Friday, March 14, 2014

Independent Cruiser

We discussed the need for ships capable of independent operations but what, exactly, does that entail?  For starters, it does not mean a ship capable of taking on an entire war on its own, fighting off hundreds of aircraft, swatting down endless volleys of missiles, countering swarms of submarines, and spreading democracy all the while.  No, not that.  Instead, it means a ship that can conduct vital missions, during war and peace, just short of carrier group levels of capability. 

For this, we need a ship capable of a reasonable degree of self-defense, a potent enough offensive capability to give an enemy pause, enhanced survivability, and the ability to maintain a widespread tactical picture using only its own organic assets.  Clearly, such a ship would be large, capable, and expensive.  There’s a time for cost cutting and cost/capability tradeoffs in ship design but this is not that.  This is a ship that will be expensive and must not be compromised.  The ship will be a cruiser in size and capability (the Navy will probably designate it a corvette in keeping with modern designation trends!).

War time missions would include strike, anti-shipping, ASuW, harbor/base attack, and the like.

Peace time missions would include freedom of navigation, high risk intelligence collection, enemy ship monitoring, and “territorial dispute resolution”.  Examples would be shadowing the various new Chinese ships, discouraging N. Korean missile shoots in international waters, “disputing” fraudulent Chinese territorial grab attempts, and providing high visibility presence off Iran.

Now, what, specifically, does such a ship look like?  It would start with these characteristics.

  • Enhanced stealth – as hard to find and target as possible
  • Extensive heavy armoring – take a hit and keep fighting
  • Burke level AAW
  • Tomahawk (or its replacement) strike
  • Multiple 8” guns – peacetime missions, especially, may wind up being up close and personal
  • Extensive anti-ship weaponry (Harpoon/LRASM plus short range Penguin-ish missiles)
  • Significant UAV capability

There are two key points regarding the list.  The first, is the absence of ASW.  This is not a ship intended to go play tag with submarines.  That is best left to cheaper, purpose designed vessels.  The ASW capability would be limited to self-defense, hence, a couple of helos, a hull mounted sonar, ASROC, and towed decoys.

The second key point is the UAV capability.  For a ship operating independently, situational awareness is critical and the independent ship will largely have to rely on its own abilities.  Thus, a robust UAV surveillance capability is mandatory – a poor man’s Hawkeye, in a sense.  The ship would have to carry dozens of UAVs and be able to operate them independent of helo operations;  in other words, a dedicated UAV flight deck.

This ship offers serious combat capability and greatly enhances naval options in a time of diminishing overall availability.


  1. I like this concept, particularly if paired with your earlier concept of Offensive Aegis. Then we'd have a real battle winner.

    1. Enrique, great link of the two concepts!

  2. Have been reading old issues of Proceeding CNO? I read similar proposal at least twice that I remember, Plus all those Iowa modifications, arsenal ship, and the original DD(x) for that matter. All were aimed toward independent operation way from carrier group.

    Personally I always though that the big guns most designs had was just for show, as no commander worth his salt would risk his ship close enough to shore without a real need, like a landing force ashore.

    I not sure AEGIS would be best suited to self defense role, The dual radar system concept would seem to be better because of the redundancy. And I really do see the advantage of going all the way to AMDS as it provide real protection for ALLIES.

    Stay way from heavy steel plate armor, as stated here before it makes the ships too rigid, Any under the Keel shot, mine or torpedo, would likely sink your ship.

    Don't go cheap on ASW, Helicopters and sonar is your best defense against submarine as we no know active defense against torpedoes. Most escort group use six helicopters to protect the groups, so I say that the right number for a lone ship to escort itself. And nothing says the helicopters can not be UAV along with the UAV AEW, and UAV COD>

    1. GLof, I never said I was the first to come up with an independent cruiser idea! In fact, the original concept of the cruiser, dating back to sailing days, was for an independent operations ship.

      Regarding guns, at least in the context of this post, the purpose of guns is, primarily, for anti-ship work and secondarily for land attack. The aggressive nature of this ship's missions and roles, especially in peacetime, suggests a reasonable chance of close up encounters with adversary naval forces and a large caliber gun would offer great benefits. For example, countering a Chinese ship(s) attempting to assert illegal or questionable territorial claims could easily result in a short range confrontation that quickly escalates.

      I never mentioned Aegis as being the only option for AAW. AMDR might well be the preferred choice, if it works. Whatever works is fine.

      I have never seen any documentation that armor makes a ship more susceptible to mines or torpedoes. You'll definitely have to prove that claim if you want me to accept it!

      If for no other reason than the cost of the ship, ASW is not a worthwhile mission for this type of ship.

    2. More like a comment on an unexpected subject. Normally we are cor current affairs type subjuct, and still seem more old school.

  3. great article. question though. is stealth really obtainable for a ship? i see the concepts, i see the cool designs coming into service but i have never read anywhere that stealth actually works for warships.

    what say you?

    1. Oh it works. Ships have used various methods of stealth for over a century, old ships blacking out any light for instance. The purpose of stealth of a warship is to reduce your ability to be seen, targeted, and locked on to. It won't ever make you invisible, but if you can reduce your enemies radar range on you by 10nm, you've bought yourself some additional time.

    2. you went wide afield on me. stealth in the modern sense is what i'm talking about. i'm also aware of stealth not being an invisibility shield.

      but the question remains. we can say cool, futuristic etc...but that doesn't mean it works. additionally how can you have a stealthy ship unless the entire thing is built with stealth in mind? i've seen too many examples of what appears to be great shaping for the superstructure but the hull is still a classic design, the same goes for the various cranes and other objects on deck.

      last but not least, i've never seen or heard of anyone putting a ship through the stealth testing that aircraft go through.

    3. I just don't see how stealth squares with the need to operate dozens of UAVs.

      UAS require constant information flow from the ship to the vehicle and back - particularly during launch and recovery. Completely autonomous UAV operations are decades or more away.

      It would be very easy for an enemy to triangulate in on the UAV control signal and thus roughly locate the ship. At which point you have to ask what stealth really bought you.


    4. Matt, future UAVs will be largely autonomous and will only communicate when needed and can communicate in various ways are are effectively LOS either via narrow beam or via satellites.

      Sol, take a look at some of the semi-recent french designs. Lafayette based Formidable-class. The Lafayette and Formidable-class designs have a 60+% reduced signature through simple things like a covered cable deck instead of an open deck, etc.

      One of the main point of stealth in warships is to make yourself look much smaller than you actually are. One of the design goals for the Lafayette-class and related classes was for the ship to appear on radar as effectively a commercial fishing ship which it apparently does.

      For larger ships its to appear as smaller ships, etc. Basically you want to make the enemy actually visually inspect to determine what type of ship you are. Think of it as less of the pseudo-invisibility goal of airplanes but more of a needle in a haystack or Trojan horse goal. You don't want to stick out on radar AS a large warship.

      For example say you wanted to add stealth to an aircraft carrier. You are never going to make it not appear on radar, it just isn't realistic, but what if you could make it so that radar/ir couldn't distinguish the carrier from its escorts or support ships? You've just made the enemies targeting solution 10x harder. That's a massive win!

    5. Solomon, I've addressed the stealth issue for ships in detail in a previous post (see, Stealth For Dummies). Check it out and let me know what you think.

    6. Solomon, you make a great point about the lack of testing on stealth ships. There is little or no public information on stealth testing of ships. I assume that the USN has performed extensive evaluations of ship stealth and I infer that they believe it is worthwhile since every ship class is being built with as much stealth as can reasonably be accomodate. That's all the information I have to go on but I think it's a reasonable bit of logic until something definitive becomes public.

    7. I agree with your list EXCEPT for the Stealth requirement. The cost of stealth (DDG 1000 Radar) is not worth the claimed but untested benefits. Furthermore DDG 1002 is going to have a steel superstructure, so EVEN the Navy Management is throwing in the towel on the cost effectiveness of Radar Stealth.

      Also look at the GAO study on Desert Storm effectiveness of stealth aircraft versus conventional aircraft (also note the effectiveness of smart vs conventional weapons). As you point out UAV (and weapons) are getting smarter and will not need continuous targeting information. So even if you get a 10nm reduction in targeting range. A UAV/Weapon that is patrolling an area can easily get within that range.

      What are you going to do? Shoot down everything in the air? Sounds like a thief ringing the doorbell to me.

  4. Sounds a lot like what DDG-1000 was supposed to be.

    I'm not a big fan of the large, solo warship conops. The Salvo Model shows numbers survive longer than single, big brutes.

    Take the capability you want and split it into a task force of less expensive (not necessarily smaller!) ships.

    1. B. Smitty.

      I agree. And ComNavOps design seems to contradict most of the key takeaways of Hughes' work. The key one that comes to mind is that small numbers of high-capability surface combatants are extremely vulnerable to oversaturated and put out of action.

      We should instead pursue flotillas of individually less capable ships in order to complicate the enemy’s targeting problem, expand own-force scouting capability, and increase the fleet's “staying power.”

      I’m sure Lockheed Martin or Northrop Grumman would love to win the contract for the ComNavOps super-battlecruiser – which would probably run $4 billion a copy! But there are just so many logical contradictions and head-scratchers:

      Enhanced stealth.

      If the ship is going to be working “up close and personal” (i.e close to shore) it’s going to be very hard to remain stealthy to binoculars. Especially with a ship of this size lobbing 8” shells. Stealth also goes out the window at the first Tomahawk.

      Extensive heavy armoring.

      The author is clearly enamored with armor. Yet he fails to realize that an ASCM hit is going to knock out or damage anything topside. This includes phased array radars, communications, etc. A hit equals a mission kill, and leaves the ship vulnerable to follow-up attacks. Heavy armor is largely pointless.

      Dedicated UAV flight deck.

      I do agree with the need for scouting – but have a hard time imagining how the concept of a UAV flight deck with “dozens of UAVs” squares against need for stealth. It is very hard to launch and recover long-ranged UAS while remaining stealthy.

      If there is a need for fleet scouting capability in situations short of major war - why not utilize Triton or P-8A? This would allow the ship to remain hidden and obviously free up a lot of space in the ship itself (no runway).

      ASW capability.

      The author says he’s not going to use this ship "go play tag with submarines" - but he essentially gave this ship the same ASW capability as a frigate. Is there anything it can't do?


    2. B.Smitty, the distributed force philosophy you mention is applied to battle scenarios between fleets. The independent cruiser I'm proposing is intended for aggressive peacetime operations for 99% of its life and selected operations in wartime. As I stated, it's not intended to fight a fleet action all by itself. Do you see the distinction and implications?

    3. That's a fairly narrow interpretation. Wayne Hughes makes it clear in "Fleet Tactics" that the threat from coastal defenses (ASCM, shore-based air) is paramount to fleet design. And that a distributed force of smaller combatants is the best way to maintain fleet staying power if one has to fight a fort.


    4. CNO,

      That's a very expensive ship design for just aggressive peacetime operations.

      How about just build a large, relatively empty hull, with huge amounts of reserve buoyancy, stability margins and compartmentalization, but a modest weapons fit? It can use its sheer bulk to play tag with Chinese patrol vessels.

      Rough design parameters:
      L: 250m, 230m waterline
      B: 28.5m
      D: 9.1m
      FLD: 28,000 tons (yes, Kirov-sized)
      Speed: 32kts top, 15kts electric
      Range at 15kts: 10,000 nm
      Propulsion: CODELOG
      3 x MT30 turbines
      2 x diesel gensets

      1-2 x Mk45 5" (refurbished from retiring cruisers and Burkes)
      2 x Mk110 57mm
      16 x Mk41/57 VLS (32 ESSM, 8 TLAM/LRASM)
      2 x RAM
      2-4 x Mk38 Mod 2

      - Anzac mast with CEAFAR/CEAMOUNT radar & SPS-49
      - SPS-49 & SPS-55 & SLQ-32 carried over from retiring Perrys
      - Sonar? MFTA & CAPTAS-4 would be nice. A hull mount would be nice too.

      4 x H-60 helipad spots
      6 x H-60 hangar spots (expandable)

      ?. Accommodate 50-150 extra, mission dependent.

      Large, amidships mission bay area expandable from the hangar.

      Basically a frigate's armament & sensors on a battlecruiser-sized hull.

      Fill the extra space with watertight compartments. Robust structural design. Keel crumple zones to mitigate underwater explosions. Armor over critical areas. Extensive automatic & manual fire suppression.

      Don't go crazy over-engineering anything. For example, consider dropping one MT30. It can still make 28kts on two. That might be enough. Consider dropping one or both RAM. Consider dropping down to an LCS equivalent sensor suite.

      Build in sensible signature reduction measures (no exotic and expensive hull forms, materials or construction techniques).

      It could easily carry far more VLS cells, but the cost would be much higher. I don't think it's worth it on a ship that would be one of the first targets in a war.

      A case could be made for additional cells to carry SM-6s fired in inertial/active or CEC mode. This would give it a modest long-range AAW capability.

      Such a ship would cost more than a frigate, but should cost much less than a Burke. The base hull could be used to carry a large, missile defense radar, or multiple AGS mounts.

    5. I call it BAF, for Big-A** Frigate.

    6. B.Smitty, your BAF is an interesting concept. The cruiser design is intended to be a serious war fighting machine that attempts to pick up some of the slack caused by reduced carrier numbers, reduced airwing size, and generally reduced available forces, and able to fight with little or no support, as opposed to your BAF. A BAF, while it might well be a worthwhile concept in its own right, would not be a viable alternative for this particular role.

    7. I don't think any solo ship can be expected to fight with little to no support.

      OTOH, the BAF is beefy enough to take a few hits but really isn't intended to duke it out with anyone beyond FACs, frigates and patrol ships.

      However, the PLAN might change their mind about performing aggressive, paint-rubbing, naval diplomacy against a BAF. Drive in front of it at your own risk!

      It also has extremely long range and plenty of space for stores. It could perform an entire patrol sortie with minimal to no CLF support. Perfect for patrolling the vastness of the Pacific.

      Seriously though, I would still shoot for a task force design to meet your independent operations requirement. Being an air enthusiast, I would start with a carrier of some sort. A Cavour-sized STOVL or UCAV carrier might cost $3 billion or so. Pair it with a Burke and a couple frigates for a < $7 billion task force.

      I would prefer a two mini-EMALS cat CATOBAR carrier designed specifically for UCAVs and helos. F-35B would be cleared to fly from it, but wouldn't be carried normally.

      For the UCAV, even though the USN is developing the X-47B, I would like to see what could be done with a smaller UCAV. Take the USAF X-45B design, for example.

      A navalized X-45B might be 23-25,000lb MTOW, 14-16,000lb empty. Give it more robust landing gear, a tail hook, and fold the wings at the wing root. It should occupy only 30% of the deck area of an F-35B. Replace the F404 with an afterburning F414 so it will have >1 T/W ratio.

      For sensors, develop an X-band AESA design based on SABR/APG-80/APG-79/APG-81 technology. IRST/designator.

      For weapons it'd carry 8xCUDA missiles for A2A. For A2G, 8xSDBs or 2x1000lb JDAMs.

      The X-45B design supposedly had an 850nm combat radius. Figure a bit shorter for my navalized variant, given the higher weight and thirstier engine. Let's say ~750nm.

      Cavour can carry an air group of 17 AV-8Bs and 12 EH101s.

      Given reasonable spot factor conversions, my Cavour-sized CUVX could carry 32 X-45Bs, 12 MH-60Rs and 4 EV-22s.

      In A2A mode, I don't expect them to be world-beating dog fighters. Just use their stealth and sensors to fire BVR CUDA shots before turning away. Their job is to break up and attrite incoming raids, not to be robot Red Barons.

      The EV-22 would carry either an MP-RTIP radar from Global Hawk or a pair of Vigilance AEW pods.

      Obviously the cost to develop these new aircraft would dominate the cost of my task force. On the bright side, UCAVs have no pilots who require extensive workup cycles every deployment. You only have to fly them enough to keep the deck crews and operators current.

    8. B.Smitty, you're quite correct that no single ship can stand against sustained, joint forces assaults. I stated that this design was NOT a win-the-war-single-handed vessel. There is also nothing that would preclude this ship from operating as the centerpiece of its own small task force.

      The ship is intended to perform aggressive and challenging (risky) peacetime missions and pick up some of the slack resulting from the decreased carrier and aviation availability during war.

      Reduced support is a reality and is going to become more common as carriers, airwings, and Air Force assets are reduced over the coming years. We can either reduce our presence and missions (pull back) or design heavier, tougher, harder hitting ships that can operate in this vacuum of reduced support. I'm suggesting the latter.

    9. B.Smitty, since reading this comment, I've been giving some serious consideration to your X-45B idea. The problem I have is that I just can't get past the lack of effectiveness at whatever the mission is. Given the "short" range of 700-800 miles or so, strike missions could be better handled by Tomahawks or their successor. UAVs would perform poorly at A2A unless we develop some truly revolutionary autonomy software. Simply shoot-and-scoot can be accomplished by Standard SM-6 just as effectively though not at the 700 mile range.

      The idea is intriguing but seems to come up a bit short compared to other, simpler approaches. What, specifically, would you see these aircraft doing that justifies their cost and a supporting "carrier"?

    10. Honestly CNO,

      I think this CUVX concept is still a ways off. It may be ripe in 10-15 years, once the X-47B has had time to mature in the fleet.

      Remember, though, 700-800nm is unrefueled. This aircraft could be kept in the air nearly indefinitely with air refueling.

      Some other comparison points, UCAV vs Tomahawk:

      1. The UCAV has far superior organic sensors. It can assist in finding its own targets. You can send it on an ASuW patrol at 30,000ft and it can search for surface targets with its radar and IRST. It can use SAR/MTI modes to pick out troop movements and positions. It can provide persistent surveillance/strike along the lines of a Predator, only stealthy.

      2. The UCAV can afford the comms to interact with ground forces and the wideband LOS and satellite uplinks to send its sensor data back home.

      3. The UCAV has greater munition flexibility. Tomahawk gives you a choice of three payloads: 1000lb unitary, cluster, or EW. You have to make the choice at construction time. You have to guess the right mix you will need when you buy them, and then again before you put to sea. This X-45B can make use of any weapon that fits in the STOVL F-35B bay. 500-1,000lb JDAM, LGB, penetrators, low collateral damage warheads. Cluster bombs. Eight SDB I/IIs. AMRAAM. CUDA. I anticipate adding 2-4 underwing hardpoints for additional munitions or fuel, when stealth isn't needed. We can add ISR payloads, jammers, MALD/ITALD, external 2,000lb ordinance, JASSM, JSOW, LRASM, HARM, or future munitions fairly easily. We have a lot of these weapons in the inventory already.

      4. The UCAV can bring its expensive munitions and sensors back to the ship, if needed.

      5. The UCAV's munitions can be replenished at sea by CLF ships. Tomahawks require a trip back to port to reload.

      6. Tomahawk has one mission: fixed/semi-fixed target strike. This UCAV can do fixed/mobile target strike, ISR, OCA/DCA, SEAD/DEAD, CAS, BAI/AI, and ASuW.

      In A2A, the 700+nm range (near indefinite endurance with AAR) is the big sell, plus the ability to find air targets on its own. It provides another layer, well outside SM-6 range. It can be used offensively to help gain air superiority over an enemy's airspace.

      As far as its effectiveness in A2A, that's debatable. If you think of it as a supersonic, high altitude, stealthy SAM site, and don't try to compare it to a manned fighter, its value becomes clear.

  5. A Cruiser no a Frigate or DE yes. That's actually what the LCS was supposed to be. Then they added more missions and goals and such.

    1. Feel free to disagree with my proposal but, in so doing, address how to perform in times of decreased support as I describe in the post.

  6. An estimate of displacement would also be helpful.
    Are we talking 12,000 tons, 15,000 tons, 20,000 tons?

    As others have mentioned, extensive heavy armour is not very useful in the modern day because sensors can't be armoured and even an early model Exocet can mission kill your ship by getting a lucky hit on your radars.
    And trying to marry stealth with AAW and UAV operation is also illogical, because if both of the latter missions require significant signals emission, that will render stealth shaping useless if the other side can simply use passive sensors.
    Multiple 8" guns -- are we talking a revival of Mark 71? Is it necessary, when AGS is already developed and can benefit from economies of scale?

    If anything, this ship looks a lot like DDG-1000, which fills every criteria aside from the heavy armour. And CNO is most readily a critic of that particular class of ship.
    A more rational class of cruiser, might be:
    -12,000 tons, large enough for IEPS and future growth as well as a slightly larger AMDR than what Flight III burke would have
    -Conventional flared hull, with some RCS reduction measures, think Type 45 but not excessive like zumwalt, given it will have an AAW role as well
    -A single AGS (or better yet, use the tried, true, and cheap Mk-45)
    -128 Mk-48 VLS, arranged conservatively like current ticos, and can use all forseeable weapons like LRASM, SM-6, SM-3 (Mk-57 can't fit on the periphery of a flared hull, and takes up too much area in centre of deck)
    -Large central hangar enough for 3 MH-60s or a large number of small UAVs
    -A self defense oriented ASW suite
    -2-6 total CIWS+RWS mounts

    A mostly evolutionary rather than revolutionary design.

    1. Rick Joe, I'm not a naval architect so I haven't got a clue what the displacement would be beyond "big". Sorry!

      I've previously and extensively discussed armor for ships. Check the archives.

      UAVs do not necessarily render the home ship's stealth useless. I'm talking about relatively small UAVs for surveillance out to a few hundred miles. The UAVs could use focused, burst transmissions which would not cause any compromise of stealth. I'm not talking about Predator size UAVs.

      AGS does not currently have an anti-ship capability and, yes, bigger is better. Mk71 it is!

      My proposed ship in no way resembles a Zumwalt other than, perhaps, overall size. The Zumwalt has no area AAW capability, no extensive UAV capability, poor seakeeping, etc.

      You are quite correct about the evolutionary rather than revolutionary aspect. Very well said!

    2. Burst transmissions simply will not work for UAS largely due to safety-of-flight requirements. A near-continuous EO/IR or radar feed back to the control station is a must to avoid air traffic.

      "Sense and avoid" is a requirement levied by civil air authorities. DOD really don't have a choice but to comply. And it's probably going to be a long time before those rules gets changed.

      You say this ship does not resemble a Zumwalt. I find that doubtful since both ships are big, stealthy and carries lots of missiles. The price tag will certainly bear a striking resemblance. If anything your battlecruiser will be more expensive.

    3. CNO,

      As originally spec'd, the Zumwalts had AAW capability with DBR.

      AGS had an unguided round that could've been used for anti-shipping. The mount traverse may still be too slow, but it's probably easier and cheaper to fix that than to bring the Mk71 out of the dustbin.

      As far as UAV capability, the Zumwalts have a much larger flight deck and hangar than the DDG-51s. Depending on the size of the UAV, it could carry quite a few.

      Carrying a big AEW radar, however will require a large aircraft. The British use Sea Kings (and eventually Merlins) to carry their Searchwater ASaC radar. It is the epitome of a "poor man's" Hawkeye. If you want to have a 24x7 AEW orbit, though, you will need 4-6 aircraft. If you want to carry "dozens" of UAVs of any useful size, you will need some sort of carrier.

      As far as "poor" seakeeping, the DDG-1000 should be significantly better than the Burkes in most sea. There are just some that will, theoretically, capsize it. ;)

  7. Why not go for a modern dreadnought, A ship that raises the stake's so high and so fast our potential enemies would be left in the dust, General Atomics and BAE systems have been experimenting with rail guns accurate enough to hit a 5-metre (16 ft) target over 200 nmi (370 km) away while firing at 10 shots per minute Such weapons are expected to be powerful enough to do a little more damage than a BGM-109 Tomahawk missile at a fraction of the projectile cost. So if you built a platform around two of these weapon systems and add to that a pair of LaWS a directed-energy weapon simular to that fitted to the USS ponce with maybe a number of mk41 missile tubes for more conventional weapons, all built on a semi stealthy platform featuring sensors similar to an Arleigh Burke-class or type 45 destroyer with a good sized landing area to the rear of the ships for helicopters or drones, I believe you could be looking at something special.

    1. karl, I suspect that the Navy is hoping to move in that direction with the Zumwalts when/if the rail guns and lasers become practical. Unfortunately, I think the time frame is probably another decade or two, yet, for the weapons to be fully developed.

  8. I find it interesting that ComNavOps is advocating what is clearly a very complicated and likely very expensive ship. Yet there is a complete absence of discussion on cost or affordability.

    Let’s assume that his battlecruiser has roughly the same unit cost as a Zumwalt – which is very generous given the size, stealthiness, UAV launching, etc. That works out to roughly $7 billion per copy.

    The Navy’s shipbuilding budget has historically averaged $12 billion a year, of which roughly half will be committed to new CVNs and SSBN replacement. Which leaves about $6 billion for the surface fleet.

    Given the assumed unit cost of $7 billion for a ComNavOps battlecruiser, we’d be able to build slightly less than one per year. And that’s assuming we forgo any new DDGs, SSNs, FF(X), etc.

    The end result is that we’d likely see overall fleet numbers tumble into the mid-100s probably by the mid-2020s as the Burkes hit their 30-year lifespan. We’d see a significant decline in global presence and fleet combat power.

    ComNavOps bemoans decreasing fleet numbers and the importance of quantity over quality in wartime. Yet now he’s essentially advocating that we throw our entire surface combatant budget into a small number of very expensive, highly capable battlecruisers.

    So… not only does ComNavOps battlecruiser what contradict scholars say about fleet design (Hughes) – it doesn’t even seem to be logically consistent with his own views.


    1. Note that the $7 billion I cited includes up-front R&D and other non-recurring costs. Costs which might have been spread over multiple vessels - had Zumwalt buy not been reduced to 3 ships.

      Given the technological complexity of ComNavOps battlecruiser (size, stealthiness, UAVs, armoring, multiple 8" guns) - it's very likely we'd run into the very same problem.

      We'd choke on the upfront costs and end up with a very small number of very expensive "tiffany" ships. While reducing the overall fleet size dramatically.


  9. Wasn't this role filled successfully during the cold war by the Oliver Hazard Perry frigates. I would propose a global frigate design (similar to RN type 26). I would like to see the USN remove the towed array sonar from the Arleigh Burke's and put them in a new class of long ranged frigate. Such a vessel would have 32-48 VLS launchers, a medium gun, scan eagle uav and a modern medium range 3D radar.
    Such a vessel would be used as both task force protection and single ship deployments and be fairly cheap and survivable.
    If you wanted a more survivable ship, could leave some Areligh Burke's as multi mission ships and use them.

    1. Dave P, no, the cruiser is intended to operate in high risk, challenging missions against significant opposition and with little support. A Perry, or any other true frigate, doesn't come close to filling that role.

    2. Com,

      Your article makes perfect sense to me. But would the policy wonks at the Department of Defense concur? What you are really talking about is a warship that is capable of “showing the flag” anywhere around the globe independently of a carrier battle group but at times could be deployed with a CBG. The type of ship you are talking about would have enough weapons, sensors and aircraft on board to sufficiently defend itself plus go on attack against a moderately or more heavily armed warship or force and still be able to absorb “hits” coming in.

      To me what is needed is something like the proposals the Navy looked at back in the 70's and 80's. Sort of like the old sea control ship that Admiral Zumwalt himself advocated. An air capable Spruance class or something akin to the French Navy’s Jeanne d'Arc, Italian Navy’s Vittorio Veneto or even the former Soviet Union’s Moskva type air capable cruisers would be a better fit for a future US Navy.

      I think combining a air capable mission with enough space onboard for AAW, ASW, and SUW would be a laudable idea. There have been several proposals in the recent past to suggest that an idea like this could be undertaken. However I believe the main reason why the United States Navy never decided to go this route was quite simple. The Navy already operated several different Amphibious aircraft capable ships in addition to aircraft carriers. Why spend money meant for those ships on a smaller hulled air capable ship?

      However, if the US Navy were to consider a smaller air-capable mission ship this would seem to accomplish the best of both worlds. With the Defense budget shrinking in the next few years, why not construct a ship that could easily supplant a large 100,000 plus ton carrier and associated battle group and be able to defend itself while at the same time carrying out missions in far flung places. Those missions could be in places of the world where a CBG would not necessarily be needed.

      The size of this ship could be somewhere in the vicinity of 20 to 25,000 tons, and have an overall length of 700 feet. Considerably less than an Amphib carrier, and a whole lot less than a CVN. But of course the ship would not have even half the air group of an amphib carrier. Possibly up to 12 aircraft could be carried along with guns and a large VLS missile battery.

      See the following:

      I think that it is well past the point in time where the Navy stops procuring the LCS, and start spending money on more reliable platforms. I would even go this far:

      Stop the LCS buy at 20 total ships. Use all 20 for mine warfare and drug interdiction. Then I would stop with the upgrade to the Flight III Burkes and instead develop the AMDR for a fit on an amphibious ship, like an LPD. I think you may have touched upon this in one of your other posts.

      I would then continue purchasing Flight IIA Burkes, develop a larger amphib for the AMDR, and then build an air capable destroyer as is mentioned in the proceeding links.

      In the end, the Navy would get the type of AMDR ship it really needs, would get many more DDG-51's and then get a very capable air capable destroyer.

      Sounds pretty simple to me. Of course the Navy probably would never go for this.

      Thanks for reading.


    3. Rey, what you're describing is a bit different in execution than the cruiser I've proposed. The combination cruiser/aviation ship has been built several times in history by various countries. It's one of those designs that, on paper, seem attractive but just don't seem to work out in practice. The countries that have tried it have eventually dropped it. Japan has some ships today that kind of meet that design criteria and some of the smaller carriers of other countries also are in the neighborhood though less heavily armed.

      One of the problems with the type you describe is the lack of effectiveness of the air group. Allowing for maintenance and whatnot, 12 aircraft would only translate to half a dozen or so available at any given moment. There's just not a lot that half a dozen aircraft can accomplish relative to the disproportionate volume of ship they'd require (not to mention crew and fuel/munitions storage). Still, it's an idea that keeps cropping up.

      Friedman's design series book on cruisers discusses the various USN proposals in some detail along with line drawings. It makes for fascinating reading.

      The rest of your comments are quite reasonable and certainly constitute a better path than the Navy is currently taking!

    4. Of course, the UK's new carriers are not expecting to set sail with more than 12 fighters either (+ helos).

      John L

  10. Do you really think a new and expensive cruiser is realistic at this time? Surely increasing warship numbers by building frigates should be your top priority? This ship seems to go against your own ideas of larger number of single mission ships that are cheaper to operate. This concept would seem to divert resources away from where its needed most; increasing the number of warships available.

    1. Dave P, you're quite right that I favor larger numbers of smaller, more focused function ships. However, that doesn't mean that I don't see a need for some higher end, highly capable ships. This is one of those ships. They would be built in small numbers (9, perhaps?) and be expensive.

      As far as cost, this ship would be unaffordable currently. However, I would also drop the LCS, cancel the F-35, stop building expensive amphibious ships, curtail the current carrier trend, etc. That would free up enormous sums of money to pay for a lesser number of high end ships (this cruiser, for instance) as well as large numbers of smaller, single mission ships. Does that answer your question?

    2. Yes definitely. Your ideas for a budget constrained USN certainly sound workable and would save lots of money. It would be interesting to expand on it to include the other services and come up with a less expensive way to conduct the pacific shift.

      An example would be the cancellation of the new manned stealth bomber for the air force. I can see the cost for that spiralling out of control leading to fewer airframes.

    3. Dave P, that's a great point about the AF's next gen stealth bomber. The B-2 was so expensive we only built 20. I'm not sure how many fewer airframes we can build!

    4. Thanks CNO. What I'm getting at is how does the navy's strategy fit in with that of the air force? How do US forces compliment the defence of partner nations in the pacific?

      I just realized what i'm asking. An end to "navy-matters" and the birth of "defense-matters blogspot"! Something that looks at the capabilities of US forces, allied forces and Chinese forces. A big ask I know!

    5. Dave P, is that all you want? Just a coherent vision of the entire world and the future of humanity? I should be able to knock that out by lunch! :)

      Seriously, what you're asking is exactly the geopolitical strategy vision I've been saying we need coupled with the resulting military strategy to support it and with the various international relationships thrown in. It's a great question and exactly the right one to ask to base a serious study of all this on. However, you've also correctly identified that such writings are beyond the scope of this blog. If you haven't already seen it, there's a blog called world affairs board or something similar that might be what you're looking for. I do have a coherent vision of what America's geopolitical strategy should be but this is not the forum for it.

      I'll throw this out to you. I believe that America is the hope of the world due to its geographical size, population, raw materials, wealth, isolated location, culture, and spiritual ethics. No other country has this combination of attributes. What we lack is the vision to turn that into action because we lack the long term, overall goal. Being the hope of the world is one thing; turning that hope into action is another.

      A lot of people back away from considering a coherent geopolitical strategy because they think it's too complex. There's too many countries and too many factors that are constantly changing. That's ridiculous. My geopolitical strategy can be written in one short sentence. All the rest - the other countries and factors and events - are just the things that occur while implementing that strategy.

      As I said, this isn't the forum so I'll leave it at that. See if you can't come up with your own overarching strategy (assuming you're a US citizen!). I bet you can if you think about it a bit.

    6. LOL. I'm actually a Brit. I was thinking more along the lines of a US version of the website. I think your blog is great, which is why I would like to see your ideas expanded.

  11. In a day or two, I will post illustrations of my Capital Seaframe Warship (CSW-21) concept which I have been working on for approximately two years -- as I have time from the demands of my day job - and which has been discussed on the forums for about as long.

    The latest revision to Concept CSW-21 is Major Update No. 6 dated 17 March 2014, and which includes a Flight I, a Flight III, and Flight numbers II-A, II-B, and II-C. (A Flight II-D is in the works, but not done as of yet.)

    I am in the process of writing a paper to be entitled "The Capital Seaframe Warship: An exercise in Risk Management" which will use the CSW-21 concept as a catalyst for examining a number of related trends and interacting issues in weapons technology, future warfare scenarios, fleet architecture design, Navy shipbuilding, platform design, and the platform acquisition process.

    But for the moment .... if I can just figure out how to keep Photobucket from trashing my high-resolution graphics, we will be in business as far as getting the latest illustrations up for a look-see.

    1. CNO, Photobucket is not cooperating with displaying my graphical images at their original high resolutions. It is supposed to have this capability, but it refuses to work per its written instructions.

      Later this weekend I will send you a high resolution version of my large CSW-21 illustration chart via email.

      I will have to investigate other options for storing these graphics online.

      In the meantime, I may be forced as an expedient measure to split the big chart into 1024 x 768 pixel chunks in order to display it directly.

      (Hope springs eternal, you know.)

      Let's try this experiment and see what happens:


      CSW-21 Comparison Chart 01, JPG Format:

      JPG Format, using Image Tag:

      JPG Format, using Direct Link:


      CSW-21 Comparison Chart 01, PNG Format:

      PNG Format, using Image Tag:

      PNG Format, using Direct Link:


      To get the high resolution version in each format, click on the image when it appears. The high res version should open up. You may then download the JPG or the PNG file to your own computer for the various viewing options you may have.



      Based on some commentary, from CNO, I am going to take these images down for a day while I make a revision to the SSDs on the CSW-21's bows. They are probably too vulnerable there to waves.
      The graphics will have a different URL when they are up again.

  12. CNO,

    You state the following for the missions of this new capital ship:

    1. "War time missions would include strike, anti-shipping, ASuW, harbor/base attack, and the like."

    Strike (including harbor/base attack), anti-shipping, and ASuW are better done by airpower. Tomahawks and other ship-launched missiles are bit-players. Certainly important, but not central to those missions.

    2. "Peace time missions would include freedom of navigation, high risk intelligence collection, enemy ship monitoring, and “territorial dispute resolution”. Examples would be shadowing the various new Chinese ships, discouraging N. Korean missile shoots in international waters, “disputing” fraudulent Chinese territorial grab attempts, and providing high visibility presence off Iran."

    Freedom of navigation can be exercised by any vessel. It is handy to have a certain amount of bulk and weapons to be able to flex its muscle. However, it doesn't have to be a capital ship. In fact, on Midrats recently,Professor Rubel of the Naval War College stated that you don't risk capital ships for sea control. You only risk them when command of the seas is at stake. Freedom of navigation is a sea control task. Here's a paper of his that goes into some detail,

    High risk intel collection is also not a great use of a capital ship. Use a stealthy UAV, submarine or even SEAL team instead.

    Enemy ship monitoring can be done from the air, from a non-capital vessel, or from a submarine. It doesn't require a capital ship to do this. Russian "fishing trawlers" regularly monitored our CVBG during the Cold War.

    How would such a cruiser discourage N. Korean missile shoots into international waters? Shoot them down?

    1. B.Smitty, c'mon, now. You read the two "independent" posts, right? You noted that the entire premise was that support, in particular airpower, would be unavailable to much greater extents in the near future and that this cruiser would be filling in the gap, right?

      Of course, strike is better performed by airpower - IF IT'S AVAILABLE. That was the entire premise of the post - that it won't be readily avaiable.

      Moving on... Russian fishing trawlers can safely perform intel and monitoring BECAUSE WE DON'T ATTACK THEM. We could use fishing trawlers, too, except that NKorea has shown the willingness to seize ships (Peublo) or sink them (the SKorean ship that was torpedoed), China has shown the willingness to force down aircraft (the EP-3 incident), Iran has seized British boats, and Russia/Soviet has repeatedly demonstrated the willingness to "bump" our warships, among other noteworthy incidents. AGAIN, in an era of minimal support, a ship that can take care of itself is highly desirable.

      Further, I'm not talking about conducting intelligence gathering and monitoring from hundreds of miles away. I'm talking about provocative, high risk missions from 12.5 nm off someone's coast that are as much about sending political messages as they are about the intel. I'm talking about shadowing Chinese ships from a hundred yards astern, also to largely send a message. I'm talking about shooting down NKorean missiles that are a "threat" to the monitoring cruiser. I'm talking about freedom of navigation exercised 12.5 nm off Iran or China's coast. I'm talking about "forcing" Chinese ships out of territories that they have no right to be in. And so on ...

      You may disagree about the missions but it's clear that this is the type of ship to perform them. It's also clear that airpower is going to be much less available then it has been. We can either not perform the missions or we can fill the gap with a ship such as I've described.

    2. It's the opportunity cost. We'd have more money to make airpower available, or fill out fleet numbers, if we don't buy another capital ship.

      I'd much rather have the Russians attack a fishing trawler or armed patrol vessel than a capital ship. That's the point Prof. Rubel was trying to make. Exercising sea control entails a degree of risk. The risk is that someone starts shooting. This in and of itself would be bad, but losing a capital ship in this situation would be a nightmare.

      The NKoreans could torpedo this cruiser too.

      The Chinese harassed Cowpens. Who's to say they won't harass this large cruiser? Cowpens retreated because we don't want to start a war with China, not because it didn't have the means to respond to aggression.

      I don't disagree with the missions. But buying some number of multi-billion dollar large warships will entail NOT buying something else.

      History is replete with examples of lone, or lightly escorted, large surface combatants dying when things got hot. (e.g. Bismark, Yamato, General Belgrano, Indianapolis) Yes, many smaller ships have been sunk too, but it's the big ones that everyone remembers. ;)

    3. B.Smitty, wow! You are giving me zero credit, here. You're a long time reader and good commenter. You don't really think I'm advocating adding another capital ship on top of what we already have at a time when we have no excess budget, do you? You've probably noticed that I've stated dozens of times in previous posts that I would pay for any new ideas by terminating LCS, Zumwalt (moot point), JSF, JHSV, large amphibious ships, and halting carrier construction for several years, among other cost saving program cuts.

      While you'd rather have the Russians attack a small boat, I'd rather have them not attack anything because they recognize they don't have the firepower or desire during peacetime. I'd rather they received a blunt message. Sure, if someone wanted to muster a large enough fleet, enough aircraft, and enough missiles, they could sink this ship during peacetime but the force required would constitute an act of all out war (of course, whether we'd respond is another issue!). "Getting hot" is completely different in peacetime than war. This ship would be essentially immune to peacetime attacks like the Peublo/EP-3/etc.

      As far as war, I'm not advocating sending the ship on one-way suicide missions into the teeth of enemy defenses. I'm suggesting it could operate independently on APPROPRIATE missions or act as the centerpiece of a small group of its own, again with little or no support.

    4. CNO,

      I'm curious what your notional fleet would look like. How many Independent Cruisers. How many carriers? How many amphibs? Frigates? Burkes? Submarines? Others?

      I toy around with notional fleet designs with a Google Drive spreadsheet.

      Here is a template version,

      The green areas are where you enter the type, unit cost, fleet count and service life. The orange areas are for adding additional parameters like the number of aviation spots, missiles, and crew.

      The big red number at the bottom is the annualized yearly SCN cost for the fleet. I've looked at various options at $13-15 billion per year.

      If you outline your proposal, i can plug the numbers in. Or if you have a Google Drive account (a regular Gmail account will work), you can copy the spreadsheet and toy around with it yourself. Feel free to email me if you want to discuss it further.

      Obviously this spreadsheet is a major simplification. It doesn't take into account R&D costs, scheduling of programs, yard workload and so on. However, I have found it useful to examine trade offs and various fleet concepts.

      The first tab is a rough outline of the current USN plan (not accounting for the cuts to the LCS). The second tab replicates the Capt. Hughes' New Navy Fighting Machine. The third tab shows a fleet design espoused by Capt. Jerry Hendrix's (of "Buy Fords, Not Ferraris" fame).

    5. B.Smitty, I've taken a glance at the spreadsheet but it will take some time to absorb the details and meaning. I don't know if the spreadsheet itself or even a written summary of it is of sufficient interest for a blog but I suspect that some aspect of it is (hi/lo ratio and how it relates to peace/war missions, for example, or numbers of cargo types relative to major amphib operations). Do you have any interest in guest authoring a post regarding some aspect of the work? If so contact me at


      where you substitute the "underscore", "at", and "dot" with the appropriate symbols. I either don't have your address or, if I ever did, I've lost it.


Comments will be moderated for posts older than 30 days in order to reduce spam.