Wednesday, August 15, 2018

Stand And Fight

There is an old adage that governs the ultimate rationale for naval forces: 

The seat of purpose is on the land.

Sooner or later, a naval force must engage land forces.  That engagement can take the form of direct strikes from missiles or carrier aircraft or can be amphibious assaults to get land forces ashore.  Either way, it means that a naval force must, eventually, approach land.  This is where the Navy/Marine’s idiotic doctrine of conducting an amphibious assault from 25-100+ miles at sea falls apart.  If you won’t approach land, you can’t influence events on land which is where ultimate purpose resides.

Yes, there are other ways to influence events on land.  A blockade, for example, can influence events on land.  For countries that have an alternate, land-only means of engaging an enemy, the naval forces can get by with just playing a minor, supporting role like a blockade.  The Union Navy did this during the American Civil War by imposing a blockade on the South.  However, for a country that has no direct land contact with an enemy, there is only one way to get troops to the enemy and that is by sea.  Yes, air transport can move a few troops but only sealift can move the massive quantities of men, weapons, ammunition, and supplies that are needed for sustained combat.

Acknowledging, then, the necessity to eventually approach an enemy’s land, the naval force structure planner must ask what forces, weapons, and tactics will allow a reasonable chance of survival while conducting near-land operations.  Assessing survival equipment needs starts by identifying the major threats.

The biggest threats to naval forces wishing to operate near land are,

  • Mines
  • Submarines
  • Anti-ship missiles (ASM)

Ironic and troubling, isn’t it, that the US Navy has no effective combat mine countermeasures capability, no effective, dedicated surface ship anti-submarine (ASW) vessels, and limited and non-survivable aerial ASW capability?  The Navy is ill-prepared to deal with two of the three major near-land threats.  At least the anti-ship missile threat is manageable with our large fleet of Aegis equipped Burke class ships.

It’s further ironic and baffling that the Navy’s stated reason for doctrinally refusing to approach land is the threat of land based ASM’s, the one threat for which we are prepared!  Let’s set aside the mine and submarine threats and examine the ASM threat a bit closer.

The Navy has spent billions of dollars on its Aegis capability.  The system was designed and intended to counter saturation swarms of Soviet anti-ship cruise missiles launched from entire regiments of long range bombers.  Aegis is designed to handle large numbers of targets simultaneously and can do so in a completely automatic mode – and, in fact, is more efficient and effective in that mode.

With all that capability in mind, one has to wonder why the threat of a relatively few isolated, land based cruise missiles so terrifies the US Navy?  Either they know that Aegis is an utter failure or they’ve become so risk averse that they can’t imagine actually standing and fighting and possibly losing a ship.  I tend to believe it’s the latter.  I’ve seen nothing to indicate that Aegis is a failure but, to be fair, there is little actual data to indicate that Aegis is a success!  Still, I’ll assume it’s capable until I see data indicating otherwise.

So, if Aegis is capable of handling the ASM threat, then the Navy is just too scared and too risk averse to stand in harm’s way and execute their function.

Let’s look at the arithmetic of the situation.  For a high subsonic cruise missile, like the Chinese C-802, the missile speed is around 680 mile per hour and it cruises at an altitude of 10-20 m which decreases to 3-5 m in the terminal phase.  The Navy is scared to stand near shore and, apparently, feels that the extra 25-50 miles will enable them to more effectively engage such an anti-ship cruise missile.  Will it, though?

Here’s the raw reaction times for various distances.

10 miles = 0.9 minutes
25 miles = 2.2 minutes
50 miles = 4.4 minutes

Unless an ASM is sited nearly on the beach – in which case it would, presumably, have been spotted, targeted, and destroyed as part of the assault preparations – the launch site will likely be 10-100+ miles away from the assault location.

At the low end of that range, 10 miles, and assuming the defending ship is beached so that there is no extra range added, 10 miles provides around 0.9 minutes of reaction/defense time.  In the world of computers and a fully automatic Aegis system, 0.9 minutes is an eternity!  Longer distances simply provide even longer reaction/defense times.

Stand and Fight!

In any realistic scenario, say with the Navy ships about 5 miles offshore and the enemy anti-ship missile launchers around 10-100+ miles away, the reaction time is more than adequate.

There’s no question that longer distance translates to more time to defend.  However, a couple of minutes is more than enough time.  If you can’t shoot down an incoming missile in a couple of minutes of engagement time, a few more minutes isn’t likely to produce a positive result.

Ultimately, the risk of standing in close and fighting must be balanced against the accomplishment of the mission.  It does no good to remain safe, far out at sea, but unable to accomplish the mission.  If the mission is worthwhile, then the risk is acceptable.  The Navy’s defensive systems were built for this.  Trust them to do their job.  Stand and fight.

Monday, August 13, 2018

Marine Ground Based Air Defense

With decades of assured United States aerial dominance, ground force anti-air warfare (AAW) has atrophied nearly to the point of abandonment. 

Fairly recently, in fact, there were calls for removal of short range air defense (SHORAD) from the Marines.

“In the quest to transform into the Joint force of the future, many have advocated the removal of Short Range Air Defense (SHORAD)1 systems from the Marine Corps. The belief that USMC forces have never utilized Stinger2 in anger against an enemy, that the US will always possess air supremacy, and that a network of sensors will allow the engagement of all targets in the battle space have led to a perception that man portable short range air defense is no longer required in the USMC.” (1)

“In August 2006, the USMC recommended the termination of the CLAWS [Complementary Low-Altitude Weapon System] program as part of cuts to spending on air defence capabilities.” (2)

Even Congress is aware of the air defense shortcomings.

“[House Armed Services] Committee Chairman Rep. Michael Turner, R-Ohio, asked what the Marines Corps is doing about its air defense vulnerability: “We are aware that the Marine ground units are almost wholly without an effective organic air defense system.” (5)

Very recently, there has been some renewed interest from the Marines as the realization that we can no longer count on uncontested aerial supremacy sinks in.  Low end UAVs over the battlefield have also spurred some renewed interest.  Let’s take a closer look at the Marine’s anti-air situation.

Current Capabilities

It is difficult to find current information on Marine Corps air defense capabilities but that appears to be, in large measure, because there aren’t many capabilities.  If I've missed an active capability, let me know in the comments.  That said, it seems that there are only two dedicated air defense units:

  • 2nd Low Altitude Air Defense Battalion (2nd LAAD)
  • 3rd Low Altitude Air Defense Battalion (3rd LAAD)
2nd Low Altitude Air Defense Battalion (2nd LAAD) is an air defense unit that is part of Marine Air Control Group 28 (MACG-28) and the 2nd Marine Aircraft Wing (2nd MAW), II MEF, and is currently based at Marine Corps Air Station Cherry Point. The Battalion is composed of one Headquarters and Support Battery and two Firing Batteries (Alpha and Bravo).

- 2nd Marine Aircraft Wing (2nd MAW)
- Marine Air Control Group 28 (MACG-28)
- 2nd Low Altitude Air Defense Battalion (2nd LAAD)

3rd Low Altitude Air Defense Battalion (3rd LAAD) is an air defense unit that is part of Marine Air Control Group 38 (MACG-38) and the 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing (3rd MAW) , I MEF, and is currently based at Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, California.

- 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing (3rd MAW)
- Marine Air Control Group 38 (MACG-38)
- 3rd Low Altitude Air Defense Battalion (3rd LAAD)

III MEF appears not to have a dedicated LAAD but uses detachments from other groups.

- 1st Marine Aircraft Wing (1st MAW)
- Marine Air Control Group 18 (MACG-18)
- Low Altitude Air Defense Detachments

Even the LAADs are limited in capability.  They appear to operate only three weapons: Stinger missiles, 7.62 mm MG, and 0.50 cal MG (9) and only the Stinger is a credible, if short ranged, anti-air weapon.  The weapons can be operated singly or mounted on an HMMWV which is then optimistically referred to as an Advanced Man-Portable Air Defense System (A-MANPADS).  The addition of a single channel radio, a GPS, and a laptop apparently makes the HMMWV a “system”.

The LAAD is, essentially, a gunner with a Stinger on his shoulder.

Currently, there are no active armored mobile air defense vehicles in the Marines and no effective ability to engage cruise missiles.

The Marine’s entire air defense consists of Stinger missiles.  The Marines are going to take on Chinese artillery, rockets, cruise missiles, ballistic missiles, aircraft, helos, and UAVs with just Stinger missiles.  Yes, we fight jointly and the Marines will hope (desperately, frantically hope!) for support from the Navy and Air Force but, in a peer war, those forces will be fully engaged with their own concerns and anti-air support for the Marines will be sporadic and ineffectual, at best.

Reference Note:  FIM-92 Stinger - man portable, surface-to-air, shoulder fired, supersonic missile designed to counter high-speed, low-level ground attack aircraft. It is capable of all aspect engagement. The current BLOCK I version is capable of destroying fixed and rotary wing aircraft and unmanned aerial vehicles. Stinger missiles are five feet long and weigh thirty five pounds fully armed.  Range is around 4 miles.

LAAD - Stinger Surface to Air Missile

Historical Context

How did we get to this point?  Obviously, the lack of threats, until recently, influenced procurement and organizational decisions in a negative way.  The war on terror has had a serious deleterious impact on military preparedness and force structure and we are only just beginning to climb out of the hole we’ve created – in fact, we’re only just beginning to even recognize that we’ve created a hole and stepped fully into it!  The military lost sight of its main responsibility, peer warfare, in its zeal to use the war on terror to increase budgets.

Beyond the war on terror and lack of immediate threats, one of the relatively recent air defense concepts that heavily influenced procurement decisions was Sea Shield (part of the transformational plan along with Sea Base and Sea Strike).  Sea Shield was envisioned to provide an air defense umbrella over the entire forward battlespace and littoral areas.

“Sea Shield extends precise and persistent naval defensive capabilities deep overland to protect joint forces and allies ashore.” (7)

Sea Shield was envisioned to utilize ship (Aegis), sea base, and aerial (Hawkeye, primarily, at the time) radars to establish comprehensive radar coverage and, thus, defensive capability.  Implicit in this assumption was that the US would have absolute aerial dominance so that, for example, E-2 Hawkeyes could operate close to the battlespace and provide close, extensive coverage.  This is yet another example of the military having lost sight of its main responsibility in favor of low end anti-terrorism and nation building operations.  Now, given the likelihood that we’ll be hard pressed to establish even aerial parity in a peer war, high value aviation assets like Hawkeyes will have to operate well back from the active battlespace.  UAVs will be shot down with regularity and will provide only sporadic coverage.

A further problem is that “fixed” radars cannot provide comprehensive coverage against low level threats and this has long been recognized.  From a 2004 USMC paper,

“Radar horizon and terrain shadowing will also degrade these sensors because they are not designed to move with the maneuver forces. Consequently, maneuver forces will require an organic air defense capability for local protection from immediate, pop up, low-level air threats. This organic air defense capability is the Stinger missile system.” (1)

Curvature of the Earth further limits the coverage.  Even elevation of the radar sensor cannot completely compensate for the various limits.  As one example,

“225’ high Sea Based sensors will not be able to detect targets below 5,539 feet at a range of 110nm.” (1)

And this assumes no significant topographical rises like hills or mountains.

We see, then, that various short-sighted decisions, flawed beliefs, and loss of focus led to the current situation.  It is obvious that ground forces need a mobile, local air defense capability.  This need has been further emphasized by the recent boom in low altitude UAV operations and capabilities.

The irony is that as the air threats to ground forces have grown, the Marine’s air defenses have declined.

Near Future Developments

Ground Based Air Defense Future Weapon System (GBADFWS) – is currently being developed as a Joint Light Tactical Vehicle (JLTV) mounted system.  The system uses Stinger missiles and an electronic warfare capability.  Future plans include a laser variant. (3)

TPS-80 G/ATOR (Ground / Air Task Oriented Radar) – offers counterfire targeting and general situational awareness but, while air-sensing capable, is not currently linked to any anti-air weapon.  It is a short to medium range, air-cooled, phased array radar that is intended to replace five current radar systems and augment the AN/TPS-59 long-range radar. A total of 45-57 G/ATOR systems are planned for procurement, depending on what source one reads.  The system is claimed to be capable of detecting low observable targets.

The system consists of three major assemblies: (4)

  1. Trailer mounted and towed radar; towed by Medium Tactical Vehicle Replacement (MTVR)
  2. Communications module mounted on a JLTV or equivalent
  3. Power module mounted on a Medium Tactical Vehicle Replacement (MTVR)

G/ATOR is being developed and delivered in three blocks. (4)

  • Block 1 develops the basic hardware and provides Air Defense/Surveillance Radar (AD/SR) capability. It replaces the AN/UPS-3, AN/MPQ-62, and AN/TPS-63 radar systems.
  • Block 2 adds a ground counterbattery/counter-fire mission capability and replaces the AN/TPQ-46 radar system.
  • Block 3 was a series of enhancements, including Identification Friend or Foe Mode 5/S, that are instead being incorporated into other blocks. The term Block 3 is no longer used.
  • Block 4 replaces the AN/TPS-73 radar system for air traffic control capability, which will be a future development effort.
G/ATOR Radar

Status Summary

For the moment, the Marines are focused on short range AAW.

“Walsh [Marine Lt. Gen. Robert Walsh, deputy commandant for combat development and integration] said that the Marine Corps has been focused on countering threats from unmanned aerial systems -- a preferred weapon of extremists in the Middle East -- but is now starting to shift focus to longer-range threats such as aircraft and cruise missiles.” (3)

This is symptomatic of the Corps’ focus on very low end combat where UAVs are, indeed, a significant concern.  When high level combat comes, however, the Corps will quickly learn that ballistic and cruise missiles, MLRS-type rocket barrages, and artillery barrages will be far more lethal and concerning than the presence of UAVs, though, admittedly, UAVs can lead to other types of attacks if allowed to collect targeting data.

The longest range anti-air weapon the Corps has is the Stinger missile and it is mounted on unprotected, glorified jeeps.  In combat, those vehicles will be non-survivable.  The Corps lacks any type of armored, mobile, anti-air vehicle.

The Corps is not only shedding armor and artillery but, lacking any type of counter-rocket/artillery/missile (C-RAM) weapon, is extremely vulnerable to enemy artillery.

With all these needs and gaps, how do the Marines expect to conduct successful assaults against peer opponents?


As noted, the range of threats encompasses much more than just UAVs and includes,

  • Anti-rocket
  • Anti-artillery
  • Anti-helo
  • Anti-cruise missile
  • Anti-ballistic missile
  • Anti-UAV
  • Anti-naval shell (artillery?)

The Marines are aggressively pursuing down-sized, down-armored, down-firepowered units that are predicated on battlefield mobility using aviation and light “jeeps”.  This kind of unprotected, non-survivable force depends all the more on highly effective anti-air protection. 

Consider just the artillery issue.  Our light infantry forces will be decimated in a fight against an enemy with artillery unless we can employ extensive and effective C-RAM.  Thus, the movement towards mobile, light, unprotected infantry ought to have triggered a concomitant development of a mobile, C-RAM vehicle and yet, illogically, it hasn’t.

Cruise and ballistic missiles have become a major threat.  The Navy will attempt to provide protection via the Aegis system but, as the Marines move inland, the coverage umbrella will get progressively more porous especially against low flying cruise missiles.  The Marine’s very mobility works against them as far as anti-air protection and, thus, demands a mobile, organic, anti-air system.

The Marine Corps is becoming a light infantry force despite claims of being a middle weight force and with little armor, no armored personnel carrier, no infantry fighting vehicles, and a heavy dependence on highly vulnerable “jeeps”, the infantry forces desperately need survivable (armored), organic, mobile anti-air protection.

Reference Note - Recent Terminated Systems

MIM-23 Hawk – medium range surface to air missile; semi-active radar homing; range 45-50 km; speed Mach 2.4;  depending on version, a typical system consisted of a triple missile, towed launcher with associated radars and 36 reloads; terminated in 2002 in favor of Stinger systems

CLAWS (Complementary Low-Altitude Weapon System) – surface launched AMRAAM, fire and forget, surface to air missile; 4-5 missile launcher mounted on HMMWV; successfully demonstrated in 2005-6 and terminated in May 2006

LAV-AD – retired (8);  combines a high-rate-of-fire 25 mm Gatling gun and short-range, infrared Stinger fire-and-forget missile (16 total, 8 ready); primary sensor is FLIR optical tracking although a Thales TRS 2630P radar capability is also being developed; the last of 17 systems was delivered in January 1999 (6); provides air defence for the light armored vehicle battalion, with a secondary ground defense role;  vehicles are assigned to the light armored reconnaissance battalions


The Marines had credible anti-air systems but, unwisely, terminated them for various reasons, none good.


(1)DTIC, United States Marine Corps,School of Advanced Warfighting, Marine Corps University, Marine Corps Combat Development Command, “The Loss of USMC Man Portable Air Defense Capability”, Major Stephen G. Conroy, 2004,

(3) website, “Marines Developing JLTV Air-Defense System Armed with Laser Weapon”, Matthew Cox, 21-Mar-2018,

(4)DOT&E FY 2017 Annual Report, Jan 2018

(5)Marine Times website, “Marines add Stinger missiles, lasers to vehicles to make up for lagging air defense”, Todd South, 23-Apr-2018,

(6)Army Technology website,

(7)Dept. of the Navy, “Naval Transformation Roadmap, Power and Access…From the Sea, Sea Strike, Sea Shield, Sea Basing”, 2003?

(8)g2mil website, “Vital Amtrack Variants”, Carlton Meyer, 2017

(9)Marines website, “Low Altitude Air Defense (LAAD) Gunner’s Handbook”, MCRP 3-25.10A, 2011,

Friday, August 10, 2018

Their Lips Move

What’s the old joke?  How can you tell when the Navy is lying?  Answer - Their lips move.

If they’re speaking (or writing), they’re lying.  It’s become that simple.

The latest example is a Department of Defense Inspector General (IG) report (1) that states that the Navy fraudulently declared Initial Operational Capability for three mine countermeasures (MCM) components of the LCS MCM mission module.  The MCM components the IG reviewed are

  • AN/ASQ‑235 Airborne Mine Neutralization System (AMNS)
  • Airborne Laser Mine Detection System (ALMDS)
  • Coastal Battlefield Reconnaissance and Analysis (COBRA) Block I
Here’s the blunt statement of finding by the IG.

The Navy declared IOC for the three MCM mission package systems reviewed prior to demonstrating that the systems were effective and suitable for their intended operational uses.

Here’s what out and out fraud sounds like,

We [IG] determined that N95 declared IOC for the COBRA Block I to avoid requesting a sixth change to the IOC date that would further delay the delivery …

Note:  N95 is Major General David W. Coffman, USMC, Director, Expeditionary Warfare (N95)

The DOD-IG is not alone in criticizing the MCM’s ALMDS and AMNS components.  A June 2016 DOT&E (Director Operational Testing & Evaluation) report states,

… the MH-60S helicopter with the current ALMDS and AMNS units would not be operationally effective or suitable to conduct mine countermeasure operations.

“Not operationally effective or suitable”?????  That’s saying it’s useless.

What does all this mean?

As a result, the Navy has delivered units that have known performance problems to the fleet …

Since declaring IOC, the Navy has delivered two ALMDS, one AMNS, and one COBRA Block I units to the fleet with known performance problems …

So, despite all the problems, the Navy is knowingly and intentionally fielding flawed equipment.  This violates the trust of the nation and the trust of the sailors in the fleet.  CNO Richardson needs to be relieved for loss of confidence in his ability to command.


(1)Department of Defense, Inspector General, “Acquisition of the Navy’s Mine Countermeasures Mission Package”, Report No. DODIG-2018-140, 25-Jul-2018

Thursday, August 9, 2018

C-130 Hercules Carrier Landing

Here’s an interesting bit of carrier and aviation history.  The A-3 Skywarrior is the largest naval aircraft to operate routinely off a carrier deck but larger aircraft have landed and taken off.  One such example was the C-130 Hercules which landed without an arresting hook and took off without a catapult – and did so with room to spare!

The experimental landings and takeoffs were part of an investigation into the use of supersized aircraft for logistics support.  The choice of the C-130 was fairly obvious given its excellent flight characteristics, stability, range, and cargo capacity.  The event took place on 30-Oct-1963 on the USS Forrestal (CVA-59) in the North Atlantic a few hundred miles off Boston.

As described in a Aviationist website article, the C-130 was only slightly altered.

Lockheed’s only modifications to the original plane was a smaller nose-landing gear orifice, an improved anti-skid braking system, and removal of the underwing refueling pods. (1)

The test was not just a one-time, lucky event.

The initial sea trials started on Oct. 30 1963 and were conducted into a 40-knot wind: however the crew successfully performed 29 touch-and-go landings, 21 unarrested full-stop landings, and 21 unassisted takeoffs at gross weights of 85,000 pounds up to 121,000 pounds. (1)

So, how did the aircraft perform?

At 85,000 pounds, the KC-130F came to a complete stop within 267 feet …

The Navy discovered that even with a maximum payload, the plane used only 745 feet of flight deck for takeoff and 460 feet for landing.

These achievements were confirmed by Lockheed’s Ted Limmer, … “The last landing I participated in, we touched down about 150 feet from the end, stopped in 270 feet more and launched from that position, using what was left of the deck. We still had a couple hundred feet left when we lifted off.” (1)

C-130 Operating From USS Forrestal

What was the ultimate conclusion?

The analysis of data collected by the U.S. Navy during the tests highlighted that the C-130 Hercules could carry 25,000 pounds of freight, fly for 2,500 miles and eventually land on a carrier. However, the procedure was considered a bit too risky for the C-130 and the Navy decided to use a smaller COD aircraft. (1)

We tend to forget just how much was accomplished and how much is possible today.  Reminders, such as this, help us recall what we were once capable of.

Hmm ………..  V-22 Osprey COD or C-130 Hercules COD?  I know which I’d want!

Note:  If you're interested, there are videos of the event readily available on YouTube.


(1)The Aviationist website, “Look Ma, No Hook: how a C-130 Hercules managed to land on an aircraft carrier”, Dario Leone, 16-Jul-2014,

Tuesday, August 7, 2018

Profits Versus Performance

This is an updated version of a previous post about the objectives of the defense industry.  I’ve recently seen a steady stream of offerings and advice from industry and they all have a common theme:  they’re good for industry.  Here’s a small sampling.

  • Boeing is pitching upgrades to – surprise! – its F-18E/F Super Hornet.

  • Boeing is pitching upgrades to – surprise! – its F-15, referred to as the F-15X (1). 

  • Lockheed is proposing a new frigate based on – surprise! – its LCS.

  • Austal is proposing a new frigate based on – surprise! – its LCS.

  • Bell Boeing has proposed variants of – surprise! - its V-22 Osprey for

-          the Navy’s carrier delivery aircraft, CMV-22B
-          airborne early warning and control, EV-22
-          combat search and rescue, HV-22
-          anti-submarine warfare, SV-22

  • Northrop Grumman Ship Systems has proposed variants of – surprise! - its LPD-17 for

-          ballistic missile defense
-          a hospital ship
-          the future amphibious ship LX(R)

  • Raytheon has proposed upgrading – surprise! – its Tomahawk missile for the anti-ship missile role.

So, what’s wrong with upgrades and new variants?  Nothing, per se.  The problem lies in the fact that these companies are not suggesting the best military solution – they’re suggesting the best corporate profit solution. 

Is the V-22 the best military solution for an airborne early warning and control aircraft?  Almost certainly not.  Is the EV-22 the best corporate profit solution for Bell Boeing?  Absolutely!

Is the LPD-17 the best military solution for the LX(R)?  Almost certainly not.  Is it the best corporate profit solution for Northrop Grumman Ship Systems?  Absolutely!

Of course, it’s quite possible that a proposed upgrade/variant IS the best military solution in which case the military benefits to the maximum degree possible and the corporation profits.  Win-win.  Unfortunately, the instances of the military and corporate needs meshing like that are few and far between.

The problem is not just limited to upgrades.  New equipment is being proposed that follows the same model of maximum profits for the corporation.

For example, Raytheon is proposing a new concept in “Multi Domain Battle Management” for the military (2).  This would be a massive, integrated software decision making/assistance tool for military combat leaders.  The problem is that it’s highly likely that the proposed tool is not the best tool for the military but, instead, it’s the most profitable tool for Raytheon.

Bell is heavily pushing the V-280 tiltrotor for transport, gunship, and other roles.  Is it the best platform for each of those roles?  Unlikely.  Is it the most profitable for the company?  Certainly!

So, what does this all mean?

First, it means that the military needs to firmly understand that when industry proposes something, that something is, first and foremost, in the corporation’s best interests.  There’s nothing wrong with this.  In our free market system, attempting to maximize profits is what corporations are supposed to do.  As long as the military recognizes this they can make intelligent decisions about whether they want the proposed item.

Second, it means that the best military solution may never be offered by industry if it isn’t in some corporation’s best interest.  Thus, the military needs to understand what the best solution is before they entertain corporate proposals.  This is one of our major failings.  Having allowed so much of our in-house engineering expertise to lapse, the military often lacks the ability to know what the best solution is and depends on industry to tell them.  Of course, as we’ve just discussed, industry won’t provide the best solution, they’ll provide the most profitable solution.  The abandonment of in-house expertise is a major mistake and needs to be reversed.

For example, no one inside the Navy had the engineering expertise to recognize that the combining gear on the LCS was far too complex to be reliable or to be safely and reliably operated by standard crews.  As a result, the first several LCS’s all suffered very similar breakdowns related to the combining gear.

For example, no one in the Navy had the expertise to recognize that the Ford’s EMALS catapult was inherently flawed since, by design, the catapults could not be repaired individually.  Instead, the entire system has to be electrically “wound down” in order to service any one of the cats.  This is a major flaw in a combat system.

For example, no in the Navy had the expertise to recognize that the Zumwalt’s LRLAP munition for its gun was heavy on promises and very light on technical feasibility.

And so on.

To repeat, the Navy has to enter into industry discussions already knowing the best answer.  Anything less is heading down the path to failure.

CNO Greenert once stated that he was excited and couldn’t wait to see what industry would give the Navy in the future.  What an idiot!  You should know what you want and you should be telling industry what you want, not accepting whatever they’ll give you based on their bottom line.

We have got to stop depending on industry to lead our military development.  This means that we need to re-establish in-house technology and design expertise.  Failure to do so means we’ll be doomed to an unending succession of sub-par weapon systems.


(1)DoDBuzz website, “Boeing Pitches 'F-15X' Fighter Concept to US Air Force: Report”, Oriana Pawlyk, 19-Jul-2018,

Sunday, August 5, 2018

Do The Math - Follow Up

The “Do The Math” post produced some interesting comments.  Some people insist on concocting highly implausible (impossible) scenarios to cause depletion of the ships’ missile inventory and then cite that as proof of the need for reloading at sea capability.  Well, there’s one further aspect that no one is considering and that is the mechanics and rate of reload at sea.

For the sake of discussion, let’s assume that, in some impossible way, our ships find themselves in an on-going battle that has depleted their inventory of thousands of missiles – or a single ship has depleted its inventory of hundreds of missiles – and desperately in need of reloads.  Where are these reloads going to come from?  Obviously, they’re going to come from a resupply ship.  So, setting aside the issue of insane risk to an incredibly valuable resupply ship so close to a mega-battle, let’s assume that there is a momentary pause in this mega-battle and we’re going to reload.  There’s one incredibly important question:  how long will the reload take?

If you’ve ever seen a video of VLS loading, you know it’s a very delicate, very slow procedure due to the incredibly tight tolerances.  I’ve watched videos and it’s like looking at a still picture, it moves so slowly – and that’s on land.  Now, imagine doing this at sea.  Even with cranes or mechanisms that compensate for the ship’s movement, there is still shifting of weight and the process is still very slow and delicate.  I would guess that we’d be lucky to load one cell per hour.  For a Burke with 96 cells, that means it would take 96 hours – 4 days - to reload and that’s working non-stop for four straight days.  How is this relevant or useful in the on-going, mega-battle scenario?

But wait, it gets worse!

Where are the missiles that need to be loaded?  They’re on the resupply ship, of course!  That means they need to be transferred, one at a time, to the ship.  Canister weights are on the order of 3000 lbs (1).  That’s not something that gets hauled out of storage from the resupply ship and tossed over the side to someone on the receiving ship to catch!  That’s a slow, delicate transfer process itself.  I have no idea what the transfer rate would be but it can’t be fast.

VLS Cell Loading - Slow!

Further consider that the resupply ship and loading ship would have to be tethered together the entire time of the reload process.  The receiving ship has no storage space to pile up canisters even if they could be transferred faster than they could be loaded.   Can you imagine, during a mega-battle, a ship and a resupply ship sailing, tethered together, on a straight, slow course for four days?

Well, you say, the reloading ship would just withdraw to a safe distance to reload.  With modern missile warfare, a safe distance is hundreds of miles.  If that’s the case, they may as well return to port!

So, at best, we can reload one ship, using one dedicated resupply ship, every four days.  Does that sound operationally useful?  No, it doesn’t.  Hey, related note, how many resupply ships does the Navy have?

There’s also the issue of canister movement aboard the loading ship.  Transferring the canister is just the first step.  The receiving ship has to have some means of moving the 3000 lb canister from the transfer point to the VLS loading mechanism.

The problems just go on and on.

I think it’s past time to let the reload at sea idea, die.


Friday, August 3, 2018

Ship Magazines - Do The Math

One of the recurring fears among some naval observers is the inability to reload VLS systems at sea.  We’ve just recently debunked the concern but the fear lingers (see, "War Deployments").  Well, here’s yet another perspective on the issue that proves reload capability is not needed:  the math!

A carrier group, for example, will consist of 3-4 carriers (4 is ComNavOps preferred number) and 20+ escorts (25-30 being ComNavOps preferred number) (see, "Carrier Task Force").  Let’s assume that each escort is a Burke with 96 VLS cells and that 50 are Standard missiles, 30 are quad packed ESSM, and the remainder are Tomahawks and VL-ASROC, neither of which are relevant to this discussion.

So, let’s do the anti-air warfare (AAW) math.

Standard Missiles:  20x ships X 50 Standards per ship = 1,000 Standard missiles

ESSM Missiles:  20x ships X 30 cells X 4 ESSM/cell = 2,400 ESSM missiles

Total = 3,400 AAW missiles

This ignores any SeaRAM point defense missiles the group might have.

So, in order for reloads to even be required, the group would have to fire off well over three thousand missiles!  Given that the enemy’s anti-ship missile inventory is limited just like ours, does anyone really believe a single battle will see the enemy bring over three thousand anti-ship missiles to bear on a single carrier group????

Let’s do some more math.  The average modern warship carries somewhere around 8 anti-ship missiles and possibly up to a dozen or two.  For sake of discussion, let’s use the higher number of 24.  How many ships would be needed to launch three thousand missiles?  Well, 3000 missiles / 24 missiles per ship = 125 ships.

The enemy would need to assemble a force of 125 ships to launch 3000 anti-ship missiles!  No navy in the world can do that and even if an enemy had that many ships it couldn’t assemble that many in range in time.  A reasonable assembly of enemy ships opposing a carrier group might be 12-24 which would give an anti-ship missile inventory of 96 – 576.

Well, you say, the enemy can also launch anti-ship missiles from aircraft.  Yes, yes they can!  Let’s assume, say, 4 anti-ship missiles per aircraft – I know, there are some aircraft that can theoretically carry more but the impact on aircraft range and endurance is significant and that load would be uncommon.  So, 4 missiles per aircraft is a reasonable average.  Thus, the number of aircraft needed to launch over 3000 anti-ship missiles is, 3000 missiles / 4 missiles per aircraft = 750. 

The enemy would need to assemble, in short order, a force of 750 aircraft (of the right type!) to deplete our carrier group’s defensive missile inventory!  Not possible.

Of course, this analysis is simplistic.  Defending missiles aren’t launched one-for-one at attacking missiles.  A ratio of 2:1 is more realistic.  That means that the defending force in our example can only engage 1,700 attacking missiles.  Go ahead and rerun the math.  That’s still way, way beyond the attack capacity of any actual enemy.

A more realistic scenario is a single engagement with, perhaps, a dozen surface ships and/or a few flights of 10 or 20 attack aircraft.  Of course, the attackers would have to get past the carrier’s defensive aircraft before missiles even come into play but we’ll ignore that aspect.  We see, then, that a realistic scenario likely involves only a few to several dozen attacking missiles versus the defensive inventory of over 3000 missiles.  Depletion of the ship’s missile inventory is simply not conceivable and, therefore, reloading at sea is not a requirement.

Recall the old Soviet attack plan against US carrier groups?  Regiments of bombers would launch a couple of anti-ship missiles each for a total of 70+ attacking missiles.  Again, not even remotely near depleting the ship’s defensive missile inventory.

Here are the salient points to keep in mind regarding ship’s missile inventories.

  • The enemy’s inventory of attack missiles is just as limited as a ship’s inventory of defensive missiles.

  • Assuming even a small amount of surprise, the enemy has to assemble their attacking forces with little notice and can only bring a small fraction to bear in time.  This assures that attacking missile numbers will be small and manageable.

  • Ship’s don’t just stand in one spot and slug it out.  They appear, execute a mission, and retire.  Typical missions (the combat portion) last hours or a few days.

  • Ships don’t fight individually, they fight as groups and it’s the group’s missile inventory that matters.

Missile depletion is simply not a concern and, therefore, at-sea reloading is not a requirement.