Tuesday 12th of December 2023

one of an abandoned litter....

enough is enough — bring him home......

The commissioning of the new USS Canberra in Sydney amid accompanying fanfare and blanket Australian media coverage provided ample testimony to the extent that we are increasingly being taken for granted by the US civil and military leadership. 

The Canberra is one of the final run of 35 Littoral Combat Ships (LCS) built for the US Navy in the past 18 years. The LCS is a relatively inexpensive surface combatant ship in two very different designs. One called the LCS-1 or Freedom-class design, was developed by an industry team led by Lockheed. The other, called the LCS-2 or Independence-class design, was developed by an industry team that was then led by General Dynamics and built at the Austal USA shipyard at Mobile, AL, with Austal USA as the prime contractor.


by Mack Williams


The LCS program has had a much chequered history – as the US Congressional Research Service explained in great detail in a report in December 2019 (“Navy Littoral Combat Ship (LCS) Program: Background and Issues for Congress”)

“The LCS program has been controversial over the years due to past cost growth, design and construction issues with the first LCSs, concerns over the survivability of LCSs (i.e., their ability to withstand battle damage), concerns over whether LCSs are sufficiently armed and would be able to perform their stated missions effectively, and concerns over the development and testing of the modular mission packages for LCSs. The Navy’s execution of the program has been a matter of congressional oversight attention for several years.”

So much that since 2019 the USN has been trying to cease its LCS procurement process and begin decommissioning them. As the well informed US Naval Institute (USNI News) reported in June this year, the House Armed Services Committee has just agreed to the first two LCS’s to be decommissioned – well before their projected 25 year life span. USNI went on to quote a senior Republican aide as claiming that this will prioritise ways to deter China in the Indo-Pacific region. “You’ll see that throughout our bill, especially with the Pacific Deterrence Initiative – divesting from some of these old legacy platforms that are not survivable in the Indo-Pacific region against a very capable adversary. We’re really taking a hard look and making some tough choices on things we don’t think we need anymore, as we’re confronting a 21st-century military,”

With those continuing serious doubts about the prospects for the LCS’s in the US build up of its capability to match China, it has been little secret in US media circles that the USN has been actively trying to offload LCS’s to allies and other foreign countries. Four modified LCS’s have already been reported as having been sold to the Saudis and Mexico has been mentioned as another potential buyer. How much this might also be reflected in the US hoopla about the Canberra remains to be seen. The modified Red Kangaroo badge and the promise that there will always be a serving RAN officer or sailor aboard the ship is all a bit curious but no doubt has an element of the AUKUS submarine deal in the background. As also the insistence  of the US Admiral Gilday who stated that “Today, we commissioned USS Canberra into service, not just part of Littoral Combat Ship Squadron One, not just part of the United States Pacific Fleet. Today, we commissioned this ship into service as a combat unit that will integrate with the Australian fleet and with the combined maritime force of allies and partners who stand united across the entire Indo-Pacific,” Of note reportedly the Canberra is returning to San Diego for further refitting of weaponry and countermeasures. Also US Navy Secretary Del Toro emphasised that the Canberra will contribute to the matching the improving Chinese Navy – though the USN clearly has real doubts about just how it would perform in any such confrontation.

While all of the above should have provided some serious cause for thought by Defence and the RAN about how much all the stunt would be worth and the embarrassment it could cause for our political leadership, the lazy Australian media seemed to have given none of this any coverage. Then another major issue emerged in April when the US Department of Justice and the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) levelled accounting fraud charges at three maritime executives, roiling two important U.S. Navy shipbuilders, Austal USA and Fincantieri Marine Group.

As Forbes reported : “The charges, coming after a long investigation, allege years of systemic accounting fraud at Austal, the builder of the Independence Class Littoral Combat Ship (LCS). Both the Justice Department indictment and a twin SEC Complaint claim that two former and one current Austal executive, including Austal USA’s former Chief Executive, Craig Perciavalle, “conspired to mislead Austal Limited’s shareholders and the investing public about Austal USA’s financial condition,” artificially boosting the stock price and leading to a write-down of “over $100 million in previously wrongly booked profits.”






enough is enough — bring him home......

fat chicken.....




The $850 billion chicken comes home to roost

The military industrial complex is not designed to actually fight wars. If so, you wouldn’t see Ukraine struggling right now to win one.


Watching a recent video of Ukrainian troops scrambling out of a U.S.-supplied Bradley armored fighting vehicle just after it hit a mine, I remembered how hard the U.S. Army bureaucrats and contractors who developed the weapon had fought to keep this vehicle a death trap for anyone riding inside. 

As originally designed, the Bradley tanks promptly burst into flame when hit with anything much more powerful than a BB pellet, incinerating anyone riding inside. The armor bureaucrats were well aware of this defect, but pausing development for a redesign might have hurt their budget, so they delayed and cheated on tests to keep the program on track. Prior to one test, they covertly substituted water-tanks for the ammunition that would otherwise explode. 

Only when Jim Burton, a courageous air force lieutenant colonel from the Pentagon’s testing office, enlisted Congress to mandate a proper live fire test were the army’s malign subterfuges exposed and corrected. His principled stand cost him his career, but the Bradley was redesigned, rendering it less potentially lethal for passengers. Hence, forty years on, the survival of those lucky Ukrainians.

This largely forgotten episode serves as a vivid example of an essential truth about our military machine: it is not interested in war.

How else to understand the lack of concern for the lives of troops, or producing a functioning weapon system? As Burton observed in his instructive 1993 memoir Pentagon Wars, the U.S. defense system is “a corrupt business — ethically and morally corrupt from top to bottom.”

Nothing has happened in the intervening years to contradict this assessment, with potentially grim consequences for men and women on the front line. Today, for example, the U.S. Air Force is abandoning its traditional role of protecting and coordinating with troops on the ground, otherwise known as Close Air Support, or CAS. Given its time-honored record of bombing campaigns that had little or no effect on the course of wars, CAS has probably been the only useful function (grudgingly) performed by the service.

The Air Force has always resented the close support mission, accepting the role only because handing it to the Army would entail losing budget share. Thus the A-10 “Warthog” aircraft, specifically dedicated to CAS, was developed by the air force only to ward off a threat from the Army to steal the mission with a new helicopter. 

As it turned out, the A-10, thanks to the dedicated genius of its creators, notably the late Pierre Sprey, was supremely suited to the mission. But its successful record cuts no ice with the air force, which has worked with might and main to get rid of the A-10 ever since the threat of an army competitor in the eternal battle for budget share had been eliminated.

That campaign is now entering its final stages. The Air Force is not only getting rid of its remaining fleet of A-10s, it is also eliminating the capability to perform the close air support mission by phasing out the training for pilots and ground controllers essential for this highly specialized task. True, the service claims that the infamously deficient F-35 “fighter” can and will undertake the mission, but that is a laughable notion for many reasons, including the fact that the plane’s 25 mm cannon cannot shoot straight. 

The consequences for American troops on the ground in future wars will be dire, but their fate apparently carries little weight when set against the unquenchable urge of the air force to assert its independence from the messy realities of ground combat, where wars are won or lost. Thus its hopes and budget plans are focussed on costly systems of dubious relevance to warfare such as the new B-21 bomber, the new Sentinel ICBM, and the Next Generation Air Dominance fighter, none of which will fly for years to come, except in the form of cash out of our pockets.

Pentagon spending this year is projected to nudge $850 billion (the total national security bill is already way past a trillion, but that’s another story.) Yet, even when endowed with such a gigantic pile of cash, the system is apparently incapable of furnishing the wherewithal for even a limited war, such as the one currently underway in Ukraine. The conflict has been marked by successive announcements that progressively more potent weapon systems are being shipped to the Ukrainians — Javelins anti-tank missiles, 155 mm Howitzers, HIMARS precision long range missiles, Patriots air defense missiles, Abrams tanks, with F-16 fighters in the offing. A U.S. military intelligence officer pointed out to me recently the actual basis on which these systems are selected: “when we run out of the last system we were sending.”

Now Biden has generated global outrage by promising to send cluster bombs, known for their ability to kill and maim children fifty years after the relevant war has ended, as any Laotian farmer could tell you. The military rationale for their use is their supposed utility against “soft” targets such as dismounted infantry, radars, and wheeled vehicles. However, a former armor officer and veteran of the 1991 Gulf war recalled to me that “we disliked them intensely and pleaded with the artillery and Air Force not to employ them. They simply damaged support elements and wheels that followed us into action. After the war we treated numerous people wounded by them including our own soldiers, as well as civilians (children).”

Biden has admitted that these devices are being sent only because the U.S. is running out of the artillery ammunition that the Ukrainians actually require. “This is a war relating to munitions. And they’re running out of that ammunition, and we’re low on it,” he told a TV interviewer. 

So off go the cluster bombs, their passage lubricated by crocodile tears from administration officials: “I’m not going to stand up here and say it was easy…It’s a decision that required a real hard look at the potential harm to civilians,” National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan told reporters. (Back when it was reported that the Russians were using cluster bombs in Ukraine, then-White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki denounced such action as “a war crime.”)

So, the richest war machine in history, having scraped its cupboard bare, is now reduced to fielding a device of dubious military utility deemed illegal by over a hundred countries. That’s what we get for our $850 billion.






enough is enough — bring him home......



missilus aussinus......

Australia is set to begin manufacturing its own missiles within two years under an ambitious plan that will allow the country to supply guided weapons to the United States and possibly export them to other nations.

The push to accelerate the creation of a local missile manufacturing industry in co-operation with the US will be one of the centrepiece announcements at the Australia-United States Ministerial (AUSMIN) consultations on Saturday.

Both US and Australian officials are seeking to play down concerns the AUKUS pact could be derailed by division in the US Congress after 23 Senate Republicans warned they would not support the proposal to provide nuclear-powered submarines to Australia unless the US Navy doubled its own production capacity.

The joint missile manufacturing effort is being driven by the war in Ukraine, which has highlighted a troubling lack of ammunition stocks in Western nations including the US.


“This is really important for the industrial base of both of our countries,” Defence Minister Richard Marles said on Friday after meeting with US Defence Secretary Lloyd Austin in Brisbane.

“It is hugely significant in terms of developing Australia’s defence industry. It will be very important in ensuring Australia has the necessary war stocks in the future.”

Marles said the announcement would significantly bring forward the planned opening of local missile factories, which had been expected to take several years to get off the ground.

As well as creating local jobs, a domestic missile manufacturing industry will make Australia less reliant on imports and provide a trusted additional source of munitions for the US.







enough is enough — bring him home......

shitty ship......


‘Little Crappy Ship’: report excoriates ship building program behind USS Canberra

By Mack Williams


A new US investigative report has excoriated the controversial Littoral Combat Ship (LCS) program which included the USS Canberra – commissioned in very unusual circumstances with great fanfare by the US Navy recently in Sydney. Should its revelations about the manifest failures in the USN’s procurement performance – with former officers describing the LCS class as like a “box floating in the ocean” – force the Australian government to rethink its reliance on hiring retired US admirals and senior Pentagon officials to advise us on our defence programs?

In July, this year we labelled as a “Crass PR Stunt” the curious commissioning by the US Navy of the USS Canberra in Sydney (P&I, 26 July). We pointed out that this was far from being the shining example of successful Alliance cooperation which Defence Minister Marles and US Navy Secretary touted the event to portend – a fanfare for the future under AUKUS.

The Littoral combat ship (LCS) program had been marred by controversy almost from the start. As far back as 2017, it had become an embarrassment for the United States Navy (USN) who had wanted then to cease further construction and start decommissioning of existing vessels well before their scheduled use by date. All of which had inevitably become embroiled in the domestic political jungle which has long characterised the US defence procurement scene. The Australian company (Austal USA) who built them were not quarantined from the manifest failings of the Canberra’s LCS class. Another major issue emerged in April when the US Department of Justice and the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) levelled accounting fraud charges at three executives of Austal (USA) and an associated company. One had to wonder why Marles and his defence team had not exercised normal due diligence concern about the whole exercise given the performance doubts about the vessel and “jointness” of the arrangements which the American side were so prominent in pushing in their speeches.

The US investigative journal ProPublica has just published an extraordinarily detailed analysis of the whole epic saga of the Littoral Combat Ships (LCS) – strikingly headed “The Inside Story of How the Navy Spent Billions on the Little Crappy Ship”. In joining the dots of this pathetic saga it reinforces significantly the concern Canberra should have about its entanglement in it through the Sydney event. There is not the space here to do the analysis justice but it provided the following take aways:

  • One Navy Secretary and his allies in Congress fought to build more LCS’s even as they broke down at sea and their weapons systems failed…..an estimated lifetime cost of US$100 billion or more.
  • The USN’s haste to deliver ships took precedence over combat ability. … they are like “a box floating in the ocean” one former officer claimed.
  • Sailors and officers complained they spent more time fixing the ships than sailing them.
  • Top USN commanders placed pressure on subordinates to sail the ships when they were not fully prepared to go to sea.
  • Several major breakdowns in 2016 … adding fresh embarrassment to a program meant to propel the USN into a more technologically advanced future.

For Canberra, the shocking history of this failed USN venture should serve as a compulsory primer for our politicians of all persuasions and our senior military and public servants alike on how to navigate the way through the extremely complex and politicised defence environment in the US. Greg Sheridan and a growing number of Australian commentators have stepped up criticism of our own performance in defence procurement. The US track record on this issue must surely generate doubts about the reliance both the former government and their successors have placed on hiring retired US admirals and senior Pentagon officials to advise us how to proceed with our own programs. And also on the integrity of the advice they provide.






enough is enough — bring him home......