod 1 (Topol-M) is lowered into a former SS-19 silo at the Tatishchevo missile field outside Saratov.
In 2006, deployment of the first road-mobile SS-27 Mod 1 began with the 54thGuards Missile Division at Teykovo northeast of Moscow. The deployment was completed in 2010 with 18 missiles in two regiments.
With completion of the SS-27 Mod 1 deployment of 78 missiles, efforts have since shifted to deployment of a MIRVed version of the SS-27, known as SS-27 Mod 2, or RS-24 Yars in Russia. It is essentially the same missile as the Mod 1 version except the payload “bus” has been modified to carry multiple independently targetable warheads (MIRV). Each missile is thought to be able to carry up to 4 warheads, although there is uncertainty about what the maximum capacity is (but it is not 10 warheads, as often claimed in Russian news media).
The first road-mobile SS-27 Mod 2s were deployed at Teykovo in 2010, alongside the SS-27 Mod 1s already deployed there. For the foreseeable future, all new Russian ICBM deployments will be of MIRVed versions of the SS-27, although a “new ICBM” and a “heavy ICBM” are also being developed.
In 2012, preparations began for introduction of SS-27 Mod 2 at three additional missile divisions. At the 28th Missile Guards Division at Kozelsk southwest of Moscow, conversion of former SS-19 silos (see picture below) to carry the SS-27 Mod 2 is underway with deployed of the first regiment (10 missiles) scheduled this year. How many missiles will be deployed at Kozelsk is unclear. The missile field originally included 60 SS-19 silos but half have been demolished so perhaps the plan is for three regiments with 30 SS-27 Mod 2 missiles. After silo-based RS-24s are installed at Kozelsk, deployment will follow at the 13th Missile Division at Dombarovsky, replacing the SS-18s currently deployed there.
A former SS-19 ICBM silo at Kozelsk is being upgraded to receive the SS-27 Mod 2 (RS-24 Yars) ICBM. Deployment begins this year.
In addition to Kozelsk, preparations are also underway to upgrade three road-mobile SS-25 garrisons to the SS-27 Mod 2. At this point, this includes the 51st Missile Guards Division at Irkutsk, the 39th Guards Missile Division at Novosibirsk, and the 42nd Missile Division at Nizhniy Tagil.
Preparation started at Novosibirsk in 2012, where two of four garrisons are under conversion. One of these (Novosibirsk 4; see further description below) is nearly complete. Conversion started at Irkutsk in 2012 with dismantling of SS-25 garages at one of the three remaining garrisons. At Tagil, SS-27 Mod 2 introduction is underway at two of three remaining SS-25 garrisons. In December 2013, the first SS-27 Mod 2 regiment at Novosibirsk (9 launchers) and one partially equipped (6 launchers) regiment at Tagil were put on “experimental combat duty.”
The remaining SS-25 divisions – the 7th Guards Missile Division at Vypolsovo, the 14th Missile Division at Yoshkar-Ola, and the 35th Missile Division at Barnaul – have not been mentioned for SS-27 Mod 2 upgrade and seem destined for retirement. One of the three garrisons at Yoshkar-Ola has been inactivated.
Below follows a more detailed description of the upgrade to SS-27 Mod 2 (RS-24) underway at Novosibirsk.
SS-27 Upgrade at Novosibirsk
As mentioned above, the 39th Guards Missile Division at Novosibirsk is being upgraded from the solid-fuel road-mobile single-warhead SS-25 ICBM to the solid-fuel road-mobile MIRVed SS-27 Mod 2 (RS-24). A series of unique satellite images provided by Digital Globe to Google Earth show the upgrade of one of four garrisons (Novosibirsk 4) between 2008 and 2013.
The first image from May 2008 (see below) shows the garrison with all nine garages for SS-25 road-mobile launchers (TELs) clearly visible inside the multi-layered fence perimeter. Several TELs and support vehicles are parked outside one of three service buildings.
Click to see larger version.
The second image from June 2012 (see below) shows that all nine TEL garages have been dismantled and the roof is missing on the three service vehicle buildings. Two new service buildings are under construction just outside the fence perimeter and several buildings have been demolished in preparation for new administrative and technical buildings.
Click to see larger version.
The third image, taken in February 2013, shows the fence perimeter at the southwest corner of the garrison has been extended westward to include the new service buildings. This extension is similar to the change that was made at Teykovo when two garrisons were equipped with the SS-27 Mod 2 (RS-24). The image indicates that support vehicle garages inside the fence perimeter are almost done, and that administrative and technical buildings outside the perimeter have been added.
Click to see larger version.
The fourth image (see below), from September 2013, shows installation of new TEL garages for the SS-27 Mod 2 (RS-24) launchers well underway, with seven of eventually nine garages visible. The green roofs of the four large service vehicle garages are clearly visible, as are the new administrative and technical building outside the fence perimeter.
Click to see larger version.
The Future ICBM Force
Predicting the size and composition of the Russian ICBM force structure into the future comes with a fair amount of uncertainty because Russia doesn’t release official data on its nuclear forces, because U.S. intelligence agencies no longer publish detailed information on Russian nuclear forces, and because Russian aggregate data under the New START treaty is not made public (unlike during the previous START treaty). Nonetheless, based on previous history, scattered officials statements, and news media reports, it is possible to make a rough projection of how the Russian ICBM might evolve over the next decade (see graph below).
Click to see larger version.
This shows that the size of the Russian ICBM force dropped below the size of the U.S. ICBM force in 2007 mainly due to the rapid reduction of the SS-25 ICBM. By the early 2020s, according to recent announcements by Russian military officials, all SS-18, SS-19, and SS-25 ICBMs will be gone. Development of a new ICBM – apparently yet another version of the SS-27 – known in Russia as the RS-26 is underway for possible introduction in 2015. And a new liquid-fuel “heavy” ICBM known in Russia as the Sarmat, and nicknamed “Son of Satan” because it apparently is intended as a replacement for the SS-18 (which was code-named Satan by the United States and NATO) is said to be scheduled for introduction around 2020.
This development would leave a Russian ICBM force structure based on five modifications of the solid-fuel SS-27 (silo- and mobile-based SS-27 Mod 1; silo- and mobile-based SS-27 Mod 2 (RS-24); and the RS-26) and the liquid-fuel Sarmat with a large payload – either MIRV or some advanced payload to evade missile defense systems. Although the future force will be smaller, a greater portion of it will be MIRVed – up from approximately 36 percent today to roughly 70 percent by 2024. This increasingly top-heavy ICBM force is bad for U.S-Russian strategic stability.
I hope I’m mistaken about the possible increase in the Russian ICBM force after 2020. In fact, it seems more likely that the Russian economy will not be able to support the production and deployment of “over 400 modern land and sea-based inter-continental ballistic missiles” that President Putin promised in 2012. But if I’m not mistaken, then it would be an immensely important development. Not that I think it would matter that much militarily in the foreseeable future or necessarily signal a new arms race. But it would be a significant break with the trend we have seen in Russian nuclear forces since the end of the Cold War, and it would create serious problems for the stability of the Non-Proliferation Treaty regime. It is important that the Russian government provides more transparency about its nuclear force structure plans and demonstrate that it is not planning to increase its ICBM force shortly after the New START treaty expires in 2018.
Regardless, there is an increasing need for Russia and the United States to make more progress on nuclear arms control. Notwithstanding its important verification regime, the New START treaty was too modest to impress anyone (it has no real effect on Russian nuclear forces and it is so modest that the United States plans to keep emptied ICBM silos instead of destroying them). A good start would be a new arms control agreement with “up to one-third” fewer deployed strategic warheads and launchers than permitted by the New START Treaty, as recently endorsed by the U.S. Nuclear Employment Strategy. Such an agreement would force Russia to reduce the warhead loading on its ICBMs and force the United States to reduce its large ICBM force.
It is also important that the United States and Russia revisit the MIRV-ban. TheSTART II treaty, which was signed but not ratified and later abandoned by Vladimir Putin and George W. Bush in 2002, included a ban on MIRVed ICBMs. Apart from reducing the warheads the two nuclear superpowers would be able to launch agains each other, a MIRV ban would also serve the vital role of discouraging other nuclear-armed states from deploying multiple warheads on their ballistic missiles in the future, which could otherwise significantly increase their nuclear arsenals and result in regional arms races.
Trying to pursue new reductions in excessive and expensive nuclear forces and avoid counterproductive modernization programs is perhaps even more important now given the souring relations caused by the crisis in Ukraine. Don’t forget: even at the height of the Cold War it was possible – in fact essential – to reach nuclear arms control agreements.
This publication was made possible by a grant from the Ploughshares Fund. The statements made and views expressed are solely the responsibility of the author.

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End of era at Fort Rosecrans Last unclaimed niches filled at iconicnational veterans cemetery

End of era at Fort Rosecrans

Last unclaimed niches filled at iconic national veterans cemetery

   The Fort Rosecrans National Cemetery is shown with downtown San Diego in the background.
The Fort Rosecrans National Cemetery is shown with downtown San Diego in the background. — K.C. Alfred

The last unclaimed niche at Fort Rosecrans National Cemetery was filled Tuesday morning, ending an era at one of the nation’s most beautiful and historic burial grounds for veterans.
“This closes the book,” said Doug Ledbetter, director of the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs cemetery.
The windswept, iconic cemetery has been shut to most new casket burials since 1966. But veterans could have their ashes laid to rest there in a series of columbarium walls overlooking the water.
Now that option is over for most people.
Burials and inurnments will continue, but on a very limited basis. Veterans who already have a niche or burial site -- because of a spouse already resting there, usually – will still be accommodated.
An estimated 112,000 people have remains at Fort Rosecrans, some dating to the Spanish-American War of 1898 and the 1846 Battle of San Pasqual.
It is the resting place of many heroes, old and new.
At least 23 Medal of Honor recipients are buried there. The most recent is San Diego Navy SEAL Michael Monsoor, posthumously awarded the nation’s top military honor for jumping on a grenade to save his team in Iraq in 2006

Cyndie Taylor, grand daughter of Mary B Luzar, places a rose in her grandmother's columbarium on Tuesday at Fort Rosecrans National Cemetery in San Diego, California. This is the last unclaimed niche at Fort Rosecrans National Cemetery. — Eduardo Contreras

At least 37 U.S. service members killed in action in Iraq are interred there, in addition to 20 from Afghanistan.
After Miramar National Cemetery opened to casket burials in April 2011, VA officials in Washington, D.C., chose to abandon a plan to build more walls for ashes on Point Loma.
Some San Diego veterans have expressed dismay since the decision was disclosed last year.
Despite letters sent by the public to local congressional offices, the VA did not reverse its decision.
Former sailors especially treasure sweeping views of Navy bases along the bay and of warships heading to sea. On Tuesday, as the final unclaimed niches were filled, the amphibious warship San Diego sailed quietly past Point Loma.
Ledbetter, also director at Miramar, said he hopes veterans will give the new 313-acre cemetery a chance.
It sits on chaparral-covered rolling hills near Miramar Marine Corps Air Station. Deer from the nearby canyons are known to visit graves and nibble flowers, and -- the joke goes – every veteran gets a fly-over from the comings and goings of Miramar aviators.

Visitors to Miramar National Cemetery visit some of the between 1,160 and 1,200 graves. — Howard Lipin / U-T San Diego

“It certainly doesn’t have the views of Rosecrans, but it’s got its own beauty,” said Ledbetter, an Air Force veteran himself.
“And we’re only in the first phase of six phases. As time progresses, the cemetery will only get more beautiful.”
On Tuesday, the last person to fill an unclaimed niche at Fort Rosecrans was Mary Rossa Luzar, a San Diego resident who died in 2010 at age 88.
Her journey to Fort Rosecrans – at the end of Row 9, overlooking the graceful sweep of the bay – started back in World War II.
She married her high school sweetheart, Stanislav Rossa, just before he joined the Army Air Forces. Rossa’s bomber was shot down off China on March 15, 1945, and the entire crew was lost at sea.
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