Friday, April 29, 2016

Rationalize Survivability

All too often, today, requirements are downgraded and then rationalized to explain why the downgrade wasn’t actually a downgrade.  Wake up!  Yes, it was a downgrade.  Of course it was a downgrade.

Consider the highest level military requirement that sets the priorities, force structures, acquisition programs, etc. for the services.  Originally, after the collapse of the Soviet Union, the requirement was to be able to fight and win two major regional wars simultaneously.  That has since been watered down to being able to win one regional conflict and holding in another.

The 1997 Quadrennial Defense Review put it this way,

“As a global power with worldwide interests, it is imperative that the United States now and for the foreseeable future be able to deter and defeat large-scale, cross-border aggression in two distant theaters in overlapping time frames, preferably in concert with regional allies. Maintaining this core capability is central to credibly deterring opportunism—that is, to avoiding a situation in which an aggressor in one region might be tempted to take advantage when U.S. forces are heavily committed elsewhere… “

Despite that straightforward statement, we have downgraded the requirement to fighting one regional conflict and holding on in another and have rationalized that it’s a good thing.  Why did we downgrade the requirement?  It wasn’t because the threats decreased.  It was simply because our military spending was becoming greater and providing less return than in the past.  Since we could no longer afford the force structure required to simultaneously fight and win two major regional wars we opted to change the requirement rather than change our procurement and spending habits.

Or, consider the Navy’s carrier requirements.  After the Cold War, the requirement was for 15 carriers.  It has subsequently worked its way down to 11 with serious discussions about permanent reductions to 8-10.  Our need hasn’t changed.  What’s changed is that carriers are pricing themselves out of existence, slowly but surely.  Each step of the way, the Navy rationalized the reductions.

Or, consider the Marine’s requirement for amphibious lift.  Depending on the source, the requirement is as high as 54 amphibious ships.  Another common number is 38.  The Marines have “bargained” with the Navy and settled on 33-34 as sufficient.  The actual number is 30 ships.  The Marines and Navy have rationalized the reductions every step of the way.  Again, the requirements didn’t change – only our ability to meet them changed so we rationalized our acquisition failure.

The point is that downgrades are imposed by outside factors, budget being chief among them although stupidity is also right up there, and then rationalization is applied to make the downgrade seem palatable or even beneficial and preferred.  Rationalization does not, however, change the underlying facts of the matter or the requirements.  If we needed 15 carriers, we probably still do.  If we needed to be able to fight and win two major regional conflicts at the same time, we probably still do.

Well, that sets the stage for our discussion of survivability.

By the end of WWII, we pretty thoroughly understood what ship survivability meant and how to achieve it.  BuShips set the standards and ensured that new construction met those standards.  Now, BuShips is gone and accounting trumps survivability.

For decades, survivability has been defined by a very concise and crystal clear document, OpNavInst 9070.1, issued from the CNO’s office on 23-Sep-1988.  It is a remarkable document characterized by fundamental, concise, and obvious statements of requirement.  For example, the basic need is acknowledged by the statement,

“Survivability shall be considered a fundamental design requirement of no less significance than other inherent ship characteristics, such as weight and stability margins, maneuverability, structural integrity and combat systems capability.”

Clear.  Simple.  Obvious.  So, too, is this statement.

“Ship protection features, such as armor, shielding and signature reduction, together with installed equipment hardened to appropriate standards, constitute a minimum baseline of survivability.” [emphasis added]

The document goes on to define three levels of survivability in short, simple, and unambiguous terms.

Level I (lowest) represents the least severe environment anticipated and excludes the need for enhanced survivability for designated ship classes to sustain operations in the immediate area of an engaged Battle Group or in the general war-at-sea region. In — this category, the minimum design capability required shall, in addition to the inherent sea keeping mission, provide for EMP and shock hardening, individual protection for CBR, including decontamination stations, the DC/FF capability to control and recover from conflagrations and include the ability to operate in a high latitude environment.

Level II (middle) represents an increase of severity to include the ability for sustained operations when in support of a Battle Group and in the general war-at-sea area. This level shall provide the ability for sustained combat operations following weapons impact. Capabilities shall include the requirements of Level I plus primary and support system redundancy, collective protection system, improved structural integrity and subdivision, fragmentation protection, signature reduction, conventional and nuclear blast protection and nuclear hardening.

Level III (highest) the most severe environment projected for combatant Battle Groups, shall include the requirements of Level II plus the ability to deal with the broad degrading effects of damage from anti-ship cruise missiles (ASCMS), torpedoes and mines.

The document even defines which ships shall have which level of survivability.

Ship Type                                                       Level

Aircraft Carriers                                               III
Surface Combatants                                       III
Frigates and Amphibious Warfare                   II
Underway Replenishment Ships                      II
Patrol Combatant and Mine Warfare                I
Strategic Sealift                                                 I
Support Ships                                                    I
All Other Auxiliary Ships/Craft                           I

Clear.  Simple.  Obvious. 

This should be the end of the story.  However, the Navy ran into a little problem:  the LCS.  The LCS was designed with a sub-Level I survivability.  The Navy claimed that it was designed with some made up Level I+ survivability but we already totally debunked that.  The Navy flat out lied about that.  In any event, because they made the claim of survivability that was untrue and because the ship was designed with sub-Level I, the Navy received much criticism and bad publicity.  They fought the negative perception (the reality, actually) for years but could not overcome the criticism especially because their own policy, OpNavInst 9070.1 contradicted their claims and showed that the LCS should have been built with Level II.

Eventually, after fighting a losing battle for many years, the Navy decided that if they couldn’t defend their claims, the easiest solution was to change the survivability standards so that the LCS would meet the new, downgraded standards and the conversation would end.  To that end, the Navy made up a new survivability “standard” which is documented in OpNavInst 9070.1A and was issued by CNO Greenert on 13-Sep-2012.

The new document takes a previously simple, clear, straightforward, and logical requirement and turns it into a nearly incomprehensible mishmash of generic and interlocking statements that offer no specific guidance or requirements.  It has reduced a very specific process to a vague collection of “feelings” about survivability.  That was, I believe, its intended purpose – to so obscure the survivability issue that the Navy can now claim the LCS meets the “standard”.

The document incorporates aspects that have nothing to do with survivability.  For example, it introduces cyberwarfare as an element of survivability.  Cyberwarfare and cyber vulnerabilities may affect a platform’s ability to accomplish its task but it is not a survivability issue.

Even the very definition of survivability is flawed.  Read it.

“Survivability. A measure of both the capability of the ship, mission critical systems, and crew to perform assigned warfare missions, and of the protection provided to the crew to prevent serious injury or death.”

This definition is incorrect and has nothing to do with survivability.  The measure of the ability to perform missions is not survivability.  Ability to perform missions is effectiveness.  Even the protection for the crew is only somewhat related to survivability.  Survivability is, pure and simple, the ability of the ship to remain afloat in the face of combat and damage.  The Navy can’t even define survivability!

The document then goes on to list three principal disciplines of survivability: susceptibility, vulnerability, and recoverability.  The subsequent definitions of these disciplines are as flawed and irrelevant as the definition of survivability.  I won’t even bother quoting them.  You can read the document if you’re interested.

Ultimately, the document goes on to offer tables and flowcharts of survivability, none of which offer any concrete requirements.  Everything is fluid.  Survivability can be anything you want it to be.  This takes today’s “feel good” movement and codifies it in Navy documents. 

We’ve taken a perfectly simple, logical, and useful survivability requirement, downgraded it to the point of uselessness, and rationalized it under some all-encompassing assessment that has little to do with survivability.  Why?  Because the Navy got tired of continually defending an expensive and non-survivable ship. 

If you can’t change the survivability of the ship, change the definition of survivability!  A typical Navy solution.


  1. Nice post CNO. I think this is where you are at your best, hoisting the Navy upon its own documentation.

    While I was reading this it came to me that in my mind, the Navy has always built 'tough' ships. By that I mean if you go back in history, from the Standard Battleships all the way to the Constitution, a ships ability to stay afloat in the face of combat and damage for its main ship types was a key design element (I exclude wooden hulled PT's, etc.).

    To the point where often our ships would be more balanced than others. The Standards may have been a few knots slower, but they were very well protected. We did have some exceptions (showboat comes to mind) but those were more exceptions based on expedience and need than design.

    Now that appears to be greatly diminished. With the LCS they didn't even try.

    It might be, in some circumstances, okay to do that. The PT boats were like the glass jawed puncher. THey could hit hard and were hard to hit, but hit them once and they're done. The streetfighter concepts were similar.

    But the Navy, and I hate this, took the LCS and spoke out of both sides of their mouth. 'Its like streetfighter. Its littoral. Despite the fact that its 3500 tons its not a frigate'

    and before you know it its doing frigate roles, and being called a defacto frigate.

    It would be like putting a hull plug and depth charges on a PT and calling it a DE.

    Again. If this is the new Navy, in my opinion, start throttling the budget. I have no problem spending money for well designed, tough new ships. I'm very annoyed at spending millions on badge engineering and failed concepts.

    1. The thing about smaller PT boats and fast attack craft is that their size is a big advantage too. Small boats are hard to hit with anti-shipping missiles and can often dodge larger guns.

    2. Thats quite true, but back then even big ships were hard to hit, and relied on salvo fire. Even the number of naval ships hit by torpedoes but didnt sink was quite high- thats when survivability and a motivated crew meant the difference between sinking or staying afloat.
      British light cruisers were badly designed so that without immediate counter flooding , a torpedo hit that was survivable, meant they quickly capsized.

      Nowdays the targeting is so much better with a continuously computed impact point for shell fire , combined with air bursts, mean small boats are especially vulnerable. As well smaller missiles can mean a fast boat can be effectively hit by a helicopter

    3. "Nowdays the targeting is so much better with a continuously computed impact point for shell fire , combined with air bursts, mean small boats are especially vulnerable."

      Do you have any evidence, whatsoever, to support your contention? This is a commonly repeated claim that lacks any supporting data. In fact, the available data suggests the opposite conclusion.

      I agree that theory suggests small boats are at greater risk from naval gunfire today but the reality would seem to indicate otherwise.

      Give me some evidence to believe you!

      The evidence against is the Vincennes incident with nearly a hundred 5" rounds fired at Boghammer size craft and no recorded hits. Further evidence is the Gulf of Tonkin battle in which around 300 rounds were fired at NV small craft with no verifiable hits. To be fair, it's not entirely certain that there were any actual targets.

    4. The Vincennes was scrapped some 5 years ago and the incidents you mention are almost 30 years ago. That doesnt reflect the reality of modern FCS

      This is the capabilities of the SAAB CMS for a frigate and below sized vessel.
      The 9LV CMS comprises the 9LV FCS capabilities and can reduce the operator’s
      workload in critical conditions by automating threat evaluation, engagement
      planning and weapon control during engagements.
      Coordinates all sensors and weapons (hardkill and softkill)
      Probability-based evaluation
      Cyclic re-evaluation and feedback loop
      Quick response to scenario changes
      Manual/semi-automatic/fully automatic options
      This is their FCS brochure which I have based my views on.

      Naturally they dont spell out exact features and it is a 'brochure' but they are a successful company with a number of platforms. Their EOS trageting system is especially interesting

      I have previously linked to youtube and the 57mm firing with timed airburst to create a moving barrage.
      Thats was obviously a demonstration and there was some speculation that armoured boats, with armoured crew in the very rough seas could be invulnerable. Theres is no evidence of that but no system is perfect of course.

    5. "I have previously linked to youtube and the 57mm firing with timed airburst to create a moving barrage."
      If you could do so again I'd be appreciative

      I've looked and every example I've found of a cannon engaging a small boat has been an embarrassing failure.

    6. Ztev, if your evidence is nothing more than manufacturer's claims than you have nothing to contribute to this discussion. I won't bother listing the litany of manf's claims that have been proven to be unfounded.

      Youtube videos of staged tests could not be more unrealistic and most actually demonstrate the lack of effectiveness of guns if one knows enough to analyze the videos critically.

      If you have no evidence (and I'm not aware of the existence of any), simply say so.

    7. This day and age there is no excuse for naval guns incapable of engaging surface targets. If we can illuminate a boat with radar, it should be a very simple firing solution to hit it with a gun or missile.

      We can knock mortar rounds out of the air with a CIWS, there is no excuse for a 57mm gun, much-less a 5" gun that is incapable of hitting boats.

      The big problem I see is getting a firing solution on a small boat and taking them out before they can launch an AShM at you.

      ROE damn sure comes into play with this also, if a ship has to visually identify an enemy before firing on it, they will already be close enough to launch at you. You can hope that defensive systems are in full-automatic mode but they likely will not be for the same ROE.

    8. Mat, I think you're overestimating (or overcrediting) the accuracy of guns today. Every Youtube video I see of naval gunnery exercises show a remarkable number of misses (my guesstimate is 90%+ misses judged from the splash patterns) and this is despite contrived, perfect conditions where the firing platform is barely moving and the target is often stationary or barely moving. Co-incidentally, I just watched a video of a Phalanx CIWS firing on a target small boat motoring back and forth and after several firing episodes the boat was still motoring along, speed unchanged, and the CIWS had achieved perhaps 1-5% hits, judging by the splash patterns. Moreover, the splash patterns were not tight little groups but were spread out over a hundred feet, perhaps, for each firing group.

      The reality is that the challenge of firing from a moving, unstable platform at another moving, bouncing platform is difficult and the results would only be worse if the firing platform was moving at full speed and conducting high turn rate evasive maneuvers as a real ship would in combat and the if the small boat target were boring straight in as it would in combat.

      So, while you say there's no excuse for not hitting a target boat, the reality is that it's a very difficult thing to do. The videos pretty much prove it. Watch them with a critical eye and you'll see what I'm talking about.

    9. The USN has just completed testing of SPQ-9B radar with periscope detection upgrade.
      The SPQ-9B radar is used with the Mk160 GFCS to provide targeting information for the Mk45 Gun ( among others)
      So we have the mast mounted radar detecting a periscope and then Mk160 GFCS directing gunfire at the target.

    10. "So we have the mast mounted radar detecting a periscope and then Mk160 GFCS directing gunfire at the target."

      But they still arent hitting!!!!

      A CIWS fires over a thousand rounds at a small fragile target, even if only 1% hit, it is more than enough to destroy sensors, control surfaces, or possibly even the warhead.
      10 20mm rounds wont destroy a boat.

  2. Just curious, but what would a heavily armored ship be classified as hypothetically? A level 4? Then would battleship level armor be perhaps a level 5?

    1. Even by the middle of WW1, new battleship protection had concentrated on torpedo hits and mines. Shell fire could be protected against to some extent, but that was negated by the use of dive bombing and the bombs kept getting bigger.

    2. A battleship would simply be Level III. There is no higher level. The levels are not defined by the amount of armor. They're defined by the ability to continue functioning in the three defined scenarios.

    3. I've been out for some time, but back in the day our peacetime Navy did nothing for crew protection. With Poly Khakis known to melt to the skin. Look at pictures from WW II where crews donned goggles, helmets and reflective gear. Do our sailors wear fireproof nomex, and why not light helmets like hockey players? An update here from someone in the fleet would be nice.

    4. In no way should this be construed as defence of the Navy, but...

      In the second world war, the biggest hitter in the game was a 1200kg shell
      Today, Russias biggest hitter is a 7000kg missile, which can add a nuclear tip.

      Theres little excuse for a ship to be as vulnerable to small arms as modern warships are, but there are pretty hard limits as to what can be done to defend against a ton of high explosives flying at 600 miles per hour.

    5. TrT, you may be missing the main point of survivability. It's not, as so many seem to think, the attempt to make a ship invulnerable to a given weapon. As you point out, beyond a certain, fairly small, caliber, it's not possible to provide invulnerability. Instead, survivability is intended to maximize the ship's ability to TAKE A HIT and keep afloat and keep fighting. The required survivability features include armor, certainly, but also, redundancy, separation of key components, reserve power, firefighting, reserve buoyancy, compartmentalization, damage control manpower (usually ignored today), etc.

      Too many people (including the Navy) are ignoring survivability in ship design just because we can't provide invulnerability against a nuclear warhead.

      I hope this helps make clear what survivability is really about.

    6. IIRC the Navy was surprised at how many ships survived getting nuked in the tests after WWII. Whatever else those ships were tough. (Admittedly, everyone inside would have died, the ships themselves weren't direclty hit...)

    7. If you haven't, you should read "Neptune's Inferno". It describes the naval battles of Guadalcanal. The beating that those ships took was unbelievable. It makes you realize that the one-hit wonders we're building today are an evolutionary naval mistake of the highest order.

    8. Redundant fire mains, power, local controls, I can get behind.

    9. And trust me, when the shrapnel starts flying you'll also get behind armor!

    10. I've done posts on armor because, frankly, most people fail to grasp the purpose of armor. While it would be great if we could develop armor that could laugh at a 2000 lb warhead, the reality is that we can't. What armor gets us is the ability to contain and minimize, to the extent possible, the area of damage from a hit. While armor might not totally stop the hit, it might protect the fire control computer and allow the ship to keep fighting. It might save the lives of the damage control party that then saves the ship. It might prevent shrapnel from shredding the fire main. It might limit the damage to one compartment instead of two. And so on. THAT'S the value and purpose of armor.

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  4. It appears that no longer do we have command priorities fight move float but have morphed into feel good, look good (???) and keep the bean counters happy.....

  5. I realize this is a bit old...
    ...but last week I was able to visit CV10 and the USS Laffey in Charleston.

    I didn't know the Laffey's story. But here was a 3500 ton (full load, I believe) vessel that got hit with 4 bombs, 6 kamikaze strikes, and was strafed mercilessly, and still was able to make her way back to base.

    IIRC the Sumners were unarmored with conventional belt or deck armor. She's only got a 41ft beam.

    But she had something like 300 men on her and they were able to do amazing damage control.

    I have to also believe that even without normal 'armor' this bath built ship was very tightly put together.

    1. You need to understand what constitutes "armor". WWII Fletcher class destroyers (and presumably these were the same) had 1/2" - 3/4" plate AS THEIR NORMAL HULL PLATE. That's so far beyond what an LCS or even a Burke has.

      You might want to investigate HY80/HY100 and STS to begin to appreciate how WWII ships were built even without add-on armor.

  6. I will. After reading how well the Laffey took the beating I'm fascinated by just how strong materials and good construction technique can make the boat tougher. When I say 'unarmored' I meant that she didn't have a belt or deck armor. But her very construction sounds like it would be considered 'armor' today. The bulkheads were able to resist and redirect the blasts of the bombs and the kamikaze's.

    What really shocks me is that they were able to do all this within 3500 tons full load (Paper full load weight, I'm not sure how much these destroyers would displace in full combat rig at the end of the war...everything seemed to get weighed down more). What on earth makes the lightly built LCS displace so much?

    Compare that to the LCS and its just laughable. The Sumners weren't slow ships by any stretch, either. Not LCS fast but not slow.

    Finally, on top of all that Wiki reports that the hull price for the Sumners was 8 million. That translates to ~108 million today. Dear God!

    I'm going to sit here and stew in frustration for a bit.

    1. Also, check out this old post which shows the damage to Cole as a function of differing steel strakes.

  7. I saw that. That's actually one of the first posts on this blog that I remember reading. Its astounding. I wonder what the Cole would have looked like with the hole skin being HY80.

    The thing that did hit me though is that perhaps building a ship with HY-80 is too cost prohibitive. Its only built by one or two mills (one company) that I can tell.

    However, previous sub hulls (Prior to Permit, I think) were all HY-43. And the Laffey certainly didn't have HY-80. So maybe if HY-80 is cost prohibitive we could just go back to the 1/2" - 3/4" plate of the old style destroyers.

    It seems a pretty simple way to up survivability.

    And again, I'm really confused now. The LCS weighs as much as a Sumner at full load. The LCS is made of aluminum and thin steel, to a largely civilian spec. The Sumner was made of thicker plates of steel, to a military spec.

    The hull sizes are pretty close.

    The Sumners had to include provisions for 300 odd men and bunkerage for a 6000nm range.

    The LCS is including provision for maybe 100 men when you include mission modules, and bunkerage for between 1200/3000(?) nm range.

    Where the hell is all the weight in the LCS coming from?

    1. For one thing, the beam of the LCS is 17 ft wider than the Sumner. That's a lot of extra ship! Multiply 17 ft x the 370 ft length of the ship and that's a huge amount of additional "ship". Of course, that simple calc isn't right because the ship isn't uniformly 17 ft wider for the entire length but you get the idea.

      Also, look at the superstructure dimensions and volume. The LCS superstructure covers the entire (17 ft wider) deck area. The Sumner superstructure is tiny by comparison. The LCS carriers a comparatively HUGE superstructure.

    2. Okay. That makes sense. That would be alot of steel. I wonder if the LCS has so much more beam due to its semi-planing nature.

      One could make the argument that the Sumner wouldn't stand up to a Brahmos, and so any extra effort is useless. But I don't quite understand that.

      A Sumner wouldn't stand up to a Tone class cruiser either. But it doesn't mean its not a good idea to make it as stout as possible.

      For a ship going in Harms Way it just seems to make sense.

    3. All that extra superstructure also makes for center of gravity stability issues which the LCS, PREDICTABLY, has. I've documented that the Navy's own module swapping tests in which they practiced moving 15,000 lb loads around (simulating a module container, I guess) revealed that even small movements resulted in the ship exceeding the allowable incline limits (stability). It was right around that time that the Navy began backing away from the swapping concept. You'll notice that the Navy doesn't even claim to be able to swap module anymore other than during a special drydock availability. LCS's, if they ever finalize modules, will be given a module and never swap it unless under extraordinary circumstances - that's the Navy's new position not merely my opinion.

    4. The LCS superstructure also eliminates much of the horizontal deck space that was present on WWII ships. Look at a WWII destroyer and note all the horizontal deck space - space which mounted all kinds of guns and gear. Now look at the LCS. Where would you put an extra gun if you wanted? There's no horizontal space available. What little there is, is high up on the top of the superstructure which raises the center of gravity and worsens the stability problem.

      As you begin to carefully analyze the LCS from a naval engineering perspective, you begin to realize how badly flawed the design is from a basic, fundamental naval architecture perspective. No amount of upgrades or weapons additions (where will they put them and what will they have to remove to retain weight and stability margins?) can overcome a fundamentally flawed design.

      My main objection to the LCS is less what it is or is not equipped with but, rather, the fundamental flaws that are designed in and can't be overcome.

      OK, actually my main objection is the lack of a CONOPS but my second objection is the fundamentals which is the point of this comment.

  8. "OK, actually my main objection is the lack of a CONOPS but my second objection is the fundamentals which is the point of this comment."

    I'm guessing that one leads to the other, or at least contributes. Without a CONOPS you don't have an occams razor to say 'That's a bad idea for this ships mission'.

    " LCS's, if they ever finalize modules, will be given a module and never swap it unless under extraordinary circumstances - that's the Navy's new position not merely my opinion."

    That is my main argument against some folks who love the LCS. One guy (who, honestly, was a small ship sailor, so I have to give him some cred over me) blatantly said he likes the LCS because he likes the concept of modularity, and doesn't want to see the LCS cancelled because it would hurt that concept.

    But the LCS is *so* terrible at the modularity even if you like the concept. If I was 100% on board I'd still dislike the LCS because it would be like me being an advocate for V8's and having an automaker come out with a 130hp engine that gets 5mpg. Sure, it has the V8 I want, but its going to perform so horribly that it will give a bad representation to everyone who tries to use it.