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Decline of Naval Thought in the RCN

Weinie

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Interesting discussion on tactical vs strategic. I have been working for some time with some naval colleagues who are grappling with this same issue, how does the Navy achieve strat effect, as part of a pan-domain force employment concept and within a full spectrum targeting construct. That may be the easier method to crack the nut, determining the effect you want to achieve and at what level, and does the RCN platform (or the other purveyors of action) then have the ability to create that effect. After running through the exercise a number of times, and if your assumptions about the likely reactions/outcomes/consequences are correct, you hopefully begin to get a sense of who can do what.

Problem is, much of the discussion is theoretical. Canadian military strategic effect internationally is determined, by and large, through coalition ops, and as a previous poster stated, we often get swept up in the strategy of the 800 lb. gorilla. Also, the target(s) of the effect has a vote.

The Strat Effects Mgmt Board is looking at a number of these challenges right now. It will take some time to figure out amongst all of the players. Though we have some strategic thinkers, we still have a bunch of folks for whom metal on metal is the preferred method.

 

Colin Parkinson

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Is sending your AOR to support a coalition effort off the coast of Africa a tactical or strategic decision? The benefits you gain by doing so, may have nothing to do with the mission at hand. I see the C17 purchase as a Strategic decision as it allows us to spread our influences and alliances further and in a way that many of our allies can't. One reason why I bemoan the failure to secure the two built for Russia Mistals, I saw them as a way to leverage our influence with other nations by supporting a wide variety of missions with them, beyond what we have done since the loss of the CV's.
 

Infanteer

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Allocation of forces to a theatre is a strategic decision.  The AOR sailing in specific ways to avoid contact is a tactical one.
 

Underway

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I'm glad OGBD posted because I was scratching my head trying to untangle the strategic from the tactical in naval operations.  Compound this with the procurement or project management consideration from the original article to entangle the issue.

There is no doubt that Canada is making strategic decisions with the RCN.  The setup of the Shanghai Logistics Hub (or whatever its really called) similar to the Logistics Hub in Kuwait was done to allow for two things.  Improve relations with players in South East Asia and allow for CAF strategic reach (logistics) to improve in the area. 

OP PROJECTION is to build those relationships and work with allied navies in order to blunt Chinese influence.  Asterix being sent first to the Pacific and out the OP PROJECTION was a significant strategic move, helping to improve the strategic mobility of our allies there.  Also, the deployment of a submarine to Japan was part of this strategy.

OP REASSURANCE and the visit of HMCS Toronto to Ukraine twice was a government strategy to show we can operate in Russia's backyard.  That was more government and NATO-led than RCN lead but diplomacy is fully intertwined with naval strategy in many cases.

Now when one looks at the project management criticism though well-founded, it misses an important point.  A naval strategy is completely based on the platforms that one has available.  We cannot make strategic decisions without understanding the capability or effects that a ship can have.  AOR's improve strategic mobility and logistics enormously.  Frankly, they might be the difference between a true sea control strategy and a sea denial strategy.

Secondly, the CSC statement of requirements was built around the RCN having the effectors it needs in order to implement various strategies.  For example, if one is unable to tactically project power ashore through missiles or guns (as we are currently limited) then the strategic effects a task group can have off an enemy shore is limited.  Proper procurement and effective platforms change the calculus for the enemy and have strategic impacts. 

Weinie said:
Problem is, much of the discussion is theoretical. Canadian military-strategic effect internationally is determined, by and large, through coalition ops, and as a previous poster stated, we often get swept up in the strategy of the 800 lb. gorilla.

Coalition operations have strategic effects IMHO.  Building those relationships in order to balance off the larger powers, its what middle (middling?) powers do.  That might not be a true naval strategy but it's a national strategy.

The TG concept is designed to allow Canada to operate without a coalition.  Four ships, an AOR, and a submarine are the dream.  But without the project managers, we don't have the equipment to even think about doing that, and thus sea control, sea denial and power projection are limited.
 

Infanteer

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Weinie said:
Problem is, much of the discussion is theoretical. Canadian military strategic effect internationally is determined, by and large, through coalition ops, and as a previous poster stated, we often get swept up in the strategy of the 800 lb. gorilla.

I don't think this is necessarily true - I hear it a lot, but I don't really feel this sentiment captures the essence of strategic decision making.

Some of the best models of strategy I've seen describe it as being composed of time, space, and force.  Strategic decision making is allocation of time, space, and force to achieve tactical effects for the purposes of war (policy).

While a predilection to fight through coalitions and alliances will often limit the space factor of strategy for Canada (we don't unilaterally determine where we will employ military force), Canadian decision makers have the ability to consider and adjust the factors of time and force.

Use the Second World War as an example.  Canada was able to exercise some degree of strategic choice.  It opted not to send forces to North Africa, it opted to dispatch forces to Italy (instead of, say, the Pacific), it took part in fabricating a system to defeat the U-Boat menace, etc, etc.  Once forces were committed, Canada did not have as much say in the iterative interplay of strategy and tactics, and didn't have much operational decision space - this was largely determined by the senior Allies (US and the UK) and by the alliance chain of command, dominated by the Combined Chiefs of Staff.  So, while we didn't have complete strategic freedom of action, we had some.

This still stands today: Canada possesses some strategic choice.  Where do we sail our frigates?  Where do we dedicate our fighters?  Where do our transports fly stuff to?  Where do we put Battle Groups?  Some of this strategic choice is already determined by pre-existing alliances such as contributions to a NATO standing fleet or to NORAD air defence requirements, but anything in excess of that provides for strategic choice.

This is partly what the pan-domain force employment concept you mention gets to - our military resources are finite, so it makes sense to put them in the places that make the most strategic sense for Canada.  There are also new force elements (for example, cyber forces) coming on-line that have completely different characteristics when it comes to time, space, and force.  When you transition a cyber resource from one target to another without physically moving anything, there is a new dynamic in strategy related to prioritizing these "high demand/low density" resources.  Does strategy say the priorities lay with countering a VEO like Daesh?  Is this adding to deterrence in Eastern Europe?  Is this working in the Pacific to maintain freedom of navigation?

Swinging this all the way back to the original topic, there is - in my opinion - certainly space for Canadian operational and strategic naval thought.  Where do we dedicate naval resources in terms of time, space, and force, and once dedicated, how are they best employed within that theatre?

:2c:
 

Weinie

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Underway,

Coalition operations have strategic effects IMHO.  Building those relationships in order to balance off the larger powers, its what middle (middling?) powers do.  That might not be a true naval strategy but it's a national strategy.

Couldn't agree more. My comment was leant more towards the fact that we have become moribund/comfortable in a coalition setting and less focused on true Canadian strategic interests. I have grown up with, deployed in support of, and am a big believer in RBIO, FON, and other international agreements, but feel that quite often repeating this boilerplate as the justification for supporting coalitions intellectually excuses us from discerning what truly are real/developing Canadian strategic interests. I also think that this issue has become of increasing significance, given the U.S.'s seeming abdication of some of it's post WWII role and projection of influence on the international stage, potentially leading to less Canadian coalition ops, and less strategic effect projection.

Canada has the ability to wield some clout, and more importantly, we have influence. If you follow Joseph Nye, you will be familiar with his "soft power" writings. There are many others that write on exerting influence, Chris Paul from Rand for example. I think it is time we had a much more serious discussion of what/how/where/who/why we (Canada) exert national power to achieve strategic effect.

Welcome your feedback. As you may have noticed, this is a particular interest of mine

 

Weinie

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Infanteer,

Wasn't trying to hijack the thread, merely stating that my belief is that Naval Strategic effect has to spring from Canadian desired strategic effect, and that perhaps we haven't given that the scrutiny/gray matter that it deserves.

The Aussies have made some significant strides in this area (mind you with a significantly different strategic environment), notwithstanding we may want to look to them as a source of what Canada needs to be thinking about.

Cyber and info are two other realms that have vaulted to the forefront. I refer to my original statement that some folks think that metal on metal is the preferred option. We have a long way to go in our development. 
 

Infanteer

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You ain't hijacking the thread mate - you're keeping it going!
 

Weinie

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Is that a good or a bad thing? I can talk most people's ear off on this, and welcome feedback til my eardrums bleed. Just don't want to limit true discussion on it from Navy folks, who are much better situated to talk platforms and capabilities. Should we start a new topic?
 

Infanteer

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Nah, keep it here.  It's a welcome respite from all things COVID-19.

Killicks and midshipman - over to you.
 

daftandbarmy

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Infanteer said:
Nah, keep it here.  It's a welcome respite from all things COVID-19.

Killicks and midshipman - over to you.

OK, I'll bite... wtf is a 'Killick', and is the root word 'Kill' (which would be cool) :)
 

SeaKingTacco

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daftandbarmy said:
OK, I'll bite... wtf is a 'Killick', and is the root word 'Kill' (which would be cool) :)

In modern parlance, it is a Leading Seaman.
 

Weinie

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Killick = Leading Seaman. It is derived from a Gaelic word meaning "anchor", which was a heavy stone wrapped in tree branches. The nickname is derived from the fact that the Leading Seaman's rank badge was once a fouled anchor.

But your thought is way cooler D&B
 

Oldgateboatdriver

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A "killick" is an anchor ran from the stern to permit stabilizing the ship and pulling the ship from hazardous positions by heaving in the killick. Heavily used when beaching the ship stem on, as for a landing operation.

It refers to Leading seamen since the rank, in the RN/RNZN/RAN and in the "old" RCN, was denoted by a single "fouled anchor" symbol.

End of arrogant lesson.  ;D
 

FSTO

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A bit of a rant here, actually more than just a bit.

Another way that Naval Thought has declined is that the RCN seems to have decided what ever seagoing platform they can get their hands on will just have to do. No matter how useful it really is.

Eg. Why are we even considering extending the lives of the Victoria Class? Wouldn't it be much better to get a whole new sub, maybe in conjunction with our relatives the Aussies?
AOPS, do we really need 8 did we even need 4. Would some of that money be better spent on a true mine hunting/sweeping craft or a true OSPV.
I really hope that FELEX is the last time we do a midlife refit. If the design life of a warship is 25 years then for the safe of everything holy get rid of the bloody things at that time instead of opening up the poor girls and all the inherited issues that come with trying to squeeze 10 more years out of them.
JSS, the bastard child of ALSC where the Navy was led down the garden path by the Big Honking Ship General and Canada lost 10 years while we flailed about wondering what sort of AOR we were going to get.
After that kick in the gonades the RCN is now down to trying to save the silverware and seems to no longer have the fortitude, ability or maybe even the desire to go to the CDS/MND and tell them that in the absence of direction from Parliament, here is the Navy you'll need if you want to cause these and these effects.   

I've waivered over hitting post a couple of times but I thought, what the hell, when will I get back to my cubicle at Carling 10W?
 

Oldgateboatdriver

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I disagree with only one small point in your rant, FSTO: I want a mid-life refit on our warships.

But a real mid-life refit: When they hit about 15 years  of service, to get them properly upgraded for the last 9-10 years of their life. Then, they go into 10 years reserve alongside.

This way, we keep ships on hand for thirty five years each, while they are never more than about 20 years out of date (if you need to bring them up to date quickly). If you bring one new ship into the fleet every year, you then have 15 to 20 ships in service, never more than ten years "out of date", and another 15 to 20 in reserve for quick activation, never more than 20 years out of date.
 

daftandbarmy

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FSTO said:
A bit of a rant here, actually more than just a bit.

Another way that Naval Thought has declined is that the RCN seems to have decided what ever seagoing platform they can get their hands on will just have to do. No matter how useful it really is.

So, like, the TAPV is only a recent Army version of what the Navy's been doing all along? Cool....  ;D
 

FSTO

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Oldgateboatdriver said:
I disagree with only one small point in your rant, FSTO: I want a mid-life refit on our warships.

But a real mid-life refit: When they hit about 15 years  of service, to get them properly upgraded for the last 9-10 years of their life. Then, they go into 10 years reserve alongside.

This way, we keep ships on hand for thirty five years each, while they are never more than about 20 years out of date (if you need to bring them up to date quickly). If you bring one new ship into the fleet every year, you then have 15 to 20 ships in service, never more than ten years "out of date", and another 15 to 20 in reserve for quick activation, never more than 20 years out of date.
I agree.
 

Eaglelord17

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What they need to do if they want to keep a truly effective Navy is pick a ship builder and have them produce 1-2 warships a year (I would prefer 2 myself but that would be greatly expanding our Navy size). Once one reaches the 12 year mark, it gets mothballed and placed as a Reserve for event of war. That way when war starts you have 24-48 real warships ready because the reality is with modern conflict you basically come to the table with what you have, good luck getting more quickly.

This also has the added benefits of allowing us to keep the ship builders in constant work, avoiding the expensive start up costs every time we want a new ship, and allowing us to continually upgrade the ships as they are being produced. Flaws corrected, newer technology added, etc. In the event of war its easier to expand a production line than start from scratch, especially if we already have the facilities, etc.

Use the other ship builder to build things like the AOPS or coast guard ships, or other government ship requirements, again building one or two at a time so its a constant flow keeping everything nice and stable. Long term it would also help keep costs down, but no one in government is really interested beyond the 4-8 year span.
 

Infanteer

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There is some irony here, as you guys are talking about ship procurement, service life, and mid-life refits....
 
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