Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Trafalgar Pictorial

Photos courtesy of Royal Navy

A fleet of pickup trucks joins RFA Argus in Gibraltar

Pickup trucks are loaded onto the RFA Argus. Picture: Crown Copyright 2014

London October 21, 2014 - 32 UK-funded pickup trucks to assist efforts to defeat Ebola in Sierra Leone have been loaded aboard the Royal Fleet Auxiliary ship Argus during a planned stop at a British Naval Base in Gibraltar.
Throughout the day on Tuesday 21 October, the vehicles were lifted onto the deck of the ship where they will remain until the ship reaches Freetown later next week.
On arrival in Sierra Leone they will transport staff, medicines and equipment around the country.
Speaking from Sierra Leone, where she arrived today to visit UK funded Ebola treatment and training facilities, International Development Secretary Justine Greening said:
"These vehicles will be vital to keep Ebola treatment centres running across the country. From transporting medical supplies to ensuring treatment centres are well stocked with protective clothing, they will help increase capacity and capability as we work to control and defeat Ebola in Sierra Leone. I am in Freetown to see first-hand how British health workers, military personnel, humanitarian experts and engineers are leading the fight to tackle this dreadful disease. I have visited a UK-funded Ebola medic training facility and a British-run community care unit and am immensely proud of what we are already achieving on the ground and how that will scale up dramatically in the coming weeks."
There are currently more than 300 UK military personnel in Sierra Leone from all three services – Army, Navy and RAF - comprised of medics, engineers, logisticians and planners. The Royal Navy’s RFA Argus and its Merlin helicopters, along with highly-skilled personnel, left Falmouth on the 17 October and on arrival will provide further support to UK efforts to tackle the virus. By the end of October, Defence’s total contribution to the UK’s work to tackle Ebola in Sierra Leone will amount to around 750 personnel.
Defence Secretary Michael Fallon said:
I am hugely proud of the RFA Argus mission. It demonstrates clearly the UK’s determination to lead the World’s efforts to tackle the Ebola crisis. The loading of vital DFID vehicles on to the ship in Gibraltar en route to Sierra Leone highlights yet again that the permanent joint operating base there is of huge strategic importance to the UK.
My visit last week reinforced our deep commitment to Gibraltar. The Agreement which I signed with the Chief Minister not only paved the way for a multi-million pound investment in resurfacing Gibraltar’s runway, it will also result in the passage of legislation to put the Royal Gibraltar Regiment on the same footing as its UK counterparts.
The 32 Toyota Hilux Twin Cab vehicles will be used by DFID’s partners including NGOs and the UN in Sierra Leone and will be prioritised based on need upon arrival in country.
The UK has so far committed £125 million to tackle Ebola in Sierra Leone. This includes supporting 700 treatment beds to help up to 8,800 patients over 6 months, as well as shoring up the country’s stretched public health services to help contain the disease. This includes vital supplies such as chlorine and protective clothing for thousands of health workers.
During a visit last week the Defence Secretary re-affirmed UK support to Gibraltar with a package of new measures including a multi-million pound runway upgrade and stronger recognition for troops serving in the territory.
Ms Greening departed for Sierra Leone from RAF Brize Norton on the morning of Tuesday 21 October alongside a further 150 soldiers, mainly members of 35 Squadron, 5 Armoured Medical Regiment, Royal Army Medical Corps.

NOAA team discovers two vessels from WWII convoy battle off North Carolina

The German U-576 departing Saint-Nazaire, France, circa 1940-1942. The submarine was sunk in 1942 by aircraft fire after attacking and sinking the Nicaraguan freighter Bluefields and two other ships off North Carolina. (Credit: With permission from Ed Caram)
U-576 departing Saint-Nazaire, France, circa 1940-1942. The submarine was sunk in 1942 by aircraft fire after attacking and sinking the Nicaraguan freighter Bluefieldsand two other ships off North Carolina. (Credit: With permission from Ed Caram)
October 21, 2014 - A team of researchers led by NOAA’s Office of National Marine Sanctuaries have discovered two significant vessels from World War II’s Battle of the Atlantic. The German U-boat 576 and the freighter Bluefields were found approximately 30 miles off the coast of North Carolina. Lost for more than 70 years, the discovery of the two vessels, in an area known as the Graveyard of the Atlantic, is a rare window into a historic military battle and the underwater battlefield landscape of WWII.

“This is not just the discovery of a single shipwreck,” said Joe Hoyt, a NOAA sanctuary scientist and chief scientist for the expedition. “We have discovered an important battle site that is part of the Battle of the Atlantic. These two ships rest only a few hundred yards apart and together help us interpret and share their forgotten stories.”

On July 15, 1942, Convoy KS-520, a group of 19 merchant ships escorted by the U.S. Navy and Coast Guard, was en route to Key West, Florida, from Norfolk, Virginia, to deliver cargo to aid the war effort when it was attacked off Cape Hatteras. The U-576 sank the Nicaraguan flagged freighterBluefields and severely damaged two other ships. In response, U.S. Navy Kingfisher aircraft, which provided the convoy’s air cover, bombed U-576 while the merchant ship Unicoi attacked it with its deck gun. Bluefields and U-576 were lost within minutes and now rest on the seabed less than 240 yards apart.
“Most people associate the Battle of the Atlantic with the cold, icy waters of the North Atlantic,” said David Alberg, superintendent of NOAA’s Monitor National Marine Sanctuary. “But few people realize how close the war actually came to America’s shores. As we learn more about the underwater battlefield, Bluefields and U-576 will provide additional insight into a relatively little-known chapter in American history.”
The discovery of U-576 and Bluefields is a result of a 2008 partnership between NOAA and the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) to survey and document vessels lost during WWII off the North Carolina coast. Earlier this year, in coordination with Monitor National Marine Sanctuary, NOAA Ship Okeanos Explorer conducted an initial survey based on archival research. In August, archaeologists aboard NOAA research vessel SRVX Sand Tiger located and confirmed the ships’ identities.

“This discovery highlights the importance of federal agencies working together to identify and protect these unique submerged archaeological resources that are of local and international importance,” said William Hoffman, a BOEM archaeologist.

The newly identified wrecks are protected under international law. Although Bluefields did not suffer any casualties during the sinking, the wreck site is a war grave for the crew of U-576.

“In legal succession to the former German Reich, the Federal Republic of Germany, as a rule, sees itself as the owner of formally Reich-owned military assets, such as ship or aircraft wreckages,” said the German Foreign Office in a statement. “The Federal Republic of Germany is not interested in a recovery of the remnants of the U-576 and will not participate in any such project. It is international custom to view the wreckage of land, sea, and air vehicles assumed or presumed to hold the remains of fallen soldiers as war graves. As such, they are under special protection and should, if possible, remain at their site and location to allow the dead to rest in peace.”
United States policy on sunken state vessels, such as these, reaffirms sovereign government ownership of the wrecks, including German ownership of U-576. As stated in the 2001 Presidential Statement on United States Policy for the Protection of Sunken State Craft the wrecks are not considered abandoned nor does passage of time change their ownership.

Those who would engage in unauthorized activities directed at sunken State craft are advised that disturbance or recovery of such craft should not occur without the express permission of the sovereign government retaining ownership. The United States will use its authority to protect and preserve sunken State craft of the United States and other nations. For more information about the U.S. Policy on Sunken Warships see Federal Register Volume 69, Number 24 (Thursday, February 5, 2004)][Pages 5647-5648].
Other partners who participated in this effort include: NOAA’s Office of Exploration and Research; the National Park Service American Battlefield Protection Program and Submerged Resource Center; East Carolina University, the University of North Carolina Coastal Studies Institute; and SRI International.
As part of the NOAA Battle of the Atlantic Research Project, extensive discussions took place with others including consultation with both Great Britain and Germany as well as the United States Navy and United States Coast Guard. State of the art marine technology provided high-resolution sonar imagery to corroborate historic and archival accounts of the final location and characteristics of each vessel.

Historical Background

On July 14, 1942, the convoy KS-520, with 19 merchant ships and five escorts, set sail from Lynnhaven Roads, Va. The convoy code ‘KS’ that identified the group, indicated that they were moving south along the eastern seaboard with Key West, Fl., as their final destination. Once the convoy passed the minefield protecting the Chesapeake Bay, the ships assembled, set a course for 78 degrees, and headed south at a slow but steady speed of 8.5 knots.
As the convoy left Virginia waters, five vessels formed Escort Group Easy to protect the convoy. The escort included two U.S. Navy ships, two U.S. Coast Guard cutters and a naval vessel that was formerly a British ship. The convoy was to sail for seven days and arrive in Key West on July 21. However, with a looming threat of German U-boats known to be operating in the area, the KS-520 would surely not go without incident, and Escort Group Easy kept a vigilant watch.

u-576 crew on deck
Kapitänleutnant Hans-Dieter Heinicke (Photo: Ed Caram)

Meanwhile, a German U-boat, U-576, had been operating off Cape Hatteras, N.C. During its operation, it sustained damage to the main ballast tank, and on July 13, it was reported to the command in France that the damage was severe and irreparable. The next day, as the convoy set out, the U-boat commander, Kapitanleutnant Hans-Dieter Heinicke, made the decision to head back home to Germany. However, prior to leaving U.S. waters, Heinicke and his crew would encounter convoy KS-520.
Having completed his first two patrols without a single kill, and making only marginal gains during his third and fourth patrols, when Kplt. Heinicke saw the KS-520 just off Cape Hatteras, he probably saw it as the perfect opportunity to increase his success as a U-boat captain. In spite of his damaged ship, Heinicke decided to attack at all costs. However, at 4:00 pm just before he could fire his torpedoes, one of the Coast Guard cutters picked up a sonar contact. The Coast Guard crew dropped three depth charges, followed by five more 10 minutes later. Then at about 4:15 pm, the U-576fired four torpedoes into the convoy. Two torpedoes rocked the Chilore, one hit theJ.A. Mowinckel, and the fourth struck the Bluefields amidships on its port side, sinking her in minutes.

The Chilore was a steam merchant ship damaged by a torpedo in the KS-520 battle. Photo: Norfolk Public Library
The Chilore was a steam merchant ship damaged by a torpedo in the KS-520 battle. (Photo: Norfolk Public Library)

The U-576, already damaged, surfaced in the middle of the convoy and immediately the Armed Guard crew on the merchant ship, Unicoi, opened fire and scored a hit. Almost concurrently, two U. S. Navy Kingfisher aircraft straddled the U-576 with depth charges and sent it to the bottom of the sea with all 45 crew members.  Over the next hour, Escort Group Easy, in concert with patrol aircraft, continued to conduct antisubmarine operations to ensure the U-boat had in fact been sunk.

J.A. Mowinckel, a motor tanker in the convoy, was damaged by a torpedo from the U-576. Photo: Uboat.net
J.A. Mowinckel, a motor tanker in the convoy, was damaged by a torpedo from the U-576. (Photo: Uboat.net)

Meanwhile, the damaged Mowinckel and Chilore maneuvered inshore to await tow operations. Unfortunately, this took them into the Hatteras minefield. Regrettably, during a salvage attempt, the tugboat Keshena struck a mine and sank, while Chilore later sank under tow in the mouth of the Chesapeake Bay. In addition to the deaths of the 45 submarine crew members, the skirmish resulted in four Allied casualties.

Monday, October 20, 2014

Escort Carriers in Tacoma Mothball Fleet Pictorial

Tacoma Public Library

Tacoma Public Library
USS Tinian bound for Tacoma to enter mothball fleet. Wikipedia photo.

USS Sitkoh Bay. Tacoma Public Library

Tacoma Public Library

Tacoma Public Library

Tacoma Public Library

Tacoma Public Library

Lockheed Martin-Led Team Launches Future USS Detroit

Marinette October 18, 2014 - The Lockheed Martin-led industry team launched the nation's seventh Littoral Combat Ship (LCS), Detroit, into the Menominee River at Marinette Marine Corporation (MMC).
The ship's sponsor, Mrs. Barbara Levin, christened Detroit with the traditional smashing of a champagne bottle across the ship's bow just prior to the launch.
"It is a privilege to serve as the sponsor of the future USS Detroit and to participate in the major milestones along the way to her assuming her place as part of the great U.S. Navy fleet," said Mrs. Levin. "I also look forward to an ongoing relationship with her courageous crews and their families throughout the ship's lifetime."
Following christening and launch, Detroit will continue to undergo outfitting and testing before delivery to the Navy in 2015.
"It is an honor to continue supporting the U.S. Navy with these capable and flexible warships," said Dale P. Bennett, executive vice president of Lockheed Martin's Mission Systems and Training business. "The Lockheed Martin-led team's LCS design is lethal, survivable, and affordable. These ships will help the Navy achieve its goal to increase forward presence, and can be upgraded or modified quickly to meet future missions."
The U.S. Navy awarded the contract to construct Detroit in March 2011. The ship is one of five currently under construction at Marinette Marine.
"On behalf of Marinette Marine, we are incredibly proud to build these ships for the U.S. Navy," said Jan Allman, MMC president and CEO. "We continue to streamline our processes and leverage the craftsmanship and skills of our employees in producing these high quality vessels for our warfighters."
The Lockheed Martin-led industry team is building the Freedom-variant ships, and has already delivered two ships to the U.S. Navy. USS Freedom (LCS 1) completed a successful deployment to Southeast Asia in 2013. USS Fort Worth (LCS 3) will deploy to Southeast Asia in 2014. Milwaukee (LCS 5) will be delivered to the U.S. Navy in 2015. Detroit (LCS 7) was christened and launched on Oct. 18, 2014. Little Rock (LCS 9), Sioux City (LCS 11) and Wichita (LCS 13) are under construction. Billings (LCS 15) will begin construction this year.
Earlier this year, the Navy funded Indianapolis (LCS 17) and LCS 19, which is yet to be named.

Iconic 'Elephant Cage' laid to rest

Misawa AFB October 17, 2014 - Demolition of Misawa Air Base's AN/FLR-9 antenna, also known as the "Elephant Cage," began Oct. 15 after nearly 50 years of service.
Construction on the iconic antenna began in 1963 and was completed in 1965 at a cost of $3.3 million.
While operational, the antenna could intercept and directionally locate high-frequency radio transmissions up to 4,000 nautical miles away. Its capabilities helped ensure U.S. and allied forces had the needed secure command, control and communication to support senior military and defense officials. The antenna array was composed of three concentric rings of antenna elements.
A total of eight Elephant Cages were constructed in various locations around the world.
"While it performed its mission well for 48 years, outlived technology and fiscal constraints have driven Misawa Security Operations Center to seek new ways of doing business," said Col. Joseph Winters, a 373rd Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance commander. 
However, the assembly will not soon be forgotten.
"This massive structure has architecturally graced the northern skyline overlooking Lake Ogawara and is said to be considered a symbol of luck by the local Japanese," Winters said. "The Elephant Cage was undoubtedly part of Misawa's past and present, and it will be missed."
The demolition project will bring an additional $4.97 million into the Japanese economy and employ more than 250 Japanese nationals. 
The project is expected to last until September 2015.
The last standing Elephant Cage is located at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson in Alaska.
"During its long life the antenna played a major part in the Cold War and beyond," said Col. Andrew Hansen, the 35th Fighter Wing vice commander. "However, the technology has outlived its usefulness and requires new ways of operating. The demolition of the Elephant Cage marks the end of an era."

Saturday, October 18, 2014

DOJ Files False Claims Act Lawsuit Against Sikorsky

Washington October 16, 2014 - United States Files Complaint in False Claims Act Lawsuit Alleging Defense Contractors Knowingly Overcharged the Navy on Aircraft Maintenance Contract
The Department of Justice announced today that it has filed its complaint in intervention in a case against defendants Sikorsky Aircraft Corporation and two of its subsidiaries, Sikorsky Support Services Inc. and Derco Aerospace Inc., for violating the False Claims Act.  Sikorsky Aircraft Corporation is a wholly owned subsidiary of United Technologies Corporation, with headquarters in Stratford, Connecticut. 
The government’s complaint alleges that Sikorsky Aircraft Corporation approved an illegal cost-plus-a-percentage-of-cost subcontract between Sikorsky Support Services Inc., and Derco Aerospace.  A cost-plus-a-percentage-of-cost contract is one where the cost of performance is unknown in advance and compensation is determined based on the cost of performance plus an agreed-to percentage of such costs.  Such contracts are prohibited because they give contractors no incentive to control the cost of performance.  The complaint further alleges the defendants used this illegal subcontract to overcharge the Navy on parts and materials that were used to maintain Navy aircraft.
“Those who contract with the federal government and accept taxpayer dollars, must follow the rules,” said Acting Assistant Attorney General Joyce R. Branda for the Justice Department’s Civil Division.  “Today’s complaint demonstrates, once again, that the Department of Justice will not tolerate contractors who engage in schemes to defraud the armed forces or any other agency of the United States.”
“The claims in the civil complaint that we have filed reflect our focused and purposeful investigative work in identifying and seeking remedies for false claims in government contracting,” said U.S. Attorney James L. Santelle for the Eastern District of Wisconsin.  “Under the authority of the False Claims Act, we pursue fraud of this sort to ensure that taxpayer dollars are spent lawfully and that overcharges and other types of contracting misconduct are addressed.”
The complaint was filed in a case brought under the qui tam provisions of the False Claims Act by Mary J. Patzer, a former employee of Derco.  Under the False Claims Act, a private citizen, called a “relator,” may bring suit on behalf of the United States and share in any recovery.  The government may intervene in the case, as the government has done here.  The False Claims Act allows the government to recover treble damages and penalties from those who violate it.
The case is being handled jointly by the Civil Division and the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Wisconsin.
The case is captioned United States ex rel. Patzer v. United Technologies Corporation, et al., No. 11-C-560 (E.D. Wis.).  The claims made in the complaint are allegations only, and there has been no determination of liability.