Friday, November 6, 2015

Swarm Attack

We often talk about how effective various guns or missile systems will be against a swarm attack but we never look at a swarm attack from the attacker’s perspective in order to get a more realistic idea of what a swarm attack will be like.  If we had a better idea of the characteristics of the attack, we’d be better able to evaluate our defensive systems.  That said, let’s take a closer look at how a swarm attack will be conducted.

I have to preface this discussion with the disclaimer that I have no inside information about swarm attacks.  The ideas put forth here are strictly my own based on what I might do.  Iran practices swarm attacks, to some degree, but I’ve never seen an authoritative write up on the methodology.

The entire crux of the swarm problem is one of dwell time.  Dwell is the time that a weapon must remain focused on a single boat before it can move to the next target.  Until the target can be definitely observed to be killed, the weapon must continue firing.  Otherwise, the target continues to close.

The problem is that a kill may occur without being obvious.  Consider a boat coming straight at us.  Suppose the first shot (be it gun or missile) kills everyone on board, thus rendering the boat mission killed, but the boat continues on its course, at speed.  How will we know that the boat has been killed?  The answer is we won’t.  To all appearances, the boat is undamaged and continuing its attack.  Thus, we’ll have to fire a second shot.  And a third.  And so on, until it becomes obvious that the target is killed.

How do we know a target is killed?  When it’s dead in the water it can be assumed dead.  Ideally, this would occur catastrophically – the boat would blow up leaving just a partial hulk floating motionless on the water.  More likely, the boat will gradually slow down and eventually come to a stop due to accumulated hits and holes from shrapnel.  The problem is that this can take several minutes per target.  Meanwhile the remaining boats are approaching at high speed.   The math on this is grim.  Take a reasonable number of attacking boats, apply a reasonable dwell time of several minutes per boat, and do the math of approaching speeds versus dwell time and you’ll see the problem.  It doesn’t end well for us.

For those of you who doubt the concept of dwell and believe that one shot will equal one kill, please take a look at the videos that are available of gunnery target practice against small drone boats.  There are only a few videos available that I know of but they are consistent in showing the lack of effects from the gun rounds.  The typical drone boat motors back and forth in front of the guns (always at very close range and on calm seas) and over the course of several minutes eventually slows down and comes to a stop.  That’s dwell time.  Fragmentation munitions, which is what almost all the guns fire, just aren’t effective at instantaneously stopping a boat.  A multitude of small shrapnel holes just won’t sink a boat in a tactically useful time frame.

Similarly, the idea of a gun firing a contact explosive munition is unappealing and unlikely to succeed.  For starters, the odds of achieving a hit on a small, fast, bouncing target that is frequently obscured in waves from a bouncing, high speed, maneuvering firing platform is very low.  Recall the Vincennes incident in which many dozens of 5” rounds were fired at boats and no hits were achieved.  Let’s face it, hitting a small, fast, moving target from a another moving target is a very difficult thing to do.

So much for the problem.  Now, the enemy can figure this out, too, so what are they likely to do that would enhance their chance of success?  What can they do to increase the dwell time?

Armor.  The most obvious tactic would be to add some simple Kevlar type armor around the cockpit to help protect the crew and increase their survival time.  We’re not talking about battleship armor that can shrug off 5” shells but, rather, simple flak armor to lessen the effect of shrapnel.  Flak vests for the crew would be another obvious addition.  Depending on weight, some simple armor could be placed around the engine and throttle linkages to minimize shrapnel damage.  Remember, the goal is not to make an invulnerable boat but to increase the dwell time to the point where some boats are assured to reach firing range.

Decoy Boat.  A lead, unmanned, decoy boat is another obvious tactic.  A heavily armored, remote controlled boat or two placed in the front of an attack specifically to absorb incoming fire for several crucial minutes while the remaining boats are closing would be very effective.  We would have no way of knowing whether the boat is a decoy or not and would have to honor the threat by engaging it until it is dead.

Remote Control.  Along the lines of a decoy boat, an entire attack consisting of several unmanned, remote control boats equipped as “suicide” boats would be effective and expendable.  Shrapnel would have no effect on the crew since there wouldn’t be a crew and sinking a boat via tiny shrapnel holes is a very time consuming exercise.  Such high speed drone boats already exist for very little cost. 

Obscurants.  Infrared, visual, and radar obscurants exist which could be dispensed by launchers and provide protection against missiles, in particular.  This would be a cheap capability and one readily deployed from small boats.

Active Protection.  Active protection involves destroying incoming missiles by automatic, point defense systems.  The best known example of this on a small scale is the Israeli Trophy system that is mounted on their tanks.  A system small enough to be mounted on tanks can certainly be mounted on a small boat.  On the other hand, this is a more complex and costly option and is probably less likely.

Flares/Chaff.  They work for planes and there is no reason they couldn’t be mounted on small boats and be effective.

Multiple Angles.  Attacking from around the clock is still an effective tactic, especially against smaller ships that may only have one or two weapons and have blind spots masked by the ship’s superstructure.  This would be challenging to achieve against an alerted ship but would be effective.


These are just a handful of ideas off the top of my head that could enhance the effectiveness of a swarm attack.  I’m sure Iran can think of others.  The point is that with some idea of how a swarm attack might occur, we can begin to intelligently assess the effectiveness of our defensive systems.  Here are a couple of obvious conclusions.

Catastrophic kills are required to minimize dwell time.  This strongly suggests the need for missiles.  Guns, especially with fragmentation munitions, are ineffective in the swarm scenario.

Fire and forget missiles are needed to allow rapid, multiple engagements and avoid the one-at-a-time engagement scenario which leads to high dwell times.


61 comments:

  1. Excellent post.

    Your points also apply to small UAVs.

    GAB

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  2. I largely agree, though I think guns are valuable close-in defensive systems.

    See this for the effect of a 76mm airburst on a small boat (granted one that has already been hit by a Sea Sparrow).

    http://www.liveleak.com/view?i=afc_1366903560

    Missiles don't have to be fire-and-forget, but they do need to support multiple, simultaneous engagements, or rapid engagement cycles. The aforementioned Sea Sparrow or ESSM is a good example. It is a supersonic missile, so even firing one at a time, it can service multiple targets in rapid succession.

    If coupled with ICW guidance and something like the planar CEAFAR/CEAMOUNT radar/fire control, a ship could salvo and guide numerous ESSMs simultaneously. Of course, ESSM is an expensive way to kill a speed boat.

    I wonder if perhaps a much cheaper, easier option is available. How about just carrying a bunch of Javelin CLUs and missiles aboard? A small boat has a similar signature and maneuverability to an armored vehicle. Sea spray could confuse the missile, but if not, it might be quick and easy way to deal with swarms out to 2.5+km. No need for a fixed mount at all.

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    1. In the first link, the gun did nothing but scatter the wreckage, as far as I could tell. The Sea Sparrow had already achieved a catastrophic kill !

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    2. Yes, but it scattered the wreckage impressively! :)

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  3. Apparently Stinger has some capability here too,

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3zQtRl-pEIc

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    1. I note that in each case the drone boat continues on course and speed after being hit. Follow up shots would be required which is the dwell time issue mentioned in the post.

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    2. Yes, but on the bright side, you can have many more Stinger or Javelin launchers on board. As many as needed, really. And they can easily move from ship to ship.

      Each can "dwell" separately.

      It's difficult to say how far away these shots were, or what higher sea states or adverse weather would do to the seeker and CLU's ability to pick up targets.

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    3. I have absolutely no problem with Stinger/Javelin, if they'll work. I have some doubts about accuracy beyond a mile due to disappearance of the targets in wave clutter. The more and simpler the weapons we can use, the better!

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    4. Also, see NICO's post below about a variety of weapons on the attacker's side. An attacker using Stinger/Javelin/TOW -ish weapons would increase their effective range and decrease the distance they have to close and, thus, decrease our time to react.

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    5. Stinger and Javelin (especially Javelin) are better at handling wave clutter due to their lofted profile. Javelin is designed to fly up high and attack from above. This should put it above all but the worst wave clutter.

      Stinger isn't really designed to do this, but the firers in the video do angle it upwards slightly before launch. So it will get a bit of a loft.

      Attackers can certainly use the same types of weapons, but small boats moving at high speeds are much harder to launch from. TOW requires the operator to keep the crosshairs on the target the entire way. Probably not feasible on a bouncing speed boat. Javelin or MANPADs requires a certain amount of stability to allow the seeker to lock. YMMV there, on a fast-moving FIAC.

      Also, while the standard warhead of a MANPADs or ATGM can cause significant or catastrophic damage to a small boat, it won't do a lot to a large vessel. It will require a "golden BB" hit to significantly damage one.

      There are alternative ATGM warheads that would be more effective (bunker busting or thermobaric), but they are significantly more rare.

      Lastly, our potential FIAC enemies haven't really invested in fire and forget ATGMs, so we have some time before they become an issue.

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    6. I have no idea what weapons Iran would put on swarm craft but I assume they've put some thought into it and have something they believe would be effective - purchased from the Russians or Chinese, no doubt.

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    7. Iran uses a mixture of MRLs, torpedoes, HMGs, autocannon, and light AShMs on their swarm craft. They can also typically lay mines.

      https://www.washingtoninstitute.org/uploads/Documents/pubs/PolicyFocus87.pdf

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    8. Thanks. I hadn't seen that one. It's a nice summary, if somewhat generalized.

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  4. So just as in WWII with wolfpacks, a large number of less survivable but lethal platforms can create havoc for large value targets that are impossible to defend.

    The solution back then? Build a lot of small, cheap, very targeted escorts to(DEs) to suppress the submarines when they attacked. Along with extended Air Patrol Attack coverage, the sub threat was defeated.

    Navy read your own history and you can see how to defeat swarms of small boats.

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    1. The only problem with the small, "expendable" escort is that sinking of one them at a cost of a handful of small speedboats constitutes a win for the enemy both from a PR and cost perspective. A half dozen speedboats for $30,000 each versus a several hundred million dollar LCS, for example, is a flat out win for the enemy.

      Of course, we could use Cyclone-ish ships as escorts and that may be what you're referring to. That might work.

      What size escort did you have in mind?

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    2. I think a Flyvefisken patrol boat with four modules installed costs about $50 million. That does not sound too expendable to me.

      Missiles that take out speedboats will be more expensive than the speedboats (I believe a Javelin is a $100K missile), but I think we have to forget that economic comparison and look at the cost of not taking out the speedboat. Guns are cheaper than missiles, but a defense in depth requires missiles to thin out the swarm 5-8 miles away so there are not so many of them when they get within gun range.

      We have to accept that we are richer than our likely enemies and will have to pay a price to take out their speedboats. After they have no speedboats left, they will not paying a severe price for the remainder of the war.

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    3. "They will not paying" should be "They will be paying" in the last sentence.

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    4. Aren't Helo's death on small boats? Could you make a cheap helo carrier to act as an escort carrier? I'm not talking an LHX vessel. More like a freighter you modify to house helo's in the same way they did escort carriers to handle F4F's.

      You do risk manpads, but it would give you way of engaging them farther out.

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    5. Jim, helos are great, if they happen to be in the air and with the right loadout when an attack occurs. If not, there is no way to get a helo armed and airborne before the attack is over. An LCS or Burke will have one or two helos so airborne coverage will be spotty and limited, at best. Helos are notorious for being down all the time! And, of course, there's the susceptibility to shoulder launched SAMs, as you mention.

      So, yes, in theory, helos are potentially quite useful but in practice, unless we have a great deal of warning, helos won't likely be available. If we have that much warning we can probably get fixed wing aviation support, as well.

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    6. The helicopter (and airpower in general) is more useful on offense than defense. Though as scouting resources, they are still very handy on defense.

      After hostilities have started, armed helicopters (or other airpower) on offensive scout/strike sorties will be very effective at clearing out FIAC/FACs, as they were in ODS and the Falklands.

      The problem is really before hostilities start, on defense. It takes 4-6 manned helos to keep one airborne constantly. This is maintenance intensive and expensive. It takes fewer UAVs (assuming longer UAV endurance), but this is still resource intensive.

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    7. Smitty, you make the very good point that if we reach a stage of unrestricted combat, the best way to deal with swarms or any kind of naval attack is to kill it while it's in its port.

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    8. Killing them in port is preferable, but airpower is the best way to kill them at sea too.

      The key is to have the resiliency to absorb any surprise attack while minimizing losses. This requires dispersal or standoff or both, as well as a layered defense.

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    9. Back to my original post and what some have alluded to. Don't think DE or a big ship that was just an example of something that was comparable to a submarine. Instead the solution should be something that is about the same cost as one of the targets you are trying to destroy so that it is feasible to engage them and not go bankrupt doing it. At the cost of a (or 2 based on the Pk of each engagement) hellfire missile (plus the helo fuel, maintenance etc.) I could bankrupt the Navy with one small ship yard turning out fiberglass boats. After all they just have to look like a target.

      Anyway from my perspective small fast heavy lethal punch with short dwell time and NO FANCY targeting system. The threat is looking to hit a big ship (well LCS size at least or bigger) and not deal with another small craft. SO maybe a PT like boat is the answer. The bigger issue is how do we get them where they need to be, sustain them, etc.

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    10. Anon, there is merit in your concept. The anti-swarm-swarm has been proposed before - essentially the PT boat concept you mention. The challenge, as you identified, is sustainment, maintenance, transport, etc. Iran, operating from their home waters, has none of those problems. When you add in the cost of motherships, supply transports, supply chains, etc., the cost of PT boats (generically speaking - not exact PT boats) is much higher than just the cost of production. Still, it's an idea worth consideration.

      I once toyed with the idea of an anti-swarm-swarm boat "carrier". BSmitty and others have also suggested variations of the same theme.

      Good comment.

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    11. There isn't just one answer here. It really calls for a suite of systems. The key is to balance numbers, capabilities, logistics and cost.

      Small craft are needed to screen and absorb the initial blow. Once that has past, airpower will do most of the killing.

      One has to also consider how such a suite will contribute to other theater security operations. Craft on the smaller end are suitable for the Gulf or riverine areas, but not the SCS.

      Here's a RAND study entitled, "Small Ships in Theater
      Security Cooperation".

      http://www.rand.org/content/dam/rand/pubs/monographs/2008/RAND_MG698.pdf

      It goes through some general patrol boat/vessel size ranges and the pros and cons of each.

      It lays out three sizes:

      "1. Nearshore patrol vessel. These vessels displace fewer than 100 tons. They require logistic and operational support, including the following: hotel services; refueling, rearmament, and re-supply; additional small vessel rotational crews; maintenance facilities and support; feed of situational awareness; and provision of additional command, control, communications, computers, and intelligence (C4I) support. A specialized mothership would be required for these vessels.

      2. Coastal patrol vessel. These vessels displace 300–700 tons. They require some logistic and operational support, including the following: regular refueling and re-supply; some situational awareness; and tailored C4I support. These vessels would benefit from a mothership of opportunity.

      3. Offshore patrol vessel. These vessels displace approximately 1,500 tons. They would benefit from some logistic and operational support, including the following: occasional refueling and re-supply; some situational awareness; and tailored C4I support. These vessels require no mothership.
      "

      Examples of the Nearshore Patrol Vessel include the Navy's Mk VI PB, the Israeli Super Divora, the CB90, the WWII PT Boat and numerous smaller craft.

      Examples of the Coastal Patrol Vessel include the USCG Sentinel class and the Navy Cyclone.

      Examples of the Offshore Patrol Vessel include the RN River class, and the USCG Famous class.

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    12. Great reference!

      So Rand studied it and reported in 2008? And to date we have how many of these recommendations started? And instead we continue to pour money into the LCS which we know cannot defend against swarms? Needless to say the Burkes and other larger higher value targets remain vulnerable because the outer rim (LCS) cannot stop them?

      As to air power stopping swarms (other than striking at the harbors), I have to question how good an F-18 is against a small maneuvering boat. What are they going to use as ordnance? Please don't say a missile we cannot afford to shoot missiles at these targets EVEN if they can hit them.

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    13. We can certainly afford to shoot missiles at them. We shoot missiles at two dudes in a pickup or an individual fighting position. The cost of a missile pales in comparison to the damage one of these vessels could cause.

      APKWS, SDB II, GBU-12, JAGM, Griffon, Hellfire, laser-guided Zuni. Take your pick.

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    14. Ah c'mon just because someone does something stupid doesn't men we have to keep doing it.

      The budget deficit has to come down. That is a strategic reality. So unless you are going too have every American pay an additional $200 a year for these excursions (which is like a latte a week) then we cannot propose solutions that continue to break the budget.

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    15. Americans should pay for them. The notion that we can go on these grand expeditions without cost to the taxpayer at home is ridiculous.

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    16. We need to stop jumping into every little conflict.

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  5. Great post as usual!

    I would attack at night with NVGs for small boats crew, probably could be put in the Obscurants category. It would be harder to organize the attack but then again, attacking in all directions will be kind of a mess anyways. Plus, you might get a better element of surprise and it would be a lot harder for the crew of the ship to know which boats have been disabled and which aren't. Don't forget reaction time at 3.00am isn't the best so you might be able to sneak in real close, somebody is bound to make a mistake on the bigger ship.

    US PT boats did good work in WWII and didn't have NVGs so I don't see why the smaller boats shouldn't be as able today....

    I think maybe even the weapons used by the smaller boats could be in a separate category. We shouldn't just assume they have small arms and RPGs. Again, in WWI, PT boats carried torpedoes. What about a flotilla of small boats all carrying different load outs? It not only would saturate the bigger ship but increase the level of confusion and what response to address first. Some boats fire small arms and RPGs, others maybe fire a TOW or something like a small anti tank missile, one or two drop a torpedo in the water, maybe a helicopter fires a ASM and you bigger boat would have a hard surviving the combination. If it's a well trained and alert boat, it should make it but how often is that and the enemy gets to pick the time and location of the attack......so it might not just be the number of attacks/attackers but also the number of different weapons employed that matters.

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    1. Excellent comment and very good point about multiple weapon types. I'd use Stinger/Javelin/TOW type weapons for sure, assuming they could be effectively targeted from a small, pitching boat (no mean feat, I suspect!). On the other hand, a Navy warship makes for a very large target!

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    2. You''ve summed up the issues nicely. In a sense, this is a 'terrain' issue. We have big, blue water assets that don't do well with close in, fast boats in the littorals.

      Its like asking Mean Joe Green to fight Sugar Ray Leanord in the ring with only boxing rules. Mean Joe was a big guy, but in Sugar Ray's environment using Sugar Ray's rules he has a problem.

      The thing I hate about this is that we are using million dollar missiles to blow up a $200,000 weapons system. We keep finding ourselves in lousy exchanges like this.

      There has to be a way to try to equalize that. Sure, Javalin and Stinger may not be the best way to go. Griffen is awfully small, but what about something with a penetrator that attacked from the top and shot down, like some of the anti-tank missiles?

      I'm thinking of a small weapon designed to fly over and punch a hole through the bottom of the small boat, or damage it enough that hydrodynamic action breaks it apart if its moving quickly.

      Alternatively, what about incendiary rounds? A boat moving quickly at you that is on fire is one you may have to worry alot less about.

      WE have to find a way to deal with this. But we also have to do so in such a way that we can afford to deal with it. Either that or we stay out of the littorals and away from choke points unless and until we are willing to lay complete waste to the areas that could sortie small boats. Which is pretty much all the near coastline.

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  6. OK, like the post.

    Couple of questions to define the problem, what is our minimum perimeter, I’m going to assume these boats pose a threat so I’m guessing they must be armed with something better than RPG7.

    Range is critical, if they are going to have to plant limpet mines it’s a whole other problem to stopping them at a 5 mile limit for a hell fire esk hit.

    Obviously the more potent ASM’s are heavy but we have to consider a 50km perimeter at least, and then things get really tricky.

    We are talking about the littoral or green water aren’t we really ? (unless the crew were asleep at the wheel). And that bring the question of how much time you have from first sighting to minimum perimeter.

    I think manoeuvre is your primary action, as with any multiple target engagement right down to hand to hand, you get all your ducks in a line ( to prevent encirclement ) and increase the dwell time. If you have 28kts available this is going to make quite a difference to individual engagement time.

    Also in blue water (if you can drag them there) you will simply find that small crafts sea keeping at high speeds will massively affect them. They will suffer from the same dwell time problem, but it’s worse for them.

    We have smoke, chaff and flares too you know. Deploy immediately in concert with manoeuvre.

    And I hear phalanx 2B is supposed to be fairly handy in a small boat mode (I worry about the ammo supply though, how long does it take to rearm a phalanx ? ). 30mm chain guns come as standard, chuck it all at them + the kitchen sink.

    Helicopters and mini guns are good. Small craft rarely have any kind of serious air defence. And Manpads will be a bitch to use under smoke and at 35kts over rough water and incoming shrapnel.

    That’s what I would go for anyway :)

    I know you might be looking for a spangly new technology answer, but I also think you know that you don’t really want that too.

    There isn’t one that does end up costing more than the small boat.

    I think we have the technology already we just need to train and have our sh1t together when it happens !

    Beno

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    1. I maybe should have been clearer in the post that I'm talking about small craft, not missile craft - that's a whole nother issue. So, effective weapons range for a RPG is a half mile or so depending on version. Other weapons (Stinger/Javelin/TOW-ish types) would have longer ranges.

      The problem in defending is target identification. If you have a ten mile radius free fire zone around the ship then you can engage early. Unfortunately, given the fact that small craft are visually indistinguishable from civilian craft, US policy dictates a much reduced engagement zone. If the swarm craft can close to a mile or two before becoming obvious as threats, the engagement is almost over before its begun!

      This is a problem that has no easy solution.

      Regarding technology as the solution, NO!! As you say, we already have plenty of options (Hellfire, for another example - which is actually going to be on the LCS). We just need to understand the problem and develop effective tactics for dealing with it. More than anything, we need to have an LCS (or Burke) actually fight off a swarm attack using drones and see what works and what doesn't. The Navy's refusal to do this test tells a lot.

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  7. Laser guided Hellfires are best. But if the boat had a big electric outboard too, it could switch that on at night and a ship couldn't detect it. And you forgot the biggie -- guided torpedoes! Imagine PT boats of WW II with self guided torpedoes! All this assumes an enemy doesn't use commercial looking fishing boats, which allow it to go within 100 meters of a ship.

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    1. "All this assumes an enemy doesn't use commercial looking fishing boats, which allow it to go within 100 meters of a ship."
      A "fishing" boat trying to get close to a warship is unlikely to have a long life

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    2. "A "fishing" boat trying to get close to a warship is unlikely to have a long life."

      Well, you say that ... The biggest problem the US faces is self-imposed combat limitations due to our obsessive compulsion to avoid collateral damage. So, yes, a fishing boat stands a good chance of getting too close unless we are willing to declare free fire zones around our ships and simply kill anything that enters.

      Despite being theoretically alert to terrorist tactics, Cole allowed a small craft to sail right up to it and detonate alongside.

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  8. As a defender (bigger ship), I would say the best asset is the on board helicopter (M-60s type or Lynx,etc) or having cover from attack helicopters from LHDs or from land. (Apache/Cobra or Tiger,etc). Although, you do have to worry about MANPADS.

    The problem raised by ComNavOps is what kind of boat are talking about here? I think we talking about : speed boats, high performance boats, personal water craft (PWC), WWII style PTs,etc plus whatever civilian boats are out there and let's not forget Iran built those funny looking ekranoplane which might be armed or not....it such a vast category of size, weight, dimensions and capabilities.

    https://www.bellingcat.com/news/mena/2015/07/05/irans-building-a-new-flying-boat/
    http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/middleeast/iran/9486815/Little-boat-big-danger-how-a-British-made-speedboat-has-become-a-weapon-in-Irans-standoff-with-the-US.html

    Could a weapon like this been installed on a small boat? I don't see why not, the goal here not really to hit or damage the ship but in terms of saturation and just sheer shock, I'm sure the effect on crew of a frigate or destroyer wouldn't be negligible.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Type_63_multiple_rocket_launcher#Licence_versions

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    1. NICO, see my reply above about helos. They're not as useful as you might think.

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  9. What would an EMP weapon like the Air Force CHAMPS do to these swarm boats?

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    1. Interesting question. I don't know the range of the EMP effect. Would its use close to the defending ship, as in a swarm attack scenario, also affect the defender? Small boats have less electronics so I'm not sure to what extent a small boat would be affected.

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  10. I remain unconvinced by the arguments for stinger, javelin and like missiles: the warheads optimized for ATGMs, and anti-aircraft work are completely different than what is required to destroy 40-50 Boghammers/dhows/Boston whalers equipped with B40 rocket launchers,14.5mm machine guns, 23mm automatic cannons, and perhaps a large 1-2,000 lb suicide bomb. Keep in mind that these weapons are best employed as a surprise attack at the onset of a naval campaign as a political weapon.

    Any exposed marines or sailors running around topside with man-portable weapons are dead meat for B40 rockets (look at the range and warhead size), 23mm auto cannons, and heavy machineguns used by the Iranians during Ernest Will missions. Individually a nuisance, in a pack of 40-50they would rain hell.

    The right answer are weapons that are able to deliver a 15-20lbs high explosive fragmentation warhead. Hellfire, Brimstone, Griffin, perhaps even APKWS or DAGR seem to be the appropriate answer.

    Guns and 70mm flechette rockets may also be useful for kills and raising havoc with the enemy. If you doubt the power of the 70mm rocket, you may wish to revisit the damage wrought on the Iranian mine layer Iran Ajar by TF-160 aircraft.

    GAB

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    1. You make a good point about exposed crew. Also, the original anti-swarm ship, the LCS, suffers from a complete lack of manpower to utilize such weapons due to the Navy's insistence on minimal manning.

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    2. Agree that missiles with reasonably large warheads are best. However, remember that missiles that are normally operated manually can be put in small launchers and remotely operated. Many ships have remotely operated machine guns, grenade launchers, etc., precisely to avoid depending on personnel who could be hit by bullets or shrapnel.

      Also, even though a shaped-charge warhead is intended to hit armor, (1) do we really know that it will not have lethal effect on a speedboat, and (2) one premise of the article is that a smart enemy might provide some minimal armor to defeat fragmentation warheads. A shaped charge might do quite well.

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    3. Nope, man portable ATGMs are unlikely to deliver the one-shot kill that CNO is calling for.

      Not many man portable weapons have a 15lb + warheads.

      There is no financial advantage to going with a weapon like Javelin for this mission and there are no performance advantages: why not stick with proven weapons like Hellfire or Hydra rockets?

      GAB

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    4. Javelins can be hand-carried around the deck, or between ships, by one or two sailors. It requires no dedicated deck space, no special mounting, no combat system integration. It doesn't require a tremendous amount of training. You can carry as many CLUs as you have trained crew.

      SEA JAVELIN: AN ANALYSIS OF NAVAL FORCE PROTECTION
      ALTERNATIVES

      http://www.dtic.mil/dtic/tr/fulltext/u2/a413541.pdf

      Hydra and Hellfire require dedicated launchers that take up deck space.

      Each has its place. It doesn't have to be either-or.

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    5. "It requires no dedicated deck space,..."

      It probably does. The 25m back blast probably severely limits the places that the weapon can be fired from.

      Delete
    6. It isn't a 25m backblast. It is a 25m safe zone where you could get hit with debris. Javelin is designed to be fired from enclosed areas.

      Delete
    7. Watch this to see how mild the "back blast" is,

      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SKfW0CIQ6W8

      Delete
    8. "FIRING FROM ENCLOSURES
      A-11. The Javelin has a soft launch system, allowing it to be fired safely from inside of a building, provided that the room is at least 7 feet high, 12 feet wide, and 15 feet deep. Before firing the Javelin
      from inside of a building, the following precautions must be taken:
      z Remove debris and loose objects from behind the launch site. The backblast and overpressure can scatter loose objects, and escaping gases from the missile’s first-stage motor are hot and flammable, causing rugs, furniture, and curtains to catch fire. When
      possible, keep a fire extinguisher nearby.

      When possible, open all doors and windows within the launch area to allow the backblast and overpressure to escape.

      All personnel within 25 meters of the Javelin must wear hearing protection.

      Use the CLU face shield to protect the gunner’s face. It is possible to damage the face shield absorber between the indentation and the CLU main housing. If this part of the face shield is
      missing, the gunner must switch from firing the Javelin with the right eye to the left eye.
      "

      Delete
  11. Also add the type 63 107mm rocket launcher to the SWARM discussion.

    GAB

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  12. Can or cant the cwis/phalanx engage the swarm as well? Is its radar able to target swarm threats?

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    Replies
    1. CIWS has a surface engagement mode but it has some problems in the anti-swarm role. It has a limited ready ammo supply, has the same dwell time issue that any gun has, and has a short range (if it's in range then so are the bad guys). Also, it's not mounted on the LCS and many of the Burkes have none or only one. The Navy, at one time, was phasing CIWS out in favor of the RAM.

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  13. This is reminiscent (to me) of the discussion in naval circles at the turn of the 20th century when small cheap torpedo boats posed a serious threat to heavy units (i.e.: pre-dreadnought battleships). The tactics discussed are similar and the solution, at the time, were dedicated Torpedo Boat Destroyers. Of course those grew into the multi-mission Destroyers by World War I.

    Is a similar solution workable here too? A ship, bigger and better armed (and protected) than the speedboats, able to screen higher value ships from these attacks. The ship would have to be either blue water capable (limiting minimum size) or easily carried on a "transporter" vessel (increasing system complexity). They would need to be sufficiently larger than the speedboats but able to rival them in their speeds in order to effectively intercept them. Weapon systems would be tailored to the swarm threat, but makes the ships mono-missioned. And would such ships themselves make good attackers for high value ships (also something that happened early on with the TBD's).

    Just my thoughts on the subject.

    ReplyDelete
  14. This is reminiscent (to me) of the discussion in naval circles at the turn of the 20th century when small cheap torpedo boats posed a serious threat to heavy units (i.e.: pre-dreadnought battleships). The tactics discussed are similar and the solution, at the time, were dedicated Torpedo Boat Destroyers. Of course those grew into the multi-mission Destroyers by World War I.

    Is a similar solution workable here too? A ship, bigger and better armed (and protected) than the speedboats, able to screen higher value ships from these attacks. The ship would have to be either blue water capable (limiting minimum size) or easily carried on a "transporter" vessel (increasing system complexity). They would need to be sufficiently larger than the speedboats but able to rival them in their speeds in order to effectively intercept them. Weapon systems would be tailored to the swarm threat, but makes the ships mono-missioned. And would such ships themselves make good attackers for high value ships (also something that happened early on with the TBD's).

    Just my thoughts on the subject.

    ReplyDelete
  15. Hello to all. I just discovered this blog and really enjoy reading the commentaries provided. Lots of good stuff on here. Concerning this topic of 'swarm attacks', one aspect of them that I haven't seen mentioned (and I am open to the possibility that it has been but I looked past it!) is the suicide bomber element of the swarm. I've been seeing references to RPGs, various sized machine guns and cannon, torpedoes, and unguided rockets and small anti-ship missiles that some types of the small boats presently in the Iranian Navy might possess and utilize. Much has been discussed here about the threat they represent. But I think the most serious threat is that of one or more of these small craft being loaded with explosives and ramming one of our ships. Think of the "USS Cole" on the open water. That threat alone makes the necessity to be able to detect and plot and counter these boats all the more dire. I'm going to hope and thus 'assume' (and I hope that is not an empty hope) that our ships will be operating as part of a group. With that, let me say straight up that I do not have any answers about this. BUT, I will offer some ideas for discussion and evaluation if anyone is so inclined.

    As far as detection of such threats go, what is the feasibility of employing sensor bearing aerostats within the group to help with detection? Certainly weather will impact how and when they will be used, but weather will no doubt impact our adversary as well, especially given that their craft are indeed small. So while 24/7 operation might not be achievable, certainly any little bit helps.

    As far as weaponry, what about something akin to the WWII era 'hedgehog' that fired anti-submarine munitions? Such a weapon would need to be 'aim-able'. Firing rounds en mass that can each either disperse smaller explosives or detonate as airbursts around small attacking boats might be effective. Whether the weapon installation requires penetration of the deck(s) or can be 'bolt on' I'll leave to the experts, but plenty of reloads should be part of the package, and being able to reload the launchers quickly is strongly desired. This a close-in, point weapon, so range considerations are not the most important, this is about taking out the suicide 'swarmers'. But, I present these possibilities for discussion.

    Oh, I'm having trouble on here producing a sign in moniker. I have to post as 'Anonymous' for now, but I'd like to change that. Usually such sites ask for an email address, but this one asks for a URL, and I don't know how to get around that. Any help here is appreciated.

    ReplyDelete
  16. I thought my post concerning all this had been accepted recently, but seeing how I don't see it, I'll try again. A lot of great stuff is presented here from quite a few posters. One thing I didn't see (and if it IS on here, I stand corrected, the old eyes just aren't what they used to be!), is any reference to the suicide bomber element of a swarm attack. If one or two or more are dedicated to ramming any ship while loaded down with explosives (think the "USS COLE" on the open water), THAT would be truly the worst case scenario to face. The discussions on here have centered on the weaponry these small craft can carry, and they include small anti-ship missiles, torpedoes, small guns and cannon, RPGs, and machine guns of various sizes and calibers. All must be taken seriously, but the one scenario that REALLY turns all of this into a nightmare is the suicide bomber boat(s). The damage incurred from the other sources, though costly, might be sustainable, but getting hit directly by a sizeable explosives load that might well be in the hundreds of pounds is frightening to consider.

    That said, I will throw out some possible options for consideration for defending against such attacks. For starters, what is the feasibility of utilizing aerostats for help in detecting the threats? I'm going to 'assume' that our ships will not be operating alone. One or more ships being able to deploy an adequate aerostat when circumstances allow might provide some additional capabilities beyond that of the ships themselves or any other deployable air resources, like drones or helicopters. Could the employment of aerostats allow for the conserving of those other air-based assets so that some or all of them can indeed be utilized in attacking the threat(s)? Weather will always play a role in all this, but all things being equal, that same weather will no doubt impact the Iranians or any others who seek to use small boats in swarm attacks, BECAUSE they are such small craft!

    As for actually trying to destroy the boats, what is the feasibility of developing a weapon like that of the WWII era anti-submarine 'hedgehog'? Instead of lofting out depth bombs and charges that detonate under water, they cover a large area above the surface with airbursts, or dispense smaller munitions that explode when contacting the surface and anything on it? Such a weapon would have to be 'aim-able'. Whether such a weapon needs to penetrate the deck(s) or can be bolted on I'll leave to the experts. But being able to carry several reloads is a must, and the quicker those reloads can be put back in, the better. Range considerations should not be a major concern, this would be a 'point weapon' that is all about blowing up or dissuading the suicide boats.

    Doug in VA

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Doug, your comments went into the spam folder of the blog. About 1 out of 100 comments go there for no apparent reason. I check the blog folder regularly and move comments to the regular section as soon as I see them but it could be some hours. If you've published a legitimate comment, have faith that it will show up in relatively short order.

      Unfortunately, I have no control over the blog's spam identification mechanism. All I can do is monitor it as often as I can.

      Delete
    2. Thanks for the info CNO. I'll remember that going forward. I never know how these things work.

      Delete