Monday, April 1, 2013

Offensive Aegis

As ComNavOps was reviewing some general naval history and pondering the Navy’s current force structure he couldn’t help but be reminded that the strength and backbone of the fleet (well, the surface fleet, anyway) is Aegis.  Any surface combatant that doesn’t start with the letters CVN (carrier) is an Aegis ship, either a Burke or a Tico.  I’m reminded that Aegis is a strictly defensive system.  True, that's not exactly headline news but thinking a bit further I realized that the entire might of the fleet was designed as a defensive force.  Now, by good fortune, VLS and Tomahawk have allowed the Aegis ships to project a bit of offensive firepower, as well, but it remains a fact that the Navy hasn't commissioned a purpose-built offensive platform since [not sure?].  If you care to look at it this way, the surface Navy consists of defensive Aegis platforms and carriers.

Still not earthshaking revelations.  Where's this going?  Well, it occurs to me that the Navy needs an offensive equivalent to Aegis.  I'm not just talking about a better anti-ship cruise missile than Harpoon or a bigger gun but a complete game-changing offensive system. 

Such a system should have several hundred mile to 1000+ mile weapons range.  The weapons should be stealthy, supersonic, and pack a punch with a range of weapons varying from one-hit, one-kill on the largest ships to Hellfire size weapons for small targets.

The most important aspect of a game-changing offensive system, though, would have to lie in the sensor and fire control systems (SFC).  A system should have the ability to detect and classify targets at several hundred to thousand mile ranges.  The fire control should be capable of not just guiding the weapons but assigning individual targets once in the target area. 

The problem, of course, is that current technology can't provide that kind of performance from the weapons launching platform.  So, what about launching the sensor/fire control system along with (or ahead of) the weapons?  The Soviets were working towards this but I don't know how far along they got.  Basically, large missiles whose payload is sensors and fire control rather than a warhead.  Several of these would form a line-of-sight SFC network for the accompanying missiles.  By definition, this would involve a significant degree of autonomy.  Basically, waves of missiles capable of reasoned search, target classification, and intelligent weapons allocation.

I could imagine waves of SFC missiles with accompanying anti-ship missiles sweeping the East/South China Seas.  Maybe we have a use for the Mk57 launch cells?

To an extent, UAVs could do this except that no UAV has anywhere near the speed, range, and payload to be effective.

Going further, launching platforms, meaning the ships themselves, that can detect and target at the required distances would be nice.  From what I can gather, the old Spruance Outboard system was attempting to do exactly that by collating passive sensor information from multiple sensors on multiple platforms – and not just sea based, either.  Land and air based sensors can contribute just as readily as ships.  The concept is that each individual sensor’s information is woefully insufficient by itself for targeting but that the combination of information from the multitude of sensors can be assembled into a targeting quality picture.  Think of it as triangulation on a vast scale.  If that could be refined, that might provide the hugely over-the-horizon detection that's needed.  If you think about it, it’s not all that different in concept from the Co-operative Engagement Capability (CEC) that’s currently used for defensive anti-air warfare.

Well, enough rambling.  I don't know the specifics but I just know that we need an offensive system equivalent to what Aegis gave us defensively.

What do you think?  Anything to this or does ComNavOps need to up the dosages of his medications?

39 comments:

  1. That's what the F-35 is for.

    Have you read "Aegis is my Wingman"

    I don't think you want to be launching a bunch of SFCs without knowing where the bad guys are as that can get expensive.

    If you need to extend the F-35's SA without putting it in danger, how about a sFC equipped MALD that can relay info back to the F-35 and then to the Aegis system.

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    1. SpudmanWP, thanks for the link. I hadn't seen that. The article, while interesting, is largely defense-focused. Also, is postulates some sort of nebulous F-35 command and control capability which not only doesn't exist but isn't even possible. The aircraft simply doesn't have the software capability or capacity. Certainly, the F-35 can act as a sensor node but some other platform/location will have to provide the C2. Frankly, the article reads like a F-35 sales brochure.

      Regarding cost, Aegis is hideously expensive. An offensive "Aegis" would, undoubtedly, be expensive as well. Like defensive Aegis, a revolutionary and highly effective offensive Aegis would be worth the money.

      An SFC MALD would be interesting if it had the range, loiter time, and necessary size to accomodate the required sensors and software.

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  2. Interesting idea. but I not exactly sure why the fire control/sensor platform has to be so fast?

    Consider the possiblities of FireScout and Preditor, when equipt with a trageting laser, does it not target for other platfroms?

    Also could such a platfrom be based on the E-2 family?

    Just some ideas to kick arround.

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    1. GLof, good thoughts. Speed is necessary to cover the thousand+ mile ranges in a useful time period. For example, if you have reason to believe a worthwhile target has been approximately located a thousand miles away, the strike/SFC must arrive before the target has moved too far out of the strike area. Regardless, the target will have moved significantly which is why the SFC needs to accompany the strike, in some form, but you can see that every mile the target moves just makes the strike less likely to succeed. Hence, the need for some degree of speed.

      Could much slower UAVs play a role? Certainly, at least in the closer ranges.

      Could the E-2 (I assume you mean the Hawkeye family?) play a role? Again, yes, but the size, maintenance requirement, and limited deck space on a carrier limit the number that could be deployed and limited numbers mean reluctance to expose them to enemy reach which, in turn, limits their effectiveness (they won't be able to see/direct an engagement a thousand miles away).

      As you say, ideas to kick around. I'm sure there would be multiple ways to approach the problem.

      Thanks!

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    2. I was thinking in terms of a unmanned version of the Hawkeye, using the common component to simpify maintainance. This might become a carrier based version of BAMS.


      Also what USN weapons short of Tomahawk-N and Trident has the thousand mile range. I think it would be better to limit the range to equal the striking range of the weapons we have. OTOH we could develop a common airframe for both the scout and the strike.

      Your right, there is a lot to consider on this idea.

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  3. *need* is a strong word.

    What would "offensive AEGIS" offer that the carriers and the subs dont?
    And at what cost?

    I like the idea, but its tricky, and the US would struggle to use it.
    An SSGN could launch 150 Strike Missiles and 10 Shepperd Missiles, but thats a wave to hit a CBG with, not a lone cruiser.

    The US should be prepared to face it, but has little use from owning it.

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    1. TrT, you ask what offensive Aegis would add. The answer is the ability to strike at thousand mile ranges and alter the enemy's thinking that there is a "safe" rear area where troops/ships/assets can be marshalled. This kind of long range strike also protects our assets by not needing to push them deep into the A2/AD zone in order to deliver ordnance. We could stand off a thousand plus miles and still be effectively in the fight.

      The concept would be scalable. Want to hit a lone cruiser? Launch a single SFC and ten missiles. Want to scour a large area? Launch dozens of SFCs and hundreds of missiles. Want to simply see what's in an area before committing to a strike? Just launch several SFCs to survey an area. They'd be cheap on a relative basis and relatively difficult to stop just due to their speed.

      The U.S. has been attempting to achieve thousand mile plus detection/targeting for many years (and can't do it yet) but only be enhancing the land and fleet assets rather than detaching and "launching" the SFC itself. The military clearly sees the benefit of thousand mile targeting (setting aside the lack of a thousand mile weapon) but is only approaching the problem from one direction - a direction that is inherently limited, I would argue.

      You say the U.S. would struggle to use it. I'm not sure exactly what you mean by that. The Soviets were moving in this direction with some of their supersonic missiles supposedly able to sense and act as target designators for the warhead equipped missiles. How much of that was concept versus reality, I don't know. As with any major program, and like the history of Aegis itself, such an effort would entail money and development time and would not be without its challenges.

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    2. "The concept would be scalable. Want to hit a lone cruiser? Launch a single SFC and ten missiles. Want to scour a large area? Launch dozens of SFCs and hundreds of missiles."

      But thats the problem.
      Knowing roughly where a CBG is allows you to launch a broad strike. Literally, launch a shepherd missile and ten strike missiles straight it.
      Launch another set off to left and right by a few miles.
      And another pair further aside again.
      Even at 30mph and assuming a 6 hour window between detection and launch, theres only a 360 mile line it can cover either side. A shepherd is launched every 24 miles, and one strike packet is pretty much sure it detect and call in the target to the rest.

      Thats a cheap price to bag a carrier.
      Are you going to fire such an expensive strike package at a fleet oiler? A Merchant Ship carrying food?

      A US Carrier Group is the perfect target for such a weapon.
      But its also kinda the only target.
      Until someone else brings a similar target, what does the US fire it at?

      A fleeting but solid target acquisition could be acted upon by such a system, but you couldnt just fire off hundreds of sensor suite missiles, too expensive if nothing else.

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    3. TrT, you're starting with the assumption that the initial location of the target is precisely known. If so, your observation about movement is applicable. However, that would not usually be the case. This kind of system would be designed to apply strike against a target whose location is only loosely known. For instance, we know that an amphibious invasion group is somewhere in a 200 mile radius. That's 30,000 square miles of possible area. A system like this provides the opportunity to mount an effective strike even with that type of loose initial targeting.

      I've also just described an additional worthwhile target: an amphibious invasion group. Or, what about subs found in port? Also, this isn't limited to naval targets. Fixed or mobile land targets offer perfectly acceptable targets. And yes, an oiler is a great target - no oil, no navy.

      As far as cost, the developmental challenge is to make the SFC "missile" cheap enough to be able to be used without undue consideration of cost. Maybe it could be done, maybe it couldn't. The first step, though, is to conceive. Then comes the reality of execution. Aegis was a great concept with good execution. LCS was a great concept with horrible execution.

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  4. Surface combatants by nature are escort ships, providing cover for the big deck carrier. The tac air on board of carrier takes care of offensive business. Tomahawk missile complements the carrier air power but doesn't replace it. Missiles are expensive (one time usage) and inflexible, you can't seriously based off your offensive capability on missiles, unless you are some backward third world nations. Well, they don't have a choice.

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  5. Anony
    You would be surprised.
    Its something like 200 hours per year at $60,000 an hour to keep a pilot trained.
    Thats $12mn per year.
    Or 12 long ranged missiles.
    How many bombs does the average pilot drop per year?

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    1. TrT, where'd you get those numbers?

      Also, asking how many bombs a pilot drops is not the issue. It's like asking how many criminals a policeman shoots each year. The value of the police is in the potential not the actual execution. Same with a pilot. Their value lies in what they're potentially capable of not what they actually do each year.

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    2. https://www.google.co.uk/#hl=en&sclient=psy-ab&q=NATO+180+flying+hours&oq=NATO+180+flying+hours&gs_l=hp.3...55872.56783.1.57095.4.4.0.0.0.0.106.330.3j1.4.0...0.0...1c.1.8.psy-ab.TcWprcoNArA&pbx=1&bav=on.2,or.r_qf.&bvm=bv.44697112,d.d2k&fp=1ad572abff83dd8d&biw=1024&bih=629

      Apparently NATO suggests 180 per annum as a minimum, and the cost, well.
      £125mn purchase price over 6,000 hours design life (Typhoon) is £20k ($30,000) per hour, plus fuel, spares, labour ect ($20,000). Apparently it hoovers up 45 hours in the workshop for every hour in the air.
      So, I'm a bit out, but close enough

      "Also, asking how many bombs a pilot drops is not the issue. It's like asking how many criminals a policeman shoots each year."
      Yes and no.
      At the end of the day, in theory at least we come up with a list of requirements, and buy kit accordingly.
      Thats why the US operates 10 carriers, not 100, or 1.

      Missiles are (more) expensive in Capital terms, but fast jets are (more) expensive in operating costs

      I'm not suggesting no fast jets, but whether or not missiles beat bombs for cost effectiveness depends highly on how many you need and over what timescale.
      Vietnam and Afghanistan, bombs, Falklands, missiles.

      http://theragingtory.blogspot.co.uk/2011/05/firesupport-thoughts.html

      I very much like the idea for the UK, but dont really see it for the US

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    3. TrT, the costs are interesting but including the amortized cost of the plane itself in the cost of pilot training is reaching a bit. It's reasonable to factor in fuel, maintenance due to flight, pilot salary, and so forth. If you're adding in the cost of the plane you could equally add in the cost of the hangar and airbase, the Dept of Defense overhead, and national debt using the same logic. Regardless, your ultimate point that pilots are expensive to maintain is true. By the way, in your link I caught the bit about RAF pilots only getting 100 hours per year. Yikes!

      Your note about the Typhoon needing 45 hours of maintenance for every flight hour is staggering. I may be wrong (someone correct me, if I am) but I seem to recall that the Hornet needs around 10 hours per flight hour and they were working on reducing even that.

      Thanks for the link to your blog post. Nice site! You're now on my daily reading list even though I don't understand the context of some of the posts. Anyway, we've had the discussion about Tomahawk VLS density, before. You're way oversimplifying the installation of VLS units on a ship. They require significant internal (below deck) volume with lots of maintenance access room and significant ship's utilities. You couldn't get anywhere near the density you seek on a real ship. Still, your point, I believe, is the comparison between strike efficiency of a Tomahawk and a plane. In the narrow context of a known target worthy of a Tomahawk, the missile is a better choice of weapon, granted. The plane, however, offers flexibility for close air support requiring pilot's judgement and the ability to scale the strike from bullets to rockets to bombs/missiles whereas the Tomahawk is all or nothing. The reality, as with most things, is that a mix of planes and Tomahawks provides the best flexibility, capability, and cost effectiveness. Whether either the RN or USN have the best balance is a debatable question.

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  6. Can you sustain a long term offensive campaign with missiles? I'm talking about months even years of continuous strikes on all types of targets: fixed vs mobile, soft vs hard.
    How many cruise missiles do we possess? How long you think they will last against a peer or near-pear opponent? In comparison, we have over 250K rounds of JDAMs in stock. it's no a brainer.

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    1. Anon, don't get focused on an either/or scenario. No reasonable person would want to wage a war with only one type of weapon. Missiles play their part as do bombs or any other type of weapon.

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  7. It seems to me that the basic point is that US Navy surface ships no longer have an inherent offensive capability. US surface combat vessals, including the CVN, have all become defensive tools for the support of aircraft.

    As noted over on Strategy Page,(http://www.strategypage.com/htmw/htsurf/articles/20130401.aspx)

    "In the U.S. Navy there have long been disputes between the aviation community (the folks who operate the aircraft carriers), the submarine community, and the surface warfare (all the armed surface ships) community. One of the quieter ones has been about the best way to destroy enemy ships. Back in the 1990s it was sort of agreed that between the nuclear subs and the long range aircraft of American carriers, American surface warships no longer needed long range (over the horizon) anti-ship missiles. So in the late 1990s the U.S. stopped building warships that could fire Harpoon (the U.S. long range anti-ship missile) and took Harpoon off some ships that already had them. This was done largely because so much other gear was being added to the new ships that two Harpoon canisters (each with four missiles) were something that could be removed to prevent weight problems... In the meantime, more and more Chinese, North Korean, Russian, and Iranian warships enter service armed with long range missiles. A growing number of American surface warfare officers want an encapsulated version of Harpoon that can be fired from the vertical launch cells that carry all of the missiles on American warships. That already exists and is sold as an export item."

    Thus, the US no longer has ships cabable of operationg independantly. Send the carrier group or send nothing. (In that regard, has anyone noticed that the range of a Burke is less than that of a Gering?)
    Russ

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  8. ComNavOps, I think I get what you’re asking for here, I just don’t think it is feasible or practical at this time. A SFC(s) would be a very expensive salvo that would only give you a brief glimpse of what might be in its flight path.

    The Aegis system is on the ship, nothing of the enormously expensive system is lost after an engagement besides the SARH missiles launched.

    During the Cold War the Soviet Union made much out of the U.S. Navy’s “imperialist and destabilizing” aircraft carriers going after Third World countries and disrupting world peace. At the same time they tried to demonstrate the weakness of the supercarrier with Tu-95 Bear bombers doing fly-overs in peacetime (not likely in a war); they did one recently for the first time in over a decade. Along with the exorbitant costs of a 60-70,000 ton aircraft carrier, the Soviet Navy attempted to make do without one for as long as possible so as not to contradict their own propaganda. But the Kuznetsov class shows they eventually came to the conclusion that a supercarrier is very useful and hard to do without.

    But in the Sixties and Seventies they thought they had something almost as good as an manned airstrike. The Soviet Navy tried to have their anti-ship missiles act as sensors after launch. A data link would pass back to the launching ship what the radar saw from a missile. For extreme ranges a specialized Ka-25K acted as a relay for OTH linkage to the ship. Obvious problems with this setup are the vulnerability of the helicopter which must maintain LOS with both the missile and the ship, restricting its movements and susceptibility of the data link to jamming. These were both things the USN would go after with fighters and EA-6Bs or possibly SLQ-32. That was why the Soviets also had RORSats and Bear and Badger reconnaissance bombers to find and fix the location of a CVBG and even all that wouldn’t always work, as demonstrated by USN CVBGs evading Soviet tracking measures at various times.

    The vulnerability of data links is not just limited to old Soviet systems. It is a real concern for all unmanned vehicles. If the X-47 is ever going to be an effective weapon the Navy will have to find a way to maintain the link in all but the worst jamming/spoofing by near-peers like China or Russia and allow for limited autonomy. The X-47 could be used as a covert sensor/ decision-making node like you suggest; it might not be fast but it would be re-routable, reusable, and persistent. The new Tomahawk Block IV is supposed to be re-targetable after launch. I can see a poor-man’s SFC using a X-47B marshalling and assigning incoming TASMs so as to have a simultaneous wave of missiles all hitting the important ships in a task force.

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    1. It may well not be feasible at this time but imagining is the first step. We can all readily imagine the difficulties in developing such a system but I'm sure the same was true when Aegis was first proposed.

      The Navy envisions the ultimate X-47 to be largely autonomous, by the way, due to the difficulties in communicating in a jamming/ECM environment. This is just an extension of that concept. So, in a sense, the Navy is already working on this!

      As far as cost, it's all about cost/benefit balance. We'd save it for use against appropriately high value targets. We wouldn't use this system to attack a fishing boat any more than we'd use an Aegis platform to battle pirate dhows. OK, that's a bad example since we did exactly that! You get the idea.

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    2. UCLASS must also incorporates robust self-destruct mechanism, just in case it suffers a mechanical failure or shot down by the enemy. You definitely don't want the RQ-170 Sentinel handle over to Iran episode to happen again.
      To obtain full autonomous, you need mature AI technology, which still don't exist yet.

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    3. The biggest challenge/concern for me remains with the autonomy. UAV operations since 9/11 have been tightly controlled; a Predator cannot fire a missile without human intervention. But we could afford that in what was a relatively benign environment for both the platform and the mission. That was reflected in the primary requirement for the Predator being endurance above stealth or even payload.

      I believe the mechanics of carrier ops are within the realm of a UAV, I just wonder whether the intuition of how and when to attack targets can be put into software code. The UAV or SFC will be a digital Wade McClusky (Midway): making what could be a major decision of the entire battle. That’s a tremendous leap of faith that the military or the public might not be ready to take. I believe they will try and compromise by giving the X-47 satellite and short range MADL communications. This way a manned aircraft within direct data link range like an F-18E or F-35C could maintain a man-in-the-loop during more of the mission.

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    4. The autonomy is driven by the recognition that communications in a high jamming and ECM environment are going to be tenuous, at best. In the type of war we're envisioning, satellites will be gone very quickly, so no comms there. Place the platform at the end of a thousand mile comm tether and you have very little likelihood of maintaining any effective man-in-the-loop capability.

      Look at the problems the Army has with comms in any kind of challenging environment. Consider the problems the Navy has with GPS reliability (the Port Royal incident, for example). Our comms are nowhere as secure or reliable as we'd like to think.

      Whether the public is ready for that kind of autonomy controlling that kind of destructive power is a very debatable question.

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    5. Several years ago the Army was going to introduce in Iraq a UGV(SWORDS), basically an armed robot like that used by EOD and SWAT. This one was going to have a SAW machine gun. They never used it in combat and it quietly went back to EOD jobs, except what the manufacturer claims have been some classified SpecOps missions. I believe the fear was that something could go wrong.

      If that is true for a UGV with a machine gun travelling slower than I can walk, will we really unleash a UCAV with JDAMs or SDBs near our ships?

      My guess is it will work very closely with manned aircraft.

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    6. If we have a target near our ships we can use a more conventional strike method using Harpoons (or their replacement) cued by ship-based guidance.

      The SFC approach is intended for the over-the-horizon (well over!) strike needs. Unleashing an SFC strike package a thousand miles into enemy territory during an all-out war doesn't really have a downside. Anything it hits is a legitimate target.

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    7. WGM, a UGV (or UxV, for that matter) is a non-starter if we're more concerned with minimizing collateral damage than winning a war. That situation is called policing and we should be seriously asking ourselves whether it's a good idea to be in that type of situation.

      Place a UGV (especially with moderately heavy weaponry) in the path of a NKorean massed attack and I guarantee we'll think it's a good idea!

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    8. It's not so much the collateral damage to third parties that's an issue as it is with friendlies close by. UGVs and UAVs that are not remote controlled will happen, but like battlefield laser weapons it may not be as quick as some predict.

      One example using the Norks: A UGV with a SAW is 800 meters north of Marine positions that run roughly east to west. It's programmed to engage any thermal sources that head south. It detects NK troops to the west doing just that. As its going after those troops, it's firing west, then to the southwest. What about the Marines to the south, are they in danger of the UGV putting rounds on them, either intentionally or by accident? When should it stop firing and reposition itself to avoid hitting friendlies? If GPS is not reliable in a future war how will it keep its bearing relative to the Marines?

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    9. With the UCAV it is different, I know. But it also has much more range and freedom of maneuver.

      A SFC would have yet another set of parameters to operate with. But like I said it would be a digital strike package leader ala McClusky. How would it decide to allocate missiles to targets travelling above Mach 1 or 2? What final approaches should it assign each missile: pop-up, sea-skimming, dog-leg? How would it communicate with the other missiles if the targets have something like SLQ-32 and jam multiple frequencies?

      How would the ship that launched the salvo know if it was successful and how many ships were hit/sunk in a heavily jammed environment?

      All of these questions would have to be answered and put into software. I’m not saying it’s impossible, but it is a very tall order.

      But if it could work I think it should be called Thunderbolt. The opposite of Aegis in mythology.

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    10. WGM, a tall order, indeed, but is it really so much more than Aegis itself? In full auto, Aegis categorizes threats and decides for itself what and when to engage - very similar to categorizing strike targets based on radar return size and emissions and then allocating missiles according to a pre-determined formula. Not trivial but nowhere near impossible. I think the target categorization and asset assignment would be relatively simple. The more challenging part, as you point out, will be the communications.

      Love the name!

      Let's see... We've got a name and a very loose set of criteria - in the Navy, that's referred to as an acquistion program!!! Let's start building; we'll figure out the design later! Honestly, Navy jokes just write themselves!

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    11. WGM, as you note, GPS is the Achilles Heel of the military. We've become dependent on it to the point of addiction. If we lose GPS (and we will!) we're in trouble because we no longer train in navigation (land or sea), map reading, and basic positional skills. The Navy has now lost two ships, the Port Royal and the Guardian, to GPS/positional related failures. A billion dollars worth of warships lost because we no longer know how to figure out where we are! Navy leadership should be fired for allowing this weakness to develop. All military training should be conducted without GPS and in a max jamming environment. If things work in a real conflict, all the better, but if not, at least we'll be prepared.

      Sorry. Bit of a rant, there.

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    12. Aegis remains on the ship. The issue with SFC (Thunderbolt) is packing several sensors (radar, ESM, thermal), comms, and a CPU into something that travels as fast as the supersonic missiles it travels with, and then is destroyed.

      Agreed on GPS dependence. While they are not low earth orbiting, they’re not geosynchronous either. Most autonomous vehicles, like the DARPA truck challenge, use GPS heavily. A near peer like China could try to knock some of the satellites down.

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  9. Aegis might be a defensive system, but it is so much better than earlier systems that it increases the offensive ability of the ship or group it’s in. Prior non-Aegis ships were limited to the amount of targets they could engage simultaneously by the number of channels or illuminators on board, which often were four or less. Aegis ships used auto-pilots on the missiles and C4 to time-share the illuminators so that they could handle many more missiles in flight at one time, only needing to illuminate the target in the final moments before impact. With Aegis a CVBG could go closer to a coastline or an enemy fleet than previously (freedom of movement). The system also demonstrated an ability to track and identify aircraft such that a CVBG’s CAP could be reduced, allowing more fighters to engage ground or naval targets (freedom of action).

    One notable aspect of American naval weapons is the attempt to standardize and make them multi-functional like the Mk 41 VLS. It also added flexibility and firepower to the fleet. Compare the load-outs of a Burke and Ticonderoga with a Coontz DDG or Virginia CGN.

    The missiles themselves reflect this across the board mindset. While Harpoon and Tomahawk are looking dated, they made a profound change on the Navy. From 1945 until 1977 surface combatants and submarines had no effective non-nuclear missile for land or naval targets. But when they were introduced Harpoon and Tomahawk were available in air, ship, sub, and ground launched variants designed to fit within existing 21" torpedo tubes. This allowed the very quick fielding of effective anti-ship and land attack missiles throughout the fleet in the 1980's; vastly increasing the striking power of ships that previously had very little, or none.

    Harpoon and Tomahawk allowed all ships to be easily upgraded with either quad-packs or by firing from torpedo tubes or VLS. And while the missiles were subsonic, the seeker and warhead were well-designed. The TASM and sub-Harpoon have been removed from service, and Harpoon has not been updated in USN service since the Cold War.

    Perhaps some improved design that had a higher terminal speed for the last few seconds of flight to make for a harder target. Or a radar homing seeker, like the HARM?

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    1. The real reason behind removing ASM from surface combatants has to do with Navy's overall confidence in air dominance. Any tactical jet carrying PGM with terminal seeker is inherently ASuW platform. The navy is loaded with such weapons: Laser guided JDAM, JSOW-C1, and the upcoming SDB II. Why even bother with a dedicated sub-sonic ASM. If you do need to engage ships from a distance, air launched Harpoon and SLAM can do the job. Again, air power holds the trump card.

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    2. Anon, the Navy may, indeed, believe that air power is the answer to all offensive needs but that's clearly not reality. If you've been following the blog posts you've noted that the number of carriers is constantly decreasing and the size and capability of the air wings is shrinking. The assumption that there will always be a carrier around is becoming very suspect. The Navy needs to be able to conduct non-aviation offensive operations.

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    3. That confidence was understandable at the end of the Cold War. And in an ideal scenario aircraft and subs deal with surface ships. But what if that doesn't happen? Do we hope the 5" gun and helo-launched Penguin missiles do the job?

      But now with more countries acquiring ASMs and China building up the PLAN we can't assume we will always have a carrier near enough to rely on. If the sequester is any indication, deployable carriers will be fewer in the future.

      I'm not talking about filling half a ship's VLS with TASMs, just a few as a contingency, like what they do with VL-ASROC. Or put the Harpoon quad-packs back on.

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  10. Navy's OASuW program addresses the future requirement of having a high end anti-ship/anti surface warfare weapon. Once DARPA completes its LRASM demonstration, it's expected to be transferred to Navy to become a program of record (actual acquisition program), that's if the budget allows such addition. Meanwhile, Navy is also pursuing an interim OASuW solution. There are two possible candidates: Harpoon Block2+, Tomahawk IV based anti-ship variant. Harpoon Block2+ is the resurrection of Harpoon Block3 program which was terminated in 2009. It adds a two way data link to the BlockII variant. The data link itself is borrowed from JSOW-C1 program. Tomahawk IV based TASM utilizes an ASuW guidance kit internally developed by Raytheon using company's own money. Both options can be integrated into existing 21 inch VLS canister.

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    1. Anon, as you describe, the weapon side of the Offensive Aegis is already progressing. What the Navy is missing is the ability to provide useful far-over-the-horizon targeting. That's the problem the Chinese have with the supposed carrier killer missile - they can't find the target any better than we can. As best I can tell, the Navy is counting on UAVs like BAMS to provide targeting but the problem is that BAMS is not going to prove survivable in contested airspace. Even Iran has no problem finding our UAVs. We're going to have potent weapons and no targeting capability - hence, the SFC suggestion.

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  11. Commander: I'm concerned about the USN's ability to replenish lost aircraft in a high intensity, even moderately long conflict. We cannot "build 'm as their lost" anyone. What are our air reserves, if any?

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    1. Anon, that's an astute observation. For practical purposes, we have no aircraft reserve. What would happen is that aircraft from non-engaged operational squadrons (if it's less than a total war and there are non-engaged squadrons!) would be transfered to fill holes in the engaged squadrons. That's not really a reserve and would only work in a limited conflict and only for a short while.

      Several years ago, there was a reserve air wing, CVWR-20, but it was scheduled for deactivation and I'm unsure whether it's still operational. Polmar's 18th ed reports that all reserve fighter squadrons have been deactivated. In short, it's unclear to me how many combat aircraft, if any, we have in reserve but I don't think we have many.

      Maybe someone else can chime in with more complete information?

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  12. This is a great point. I never thought about it that way before. I believe that the USN's thought process fundamentally changed when the last of the Battleships, the Iowa Class, were decommissioned (really before that, when the Department of DEFENSE was established). That was the nail in the coffin when the Admiralty chose to go from an offensive surface fleet to a carrier fleet with surface ships designed to protect the aircraft carriers. So, yes, I concur. With the exception to the SSNs, CVNs are the only offensive platforms in the Navy. Deterrence (one of the Navy's Expanded Core Capabilities from "A Cooperative Strategy for 21st Century Seapower".) is inherently a defense mindset.

    As long as the US Navy has DEFENSE as, what I believe, the majority of its strategy, I think it will be difficult for anyone to push for a platform solely offensive in nature.

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