Friday, February 3, 2023

Chinese Balloon

 As you undoubtedly know by now, a Chinese surveillance balloon has been meandering across American skies for some time now and is reportedly somewhere over Montana, at the moment.  The Pentagon has refused to shoot it down due to fear that the debris might injure citizens.  We appear paralyzed.  A simple balloon has struck fear into our military and appears invulnerable.  We look like idiots. 

Apparently, the Chinese can hold the US hostage by simply floating balloons over our major cities.

Even if you buy the Pentagon's position that they don't want to shoot the balloon down and risk injuring citizens, why wasn't this thing downed long before it moved over US territory?  We're working on hypersonics and vast world-wide networks and yet a simple balloon can defeat us?

Chinese Balloon


Wednesday, February 1, 2023

DDG(X) Visual Assessment

DDG(X) Assessment

 

The DDG(X) destroyer is beginning to get pinned down in terms of capabilities and appearance.  Below is a concept drawing taken from an official Navy presentation graphic.

 


 


Understanding that this is still not a final design, let’s see what a visual assessment offers in the way of positive and negative features.  Has the Navy learned any lessons?  Have they been reading this blog?

 

Positive Features

 

Superstructure – The superstructure is noticeably smaller than in previous ship designs.  This will decrease radar, infrared, and optical signatures.  One can see that the smaller superstructure has the effect of increasing the usable deck space with a notable large flat area amidships that may house a VLS cluster or other weapons.  The fact that the structures still stretch the full width of the ship is disappointing but the overall reduction is a net positive.

 

It’s interesting to note that the various power related air intakes and exhausts make up a significant portion of the superstructure.  If those could be eliminated or substantially reduced due to rerouting to the waterline or substituting a different power source than the common turbines, the ship would achieve a marked decrease in superstructure size and signatures.

 

See, “Ship Superstructures” and “Top Heavy”

 

Hull – The Navy has, wisely, abandoned the tumblehome hull form of the Zumwalt which had some significant operating restrictions regarding certain sea conditions and decreasing wetted area as the ship settles/sinks which has negative implications for survivability.  That the Navy abandoned the tumblehome hull should be telling us everything we need to know about that hull form, right?

 

 

Negative Features

 

Weapon Density – The weapon density appears appallingly deficient.  It looks like the ship will have 2x 32-cell VLS, 1x 5” gun, 1x laser, and 2x RAM.  That’s a pitifully meager amount on a ship that size.

 

Fantasy – The Navy appears to be counting on a laser for significant defense despite there being no actual demonstrated laser capability.  This is delusional and has no place in a useful, effective, realistic design.

 

Close In Defense – Close in defense appears limited to the two RAM launchers with 21 missiles each.  Unless the Navy has some super-secret, Star Wars type laser ready to go, the laser is limited to possibly disrupting a small quadcopter and will be completely ineffective against missiles.  Potentially worse, the two RAM launchers have a limited engagement zone of about 120 deg to either side with substantial blind spots directly forward and astern.  RAM requires targeting from the ship’s fire control system and I don’t know whether it can engage targets the missile’s sensor can’t initially see.  Normally, the launcher is fired facing directly at the target.

 

The Navy appears to be discounting close in defense.  You’ll recall that the Zumwalt class has no close in defensive weapons!

 

Illuminators – It’s hard to tell from the blurry drawing but it appears that there are two fire control illuminators atop the aft superstructure and one atop the forward superstructure.  The aft pair are located side by side with what appears to be just a few feet separation in violation of every precept of survivability.  A single hit in that area would eliminate 2/3 of the ship’s fire control illuminators – a horrible design flaw.  Worse, the illuminators are located just feet away from one of the two hot exhaust outlets which will be major heat seeking missile targets.  This is just bad all around.

 

 

Questionable Features

 

Aviation – The ship appears to have a larger hangar for enhanced aviation.  The question is what type of aviation?  An additional -60 type helo or Fire Scout is useless.  This ship will not be risked conducting ASW and Fire Scout is not survivable.  If the additional space is intended to support small surveillance UAVs, then the space would be a positive development.

 

 

 

Summary

 

All in all, the design is a decidedly mixed bag of positives and negatives.  Clearly, the Navy is not learning any lessons and, if this design holds, will produce a very sub-optimum vessel that falls well short of a true WARship.

 

 

Caution/Disclaimer – The drawing is just a concept drawing.  The final design may be quite different, however, I suspect that the drawing is fairly set and accurate, at this point.  If it does turn out to be substantially different, we’ll re-evaluate.

 

Monday, January 30, 2023

Long Range Carrier Fighter - F-22 / F-15 Hybrid

ComNavOps has stated that the role of the carrier, today, is to provide escort for cruise missile shooting Burkes and to establish localized, long range, air superiority.  This requires a dedicated, optimized, long range air superiority fighter and, unfortunately, we have no such aircraft.  Many people have suggested a navalized F-22 and, while that would be a distinct improvement over what we have now, it would still only be a stopgap measure with shortcomings. 

 

An even better near term option would be a navalized hybrid of the F-22 and F-15 (the F2215?).  The F-22’s stealth and air-to-air (A2A) prowess combined with the F-15’s incredible combat radius of over a thousand miles[1] would make for a pretty good long range, air superiority fighter until we could develop a truly optimized fighter.

 

Here’s a few considerations.

 

 

Role.  This is where every US military acquisition program goes off the rails on day one.  The US military simply can’t resist making every asset a multi-role, do-everything, win-the-war-singlehanded, piece of unaffordable, unachievable crap that takes several decades to field.  This aircraft is an air superiority fighter and nothing more than that.  Not a single piece of equipment can be added that doesn’t directly support the main and only mission:  air superiority.  No strike-fighter.  No EW.  No surveillance.  No buddy tanking.  No mid-course guidance, hand off to a Boy Scout in Montana.  No mini-AEW.  Just air superiority.  That’s it.  That’s all.  Just that.  Air superiority.

 

Going a step further, this is just for the Navy.  No Air Force version with modifications.  No Marine jump jet version.  Just the Navy.

 

Size.  Almost by definition, a very long range, heavily armed fighter is going to be fairly large.  The F-22 and F-15 are both the same size as the F-14 which we operated routinely off carriers so that degree of size is not an issue. 

 

 

Length, ft

Width, ft

F-14 Tomcat

63

38 (swept)

64 (spread)

F-22 Raptor

62

44

F-15 Eagle

64

43

F-18 Super Hornet

60

44 (spread)

31 (folded)

 

 

Add folding wings to the F-22 and F-15 and their parked footprint width drops from around 44 ft to around 30 ft which is well within flight deck spotting requirements.

 

Thus, our notional F-2215 fighter would have a spot footprint of 64 ft x 30 ft, virtually identical to the F-18E/F which is 60 ft x 44 ft (31 ft folded).

 

Combat Radius.  The F-15 has outstanding combat radius for current fighter aircraft and that’s the point of merging it with the F-22.  I don’t know what gives the F-15 its great range (conformal fuel tanks / FAST pack?) but whatever it is we need to merge it into the F-22.  Note, however, that even that range is inadequate, longer term.  While a thousand mile range sounds impressive and useful, it’s not.  If all you want to do is to travel a thousand miles and then instantly turn around and return to base, that’s fine.  However, presumably, we want to get there and stay while we engage in A2A combat.  We want to have enough fuel left to ‘turn and burn’ for a while.  Thus, that thousand mile combat radius is actually only 500-800 miles or so if we want to retain enough fuel to hang around and fight.  Long term, we need a fighter with a true thousand mile combat radius which includes A2A combat time at a thousand miles.  That, however, is a development for the next fighter.

 

Weapons.  Obviously, we want as many weapons as possible especially against stealth aircraft where many missile shots will miss.  Below are some possible max weapon loadouts for reference to give some idea of what current max loadouts are.  It would be desirable to be able to carry around 12 A2A missiles of various types and the loadouts below show that to be within the realm of possibility although restricting ourselves to internal carry may reduce that to 8-10 weapons.

 

 

Possible Max Weapons Load

F-14 Tomcat

6x Phoenix + 2x Sidewinder

F-22 Raptor

6x AMRAAM + 2x Sidewinder (all internal)

F-15 Eagle

8x AMRAAM

F-18 Super Hornet

12x AMRAAM

 

 

Stealth.  The F-22 is the stealthiest operational fighter in the world so … good enough! 

 

Maneuverability.  The F-22 is the most maneuverable operational fighter in the world so … good enough! 

 

Speed.  The F-22 is capable of supercruise, however, it is not clear to me that extremely high speed is all that tactically useful.  If very high speed can be achieved without added cost, weight, or complexity then do it.  If not, leave it out and go with cheaper, lighter, simpler … you know, the characteristics that should be the creed of aircraft design.

 

Sensors.  US acquisition programs inevitably fall apart because we constantly try to concurrently develop non-existent technology as we enter production.  We need the best sensors currently operational and nothing more.  By all accounts the F-22 sensors are more than adequate so … good enough!

 

Development.  Conceptually, merging the F-22 and F-15 is easy and straightforward.  The airframe is already proven to work.  No development needed, there.  After that, it’s just a matter of packaging the internal components.  It is mandatory, however, to mature the design at the prototype level before committing to production and then to hold the design to zero changes during the production run.  That’s how you build an affordable aircraft (see, “How To Build A Better Aircraft”).

 

  

Summary

 

The Navy desperately needs a dedicated, long range, air superiority fighter and a conceptual merging of the F-22 and F-15 would provide an excellent near to medium term solution if it could be fielded within a 3-5 year period and we’ve already referenced exactly how to do that and this should be even easier as everything already exists – it’s just a packaging exercise.

 

The F-2215 fills the immediate need while we develop the truly optimized, longer term solution.



___________________________________


Note:  Yes, I'm perfectly aware that an adapted F2215 would need beefed up landing gear, tail hook, corrosion resistance, low speed landing, etc.  Those are the nitty-gritty details for the engineers to deal with.  We're working at the concept level.

 

___________________________________

  

[1]Wikipedia, “McDonnell Douglas F-15 Eagle”, retrieved 20-Jan-2023,

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/McDonnell_Douglas_F-15_Eagle#Specifications_(F-15C)

“Combat range: 1,061 nmi (1,221 mi, 1,965 km) for interdiction mission”


Friday, January 27, 2023

Carriers As Escorts - Evidence from Ukraine

ComNavOps has, on many occasions, opined that carrier aircraft strike is no longer viable against a peer defended target.  Instead, the strike weapon of the Navy is now the long range cruise missile and the role of the carrier and its air wing is to act as an escort for the cruise missile shooters (Tomahawk configured Burkes) (see, “Navy Strike Doctrine” and “Striking Power of the Fleet”) .  This role requires a long range, pure fighter aircraft instead of the Navy’s misguided strike/fighter Hornets and F-35s.  Needless to say, the concept has not been received with unanimous agreement among readers who still cling to the outmoded carrier strike concept.

 

Well, here’s some real world experience and lessons from the Ukraine-Russia war that directly support ComNavOps’ contention.  A Newsmax article discusses exactly this concept (applied to land based aircraft and missiles instead of carrier/naval assets, of course).

 

"What worries most is whether Ukraine is going to be able to keep the Russian air force out of the war," he [Norwegian Chief of Defence Eirik Kristoffersen] said, adding that they have been able to so far "thanks to Ukrainian anti-aircraft defences".

 

And now, here’s the million dollar prize statement:

 

The bulk of Russian strikes in recent months have been carried out by long-range missiles.[1]

 

There you have it.  Russia has found that aircraft have been unable to operate effectively and survivably against a peer defense.  Instead, they’ve switched to the use of missiles as their main long range strike weapon.

 

Of course, as I’ve repeatedly stated, any information coming from, or about, the Ukraine conflict must be viewed skeptically and any lessons need to be very carefully considered and evaluated because the conflict is so atypical.  That said, this information and conclusion seem to be supported by every source I’ve come across so I’m inclined to believe it.  Plus, the conclusion is simple logic regardless of the Ukraine setting.

 

Carriers are now escorts for the cruise missile shooters.

 

The Navy needs to adjust its thinking and its carrier/aircraft design requirements.



 

 

_______________________________________

 

[1]Newsmax website, “Russia Has 180,000 Dead or Wounded in Ukraine: Norwegian Army”, 23-Jan-2023

https://www.newsmax.com/newsfront/russia-180-000/2023/01/22/id/1105440/


Tuesday, January 24, 2023

EMALS and AAG Reliability Data

Here is the only data to appear in the entire 2022 DOT&E annual report:  It’s for the Ford EMALS and AAG.

 

EMALS

 

During testing from March through June 2022 (after the PIA), EMALS achieved a reliability of 614 mean cycles between operational mission failures (MCBOMF) during 1,841 catapult launches (where a cycle is the launch of one aircraft). While this reliability is well below the requirement of 4,166 MCBOMF, EMALS showed slight improvement in reliability from FY21 (460 MCBOMF throughout 1,758 catapults). However, during the fi rst underway of IOT&E in September 2022, EMALS reliability appeared to regress …

 

Thus, the most recent reliability is only 15% of the requirement.

 

 

AAG

 

During testing from March through June 2022 (after the PIA), AAG achieved a reliability of 460 MCBOMF during 1,841 aircraft recoveries (where a cycle is the recovery of a single aircraft). While this reliability is well below the requirement of 16,500 MCBOMF, AAG showed slight improvement in reliability from FY21 (115 MCBOMF throughout 1,758 catapults).  However, during the first underway of IOT&E in September 2022, AAG reliability appeared to regress …

 

Thus, the most recent reliability is only 3% of the requirement.


Monday, January 23, 2023

2022 DOT&E Report

After a woefully misguided decision by DOT&E to not publish a ‘civilian’ version of their annual weapons assessment report last year (well, to be fair, they did publish a ‘civilian’ version but there was nothing in it of any use, whatsoever), DOT&E was instructed by Congress to drop the restricted Congressional version and just issue a single ‘civilian’ report this year.  Thus, it was with great anticipation that I read through the just-released 2022 annual report.

 

I can say with certainty that, far and away, the biggest positive from the report was the fact that it was an electronic version which saved a large number of trees from being cut down to make paper.  Beyond that, there was absolutely no information of any use in the report.  The only exception was two reliability data points for the Ford’s EMALS and AAG (both still abysmally poor despite the Navy’s glowing public statements).

 

I could not be more disappointed in the report.  There was nothing there.  There may be even less than the prior year, if that’s possible.

 

Clearly, DOT&E was angry about being rebuked by Congress, didn’t want to do a public report, and put this worthless pile of garbage out as a finger in the eye of Congress and the public.

 

Don’t waste your time looking at it.  I’m not even going to post a link to it.

Ships With No Purpose

The Marines have stated publicly and repeatedly that they are out of the amphibious assault business.  Let’s set the wisdom of that aside and just look at what that means for the Navy.

 

From the Navy’s official current ship count, the fleet consists of 220 combatants (carriers, surface combatants, submarines, amphibious ships) in the ‘Active in Commission’ category.[1] 

 

 

Combatant Type

Number

Aircraft Carriers

 11

Surface Combatants

110

Submarines

68

Amphibious Warfare Ships

31

 

 

If we’re truly out of the amphibious assault business, as the Marines say, that means that 31 of the 220 combatant ships in the Navy – that’s 14% of the combatant fleet - have no purpose. 

 

If we subtract the 22 LCS which have no viable combat capability, that leaves a fleet of 198 combatants and that means that 16% of the fleet has no purpose.

 

That’s a lot of operating cost, personnel, and resources being devoted to ships that have no purpose.

 

And we’re continuing to build more amphibious ships!

 

 

 

_____________________________________

 

[1]https://www.nvr.navy.mil/NVRSHIPS/FLEETSIZE.HTML