Friday, September 27, 2013

Ship Design

We’re going to discuss ship design.  Now I know that many of you are hunched over the keyboard ready to pound out a scathing reply the moment I suggest what gun to use (if it’s not your favorite!) or how many VLS cells to have (if it doesn’t agree with your idea).  However, I’m not going to touch on any specifics.  There’s a broader issue here.

In theory, ships are designed to meet a set of requirements which allow the ship to conduct a mission.  Seems simple enough although the Navy has, lately, failed spectacularly to even define the missions for the ships that are being built let alone setting specific design requirements.  We’ve discussed that at length and I won’t address it further, here.  In conceptual terms, the designers apply various numbers and types of weapons, sensors, and characteristics so as to satisfy the requirements.  The cost of the ship is then a simple sum of the parts plus the labor to build it (I’m grossly simplifying for illustrative purposes).

Of late, meaning the last few decades or so, the Navy’s ship designs have shown a marked tendency towards overdesign.  Too many extraneous capabilities are being added that are not required to meet the ship’s intended purpose.  This causes the cost to increase.  With an unlimited budget, this may be acceptable.  In tighter budget times, as we’re experiencing now, this is a problem.

Let’s look at an example.  The Burke DDG, commonly hailed as a successful design, includes high end AAW, land attack (Tomahawk/VLS), anti-surface warfare, anti-submarine warfare, and, for a while, mine countermeasures (MCM).  As I said, most people consider this to be a highly successful design and we were able to pay for it so what’s the problem?  Well, two things …

Burke - Successful Design?

First, the myriad capabilities in a single ship means that some of the capabilities are rarely ever used and are practiced even less.  MCM would be the most obvious example and, to be fair, the Navy dropped that capability from subsequent designs.  ASW would be the next obvious example.  Burkes are, first and foremost, AAW platforms.  Their secondary function is land attack.  Anecdotal feedback from the fleet strongly suggests that the ASW function is rarely exercised and the ships are nowhere near proficient at it.  That begs the question, why have a capability that the ship isn’t competent to perform?  Isn’t that adding a lot of cost for little or no benefit?  Well, sure, the ship may not be called on to perform ASW very often but when it’s needed you wouldn’t want to be without it, right?  That’s right, IF you can perform the task competently.  If you can’t, the function is useless or worse if it leads a captain to attempt a task the ship is not qualified to do.  Plus, do we really want to risk a $1B-$2B ship performing highly risky ASW operations?

Second, the more equipment and functions a ship has, the greater the size of the crew required to operate it.  Consider ASW on a Burke.  The ASW operators are carried at all times and yet the function is rarely used.  That’s inefficient manning, at best, and serves to greatly increase the lifetime operating costs.  If some other ship than the Burke were tasked with ASW we could eliminate most of the ASW operators, helo pilots, and aviation support crew as well as the crew that support them by providing mess, laundry, and similar functions.  Quite a reduction!

OK, the point is, perhaps, somewhat valid, you say, but, hey, we already paid for the ships and having even a marginally competent capability is better than not having it, right?  Those are sunk costs so no harm done, at this point, right?  … Wrong!  That approach has hurt the fleet badly and continues to do so.

Consider the Burke and what might have been.  Suppose the Burke had been designed and built as an AAW platform with a credible but secondary land attack role;  no ASW, no MCM, possibly not even a hangar (if you’re not doing ASW …).  The resulting ship would have been somewhat smaller, hence cheaper, and had less crew since there would be no need for an ASW contingent or embarked aviation detachment.  Let’s suppose, for sake of discussion, that the cost would have been 2/3 the actual cost.  For a billion dollar ship (closer to $2B, now), the resulting savings would have been $300M.  For the 70 ship run of Burkes, that’s $21B that could have gone towards small, specialized ASW vessels that we would be willing to risk in ASW.  Thus, we could have had the same number of Burkes with their primary and secondary functions intact plus dozens of specialized ASW vessels.

Want to be even more extreme?  Suppose the Burkes had been built with the New Threat Upgrade (NTU) instead of Aegis.  We’d still have had highly capable AAW platforms (even more so when amplified by Co-operative Engagement Capability, CEC, linked to Aegis cruisers) with a credible land attack capability and even greater savings – meaning even more additional vessels.

Still not a believer?  Consider the LCS with its 40+ knot speed requirement.  That capability has added a great deal of cost and consumed huge amounts of internal volume and weight.  All that despite the total lack of a tactical use for the speed.  It was added to the design just to add more functionality – there was no tactical rationale.

Really?  You’re still not seeing it?  How about the Zumwalt?  A $4B+ ship with an ASW function.  Do you really believe we’re going to commit a $4B+ ship to something as risky as playing tag with a submarine?  That’s a function that will never be used but has impacted size, cost, and manning.

We seen, then, that the Navy’s drive to load as many functions as possible onto a ship design is a false benefit.  The secondary, and especially tertiary, functions are less effective and drive construction costs up as well as increasing manning.

The Navy needs to design ships that are capable of executing their main function and, perhaps, a secondary one but no more.  The result will be more ships and more capabilities in the fleet at a cheaper cost and with smaller crews.  Less is more!


  1. We have 90 AEGIS combatants. All of which have AAW and ASW capabilities. Building a fleet of 90 ASW ships and a separate set of 90 AAW ships would cost a LOT more.

    1. I did.

      Burkes may rarely exercise their ASW systems, but that doesn't mean Burkes shouldn't have ASW capabilities. It means we need to train more!

      Escorts may have no choice but to play tag with a submarine. It's either that or let the high-value unit they are escorting eat a torpedo!

      I realize the gist of your post is to say "eliminate superfluous capabilities'. While that sounds like a good principle, what constitutes "superfluous" is up for debate. We certainly need ASW combatants in the fleet, and we need AAW combatants. The question is how best (and cheapest) to realized them.

      My point is splitting capabilities between two ships is more expensive than combining them on one. You pay a certain minimum tax just to put a ship in the water. Adding capabilities to it are incremental costs on top of that. (sometimes large incremental costs)

    2. B.Smitty, OK you got half the post! The definition of superfluous is not debatable. It's any capability or function that you're not good enough (or cost effective enough!) to perform adequately. Burkes are lousy ASW platforms and far to expensive to risk in that role, anyway. They could be good at it if they practiced it extensively but then they'd be poor at AAW. It's a fact of life. You can only be good at one thing. You can be barely adequate at a second thing, maybe. You're no good at anything more than that. Only an idiot, like the Navy, would intentionally design their high end, capital ship (which is what a Burke is in today's world) to perform the riskiest task in naval warfare (OK, maybe MCM is more risky). A smart person, or Navy, would do as I suggested and limit the high end, capital ship to doing high end, capital stuff like AAW, BMD, and land attack. The smart person, or Navy, would take the money saved by limiting the high end, capital ship and build a low end (cost wise) dedicated ASW escort that was expendable for the riskiest task in naval warfare. You state that escorts may have no choice but to play tag with a sub. You're right!!! Which is why the escort should be a low end (cost wise) dedicated ASW escort that is expendable. In WWII, we didn't ask battleships and cruisers to conduct ASW. Instead, we built low end destroyers (not today's destroyers which are the equivalent of BBs and CAs) to deal with the subs and if we lost some, so be it.

      Now, the point you missed. I didn't say we should build Burkes plus 90 ASW vessels. I said we should take the savings from building limited Burkes (I wildly guesstimated $21B) and build however many low end, dedicated ASW escorts we need or can afford. Suppose we could build a low end, dedicated LCS sized ASW vessel for $0.5B. That would have given us our 70-90 Aegis AAW, BMD, land attack vessels plus 42 low end, dedicated ASW vessels. Compare that to what we have now. We have 70-90 Aegis AAW, BMD, land attacks vessels that aren't worth crap at ASW. Which situation would you rather have?

    3. According to Navy budget docs, a single SQQ 89 ASW suite costs around $40-60 million. The helo is useful for far more than just ASW, so it doesn't make much sense to delete it. There will be other savings as a result of deleting the ASW suite, but you aren't looking at a huge amount. I bet we're talking $80-100 million at most.

    4. B.Smitty, for sake of discussion, let's say that we're removing the ASW function from a Burke. I'm saying the helo/hangar/crew go with it. You suggest that a helo is still vital enough to justify the space, cost, and manning. What are the functions that you think justify those? I'm not asking for a list of wouldn't-it-be-nice stuff. I know what a helo does as well as you do. I'm asking you to list the functions that justify the space, cost, and manning. As you answer, bear in mind that navies used to communicate, travel between ships for meetings, and transfer cargo just fine before the helo was invented. Give me your list!

    5. Besides ASW: CSAR, VERTREP, Light ASuW, transport of battle casualties....

      Those are some of the things I can think of off the top of my head.

    6. E77, those are valid uses but hardly justify helos/hangars on every ship in the fleet. At any given moment, how many helos are performing CSAR? One or two. VERTREP can still be performed using helos from carriers or gators or supply ships. Light ASuW can still be performed using helos from carriers or gators. Transport can still be performed by helos from carriers, gators, or hospital ships.

      Note that I'm not arguing against any helos. I'm just saying that the additional cost can't be justified for Burkes in the alternate scenario I've postulated.

      We tend to forget that all those functions were performed before we had helos!

    7. CSAR is probably a bad example in that it is predicated upon an aircraft getting shot down. It's a demand-based function.

      But helo scouting sorties happen all the time. There's really no other way for a ship CO to build a reliable over-the-horizon picture. You can only see so far with ships radar and binoculars.

      And before we had helicopters, that scouting function was fulfilled by cruiser floatplanes. Should we just go back to Kingfishers? Might save some money! :)

    8. Anon, do you understand what I'm suggesting? I'm not saying we don't need helos. I'm saying that our capital ships, the Burkes, don't need them to perform their primary role (AAW, BMD) or even their secondary role (land attack). If helos don't materially contribute to a ship's primary or secondary roles, why have them?

      Hmm ... Kingfishers! I like it. Catapults mounted atop a 5" gun??

    9. You seem to view ship design in the context of accomplishing functions (AAW/BMD/STRIKE). Yet the enemy gets a vote – and will often attack in a manner that does not neatly within a ship's designed mission area.

      I see airborne scouting as defensive in nature more so than offensive. A ship-based helo is the core indication and warning (I&W) capability of any modern warship. Without it, the span of view pretty much limited to what it can see from 30 ft with radar or with binoculars. Horizon limited. Not much better than 1942.

      As far as I can tell, every class of surface combatant (FF and above) the USN has built in the last 50 years has had at least some form of helo deck/hangar in the design. So I think it’s fair to say that the fleet places a premium on airborne scouting. That’s not to say that they were right in this choice -- but if you’re proposing removing the helo, you better have a good substitute!

      Your proposed solution as I understand it is a destroyer-like ship focused on AAW/BMD/STRIKE -- and stripped of (among other things) it’s helo hangar/deck. The problem I see with this “focused-DDG” is that if you gap the helo hangar/deck, where else in the overall fleet design is the scouting capability going to come from?
      The potential answers I see are not promising:

      a. Employ the “focused-DDG” only in conjunction with carrier strike groups. This would guarantee plenty of scouting (CVW has ~ 20 helicopters, and eventually UCLASS). But given we only have 3-4 carriers deployed at any one time, this approach would severely when and where we could employ the ship.

      b. Provide a surface combatant with helicopter-capability to provide the “focused-DDG” with an aerial scouting capability. This could be a DDG, or an LCS. However, this approach would mean we would have to buy/deploy some number of additional combatants, which goes against your supposed cost savings.

      c. Provide a land-based ISR asset (Triton, P-8A) for aerial scouting. The problems with this approach is that it is both very expensive, and a modern enemy with A2/AD capabilites may be capable of denying us land-basing near the fight.


    10. Anon, as I said in another comment, beyond LOS can be provided by carriers, gators, E-2s, UAVs on other ships, BAMs, satellite, P-8s, etc. That seems like plenty of beyond LOS. Note that every carrier or amphibious group has lots of helos and/or planes. That only leaves ships operating outside of those groups as an issue. That's where LCSs, OHPs (if any are left), and my notional ASW vessel would provide helos and UAVs for beyond LOS along with BAMs, satellites, subs, P-8s, etc. Just because a Burke doesn't have a helo doesn't mean that it's blind.

      I'll say it again, ships operate in an integrated environment. There will be other platforms capable of providing beyond LOS, as needed. I'm also not arguing against helos in general, only against helos on my modified Burkes.

      I'm also not quite sure about your focus on beyond LOS, anyway. Helos don't have any great radar capability. The ability to expand the beyond LOS situational awareness is fairly limited. It's not like a helo is a rotary Hawkeye! A helo is fine for going out and ID'ing an unknown ship or small craft. It's not going to add to a Burke's AAW, BMD, or land attack capability. So, I'm right back to the cost doesn't justify the presence ON A BURKE. Remember, in my scenario we're going to acquire 40 some additional small, dedicated ASW vessels that can have helos.

      In peacetime, we'll have plenty of additional "awareness" assets. In war, we won't have individual Burkes wandering around all by themselves. They'll be part of groups which will have the helo capabilities they'll lack. Again, they'll operate as an integrated unit, not in a vacuum.

    11. If all you need to elevation for further ISR, you don't need either a full helicopter nor do you need a hanger. Any vertical lift system and a tether will work just as effectively.

      For an ASW platform, a modified LCS-2 design with dual helicopters would be pretty effective.

    12. Thanks for the response! A few thoughts:

      I know the title of the article is SHIP DESIGN, but the problem I see you are designing a ship with little consideration of how it may stress or impact the overall FLEET DESIGN.

      For instance: you appear to depend very heavily on a lot of "high-demand / low density" naval assets (BAMS, P-8) to pick up the slack in organic ISR when we "de-helo" these DDGs.

      The folks who budget for these assets almost certainly based their force structure on the assumption that every DDG can provide its own organic helo for tactical ISR. I say that because as I stated earlier, every ship we've built in the last 50 yrs has had a helo.

      I would imagine that having to also provide coverage to a bunch of self-deploying "helo-less" DDGs would require a substantial number of P-8As and BAMS. It's unclear how many - but it is certainly clear that neither aircraft type is cheap.

      As to your assumption on a wartime concentration of force will provide sufficient helos. That's very questionable if we use the last war in the pacific a guide. Our naval forces were scattered far and wide escorting convoys and covering small diversionary actions. I don't think we can count on having a carrier strike group within helo range (abut 150 nm).

      In the end, I really don't see savings in your plan as much as shifting the bill into another column of the ledger...


      A couple minor points:

      1. A helo radar provides several orders of magnitude increase in sweep rate (nm^2/hr) when compared to a ship. I won't bore you with the math, but it really comes down to a higher radar horizon (300 ft vs. 30 ft) and much faster patrol speed (120 kts vs. 15 kts).

      2. An ESG does have lots helos and/or planes, but all helos and planes are not built the same/ Most of their air assets are Ospreys, Harriers, and Cobras. Good for moving and supporting Marines, not much good for long-ranged open water surveillance.

      3. A submarine is a fairly inefficient search asset. It can't patrol fast, it has to remain stealthy, and it can't communicate well with other naval assets. This isn't to say a submarine isn't useful, but probably not as a 'filler' for a helo with a radar.

    13. Anon, you've identified the key aspect to an in-depth discussion of this topic and that is overall force composition. If you're a long time reader of this blog you've undoubtedly noted that I have a different view of what our naval force structure should be than the Navy does. So, yes, some of my thoughts make more sense in the overall context that I have. Unfortunately, for any single blog post I'm limited to a few paragraphs - nowhere near enough to convey every nuance and supporting piece of information. I try to hit one key idea per post and then fill in a bit more in comments and hope that readers either have been following the posts long enough to get the bigger picture or can grasp it based on the limited info available in a limited space. Hey, Hughes took an entire book (multiple editions, too!) to convey his point. I've got a few paragraphs per idea to work with.

    14. Anon: "In the end, I really don't see savings in your plan as much as shifting the bill into another column of the ledger... "

      That was the point!!! For the cost of 70 Burkes we could have had 70 Burkes plus 42 ASW vessels (don't get hung up on the exact dollars or numbers of ships - the concept is valid regardless of the numbers). Same amount of spending (no savings) but 42 more ships! The same amount of money but allocated differently (different column, as you put it) so as to get more overall capability.

    15. Once again, I think we need to look at an overall fleet architecture and how these pieces fit and are used together.

      Burkes are capable of independent operations. With no aviation, they will need another ship or ships to supplement them.

      You can certainly move around capabilities to different ships, but numbers still matter. For ASW alone, there is a balance between how many ships with tails you need, how many helos, how many ASW aircraft, and so on. It could take six or more helos in a task force just to keep one on station to investigate contacts. And littoral ASW places different demands than deep water.

      It's all about finding the "right" balance in overall fleet capability, and being able to carve the fleet up into useful and appropriately numerous task forces.

      There are many ways to do it. Each has benefits and drawbacks.

    16. B.Smitty: "According to Navy budget docs, a single SQQ 89 ASW suite costs around $40-60 million."

      Save me some research time. What did that include? It sounds awfully low for a hull mounted sonar, towed array, Nixie, torpedo tubes, and the new SQQ-89 software. Bear in mind that the Navy is infamous for misleading accounting!

    17. Well.. Unfortunately they don't list the breakdown any further in the Budget Justification docs. It didn't include Mk32 SVTTs, but those were only around $2-3 million, IIRC. Unfortunately the Navy Finance site has been down for a week or more. I have the 2012 PDF at home. I'll try to remember to post it later.

      Sometimes certain systems aren't included in the SCN justification book. I don't recall seeing either the primary LCS radar or 57mm included.

      There may be additional components for the SQQ 89 provided either as "Government Furnished Equipment" or in some other budget book. I don't know. Or that $40-60 million could be the entire price.

  2. "...we could eliminate most of the ASW operators, helo pilots, and aviation support crew as well as the crew that support them by providing mess, laundry, and similar functions. Quite a reduction!"


    A helicopter performs a lot of tasks on a surface combatant besides ASW. Scouting, logistics, personnel transfer, naval special warfare insertion, etc. Helicopters are also the best method available to defeat small-boats.

    I would argue that just about the most important demonstrated function of a modern surface combatant provides is providing a ready deck for a helo. Designing a disproportionately large aviation capability into a 4,000 ton corvette was just about the only thing the Navy got right with LCS!

    I'd also say the importance of aviation capability is only going to increase as the MQ-8C Fire Scout hits the fleet. Persistent surveillance and SUW from a small-boy could be a true game-changer for the Navy.

    Building a surface combatant without room for growth in aviation capability (larger hangar, flight deck, room for flight crew, etc.) would certainly reduce cost. But it would also be a colossal step backwards in capability and flexibility for the US Navy.

    1. Anon, I agree completely that a modern ship should have a flight deck and hangar capacity equivalent to carrier, well decks equivalent to an ampibious ship, three 16" gun turrets, a full ASW suite, several hundred VLS cells, and enough MCM capability to sweep a mile wide lane at 45 kts. Unfortunately, the Navy has a budget and that ship would cost $100 trillion dollars.

      When I argue against a capabiliity, helos/hangars in this case, I'm looking at the balance between minimum (not maximum!) required capabilities and cost. Fleet size is headed towards 230 or so by any reasonable extrapolation (not the fairly tale 30 year plan). We can continue to build gold plated ships and watch the fleet continue to shrink or we can make very tough choices.

      I love your statement that the helo/hangar is about the only thing the LCS got right. That's a great thought! I may have to do a post disproving that.

      How does the Fire Scout constitute a game changer? That's another great post waiting to happen!

    2. There is a HUGE difference in costs in terms of providing a helo hangar/deck on a surface combatant versus a VLS or 16" guns.

      If we follow your logic, and just concern ourselves with the lowest-cost / minimum acceptable solution, why not just refurbish a bunch of WW2 era Fletcher class destroyers? The answer is because capability matters.

      I would urge you to talk to a SWO or two and see whether they think a helo hangar/deck is important to their mission. I'd imagine that most if not all would insist that a helo hangar is a minimum requirement in any ship design. And not just for ASW.

      Fire Scout will be a game-changer because it provides ship COs near 24/7 ISR at beyond-line of sight ranges. I don't think I need to remind you of the premium that Wayne Hughes on scouting.

    3. "... that Wayne Hughes PLACES on scouting."

    4. Anon, conceptually, I would refurbish a bunch of WWII Fletchers!

      If I asked current SWOs whether they think they need a helo, what would they say??? Hmm .... I bet they'd say that they absolutely need them! I guess that means my premise is wrong. ... Unless, ... they think they need helos because they're tasked with helo tasks. What if they weren't given helo tasks? Would they still want helos? What if they were given only the tasks of AAW, BMD, and land attack and Perry's (yeah, I know they're going away), LCS's, and my notional ASW platform were given the helo tasks? What would the SWOs say then? Probably that they didn't need helos and that flight quarters were a major pain in the butt.

      You mention helos for beyond LOS. Is there some reason why a Burke has to perform that? Don't we have carriers, E-2s, UAVs on other ships, BAMs, satellite, etc.? Why would an AAW, BMD, land attack ship be tasked with beyond LOS? Seems an inefficient use of resources.

      You generically say that capability matters. Fine. What capability? Under my scenario, what capability does a helo offer to a AAW, BMD, land attack Burke?

    5. Please see my response of 5:27pm.

    6. New reader! First post!

      I agree with the general premise of your writing. One of the modern tendencies has been to add requirements, complexity and weight to our combat systems in the name of "joint' or that multi-mission platform is better than a single mission platform. The Burkes are destroyers in name only, they are high value assets like capital ships of WWII. I always wonder how efficient it is to use a Burke to do piracy work or to escort some peace keeping mission. With hindsight and the number of Burkes built, I think your premise that we should have specialized the Burkes to do AAM/BDM/land attack only with some other ship that specialized in ASW/low intensity/general purpose would have been wiser and more efficient use of resources.

      My question would be what would you have preferred, do what the French/Italy did with FREMM with multiple variants or more a DDG Burke only AAW/BDM with a modern version of the Perry class? Really more of a high end low end mix. Or just taken a Burke and had some stripped down version to save money?

      I don't care much for the LCS, I think that's a waste of money. My preference would have been closer to the European solution, common hull, common engines but completely different weapon set and some changes to structure for helicopter capable or not. The high end would carry 100 VLS's the other probably less than half, the high end variant wouldn't have a gun, the other one would have something bigger than 5 inch,etc...not sure though this would have saved as much money but it would have been a Navy better tailored to the missions out there than having a Burke of all trades,master of none....

    7. Ideally we would add a mix of something along the lines of the Formidable-class frigates for ASW/ASuW (or depending on timing, something based off of the in progress FM400 design which is the replacement design for the Lafayette/Formidable-class frigates). Switch the Sylver VLS system to a SDS/Tac length Mk 41 VLS system. 24 LRASM/ASROC + 32 ESSM for point defense. Add 2 C-RAMs and you are looking at a capable and defensible modern frigate. Full crew is 90 including flight crew. Has both MH-60S and towed sonar for ASW. Should also be able to carry an MQ-8B or even an MQ-8C. Reasonably cheap frigate design that would be already mostly OTS and has a history of being reconfigured to the needs and configurations for different countries.

      Reclassify the FLIIA and FLIII burkes as AAW/BMD cruisers since that is actually what they are. Look at reducing aviation facilities on the burkes down to supporting an MQ-8C and use the space for either additional VLS cells and/or additional power generation for BMD capabilities.

      Investigate the requirements/needs for an actual destroyer in the 5-6K mt range if there is a capability gap that needs to be filled. Ideally based around the 155mm AGS with the addition of shorter range but higher power shells of the same dimensions (less rocket, more boom when capable). Basically a destroyer optimized for ASuW and land attack with minimal ASW/AAW capabilities.

    8. NICO, welcome aboard! Enjoy some of the older posts when you get a chance. I look forward to your comments.

      I'm not an expert on foreign designs and programs so I can't offer a valid opinion. Conceptually, I have no problem with a common hull that is modified for a high or low end as needed. I'm somewhat doubtful that sufficient savings could had from that approach, though. The low end version would, by definition, be bigger than it needs to be which means more expensive than it needs to be. I'm more inclined towards a smaller, specialized low end vessel but that's getting into the details of design and cost which I just don't have the data for.

      There are so many nice designs for small ASW vessels out in the world. The Russians have some nice ones. MEKO could be a good starting point. Even the LCS, if structurally beefed up and designed as a dedicated ASW vessel might work. Lots of options!

      What's your thought on common hull versus a different, specialized vessel? Remember, in today's climate, every decision has to be run through the filter of budgetary impact.

    9. ats, good thoughts! I was looking at what we should have done and ought to do in future builds. You've proposed modifying existing Burkes as well as acquiring future low end vessels. Conceptually, I agree. Your ideas are quite reasonable. A dedicated ASW vessel would need other capabilities as well, like sound deadening (Prairie/Masker or something similar) and whatnot but that's just design details. I like it!

      The AGS is an abomination of a weapon. It has no commonality with NATO munitions, can't be used in an anti-surface mode, and consumes HUGE internal volume and ship's utilities. Do you really mean AGS?

    10. The Lafayette-class frigates on which the Formidable-class Frigates are based have P/M systems so it should be fairly simple to put them into an upgraded Formidable-class frigate. Primary reason for starting with the Formidable-class is that it is the most up to date design available with lots of upgrades and lessons learned from that Lafayette-class and its other derived classes.

      As far as the AGS, yes, I really mean the AGS. Commonality with NATO 155mm ammunition isn't really an issue unless you want to hold that against all naval artillery in the work. In addition, NATO dimensioned 155mm rounds wouldn't be able to achieve the required range.

      As far as anti-surface capability, the existing round can hit a ship just as well as it can hit a truck. If you are referring to it being a guided round, that isn't really much of an issue. In addition, ballistic/dumb rounds can be developed for the AGS rather easily and will have significantly more firepower than any other naval round in existence (it should be possible to develop a non-assisted round with upwards of 100lbs of explosive). Using AGS in an ASuW role would be pretty straight forward and as much as I expect guns to be used in future ASuW between naval ships, it isn't going to be a drawback with the initial delivered capability. Esp if AGS is delivering the levels of accuracy being talked about which would make it much more accurate than any current USN gun at range.

      As for why the AGS, its because there isn't another working naval gun system that is anywhere close to its capabilities. The Vulcano rounds are a sub projectile with significantly less range and significantly less bang. We've already developed the AGS and its capabilities are better than any other naval gun. There are also already designs that significantly reduce weight/volume (AGS-lite) if that is required. Power requirements while currently significant, will go down over time. It doesn't make sense to throw away the current capability of the AGS by not using it on future ships and by using it on future ships it will speed the introductions of improvements to the gun system as well as varieties of ammunition.

    11. ats, just to be clear, the AGS is not currently anti-surface capable. I would think it could be made so with some additional development. I could accept AGS with the caveat of some significant additional development, as you mentioned. Without it, though, the AGS is a black hole for ship's volume and services and is not worth the impact and price.

      Since we're stipulating further development, let's acknowledge that the Mk71 is basically off-the-shelf ready and, with further development, could offer significantly greater range as well. It's current impact on a ship is far less and it has anti-surface capability already.

      Mk71 would be my choice but it would, ultimately, depend on detailed knowledge of both current capabilities and, more importantly, near future developmental potential and cost. So, we're in agreement that a gun bigger than the 5" is desirable. Whether it's the AGS, Mk71, or some other gun depends on developmental potential and cost.

      If it were up to me, I'd give serious thought to navalizing the Army's MLRS and ATACOMS. That's some fairly heavy firepower with range and accuracy. It's mature technology and would have commonality with Army munitions. Just need to navalize it - not trivial but certainly doable.

    12. Mk71 just isn't a viable option. Going with an 8" gun would require and entirely new development project to create ammunition that would meet the range requirements. In addition, the turret and magazine system would require a complete redesign in order to fit in with current and future manning requirements. Not to mention that the 8" rounds would take up more space and would be at best marginally more effective on target (the AGS rounds have roughly the same weight and bursting charge as the Mk71 8" rounds, fyi).

      ATACOMS has an issue of not fitting into any of the existing or proposed naval infrastructure. The missiles are about 4" too big to fit into any existing VLS infrastructure. In addition, the ATACOMS range is significantly shorter than the tomahawk and doesn't provide any better target effect than the tomahawk. The only advantage of the ATACOMS would be speed vs the tomahawk as it is a high speed ballistic missile instead of a cruise missile. Range is also less with the ATACOMS, significantly so. The MLRS rockets doesn't have the required range for US naval operations being limited to generally below 40 miles.

      Making the AGS anti-surface capable is rather easy, easy enough that you or I can do it given a couple months of time: replace rocket portion of LRLAP with more explosive. Either go dumb fire with simple ballistics calculations or go to an IIR/mmWR/SAL seeker which are already available OTS from the army's 155 Excalibur program.

      The AGS may have fairly large ship footprint and power requirements, but so would any modern Mk71. In fact the area/power requirements for a Mk71 that could meet the AGS requirements would likely be larger than those of the current AGS.

      I think it is important to point out that the AGS is a 100+ nmi gun while the Mk71 is/was a 25-30 nmi gun.

    13. ats, of course Mk71 is a viable option. Whether it's a desirable one depends on the intended purpose. For instance, if the intended purpose is anti-surface warfare, it's far and away the best option. The Zumwalt's AGS is intended to provide long range land bombardment. That's quite different from the discussion about putting a gun on a destroyer of 5K-6K tons. As you said, "... based around the 155mm AGS with the addition of shorter range but higher power shells of the same dimensions ...". So, you've stipulated that range is less of an issue. Trying to fit the AGS into a 6K ton ship would be an enormous challenge and, I strongly suspect, not even possible. The internal volume and ship's services just aren't there on a hull that size. There's a reason the Zumwalt is the size it is. Zumwalt was essentially designed around the AGS much as the A-10 was designed around its gun. AGS-L might be an option but that would require significant additional development. As far as I know, AGS-L is just a paper study.

      By comparison, the Mk71 has already been proven on a destroyer hull, already has ASuW capability, and has coventional impact on volume and ship's services.

      I'm not arguing for the Mk71, though that would be my preference over the (I think) incompatible AGS for the 6K ton destroyer we're discussing. I'd also look at a 6" gun. It might even be that a 6K ton ship only needs a 5" gun.

      You lightly dismiss further AGS development as easy but criticize the Mk71 for needing further development. C'mon, now, be consistent and fair! The AGS does not have a ballistic round and would need further development to obtain the round and more development to gain an anti-surface capability. The Mk71 might or might not need further development to attain greater range for the 6K ton vessel application. Whether that's even a requirement would be a question.

      I assume you've seen the drawings and read the descriptions of the internal volume consumed by the AGS and its automated ammo strikedown system??!! It's huge!!! I just don't see any way it could be adapted to fit a 6K ton ship.

    14. I failed to convey the concept behind adapting the MLRS/ATACMS. I am not suggesting it as a replacement for Tomahawk!!! I am suggesting it as a replacement for Mk71 or AGS in the bombardment role where it significantly outperforms both.

      As an alternative to the Mk71 or AGS, a navalized MLRS could fire guided or unguided rounds out to around 30-60 miles, depending on munition type, while the ATACMS can launch out to 190 miles, far outranging the AGS. An MLRS system could be mounted on a ship with no deck penetration and little or no need for ship's services. That sounds like a much better system than either Mk71 or AGS for land attack. I would not envision navalizing as an attempt to force it to fit into VLS cells. Instead, we would simply mount the MLRS pods on the deck just as if it were sitting on a vehicle, as it currently does. Essentially, it would look like an old ASROC or SeaSparrow launcher. True, navalizing would take some development but you seem to have no problem with further development of the AGS so I know you'd have no objection to this!

    15. The problem is that MLRS only goes out less than 40nm (and significantly less for a lot of the rockets). So it is only viable for short range attack, and it only supports 12 missiles per launcher before requiring reload. It might have some use when you an get close but it will be very niche. ATACMS while having reasonable range has a capacity issue in that the MLRS platform can only support 2 ATACMS at a time. In the cases where an MLRS makes sense, you are better off just using MLRS vehicles sitting on the an MLP. So MLRS has the issue of range and ATACMS has the issue of fire volume.

      Both 8" gun (cause it couldn't/wouldn't be the Mk71) and AGS should be able to have in the range of 700-1000 rounds on ship and be able to sustain continuous fire for over an hour at max fire rate. With MLRS you could fire 12 rounds (shorter distance) and then spend several minutes loading another 12 rounds. And the actual warhead capabilities for the MLRS rockets are not significantly better than for either the 8" or AGS shells. So from a bombardment perspective MLRS is a poor alternative to AGS.

      A far better solution for cases where tomahawks are overkill is using a modified LRASM as a VLS launched JASSM capability (which is humorous since of course LRASM is a modified JASSM). Though that might even be as costly as a freaking tomahawk, though its not like ATACMS is cheap or anything at over 1.1 mil per as well. Whoa, I think tomahawks might even be cheaper than ATACMS! And in this role likely cheaper than an LRASM abused as a JASSM. Sad but true!

    16. ats, for bombardment the MLRS is far superior to AGS. It uses both unitary and sub-munition warheads. A single pod can wipe out a grid square. That's bombardment!

      As far as range, I've read studies purporting to show that 80% of military targets are within 20 miles of shore. So, MLRS can cover 80% of the missions and ATACMS not only covers the rest but far outranges AGS.

      As far as reloads, you're correct that the MLRS only supports 12 rounds before reload. Of course, the AGS only supports 1 round before reload! The MLRS is claimed to be able to reload in minutes by hand. I would think an automated reload system ought to be able to provide rapid reloads with a higher rate of fire than AGS. Each pod contains 6 rockets for a salvo of 12 in a matter of seconds. An automated reload ought to take seconds (heck, the old single arm launcher on the FFGs only needed around seven seconds!). If we have room for hundreds of rounds for Mk71/AGS we ought to have room for a similar number of rounds for an MLRS.

      The point is that a navalized MLRS is a completely viable option. It all depends on the ship's intended role.

    17. From the post: "Now I know that many of you are hunched over the keyboard ready to pound out a scathing reply the moment I suggest what gun to use (if it’s not your favorite!) ..."

      Hmmm .... Appears I was right! : )

    18. Ahh but the details are fun to talk about. ;)

      Navalized MLRS has been studied but shelved by at least the USN and German navies. Honestly, I'm not 100% sure why. Could be that MLRS/ATACMs has issues qualifying as an Insensitive Munition for safe shipboard handling. Could be that its exhaust is too corrosive for shipboard use. Could be that big guns that shoot guided rockets have more political favor than rocket launchers that shoot guided rockets. Who knows.

      BTW, GMLRS has been tested out to 100km and there was talk of extending that further.

    19. First, MLRS submunitions have horrible reliability issues in the field that they are more used for grid denial than grid annihilation. You cannot in good continence send soldiers into an area that has been hit with MLRS until it has been swept by EOD. The issue is so bad that the vast majority of the sub munition stock pile was put into reserve years ago to rot.

      And while most of the targets may be 20nmi from the shore, you aren't going to be that close to the shore. The point of having the 40+ nmi range on AGS is so that the NGFS ship could sit far enough off shore that it would have reasonable response time to incoming fire. We're talking over the horizon so greater than 20 nmi off shore, which means that MLRS doesn't have the range.

      MLRS already uses a podded automated reload system and still takes several minutes to reload. You have to remove the existing pod and then put in the new pod. That takes time and is slow and cannot be done while active (aka you cannot fire from 1 pod while reloading the other). There's not much that can be done to automate it beyond what it already has short of completely redesigning the whole system at which point you aren't MLRS (and should probably design around a 2x4 block rather than a 2x3 block). So you either are going to use the MLRS infrastructure, you are going to design something new that isn't MLRS, but you can't have it both ways. And ATACMS doesn't provide any capability that the ships don't already have in tomahawk and there is no cost savings from using ATACMS instead of tomahawk AND tomahawk has a significantly larger payload than ATACMS.

      As far as number of rounds, MLRS rounds are signficantly bigger than AGS or 8" shells. You will never get near the same number.

      And my point is, that you ideal of a navalized MLRS is no longer anything close to MLRS. That MLRS actually doesn't provide any better functionality than what we already have. That AGS provided significantly more boom on target per time strata. That ATACMS brings nothing to the part for the Navy except higher cost and lower capability vs Tomahawk.

      AKA MLRS was considered and dropped because it doesn't provide any advantage over other naval weapons. The existing system would have to be basically recreated from scratch to be viable on a ship for NGFS. The existing rockets lack the range required for viable NGFS. The missiles do nothing but increase cost and reduce capability vs existing navy solutions.

      And you were only right about the guns because you started the argument about the guns ;)

      B.Smitty, as I've laid out, the reason it has been shelved is because it doesn't provide a realistic effect or cost benefit. ATACMS costs as much or more than a tomahawk and provides less payload while requiring completely new infrastructure. The MLRS rockets by and large don't have the range the navy believes it needs for realistic NGFS. Nor the sustained rate of fire. MLRS is very much a specialized Army system that solves pretty much only specialized army requirements.

    20. GMLRS-AW will add a low-dude rate replacement for the DPICM warhead.

      GMLRS+ has been trialed out to 120km (64.8nm). I've seen max range figures for AGS as low as 71nm, so a continued growth variant of GMLRS could equal LRLAP.

      The reloading mechanism for the ground-based MLRS isn't anywhere close to what a shipboard system could be. However I'm not sure I'd want to spend that much money developing a rapid reloading naval MLRS. I think the main benefit of adopting a naval MLRS is to take advantage of its relatively low footprint and ship requirements and put it on a class of fairly small vessels. They can be single mission and just carry 1-3 MLRS systems with a crane or two for reloading. I'd even look to repurpose a civilian spec vessel. Maybe an offshore fast crew supply vessel like the Damen 5009 series.

      Sure they wouldn't be able to carry a huge number of reloads, but if you could buy enough of them, they could just cycle back to a replenishment ship to reload.

      Better to use a low-draft, relatively inexpensive vessel for this type of thing than a large, hugely expensive warship, IMHO.

    21. ats, this discussion started as a question about a gun system for a 5K-6K ton vessel. I've stated that I don't believe it would even be possible for AGS to fit on such a vessel. Mk71 or navalized MLRS offer a viable option.

      If you want a truly specialized naval bombardment ship then the AGS and Tomahawk combination is probably the best bet but it would require a huge ship and we already have them - Zumwalts. If you want the 5K-6K ton, general purpose ship with a credible land attack, the Mk71/MLRS is clearly superior as well as being technically and physically feasible which the AGS isn't.

      Are we in agreement?

    22. The attraction to a navalized MLRS is that it already exists and has been proven in the land version. The Navy seem incapable of developing new systems of any sort that cost less than hundreds of millions of dollars. The AGS is hideously expensive. 5" has been deemed inadequate by the Marines. MLRS offers a proven and inexpensive way to obtain credible "gun" support.

      If anyone is interested, read this previous post on AGS. You'll note that $1.4B has been spent on development and development is far from over. If we put a fraction of that money into navalizing the MLRS we'd have a pretty good land attack weapon at a fraction of the cost of the AGS. Even excluding development costs, the AGS equipment was on the order of a few to several hundred million dollars per gun the last time I checked the budget docs. We could buy a lot of MLRS for that.

      Bear in mind that the cost of the gun is actually the cost of the ship, $4-$5B for the Zumwalt, since the ship had to be specially built for the gun and the ship has no other mission. It exists only to serve as a platform for the gun. That is a hideously expensive gunfire support capability!!!

      The point is that existing technology can offer a reasonable solution at a fraction of the cost of new development. We should consider more of that type of thing.

    23. I don't think dusting off 70's blueprints for a prototype gun who's round isn't even in service anymore is the answer either.

      I'd go with MLRS on a set of inexpensive vessels, and continue work on the 5" MS-SGP and/or the 5" Excalibur derivative.

      We will have a better idea of cost and capabilities for AGS once it's fielded on the Zumwalts. Maybe then consider building some gunfire support ships based around it, but only if your valid points about excessive cost can be rectified.

    24. I have to agree with B.Smitty that the Mk71 is none viable. Pretty much everything for it would have to be done from scratch, there really isn't any there there at this point.

      As far as AGS, the system an certainly be scaled down. And yes it has cost a lot in R&D, its a brand new system from gun to turret to reload to ammo storage. If we were making a new 5" gun, it would cost a lot too. What's important is the cost per gun in volume production, and data suggest that the AGS-Lite design could come in at reasonable costs and ship resources. And both AGS and AGS-lite require significantly less man power than any existing solutions.

      If you want to do MLRS, its doable, but it does have significant issues. As long as those issues are acknowledged, that's fine. Though as far as I can tell, ATACMS should be left out of the equation as it doesn't bring anything to the party.

    25. Well, depending on the solution, ATACMs may come along virtually for free. It does have benefits for rapid response strikes and is much harder to shoot down than TLAM. But that may not be enough value to qualify it for shipboard use.

      There is an AGS-lite proposal for use in the Burkes. However it replaces the 600rnd magazine with a mere 180 LRLAPs, you lose the 5"'s ASuW capability and it only has a rate of fire of 6 rnds/min.

    26. AGS-L is not fully automated. I don't know what the manning is relative to, say, a standard 5" gun.

      The BAE data sheet lists range for AGS as up to 83 nm and the AGS-L as up to 74 nm, by the way. ats, where has the 100+ nm range figure come from?

      Regarding costs, in 2005 LM received a $79M contract for 106 ATACMS Block 1A. That's $745,000 per in 2005 dollars. By comparison, the FY13 budget lists 196 Tomahawks at $309M. That's $1.6M per in 2013 dollars.

      AGS-L exists only on paper and would require huge amounts of additional developmental money. If we're willing to accept that, we should be equally willing to accept development of Mk71, MLRS, or any other option. That's simple logical consistency. The choice depends on the intended missions, as I've said.

      One thing that ATACMS offers is the ability to be fired without using VLS. On a small ship, that is potentially quite beneficial so as not to use up precious VLS cells.

    27. The last sale of ATACMS was 145.5 million for 130 missiles. The 196 tomahawks for 309M is for the tactical tomahawk variety which is significantly more expensive than the non-tactical variety.

      100nmi range is navy plan of record, fyi. And yes AGS-lite would require more development work, but at least it would require new infrastructure and manufacturing that a Mk71 derivative would require. I view it as we're committed to AGS already for better or worse, so we should try to leverage the investment as much as possible.

      VLS vs non-VLS isn't much of a win, as you still need the deck space and space to store the reloads. And I'm not convinced that ATACMS is harder to shoot down than TLAMs. The ATACMS is a high arc ballistic trajectory where as the TLAM is a low altitude terrain hugging weapon.

    28. AGS threshold range is 63nm. The objective is 100nm.

      ATACMS spends most of its time at high altitudes and mach. This makes it impossible to engage except for those systems specifically with ABM capabilities. TLAM spends all of its time at low altitude and subsonic. It can be engaged by virtually everything in the enemies inventory (including MGs and small arms). Obviously detecting and engaging a high subsonic, terrain-following missile still isn't that easy, but it is more vulnerable than a ballistic missile. The mast-mounted Clam Shell/Flap Lid radars enable systems like the SA-10B to engage low-altitude targets much further out.

      A non-VLS MLRS system could be reloaded at sea, where a VLS based system has to return to port.

      Now all that being said, I still don't think ATACMS is strictly necessary. If it didn't come, more or less, for free with a naval MLRS solution, I don't think I'd favor it. I'd rather see a smaller munition like Accular added to the mix to cover closer, but more numerous targets.

    29. ats: "VLS vs non-VLS isn't much of a win, as you still need the deck space and space to store the reloads."

      A single MLRS, roughly equivalent to a single 8-cell VLS module, could fire hundreds of ATACMS/MLRS rounds because it can reload. How is firing hundreds of rounds from the equivalent of a single VLS module not a win?!!!

      ats, in this discussion, you're consistently citing the optimistic ranges, costs, ease of development, etc. for the AGS even if some are only planned rather than actual. That's fine but be consistent. If you're going to cite the best case for AGS, acknowledge and cite the best case for Mk71/MLRS or any other option, as well. Both Mk71 and MLRS/ATACMS have some pretty optimistic ranges, munitions, costs, and ease of development, also.

      Consider, had we opted for the Mk71 instead of the AGS back when someone was still thinking about the Zumwalt, and we poured hundreds of millions (billions?) into further development like we did for the AGS, the Mk71 would currently be a pretty awesome weapon. In your argument, you're comparing the existing, developed AGS to the prototype Mk71 - not really an apples to apples comparison.

      I think the Mk71 would have required less development (heck, it already existed and had been demonstrated!) and would have been able to provide powerful ASuW capability, laser guided shells (those were demonstrated in the test firings), long range rocket (or some other option) assisted projectiles (basically, the AGS round), and any other capability we now have with the AGS plus the ability to fire bigger, more powerful explosives. If the Navy wanted to fully automate it, they could have.

      Going back to your original premise, guns on a small 5K-6K ton ship, the AGS can't fit on it. Agreed? The question is then what's the next best option and the answer depends on the intended use.

    30. I bet you could fit an AGS or two on a 5-6k ton ship, but not much else.

  3. I agree that you probably won't save as much much money if you have a high end Burke (AAM/BDM class) with a low end ASW Burke class, although it should be a little bit cheaper to buy and your operating costs across the fleet of Burke's should be lower than having a high end Burke with a different low end ship, there would be almost nothing in common.

    This isn't just some theoretical exercise though because as I recall, the Burke's weren't meant to bought in such numbers and have become de facto THE destroyer of the US Navy and one day it will have to be replaced so this is an interesting conversation to have. Do we just replace them with mutli-missions variant or with 2 different variants? I lean more towards the same boat with a common core and different weapons/layout. The high/low end mix might have been feasible in the 70/80s but nowadays, US military can't buy anything or it's industry can't produce anything "cheap and expendable".

    1. NICO, your observation that the military can't seem to produce anything "cheap and expendable" is valid. The question, then, is why? Read this previous post, Shipbuilding Costs and see if that doesn't provide an answer. Couple that with disciplined acquisition, meaning clear cut requirements, actual designs prior to construction, and no changes during construction and we ought to be able to produce cheaper ships. Let me know what you think.

  4. Nice article about Ship costs. I think the problem isn't just an American one. India's new carrier is going to cost billions, including the air wing, probably more than $5 Billion so obviously even in a country with cheaper labor costs, your capital ships are costing more and more. Europe's destroyers also cost billions, maybe not as much as a Burke but not that far off.

    I wonder if the reason the Burke's are so expensive, not just because of the weapon system is because, my impression, is that USN didn't start with such a large buy in mind. I only follow Navy stuff from afar, more aviation geek but Burke wasn't supposed to be bought in such large numbers so the buys weren't really efficient. If from the beginning USN would have said we are buying 80 of them plus stuck to one particular Block, we should have seen the price come down.

    Not sure what the answer is to ever rising costs.

  5. I have some more of my uneducated thoughts.... :-) but they are somewhat disjointed.

    As for NGFS; why are we looking at new guns anyway? Can we get a marginally longer range out of the 5" with things like a longer barrel? And, to my thinking, a navy that is going to be doing NGFS effectively has to be somewhat close. So we aren't going to be doing it against a peer/near peer without ALOT of prep. In that situation we'll likely have air cover; and some sort of ASW assett off the coast of the non-peer. So, what about towing a barge with a bunch of Army 155's attached to it? Could that be effective enough, and not involving a 40 year old gun design, or navalization of a new weapons system; while at the same time being alot cheaper than an AGS armed ship.

    CNO; I like your idea. I think it makes alot of sense; but what I didn't understand was this: Was this a 'This is what we should have done' or 'here is a plan for the future to get more ships out of our budget'.

    I guess the biggest question I have going forward is: Can we have BIW build a 'Burke without the Helo & other facilities without an expensive redesign?
    I can't believe its as easy as just 'not building that' hanger facility.

    For a cheap ASW escort, LCS appears to be here, and developed. Could we save money on that by deleting the uber engines and water jets and install diesels and screws? If you can, it might help with endurance and maintanance. If you can't, regardless maybe you put on an OTS towed array system, keep the Helo for it, and add a 'pepperbox' for an ASROC system (if still available).


    1. Jim, the Marines have deemed the 5" inadequate for gunfire support. Simply adding range won't satisfy their requirements.

      I pointed out what we should have done but it also serves as a roadmap for the future since we're looking at building Burkes for the foreseeable future.

      Can we build a Burke without helos/hangars? We already did. The orginal Flt 1 Burkes had no hangar. Search the Internet and look at pictures of the USS Burke, for example. The hangar was added as part of the Flt IIa upgrades.

      Could the LCS be a dedicated ASW vessel? Yes. Could it be an effective and cheap ASW vessel? No, at least not without so many modifications that it would be an entirely new vessel.

    2. The Marines who deemed 5" inadequate were the ones who won't settle for anything less than battleship reactivation. ;)

      IMHO, NGFS is far down the naval priority list at the moment. MS-SGP would be a welcome addition, if we didn't have to spend billions developing it.

  6. I would think an automated reload system ought to be able to provide rapid reloads with a higher rate of fire than AGS. Very counterintuitive.

  7. "Jim, the Marines have deemed the 5" inadequate for gunfire support. Simply adding range won't satisfy their requirements."

    is my barge idea inadequate then?

    "Can we build a Burke without helos/hangars? We already did. The orginal Flt 1 Burkes had no hangar. "

    Well... yes. But at least in my (very different, admittedly) experience with manufacturing companies, it isn't always true that can easily go back to an old design you built several years ago. Now they build longer 'Burkes with hangers. That suggests the hull changed. I'm guessing there was reinforcements put into the hull. If all you're deleting is a large metal garage on top, are you really saving that much money? If you change it to get rid of the expensive parts that were required to hold up, house, and fuel a helo, isn't that an expensive redesign? I don't know, I'm just asking. But it seems a valid question because we can't seem to put pen to design sheet without it costing a load of cash.

    "Could the LCS be a dedicated ASW vessel? Yes. Could it be an effective and cheap ASW vessel? No, at least not without so many modifications that it would be an entirely new vessel."

    I figured that after I posted. I keep forgetting that the numbers they are throwing out there for the cost aren't real.

    And the NSC doesn't seem any cheaper (though maybe more appropriate hull wise).

    But if I am wrong about the above things, I like your idea alot. Limit the capability in return for more hulls.

    1. An Army howitzer works because its location is precisely known and never varies from shot to shot. A barge full of howitzers would be continually moving and pitching. There would be no hope of accuracy. Naval guns are stabilized and the weapon control systems account for and compensate for ship's movement among a host of other factors. Throw in the highly corrosive salt envionment and I think you can see the answer.

      You're viewing the hangar-less Burke a bit too simplistically. Removing the ASW/hangar/helo is far more than just removing some sheet metal. Think about all the things that are part of operating a helo/hangar: fuel storage/bunkerage, weapons magazines, firefighting equipment, spare parts storage, electronic shops, mechanical support shops, flight control stations, RAST and RAST control station, hangar ventilation and HVAC, pilot and support crew bunks, heads, food storage, laundry, etc., and the list goes on. All of that disappears if you remove the helo/hangar. You ask if it would be an expensive redesign. The design already exists - it wouldn't be a redesign. You simply pull the existing, old design out of the files.

      Can we go back? Well, of course there would be costs to retool but it's easier and cheaper to go back than forward. We already have the drawings and probably half the old tooling. The military never throws anything away.


    Not quite your idea Jim but it has been tried. Maybe somebody can find the picture but didn't the Brits try firing artillery from one of the carriers or maybe it was Germany installed or was thinking of installing a PZ2000 turret on a ship? I vaguely recall seeing it somewhere...

    1. No, not quite the same thing! That was artillery transported by barge to a location and then moored/fixed in place for use. Quite a bit different than a ship/barge at sea subject to continual waves and pitching. As I said, no hope of accuracy! Also, that's a fresh water environment versus salt.

  9. M-109 fired off LCU-1610 was done - but no stabilized barrel...
    PzH 2000 155mm turret was tried on a modern German frigate, not sure to what results.

    If a USMC AVENGER system on a HMMWV can be stabilized, so could a M110 203mm set of barrels for trials off an LCU-1610.

    M110 barrels were 'shortish' at 39 cal.
    Pulled out to 52 cal, or even 62 cal. is comparatively limited affair versus rail-guns or exotic DDG barrels and mounts.

    PzH2000 155mmm upgraded rounds are good for up to 30nm.
    Inshore Fire Support with such stabilized 203mm could be quite impressive.

    Scaling up such modern ammo for 'old' 203mm can not be anywhere near as dramatic as the currently-pursued alternatives between ZUMWALT and DDG-based efforts.

    Ditto for putting 2-3 MLRS on one LCU.

    LCUs would remain just outside of mortar-, tankgun- etc range, constantly moving for least reverse-battery risk on the one hand, and yet closest to the frontline on the other.

    At an all-up weight of around 300-350 tons incl. stabilized howitzers, would every LCU become a 'Land Attack' system ?

    Interesting challenge would be active recoil-management via e-magnetics supported by passive absorbers to not break the hulls too early...

    Once you stabilize barrels and launchers, platform-size is less and less relevant, making IFS/"Land Attack" batteries LCU-based 'modules' available in large numbers and relatively 'disposable' without losing the capability.

    Or so some think.