Saturday, December 3, 2016

More Navy Lies and Deceit

We’ve documented instance after instance where the Navy has flat out lied.  The lies cover a wide range of topics but the common theme is that they lie when the truth won’t get them what they want.  To be fair, I guess that’s kind of the reason for lying, in general. 

They lie about weapons performance, they lied about the USS Fort Worth’s Singapore deployment performance, they’ve lied repeatedly about their determination to early retire the Ticonderoga class cruisers, and so on. 

The latest lie is about the LCS shock testing that was recently performed on the USS Jackson and USS Milwaukee.  What did we read from the Navy?  The tests went very well – even better than expected.  Now we find out that the tests weren’t exactly what was described to us.  The shock tests were only partial shock tests conducted at a greatly reduced shock load.  The Navy neglected to mention that, didn’t they? 

I’m not going to debate anyone about what a lie is.  A lie of omission is still a lie.  Deceit is a lie.  The Navy omitted telling us that the shock tests were vastly scaled down.  The Navy deceived us into believing that the LCS was fully tested.

What really happened?  As ever, we have to depend on Director, Operational Test & Evaluation (DOT&E) to tell us the truth.  Here’s the DOT&E comments as reported by USNI News website (1).

Note:  all emphasis added

“Full ship shock trials on both variants of the Littoral Combat Ship proved the ships are survivable and will only need “relatively minor modifications,” according to Navy written testimony to the Senate Armed Services Committee, but the Pentagon’s top operational tester warned in his written testimony that the shocks were performed at reduced severity due to concerns about excessive damage to the ships.”

The tests were performed at reduced levels because the Navy knew the ships would be severely damaged by full testing.

Here’s the Navy’s lie.

“Stackley, [Sean Stackley, head of Navy acquisition] along with commander, Naval Surface Forces Vice Adm. Tom Rowden, wrote that “the LCS Program Office accomplished all FSST test objectives within budget, for both ship variants, demonstrating that the ships and ships’ systems are able to survive the degrading effects of an underwater shock event.” 

DOT&E’s assessment is a bit different.

“Gilmore’s [Director, DOT&E] written testimony tells a different story. He wrote that ahead of the trials he “approved the reduced severity trial geometries for LCS-6 because of serious concerns about the potential for damage to non-shock hardened mission critical equipment and ship structure.” He added that the Independence-variant aluminum hull could suffer more damage than a traditional steel hull, and that the combat system and main propulsion system on those ships were not hardened. “To further mitigate potential equipment damage and personnel injury, some mission systems were removed, other equipment was modified to improve shock resistance, and construction deficiencies were corrected,” he wrote.”

This statement reveals all kinds of things – things that I’ve stated over the years and now have unambiguous proof for.

We find out that the much of the LCS equipment is not shock-hardened.  Aside from having told you that for many years, this also puts the lie to the Navy’s attempt to claim that the LCS was built to some kind of Level 1+ survivability standard.  As demonstrated in a previous post, Level 1 explicitly calls for shock-hardening and now we have proof that the LCS is not shock-hardened and, therefore, does not even meet Level 1 survivability let alone some made-up Level 1+.  Here’s the relevant quote from OpNavInst 9070.1 which defines survivability levels.

“Level I represents the least severe environment anticipated and
excludes the need for enhanced survivability for designated ship
classes to sustain operations in the immediate area of an
engaged Battle Group or in the general war-at-sea region. In this category, the minimum design capability required shall, in
addition to the inherent sea keeping mission, provide for EMP
and shock hardening, …”

Lies!  Beyond shock hardening, the LCS is also not EMP shielded – again, a failure to meet even Level 1 standards.

We also see from the statement that some equipment was removed prior to testing.  I’ve been told that the 57 mm gun was removed, among other equipment.  In addition, some equipment was modified for the test in order to allow it to survive.  The Navy didn’t mention any of that, did they?

Moving on, what happened when stronger shocks were attempted on the Milwaukee?

“Gilmore directed the Navy to use stronger shocks for the Milwaukee test, with the third one reaching two-thirds the shock severity the ship is built to sustain.

“The Navy conducted the first two shots from August 29 through September 23, 2016, starting the trial at the same shock severity as other modern surface combatants. However, the Navy stopped the LCS 5 trial after the second shot, thereby not executing the planned third shot due to concerns with the shock environment, personnel, and equipment,” Gilmore wrote. “The Navy viewed the third LCS 5 trial as not worthwhile because the Navy was concerned shocking the ship at the increased level of that trial would significantly damage substantial amounts of non-hardened equipment, as well as damage, potentially significantly, the limited amount of hardened equipment, thereby necessitating costly and lengthy repairs.”

Gilmore’s summary assessment?

““Neither shock trial resulted in catastrophic damage, yet both shock trials exposed critical shock deficiencies, which I will detail in an upcoming classified report,” he concluded. “These deficiencies, which were only identified in the shock trial, can now be specifically addressed and corrected by Navy engineers to make the ships more survivable.”

The Navy flat out lied and deceived us into believing that the LCS was fully tested like any other warship.  Far from a success, the shock trials were an abysmal failure, apparently.

Now, here’s the really sad aspect of all this.  There was no need for the Navy to lie.  A reasonable case can be made that a small combatant does not need to be built to the same standards as a full-fledged warship.  It’s actually quite reasonable to expect a small vessel to be unable to withstand the same stresses as a full-fledged warship.  No one would object to such a conceptual design philosophy.  Of course, that leads to the question of whether a half billion dollar vessel the size of a WWII Fletcher should be considered “small” but that’s another issue.

This entire issue is due to the Navy’s attempt to portray the LCS as a warship.  They painted themselves into a corner.  They can’t, on the one hand, claim that the LCS is a warship and, on the other hand, not hold it to the standards of a warship.  By trying to deceive us into believing that the LCS is a warship they created the controversies over survivability and shock testing.

“Oh what a tangled web we weave when first we practice to deceive.” – We all learned that as children but the Navy appears not to understand it.


(1)USNI News website, “Navy Says LCS Shock Trials Had Positive Results; Pentagon Still Has Concerns”, Megan Eckstein, 2-Dec-2016,

Friday, December 2, 2016

Déjà Vu

We’ve beaten the LCS horse repeatedly, to the point that it’s not even fun anymore.  However, it bears one more examination in light of what’s about to happen – more on that later.  I want to examine one aspect, and only one, of the LCS program.  I want to state clearly what the main problem was with LCS acquisition process.

Let’s be clear.  The main overall problem with the LCS was the complete absence of a viable Concept of Operations (CONOPS) prior to committing to production.  This resulted in the disjointed set of design/construction requirements and the subsequent, repeated modifications of those requirements as various individuals attempted to put their own “stamp” on the design based on whatever they believed the LCS should be capable of doing – divorced from any coherent statement of needs derived from a CONOPS.  This lead to runaway costs, ill-suited capabilities, and an utter lack of focus on an operational endpoint – a lack which persists even today.  This, however, is not the problem I want to focus on.  This was the main overall problem but not the main acquisition process problem.

The main acquisition process problem was the commitment to purchase 55 ships before the design of the first one was even finalized.  Common sense and good business principles demand a “try, then buy” approach.  The Navy, in defiance of all common sense, intelligence, experience, and good business principles, opted to “buy, then try”.  The results were predictable. 

The product, the ship, failed to meet expectations by a wide margin.  Even the most ardent supporter has to acknowledge that the LCS has been a disappointment.  Had we bought only a single prototype, thoroughly exercised it, and seen all the problems it had, we would have refused to buy any more or demanded extensive changes prior to buying another.  Either way, we would have come out way ahead of where we are now.  Again, even supporters acknowledge that we should have prototyped the class before committing to the full buy.

If there is any lesson the Navy should have gotten from the LCS debacle it’s this – that you can’t commit to the purchase of an entire class before you even have a design.  Stated in other terms, the lesson the Navy should have gotten from the LCS debacle is that you have to “try, then buy”.  If nothing else, this should be hammered into the Navy acquisition psyche by now, right?

Well, you’re going to be disappointed.

The Navy is pushing Congress to approve the entire 12-ship “frigate” version of the LCS in the form of a block buy.  Here are the damning statements from the recently released GAO report.  Note the time frames.

“… early next year, the Navy plans to request authorization for a block buy of all 12 frigates …” (1)  [emphasis added]

“The Navy plans to request proposals for frigate-specific modifications later in 2017 …” (1)  [emphasis added]

There it is.  The Navy is going to ask for Congressional approval for a block buy of the 12 “frigates” before they have even requested design proposals from industry.  Thus, they are asking Congress to approve a ship that has no design.  This is exactly what happened and what went wrong with the original LCS.  The Navy is going to repeat their idiotic mistake.  Recall that the definition of insanity is to repeat a set of actions and expect a different result.  This is exactly what the Navy is doing.

Circling back to the main problem with the overall LCS program, the lack of a CONOPS, the Navy is set to repeat that mistake, also.  There is no CONOPS for the “frigate” version of the LCS.  Given that the “frigate” will not really be a frigate as compared to any other frigate in the world’s navies, a CONOPS is all the more vital to understand how we will utilize a sub-par “frigate” in a meaningful way so that we can set useful design requirements.  The Navy, however, has opted not to do that.

The magnitude of the sheer stupidity of Navy leadership boggles the mind.  It is incomprehensible.  One of the many definitions of intelligence is the ability to learn.  The Navy appears incapable of learning.  The conclusion is obvious.

The entire Navy leadership, civilian and uniformed, needs to be fired.


(1)GAO, “Littoral Combat Ship and Frigate”, GAO-17-262T, Dec 2016

Contract Insanity

The contract insanity continues.

“Landscape Management Systems Inc.,* Tumon, Guam, is being awarded a $9,632,953 modification to a previously awarded indefinite-delivery/indefinite-quantity contract (N40192-15-D-9008) for the exercise of option two for base operations support services at Naval Base Guam and Naval Support Activity Andersen, Commander Joint Region Marianas.  The work to be performed provides for all labor, supervision, management, tools, material, equipment, facilities, transportation and incidental engineering and other items necessary to accomplish all work to perform ground maintenance and tree trimming services.  After award of this option, the total cumulative contract value will be $46,414,693.  Work will be performed at various installations in Guam, including but not limited to, Naval Base Guam (75 percent); and Naval Support Activity Andersen (25 percent).  Work for this option period is expected to be completed November 2017.”  [emphasis added]

That’s $46M for a year’s worth of lawn mowing and tree trimming!!!!!  That’s $126,000 per day to mow lawns!!!!!  What do they have – Tibetan monks trimming individual blades of grass with micrometers and scalpels?

Thursday, December 1, 2016

Hangar Doors Cost What?!

From the website (Contracts: 28-Nov-2016),

"G-W Management Services LLC,* Rockville, Maryland, is being awarded a $7,369,000 firm-fixed-price contract for the construction of four hangar doors at Hangar 111 at Naval Air Station Patuxent River."

What are these doors made out of - an alloy of mithril and adamantium with solid gold fittings?

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Revolution Through Evolution

We’ve repeatedly discussed the Navy’s fascination with and, indeed, fixation on, revolutionary advances as opposed to evolutionary advances.  Sadly, but predictably, most of the Navy’s attempts at revolutionary advancement have failed miserably.  While the LCS and JSF are obvious poster children for the pitfalls of revolutionary advancement, there are numerous other examples. 

Does the seeming inevitability of failure associated with revolutionary advancement mean that the Navy (and more generally the military) must content itself with only evolutionary advancements?  The answer is a double “no”.

The First No.  No, revolutionary advances can and should be pursued but not within the context of production.  Revolutionary advances should be pursued as research projects.  We need to attempt revolutionary advances but we need to do so in an environment forgiving of the inevitable failures that will occur along the developmental path.  That’s why the LCS, JSF, and others have failed so badly.  It’s not that their failures are either unexpected or inherently “bad” – heck, failure is the source of knowledge and the impetus for success – it’s that their failures have been institutionalized or “baked in” to production.  Thus, a flawed LCS concept is produced 55 times over and must be corrected 55 times at a cost of 55 times a single event as opposed to a single failure during the course of a revolutionary research program.  Further, the production failures produce secondary negative effects such as bad public relations, loss of confidence among Congress, the public, and even the uniformed ranks, burgeoning cost overruns that impact other programs, and a reluctance to allocate additional monies to fix the problems or to initiate other new programs.

Let the revolution begin but let it be conducted at the research level rather than production. 

The Second No.  No, revolutionary advances can come about from evolutionary or even existing technologies.  Herein lies the main premise of this post.  The Navy can achieve revolutionary advances by utilizing existing technology.  Huh??  How can revolutionary advances occur with existing technology?  Doesn’t “revolutionary” by definition involve technologies that don’t yet exist?  Yep, that’s correct.  Here’s the loophole, though …  If the technologies exist but just not within the Navy, then incorporation of existing technologies can, indeed, produce revolutionary advances. 

Here’s a ridiculous example that will illustrate the concept.  Suppose that we’ve all been “driving” anti-gravity cars for the last decade or two but that the Navy has never adopted the technology.  If they did, they’d instantly have ships that were no longer constrained by hydrodynamic drag forces and would be instantly many times faster.  A revolutionary jump in capability would have been achieved by adopting existing technology!

That’s all well and good as a fictional example but there’s no such real world, non-military technology that would produce revolutionary advances, is there?

Before we go any further, let’s briefly consider what we mean by revolutionary advances.  We tend to associate revolution with technology:  unmanned totally autonomous vehicles, lasers, rail guns, invisibility coatings, dynamic armor, and so forth.  What is it that’s really revolutionary about those technologies, assuming they worked and became suddenly available?  It’s not the technology, per se.  It’s the changes in tactics, doctrine, and operations that they enable that are what’s really revolutionary.  A working laser would allow us to significantly rethink how we conduct AAW, how far we could push into an A2/AD zone, how aggressive we could be in conducting amphibious assaults, how many ships we need to protect a task force, and so on.  Had the LCS worked as originally envisioned, it would have totally revolutionized HOW we conduct ASW, MCM, and land force support, not WHAT we do.  We’d still conduct the same tasks but in a completely different manner.

So, back to our premise …  Are there existing non-military (meaning civilian) technologies that can revolutionize naval operations?  Let’s look at some possibilities.

  • Heave compensated cranes – These cranes have been around for some time in the merchant marine world and their adoption might allow VLS reloads at sea, cargo transfers unlimited by sea state, and revolutionary impacts on amphibious loading/unloading operations.

  • Barges – These have been used in the commercial world for many years to provide mobile, flexible platforms for an endless variety of tasks.  The military could use them to host large Army aviation units and special ops forces for persistent operations.  These could revolutionize our peacetime operations, in particular.

  • Podded Propulsion Units – These propulsion units offer many potential benefits and have been in commercial use for some time.  These could revolutionize ship propulsion design and capabilities.

  • User Interface - Advances like mobile device apps and voice actuated systems from the consumer world could be applicable to command and control and CIC.  The Vincennes incident was due to misinterpreted data that might have been prevented by suitable apps and voice interface.  Data interpretation has always been a weak link and the consumer mobile device world offers many possibilities for revolutionizing our Command and Control process.

  • Earthquake and Sway Tolerant Structures – The Navy is plagued by stress induced cracking of hulls and superstructures.  The civilian world has long since mastered the construction of earthquake and sway (skyscrapers and bridges) tolerant structures.  The Navy ought to look into adapting some of those techniques to ship construction.  For example, poor vibration control design in the LCS has rendered the Mk110 gun useless when the ship is at speed.  Another example is the superstructures of the Ticos, LCS, and, to a lesser extent, the Burkes.  They suffer from stress induced cracks due to the constant motion of the ship on the sea.  Adapting civilian sway design into naval architecture could revolutionize ship design and construction.

  • Armor – Tanks (not a civilian technology but not a naval one, either) utilize an amazing variety of composite armors, reactive armors, spaced armors, spall liners, etc.  Spacecraft utilize ablative armor.  Automobiles utilize impact absorbing “armor”.  Adapting some of those armor schemes to ships could revolutionize ship protection.

Active Heave Compensated Crane
There are also existing technologies within the Navy and the military that are not being utilized to their fullest.  Here’s an example from the Russian navy – the Kashtan.  They took the existing gattling gun CIWS that’s been around since the Cold War and bolted it together with a simple surface to air Stinger-type missile.  The result was a revolutionary close-in weapon system.  We’ve seen small examples of the same type of thing in the military.  The warhead/seeker from one missile is married to a longer range propulsion body and a completely new, far more effective weapon is created – a revolutionary advance achieved by a recombination of existing components.  That’s good and we need to do more of it.

  • Existing ICBMs could be paired with conventional warheads to create truly long range tactical ballistic missiles.

  • MLRS (Multiple Launch Rocket System) could be navalized and mounted aboard ships to provide long range, high explosive, high volume naval fire support.

  • Army counterbattery radars (Firefinder and GATOR) could be navalized to provide protection for amphibious assault forces.

Some might quibble and attempt to call these evolutionary developments and, admittedly, there can be a degree of overlap between the two concepts.  Evolutionary merely enhances an existing capability whereas revolutionary creates a new capability.  At this point it becomes a matter of semantics and is not worth further discussion.  The premise remains.

Russian Kashtan CIWS

Finally, there’s also revolution from history.  There are weapon systems that have existed that, if adapted to today’s needs, would provide revolutionary capabilities.  Perhaps the leading example is the Navy’s need for a truly long range anti-ship missile.  Well, guess what?  The Navy had a proven long range anti-ship missile once upon a time – the Tomahawk Anti-Ship Missile (TASM) – but gave it up.  Why not bring it back?  It would provide a revolutionary anti-ship capability.

Other historical platforms that could offer revolutionary capabilities today include:

  • The S-3 Viking which could provide long range ASW, higher capacity aerial tanking (KS-3A), and electronic signals intelligence (ES-3A Shadow) could fill dire capability gaps with the Navy’s dream of a common airframe.

  • The A-1 Skyraider, a propeller driven attack aircraft which could relieve the Hornet fleet of its pickup truck plinking duties thereby saving wear and tear on our front line combat aircraft

  • The Spruance class destroyer which was the best ASW ship ever built and would revolutionize today’s ASW operations.

A-1 Skyraider

The point is that revolution is available from sources other than fantasy technology wishlists.  Fantasy is fine as long as it remains in the R&D realm and not production.  There are plenty of existing revolutionary capabilities just waiting to be found.  Look around, Navy!  Stop depending on Peter Pan for your next wonder-weapon and start applying some imagination to history and everyday technology.

Saturday, November 26, 2016

ESSM Distributed Lethality

We’ve talked repeatedly about how the US military is abandoning high end, heavy combat in favor of low end “combat”.  While much of the most obvious examples of this trend are within the ground combat community, the Navy is following the same path.  For example, the Navy retired an entire class of Perry frigates and replaced them with an almost non-combat-capable class of LCS. 

We’ve also discussed the absence of critical and logical operational and tactical thinking that plagues the entire military.  We’ve shown that the military has abandoned strategic thinking and is no longer capable of devising sound strategic plans.

Finally, we’ve discussed the myopic focus on technology at the expense of operations and tactics.

Now, the latest issue of Proceedings shows us another example illustrating these trends (1).  Cdr. Lukacs suggests converting the Navy’s amphibious ships (the LXX vessels) into anti-surface warfare (ASuW) ships using the Evolved Sea Sparrow Missile (ESSM) controlled by the Ship Self Defense System (SSDS) combat software program.

For starters, let’s set aside the fact that the SSDS has been plagued by problems and, according to DOT&E’s annual reports, can’t even properly perform its intended defensive purpose.  Problems include poor sensor placement, legacy sensor integration issues, target detection and identification issues, weapon employment and guidance issues, and ESSM performance issues.  Thus, the author wants to begin modifying the SSDS to perform offensive warfare before the system’s primary function is even working – but we’ll set that aside for the purpose of this discussion.

Moving on, the author proposes utilizing the ESSM for offensive warfare.  The proposed list of candidate ESSM offensive warfare ships includes carriers and all amphibious ships.  Certainly, the ESSM can be used to hit a slow moving target (a ship) with the proper software modifications.  The question, though, is whether this is a good idea and a worthwhile use of time and limited funds, given all the other problems the Navy faces.

Let’s start with the missile, itself.  The RIM-162 ESSM is 12 ft long, 10 in. diameter, and weighs 620 lbs.  It has an 86 lb blast fragmentation warhead with a proximity fuze.  Guidance is provided by mid-course datalink and terminal semi-active radar homing.  Speed is Mach 4 and range is 27 nm.  The missile costs around $1.5M.

As best I can interpret it, the 86 lb warhead is not 86 lbs of explosive but, rather, the total weight of the warhead which is mainly the “fragmentation” component.  The actual explosive weight is some fraction of the total.  Note that I may be misinterpreting this and some reader may be able to shed more light on this.

The first thing to look at in assessing an anti-surface weapon is lethality.  A 0.50 cal. machine gun, for example, despite having a high rate of fire, has almost no lethality in the anti-ship role.  The ESSM, being a fragmentation weapon, has limited lethality.  Shrapnel can disable topside electronics but has very little lethality against a ship.

Even the Standard missile, which has an anti-surface mode, is considered a marginal anti-ship weapon and the ESSM is a much smaller, less capable anti-ship weapon than that.  As the author states,

“While possessing only a fraction of the range and carrying one-third the warhead of the SM-6, …”

So, the ESSM is somewhere between ineffective and marginally effective in terms of lethality.  The obvious question, then, is why pursue it?  Well, in continuing the author’s statement, above,

“While possessing only a fraction of the range and carrying one-third the warhead of the SM-6, this missile is nonetheless fast, maneuverable, …”

So, the author views the ESSM’s speed and maneuverability as positive attributes of an anti-ship weapon.  I agree.  However, the missile’s maneuverability is designed to allow it to engage incoming missiles.  It has no maneuverability in an anti-ship mode – it flies straight at the target.  It has no terminal evasive maneuver capability.  Possibly some kind of terminal evasion routine could be programmed into the missile but that would require a new developmental effort and raises questions like whether the missile could maintain communications links and target lock.  The missile was designed to bore straight in at the target (incoming missile) while maneuvering just enough to achieve intercept.  It was not designed for evasive maneuvers.  Thus, the author’s contention that the missile’s speed and maneuverability are positive attributes is only half right.  The speed is a benefit but the maneuverability does not apply in the anti-ship role.

ESSM - Offensive Weapon?

The lack of terminal evasion capability renders the missile susceptible to the target ship’s defenses.

So, the ESSM is marginally effective in terms of speed and maneuverability.  The obvious question, then, is why pursue it? 

The next question to look at in assessing an anti-ship weapon is range.  The reported range of the ESSM is 27 nm.  Of course, that’s the range against an aerial target and it assumes a viable means of target detection and designation.  Remember that the author proposes installing the ESSM on carriers and amphibious ships, neither of which possess any particularly useful long range surface radar.  Thus, the effective anti-ship range is probably around the radar horizon, perhaps 15-20 miles.  Is this useful, tactically?  As the author puts it,

“If, however, an SSDS-equipped HVU [High Value Unit] had its own ASUW capability, when an enemy combatant appeared on the horizon, the HVU could counter that ship herself, instead of retreating to safer waters or diverting her aircraft from their critical missions.  The ship would simply take care of the enemy and continue with the critical mission at hand, reducing the demand for escorts.”

The lack of tactical thought in this statement is stunning.  If an enemy ship “appears” on the horizon, our ship is probably already sinking.  Even if not, and a completely surprise encounter has occurred, the tactical reality is that a carrier or amphibious ship will be facing an enemy warship.  To believe that an amphibious ship with a handful of non-lethal ESSM missiles is going to “simply take care of the enemy” is ludicrous.  Our amphibious ship is going to simply sink. 

Hey, if we had the ESSM on our amphibious ship and could inflict some minor damage on the enemy before we sink, why not do it?  The reality is that the time, effort, money, and ship’s deck and internal volume that would be consumed by mounting an ESSM launcher is not justified by the remote possibility of inflicting some minor damage in an incredibly unlikely scenario.

Let’s not let the aircraft carrier part of this go unnoticed.  The author proposes mounting ESSM on carriers.  If a carrier is surprised by an enemy ship appearing on the horizon, one has to ask where the carrier’s aircraft have been.  The likelihood that none of the dozens and dozens of daily aircraft sorties (not to mention the E-2 Hawkeye) would have noticed an enemy ship slowly approaching the carrier during the previous day or two is vanishingly small.  This is just an absolutely illogical proposition.  This demonstrates a total absence of tactical and logical thinking.

The author proposes not just using the anti-ship ESSM in a self-defense role but using the ESSM equipped ship in an active offensive role.

“If every LSD, LPD, or LX(R) were armed with an NSSM or ESSM launcher, those ships would instantly be more relevant and could be employed offensively before and after they delivered Marines ashore.”

The author is proposing to use amphibious ships in an active offensive role before they deliver their Marines.  So, he would have us risk a multi-billion dollar ship and the entire Marine complement to go ship-hunting with a near sensor-less, short ranged, non-lethal ship and missile????  The best case scenario for this is that the amphibious ship finds a target, inflicts some minor damage, and then is sunk with the entire Marine complement.  The likely case scenario is that the amphibious ship is sunk before it can accomplish anything.

Even using a multi-billion dollar ship to go ship-hunting with a near sensor-less, short ranged, non-lethal missile after delivering its Marines is stupid and near suicidal. 

Finally, let’s consider the overall scenario.  The author proposes arming the carriers and amphibious ships with anti-surface ESSM against the possibility that enemy ships “appear” on the horizon.  How likely is that?  During war, carriers and amphibious ships will always be in groups escorted by rings of Aegis destroyers and cruisers and patrolling aircraft.  No enemy ship is going to “appear” on the horizon.  If they do, it means they’ve shot their way through all the escorts and aircraft.  An enemy ship or force powerful enough to do that isn’t going to be even momentarily bothered by a handful of ESSM missiles and will have already sunk the carrier and amphibious ships from well beyond the horizon.  There is no realistic scenario in which a single carrier or amphibious ship will be surprised by an enemy ship appearing on the horizon.  Again, this is a complete absence of tactical thought.

The author states,

“This is the exciting implication of distributed lethality taken to its logical conclusion.”

No, this is the complete absence of intelligence, logic, and tactical thought taken to its logical conclusion.

Honestly, I can’t believe the author is even in the Navy.  Sadly, he’s not alone in this kind of total absence of operational and tactical thought and blind pursuit of the next “gee-whiz, look what we can do” technology.  For instance, one or more commanders in the Navy had to have approved the author’s article and, at the very least, found it reasonable.  The Navy is raising officer-idiots with no fundamental understanding of operations and tactics. 


(1)USNI Proceedings, “Setting the Defense on the Offensive”, Cdr. John A. Lukacs IV, Nov 2016, p.38

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

GPS Jamming

We’ve discussed the military’s overdependence on GPS guidance (see, "GPS - The Navy's Addiction") and briefly noted the adverse effects if the GPS signal could be jammed.  US guided weapons are heavily dependent on GPS as their primary guidance mode.  While other modes are available, they are far less accurate.  This is disturbing because accuracy, or precision guidance, was the cornerstone of the Second Offset Strategy, and the loss of that capability would be devastating.  We’ve justified our reduced numbers of ships and aircraft in large measure by the claim that our weapons are so much more accurate than they were that we no longer need as many.  This is foolish to the nth degree but is, nevertheless, the basis of the rationale for reduced numbers.  If our weapons could be rendered significantly less accurate and we have lesser numbers compared to our enemies, we would be in serious military trouble!

Can a GPS signal be jammed?  Apparently, it’s quite easy.  GPS signals operate at very low power and over a very narrow frequency range – the ideal combination for jamming or disruption.

“GPS signals, transmitted at low power from distant satellites, are uniquely susceptible to jamming.” (1)

“A 1-kilowatt jammer can block a military GPS receiver from as far away as 80 kilometers (50 miles). A Russian company recently marketed a 4-[kilo]watt jammer that can deny a standard GPS signal within up to 200 kilometers (125 miles).” (1)

North Korea has reportedly jammed GPS signals over South Korea on over 100 occasions.  The jamming reportedly affected aircraft, ships, cell phones, and cars.

North Korea reportedly purchased truck-mounted GPS jammers from Russia with a range of thirty to sixty miles, and in 2011 was reportedly at work on even longer-range jammers.” (2)

Some weapons offer alternative navigation modes such as Terrain Contour Matching (TERCOM), Digital Scene Matching Area Correlation (DSMAC), and Inertial Navigation (INS), however, these have significant drawbacks and limitations.  Two of those options require the weapon route to have been pre-mapped which is not always possible.  INS is inherently inaccurate.

Supposedly, military GPS signals are more resistant to jamming and disruption but I’ve been unable to find any authoritative information on that.

As we ponder GPS issues, here is an example from personal experience.  Not too long ago, I had the pleasure and privilege of touring a Cyclone class PC that was docked at a large US city.  I noticed that the ship’s GPS navigation system showed the vessel to be about 30 miles inland, in the middle of a park.  Screwed into the bulkhead next to the ship’s system was a commercial GPS navigation display from a well known outdoor camping gear store.  I asked the crew about it and was told that they had used their own money to purchase the commercial unit because the ship’s system was never right.  They simply used the commercial unit which was always dead on.

I don’t know how widespread accuracy and reliability issues are with military GPS units but I’ve got to believe this was not an isolated incident.  If we have significant numbers of ships using commercial units then we’ve made ourselves extremely vulnerable to GPS jamming and disruption.  This also suggests that we need to relearn how to navigate without GPS.


(1)MIT Technology Review website, “How Cruise Missiles Would Beat GPS Jammers in Libya”, Christopher Mims, 20-Mar-2011,

(2)Popular Mechanics website, “North Korea Is Jamming GPS Signals”,  Kyle Mizokami, Apr 5, 2016,