Monday, May 23, 2016

LCS Anti-Ship Missile

The Navy is going to “install” long range anti-ship missiles on two LCS over the next year or so for demonstration purposes (1). 

Harpoon will be installed on Coronado for demonstration during this summer’s RIMPAC 2016 exercise.

The Naval Strike Missile (NSM) will be installed on Freedom prior to its next deployment.

Certainly, long range anti-ship missiles (ASM) can only help the toothless LCS but we’re still a long way from having an actual functioning ASM.  For example, the Freedom’s NSM will not be integrated into the ship’s combat system and will only receive navigational data from the ship.

Still, it’s a step in the right direction and there is no doubt that an anti-ship missile can be integrated into the LCS.  Money, of course, is an issue but not the technology.

The real issue is targeting.  It does no good to have a ten thousand mile ASM if the ship’s sensors are limited to 20 miles.  The question, then, is where and how does the LCS receive targeting data?  That’s the part of the kill chain that the Navy has not yet worked out or tested.  Can a non-stealthy, slow P-8 penetrate enemy air/water space and survive long enough to find targets and send the data back to an LCS?  Can the F-35 find naval targets and get data back to the LCS?  Would someone actually dedicate a rare and powerful F-35 to acting like a UAV for an LCS?  Can a UAV survive in enemy air space long enough to find targets and transmit data?  Or, more likely, will the LCS find itself without off-board targeting data and have to fend for itself?

The Navy has not thought out the targeting portion of the kill chain when it talks about placing missiles on every ship in the fleet.


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(1)USNI News, “Navy to Demo Harpoon Missile on LCS at RIMPAC; NSM on USS Freedom by Next Deployment”, Megan Eckstein, May 4, 2016,


42 comments:

  1. From what I've read the Navy is relying on using 'networked targeting'. I know you'll love that.

    Again, putting an anti ship missile on these things is fine. But why do we always have to do it the half....er...competent way? Again, it makes me think that the Navy doesn't really want the hassle of doing this correctly. Instead they want some 'maybe' capability, and the ability to try to quiet critics.
    To them the LCS is just fine the way it is. Lots of billets for command, and lots of hulls in the water.

    Have you read the book 'Ghost Fleet'? I heard about it on the midrats podcast and it sounds like a decent book.

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    1. How long before the first major flaw is found with this new missile?

      Everything seems to fall apart when put on the LCS so far. Targeting is a huge problem, as it will have to rely on other ships.

      Of course that means it cannot operate independently (well ok it couldn't to begin with due to its poor range), and that if the other ship is not available/disabled/taken out in combat, then it is blind.

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    2. On the plus side, both the Harpoon and NSM are fairly proven commodities so I wouldn't expect major problems. Still, as you so aptly note, this is the LCS and everything seems to go wrong with it!

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  2. Convenient that the "Kill Web" (oh dear god you guys need a new naming convention) just came out ?

    https://news.usni.org/2016/05/17/navy-set-to-deploy-new-lethal-anti-surface-tactical-cloud-later-this-year

    Apart from the awful name, the concept is essencially sound, if it integrates enough assets in a secure way.

    By secure I mean satellite driven low prob of intercept. This of course starts to make me worry about the satellites again ?

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    1. Ben, this is more of the same misguided thinking that some sort of near-magical network of sensors is going to make up for a lack of numbers and explosiveness.

      As you know, it's difficult to get industrial networks to work for more than a short while at a time. That's why we have massively staffed IT departments! To believe that not only will a massive network encompassing every sensor in an entire region (or the world!!!) work flawlessly in the face of ECM, cyber warfare, jamming, signal injection, etc. but that an enemy will ALLOW all those assets to leisurely cruise the battlespace unmolested, sending back data, is simply ludicrous.

      Did you know that China has demonstrated a satellite kill capability?

      Did you know that the F-22 and F-35 can't talk to each other? So much for that portion of the network!

      Did you know that the Navy/Marine testing has demonstrated that the F-35 can't maintain comms and data links with ships? So much for that part of the network!!

      Did you know that China, Russia, and NKorea routinely hack our best military and industrial networks (and those are only the hacks that are made public)? So much for network security.

      Did you know that Russian Electronic Warfare in Ukraine has proven stunningly effective? So much for the enemy co-operating with our network plans.

      Did you know that Iran and others have, apparently, hacked our UAV comm signals and GPS? So much for secure comm and data links.

      I can go on with this all day but you should be getting the idea.

      There is no chance that such a network will work. To believe otherwise is to believe that our soldiers will ride into battle on tactical unicorns carrying rifles that shoot pixie dust.

      Do some analysis based on real world events and data and see if you still conclude that the concept is "sound".

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    2. LOL. Unicorns, nice.

      I think the concept is sound. however like I say I worry about the satellites. Several countries have now demonstrated an ability to mess with satellites right down to Iran and their GPS spoofing.

      I just thought the timing of this press release couldn't be more spot on. its clearly a fictisious concept, although obviously to some extent now "in progress", or at least its been given a name and a public domain.

      I almost sounds like a way to justify the LCS. if I was feeling malicious.

      It just an extension of what we have now really, that and CEC.

      Just seem a bit too perfect though doesn't it ? Why am I hearing cheques being signed in my head ?

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    3. The concept is not sound. The only way the concept is sound is if you assume absolutely no enemy actions or resistance. Are you really going to make me continue to list all the weaknesses inherent in this "sound" concept?

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    4. I know what your saying.

      But a distributed lethality tactic doest work without distributed targeting. With OTH weapons its ( as you say ) unlikly we will authorise a blind launch.

      Relying on organic targeting asset in a contested ecm environment is foolhardy. ( this is your argument )

      Allowing distributed targeting for assets able to target and able to network.

      And then allowing strike from any asset capable and unjammed is a good idea.

      It simply increases the probability of a firing solution in a highly contested em environment.

      LRSM has a 500 mile range. Thats a 1000 mile cirle you would have to jam. That just isnt possible continuously and globally.

      Its an option. Standard organic targeting and strike will still be available and prefered i have no doubt.

      Without this, distributed lethality is a child like concept. And NSM on LSC little more than a poor joke.

      Having said that. The techical challenges and practicalities... very suspect i agree.

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    5. What sensor do you think will see targets hundreds of miles into enemy territory for the LCS and survive to tell about it?

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    6. Triton. P8. Rivet joint. Virginia. E2. E3. CAP. U2. Oh and The usual inteligence assets.

      I think the point also is that many unarmed assets my also provide data. And some that dont survive the enguagement.

      It means that an attack on a single asset by apparently overwhelming force. Cannot be garenteed if you cant clear all usn assests from a 500 nm radius

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    7. Ben, buddy, how on earth do you see a Triton, P-8, Rivet, E-2/3 as survivable??? They're all large, slow, non-stealthy platforms. That's what is known as a target drone. You've fallen off the rails. If you're a Chinese commander and you see a P-8 or any of the assets you mentioned coming from many hundreds of miles away, are you going to allow them to do their job or are you going to have them casually swatted out of the sky? Turn it around - would we allow large, slow, non-stealthy Chinese aircraft to monitor our operations? Of course not. We'd assign the nearest asset and they'd be shortly removed from the Chinese order of battle.

      I've already pointed out that subs can be targeting assets but their field of sensing is limited, they don't like to broadcast, and they have higher priority missions.

      A U2 would be fine but is not a real time targeting asset. It's a delayed intel platform that operates at the strategic level.

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  3. I suppose distributed lethality will work as intended in a limited war, or even a regional war.

    In a total war, don't expect any network to be well functioning or at best, limited to jam resistant intranets.

    This may be what the USN is projecting the next 20-30 years?

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    1. There is no rhyme or reason to the Navy's "projections", such as they are. They seem to jump on acquisition or philosophy that can get them funding with no regard for its usefulness in war.

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  4. Am I mistaken in thinking that the USN used to actually try to practice warfighting in a communications compromised environment? Or under EMCON? I had thought that during the cold war we did that, as well as try to do things like protect our hardware from EMP.

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    1. You are half right. Yes, the Navy routinely operated in EMCON during the Cold War. However, that means no OUTGOING signals. What we haven't attempted in any significant way is to operate with no INCOMING signals (GPS, network, offboard sensors, incoming comms, data links, etc.). Take away or degrade the incoming signals and you lose offboard targeting and sensing - the very conceptual foundation of the Navy's network dreams and the Third Offset Strategy.

      EMP hardening is yet another issue.

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  5. I don't understand this particular criticism. Say what you will about the LCS, but if it has anything it's a decent aviation complement of manned helicopters and UAV's. The ship should not suffer from horizon limited visibility.

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    1. Helicopters are time limited, they MIGHT fly 4hrs a day and will cost more than the rest of the ship to do that.

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    2. The MQ-8C can remain airborne for 12 hours at a time. And current doctrine calls for surface action groups of 4 LCS's in higher threat environments. Compared to even Burke's their over the horizon targeting would be at least as capable.

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    3. Tim, I've not seen any doctrine for the LCS. I've seen lots of informal ideas floated, most of them contradictory, but no actual official doctrine. Send me a link to whatever you've seen.

      Please be wary of falling into the "everything we do works and the enemy will do nothing" school of thought prevalent in the military today. When we put up fairly large, non-stealthy, slow UAVs, what do you think the enemy will do? I see a lot of UAVs being used for target practice by the enemy. Large, slow, non-stealthy UAVs are simply not survivable in combat.

      Also, the size and available power for a radar carried on a UAV is limited. The only radar I've seen associated with the MQ-8C is the ZPY-4. The scarce data I've found for that radar indicates a range of around 15 miles. That's not exactly sweeping the ocean! It would be useful for confirming a suspected target location but as a broad area maritime surveillance capability to hunt targets for the LCS, it's woefully inadequate.

      As I said, targeting remains the weak link.

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    4. If over the horizon targeting is a weak link for LCS, it certainly isn't any stronger for a Burke. For the price of one Burke you can field 3 LCS's with 3 manned helo's and at least as many UAV's. Yes, an enemy can take out some of those air assets but in doing so may reveal their location. Again, if this is a weakness for the LCS it is a weakness for every other surface ship that isn't a carrier.

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    5. No, Tim, an LCS and a Burke are not equal when it comes to targeting. The Burke has much better and longer ranged radar and an extensive passive electronic signals detection capability (COBLU).

      That said, yes, OTH targeting is a weakness for the entire Navy but to equate the LCS and Burke is just incorrect.

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    6. No, I specified over the horizon targeting. Burke's high powered radars are great for air defense (which is their purpose of course), but of no use beyond the horizon. The only help you can enlist in targeting OTH are air assets. And a squad of LCS's will have more air assets.

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    7. Tim, you need to research the Burke's detection capabilities both active and passive.

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    8. I have. If you can explain to me how their active or passive detection bends over the horizon I'd be much obliged.

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    9. I'm sorry but I have neither the time nor writing space to explain OTH phenomena. Here's some words to look up that will put you on the right track: over the horizon radar, HF skipping, groundwave propagation, ducting. You might also read up on ham radio ranges - they have good descriptions of the phenomena. Good luck.

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    10. I looked into this and stand corrected. Thank you. I would suggest then that when the MALE UAV joins the fleet this may change the broad maritime surveillance capability of the LCS considerably.

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    11. OK, the next thing for you to consider is the survivability of a slow, non-stealthy UAV. I do not see much high end combat utility for UAVs. They're going to wind up being target drones. The enemy is unlikely to allow us to cruise UAVs over their operational areas with impunity.

      It's not enough to just look at a weapon or system (UAV in this case) and buy into the manf's claims of wonderous benefits. You also have to look at how the item will be used in high end combat and what the enemy's reaction is likely to be.

      Give it some thought and tell me what you think.

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    12. I think it depends on the threat environment. Most frigates, including Chinese frigates, have anti-air missiles in the ESSM class range. A MALE UAV should be able to stay outside that envelope while pinpointing enemy ship locations. Ditto for logistics and amphibious ships. And the LCS should then be able to sink those with impunity. Destroyer class ships may well shoot the UAV down but in doing so would betray its location. The LCS may be unwise to take on a ship such as this outside its class, but the same could be said for almost any frigate. Another destroyer or low observable jet should then take out the enemy craft.

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    13. For actual military operation use, MALD-V/MASSM seem like the ideal solutions for OTH targeting.

      The other option depends on how much you trust the IIR and targeting suite of missiles like NSM/LRASM. If it is trusted, you can fire the missile and if/when if find no valid targets, it can just destruct in air.

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  6. Understand the NSM relies on an IR passive seeker with built in ship recognition software, Australia funding an additional RF passive seeker so looks similar to the BAE seeker in the LRASM.
    Targeting, possible scenario to fire and forget, say target area at 100nm, would be an expensive lottery if there are no enemy ships in basket area when NSM arrives, depends on good intel as stated.

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    1. "Blind" firing also risks civilian losses which is something the military is very reluctant to do. That's why we have a pretty much mandatory visual identification requirement before firing.

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    2. No problem, the Navy inserts a stealthy 'black' UUW, invisible to sonar of course, outside an enemy naval base. Using an AI with big database (memory chips continues to get smaller) to monitor the passive sonar and then when safe raise periscope, Google AI now capable of identifying black cat in a coal bunker better than human eye, so should be easy match picture with database then if enemy ship transmit intel in white noise.
      Might be a few minor problems of inserting UUV and waking it up when needed though sure research will have sorted this.

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    3. I highly doubt any unmanned vehicle, let alone one thats underwater, will have that kind of capability or reliability within the next 10 years. Besides that, the military currently dose not have any system that relies on wireless that cannot be spoofed, jammed, or traced. Weapons based with networking or semi-automation as a core component of their design, are inherently flawed at best.

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    4. I could be wrong but I think Nick was engaging in a bit of sarcasm there.

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  7. A slight helping of sarcasm, but it seems silicon valley, Google ,Apple & co investing very big money in the the self driving car made possible by AI coming of age. DoD is putting more money into silicon valley and just reorganized its presence.

    A recent article by CBSA postulates that with the threat of the new generation of short range ballistic missiles eg the hypersonic Russian Iskander, with a man in the loop he/she will be too slow react in the seconds available to mount an effective defense. To optimise defense you need AI, the man will become redundant.

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    1. Nick, you do sarcasm very well.

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    2. Aegis has always had a full auto mode for that reason. Of course, it's never been tested, to the best of my knowledge, so we don't know if it will work - undoubtedly not as well as hoped.

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  9. The Senate Armed Services Committee NDAA FY2017 May 18th on the future LCS/Frigate requirements.

    Able to attack enemy surface ships at over-the-horizon ranges with multiple salvos. (Naval Strike Missile (NSM) or Harpoon?)

    Defend nearby non combatant ships from air and missile threats.(Replacing SeaRAM or adding the RIM-162 ESSM Block2?)

    Built to level one survivability design standards.

    Long-duration escort or patrol missions without frequent refueling.(VDS and TAS ?)

    Not sure if either of the current two LCS designs, LM Freedom or Austral Independence would be able meet the above requirements.
    The Freedom design has always been limited by its range, did see a quote that semi-planing hulls have 280% more resistance between 10 and 28 knots than standard displacement hulls. The the current Freedom range is 2,000 nm at 14.4 knots and the design for the Saudi's has a quoted range of 5,000 nm at 10 knots, but most commercial ships do not go that slowly, the big container ships typically cruise at 21 knots plus, the fleet replenishment oilers 20 knots.

    The Independence has the range capabilities but is severely handicapped by limited payload capacity and unable to meet the 150 ton required and as yet no indication that Austral can modify the hull for the Frigate. Navy talked of offloading 100 tons of fuel so able load the MCM kit. The question have not seen answered is whether the aluminium hull will meet the Level 1 survivability standards.

    https://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/CRPT-114srpt255/pdf/CRPT-114srpt255.pdf

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  10. Chinese, russian, etc., don't face the same targeting problem?

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    1. Yes, absolutely! This fact tends to get overlooked as we discuss our weapons. The enemy faces the same problems we do.

      A timely reminder!

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  11. Are system shortcomings thought out during or after procurement?

    Also what's the loss to the shop for this refit of capability

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