John Delach

On The Outside Looking In

Month: October, 2017

The Trillion Dollar Crap Shoot (Part Two)

Congress authorized funds to build the lead ship for the next generation of nuclear powered super aircraft carriers in 2008. By then the concept of building a new class of weapons incorporating “leap ahead technology” had been fixed in stone in the Pentagon’s procurement philosophy and this baby was a natural for it. It was decided that the lead ship for this class, CVN-78 would be named for our Thirty-eighth president, the USS Gerald R. Ford.


“Ford was designed under Bush (43) and Rumsfeld. The carrier was packed with major cutting-edge technologies including an electromagnetic aircraft launching system, an advanced arresting gear, a powerful dual-band radar, a new nuclear propulsion and power distribution system and advanced defensive weapon systems. In all, the ship incorporated twenty-three distinct changes and up-grades from the ten existing Nimitz-class carriers.”


The last Nimitz, USS George H.W. Bush, CVN-77, was completed in 2009 at a cost of $6.2 billion. Although commissioned on January 10, 2009, Bush didn’t become operational until May 15, 2011.


Bush was a direct descendant of the USS Forrestal, CVA-59 our first super carrier completed in 1956. Like the Forrestal, Bush’s technology included the angle deck and steam catapults both invented by the British. By the Rumsfeld era the problems associated with steam catapults were well documented. Steam was corrosive and required continual maintenance. The hydraulic landing system that controlled the arresting cables was also considered obsolete for future carrier operations.


Rummy and co decided that this class would have great leap forward technology so Ford and two planned sisters, CVN-79, U.S.S. John F. Kennedy and CVN 80, U.S.S. Enterprise incorporated these new toys. Thought was also given to retrofitting later models of the Nimitz class with these systems. Fortunately, this insanity was quietly abandoned once the cost became known.


Ford was authorized on September 10, 2008 in the waning days of 43’s administration with a price tag of $7.9 billion and an estimated completion date of 2015. Neither the actual price tag nor the delivery date came in anywhere near those estimates. Self-imposed budget restrictions were part of the reason but the real culprits were those “what if” systems particularly the new catapults the new power plant and the Advanced Arresting Gear (AAG).


These systems remained in development as construction of the hull at Newport News Shipbuilding (now Huntington Ingalls) progressed but timing slipped and costs soared as it became obvious that they didn’t work as intended. Ford wasn’t commissioned until July 22, 2017 at a staggering cost of $13 billion. But before you begin to shake your head in disgust, understand the ship will not be able to enter service until 2020 or 2021 and will cost an additional $780 million to be made operational.


This additional time is needed to get these damn systems to work properly. Current estimated cost for the launch system is at $961 million or three times the original price and still can’t be used to launch aircraft equipped with external fuel tanks needed for long-range missions. I kid you not, this is scary stupid.


The turbines have failed to produce the amount of electrical power the ship requires and the AAG does not perform up to specifications either.


Fixes are in the works but may affect the timetables for the Kennedy and Enterprise if corrections and solutions are not made sooner rather than later. Bryan Clark, a naval analysis noted:


“The navy is paying the price for attempting to incorporate too many new technologies at once. The Ford is an example of how short-lived strategic themes such as ‘transformation’ can create long-term problems. This is not a history we want to repeat.”


Ex-Navy Secretary Ray Mabus noted: “The Ford is a textbook example of how not to build a ship… (We were) building it while it’s still being designed…which results in costly do-overs of already finished components and trying to force unproven technology on it.”


Congratulations Rummy, you took three throws at the dice table, the Zumwalt destroyers, the

F-35 Lightning II and the Ford and you rolled craps each time.


During the second Iraq war Rumsfeld ended a press conference with an old service remark: “Good enough for government work.” These debacles don’t even qualify for that excuse.





The Trillion Dollar Crap Shoot (Part One)

Q: What do Mao Zedong and Don Rumsfeld have in common?

A: They both promulgated the concept of a “Great Leap Forward.”

Q: How did that work out for them?

A: “Furgeddabouit!”


We will not speak unkindly about Chairman Mao. Let the dead rest in peace even though his great leap forward resulted in the deaths of countless ordinary Chinese citizens. Let’s face it…The average day under Mao was usually not a day at the beach, and so it goes.


On the other hand, Uncle Don, as Secretary of Defense under Bush 43 insisted that our next generation of weapon systems then being budgeted must incorporate a new paradigm, “Leap Ahead Technology.”


The exact meaning of Leap Ahead Technology is lost to history. Success has a thousand fathers, failure is an orphan. Another instance where think tank, big brain so-called wunderkind analysts convince DC policy makers that their latest, greatest new-think weapons solution are in fact: “The way the truth and the light.”


The result; the Elmo Zumwalt class destroyers, the F-35 Lightning II fighter and the Gerald Ford nuclear aircraft carriers. I understand that Leap Ahead Technology would incorporate the next generation of technology into the new weapon by relying on unproven systems still in development. This amounted a crap shoot, betting that this technology would reach maturity before the weapon system was completed.


When I wrote about the Zumwalt’s in 2015, I reported: “Back in 2009, the GAO “…found that four out of 12 critical technologies in the Zumwalts’ design were fully mature. Six were approaching maturity but five would not be fully mature until after installation.”


So much went wrong that the navy cut the order from 32 ships to three and deemed that this trio would be utilized, “…as state of the art platforms for experimental weapons such as lasers and electromagnetic rail guns…” This way the navy could play with all the stuff that didn’t work as promised in the first place. Cost: $4.2 billion for each ship not including an additional $10 billion in development costs plus invoices still to come to make these systems workable.


In 2002, we touted the F-35, Lightning II as only one of two fifth generation jet fighters on earth, the other being our F-22. We invited every nation we considered to be friends and family to participate (i.e. help pay for) this the best tactical fighter jet on the planet capable of performing every conceivable mission for the rest of the 21st Century:


Step right up, ladies and gentlemen; nothing up my sleeve. I present to you, each one of you the future of tactical military aviation. Tell you what I’m gonna do…if you sign up right now for your share at my low introductory price of $233.0 billion, you will be the first on your block to possess this gallant steed…sign up now as I shall not pass this way again…


And how they signed up: Australia, Canada, Denmark, Israel, Italy, Korea, Netherlands, Norway, Turkey, the United Kingdom. Hello suckers, feel right at home. By 2007, the price had swelled to $278.5 billion, by 2012 to $395.7 billion and by 2017 to $406.5 billion. Oh, dear how loudly the Aussies, Canuks, Danes and Dutch squawked as each installment came due. You would have thought Uncle was to blame!


Did I mention that the cost of the helmet was not included? Whoops, well, its price tag of $400,000 each is an extra. But what a helmet! “It offers a 3-D scan, noise canceling headphones, night vision, a forehead-mounted computer, and a projector that displays live video on its clear visor.” The helmet comes in dark green and weighs about four to five pounds about the same as a football helmet. “When tethered to the plane, the helmet gives pilots the combined visual capabilities of Superman and Iron Man, if they were flying Wonder Woman’s invisible plane.”


Everything the pilot needs is shown on the visor and the pilot can see through the aircraft with a 360-degree view. It just took a while to get it to work the way it’s supposed to work but I have it on good authority that it’s now working peachy keen. (Did I mention that each pilot has his own one-of-a-kind helmet?)


The Lightning II comes in three models, A, B and C. Most buyers have ordered the traditional Model-A suitable for air force service at $94.6 million per airplane. The aircraft carrier capable Model-C navy version costs $121.8 per unit and the Short Takeoff and Landing (STOL) Model-B favored by the marines comes in at $122.8.


The B has been a bitch and a half to get working right. Its second internal vertical lift engine really complicated the airplanes avionics and performance adding time, money and near nervous breakdowns to its development. It remains in development and is just now going into production. The C has had similar problems and delays due to the need for folded wings and added stress during catapult takeoffs and arrested carrier landings. Delays forced the navy to purchase 90 additional tried and true F-18E Hornets(fighter-bombers) and 80 EA-18G Growlers (electronic warfare aircraft) to fill the gap.


Fifteen years removed from the programs origin, only the USAF is operating 104 F-35As in an ongoing developmental and training role and the navy is testing a small number of F-35 Cs. Foreign partner pilots participate in the training program as production plans are updated. The best estimate that I can find is full production will begin in 2019 and our foreign partners will begin to receive their airplanes beginning in 2021.


So much for that great leap forward and in the words of one American general: “Think really hard before deciding on any future joint-service platforms.”


(To be continued with Part Two: Ford Class Carriers)        


Y.A. Tittle’s Greatest Game

Y.A. Tittle played the game of his life in a regularly scheduled afternoon contest against the Washington Redskins 65-years-ago this month on October 28, 1962. Fifty-one degrees at the 2:05 PM kickoff, bright and sunny with a mild breeze of 17 mph; a perfect day for football. A sellout crowd of 62,844 Giants faithful witnessed the event in Yankee Stadium.


The game didn’t start well for the Football Giants. Tittle had been beaten up by the Lions the previous Sunday, had a lousy week of practice and didn’t feel well as game time approached. His 36-year-old body wasn’t happy but he was determined to play. He convinced head coach, Allie Sherman, that he should start.


Tittle had joined the Giants the previous year after playing eleven years for the San Francisco 49ers. He had been a starter and a star most of those seasons but the Niners and their head coach, Red Hickey, had installed a new offense for, John Brodie, their young stud quarterback to run. Y.A. became superfluous and put on the trading block. The Giants were one of the few teams interested but only offered Lou Cordileone, a lineman, in return. Tittle wrote that on being informed of the trade he told Hickey: “Who the hell is Lou Cordileone?” He noted with sadness, “They didn’t even bother to trade a name player for me.”


Wellington Mara recalled Cordileone’s reaction: “Me, even up for Y.A. Tittle? You’re kidding.”


Tittle started the game against the Redskins poorly completing only two of his first six pass attempts. The Skins second-year QB, Norm Snead, completed a 44-yard touchdown pass to halfback, Bobby Mitchell, to take a 7-0 lead. (An aside of note, Bobby Mitchell was the Redskins first Afro-American player. Under pressure from the White House, the NFL forced owner, George Preston Marshall, to integrate his team. Mitchell was traded from the Cleveland Browns for Washington DC’s Number 1 Draft Pick the previous spring.)


Tittle retaliated with a drive of his own culminating in a 22-yard TD pass to Joe Morrison making the score 7 to 7 at the end of the first quarter. The Giants established a lead by the end of the first half with a score of 21 to 13. Y.A. threw two more TD passes, his first for five yards to Joe Walton and the second, to Morrison for one yard.


The third quarter belonged to the powerful right arm of Yelburton Abraham who threw three TD passes in the quarter, the first for 53-yards to Del Shofner, the second, a 26-yard toss to Walton and the third, a 63-yard bomb to Frank Gifford making the score 42-20. The game had turned into a rout. Sherman asked Tittle what he wanted to do since he’d already thrown six touchdowns.


Up until that time only two players in the NFL and one player in the AFL had thrown for seven touchdowns in a single game, Sid Luckman for the Chicago Bears in 1941, Adrian Burke for the Philadelphia Eagles in 1951 and George Blanda for the AFL Houston Oilers in 1961. Tittle elected to return for the fourth quarter throwing a six-yard TD to Walton to tie the record thereby joining the seven-touchdown quarterback club.


Even though the score was 49 to 20 Snead had enough time and talent to score two more times, one on a one-yard run and the other on a 35-yard pass to Steve Junker. Final score, Giants 49, Redskins 34. In all, Snead threw four TD passes and ran for one accumulating 316 passing yards. Tittle passed for 505 yards. Giants players and fans wanted Y.A. to remain on the field and go for that record-breaking pass but Tittle insisted that it just wasn’t the right thing to do.


Much later in life, an interviewer caught up with Y.A. to ask him about that memorable day. His answers appeared in a 2012 Football Giants documentary. This is Tittle in his own words:


“I really didn’t know if I could throw because I didn’t throw all week. The first seven passes were incomplete and badly incomplete. I knew any moment he (Sherman) was going to take me out, then I hit about 13 in a row. I don’t know why but everything went for touchdowns and 500 and something yards.


“We already had 49 points. For me to go out and throw the ball didn’t seem to be in good taste…then.


At this point in the film Tittle’s mouth widens into the smile of a Cheshire Cat. His eyes light up as the smile becomes a mischievous grin as he says:


“Right now,”


He pauses and licks two fingers on his throwing hand…


“I’d of thrown it.”


Y.A. Tittle’s death was reported on Monday, October 9, 2017. He was 90.


R.I.P. Y.A. Tittle, my first football hero.


Once Upon a Time at Journey’s End

Guest Blog by Helen Markey, Bill and Bob Christman

Charles and Margaret Rilling opened Journey’s End after World War II when vacations via automobiles were still a novelty. The Rillings owned a large parcel of land less than a mile south of NH Route 9, a two-lane paved road connecting Vermont to New Hampshire.   A dirt road with the name, Mountain Road, ran south to their property where it dead ended. Their property was sandwiched between the river and the foot of Mt. Wantastiquet.

The family home stood at the north end of their property. It became known by guests as, “the big house.” One by one the Rillings built a string of seven wooden cabins overlooking the banks of the Connecticut and named each after birds like Robin, Cardinal, Blue Jay and Bobolink. The scenic view included the Central of Vermont Railroad that ran south from Canada to Springfield and New Haven on the opposite embankment. Two other cabins, the Whippoorwill (rightfully: Whip-poor-will) and Raven were tucked into nearby woods at the base of the mountain. A small white house stood off to itself christened, the Starling. It was their son’s home. He lived with his parents in the big house during the summer season and rented out the Starling.

Journey’s End, aka The Country, aka Rillings, aka Chucks was located in West Chesterfield, New Hampshire on the Connecticut River opposite Brattleboro, Vermont. Explaining its actual location was too complicated so people were told it was in Brattleboro, VT. When Beth was a young girl she once described it to a friend as being, “Sort of like a resort.” That description is accurate.  

The Christmans began to vacation there in 1948; Uncle Bill, Aunt Helen and my three cousins, Helen, Bill and Bob. This will be the first of several blogs about Journey’s End and this one tells about the early days. I have selected Bill to narrate this story on behalf of Helen and Bob.

Our Maspeth, Queens, neighbors, Tom and Jean Mitchell discovered Journey’s End in 1947 and they must have loved their experience so much that our mom and dad signed up for a two week stay during the summer of 1948. For sure, our first experience was positive enough that we continued to vacation there for two weeks every summer until dad became too ill for us to continue this tradition in 1955. Our experiences that we are sharing are a composite over that time frame.


We were too young to remember all the logistics and preparation needed to make this 200- mile journey, how to stock the car with needed essentials to last two weeks yet leave enough room in the back seat of our 1941 Plymouth for the three of us to survive the trip. I’m sure the Mitchells gave mom and dad suggestions based on their own experience but our parents still must have made rookie mistakes especially that first year.

Dad would have the car serviced and make a final stop at Joe’s gas station on Friday night for a fill-up. Our stay was Saturday to Saturday, so mom and dad packed the car the night before except for perishables (kids included) and we started out early the next day. Helen remembers, “The car was tightly packed – including our blankets, not the cotton ones we use today, but wool, itchy wool. They were placed on the back seat meaning we sat on them in a non-air-conditioned car for eight hours in our shorts.


Our first stop after leaving home was Resurrection-Ascension R.C. Church, our home parish, one-mile away where we asked the Almighty to keep us safe and bless our journey. (One down, 199 miles to go.)


Dad made his way from the church to the Whitestone Bridge and into the Bronx. Our first task was to say the rosary so we could appeal to Mother Mary to add her seal of approval to this undertaking. Post rosary, Mom opened her treasure box, the first three of a trove of comic books she had collected over the preceding months to entertain us during the ride.

The Hutchinson River Parkway met the Merritt Parkway at the Connecticut state line and with Wilber Cross Parkway brought us to Meriden just north of New Haven where we ran out of any semblance of a divided highway for the rest of our trip.

We’d stop here at the Coffee Cottage, something so special to the three of us because we never, and I mean never, went to restaurants. The diner had table-side juke boxes and one year I remembered “Sh-Boom” by the Crewcuts that to this day takes me back to the Coffee Cottage.

Our eight-hour trip seemed to take four years to get through Connecticut alone. Dad didn’t believe in car radios so we didn’t have that distraction. We traveled over a series of two lane roads mostly along Route 15 and US Route 5. We passed through Hartford as Mom sat in the passenger seat with custody of a multi-page highlighted map to mark our progress. When she announced we were entering Massachusetts, it was like, “Yay-finally!”

Springfield, Northampton. Deerfield and Greenfield remained to be conquered, but the 55-miles through Massachusetts was nothing to compare to the dreaded Connecticut. Lunch was a picnic somewhere in route and I recall a gas stop in Springfield at a garage with a foul bathroom. Once over the Vermont line, Brattleboro was only 10-miles distant. Before reaching our finish line, our parents stopped at St. Michaels, Brattleboro’s RC Church, where we gave thanks to God the Father, Jesus and Mary to celebrate our safe arrival.

Three miles north, we made a left onto Route 9, crossed the Connecticut River and entered New Hampshire.

A roadside sign announced: Journey’s End, and so it was.