Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Top Torp

Well, here’s a bit of potentially good news.  Everyone is familiar with the Navy’s famous Top Gun fighter weapons school that used a dedicated opposing force to train pilots and an instrumented range to document training encounters and provide detailed debriefs and lessons.  Now, it appears that the Navy is developing a Top Torpedo school for submarines and/or ASW forces (1).  An instrumented undersea training range is being created off Florida and will contain 300 underwater acoustic sensors.

ComNavOps has long called for more realistic training.  Hopefully, this is a step towards that goal.  Still needed is a dedicated opposing force and realistic threat surrogates. 

(1)NavAir, 27-Aug-2015,


22 comments:

  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  2. Given the deadly capabilities of submarines, their proliferation in competitors, and our own steady decline in ASW capabilities, this is badly needed.

    From a buddy who was in the Navy: 'Did you every practice ASW?' 'Oh yeah.' 'Did you ever win?' 'Only when the submarines let us.'

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    1. ASW is not something you can train for one exercise per year and be any good at. You have to live, breathe, and eat ASW. That's why I don't consider the Burkes as effective ASW assets. They don't train for it. That's also why all the people who blithely support modularity and assume that just because we add an ASW package to a ship that it is suddenly, somehow, an effective ASW platform are so very wrong. ASW is still more art and tactics then it is electronics.

      The Navy's Burkes have no chance in ASW combat.

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    2. That's one of the biggest mistakes I think we made since the end of the cold war.

      Sure, we weren't facing hordes of Russian submarines, but a nation can buy submarines that are damned good. Kilo's, Lada's, type 209's, type 214's.... all may be somewhat range/speed challenged but they can be pre-positioned and are a bear to find and kill.

      IMHO instead of retiring the Perry's they should have gone another step in that direction. Or even have a Spruance derivative.

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    3. " 'Did you ever win?' 'Only when the submarines let us.'"
      This is one of those potentially misleading statements. What are the odds of a single surface ship beating a single sub? Probably quite poor. But, that's not how we fight subs. We use SOSUS (and similar land based arrays, wide ranging aircraft, multiple surface ship convergence zone, knowledge of threat axes, knowledge of submarine port movements, chokepoint tails, etc. to acquire initial detections and then fight the subs with fixed wing aircraft, helos, subs, and surface ships.

      Consider the odds of a Chinese sub leaving its base undetected, evading a potential tail waiting outside its port, passing undetected over SOSUS like arrays (I'd like to believe we've laid them in the S/E China Seas), approaching areas of interest via predictable routes, evading random sub and aircraft detection along the way, and arriving at a threatening point totally undetected. Could it happen? Sure. How likely is it? I don't know but it's a lot less likely than the odds in a one on one matchup in a staged exercise.

      When you throw in all those factors, which are absent from any exercise, the odds change. How much, I don't know. Supposedly, most Soviet subs had an American tail at all times. I'd like to think we're tailing Chinese (and now Russian) subs the same way.

      We far too often fall prey to these one on one matchups as somehow defining combat when that's the least likely way we'll ever conduct combat. We fight with many resources and only in that kind of a setting can we really evaluate the usefulness of a given platform.

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    4. CNO,

      DDG's are essentially the only surface platform the USN fields at this point capable of performing ASW. It's no longer a matter of preference for Burke's anymore, the ship and their crews need to become major contributors in ASW prosecution.

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    5. vandiver49, you are half right. Given the current reality, you're correct that the Burkes are all we have for ASW. Unfortunately, they'll never be good ASW platforms because they simply don't train for it. Their training is all about AAW/BMD.

      The half you're missing is that this blog is not just about discussing the current state of affairs but also about suggestions for improving things. Thus, accepting things is not the end of the discussion. In this case, I've previously stated that the Navy needs a dedicated ASW destroyer - one without Aegis or a significant AAW capability.

      This blog looks at how things are and, more importantly given how messed up they are, how they should be.

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  3. The question is, will this mostly be PR and with scripted exercises, or will this be real training.

    I have heard before that the Top Gun school is not as good as it seems compared to elite foreign pilots, even sometimes from other nations.

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    1. Very true. I think that's just the nature of the beast though. I've heard similar things about foreign schools.

      I think even if you are a serious, professional military you go through peaks and valley's of training. Some of the things I read about the Navy in the 20's were horrific.

      I don't know the current state of Top Gun. My hope is that this 'Top Torp' starts out with all the zeal and intensity of a bunch of guys trying to do right, and that it ends up creating a real school. Who knows what will happen though, or what it will develop into in 10 years.

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    2. The sad part is that it's even needed. We had mastered ASW during the Cold War and we let it atrophy. Still, if we can begin to regain the skill I'll count it as a small victory while simultaneously condemning the leadership that allowed it to deteriorate.

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    3. isnt the best way to counter a submarine, another submarine ?
      From memory the first actual stalking and hit on a submarine by another didnt occur till the end of WW2.

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    4. Submarines are best at elements of ASW. But the thought that best counter to a sub I'd another sub isn't born out by historic data.

      Very good at silently tracking, but pretty lousy at wide are search. They simply don't have the speed/sensor range to cover wide areas.

      Going sub-vs-sub is also a bad idea when your subs are $2 billion SSNs while the bad guy has lots of very quiet $400 million SSKs.

      Historically, the single biggest finder/killer of submarines is land-based long range aircraft.

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    5. "Historically, the single biggest finder/killer of submarines is land-based long range aircraft."

      Your statement is correct but I would question whether it still holds true today. The "historically" part of your statement is based on WWII data, I assume, when subs were surface ships that could submerge for a brief period. Thus, they spent much of their time on the surface and were vulnerable to aerial detection especially given the lack of effective radar at that time. Today's subs would rarely (never?) surface during a combat patrol and would be detectable by aircraft only via sonobouys or radar detection of a snorkel - both unlikely events against the size of the ocean to be searched.

      You might be better to consider the lessons of the Cold War ASW efforts of the US and UK.

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    6. I'd hazard that enemy subs still need to expose masts and scopes fairly frequently for targeting and comms. Particularly if conducting an SUW mission.

      As far as sonobuoys - there have been fairly recent significant advances such as Multistatic Active Coherent (MAC) which definitely qualify as wide(r) area search.

      MPA was pretty effective in Cold War. I recall a statement by a Soviet admiral (perhaps apocryphal) that the best way for him to know where his subs were was to follow the P-3s.

      Enemy submarines have also dramatically closing the acoustic gap. I wouldn't credit us with the same sub-v-sub technological superiority we enjoyed through most of Cold War. An AIP boat in the littorals is quite arguably a match for a US SSN.

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    7. You'd hazard wrong. An SSN is never going to expose itself in a combat scenario. An SSK might rarely - I'm just not familiar enough with SSK tactics to say for sure.

      I have never seen any specs on area coverage by MAC systems. My understanding of the technology suggests that it covers no more area than conventional sonobouys, it just covers the area better with a higher probability of detection. Navy descriptions refer to MAC as wide area coverage without specifying what that area is. Given the Navy's tendency to exaggerate, I'm quite skeptical that the area is much larger than conventional sonobuoys. If you have any specs, please share!

      Statements like an AIP being a match for an SSN are groundless as far as I know. There is no public data of AIP vs SSN combat that I'm aware of. It may be true. It may be false. Again, if you have any data, please share! Without data, it's pure speculation which is fine as long as it's presented as such.

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    8. The SUW mission - which is what most of our enemies focus on - means figuring out 'who is who'. And that generally means a decent amount of periscope exposure. Particularly in the littorals.

      Wide area multi-statics is very different creature from mono-static DIFAR/DICASS. Apples and oranges. The info is out there.

      In terms of AIP subs: read up on GOTLAND "lease" in mid-00s. There is gobs of materiel that indicated that these were very difficult targets to detect and track. I can speak with personal experience that they spanked us in exercises!

      SSNs are fairly quiet - but in the end they are still an operating nuclear reactor. That means pumps, machinery, and other noise offenders which literally can't be turned off. They are also very big which means large active target strength.

      SSPs when they go on battery are essentially ghosts. Nothing moving = no noise. They are also very small which means low active target strength.

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    9. In WWII subs had to take a look but not anymore. Acoustic ID is more than sufficient.

      Again, if you have any info on MAC ranges, let me know. I'm unaware of any significant difference.

      Yes, Gotland apparently proved quite successful against surface ships but so does any submarine - the more so since the Navy has allowed ASW to atrophy! I'm unaware of any exercises involving Gotland and other subs. Do you have any information?

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    10. SSK are very good at what they do, littorals or choke points. In these areas you could argue they are of a similar or perhaps slightly better than an SSN.

      But in all other areas SSN is master, blue water they have no equal.
      SSK is simply too slow over any significant range, and hence to try to intercept a surface vessel they must use masts to communicate with intelligence source and to run via snorkel. Even then realistically they will never catch a CNV at standard flight speeds.

      SSK due to these power deficiencies are therefor too small for long unsupported endurance, weapons load, but most importantly sensor fit and computing power. This massively limits their ability to sense, track and identify targets in the deep blue.

      The mass restrictions also limit\effect depth and acoustic design. Given the density layer nature of deep waters - the SSN hunting grounds.

      SSN represents total sea control, leaving only a tiny percentage of the littoral shores that you may be able to hide in. Given 95% of the world supplies still ship by ocean, your country is going to find itself with issues very quickly when the seas are denied it. And there is very little an SSK can do about that.

      Remember there is only one piece of actual evident on SSN combat, at that nullified an entire nations Navy in 1 strike, limiting them instantly to the littorals for the rest of the war.

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  4. There needs to be some diesel AIP submarines in the USN force too. Considering their cost and the amount of potential power they bring, it's worth looking at.

    That said, the USN will probably figure out a way to get the cost up somehow.

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  5. I'm going on the assumption that it would be cost prohibitive, at least in the short run, to build a diesel/electric/AIP sub. But there are lots of people who make and sell them.

    I've heard before we can't just 'buy' stuff. To a certain extent, I get that... but what if we go with a NATO ally that we're already used to working with?

    I mean, if we bought a type 214, Germany is part of NATO. Wouldn't their boats have similar com's, etc? Also, the boat is built for export. So to a certain extent you'd think the manufacturer is used to filling an order to the customers's specs. I.E. 'We use X radios, Y radars, and Z torps....'

    Its just a thought expiriment. Even if we just bought 1 or 2 to act as OPFOR in this TopTorp range it might well be worth it.

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  6. I'm going on the assumption that it would be cost prohibitive, at least in the short run, to build a diesel/electric/AIP sub. But there are lots of people who make and sell them.

    I've heard before we can't just 'buy' stuff. To a certain extent, I get that... but what if we go with a NATO ally that we're already used to working with?

    I mean, if we bought a type 214, Germany is part of NATO. Wouldn't their boats have similar com's, etc? Also, the boat is built for export. So to a certain extent you'd think the manufacturer is used to filling an order to the customers's specs. I.E. 'We use X radios, Y radars, and Z torps....'

    Its just a thought expiriment. Even if we just bought 1 or 2 to act as OPFOR in this TopTorp range it might well be worth it.

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