And then there were 13: Navy salvaging wreck of minesweeper GUARDIAN http://1.usa.gov/WXgcnk  Only 13 left in fleet: http://aol.it/YIlOw4  SydneyFreedberg

WASHINGTON: The cliff is closer than you think. Pop quiz: When does congressional gridlock start to undermine military readiness? March 2nd, when the automatic cuts known as sequestration will begin to go into effect? March 27, when the Continuing Resolution now funding the government on a stop-gap basis will expire?

Give up? It’s February 15, when the Navy will start to cancel $604 million of major maintenance on 23 warships. (This date applies to the major maintenance work across the services, but it’s tougher on the Navy for reasons explained below.) Keep reading →

WASHINGTON: Full speed ahead and damn the drawdown — that’s the confident note that the Navy’s top admiral struck today.

“We’re not downsizing, we’re growing,” declared Adm. Jonathan Greenert, the Chief of Naval Operations, at the National Press Club. “The ship count is going up and the number of people is going up.” Keep reading →

PANAMA CITY, FLORIDA: Minesweeping and “fast” are two words you’d normally be nervous about hearing in the same sentence. But as the Navy looks to new technologies to remedy its decades-long neglect of mine warfare — a favorite weapon of both Iran and China — it sees real potential to speed up a painfully slow process, without increasing risk to sailors.

The Navy is taking inspiration from NASCAR mechanics shaving seconds off the time their driver spends in pit stops as it searches for improvements to unmanned systems, networks, and processes. The danger driving the Navy onward comes from a new appreciation of the strategic threat. Keep reading →

[updated 12:45 Tuesday with VCNO Burke comment] PANAMA CITY, FLORIDA: Improving the Navy’s long-neglected capability to hunt mines is a top priority for the fleet — but it still gets less than 1 percent of the Navy budget.

“We do have a sense of urgency and I think we’re applying as much resources as we can,” said Rear Adm. Frank Morneau, deputy director of the Navy’ staff’s Expeditionary Warfare division. Starting at the top with Chief of Naval Operations Jonathan Greenert — who recently dispatched more minesweepers to the Gulf — “senior leadership in the Navy and in the Marine Corps are deadly serious about focusing on this mission and trying to get it right,” despite ever-tightening budgets, Morneau said at the National Defense Industrial Association’s annual Expeditionary Warfare conference here. “I wouldn’t be discouraged just because we’re under fiscal pressure.” Keep reading →

LAS VEGAS: “Keeping the sailor out of the minefield,” the Navy’s new mantra for mine warfare, means sending the robots in. As part of an annual exercise in July called “Trident Warrior,” the fleet experimented with an unmanned ship developed by Textron subsidiary AAI and known blandly as the Common Unmanned Surface Vessel (CUSV).

The video, provided by AAI, shows two CUSVs — the only two in existence — streaking out to sea during Trident Warrior to hunt simulated naval mines. The two boats look identical, but the “common” part of the CUSV name refers to the design’s ability to serve as a common carrier for a host of mission-specific payloads. They slot into a bay in the stern. Keep reading →

WASHINGTON: Iran’s threat to strangle oil tanker traffic through the Straits of Hormuz has the Navy scrambling to redress its decades-old neglect of mine warfare. Admirals from the Chief of Naval Operations on down have publicly admitted the service is not where it needs to be.

“What I find amazing is the amount of interest that’s being afforded mine warfare by the senior navy leadership,” said Scott Truver, a naval analyst and author. “It’s all due to the Iranian threat to close — if indeed it is possible to close — the Hormuz Straits.” Keep reading →