Saturday, August 23, 2014

New Navy Fighting Machine

Many commenters have, over the last couple of years, made reference to the New Navy Fighting Machine (NNFM) (Naval Postgraduate School, “The New Navy Fighting Machine”, Hughes et al, Aug 2009) as a viable and desirable alternative to the current naval force structure.  It’s time to take a closer look at the concept.  This is a long post but, hey, the NNFM document is long!

The first aspect of the NNFM that requires understanding is the definition of the role of the Navy under the NNFM which is quite different from the Navy’s current role.  The document introduces this change in role,

“…  a substantially different American Navy, the purposes of which were, first, to influence China at one end of the conflict spectrum, and second, to support “small wars” on the ground and conduct maritime constabulary operations6 in many places around the world.”

This is the key to understanding and evaluating the NNFM.  The NNFM is envisioned to serve two purposes,

  • Influence China
  • Support small wars

Note the word “influence”.  It is key to understanding the NNFM force structure. 

As the document states in closing,

“… the most important goal of this study is to describe a more distributed combat capability for sea control and the projection of national influence from the sea.”

Notable is the change in direction away from an emphasis on fighting large, regional wars.  As the document states,

“Our study conjectures the ships of such a new fighting fleet, …  is affordable because it puts less emphasis on fighting large regional wars than in the past two decades.”

However, this change in emphasis has its own potential flaws and any fleet premised on these flawed points may, itself, be flawed.  For example, the document goes on to say,

“… the threat of striking the Chinese mainland seems less and less valuable as a way to influence affairs in East Asia.”

That is an utterly ridiculous statement and concept.  The threat of striking the Chinese mainland is, ultimately, the only viable threat that can influence them, militarily.  Physical or economic destruction are the only credible threats any country will respond to.  If the military rules out physical destruction then the military can have no influence on China which directly contradicts the initial premise that the one of the two main roles for this new Navy is to influence China.

Moving on, NNFM postulates several components of the strategy of influence, some good and some questionable.  For example,

“Forward offense with many submarines, to sink Chinese warships and merchant ships and lay mines near Chinese ports.”

This is an example of a good component.  Submarine warfare offers the US an effective combat force that is able to operate in the A2/AD zone with relative impunity.  Submarines offer the US a substantial advantage and we should emphasize it and build upon it.

Another component,

“Affordable numbers of small, lethal inshore combatants capable of demonstrating commitment to defend, alternatively, Taiwan, South Korea, the Philippines, Vietnam, Indonesia, or Malaysia.“

This statement is an example of a questionable component.  No conceivable small combatant is going to have the power to counter the type of attacks they would likely see.  Pitting patrol vessels or missile boats against cruise/ballistic missiles and aircraft is a lopsided mismatch, to say the least.  The likelihood of appropriate levels of combat for these small combatants is, at best, questionable, and, more likely, unlikely.

The document further pursues this emphasis on small combatants by postulating their use in potentially high risk, high end combat situations.

“Hold open the option of putting a large number (say, twenty) of new, small, lethal American coastal combatants in survivable locations on the Taiwan coast. (Thirty are included in the green water component of the new fighting machine.) This is less risky than deploying a high-value CVN task force near Taiwan to demonstrate American commitment to resist an invasion, should we chose to do so.”

This is just an illogical concept.  While there is a certain validity to using low end, expendable vessels as a tripwire, they will certainly not demonstrate our “commitment to resist an invasion”.  A handful of easily destroyed, nearly defenseless vessels hardly demonstrate any commitment to resistance.  Arguably, their presence could be interpreted as a lack of commitment and a signal to the Chinese to take action.  After all, if we weren’t willing to risk a carrier group why would we respond to the sinking of a handful of small vessels?

The document continues to focus on the small combatants.

“Emphasis in the new fighting machine is on the flexibility of the green water component to scale to the intensity and duration of the operation.”

This concept is valid within limits.  Obviously, small combatants can only be “scaled up” so far before they exceed their combat capabilities.  I say “obviously” but it’s far from clear that it’s obvious to the authors given their belief that small combatants can be successfully used in defense of Taiwan.

The document offers some outstanding observations about training and the need to return to professionalism in areas such as MCM, ASW, and anti-swarm warfare.  It further describes the link between failing education levels of society and the performance of personnel in the Navy.  The ultimate conclusion drawn is that simpler ships may be easier to man and train for.  This is a particularly astute observation although the conclusion stops short of full application.  Overly complex and technologically demanding ships and systems are inherently unmaintainable (witness the fleetwide Aegis degradation).  Simpler systems operating at full effectiveness may actually be more effective than more advanced systems operating at degraded levels.  A comparison between a rotating radar system versus Aegis comes to mind.

The NNFM notes that maintaining the industrial base will be easier with a more distributed (smaller, single purpose ships) force structure.  ComNavOps concurs!

Following is a brief discussion of the various types of vessels that the NNFM envisions.

Coastal Combatant.  The NNFM envisions a class of small (600 t), fast ships armed with short range, multi-purpose missiles, 4 Harpoons, and a gun.  Their role would be to clear the littorals for subsequent operations.  Cost is estimated at $100M.  This may be an optimistic estimate.  Also, the concept of operations is, in my mind, somewhat suspect.  I’ll do a post on this particular topic, shortly.

Gunfire Support Ship.  The concept of a dedicated gun ship is outstanding, however, the suggested use of the AGS may well put the size and cost of the ship and gun out of reach.  In its automated guise, the AGS is a volume hog in ship design and very expensive given its very low production rate.  A better option might be the Mk71 8” gun.  Regardless, this is an excellent conceptual ship class.

Green Water CVL.  The NNFM calls for 8 CVLs intended primarily as green water support ships.  They will operate UAVs and vertical aircraft including 20 F-35Bs.  The document’s cost estimate of $3B per ship is reasonable based on the demonstrated cost of the America class assuming the size can be significantly reduced over the America class.

MCM.  The NNFM calls for 12 MCM vessels.  This number is nowhere near adequate for MCM operations and represents one of the biggest weaknesses of the conceptual force.  Numbers aside, the idea of a dedicated MCM vessel is outstanding as it will keep costs down and maximize competence.

ASW.  The NNFM calls for 12 inshore ASW vessels.  The same comments apply as for the MCM vessels.

Arsenal Ships.  The NNFM proposes small corvette size arsenal ships containing 50 land attack missiles (Tomahawk).  These ships would specifically replace the current SSGNs which carry around 150 missiles.  The document acknowledges the SSGN’s superior stealth but claims the Arsenal Ships will have an acceptable degree of risk.  This is another dubious claim that is unsupported.  These ships would offer tempting, lucrative, and visible targets for enemy forces.  The vastly superior stealth and survivability of the SSGNs more than compensates for any perceived advantage of distributed power.

Submarines.  The NNFM proposes a mix of 40 SSNs and 40 SSKs (AIP).  The document states that the focus of the submarine force is China.  That’s an outstanding observation.  Unfortunately, the viability and combat effectiveness of SSKs in a China scenario is unknown and represents a substantial risk.  If SSKs are not viable, that leaves the Navy with a very small SSN force.  In addition, the projected cost of the SSK at $700M each is highly suspect.  Nothing in the Navy’s procurement and construction history suggests such a price is achievable.

SSBN.  The NNFM calls for a force of 9 SSBNs which is substantially below current and historical levels.  I can’t address the wisdom of this as it involves nuclear strategic considerations and capabilities that I don’t have access to or data for.  I’ll leave this aspect with the simple observation that this is a substantial red flag that may or may not be wise.  In addition to a suspect number of submarines, the assumed cost is $4.5B per ship which even the Navy doesn’t believe can be achieved for the new SSBNs.  A far more likely cost is on the order of $6B.

BMD.  The NNFM calls for 9 BMD vessels and, in a departure from current design philosophy, envisions them as dedicated, single function ships incapable of anti-cruise missile defense or general area AAW.  In fact, the document suggests that the BMD ships may have to be protected by other ships.  Again, though, a force this small only allows for three ships to be routinely deployed and that seems woefully insufficient given the apparent emphasis on ballistic missiles by potential enemies.

Amphibious.  The NNFM proposes a mix of sealift ships but, significantly, does not support large opposed assaults.  As the document states,

“We emphasize amphibious lift, but not forcible entry.”

Again, this is an example of the NNFM’s de-emphasis on high end combat.


Green water ship support needs are acknowledged but somewhat glossed over with reference to tenders and vague, non-specific host nation basing.  The later, in particular, is a suspect assumption, given the historical difficulties in arranging host nation base rights and flyover rights during previous conflicts and events.

NNFM proposes a mix of carriers, 6 CVNs and 10 CVLs.  This results in a total aircraft reduction of 12% but that reduction is claimed to be offset by greater flexibility.  While flexibility may be an attractive quality (and that’s a dubious claim in this context), at some point numbers of combat aircraft matter and accepting a 12% reduction over an already reduced combined air wing size is problematic.  This also optimistically assumes the F-35 will be procured in the required amounts.  A realistic prognosis indicates that the F-35 buy will be significantly curtailed.

NNFM calls for the CVNs to be procured at a cost of $10B each.  This cost has already been shown to be $2B-$4B short for new carrier construction and the document, to be fair, acknowledges exactly this shortfall.  However, it then proceeds to use the suspect number in the cost calculations thus demonstrating a greater NNFM procurement capacity than can actually be had.  This aspect of the document is a bit disingenuous.  To estimate a low-ball cost, acknowledge that it’s low, and then proceed to use it to make a better looking case is deceptive, to say the least.

The NNFM addresses sealift and takes note of the total number of vessels available of all types.  The document offers an interesting statement,

“Delivery and sustainment ships are not expected to be attacked and so they are, properly in our judgment, large with very big capacities.”

That statement totally ignores the history of submarine warfare.  Do we really think China will not devote effort toward submarine attacks on these ships?  The entire history of U-Boat wars strongly suggests the reality of this issue.

The NNFM proposes a relatively small investment in sealift vessels based on the premise that these ships have very long lifetimes.  As we just stated, that may be true in peacetime but in a war with China those ships will have the same short lifetimes that cargo ships of all nations had during WWII.

The document addresses the conventional amphibious assault ships with some very pertinent observations.  Among them is this gem,

“At the same time, for forcible entry, the amphibious ships are too large and there are too few in an Expeditionary Strike Group—only three or four—to be effective when an enemy counterattack is possible. The loss of even one ship would probably abort the landing.”

Unfortunately, the document does not go on to specify a specific alternative beyond calling for a moratorium on new construction while studies are carried out.  That’s fair but a bit weak considering the scope and purpose of this document.

The NNFM notes that the surface combatant force (Burkes and Ticos, currently) is susceptible to anti-ship missiles.  The document proposes substantially reducing the DDG force to a level of 30.  Given the standard 3:1 deployment ratio, that only allows for 10 ships to be deployed at any given moment.  The reduction in numbers would be made up for by acquisition of 90 highly capable, blue water frigates at a cost of $400M each according to the NNFM force structure.  Given the cost of the LCS which has only a fraction of the capabilities that the proposed frigate would have, this seems an absurdly low cost estimate!

The NNFM proposes operating ships in tactical units of two which would pair ships with similar or complementary capabilities although what those complementary characteristics would or should be is not spelled out.  This is an interesting departure from the Navy’s tendency to operate ships individually and is worth exploring.  The document astutely notes that this type of tactical thinking has been lost due to the development of expensive, multi-purpose ships.

Finally, to repeat, the NNFM is founded on certain assumptions that are, themselves, suspect.  For example,

“… the weaknesses of the present fleet—which is excessively focused on delivery of combat power at an enemy on land …”

The famous and true saying is that the seat of purpose is on the land.  That being the case, delivery of combat power at an enemy on land IS the purpose of the Navy.  To base a force structure on some other premise is wrong.

In summary, the NNFM study makes some good points, some highly suspect ones, and is based on some highly questionable costing which is acknowledged in the document but used anyway. 

The biggest problem with the concept is its underlying assumption that a less high end combat capable navy is preferred.  The assumption is skewed towards the lower end of the combat spectrum and peacetime, policing actions.  Admittedly, these constitute the vast number of tasks a fleet performs.  Still, when the time comes for serious, high end combat, you do not want to find your fleet at a disadvantage and this is exactly the state that the NNFM creates with proposed decreases in numbers of SSNs, CGs, DDGs, SSGNs, SSBNs, and CVNs.

The second biggest problem is the overvaluation of the small combatant capabilities and this is, undoubtedly, a direct result of Hughes’ involvement.  While I’m totally in favor of building a prototype small combatant and exercising it to find out what it can do for us, I’m highly skeptical that it will perform anywhere near as well as suggested either individually or as a component of an overall force.  I also highly doubt the need for the extent of green water capability that the NNFM assumes.  As I said, I’ll offer a post on this topic in the near future.

The emphasis on CVLs is also potentially troubling.  A CVL with a capacity of 20 F-35Bs is a marginal fighting force.  In any contested combat scenario, even of a lower order than all out war with China, the prime responsibility of the air wing will be defense of the carrier.  Given sortie rates, maintenance requirements, and some combat attrition, it’s difficult to imagine much of a useful offensive sortie rate from the air wing.  Of course, multiple CVLs can come together to generate greater combat capacity but then one has to wonder why a CVN wouldn’t be the preferred choice.  In an uncontested scenario, a CVL would certainly be adequate and useful but, then, so would a barge!  Again, this is a concept worth testing and gaming out.  Operation of the America class may offer some insight on this issue.

Finally, the consistent use of suspect cost figures renders the NNFM model invalid.  Even the document repeatedly admits that the cost figures may be too low and even provides much more reasonable values but declines to use them.  Thus, the numbers of ships called for seems patently unachievable.  An otherwise coherent NNFM model is thus reduced to the level of fantasy much as the Navy’s 30 year shipbuilding plan is.

On the plus side, the emphasis on single function vessels is spot on and offers an opportunity to field greater numbers of ships at a lower unit cost.  In particular, the recognition that MCM and ASW, among other functions, are better performed by dedicated vessels is astute and in this respect alone the document is valuable and worthy.

The overall goal of generating a greater number of ships is worthy although achieving that goal at the expense of high end combat power is suspect.

The goal of building an in-shore patrol capability is also worthwhile.  Again, the extent of such a program needs to be strategized and gamed out.  The small combatants are a very worthwhile experiment.  Although I’m dubious about the widespread usefulness of such a vessel, I believe that there is a need for at least some small number of such a ship.

In summation, the NNFM is a worthwhile study offering a mix of good and bad ideas but, overall, well worth serious examination.  The biggest potential flaw is the underlying premise of a shift in emphasis from high end combat capability to lower end patrol, peacekeeping, and minor conflicts.  The emphasis on green water combat capability without a corresponding analytical basis renders the concept suspect but still worth a careful evaluation.

27 comments:

  1. The comment “We emphasize amphibious lift, but not forcible entry” one I find strange, given we are talking about combat in the Pacific.

    If you look at at lot of the tensions between nations, they relate in many cases to islands being claimed by more than one nation.

    I do not want to reopen our last discussion on Amphibious assault, but to what I see is a tone of Hughes work which seeks to limit our scope of any conflict.

    He appears to be taking a lot of options off the table, it is one thing to say an invasion of China is hard to imagine, something most would agree with, but another thing entirely to say we wouldn't want to retake an island they took by force with force. I could not see any such operation not being a contested landing.

    Mark

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  2. “Affordable numbers of small, lethal inshore combatants capable of demonstrating commitment to defend, alternatively, Taiwan, South Korea, the Philippines, Vietnam, Indonesia, or Malaysia.“
    These countries need to be demonstrating their own comitment to defend themselves with surviable A2/AD and spending 3% GDP on defence. Leave the small ship combatants up to them.
    Also, if they are serious about effective defence against China, these countries need to work toward puting their differences aside and form a mutual defence alliance.
    I'm not saying the US navy does't need to change, but they should contine providing the sort of things that ally nations are unable to aquire in numbers i.e high end combat ships.
    Dave P

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    1. Dave, that's a very good point. Ultimately, we need to ask ourselves whether it's in our strategic interests to defend these lands (or, at least, to deny them to enemy countries). If it is, then we need to do whatever is needed - "encourage" participation, build green water ships and provide the defense ourselves, or whatever. If it isn't, then we can abandon them to their fate.

      You make a very good point about building the high end ships that other countries can't. The question is whether low end ships are also in our best interest. Again, if so, we should build them. Either way, our decisions should be based on solid analysis not budget convenience, or pet projects, or whatever we think Congress will approve.

      Good comment!

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    2. The small missile combatants espoused in the NNFM only amount to 1% of the average yearly SCN budget ($150 million/year on average, out of $15 billion/year, to maintain a fleet of 30).

      Most of the $1.487 billion/year they spend on the "Green Water" fleet goes to the 8 CVLs ($600m/year) and the 160 OPVs ($400m/year).

      The CVLs are certainly "high end" ships.

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    3. Dave P
      Impossible. These countries are effectively political, economic and social rivals which cannot be formed into a mutual defence alliance.

      CNO
      As shown by the LCS debacle, I doubt the USN has the political will or genuine inclination to spend money on throwaway missile boats. Or any of this littoral combat stuff really. The thing just reads to me like someone said "Oh, Pacific. That's islands right? We can do islands!" The strengths of the USN are its blue-water navy and support structure. Why take away from that to do something its not good at doing and doesn't really need to do (by which i mean so-called 'littoral combat' and not amphib ops which are perfectly valid requirements)?

      Where my mind completely breaks down is the 'green-water' variations of everything in the fleet. What on earth is a green-water carrier? Why is this different from a blue-water carrier? What can it do that a blue-water carrier can't? Or an amphib ship? Why corvette-sized arsenal ships? What's wrong with blue-water arsenal ships? WHY?!?!

      And cut into the 10-carrier fleet in order to support this? WHY?!?! Would the Army cut 40% of its BCTs to expand the Marine corps? Then why this?!

      WHY is this a solution to counter China? Why is NNFM essentially taking an unproven guerilla warfare approach when it already holds the assets necessary to lay the smackdown on China as is? Why does NNFM want to take high-value assets into range of shore batteries unnecessarily?

      1 thing NNFM does mention which is right. The USN is excessively focused on delivering combat power at a land enemy. Remember that before the armed forces can get at a land enemy, they need to get past a sea enemy. The sea is the USN's first priority and they have been slacking off in this regard.

      SN2

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    4. SN2, I can't speak for the author's rationale for coming up with the NNFM but I suspect that they see the same thing I do and that is that the current Navy force structure and procurement is leading to an ever smaller fleet. The current trend suggests we'll drop from our 285 ship fleet to around 250 within 5-10 years and, worse, much of that will have shifted from high end (Burkes, Ticos, carriers) to lower end (LCS, LCS replacement, JHSV, MLP). With that in mind, I'm guessing that the authors attempted to construct a fleet that could still carry out its missions and WAS AFFORDABLE. How well they succeeded with their vision is debatable but I commend the effort.

      Also, I think you may be vastly overestimating the combat strength of the USN. If you've been a follower of this blog (and if you're a newcomer you absolutely must peruse the archives!) you know that the Navy is a hollow fleet to a very large degree.

      All that said, I do largely agree with your sentiments and I've got a post on green water combat coming.

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    5. B.Smitty, I would characterize the CVLs as intermediate combat, at best. Of course, it all depends on the capabilities of the F-35B. At the moment, the B is looking like a short range strike aircraft that won't really be able to contribute to the kind of long range strike and air superiority roles that the high end carrier groups would engage in. As I suggested in the post, the tradeoff of several CNVs for CVLs is questionable, at best. In concept, I'd be all in favor of maintaining the CVNs and adding several CVLs as supplements but that ignores fiscal constraints.

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    6. CNO,

      The NNFM CVL is a $3 billion ship along the lines of the 30,000 tonne Italian Cavour. It may be less expensive than a CVN, but it costs as much as one and a half Burkes!

      You won't catch me arguing in favor of the F-35B, but it should be much better than an F/A-18C in both combat radius and air superiority roles.

      Yes, it will require air refueling to reach distant targets.

      As I've said in other comment threads, I'd rather standardize on a conventional CATOBAR carrier, moderately smaller than a Ford. Perhaps something in a Kitty Hawk or Kennedy, but using a modern diesel/turbine/electric powerplant. Nuclear power costs way too much for what it gives us.

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    7. B.Smitty: "... F-35B, but it should be much better than an F/A-18C in both combat radius and air superiority roles."

      Well, that's the key, isn't it? Will the F-35B be superior (or even on par)? At the moment, I'm not seeing it. Until and unless several things happen, the F-35B is an average to poor aircraft. The things that need to happen include a massive increase in maintainability (the automated diagnositics have to work), success of the magic 360 degree sensor system and integrated helmet, and delivery of a functional combat software version. At the moment, the F-35 can't even get off the ground without workarounds due to the lack of the automated maintenance system!

      The only way a supporter of the F-35 can be persuasive is by assuming that all those things will achieve full functionality. They may. They may not. Most likely, they'll achieve partial functionality. How much will determine the worth of the aircraft.

      My personal favorite in the "small" carrier category is a Midway size. It's the smallest that can operate a full air wing.

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  3. Some random thoughts,

    Arsenal Ships vs SSGNs - Replacing the existing SSGNs will cost FAR more than building the NNFM arsenal corvettes. Having more ships means they can be in more places at once. We can't afford to build new SSGNs, and larger arsenal ships are an even more lucrative target. I'm not sold on the arsenal corvette concept, but I think there is some merit to their idea.

    SSKs - $700 million is an aggressive goal, but over a 40 ship build, IMHO it's doable. I just am not convinced SSKs provide enough value for a global Navy. I'd rather see us build a smaller class of "SSKN" along the lines of the new French Barracuda class. The Barracudas are "only" 5300 tonnes submerged vs 7900 tonnes for the Virginias. We could optimize them to perform the hunter-killer mission exclusively, and allow the larger Virginias with VPMs to be the multi-mission SSGNs.

    SSBNs - The NNFM calls for 9 simply because the budget does not support more. They say additional boats should be funded outside the Navy's SCN budget, from a strategic pool of money. We can't have everything we want. Cuts have to be made. 9 SSBNs deployed for 2/3rds of their lives means 6 boats at sea at any one time. This is still a significant deterrent. This makes sense to me.

    BMD - IMHO, the NNFM team feels the existing and planned BMD programs can't cope with the threat, regardless of how many ships we build. They'd rather address it by dispersing the fleet.

    Amphibious - The NNFM rightly recognizes that amphibious lift is what really brings high-end combat capability to a theater in the form of Army heavy brigades and larger Marine units. While this is true, I don't like the de-emphasis on forcible entry capability. It definitely limits our options.

    CVNs vs CVLs - The NNFM specifies 18 CVLs (8 for the Green Water fleet and 10 for the Blue Water fleet), and 6 CVNs for a total of 24 carriers. The distinction between blue and green is arbitrary, IMHO. Any CVL could be used for either role. I'm not a huge fan of relying on CVLs either. They are 100% dependent on the F-35B becoming a viable aircraft. They have no other options. They don't have the force multipliers available to the CTOL carrier. They really aren't future proof. If we design new CTOL aircraft or UCAVs, we would also have to build STOVL variants. I don't see this happening.

    I like that the NNFM specifies low-end assets. I think a number of low-end ships could take pressure off the high-end fleet for mundane patrol and presence missions.




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  4. As part of my analysis of the NNFM, I attempted to put their fleet together into "reasonable" strike groups and squadrons.

    - 6 x Carrier Strike Groups (1 x forward deployed Pacific, 1 x returning home, 1 x work-ups, 1 x refit. 2 x reserved for surge)
    - 18 x CVL Strike Groups (Same 1:4 ratio of groups deployed to non-deployed allows for 4 deployed groups: 1 x Mediterranean, 2 x Persian Gulf, 1 x Pacific. Two reserved for surge.)

    Total of five carrier battle groups forward deployed, four held back for surge. (Granted, most are CVLSGs.)

    - 5 x Missile Corvette Squadrons (1 x Persian Gulf, 1 x Mediterranean, 2 x Pacific, 1 x CONUS for training and tactics development)
    - 4 x Missile Corvette Tenders available to supplement host country facilities.
    - 6 x Gunfire Support Squadrons (2 x Mediterranean, 2 x Persian Gulf, 2 x Pacific)
    - 6 x Fast ASW Group (2 x Mediterranean, 2 x Persian Gulf, 2 x Pacific)
    - 20 x Coastal Patrol Squadrons (distribute liberally around the world)
    - 10 x Hunter-Killer SSK Squadrons (1 x CONUS, 2 x Mediterranean, 5 x Pacific, 2 x Persian Gulf)
    - 2 x SSK Tenders available to supplement host country facilities.

    Group/Squadron compositions as follows:

    Carrier Strike Group
    1 x CVN
    2 x SSN
    2 x DDG-51
    3 x FFG
    1 x CLF

    CVL Strike Group
    1 x CVL
    1 x SSN
    1 x DDG-51
    3 x FFG
    1 x Arsenal Corvette
    1 x CLF

    Missile Corvette Squadrons
    6 x Missile Corvettes

    Gunfire Support Squadrons
    2 x GFS Ships

    Fast ASW Group
    2 x Fast ASW Ships
    1 x FFG

    Coastal Patrol Squadrons
    8 x OPVs

    Hunter-killer SSK Squadron
    4 x SSK

    Unassigned:
    10 x SSN
    6 x FFG
    9 x DDG-BMD
    2 x Arsenal Corvette
    20 x MIW
    6 x CLF

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  5. I guess a couple of things popped into my head:

    - He wants larger numbers because we can't account for cruise missile defense and BM defense, so the solution is to distribute firepower. But then he advocates a smaller number of larger ships for sealift. If full on warships can't handle missile defense then to me it sounds like sealift is dead.

    - With these larger numbers of smaller ships, what about logistics? I've not read it, but we're already retiring fast fleet oilers. Do we have enough in the budget to have oilers for all the new CVL's coming on line? As well as oilers or tenders for the smaller ships?

    - I'm just not sold on the US doing the SSK thing. Certainly not cheaply. We've not built them for *years*. Submarines are very complex. We can't build the 'light, cheap' LCS without massive overruns. We are supposed to build AIP SSK's from scratch??

    - I too am not sold on the CVL idea in modern warfare. I can see a role for some, in an area where a big brother can provide support. But not as a wholesale replacement. I think they won't be able to get the sortie rates we want. And the F-35B has a combat radius of 469nm vs. 615nm. So we may well mix logistics issues with tanker support (be nice to have S3's or KA6's back...). A CVL likely wouldnt' be able to do that alone as well.

    From reading I recently have done I just really think the Navy really took a wrong step. CNO, I do understand your idea that a Navy is to influence things on land. But I think that the Navy went too far in this direction. I'd read that one of the reasons they went with the F/A -18 was partly cost, but partly because they could get improved sortie rates out of it. This was a great idea in the '90's while you are bombing the crap out of Bosnia and can park the carrier relatively close. But things have changed. We need more range.

    Secondly, I don't thing that you have to focus like a laser on land attack to influence events on land. Blockades and commerce raiding through the years have greatly influenced events on land, but haven't involved shelling shore installations or amphibious assaults. A Navy needs naval strike nowadays, but lets not discount influencing a nation by stopping its maritime commerce.
    (cont'd)

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    1. Jim,

      The NNFM team included a pair of tenders (I mistakenly said four above) to support forward-deployed coastal combatants. Whether this is enough is debatable.

      I believe they intend most of these small ships to be forward based, with facilities in the host country providing most of the logistics support.

      If you go by my groupings, the NNFM would need to find foreign basing for 35 or more squadrons/groups (20 coastal patrol, 10 SSK, 5 missile corvette). Only the SSK basing would have to be relatively sophisticated. The OPVs and missile combatants don't need that much local infrastructure.

      If nothing else, the NNFM should excel at blockades and commerce raiding. It has 160 OPVs, 90 FFGs and 30 coastal combatants that can enforce blockades. It has 80 submarines that can perform commerce raiding.

      The NNFM actually adds a large number of sealift ships. The Military Sealift Command currently has around 128 ships, including CLF, pre-positioned, auxiliary and sealift. The NNFM expands this to 175.

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    2. Jim, excellent question about fleet oilers and support needs in general.

      Don't misunderstand me when I say that the seat of purpose is on the land. As you point out, there are many ways to influence and support land events. As you point out, blockades, ampibious assaults, escort of cargo ships, etc. all impact land events. What we don't want to do is become strictly focused on sea events. The question, and challenge, is to determine how best to influence events on land using the Navy as a tool.

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  6. Finally; I think the Navy could have had a bit of both.

    I (personally) think the sell out to stealth is a problem. Stealthy, yes. Super Stealth comes at a point of diminishing returns.

    I think had they gone with the A6F after the A12 was cancelled, gone to some variant of the SuperTomcat 21, and kept money developing new missiles with long stand off range they'd be in better shape today. Oh, and keep developing the S3's and your ASW skills. I'd not build the Fords, because I don't see what the extra billions are getting us over the Nimitz class. I think the SSGN's and the Virginia's were good and decent ideas, respectively (my biggest gripe with the Virginias was that they didn't seem all that much cheaper than SSN21 class). I'm not sure what you do with the Perry's, but maybe SLEP them so you have a blue water ASW asset.

    I think then you could have a CV airwing with

    Attack Heavy/Fleet Defence: SuperTomcats (F14E?)
    Medium attack (A6F)
    Light attack/fighter (F/A 18C/D)
    ASW (Improved S3)
    AEW (E2 variant).

    SSN class (Virginia)
    SSGN (Ohio)
    SSBN (Ohio)

    Missiles: Improved Harpoon or LRASM or something that you can stand off and fire from aircraft or ship. I'd like a supersonic variant but I'll take what I can get.

    This gives you a blue water force that can, using aircraft and submarines, project power into the green water. It will have the range to operate in the pacific. Using standoff weapons it can deal with A2AD environments. Especially if the weapons themselves are stealthy. And the aircraft themselves can defend themselves. Particularly if we develop a ALRAAM of some sort, like Meteor. Ore even a longer ranged version of AMRAAM.

    We'd be spending money on improving proven designs instead of blue skying ideas for billions.

    This is just off the top of my head, but its been bugging me for awhile. Just my $0.02.

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  7. What Jim said.

    Really about the best thing I think the USN needs, given all that is available, is a Perry replacement with a lengthened hangar for drone and spec ops. Built en-masse and with cooperative engagement so it can spot for the rest of the fleet. And a supersonic ASM for all surface combatants.

    SN2

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  8. When you look at the New Navy Fighting Machine as an integrated philosophy for building a distributed USN fleet architecture, it helps to know that in addition to being veterans of the surface warfare community, Hughes & Company are dedicated Systems Analysts; i,e, they are imbued with the twin academic principles of Systems Analysis and its sister discipline, Systems Engineering.

    Systems Analysis is the process of studying a procedure or business in order to identify its goals and purposes and create systems and procedures that will achieve them in an efficient way. Systems Engineering deals with work-processes, optimization methods, and risk management tools in projects. It overlaps technical and human-centered disciplines such as control engineering, industrial engineering, organizational studies, and project management. Systems Engineering ensures that all likely aspects of a project or system are considered, and integrated into a whole.

    What Hughes & Company have come up with in describing the New Navy Fighting Machine (NNFM) could alternatively be labeled as the "Integrated Systems Engineering Approach to Building an Affordable Distributed US Navy (ISEATBAADUSN)"

    Now, that's all fine and well as an academic Systems Analysis / Systems Engineering exercise, but there are problems when you try to apply this kind of academic approach on such a broad scale.

    The first major problem is gaining agreement from the people who are paying the bills that the technical and operational requirements on which you base your various project/program management assumptions are the appropriate technical and operational requirements. In other words, on what analytical basis do you label your fleet architecture as being optimal?

    The second major problem is dealing with the shear momentum of the legacy approach to doing business when attempting to transform The Old Way into The New Way without disrupting your ability to conduct your current operations and to handle your current responsibilities. During the transition period, which may last many years, does your transitional fleet architecture become something less than the total sum of its individual parts?

    The third major problem is the shelf life of the technical and operational requirements upon which you have based your various project/program management assumptions. It would take some number years to completely implement NNFM, and what kinds of technical and doctrinal developments might occur over that time frame which might invalidate the original requirements, in part or in whole, thus making the end point fleet architecture not only suboptimal, but possibly very suboptimal?

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    1. Scott, very nice comment. When you state that Hughes and company are system analysts, are you saying that they are formally trained as such or are you suggesting that was simply the approach they took? If formally trained, I'm unaware of it - not that I've checked their academic backgrounds too closely.

      Very nice point about the composition of the fleet during the transition period. One would have to carefully manage the process to avoid losing too much capability before replacements have come on line. Someone has done a follow up study on that very topic for the NNFM. I can't recall the details off the top of my head.

      Excellent point about the shelf life of the requirements. Obviously, the force structure would have to be continually adjusted to adapt to new demands. Also obvious is that would be easier said than done! I see some parallel, here, with the development of the AF heavy bomber force over the years. The movement from the B-52 to the B-1 and then the B-2 illustrates the fairly drastic shifts in requirments in a relatively short time span. I'm not an AF guy - maybe I'm off base on this? Regardless, good point!

      Nice comment. Thanks for posting it.

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    2. ComNavOps, I'm not directly familiar with Hughes & Company's educational and post-graduate training credentials, but the approach they use in describing their proposed fleet architecture indicates the presence of considerable body of training and post graduate course work in Systems Engineering and Systems Analysis.

      Systems analysis, systems engineering, and program/project control is what I do for a living, and so I can usually spot these kinds of people just by looking at the content of their work.

      As for the USAF bomber force, I am of the opinion that had the B-70 bomber project gone forward, and had it been built in sufficient numbers over a long enough time, it might still be in service today.

      As it is, there is now talk that the B-52s might serve beyond 2040, their currently scheduled retirement date. IMHO, the B-1s and the B-2s will be retired by about 2030 since their airframe service life has been steadily consumed since they went into service, and they are not as sturdily constructed as is the B-52.

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  9. CNO says,

    "This is just an illogical concept. While there is a certain validity to using low end, expendable vessels as a tripwire, they will certainly not demonstrate our “commitment to resist an invasion”. A handful of easily destroyed, nearly defenseless vessels hardly demonstrate any commitment to resistance. Arguably, their presence could be interpreted as a lack of commitment and a signal to the Chinese to take action. After all, if we weren’t willing to risk a carrier group why would we respond to the sinking of a handful of small vessels?"

    I actually do think a handful of US Navy combatants would demonstrate our commitment to resist an invasion, simply because an attack on them is a direct attack on the US and thus an act of war. Attacking Taiwanese ships might prompt us to consider our treaty obligations, and might prompt a military response, but killing US service men and women and destroying US warships is a much more clear cut provocation.



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    1. If you think we would automatically respond to an attack on US Navy combatants "simply because an attack on them is a direct attack on the US and thus an act of war", then I have to remind you that China forced down a US EP-3, held the crew for an extended period, stripped the plane of all its gear, and made up apologize for the event. That's an act of war committed by China and not only did we not respond with force, we apologized! Well, that was a single aircraft and we're not going to war over one plane but a ship is a different matter, you say? Again, I have to remind you of the Pueblo incident. An act of war and we did nothing.

      Still believe that a few small combatants would
      A. Act as an indication of our resolve?
      B. Provide a believable symbol of deterrence?
      C. Trigger any action on our part?

      A carrier "might" make a country think twice before attacking. A small combatant has already been proven to not be a sufficient deterrent to acts of war.

      I stand by my statement that it is an illogical concept. History also stands by my statement.

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    2. The EP-3 was forced down due to a collision with a Chinese fighter that was operating in an unsafe manner. It was not deliberately forced down by the Chinese. The fighter pilot lost his life in the crash.

      I don't think a few small combatants would directly deter aggression with their combat power alone, but directly attacking US ships is a far greater provocation. It has to factor into the Chinese risk calculus, and thus acts as a deterrent.


      In contrast to the Pueblo was the Gulf of Tonkin incident. Sure the USS Maddox wasn't as small as a 600 ton Streetfighter, but it was a far cry from a carrier battle group.

      This type of deterrent isn't an automatic tripwire to war. Much depends on the real and perceived situation.

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    3. I don't for a moment believe the EP-3 incident was an accident. Setting that aside, the resulting seizure and stripping of the aircraft and imprisonment of the crew was an act of war by itself.

      You're correct that attacking US ships must factor into Chinese thinking but given our history of not responding to blatant acts of war, I doubt the Chinese will hesitate too much to attack a US small combatant.

      The GoT incident was a case where we were looking for an excuse to get involved.

      We have a history of not responding to attacks on our ships. Consider, Stark, Panay, Liberty, Pueblo, and others. I think it's pretty safe to say that the presence of small combatants will provide no deterrent effect and attacks on small combatants would provoke little or no reponse from us.

      Your deterrent theory, while appealing, has little basis in fact to support it. Admittedly, if some country thought about attacking a US ship but was deterred, we'd probably never know it since it didn't happen so it's very hard to prove a positive effect.

      Conversely, there is a fair history of failed deterrence involving US ships. I stand by my statement.

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    4. So you think the pilot of that J-8 deliberately struck the EP-3 to force it to land? There was history of the same pilot intercepting previous EP-3 flights and flying carelessly around the aircraft. He may've been under orders to harass the EP-3, but I seriously doubt he was told to force it down.

      Liberty, Pueblo and the EP-3 were all unarmed ships/aircraft operating in contested areas. The other sides claimed jurisdiction over these areas and said we were wrongfully invading their space. We disputed this, of course, but (except for the EP-3) our case was not clear cut.

      Also, the fact that they were unarmed made them easy pickins. They weren't combatants. Had they been, they may not've succumbed to such simple harassment.

      Panay and Stark were deemed accidents due to mistaken identity by all parties involved. The Japanese paid us damages for the Panay and apologized. There were disputed reports that the pilot who attacked the Stark was later executed.

      Both could have defended themselves had they been at a higher state of readiness.

      On the other hand, USS Maddox gave far better than she got.

      When the USS Samuel Roberts struck an Iranian mine, it triggered Op Praying Mantis.

      Another case of a US military response to an attack on one of our "small combatants".



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    5. My mistake, USS Liberty was (officially) another case of mistaken identity.

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    6. The continued presence of small combatants could also deter the sort of low-level aggression by Chinese "coast guard" ships we've seen in the South China Sea.

      Of course it could also result in a escalation of tensions too.

      This is where I diverge from Capt Hughes' concept. I'd rather see us build up-armed OPVs than short-ranged, missile-armed Streetfighters. OPVs can carry cruise missiles too, but are far more useful in day to day operations around the world.

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    7. Chamberlain explained away all of Hitler's actions. We can explain away every attack on us or we can take action. Consider the case of the EP-3. Let's even stipulate, for sake of discussion, that the incident was an accident by a pilot with a history of aggessive flying. What that still means is that China had insufficient respect/fear (deterrence) for the consequences of risking aggressive flying around a US military aircraft to ensure that the pilots maintained an adequate safety margin. That proves my point that our history of unresponsiveness has rendered any deterrent effect meaningless.

      Even assuming the incident was an accident, what should we have done that would have reinforced the deterrent effect of our military assets? We should have bombed the plane on the ground, and destroyed the airbase. Of course, we would assure the Chinese that the bombings were due to rogue, aggressive pilots who misunderstood their orders. Instead, after allowing the Chinese to strip the aircraft, we now have Chinese planes flying recklessly around our aircraft today. Hmm, maybe it's the same pilot?

      If you want to accept the various patently false explanations for the various incidents, that's fine. Of course, it will only encourage more such incidents in the future.

      None of the incidents occured in disputed areas unless you accept legally unfounded claims. China claims the entire South/East China Seas. International law, on the other hand recognizes a 12 mile limit. There's no dispute. Our ships and aircraft have been harassed, attacked, and seized in international waters and airspace. If we aggressively responded to each incident, there would be greater care taken by the various countries to ensure that "mistakes" didn't happen. Right now, no one is impressed by our deterrence since we tend to go along with whatever ridiculous explanation is offered.

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