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By Edward Chang By 1987, the Iran-Iraq War had turned the Persian Gulf into a shooting gallery. As part of a total war strategy, both Baghdad and Tehran targeted

By 1987, the Iran-Iraq War had turned the Persian Gulf into a shooting gallery. As part of a total war strategy, both Baghdad and Tehran targeted merchant shipping to impede the other side’s war effort. During eight years of brutal fighting, hundreds of commercial vessels, many belonging to neutral countries, were attacked, costing the lives of hundreds of merchant seamen and causing millions of dollars in damage.

The perilous security situation in one of the world’s vital waterways influenced the Reagan administration’s decision to intervene. From 1987 to 1988, the United States escorted Kuwaiti oil tankers during Operation Earnest Will. Superpower intervention did not result in an expansion of the conflict, but the one-and-a-half-year period became arguably the closest America and Iran came to full-scale war.

In the foreground, the U.S. escorted convoys through the dangerous region, while fighting a shadowy conflict in the background against Iran’s unconventional forces. Tehran’s mine-laying and small boat attacks in the Gulf were countered with increasingly forceful responses, culminating in Operation Praying Mantis in April 1988

In a single day, the U.S. and Iran fought the largest air-sea battle since World War II, with the latter losing the bout in lopsided fashion. With Iran now weary of war, Ayatollah Khomeini sought peace, and the 20th century’s third-deadliest armed conflict came to an end in August 1988. Earnest Will concluded a month later.

To this day, there exists no shortage of animosity between the U.S. and Iran. Yet, the “Tanker War” period of 1987 to 1988 remains the only instance the bitter enemies came to blows. But instead of merely acting as safeguard of the Gulf, what if the United States had chosen to take the fight directly to Iran earlier on and settle the score, once and for all?

David Crist, senior historian to the U.S. government and Marine Corps Reserve officer, devoted an entire chapter to a little-known, eye-opening episode in his epic 2012 chronicle of U.S.-Iran relations since the rise of the Islamic Republic.

Years of research, access to classified documents, and extensive interviews conducted by Crist with the key participants, revealed Adm. James “Ace” Lyons, Commander-in-Chief, U.S. Pacific Fleet, intended to start a war with Iran in 1987, using an idea he had developed independently. He sought to execute it by exploiting an operational advantage that would come late summer of that year and, hopefully, after having sold it to his superiors in Washington.

The idea, codenamed Operation Window of Opportunity, was first developed by Lyons in late 1986. In June the following year, Lyons made his pitch to Secretary of Defense Caspar Weinberger. The “opportunity” the admiral was referring to would come on Aug. 26. The aircraft carrier USS Constellation and her battle group, deployed to the Gulf of Oman in support of Earnest Will, was due to be relieved by USS Ranger and her battle group.

This created a brief “window” where two carrier battle groups would be on-station to provide air power. In addition, the recently-recommissioned World War II-era battleship USS Missouri plus five other warships had also been tasked to Earnest Will. Rarely would so much firepower be available in-theater at once.

Ace Lyons’s scheme called for the use of ConstellationRanger and Missouri in two days of attacks on Iranian military targets up and down the Gulf coast. On the first day, airfields, command-and-control centers, missile sites and ports, among other military facilities, would be struck. On the second day, Iran’s economy would be targeted, with strikes proposed on oil facilities on Kharg Island, commercial harbors, as well as mining the major Iranian ports at Bushehr and Bandar Abbas.

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A U.S. Navy F-14A Tomcat, Fighter Squadron 154 getting ready for launch off the deck of USS Constellation. (Photo: U.S. Navy, 247Sports)

 

“We can cut 70 percent of their imports and exports,” Lyons informed Weinberger. “The objective of these strikes is to facilitate freedom of navigation and apply pressure to Iran to enter into serious negotiations to end the Iran-Iraq War.” The admiral also believed the strikes could topple the Khomeini regime.

“Ace” then took his case to the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Adm. William Crowe, in August. “I have come to the conclusion that no amount of ships and aircraft will deter Iran as long as its leaders believe we will not respond to isolated attacks,” Lyons stated. The pitch to Crowe featured new proposals, including using Missouri to bombard the Silkworm missile sites around the Strait of Hormuz, a recent addition to Iran’s arsenal that posed a grave threat to Gulf shipping and U.S. naval forces.

It also called for the 13th Marine Amphibious Unit to conduct an amphibious assault and seizure of the island of Abu Musa, which belonged to Iran. Emphasizing the need to be “vigorous and decisive,” Lyons specified Aug. 29 as the date to execute the operation.

Reaction to the idea was lukewarm, however. The publicly-hawkish, but restrained-in-practice Weinberger had no desire for the United States to take on Iran in a war without a major provocation. Crowe found it a difficult sell for Reagan, especially at a time when the administration was mired in the Iran-Contra scandal.

While Lyons believed his idea would “save the president,” the administration sought to avoid a confrontation with Iran. Even at the height of hostilities, the president downplayed the risk of war, even though the facts on the ground indicated a different trendline.

But if his superiors would not green-light a war on Iran, Ace Lyons would give them a reason to. He encouraged the Constellation battle group to act aggressively, in hopes of either strong-arming Iran into submission or provoking them into a confrontation.

One almost took place. On Aug. 8, two F-14 Tomcat fighters from Conniefired at what they believed was an Iranian air force F-4 Phantom II fighter attempting to engage a U.S. P-3C Orion monitoring a convoy operation. Despite multiple missiles fired by the F-14s, none found their target, and both sides elected to disengage before the situation escalated any further.

Undeterred, Lyons continued to encourage and order his subordinate officers to take part in his scheme, in hopes Washington would eventually approve Window of Opportunity.

But Washington never did and Aug. 29 came and went without America going to war with Iran. Furthermore, Lyons’ unilateralism exposed a rift that existed between him and many of the other officers in charge of Persian Gulf operations. Gen. George Crist, commander-in-chief of Central Command — and father of David Crist — felt as though Lyons was hindering operations by trying to pick his own fight with Iran, one neither Crist, the Reagan administration, nor even Tehran, sought. Eventually, Lyons’ rogue-ish behavior and toe-stepping got the best of him.

By the time he had earned his fourth star, Ace Lyons, a career surface warfare officer, had established himself as an aggressive and unorthodox problem-solver, earning him favor of influential figures such as Crowe. But his best assets were also his greatest liabilities. His tendency to disregard political considerations in the conduct of war concerned many of those above him, who in turn frustrated him by not endorsing his proposals.

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An Iranian P-3 patrol plane. (Photo: U.S. Navy, 247Sports)

 

Worse, he deliberately side-stepped his immediate superiors, such as Adm. Ronald Hays, Commander-in-Chief, U.S. Pacific Command, and even the Navy’s most senior officer at the time, Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Carlisle Trost. The latter harbored reservations regarding Lyons’ practices, which included mock air attacks on Soviet forces stationed in the Pacific. The Navy’s top leader believed the intrepid four-star was reckless enough to start a war with the Soviet Union.

Window of Opportunity was the last straw. Having been kept out of the loop repeatedly during Lyons’ push for war, Hays, with the backing of Reagan adviser Richard Armitage and Adm. Trost, lobbied Weinberger to have the Pacific Fleet commander forced into retirement. Weinberger concurred and even Lyons’ most powerful ally, Crowe, found it impossible to defend him.

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The U.S. Navy has identified the sailor who went missing from the USS Stethem on August 1 as Lt. Steven D. Hopkins. Lt. Hopkins, a graduate of the Citadel and a father of two, had previously served aboard USS Ramage, USS Normandy and with the Navy’s Operational Test and Evaluation Force. The circumstances of his disappearance are under investigation.

At the time that Lt. Hopkins went missing, Stethem was conducting routine operations at a position about 120 nm to the west of Subic Bay, putting her near to disputed Scarborough Shoal. When Hopkins was reported missing, the Navy worked with the Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force and the Chinese People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) to search an area of roughly 10,000 square nm. The search was called off at 1500 hours August 4.

“Our thoughts and prayers are with our lost shipmate, their family, and the officers and crew of USS Stethem,” said Rear Adm. Charles Williams, commander of Task Force 70, at the time the search was ended. “I appreciate greatly the dedication and professionalism shown by all who participated in the search efforts.”

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America’s Navy is coming to Asheville during its 2017 tour, making it one of five cities in two states to host a performance by the United States Navy Band.

The tour is one of the U.S. Navy’s signature outreach programs.

The performance by Country Current, the U.S. Navy Band’s country-bluegrass ensemble, is scheduled for 1 p.m. Aug. 18 at the Charles George VA Medical Center.

Country Current is renowned for its versatility and phenomenal musicianship, performing a blend of modern country music and cutting-edge bluegrass. Reaching out to communities both locally and nationally, the band regularly performs for veterans, elementary schools and in support of active-duty sailors.

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The question of if the U.S. Navy will achieve its goal of building a 355-ship fleet will largely rest on if the U.S. Congress can repeal the Budget Control Act of 2011.

The question of if the U.S. Navy will achieve its goal of building a 355-ship fleet will largely rest on if the U.S. Congress can repeal the Budget Control Act of 2011. Moreover, that goal might only be achieved if the Pentagon is able to move funding for the Columbia-class ballistic missile submarine out of the Navy’s ship construction accounts.

“Looming over all of this is the Budget Control Act, which remains a lot of land as well as the need to determine how Columbia-class submarines will be funded without impacting other critically important shipbuilding priorities,” Mike Petters, president and chief executive officer of Huntington Ingalls Industries (HII) told investors [3].

Without addressing the automatic sequestration budget cuts, the goal of a 355-ship Navy is impossible.

This story was originally published by The National Interest

“I think if you buy into the 355 ship Navy, you can talk yourself into a pretty aggressive growth profile,” Petters said.

“We’re at the place where we’re saying until sequestration is taken care of and we’ve its a kind of show us the money sort of perspective. And without that and without that getting sorted out, we are going to stick to our guns and say the history of SCN account that it’s reasonably flat.”

The shipbuilding accounts could also grow if the Navy found another way to pay for the Columbia-class ballistic missile submarine [4]. The 12 boomers will be sucking up a lot of the Navy’s budget over the next decade.

“My concern is that if you find another way to pay for the Columbia-class, then it won’t be flat. Then there will be growth in the profile,” Petters said.

However, if the money for the Columbia-class ballistic missile submarines comes out of the shipbuilding accounts, then the Navy will have to cut planned ship purchases [5] to pay for those boats.

“If you don’t find a way to pay for the Columbia-class, you’re going to take it out of hide and you are going to take it out of other ships,” Petters said.

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Rhode Island State Police are investigating a two-vehicle crash that killed an active-duty member of the U.S. Navy.

Officials said 31-year-old Elizabeth Kingsland, of Mystic, was declared dead Tuesday night after the crash on Interstate 95 in Hopkinton. Kingsland was a member of the U.S. Navy, according to Rhode Island State Police.

Police said Kingsland’s vehicle was headed southbound when it collided with a tractor-trailer truck and went off the road, hitting a tree.

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GULF OF MEXICO (July 3, 2017) The amphibious transport dock ship USS Portland (LPD 27) has conducts its first set of sea trials in the Gulf of Mexico. Ingalls’ test and trials team spent four days operating the 11th San Antonio-class ship and demonstrating its systems. (U.S. Navy photo by Lance Davis/Released)170703-N-N0101-001

The USS Portland, or LPD 27, recently completed a series of at-sea tests including full power runs, self-defense detect-to-engage exercises, evaluations of combat and communications systems, rapid ballast/de-ballast operations, steering checks and anchor handling demonstrations.

Portland is part of a broader Navy and Marine Corps strategy to prepare amphibious transport ships for the future. The Navy is also building a new, multi-mission amphibious assault ship designed to function in a modern threat environment, conduct a wider range of missions than the ship it is replacing, and help the service increase the lagging number of amphibs in the force, senior officials said.

While LPD 27 is the eleventh San Antonio-class amphibious transport dock to join the fleet, the service is engineering a new ship called the LX(R) — loosely based on an LPD 17 hull — with expanded technologies.

The Navy plans to build at least 11 new LX(R) ships, with the first one slated to deliver by 2026, service developers said. In September of last year, Huntington Ingalls Industries secured a $19.1 million contract modification to accelerate design work on the U.S. Navy’s LX(R) amphibious ship replacement program.

The Navy hopes to add much greater numbers of amphibious assault ships to the fleet while simultaneously adjusting to modern threats. This will require individual Amphibious Ready Groups — or ARGs — to perform a wider range of missions. Modern near-peer adversaries increasingly posses long-range sensors and precision-guided munitions, a phenomenon which will require more operational diversity from ARGs.

Above — LX(R). Huntington Ingalls illustration. At top — USS ‘Portland’ in June 2017.

The Navy’s new LXR

The Navy plans new LX(R) amphibs to replace its current fleet of dock landing ships, or LSD 41s, which have functioned for years as ARG support vessels. This move to replace the dock landing ships with LPD 17-like hulls seems to speak to a Navy effort to help compensate for an amphibious assault ship deficit.

The Navy used to be able to deploy up to five ARGs at one time, however the fleet is smaller than it was in the 1980s. And today, the Navy responds to wider range of contingencies including counter-terrorism operations, counter-piracy, humanitarian missions, disaster response and, of course, full-scale amphibious combat operations.

This requires that the three ships in each ARG have the ability to disperse when necessary and operate independently, known in military parlance as split or “dis-aggregated” operations.

An amphibious assault ship, a dock landing ship — or LSD — and the San Antonio-class LPD 17 amphibious transport dock are all integral to an ARG, tasked with transporting at least 2,200 Marines and their equipment as part of a Marine Expeditionary Unit.

The 684-foot long LPD 17s can hit speeds of 22 knots and carry four CH-46 Sea Knight helicopters or two MV-22 Osprey tiltrotor aircraft. The LSD also travels around 20 knots, however it is only 609 feet long and not equipped to house aircraft.

Both the LPD 17 and the LSDs have well-decks for amphibious operations along with the ability to launch hovercraft, or LCACs. However, the LPD 17 weighs close to 25,000 tons and the LSD is only 16,000 tons.

The 1980s-era LSDs consist of eight Whidbey Island-class ships. The 15,000-ton ships, configured largely to house and transport four LCACs, are nearing the end of their service life.

An LCAC prepares to dock with the USS ‘San Antonio.’ U.S. Navy photo

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Battleships captivate the imagination. Before they were displaced by aircraft carriers, battleships were symbols of great-power status. Some of the most iconic were the American Iowa class, the last battleships ever built by the United States. Powerful in appearance, yet with sleek lines filled in with haze gray, the Iowa class served in World War II and were unretired three more times to serve as the U.S. Navy’s big guns. If we brought them back today, what would they look like?

The National Defense Authorization Act for 1996, generally known as the defense budget, had a unique provision hidden inside the text: the text directed the Navy to keep at least of the four Iowa-class ships on the Naval Register in good condition, retain the logistical support to maintain battleships on active duty and keep those ships on the Register until the secretary of the navy certified that existing naval gunfire support equaled or exceeded the firepower of two battleships. Iowa and Wisconsin were finally stricken from the Register in 2006 after the secretary of the navy, citing the upcoming thirty-two Zumwalt-class destroyers, certified they were no longer needed.

Now, eleven years later, the Navy is only getting three of the thirty-two Zumwalt destroyers, and the long-range attack projectile specifically designed for the Zumwalt’s two 155-millimeter guns is being cancelled due to exorbitant costs. The Navy is again facing a naval gunfire shortfall, in addition to an antiship shortfall. Could the Iowas make yet another comeback, bolstered with new and powerful weapons?

In laying the groundwork for battleship modernizations, there four things that must happen for any successful update. The Iowa-class battleships were designed in the late 1930s, and a lot has happened in the last eighty years. First, the ships must be highly automated. The ships originally sailed with crews of up to 2,700 personnel, later reduced to 1,800. The U.S. Navy is no longer a draftee service, and personnel costs in the all-volunteer Navy are major expenses. Prime candidates for automation are older mechanical systems, such as the three sixteen-inch gun turrets, each of which has a crew of over a hundred, and the power plant and engineering.

Second, the battleships would return to the field just as firepower is transitioning from being gunpowder-based to electricity-based. The ship will need all the power it can get to power the new generation of weapons systems that will go onboard. A nuclear power plant would provide power in the megawatts range, while requiring fewer crew to operate it. An alternative is the electric drive system that powers the Zumwalt class, albeit on a larger scale, delivering even greater power.

Third, the battleships need to be able to sink ships at ranges of at least two hundred miles and hit land targets at eight hundred to a thousand miles. At 887 feet long, the battlewagons will be prime targets for land- and sea-based antiship missiles and must have a reasonable chance of operating from beyond their ranges. While the effective range of antiship missiles will only continue to grow, a long-distance striking capability will still be useful against other targets, including island garrisons, air bases and enemy ships.

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This handout image provided Tuesday, July 25, 2017, from the U.S. Navy purports to show an Iranian vessel making a close approach to a U.S. coastal patrol ship USS Thunderbolt, right. The U.S. Navy patrol boat fired warning shots near the Iranian vessel that American sailors said came dangerously close to them during a tense encounter in the Persian Gulf. Iran’s Revolutionary Guard later blamed the American ship for provoking the situation. (U.S. Navy via AP)

(TEHRAN, Iran) — The U.S. Navy has responded to a report by Iran’s official news agency that a U.S. aircraft carrier fired a warning shot during an “unprofessional” confrontation with Iranian vessels in the Persian Gulf on Friday.

The Navy describes the encounter “as safe and professional.”

The Bahrain-based 5th Fleet says one of its helicopters was on a routine patrol in international airspace when it saw several Iranian vessels approaching American ships “at a high rate of speed.” The Navy says the helicopter tried to establish communications but received no response, so it sent out flares, prompting the Iranian boats to halt their approach.

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President Donald Trump delivers remarks at The Gerald R. Ford (CVN78) commissioning ceremony at Norfolk Naval Base, Virginia on July 22, 2017. The aircraft carrier is named after President Ford who served aboard the USS Monterey in the Pacific during World War II, and was the first president to serve aboard an aircraft carrier. Photo by Ken Cedeno/UPI

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July 22 (UPI) — With help from President Donald Trump, the U.S. Navy commissioned the USS Gerald R. Ford on Saturday at Naval Station Norfolk in Virginia.

The Navy’s newest vessel is the lead ship in a new class of aircraft carriers. The carrier includes a new reactor plant, integrated warfare systems and dual band radar — among a slew of technological features Trump praised in his address Saturday morning.

“American steel and American hands have constructed a 100,000-ton message to the world,” Trump said. “American might is second to none.”

Trump was among a guest list that included Defense Secretary James Mattis, Acting Navy Secretary Sean Stackley, former Vice President Dick Cheney, former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and members of Congress.

“There is truly nothing like it in the world today,” Stackley said of the new carrier, which is 1,106 feet long. The USS Gerald R. Ford will later be joined by the future USS John F. Kennedy, CVN 79, and the future USS Enterprise, CVN 80, as Ford-class vessels. The Navy expects to spend $43 billion on the ships.

Despite those plans, Trump said, the U.S. government has been stingy and inconsistent with its financial support of its military, prior to his time in office. He specifically called on Congress to pass a proposed budget, which he said will offer greater and more stable funding for the armed forces.

“It’s been a very, very bad period of time for our military,” Trump said.

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(CNN)The United States has just sent “a 100,000-ton message to the world,” says US President Donald Trump.

The message comes in the form of the aircraft carrier USS Gerald R. Ford, a $13 billion behemoth commissioned into the US Navy’s fleet on Saturday.
“Wherever this vessel cuts through the horizons, our allies will rest easy and our enemies will shake with fear because everyone will know that America is coming and America is coming strong,” Trump said.
Although the Ford’s deployments are far off and yet to be determined, it has officially joined a US military arsenal trying to stay supreme in the face of new challenges in an increasingly tense North Asia.
China has recently launched its second aircraft carrier and its most-advanced destroyer ever. Those came shortly before Beijing sent its other aircraft carrier, the Liaoning, in a display of power to Hong Kong, and other warships to show their might as far away as Europe.

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