US Navy smartens up


It is rare these days that things in the news, especially from large government organizations, can make you think somewhere, someone is thinking, but this recent tidbit made me think all isn’t lost.  From one of the many articles on the subject:

“We went away from celestial navigation because computers are great,” said Lt. Cmdr. Ryan Rogers, the deputy chairman of the academy’s Department of Seamanship and Navigation. “The problem is,” he added, “there’s no backup.”

Among the fleet, the Navy ended all training in celestial navigation in 2006, said Lt. Cmdr. Kate Meadows, a Navy spokeswoman. Then officers’ training returned in 2011 for ship navigators, she said. And officials are now rebuilding the program for enlisted ranks; it’s expected to begin next fall.

This is truly a welcome development; it seems that the hacking (of GPS) really has made people wake up.

Now, this isn’t the only time that the US military has been ahead of the curve.  The effect of climate upon the things that the military might have to face were also discussed a few years ago, and brought up in its quadrennial review. Again, another welcome change in worldview from a large organization.

It isn’t always that the services are forward thinking.  Sometimes, it takes a bit more than a theoretical nudge to get things going, and to learn some of the old ways.  The TOPGUN program, for example, was instituted after a disturbing drop in the kill ratio of fighter pilots during the Vietnam War.   One wonders if the US military is quietly looking over things like the US financial system, or other infrastructure issues, and making contingency plans based on the realities that many of us in the Peak Everything world see.

The US Navy still has a lot invested in aircraft carriers, which the War Nerd and others have said is not a good idea, so it isn’t like a wave (no pun intended) of free thinkers and out-of-the-box leaders has risen to the top of the command structure.  But it is welcome nonetheless.  Perhaps after a temporary (manmade or natural) GPS outage, the sextant will show its utility, and therefore, other retro technologies will come back online.

Slide rules, anyone?


(My father’s lightsaber, sliderule; an elegant calculating machine, for a more civilized age…)


  • Why would the US Navy be so forward thinking on navigation, but not on the issue of aircraft carriers?  Is it just that the sunk cost (in reputation and dollars) of carriers is too high?
  • Will we need to lose a carrier (or two) before this thinking changes?  We are still building new carriers, believe it or not.
  • What other things should the US military be relearning?  The use of paper artillery tables and calculations?  Morse code?  Radios with vacuum tubes?
  • How does a big institution realize things like the reality of climate change, but miss others, such as the carrier vulnerability problem?
  • What can be done to make sure large organizations like the US military are more nimble and responsive to fast moving problems?




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