Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Socks For Christmas

No one wants to get socks for Christmas and yet they're far more useful than most of the shiny new toys we hope for.  Similarly, when it comes to military procurement we all gravitate toward the exciting, big ticket items.  However, it’s the unexciting items that will ultimately make or break the Navy’s success.  Just as logistics and numbers, rather than technology, determine ultimate battlefield success, so too do the mundane procurements determine the ultimate success of the Navy (or military in general).  While we focus on, and debate the merits of, the high price, high technology weapon systems, it’s the unexciting but vital pieces of equipment that enable the weapon systems to succeed.  The carrier and its airwing get all the attention but it’s the forklifts, galley equipment, UNREP gear, spare parts, and thousands of other equally unexciting equipment that makes the carrier succeed.

OK, granted, but so what?  Where is this going? 

Well, just as most of us focus on the exciting weapons and systems, so too does the Navy.  While understandable on our part, the Navy is the professional war fighting organization and should know better.  Here’s a partial list of some items that illustrate the unexciting but vital equipment that is currently un- or under- funded.

Port Repair Equipment – The military believes (at least, I think they do although public statements and actions cast some doubt on this) that a sustained, heavy assault can only be logistically supported through a port.  ComNavOps has some doubt about this philosophy but that’s beside the point.  If port seizure is critical to a successful assault then we need heavy duty port repair and building capabilities.  We need to be able to transport and install, or repair, or build on-site, heavy lift cranes, piers, and all the other equipment associated with rapid loading and unloading of cargo ships.  Further, we need to be able to do this while under fire.  An intelligent, determined enemy will recognize this Achilles Heel of assault and will make every effort to deny us the use of captured ports.  Port facilities will be destroyed, sabotaged, and continually attacked.

Ship Based Counterbattery – During the initial stages of an assault the Marines are going to lack counterbattery capability until their artillery can be brought ashore and setup along with counterbattery radars and such.  While aviation assets can offer a degree of support, only a true counterbattery capability can neutralize devastating artillery barrages.  This capability can only come from ships equipped with a dedicated counterbattery function.  Unfortunately, this capability does not exist and is not an active procurement or development item.

C-RAM – As with the need for counterbattery support for Marines during the initial phase of a landing, there is a need for anti-mortar, anti-artillery, anti-rocket  defense.  This need is being met on land with the C-RAM adaptation of the Phalanx CIWS.  However, until these units can be transported ashore and set up, the Navy will need to provide the protection at the point of landing.  While the Navy has CIWS, my understanding is that is not C-RAM capable, as is, it is short ranged, and very few units are mounted on any given ship.  A more robust capability is needed.

Heavy Lift UNREP – We’ve mentioned this one numerous times.  JSF engines are too heavy for existing UNREP transfer gear and the Navy has deferred upgrades to the handling equipment for at least a decade.  The only ship that can handle the weight of JSF engines, currently, is the Ford and there is no ship that can transfer the engines to the Ford.  For now, carriers cannot get replacement JSF engines while at sea.

Carrier Based Tanker – This one is obvious.  We’re using combat aircraft, the Hornet, as tankers.  Every Hornet used as a tanker is one less available for actual combat from an already shrunken airwing.  We’re racking up wear and tear and consuming the limited number of rated airframe flight hours performing a non-combat task that could be better performed by a generic airframe like the S-3 Viking, as we just recently discussed.

Target Drones and Threat Surrogates – DOT&E, the military’s testing group, has been after the Navy to obtain or develop realistic target drones for many years.  Whether it’s drones that can simulate known enemy cruise and ballistic missile flight profiles and performance, enemy diesel sub movements and emissions, high performance enemy aircraft, or enemy small surface craft, the Navy has steadfastly refused to obtain realistic target drones and threat surrogates.  Weapon systems are being fielded without being properly tested under realistic conditions.

LST Replacement – The LST offered a tremendous ability to land large quantities of men and materiel and, in particular, heavy equipment.  We’ve lost that capability except in very small increments.  An LCAC, for instance, can land a single tank at a time – not very efficient.  We need an LST replacement.

M1-Based Combat Engineer Vehicle – Properly utilized, a Combat Engineer Vehicle (CEV) is worth its weight in gold and, arguably, may be the most valuable vehicle on the battlefield.  The existing M728 CEV is based on the old M60 Patton tank chassis and entered service back in the 1960’s.  We need an updated CEV based on the Abrams and incorporating the lessons of recent conflicts, in particular, the type of urban warfare needs we see today.

There are, undoubtedly, many other equally worthy items that I’ve overlooked.  The Navy’s (and, to be fair, the military in general) focus on the shiny toys is eroding our overall combat capability – the JSF is the poster child for this.  We need to relearn the lesson that combat is not just about the shiny new toys.  It’s about the million mundane items that make a viable combat organization.

15 comments:

  1. What is that old saying?

    Amateurs study tactics, professionals study logistics

    The classics are timeless.

    Without the Mulberry harbors, the Normandy rapid build up could not have been achieved. Then once ashore, the lack of working railroads, required the Redball Express had to be created to support the rapid advance until the Antwerp approaches were cleared.

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  2. The Shark Class submersible Destroyer is a hybrid Destroyer sub designed for complete independent operation, flexible multi-role duties and long term survivability. The ship will achieve these goals by using speed, stealth, armor, arms and the ability to operate underwater. No other ship existing or envisioned has the Sharks unique combination of stealth and firepower. With a length of 440 ft. and a beam of 78ft. she has a shallow draft of only 12 ft. The Vessel is a semi planning mono hull design using water jet propulsion from a mixture of power sources. Although she is a shallow draft vessel with heavy armor and should handle poorly in rough seas, she has a freeboard of 18ft more than the Arleigh Burke’s. As well, the Shark has the luxury of submerging and thus avoiding the inherent dangers of operating in heavy seas. All her weapons and electronics are stowed in retractable containers giving the Shark extremely clean and angular lines. She has two huge flight decks and a hanger big enough for two Blackhawks. The Sharks RORO deck can accommodate up to 200 men and their vehicles.
    The primary uses for this warship would be carrier group forward scout and interdiction, harassment and destruction of enemy ships and installations, and delivery, recovery and support both logistically and with firepower for up to a company size element of Special Operation troops anywhere there is 12 feet of water.

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    1. Wait, wait, you forgot to include the flying sub from Voyage to the Bottom of the sea!

      And forget Special Operations, you need Jedi knights and bear cavalry!

      GAB

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    2. I think you also forgot the 16 inch guns, the warp drive, the transporter and the deflector shields...

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    3. OK, easy there, guys! This is clearly a "what if" modelling concept.

      Anon, why did you post this? What point were you trying to make?

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    4. Okay, Sorry,

      We should save the flying sub for LCS!
      ;)

      GAB

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    5. CNO, As mentioned.. War innovates. The" What if " you pasted on the Shark was so close 70 years ago, DEFINITELY NOT A WHAT IF..
      submersible destroyers were the most advances technology of their time. Some History, enjoy some real research... Col K
      http://bayourenaissanceman.blogspot.com/2011/05/weekend-warships-3-submarines-is-old.html

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  3. It should be noted that this ship is compiled of known and successful platforms, weapons, systems, and components modified to work in concert and present a warship that is easy to produce, extremely versatile, very tough and yet menacingly effective.
    On the surface, she is amazingly fast and agile. Her hull design and propulsion are based on the famous Fincantari jet ferry’s semi planning monohull. Her quad water jets are fired by both diesel and electric power plants which combined offer speeds up to 45KTS. This gives the ship a wide range of options in the fields of speed, distance and stealth. The Sharks diesel electric front jet thrusters allow the ship crazy maneuverability including the ability to move in reverse rapidly. Her electric motors can run entirely on batteries and the ship has both rollout solar panel arrays and a half megawatt wind turbine to replenish the batteries as well as the traditional diesel and steam turbine generators.

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  4. Because the ship is submersible, it can launch and recover any boat or mini sub up to 100ft long from her flight deck with no cranes or forklifts. Some examples would be side by side launch of two Mark V boats or 8 LAV’s at one time or one LCAC. This new configuration puts the Seal Delivery System back on the menu boys. If fact, 2 subs could be mounted on the flight deck and because of the vessels shallow draft the teams can be released much closer to shore drastically reducing exposure time. With a max operating depth of 120 meters and a dive time max of ten days she’s not designed for a world cruise but to get in and out quickly while successfully completing her mission and surviving. All weapons, masts, radar etc. are stowed in their own water tight steam piston driven retracable containers making the Sharks footprint even harder to read. Her shallow draft and relatively flat bottom allows her to beach both fore and aft in certain conditions with RORO doors fore and aft.
    The vessels shallow draft and associated wide beam also allow the superstructure to rise at extremely advantageous angles giving the vessel’s superstructure a pyramid cut in half look. The first advantage gained is stealth. Her angular construction, at some points sloping more than 50 degrees; make her difficult to pick up on radar leaving the 440 foot Shark with a signature of a 40 ft. fishing boat. The second advantage of extreme angles is to greatly enhance the ships survivability by forcing the majority of rounds to hit at ricochet angles and bounce off. These angles offer a hydrodynamic advantage as well. As the Shark operates in various stages of submersion, her streamlined superstructure offers little resistance which allows her to manouver at higher speeds, up to 20 Kts, underwater with better fuel efficiency and less audible turbulence.

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    1. Again, without commenting on the merits of the concept, what is your point?

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    2. My point sir is that the Navy has no ability to think outside the box.
      They regain that ability somehow when the bullets and missiles start flying but then it's often too late. Ike told us that the military industrial complex will dictate to us what we want and sadly this has become or MO. The LCS F-35 are ugly examples of big corps telling fighting men what they need. My ship was designed to support a mission and the warriors who carry that mission out.
      I would be honored to have you comment on the merits of the concept. The drawings and specs for this vessel are in the hands of Adm McRaven at Socom. Your blog has assisted me greatly in my design and I thank you for that. As I am an Army Guy and needed to boneup on my warships I found your blog a veritable encyclopedia of all things Navy. again thanks for your honesty and integrity in a time where these entities seem to have decreasing importance. Lt.Col.(Ret.)Cook

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    3. LtCol Cook, now that's a valid observation! If you haven't already, you might consider posting your design on the Shipbucket website. The site is dedicated to ship design, including "what if's", and has a standardized and easy to use Paint format. There are lots of people who specialize in ship design and would be happy to evaluate and discuss your design. Let me know if opt to go that route. I'd love to follow the discussion.

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  5. Just for you CNO ARMOR! lots of it!!!
    Add these extreme angles to two and a half inches of high yield strength steel armor and now you have the most heavily armored modern warship in the world and hence the most survivable. The ship’s hull is double layered with the exterior being one and a half inches of steel and the interior hull one half inches with a Kevlar anti spalling layer inside. In between, a unique steel half inch W arrangement connects the 2 hulls and seeks to further divert penetrating projectiles from the interior. These armor improvements make the ship Ice Class and should even give her some ice breaking capability even though she’s not designed for it. As a sub, she can easily break through the ice as all her systems are stowed below decks. The weight estimates to up armor an Arleigh Burke destroyer run about 800 tons. The Shark should carry around 1000 tons of armor resulting in a 2 ft. overall thickness dual hull with two and a half inches of high yield strength steel. Add this to a superstructure angle of 45 degrees and the ability to be gone in fifteen seconds, and the Shark can surly strike, deliver, survive and run.

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  6. I think I posted in one of your earlier sections, but a C-17 sized amphibious cargo plane would provide massive improvements to Navy logistics. No more need to be within CH-53 range of land or a carrier. A floodable cargo bay capability to deploy small boats, minisubs, or light amphibious armor would also be nice.

    Randall Rapp

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    1. Randall, tell me more about your concept. Where do you see this plane being used? In assaults? Supporting rear bases? Something else? How do you address the survivability (or lack thereof) of the plane and if it only is used in rear areas is it really a benefit? Have you seen any studies about getting a plane that large off the water? Howard Hughes had some problems with that! Tell me more.

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