Friday, August 11, 2017

U.S. and Guam Shielded From North Korean Missiles by High-Tech Defenses

Kim Jong Un

Kim Jong Un / Getty Images

BY:   

Amid growing missile threats from North Korea, American missile defenses based in Alaska, California, and Guam, as well as on Navy ships, are capable of knocking out North Korean nuclear missiles, according to military leaders and experts.

Missile Defense Agency Director Air Force Lt. General Samuel Greaves said Wednesday he is confident current defenses would be effective against Pyongyang's missiles.

"Yes, we believe that the currently deployed ballistic missile defense system can meet today's threat, and we've demonstrated that capability through testing," Greaves told a conference in Alabama.

Contrary to critics who say ground-based interceptors and naval anti-missile systems are unreliable, retired Air Force Lt. Gen. Trey Obering, a former MDA director, says the Ground-based Midcourse Defense (GMD) provides the best protection from a long-range North Korean strike.

Yet other shorter-range defenses such as the land-based Terminal High Altitude Area Defense, or THAAD, and the Navy's ship-based Aegis SM-3 missiles can knock out medium and intermediate-range North Korean missiles, and if given enough satellite warning could attack North Korea's ICBM warheads, he said.

"Any interceptor can intercept any missile, given the right parameters," Obering said in an interview.

"I have high confidence that if we were attacked by North Korea we would be able to defend ourselves."

President Trump has declared North Korea will not be allowed to develop a nuclear missile capable of striking the United States. On Tuesday he warned that continued North Korean threats against the United States would result in "fire and fury like the world has never seen."

North Korea responded by announcing that an attack on the American Pacific island of Guam is being considered.

On Wednesday, the official KCNA news agency dismissed Trump's warning as a "load of nonsense."

"Sound dialogue is not possible with such a guy bereft of reason and only absolute force can work on him," the state media organ said.

The heated rhetoric prompted Defense Secretary Jim Mattis to reiterate U.S. military capabilities, including missile defenses, in a statement Wednesday.

"The United States and our allies have the demonstrated capabilities and unquestionable commitment to defend ourselves from an attack," Mattis said.

Noting the unified vote condemning North Korea at the United Nations on Saturday, Mattis said "Kim Jong Un should take heed" of those who agree North Korea poses a threat to global security and stability.

North Korea "must choose to stop isolating itself and stand down its pursuit of nuclear weapons," he said, adding that Pyongyang "should cease any consideration of actions that would lead to the end of its regime and the destruction of its people."

Mattis said Trump was notified of the growing missile threat and his first orders were to emphasize the readiness of both missile defenses and nuclear deterrent forces.

The defense secretary added that the "combined allied militaries now possess the most precise, rehearsed and robust defensive and offensive capabilities on earth," and noted that the Kim Jong Un regime's actions "will continue to be grossly overmatched by ours and would lose any arms race or conflict it initiates."

Air Force Gen. John Hyten, commander of U.S. Strategic Command, said recently that he is concerned about growing missile threats from both North Korea and Iran and wants better sensors and interceptors for missile defenses.

"I'm concerned about any missile threat that is growing and can either range our allies or the United States," he said in Omaha last month.

"But when I look at where we need to invest in future missile defenses, I see the most important thing that we have to invest in right now would be increased sensor capabilities because we need to be able to characterize the threat wherever it is on the globe in order to be able to effectively respond to it with defenses."

Hyten also favors adding sensors in space "because you can't have access to enough land points in the world to have a full sensor capability, so we need to go to space."

Next is the need for improved interceptors.

"We have interceptors right now that are good enough to deal with the basic North Korean threat that is out there right now," Hyten said. "But the threat is maturing fast and we have to improve our interceptor capability fast enough to stay with them."

The Pentagon is developing an advanced kill vehicle that will be added current interceptors in Alaska and California. New technology is also available to deal with maneuvering warheads.

Hyten said he would favor building space sensors and better interceptors before setting up a third based on the East Coast for the Ground-based Midcourse Defense.

The Pentagon is currently conducting a major review of ballistic missile defense policy that will set the course of current and future defenses.

"There's a ballistic missile defense review underway right now that will say where we have to go in terms of capacity, whether it's more in the West, more in the East," Hyten said.

"But I continue to advocate to make sure we don't in the discussion on capacity miss the need for improved sensors and improved interceptors that will really enable decisions we have coming out of the review."

The ground based missile defenses that would be used against a North Korean ICBM include 36 interceptors mainly based at Fort Greely, Alaska with a smaller number located at Vandenberg Air Force Base in southern California.

The interceptors are equipped with kinetic kill vehicles that travel at very high speeds and ram into enemy warheads in space.

Command centers are located in Colorado Springs and Fort Greely.

Obering said the command and control for missile defense is highly automated because of the need to respond very quickly to a missile launch by North Korea that would be spotted by special military satellites focused on North Korea.

Once detected the system predicts an "impact fan" of potential target areas and if the track indicates it is going to hit the continental United States, Alaska or Hawaii.

"If that fan touches any of the defended area that is programed into the Ground Based Midcourse system, the system automatically alerts," Obering said.

The alert notifies commanders that a missile is inbound heading for a specific area. Then electronic sensors around the world, including radar, begin searching for the missile.

The sensor information is then fed into the fire control system that assesses which data is more reliable and selects an interceptor to attack the warhead.

"The system then determines what would be the most optimum shot, either from Vandenberg or Alaska," Obering said. "The human has to enable it. It has to say, ‘Ok, you're authorized to launch.' But everything else is done automatically."

For Guam, currently a THAAD battery is deployed to the island and Aegis missile defenses ships also are likely being deployed near the island in the event North Korea would attempt to strike the island.

North Korea has three ICBMs, the Taepodong-2, Hwasong-13, and Hwasong-14. Those would not be used for strikes on Guam. Other medium-range or intermediate range missiles such as the Musudan or Hwasong-12 could be used.

Those missiles can be countered by THAAD and Aegis ships.

Obering said current defenses are capable against North Korean missiles today but need to be upgraded. "We certainly need to add more interceptors, we need to add more sensors and we need to do much more in terms of fielding advanced capabilities to stay ahead of the North Korean threat and the Iranian threat as well," he said.

The MDA budget should be increased to $10 billion to $12 billion annually, he said.

For example, in addition to using space satellites for warning, satellites should be used for tracking in order to provide more precision for missile defenses.

"When you do that, you get dramatically improved sensor coverage," Obering said. Space based sensors would bolster the three most effective missile defenses: GMD, THAAD and Aegis.

Another step to increase the lethality of missile defenses would be to use what is called cooperative engagement capabilities—the ability to use multiple tracking and guidance sensors on various missile defense systems.

For example, the Navy's SM-3 missile has a range greater than the Aegis radar and thus could be extended by using data from other longer-range radar.

"That's what we mean by an integrated system—the ability to take any sensor and marry it with any interceptor," Obering said.

Cooperative engagement has been tested several times and more are scheduled.

Obering said missile defenses are proving opponents wrong. Many arm control advocates for decades opposed all missile defenses by arguing the defenses undermined arms control agreements.

"Just imagine where we would have been in the late 1990s and early 2000s if we would have listened to the critics and listened to those who said we don't need to field missile defenses," he said.

Without missile defenses, there would be only two options for military commanders: preemptive attacks or retaliation after being attacked.

"And now we have another option and that's very critical," Obering said.

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Launch Viewing for SpaceX CRS-12 
View the August 14 launch from Kennedy Space Center! 

NEW DATE! Don’t miss the SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket launch from Kennedy Space Center’s LC-39A! CRS-12 is carrying the Dragon spacecraft to the International Space Station (ISS). This is the twelfth resupply mission by SpaceX for NASA in support of NASA’s Commercial Resupply Services (CRS) program. The Falcon 9 rocket’s reusable first stage will attempt a controlled landing on Landing Zone 1 (LZ1) at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station.

Kennedy Space Center offers unparalleled rocket launch views. Launch viewing opportunities from the visitor complex for CRS-12 are available at the following locations: 

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US Destroyer Challenges China's Claims in South China Sea

A U.S. Navy destroyer carried out a "freedom of navigation operation" on Thursday, coming within 12 nautical miles of an artificial island built up by China in the South China Sea, U.S. officials told Reuters.

The operation came as President Donald Trump's administration seeks Chinese cooperation in dealing with North Korea's missile and nuclear programs and could complicate efforts to secure a common stance.

The officials, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the USS John S. McCain traveled close to Mischief Reef in the Spratly Islands, among a string of islets, reefs and shoals. China has territorial disputes with its neighbors over the area.

It was the third "freedom of navigation operation" or "fonop" conducted during Trump's presidency. Neither China's defense ministry nor its foreign ministry immediately responded to a request for comment.

The operation was the latest attempt to counter what Washington sees as Beijing's efforts to limit freedom of navigation in the strategic waters, and comes as Trump is seeking China's cooperation to rein in North Korea.

Tensions have risen recently after North Korea carried out two nuclear tests last year and two ICBM tests last month, prompting a strong round of U.N. sanctions which angered Pyongyang who threatened to teach the United States a "severe lesson".

Trump in turn responded by warning North Korea it would face "fire and fury" if it further threatened the United States.

U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis issued a stark warning to North Korea on Wednesday, telling Pyongyang that it should stop any actions that would lead to the "end of its regime and the destruction of its people."

The United States has criticized China's construction of islands and build-up of military facilities in the sea, and is concerned they could be used to restrict free nautical movement.

The U.S. military has a long-standing position that its operations are carried out throughout the world, including in areas claimed by allies, and they are separate from political considerations.

The Trump administration has vowed to conduct more robust South China Sea operations.

In July, a U.S. warship sailed near a disputed island in the South China Sea claimed by China, Taiwan, Vietnam.

Experts and officials have criticized President Barack Obama for potentially reinforcing China's claims by sticking to innocent passage, in which a warship effectively recognized a territorial sea by crossing it speedily without stopping.

China's claims in the South China Sea, through which about $5 trillion in ship-borne trade passes each year are contested by Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines, Taiwan and Vietnam.

(By Idrees Ali; Additional reporting by Ben Blanchard in Beijing; Editing by Clarence Fernandez and Matthew Mpoke Bigg)



Original Page: https://www.marinelink.com/news/challenges-destroyer428240



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Air Reconnaissance Proves Its Value at the Marne

Aerial reconnaissance played a significant role 100 years ago in the unfolding of the First Battle of the Marne. Louis C. Breguet of the famous watch-making family, who was also a budding aircraft designer, had himself assigned as an enlisted pilot. Flying a Breguet AG-4 of his own design and manufacture on 2 September 1914, he spotted the German forces changing direction, moving from west to east rather than trying to circle around Paris. He informed his headquarters of it. Getting the generals to act on this information was a tougher task, however. 


An AG-4 of the Type Used by Breuget in His Mission

The next day the Royal Flying Corps substantiated Breguet with its own report that "disclos[ed] the movements of all the Corps of the I German Army diagonally South East across the map toward the Marne." Alarmed by these reports and the lack of response from senior officers, Capitaine Georges Bellenger, commander of the air unit supporting the Sixth Army being formed in Paris, appealed to General Gallieni, commander of the Paris District. Won over, Gallieni then made the case to supreme commander Joffre that the Germans were exposing their flank to an attack out of Paris. 


The net result of this collaborative effort was that over a period of three days the Germans marched into a salient with the French 5th Army on their left flank, the French 6th Army on their right flank, and the British Expeditionary Force standing firm at the bottom of the pocket. 

Sources: Walter J. Boyne, "The Influence of Airpower on the Marne," Air Force Magazine, July 2011; Shooting the Front, Terrence Finnegan, 2006.



Original Page: http://roadstothegreatwar-ww1.blogspot.com/2017/08/air-reconnaissance-proves-its-value-at.html



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GAO-17-667R, Afghanistan Security: U.S.-Funded Equipment for the Afghan National Defense and Security Forces, August 10, 2017

What GAO Found In 2003, the United States began funding a variety of key equipment for the Afghan National Army (ANA) and Afghan National Police (ANP)--collectively known as the Afghan National Defense and Security Forces (ANDSF). GAO's analysis of Department of Defense (DOD) data identified six categories of key equipment that the United States funded for the ANDSF from fiscal years 2003 through 2016. Communications equipment and vehicles were first authorized by DOD for procurement in fiscal year 2003; weapons in 2004; explosive ordnance disposal (EOD) equipment in 2006; and intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (ISR) equipment and aircraft in 2007. GAO's analysis also shows the following details about the six categories of key equipment: About 163,000 communications equipment items were funded for the ANDSF--approximately 95,000 for the ANA and nearly 68,000 for the ANP. The majority of this equipment consisted of tactical radios.  The nearly 76,000 U.S.-funded vehicles included a range of combat and support vehicles for the ANA and ANP. Over half of the U.S.-funded vehicles were light tactical vehicles, such as pickup trucks.  Almost 600,000 ANDSF weapons were funded by the United States--about 322,000 for the ANA and 278,000 for the ANP. Of these 600,000 weapons, almost 81 percent were rifles and pistols.  The United States has funded a variety of EOD equipment for the ANDSF--such as mine rollers, electronic countermeasure devices, hand-held mine detectors, bomb suits, and related equipment--totaling about 30,000 items.  There were slightly more than 16,000 U.S.-funded ISR equipment items, consisting almost entirely of night vision devices: about 10,200 such devices for the ANA and 5,800 for the ANP. The United States has also funded biometrics and positioning equipment for the ANDSF.  Finally, the United States has funded 208 aircraft for the ANDSF; more than half were helicopters, and more than a quarter were transport/cargo airplanes. In addition, the United States has funded air-to-ground munitions, including nearly 2 million cannon rounds, more than 200,000 unguided rockets, and about 9,800 general-purpose bombs and guided bomb kits for the ANDSF. The figure below shows the total quantities of key equipment that the United States funded for the ANDSF in fiscal years 2003 through 2016. Total Quantity of Key U.S.-Funded Equipment for the Afghan National Defense and Security Forces, by Fiscal Year, 2003–2016 Why GAO Did This Study Developing an independently capable ANDSF is a key component of U.S. and coalition efforts to counter terrorist threats and create sustainable security and stability in Afghanistan. Since 2002, the United States has worked to train and equip these forces, with assistance from North Atlantic Treaty Organization members and other coalition nations. Since fiscal year 2002, more than $76 billion has been appropriated or allocated for various DOD and Department of State (State) programs to support Afghan security, and DOD has disbursed almost $18 billion for equipment and transportation. House Report 114-537 associated with the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2017 included a provision for GAO to review U.S. assistance to the ANDSF, including equipment. In this report, GAO describes key equipment--weapons and equipment DOD considers critical to the missions of the ANDSF--that DOD and State have funded for the ANDSF. GAO collected and analyzed agency data, reviewed agency documents and reports, and interviewed agency officials. For more information, contact Jessica Farb at (202) 512-6991 or FarbJ@gao.gov


Original Page: http://www.gao.gov/products/GAO-17-667R?source=ra



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GAO-17-657, Military Bands: Military Services Should Enhance Efforts to Measure Performance, August 10, 2017

What GAO Found All of the military services reported reducing the number of military band personnel from fiscal year 2012 through 2016, but trends in total reported operating costs for the bands, such as travel and equipment expenses, varied across the services. Total military personnel dedicated to bands decreased from 7,196 in fiscal year 2012 to 6,656 in fiscal year 2016, or 7.5 percent (see figure). The Navy and Air Force reported that their total operating costs for bands over this period increased by $4.1 million and $1.6 million, respectively, and the Marine Corps reported that its costs declined by about $800,000. The Army did not have complete cost data for its reserve bands, but reported that the operating costs of its active-duty and National Guard bands declined by $3.6 million and about $500,000, respectively, from fiscal year 2012 through 2016. Trends in Military Personnel Dedicated to Bands, Fiscal Years (FY) 2012 through 2016 The military services have not developed objectives and measures to assess how their bands are addressing the bands' missions, such as inspiring patriotism and enhancing the morale of troops. All four military services have tracked information, such as the number and type of band events. Further, military-service officials cited the demand for band performances, anecdotal examples, and support from senior leadership, as ways to demonstrate the bands are addressing their missions. However, the military services' approaches do not include measurable objectives or performance measures that have several important attributes, such as linkage to mission, a baseline, and measurable targets, that GAO has found are key to successfully measuring a program's performance. Military band officials cited the difficulty and resources required to quantify how the bands are addressing their missions, but the military services are taking steps to improve how they track information on band events to measure the bands' effectiveness. GAO believes these key steps could inform and guide the services' efforts to develop and implement measurable objectives and performance measures. Doing so could provide decision makers with the information they need to assess the value of the military bands relative to resource demands for other priorities. Why GAO Did This Study The Department of Defense (DOD) uses military bands to enhance the morale of the troops, provide music for ceremonies, and promote public awareness. Bands across the military services support a range of activities, including funerals for military service members, events attended by high-level officials, and community-relations activities such as parades. In fiscal year 2013, DOD restricted its community-relations activities, including placing travel restrictions on bands, as a result of the sequestration ordered in March 2013. DOD reinstated community-relations activities at a reduced capacity in fiscal year 2014. House Report 114-537 included a provision for GAO to review DOD's requirement for military bands. This report (1) describes the trends in personnel and costs for bands from fiscal year 2012 through 2016, and (2) assesses the extent to which the military services have evaluated how the bands are addressing their missions, among other objectives. GAO analyzed data from the military services on military band personnel and reported operating costs of bands. GAO also reviewed the military services' guidance and approaches to evaluating their bands and interviewed band program officials at the military services. What GAO Recommends GAO recommends that the Army, Navy, Marine Corps, and Air Force each develop and implement measurable objectives and performance measures for their bands. DOD concurred with the recommendations. For more information, contact Andrew Von Ah at (213) 830-1011 or vonaha@gao.gov.


Original Page: http://www.gao.gov/products/GAO-17-657?source=ra



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U.S. Destroyer Challenges China’s Claims in South China Sea

The Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS John S. McCain (DDG 56). Picture taken June 14, 2017, in the Philippine Sea. U.S. Navy Photo

Reuters

By Idrees Ali WASHINGTON, Aug 10 (Reuters) – A U.S. Navy destroyer carried out a "freedom of navigation operation" on Thursday, coming within 12 nautical miles of an artificial island built up by China in the South China Sea, U.S. officials told Reuters.

The operation came as President Donald Trump's administration seeks Chinese cooperation in dealing with North Korea's missile and nuclear programs and could complicate efforts to secure a common stance.

The officials, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the USS John S. McCain traveled close to Mischief Reef in the Spratly Islands, among a string of islets, reefs and shoals. China has territorial disputes with its neighbors over the area.

It was the third "freedom of navigation operation" during Trump's presidency.

Thursday's operation, first reported by Reuters, was the latest attempt to counter what Washington sees as Beijing's efforts to limit freedom of navigation in the strategic waters, and comes as Trump is seeking China's cooperation to rein in North Korea.

China's foreign ministry said the operation had violated international and Chinese law and seriously harmed Beijing's sovereignty and security.

"China is very displeased with this and will bring up the issue with the U.S. side," the ministry said in a statement.

The United States has criticized China's construction of islands and build-up of military facilities in the sea, and is concerned they could be used to restrict free nautical movement.

Twelve nautical miles marks the territorial limits recognized internationally. Sailing within those 12 miles is meant to show that the United States does not recognize territorial claims there.

The United States has said that it would like to see more international participation in freedom of navigation operations in the South China Sea.

The U.S. military has a long-standing position that its operations are carried out throughout the world, including in areas claimed by allies, and they are separate from political considerations.

The Trump administration has vowed to conduct more robust South China Sea operations.

In July, a U.S. warship sailed near a disputed island in the South China Sea claimed by China, Taiwan, Vietnam.

Experts and officials have criticized former President Barack Obama for potentially reinforcing China's claims by sticking to innocent passage, in which a warship effectively recognized a territorial sea by crossing it speedily without stopping.

China's claims in the South China Sea, through which about $5 trillion in ship-borne trade passes each year are contested by Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines, Taiwan and Vietnam.

The Pentagon declined to provide any details but said that all operations are conducted in accordance with international law.

Tensions on the Korean Peninsula have risen recently after North Korea carried out two nuclear tests last year and two ICBM tests last month, prompting a strong round of U.N. sanctions. That angered Pyongyang which has threatened to teach the United States a "severe lesson."

Trump responded by warning North Korea it would face "fire and fury" if it further threatened the United States.

(Additional reporting by Ben Blanchard in Beijing and Lee Chyen Yee in Singapore; Editing by Matthew Mpoke Bigg and Alistair Bell)

(c) Copyright Thomson Reuters 2017.



Original Page: http://feedproxy.google.com/~r/Gcaptain/~3/1dMCi22QdtI/



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Thursday, August 10, 2017

Inquiring Minds: Bringing the Navy’s History to Life Through Photographs August 9, 2017 by Wendi Maloney

Robert Hanshew works in the Library’s Prints and Photographs Division in July. Photos by Shawn Miller.

Robert Hanshew visits the Library’s Prints and Photographs Division almost every Friday. Over the past two or so years, he has sorted through literally hundreds of archival boxes containing photographs related to U.S. naval history. On other days of the week, he can often be found at the National Archives. His goal: to find rare and interesting historical photographs for the new National Museum of the U.S. Navy.

Now located within the high-security Washington Navy Yard in Washington, D.C., the museum is complicated to visit for those who don’t have military credentials. Still in the planning stages, the new and much larger museum—it will be the size of about four football fields—will sit outside the security perimeter, offering more opportunities for public education through photographic exhibits.

Hanshew has curated photographs for the Navy for about 18 years. Most recently, he helped produce a major outdoor public history exhibit, “Behind These Walls,” consisting of nine-by-seven foot photographs highlighting the history of the Washington Navy Yard. The display sits along the yard’s historical perimeter and includes photographs Hanshew identified in the Library’s collections.

Here Hanshew answers questions about his research at the Library.

A 1935 photograph from the Library’s collection is the backdrop for a “Behind These Walls” exhibit panel titled “Community.” It sits along the exterior wall of the Washington Navy Yard. 

Tell us a little about your research for the “Behind These Walls” exhibit.
The exhibit was done in conjunction with D.C.’s Capitol Riverfront Development to draw people to the Washington Navy Yard. The 11 panels were designed as quick, easy lessons on the various uses of the Navy Yard since its establishment in 1799. While performing research for this project, I found that the Library’s Prints and Photographs Division had some of the best-quality photographs—simple yet educational.

For the new naval museum, what kind of images are you looking for?
I am looking for images that might differ from the photographs that have been used for many years or be of better quality (richer tones and unscratched). I am also looking to identify images that have not been previously identified that could be used for exhibit purposes beyond the new museum. For example, we are currently doing an exhibit about the Battle of the Atlantic. I am going through photos of engagements of the Allies against German U-boats and identifying the submarines with help from National Archives records and other sources to tell a fuller and richer story.

What are some of your interesting finds at the Library?
The captions on the reverse side of photographs in the Navy and Marine Corps donated collections have been a revelation. At the National Archives, the photographs are mounted on a stiff cardboard that covers the captions, and the mount-card fronts usually have only one or two sentences. The information on the backs of photos at the Library helps me build better captions and offer more history, as names and proper dates are given. Another fantastic find at the Library are the educational tools the Navy used for training during World War II, including colorful naval aviation recognition tools used to help pilots identify U.S. aircraft from hostile planes. The images will make the basis for a wonderful exhibit at the new museum.

An 1864 Library of Congress photograph is the backdrop for a “Behind These Walls” panel titled “Defense.” 

How do you document the photographs you identify for potential use?
I bring one of my best friends, my Nikon D80, to “photograph the photographs” and any relevant text. I then break down the photographs into war and nonwar eras that the Navy and Marine Corps have been involved in since the American Revolution. In our digital databases, they are further categorized by the exhibit’s chronology and additional subjects such as aviation, places, people, ships and weapons. I have gathered close to 30,000 images from the National Archives and the Library, along with images from our own archives. Staff and graphic designers will be able to choose from these images when the final design and construction process starts. I have now accrued close to 2,000 pages of referenced, photograph material from the Library and other D.C. repositories.  

How did you come to be a Navy photo curator?
A Navy veteran, I was lucky enough to be stationed in London, where I went back to university and finished a history degree. Then I traveled to Dublin to study further. About 18 years ago, an artifact curator position opened at the Naval History Center. After some time, I began to deal with photographs and performed a wide range of outreach. When it came time to start work for a new museum, I was fortunate to be offered the chance to perform the mission of curating all the visual aspects of the exhibits.

Can you comment on your experience generally working at the Library? 
Every trip to the Library has been a joy. I view my trips as a good chance to chat with others who do similar jobs and are also excited about my finds of the week. I am also appreciative that the staff goes above and beyond to help me find what I might be looking for. For example, there was one image I could not find for a “Behind These Walls” exhibit panel, and I left disappointed. The staff took it upon themselves to do more research and found the image. This project would not be as good as it is without the help I have received from the Prints and Photographs Division. For that, alone, my team and I are eternally grateful.


The Shipwreck Hunter: An interview with David Mearns

Much of David Mearns work as a shipwreck hunter is the analysis of images and sonar scans. Image: David Mearns. 

Much of David Mearns work as a shipwreck hunter is the analysis of images and sonar scans. Image: David Mearns.

David Mearns is one of the world's pre-eminent shipwreck hunters. His company, Blue Water Recoveries, has an 88% recovery rate. He discovered the HMAS Sydney, and the Kormoran, the HMS Hood, the Royal Navy flagship sunk by the Bismarck, Vasco da Gama's Esmerelda (which sunk in 1503), the Lucona a cargo ship sunk by a time bomb that murdered its crew and the Rio Grande, the deepest shipwreck ever found – at 5,762 metres.

But Mearns wasn't interested in history at University. He actively avoided it, instead, he concentrated on getting degrees in marine biology and later, marine geology. He found work in the offshore industry, helping search and recovery for the US Navy. This is what sparked his now lifelong obsession as a shipwreck hunter: part detective, part archaeologist, part deep ocean adventurer – and historian.

His passion for the stories of the past drives him thousands of metres below the waves.

David Mearns, in his office. Image: David Mearns. 

David Mearns, in his office. Image: David Mearns.

If you could go back in time and stand on the deck of any ship, what would it be?

Now that's a question I've never had. I have to say this – I would want to stand on a ship with Shackleton and his men. That was true exploration. I'm a fellow of the Explorer's Club and have been for a very long time. It's generous to call us explorers when so much of the world is known. I mean I can do so much today with Google sitting in my office, compared to during Shackleton's day.

I just have the ultimate amount of admiration for what they went through and the challenges that they were ready to face. What they were prepared to do. To be away from home, not for a few weeks or months, but for years. To be on a ship and to be so close to touching Antarctica, and then being stranded in the ice and then say 'oh well we'll just have to over-winter and try next year' – without going home.

And every man on that expedition would have done it again. That's the genius of Shackleton. I'd love to be close to that genius and to see him and how he led his band. And be a part of that. That to me you would be the ultimate.

Being a Shipwreck Hunter is a job. It's a cool job, but it is a business. How does that work?

People often ask me 'what kind of business model do you have?' You can't really have a business model or a sort of predictable business going forward on the basis of hunting shipwrecks. You can't plan to investigate accidents whether it's shipwrecks or planes that crash. You don't really have a market where you knock on shipowner's doors saying 'give us a call if your ship sinks'.

The only thing that you could really do to put yourself in a position to continue to get work in this field is to make sure that every job that you have is successful. It's really very critical and I operate on that basis. You're only as good as your last project. I think in the past nearly 20 years I've had a very good track record and that's the best way for people to keep coming to your door and saying 'listen, we'd like you to find this shipwreck'. Deliver repeatedly. So it is a business.

But, some projects are more about a passion for the magic of it.So, for example, the search for Sydney and Kormoran, the first four years of that, I funded myself. All my own research, all my own time, all my own travel, flying to Australia. When I did get the project off the ground, I was the expedition leader for one-third of my fee to make it more affordable – that was to me the right thing to do.

David Mearns mapping out a search for a shipwreck. Image: David Mearns. 

David Mearns mapping out a search for a shipwreck. Image: David Mearns.

Your double degree in marine biology and marine geology is reasonably rare in your profession – is it a competitive advantage for you?

Yes, it is. I can train somebody to do my job, to read these sonar images and be able to distinguish between rocks and wrecks as well as I can. But the background that I have as a geologist and also as a geologist who studied in the marine environment and not a land based geologist, it does help me. I understand geological patterns. It gives you a better fundamental understanding of what the sonar is doing and how it's interacting with a piece of rock versus something that is man-made.

You're a father with three kids – it must be hard to have a normal family life with you away all the time.

Yes, I'm away a lot and it's not just going to sea on an expedition. It's travelling to do research and try to meet sponsors, all sorts of things. Just now, I'll be away for two weeks and I leave the day of my twin daughters' birthday.

I guess the only thing that's of solace is they're used to that because I've doing it since the time that they were little. And they don't get fazed. It's only when I'm gone for over a month or so and that's rare. My wife and I I've been able to organise our life in a way. It's not easy. It's not easy on her, but it is manageable.

What are the mechanics of actually finding a wreck? How many nautical miles do you cover in a day?

Well in searching for shipwrecks or anything on the ocean there's a trade-off between range and resolution, and your sonars are set to that.Sonars all operate on different frequencies.The higher the frequency, the higher the resolution, but the lower the range.

So for instance on MH370 they are using very high-frequency sonars and their range is limited but they're sure to see bits of the plane only a metre in size.

When we're looking for a shipwreck that's 100 metres long or even 200 metres long, we use a lower frequency sonar and increase the range so the square nautical miles we can cover in a day goes up drastically. And the range is enormous. Even in the deep ocean.

To search for small objects, you can cover say 15 to 20 square nautical miles per day. Whereas with modern systems we can search 70 square nautical miles per day when you're looking for a lost ship.

It's horses for courses. You pick the equipment and your research methodology and you plan for the type of target that you're looking at, the type of geology that's there. So that's the other complicating factor. If you've got a flat seabed with no mountainous terrain then you can use wider ranges. You don't have to worry about so much complicating geology making it difficult to see your target. If you're looking in mountainous terrain, it's a different story.

My career started in the 1980s and the equipment we're using today was never even conceived of. I've had to grow with the industry, and grow with the technology.

A shipwreck hunter seems to be part sailor, diver, researcher, wrangler, fundraiser, politician and organiser. What is the most interesting part for you now, as opposed to what it used to be when you were younger?

I didn't start as a researcher, so that is something that I sort of picked midway through my career, when I started researching for H.M.S. Hood, in 1995. I find that really fascinating. Finding shipwrecks, both modern and ancient, there's a moment of discovery. In research, you have those same moments of discovery, they're just the ones that happened in archives or libraries. It's just as satisfying to find a document as it is the final ship. It leads you to a clue that you know gives you a very good chance of finding the shipwreck you're looking for.

When you're at sea, it's exciting because there's a lot at stake. It's very pressure filled. You're spending a lot of money per day. We try to stay as safe as possible but you know people can get injured doing some of these jobs. There's a lot on your mind during that time and you really have to be prepared really almost to the point where you're sort of in training to be able to react to anything that's happening on any single day at any single moment.

You also have to make sure you complete the job on time and on budget! And that everybody goes home safe and all your equipment is there at the end of the job. Because you don't just have a couple of guys in a bit of scuba gear. You have remote submersibles and submarines and things like that.

A deep water project, thousands of metres deep, the instruments that you're putting in the water, whether it's a side scan sonar or an ROV or an AUV, you're talking half a million dollars to six million dollars. These things are on the end of a cable or sometimes there's no cable at all. So there is a risk of a loss, and like most people in my industry, I have suffered losses. So there's real pressure when you're at sea.

Her Royal Highness The Princess Royal pictured with David Mearns, Vice President of the HMS Hood Association during a tour of the National Museum of the Royal Navy (NMRN) exhibition 36 Hours: Jutland 1916, The Battle That Won The War at Portsmouth Historic Dockyard. Christopher Ison ©

Her Royal Highness The Princess Royal pictured with David Mearns, Vice President of the HMS Hood Association during a tour of the National Museum of the Royal Navy (NMRN) exhibition 36 Hours: Jutland 1916, The Battle That Won The War at Portsmouth Historic Dockyard. Image: Christopher Ison ©.

"There's so much more to do. We really we need to be looking at mapping the entire ocean floor. Hopefully I can contribute to that going forward – really making sure that the oceans are explored. It's an undiscovered planet."

What common misconceptions do people have about your job when they talk to you?

I think probably the biggest misconception people don't really understand how far you can go down as a human in the oceans. Whether you're diving on scuba or in a submersible. Everyone considers the Titanic to be the most important shipwreck ever found because it's so famous. Titanic was found in 1985 by a combined French-American expedition, but Bob Ballard got most of the credit.That was his Mount Everest. People think "well that was it, the deep oceans became accessible to man, with Titanic in 1985". Well, that's completely false.

Man reached the deep ocean in 1960. And in the early 1970s, there were American secret expeditions that were finding ships in 5000 meters of water, much deeper than Titanic (which sits 3800 meters the waves).

Bob Ballard is certainly somebody to be respected and admired, but there were people before him that did it, but they're not written about and they're not discussed because it was all done for the U.S. Navy on secret missions.

There's so much more to do. We really we need to be looking at mapping the entire ocean floor. Hopefully, I can contribute to that going forward – really making sure that the oceans are explored. It's an undiscovered planet.

David Mearns in Antarctica. His search for the Shackleton's Endurance goes back decades. Image: David Mearns. 

David Mearns in Antarctica. His search for the Shackleton's Endurance goes back decades. Image: David Mearns.

Is there a significant wreck that you'd really like to find?

I have been living in England for the last 22 years. I'm a dual national. This is my home, but I was born in America and for America, the USS Indianapolis is the ship.

This was the cruiser that delivered components of the Hiroshima atom bomb, but it was such a secret mission that when it was sunk by a Japanese submarine with a very high loss of life – it wasn't on anybody's radar. Nobody knew it sank and nobody acted upon it until our men were found floating in the water three days later.

It was a really tragic story in a number of ways. Probably the most awful aspect of it all, in addition to this high loss of life, was the fact that the Captain was made a scapegoat for the action and he was court-martialled for the loss of his ship, and ultimately committed suicide. It was a tragic story on many levels.

But the biggest one is Shackleton's Endurance. This is one that is absolutely a passion project and I've been working on for decades now. It is the ultimate challenge – which first attracted me to it. It is the most difficult thing to find. It's not just 3000 metres deep. It's in the permanently ice-covered Weddell Sea.In Antarctica. And we would be enduring the same risks of the unforgiving ice pack that destroyed the ship.

To me, it is the ultimate project and it's gone beyond just a technical challenge. It's really now a passion for the Shackleton story. I'm very close to the family. They are very good friends of mine. It's a real love for the heroic age of Antarctic polar exploration. I think it's it would be an amazing project that would touch people around the world. I just hope that in my lifetime there's an opportunity to be involved in discovering that shipwreck.

— Oscar Hillerstrom, Digital Producer.

David Mearns' new book, The Shipwreck Hunter, is available in our online store.



Original Page: https://anmm.wordpress.com/2017/07/24/the-shipwreck-hunter-an-interview-with-david-mearns/



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In the dead of night: The Battle of Savo Island

HMAS <em>Canberra</em> underway off Tulagi on the 7th or 8th August 1942. Image: US Naval History and Heritage Command.

HMAS Canberra underway off Tulagi on the 7th or 8th August 1942. Image: US Naval History and Heritage Command.

At 2 am on Sunday 9th August 1942 the Royal Australian Navy's County class heavy cruiser HMAS Canberra (D33) was leading a combined US and Australian naval task force protecting the US 1st Division Marine landings on the islands of Tulagi and Guadalcanal in the Solomon Islands.

Near Savo Island, a tiny speck of land directly north of the landings, 24 salvoes of Japanese shellfire and two torpedoes suddenly struck and devastated Canberra. Fought under the light of Japanese flares the battle killed 84 of Canberra's company of 819 including Captain Frank Getting. American losses were even greater with USS Quincy, USS Vincennes and USS Astoria sunk and 939 men killed.

It was reported that all 19 torpedoes fired by the Japanese at the Australian ship missed their mark, some Canberra survivors claimed that the two torpedoes that had struck their ship were inadvertent 'friendly fire' from the American destroyer USS Bagley.

The Canberra remained afloat while survivors were rescued by USS Patterson and USS Blue and damage was assessed. It was decided that the ship was irreparable and would be scuttled later that morning. This proved harder than expected. It took 265 shells and four torpedoes fired from USS Selfridge and more torpedoes from USS Ellet to finish the job.

USS Blue on HMAS <em>Canberra's</em> port bow and USS <em>Patterson</em> approaching to rescue survivors on 9th August 1942. Image: US Naval History and Heritage Command.

USS Blue on HMAS Canberra's port bow and USS Patterson approaching to rescue survivors on 9th August 1942. Image: US Naval History and Heritage Command.

Their decisive victory cost the Japanese three Imperial Navy ships damaged and 129 men lost.

In the investigation that followed this naval ambush and disaster, the crew of an RAAF reconnaissance aircraft was pilloried by US investigators for failing to report that they had sighted the Japanese ships advancing on the morning of the 8th of August. Only in 2014 were they cleared of blame, having sent their report twice it was not delivered to the Allied task force until late in the evening  [1].

Eric Geddes received a letter from US Navy historians, condemning the criticism made against his aircrew. Source: ABC News.

The Battle of Savo Island set the scene for the subsequent bitter Guadalcanal Campaign where American, Australian, New Zealand, Solomon Island, Fijian and Tongan forces repelled repeated Japanese air, land and sea attempts to regain control of this staging point vital to the success of either side.

At the request of US President Franklin D Roosevelt a Baltimore class cruiser commissioned by the US Navy on 14 October 1943 was named USS Canberra to commemorate the loss of the Australian ship, the only US Navy vessel to be named after a foreign capital city or vessel.

USS <em>Canberra</em> (centre) in dry dock for repairs in December 1944. Image: US National Archive.

USS Canberra (centre) in dry dock for repairs in December 1944. Image: US National Archive.

The new American ship was torpedoed in the Formosa Air Battle in October 1944 and returned to the USA for repairs. In 1952 it was converted into a Boston class guided missile heavy cruiser and saw service in Cuba and the Vietnam War before being decommissioned in 1970. The bell and engine telegraph of USS Canberra are displayed in the museum's USA Gallery as a reminder of the Battle of Savo Island.

President George W Bush presented the USS Canberra bell to Australian Prime Minister John Howard at Washington Navy Yard on 10 September 2001 to commemorate 50 years of the ANZUS military alliance. Image: White House photo by Tina Hager.

President George W Bush presented the USS Canberra bell to Australian Prime Minister John Howard at Washington Navy Yard on 10 September 2001 to commemorate 50 years of the ANZUS military alliance. Image: White House photo by Tina Hager.

USS <em>Canberra </em> bell on display in Treasures of the American Collection. Image: ANMM.

USS Canberra bell on display in Treasures of the American Collection. Image: ANMM.

— Richard Wood,  USA Programs Manager.

Explore more stories of War and Peace in the Pacific during World War II in our feature stories, including the Battle of the Coral Sea, the Bombing of Darwin and the Attack on Pearl Harbor.

[1] See ABC news coverage for more information – source one and two.

War and Peace in the Pacific 75 - a series of programs to commemorate significant 75th anniversaries of World War II. Image: ANMM.

War and Peace in the Pacific 75 – a series of programs to commemorate significant 75th anniversaries of World War II. Image: ANMM.



Original Page: https://anmm.wordpress.com/2017/08/08/in-the-dead-of-night-the-battle-of-savo-island/



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