USS J McCain / Alnic MC collision near Singapore


My views here are my own and do not necessarily reflect those of the United States Navy.

The only folly here is the attitude that machine operators can’t be replaced by automation. It happened to switchboard operators, it’s happening to fast food cashiers, it’ll happen to taxi drivers, and it will happen to us.

Make no mistake, I love the sea. I love being at sea, and in my heart I may believe that there is a level of nuance that can’t be replicated by sensors and technology. But the machines will do “good enough”, and whatever effectiveness is lost by automation will be made up for by the costs savings of paying for all of us.

If man is to be useful in the automation age then he will have to be the ones directing the machines, not operating them. That is what I believe the future of war at sea will be. So for today, we absolutely need to fix our seamanship problem, but it won’t be a “problem” forever…


Technology does not preclude seamanship. Seamanship is ever advancing with technology. JPJ had advances in technology (that might not be obvious to us today) that his predecessors could have only hoped for and this changed what it meant to be a good mariner even in his day (by his quote).


Doesn’t seem that cut and dried to me. What about the practice of ship captains having to rely almost 100% on the chief for Eng dept matters?

It has to be true that something is lost with specialization into deck and eng on the merchant side.


So thought Toys R Us


Actually, I would say that the requirement has increased in many ways. The scope of what needs to be considered seamanship has changed and the abilities provided by new technology enable operations that would not have been attempted with previous generations of technology. The decision-making loop runs at a higher rate now, regardless of vessel size and speed. A poorly trained officer will spend too much time attempting to understand a situation he or she is faced with and never identify if the new technology is leading them down the wrong path or discrete danger signals are ignored. Without a well trained and competent operator that is not suffering from fatigue and allowed to focus on whats required for a safe and successful operation, we will continue to have incidents, fatalities, and disasters.


To me it’s like a fighter pilot. They don’t call themselves air warriors. They are pilots first and foremost and build upon that. Somehow the Navy SWO has become a quote on quote “sea warrior” and deminished everything else and have suffered the consequences.

It has to be true that something is lost with specialization into deck and eng on the merchant side.

Even as SWOs try to be the jack of all trades, serious knowledge gaps exist as they only stand 4 different shipboard jobs before reaching XO. Not every SWO does an engineering tour, etc and these tours are very short coupled with long shore tours… you are left with a very mixed bag. Were looking for sharp SWOs and we get a bag of wet mice.


I don’t know enough about Navy ops to say one way or the other how SWO should be trained.

From my experience it seems unlikely that any legit fix will be without cost.


Pilots and SWOs are not an apples to apples comparison, not least of which because the pilot is singularly responsible for keeping their aircraft airborne, while SWOs do shiftwork. Good dogfighting skills can keep a pilot alive, but it doesn’t matter how good you are at COLREGs and DIVTACs when you’re staring down a salvo of Sunburns. Pilots can also showcase their skills at airshows, while SWOs do their dirty work far away from the eyes of the public.

The average SWO is doing seven years of sea duty before becoming an XO - 4 as a Division Officer (2 x 24 mos) and 3 and a Department Head (2 x 18 mos). Would things be better if these tours were combined into single, longer tours? I don’t know. I do know that after 18 months of being a DH you are ready for a change though. There was an MSC thread recently where people were complaining about the prospect of two year stints on ships. The longer shore tours are helpful for work/life balance, and the introduction of “SWO Clock” jobs are meant to keep people on the XO/CO track from losing touch with the waterfront.

Who is “we”? Big Navy isn’t looking for sharp SWOs, or if they are they aren’t doing a good job of finding them. SWO is in competition for the best talent from aviation, submarines, and special warfare. In terms of raw academic potential and tenacity, those communities are getting the lion’s share of talent. SWO standards are the baseline standards, and SWOs have the shortest minimum service commitment, leading to the phrase “SWO and Go” for those looking to simply meet their payback requirements for their USNA or ROTC scholarships.

SWOs also bleed talent to other communities such as Supply, JAG, Public Affairs, etc. Usually it is the most talented JOs who are able to lateral transfer out. We bring in about 1,200 SWOs a year to graduate 275 Department Heads - a 75% attrition rate. DH Screening has always been more of a pump than a filter.

I wish that SWO wasn’t the default URL community that the unmotivated or unqualified got dumped into. I wish we didn’t have to have a dozen 1160s on every ship just to meet our DH numbers. I wish that SWOs got rewarded for their sacrifices at sea instead of looking at HR officers fat dumb and happy on shore duty drawing the same benefits and wondering who had this whole Navy thing figured out. I think if we recruited more highly motivated officers that our attrition rate would drop, the officers that remained would be better trained, and maybe we would sail safer too.


That’s one of the problems. The SWO community is not taken seriously enough, even by members of the community. If they want to be taken seriously, it’s time for them to consider the art and science of seamanship as the foundation for a good warfighter.


You keep on telling use how superior the USN is to other navies in term of what it can do, at least in theory. Being able to train at fighting yesteryears wars is one thing, but doing anything sensible in today’s reality may be a different kettle of tea.

Yes you can project power by sailing close to the coast of China and their newly crated islands in the South China Sea, but does it really accomplice anything?
Does it look like China is being scared into submission from seeing a US destroyer sailing passed within a few meters from the 12 mile limit, with an oversized Stars & Strips flying?

China (and Russia) has their own “eyes in the sky” to know where US warships are located at all times and missiles to hit them from a distance of several thousand miles.
Even if you can detect the launch and determine trajectory shortly after, are you able to blow them out of the sky before they hit your ships?

If China should get aggressive and send their ships on a “Freedom of Navigation” mission 12 miles off the USWC, would you be able to handle it like the Chinese handle your provocations? (By give warning on VHF and send some fighter jets to buzz the ships in international waters)

“Freedom” is not a prerogative of USA. Other nations have the right to pursue their freedom by whatever means at their disposal, as long as they don’t interfere with other nations freedom.


China claims the entire SCS as its private lake, and doesn’t believe that anyone else has a right to use it without their permission. International courts have repeatedly ruled against their claims and the construction of artificial islands. We have mutual defense treaties with the Philippines and Taiwan, two of the smaller claimants that China would have already swept aside if not for our protection. We are there to remind the Chinese that those waters are international, and that all nations have a right to use them. We learned the lessons of history, and know that it is better to nip aggression in the bud rather than let it spread and deal with it only once it is raging out of control. We did the same thing with Gadaffi’s “Line of Death” back in the 80s.

You attribute all of these magical powers to Russia and China, and act like we’re a bunch of backwards morons. You will have to forgive me if I don’t worry about a Goldeneye sinking our ships being operated by the same country that has to deploy a rescue tug with its flagship to tow it back to port when it breaks down. The Chinese would be a tougher nut to crack, but I will take our sub commanders with a pent-up urge to sink surface ships and a full inventory of MK48 ADCAPs over any task force the Chinese organized.

And although I don’t think that anyone would ever state it for the record, we would love it if China came over here and did some FONOPS. As long as they stayed on the right side of the 12nm territorial water limit, they would be legitimizing all of our patrols off of their coast. The most I expect we would do would be to tail them with a DDG. But I wouldn’t hold your breath on this happening - sailing a force off our coast is one thing, sustaining one is quite another. Just one of the many lessons we learned fighting yesterday’s war.


Realise wrong thread but relevant:


Has China threatened to close the South China Sea, or any other waters to lawfull passage by any other nation?

The dispute over sovereignty in the South and East China Seas is between countries in the region and does not threaten USA, except their status as the world hegemon and ruler of the seas.

BTW; China sees Taiwan as a part of China, not as a sovereign state. (I.e. a claim by Taiwan is a claim by China) USA and all UN member states accept the “One China” status.

Gaddafi and Libya in the 1980s are not anywhere comparable to China today, but I presume the US has to claim whatever victories they can (Granada, Panama ??) to justify the expenditure on their armed forces with taxpayers money.

Are you assuming that China (or Russia) will send their fleet to meet with an approaching US fleet in the classical WWII sea battle?

They will actually fire a barrage of long range ship killing missiles from the safety of their homeland, before your carriers get anywhere near their coastline.
Or are you saying that your submarines will down missiles with their torpedoes?

“As long as they stayed on the right side of the 12nm territorial water limit, they would be legitimizing all of our patrols off of their coast.”

Are you saying that what you are doing now is illegal and you can’t very well find any way of claiming “deniability”, since the purpose is to be seen?
Well don’t worry, the Chinese are too smart and too cunning to give you any legal cover.

Let’s hope that there will not be any excuse for you to prove your superior war fighting ability, or the opposite. Level heads in China and other countries will hopefully not give you the opportunity to do so.