Monday, January 17, 2022

Fletcher in the Fleet

We’re not done with the Fletcher, yet!

 

In various posts and comments, we’ve discussed both a literal version of a modernized Fletcher (see, “Knee Jerks and Paradigms”) and a conceptual version of a modern Fletcher.  Just for fun, let’s see what an exact copy of a Fletcher would offer the US Navy, if anything. 

 

For this conceptual exercise, a WWII Fletcher is magically transported to today and incorporated into the fleet.  What, if anything, would such a ship be good for, today?  What missions/tasks could it usefully perform?  Does it have anything to offer?  Bear in mind that a typical Fletcher might have 10x 40 mm, 7x 20 mm, and 5x 5”/38 guns.  Let’s see what a Fletcher might do …


Fletcher Class DD - It's No LCS or Zumwalt !

 

Peacetime Missions

 

Anti-UAV (thanks to G2mil) – The Fletcher’s numerous 20 mm, 40 mm, and 5” guns can throw up a wall of lead that no tactical UAV would have a chance of penetrating.


Anti-Swarm – Iran has not been shy about aggressively exercising its swarm boats and a Fletcher would be ideal for disrupting those exercises.  If events escalated, the Fletcher’s firepower would make short work of any swarm boats.


Anti-Piracy – A Fletcher, while still a vast overkill, is at least a smaller vessel than a Burke and with outstanding speed and firepower would be highly effective at disrupting pirate activities.


Contesting China’s Coast Guard and Militia – China’s ‘fishing fleets’, protected by their coast guard, have been used to establish false territorial claims.  An armored and heavily armed Fletcher would be ideal for disrupting those attempts.


Freedom of Navigation (FON) – While FON exercises are worse than useless, the Navy seems determined to conduct them.  That being the case, there would be no better suited ship than a Fletcher.  Every time we do a FON, the Chinese show up to try to intimidate us into leaving (often successfully, in that we perform the operation and quickly leave).  A Fletcher, armored and packed with guns would have no reason to be intimidated and would be well suited to protect itself while taking its time on the mission.


Special Operations Support – A Fletcher would be ideal for special operations work.  It is small, fast and has enough firepower to support operators ashore, if needed.


Presence – Nothing says presence like a lot of highly visible guns on a ship with armor.  A Fletcher is just plain intimidating by today’s milquetoast standards!

 


Of course, peacetime missions are only as effective as the fortitude of nation and Navy.  If we won’t let our ships confront enemies then we don’t really need a Navy, at all, do we?

 

 

War Missions

 

Blockade – One of the problems current navies face in executing a blockade is that they don’t actually have much in the way of ship-sinking capability.  A Fletcher, armed with 10x heavy torpedoes, is a legitimate ship-killer.


UAV Screening – For the types of small, slow, tactical UAVs routinely encountered by our ships, a Fletcher would be a devastatingly effective anti-UAV screen.  The focused attention of dozens of guns of all sizes would create a literal impenetrable wall of lead.


Anti-Swarm – The problem with fighting swarms is dwell time.  It takes far too long for a single weapon to achieve a demonstrable kill so that it can move on to the next target before the rest of the swarm closes in.  A Fletcher’s firepower can quickly blot out small boats.  Consider the LCS whose job is anti-swarm and is equipped with a single 57 mm gun and two 30 mm guns (and maybe, someday, Hellfires?).  Compare that to the Fletcher’s dozens of guns.  Which would you rather have protecting you from a swarm?


Anti-Ship - Very few ships today could stand in a toe-to-toe fight with a Fletcher, if the Fletcher can reach gun range.  A Fletcher would be ideal for engaging the Iranian navy, the NKorean navy (such as it is), or Russian or Chinese ships in confined waters.


Special Operations Support – As noted above, the small size, speed, and firepower of a Fletcher would be a boon to special operations.


Naval Gunfire Support – While 5” guns are not the ultimate in naval gun support, the Fletcher’s 5x 5” guns represent potent fire support by today’s standards and is the equivalent of five Burkes, each with their single 5” gun.


Convoy Escort – Though lacking long range anti-air capability and today’s ASW sonar, a Fletcher would still make a useful general purpose convoy escort.


ASW – Though lacking today’s sonar capabilities, a Fletcher, working with another sensor asset, would provide significant ASW firepower in the form of depth charges to deal with the ubiquitous SSK submarines.

 

 

Finally, consider these general characteristics of a Fletcher as compared to today’s ships of whatever size:

 

  • Great range
  • Great speed; as much or more than the LCS
  • Armor; nothing today matches it
  • Overwhelming short range firepower

 

That’s not a bad set of WARship characteristics, is it?  Discouragingly, none of our current surface ships can come close to matching that combination.  What does that say about our current ships?

 

The conclusion is inescapable.  A Fletcher, unaltered from WWII, would still be a highly useful vessel in today’s fleet, if properly used.  In particular, the combination of armor and firepower would be extremely useful in contesting Iranian and Chinese provocations … if we would begin contesting instead of appeasing.

 

Firepower is always useful and the Fletcher represents a concentration of firepower not seen in today’s ships.

 

That one could even imagine an actual Fletcher being not only useful today but, quite likely, far more useful and valuable than an LCS or Zumwalt is a scathing indictment of our ship design efforts over the last several decades.


Thursday, January 13, 2022

Fletcher Program Lessons

The Fletcher class destroyers were numerous and highly successful.  We’ve noted various ship design elements that contributed to their success, such as the prevalence of their armor and density of their firepower.  Beyond that, however, there are additional, more general, lessons to be derived from their production and it’s those that we’ll look at today.

 

There is no better introduction to these lessons than the opening statement from the General Board about the Fletcher destroyer program,

 

The Board asked all concerned to think in terms of keeping displacement, and thus size, to ‘the practicable minimum in order that they may present minimum targets and that ratio of cost to number may be as great as possible.’ [1, p.80]

 

Right there … the very first statement from the Board sets a design philosophy that is the very antithesis of today’s programs.  The Board recognized that when prosecuting a war, numbers of ships were of critical importance and the way to achieve that was to keep size to the practical minimum. 

 

Consider the size of the Fletcher versus our current ‘small’ warship, the Constellation frigate:

 

 

 

Fletcher

Constellation

Lenth, ft

376

496

Displacement, ton full load

2500

7300

 

 

We instantly see that the Constellation is 32% longer and 192% heavier for a ship, a frigate, that is supposedly smaller than a destroyer!  We built 175 Fletchers and are planning to build 20 Constellations.  That discrepancy in production numbers totally encapsulates the General Board’s concern about cost and numbers and we are violating the Board’s wisdom every time we begin a new shipbuilding program.  As a result, we are witnessing a non-stop decline in the number of ships in the fleet.

 

One could not ask for a more graphic example of the General Board’s concern.

 

If you’re going to fight a war, you need numbers.  The General Board knew this.  We’ve forgotten this most basic of requirements.

 

Now let’s look at other lessons offered by the Fletcher program.

 

 

Shipyards – Consider the following list of companies that built Fletchers during the war:


Federal Shipbuilding and Drydock Company, Kearny, New Jersey
Bath Iron Works, Bath, Maine
Boston Navy Yard
Charleston Navy Yard
Consolidated Steel Corporation, Orange, Texas
Gulf Shipbuilding Corporation, Chickasaw, Alabama
Bethlehem Steel Corporation, Staten Island, New York
Bethlehem Shipbuilding Corporation, San Francisco, California
Bethlehem Steel Company, San Pedro, California, Terminal Island
Seattle-Tacoma Shipbuilding Corporation, Seattle, Washington
Puget Sound Naval Shipyard

 

The lesson is blindingly obvious.  We don’t have enough shipyards.  During war, shipyards will not only have to provide new construction but will be overwhelmed with battle damage repair efforts.  We don’t have enough shipyards to do either task, let alone both simultaneously.

 

Destroyers Under Construction At Tacoma Yard


Standardized Design – The reason why we could have eleven shipyards all build Fletchers was because we had a standardized design.  With that, it was just a matter of distributing construction drawings to the yards.  Today, we keep changing the basic designs, non-stop, in an effort to insert a constant stream of new technology.  There’s nothing wrong with periodically inserting new technology but not on a continuous basis.  Save up changes and then occasionally do a technology insert.  Honestly, I doubt there’s even a reason to do a technology insert.  A much better approach is to occasionally design a new ship that can incorporate the backlog of new technologies.

 

 

Short Production Run – The reason we didn’t need radical new technology inserts during the Fletcher production run is that the run was short.  The entire production run lasted only two years!  You just can’t get too out of date in just two years.  Contrast that with the Burke production run which began in 1988, has lasted 34 years, and shows no sign of stopping!  The Navy trumpets that fact proudly when, in reality, it’s an embarrassment and indictment of our entire naval design and production system.

 

At the end of the Fletcher production run, we began the Sumner/Gearing programs which incorporated the lessons of the war.  The Fletcher’s short production run gave us the flexibility to design new destroyers that better met our needs.  Contrast that with the latest Burkes.  Because we’re unwilling to terminate the obsolete Burke design, we’re being forced to settle for sub-optimal radar outfits and performance in the new Flt III Burkes.  The WWII ship designers dealt with sub-optimal situations by designing a new class of ship.  Today, we accept and embrace sub-optimal because we’re too frightened (and incompetent!) to start a new class with a new design.  Even the concept art that has been floated showing the next generation destroyer shows what is, essentially, a Burke with a few tweaks.

 

 

Cost – We are far too focused on construction costs, today, and with good reason.  Our construction costs have ballooned because we’ve ignored all the lessons of wise and proper ship design.  This has led to runaway costs which then become the primary driver of ship design.  We should be designing to combat-requirements but, instead, we’re designing to business cases, cost constraints, and fear-induced conservatism.

 

WWII Chief of Naval Operations, Adm. Harold Start, had this to say about the Fletcher ship costs,

 

He did not think individual ship costs were critical: ‘the best possible vessel should be designed without consideration of this relationship.’ [1, p.80]

 

 

Combat Performance – The Fletcher achieved armor, speed, firepower, and range all in a single design.  Today, we seem to believe that none of those are achievable individually, let alone as a group in a single design.  At best, we treat those criteria as a ‘pick one’ type of design limitation.  We’ve forgotten what we once routinely accomplished in ship design.  If we wanted, we could design a destroyer with 10,000 nm range, 35+ kt speed, multiple inches of armor, and more firepower than anything we have today and all in a Fletcher size ship.  We’ve just forgotten how.

 

 

 

Summary

 

The General Board of WWII knew exactly what they were doing when it came to warship design.  They didn’t hide this knowledge; it’s readily available for our enlightenment if only we’ll accept it and avail ourselves of it .. but, we steadfastly refuse.

 

Arguably, the most important of the various lessons is that of short production runs.  From that flows all manner of good program characteristics.  A two year production run does not allow for any significant obsolescence and, therefore, does not require that we build in a single iota of ‘future proofing’ or modular updating which are all the rage today.  Short production runs encourage (nay, demand!) continuous new classes of ships that can then incorporate technological upgrades – there’s your future-proofing!  With no need to overbuild for future considerations, costs and size are kept to a minimum.

 

We need to return to the wisdom of the General Board, acknowledge the lessons they offer, and put them into practice.  A 40 some year run of Burkes is an abomination and an acknowledgement that we don’t know our ship designs from a hole in the ground and that we have no clue how to run a successful ship program.

 

 

 

_________________________________________

 

[1]Reilly, Jr., John C., United States Navy Destroyers of World War II, Blandford Press, Dorset, UK, 1983, ISBN 0 7137 1026 8

 

Monday, January 10, 2022

LRASM Update and Production History

The Navy has been trying, half-heartedly, to replace the obsolete Harpoon anti-ship missile.  The initial attempt was/is the Long Range Anti-Ship Missile (LRASM).  Let’s check the status of the program.

 

The LRASM program began in 2009 and production was authorized in February 2014 as an urgent capability stop-gap solution to address range and survivability problems with the Harpoon missile.[1]  This is a completely valid need/requirement as the Harpoon is obsolete against any moderate defense.  As an urgent need, accelerated program, the LRASM should have been put into production in, what, several months, maybe a year given that it is a modification of an existing missile, the Joint Air to Surface Standoff Missile (JASSM)?  By now, thirteen urgent years later, we should have thousands of missiles in the fleet and in inventory, right?

 

As a reminder, the LRASM program initially had two paths:  the LRASM-A version was a subsonic cruise missile based on the Lockheed Martin's AGM-158 JASSM-ER while the LRASM-B version was a supersonic missile.  The –B was cancelled in 2012.

 

The initial plan was for LRASM to be launched from aircraft and, eventually, adapted to ship launch from VLS systems.  As we’ve noted, after some initial feasibility tests, the ship launched version seems to have ceased development.

 

A brief timeline is presented below.  Note that this was an urgent need program.  With that in mind, the drawn out time frame is quite disappointing.

 

 

2009 – Program start with LRASM-A subsonic version and LRASM-B supersonic version.

2012 – LRASM-B cancelled.

2013 – Testing begins.

2013 – Company funded VLS test.

2015 – Designated AGM-158C

2017 – Lot 1 Low Rate Initial Production contract for 23 air-launched missiles.

2018 – Approved for use on B-1 bomber.

2019 – Approved for use on F-18 Hornet.

 

Had the urgent need been met in a year or less, this program would have been an excellent example of rapid adaptability and responsiveness.  As it stands, however, it is yet another example of a badly broken R&D and procurement system.

 

Here is a timeline of the LRASM production contracts.

 

Jul 2017 - LM awarded $86M contract for production of 23 missiles for Lot 1 LRIP [3]

Jan 2019 - LM awarded $172M contract for production of 50 missiles for Lot 2 [4]

Apr 2020 - LM awarded $167M contract for production of 48 missiles for Lot 3 [6]

Feb 2021 – LM awarded $414M contract for production of 137 missiles for Lots 4 and 5 [2]

Nov 2021 – LM awarded $125M contract for production of 42 missiles for Lot 6 [5]

 

The contract totals appear to be $964M for 300 missiles which gives an average cost of $3.2M per missile.

 

So, an urgent need program has delivered (meaning contracts awarded rather than missiles actually delivered) 300 missiles in 8 years using an existing missile as its basis.  That’s disappointing performance, to say the least.  I guess ‘urgent’ doesn’t mean in the military what it does in real life.

 

 

________________________________

 

Related Note: The LRASM was to have been quickly followed by the Offensive Anti-Surface Warfare (OASuW) Increment 2 anti-ship missile slated for entry into service in 2024.  In reality, the 2020 DOT&E report states that the Navy is now hoping for OASuW Increment 2 sometime in the FY28-30 time range and, without a doubt, that will slip by a few to several years.  This really is pathetic.

 

 

 

________________________________

 

[1]https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/AGM-158C_LRASM

 

[2]https://www.airforce-technology.com/news/lockheed-martin-lrasm-production-usaf-navy/

 

[3]https://www.defensedaily.com/lockheed-martin-wins-87-million-lrasm-production-contract-tests-ship-launch/air-force/

 

[4]https://www.navalnews.com/event-news/sna-2019/2019/01/u-s-navy-air-force-award-lockheed-martin-2nd-lrasm-production-lot/

 

[5]https://www.govconwire.com/2021/11/lockheed-awarded-125m-for-6th-long-range-anti-ship-missile-production-lot/

 

[6] https://finance.yahoo.com/news/lockheed-martin-lmt-secures-168m-145202359.html


Saturday, January 8, 2022

New Recon Vehicle Summary

The comments to the previous post, “Marines Want New Recon Vehicle”, summed up everything wrong with today’s US military.  The orgy of bloat caused by the suggestions to add all manner of extra functions and equipment is exactly why almost every acquisition program over the last few decades has been an abject failure.  Turning a simple recon vehicle – a vehicle whose main purpose is simply to give the trooper a ride – into a land battleship is symptomatic of the mindset our military and military observers have acquired.  Frankly, I’m disappointed.  I know that the so-called professional warriors at the flag level are incompetent and ignorant but I had hoped for better from commenters.  We should be a cut above because we’ve been examining these issues for several years now.

 

We’ve seen what happens when we cram every conceivable function into every platform … we fail … badly.  F-35, LCS, Zumwalt, Ford, etc.  Failure.  Can we not learn a lesson that keeps getting repeated?

 

Add to the bloat the total confusion about what recon even is (the lack of CONOPS) and it’s no wonder our military is floundering and our acquisition programs, when they produce anything, produce nearly useless equipment.

 

Clearly, I’ve got to keep hammering home the concepts of simplicity, single function, and CONOPS.

 

Murphy roams the battlefield and the only ‘shield’ we have against him is K.I.S.S. (Keep It Simple, Stupid).  We ignore K.I.S.S. at our own peril.

 

Very disappointing.


Thursday, January 6, 2022

Marines Want New Recon Vehicle

The Marines want a new Armored Reconnaissance Vehicle (ARV) to replace the venerable Light Armored Reconnaissance Vehicle (LAV-25).  They want 533 units from a 5-year production run.[1]  Okay … that’s fine.  Seems simple enough.  A vehicle to transport a few scouts, see what’s around, and report back.  Cheap … simple … basic.  Quick and easy to procure.  What could go wrong?

 

Of course, the Marines – like the Navy and the military, in general - can’t just leave well enough alone, can they?  They can’t just do basic.  No, they want to turn a simple recon vehicle into a land version of a battleship;  a do-everything vehicle capable of fighting a war single-handed.  Take a look at the variants they want from what ought to be a simple recon vehicle:

 

ARV Variants [1]:

 

Command, Control, Communications, and Computers-Unmanned Aerial System (C4-UAS)

Organic Precision Fire-Mounted (OPF-M)

Counter Unmanned Aerial System (CUAS)

30 mm Autocannon and Anti-tank Guided Missile (ATGM)

Logistics (LOG)

Recovery (R)

 

Well, there goes simple, heading for the bus stop out of town!

 

Now, take a look at some of the features they want:

 

Features [1]:

 

Munitions upgrades including loitering munitions

Electronic warfare

Air defense

Cannon with programmable air burst munitions

Javelin missiles

Spike II missiles

Aerial drone threat sensors

 

And cheap just hopped the train out of town!

 

So, instead of a simple, basic, cheap, small recon vehicle, the Marines are looking to turn the vehicle into a land battleship with strike, anti-air, electronic warfare, anti-tank, drone control, etc. along with six different variants.  That should only take about twenty years to field and cost several times what a main battle tank costs.

 

Hmmm …

 

What alternative is there?

 

You know … it occurs to me that we had a small, simple, cheap, basic recon vehicle in WWII.  It was the M8 Greyhound and it performed quite well.  Let’s compare specs for the M8 Greyhound and the Marine’s ARV.  Of course, we have no specs on the ARV but it won’t likely be any smaller or lighter than the existing LAV-25 and will probably be larger so let’s look at the LAV-25 and the M8 Greyhound.

 

 

 

LAV-25

M8 Greyhound

Length, ft

21’ 0”

16’ 5”

Width, ft

8’ 2”

8’ 4”

Height, ft

8’ 10”

7’ 4”

Suspension

8x8 wheeled

6x6 wheeled

Weight, tons

14

8.5

Power, hp/ton

19.5

13

Range, miles

410

350

Max Speed, mph

62

55

Armament

25 mm chain gun

2x 7.62 mm machine gun

37 mm

1x 0.50 cal machine gun

Transport

3 crew + 4-6 scouts

4 crew

Armor

4.7 – 9.7 mm, small arms

9.5 – 25.4 mm

 

 

M8 Greyhound


The obvious question is, which of those specs actually matter in a combat recon role?  Well, the specs that matter most are:

 

  • Range – more is better
  • Size – less is better
  • Armor – more is better
  • Weapons – more is better

 

Considering those specs that matter most, we see that the M8 Greyhound has 15% less range (that’s bad), 39% less weight (that’s good), 17% lower silhouette (that’s good), 22% shorter length (that’s good), 102%-162% more armor (that’s good), and heavier weapons (that’s good).  Thus, the M8 Greyhound is smaller, lighter, better armored, better armed, and has only slightly less range.  That’s a pretty strong endorsement for the simple M8 Greyhound.

 



Here’s a scaled silhouette comparison of the M8 Greyhound and LAV-25.

 

M8 vs. LAV-25 Silhouette Comparison


If you’re trying to do clandestine recon, you want as small a vehicle as possible, right?  Well, that’s the M8 Greyhound, without a doubt!

 

Another factor that seems important is the crew size.  The LAV-25 (and recon Strykers) carries around 5 scouts per vehicle plus the vehicle crew.  That’s around 8 people per recon vehicle.  Does that seem necessary?  The M8 Greyhound used a total of 4 people.  That seems a lot more reasonable for a recon mission.  Fewer people means a smaller vehicle (that’s good) and less risk to less people (that’s good).  Seriously, what do 8 people productively do on a simple recon mission?

 

Summary

 

Well, there you have it.  We have the example of the M8 Greyhound recon vehicle, a vehicle designed for a specific task and with nothing extra.  It is a stellar example of a small, cheap, simple, basic, well armed, well armored recon vehicle and it is eminently suited to its function.  On the other hand, we have the Marine’s desired ARV which is bloated, overloaded with tasks, risks too many crew, and is ill-suited to its function.

 

The Marines, like the rest of the military, are instantly leaping from a simple task – recon – to a multi-multi-multi-function do-everything behemoth of a gold-plated beast that will be decades in development and prohibitively expensive. 

 

Conceptually, we need to take the M8 Greyhound and update its technology and call it a day.  It will accomplish the task with half the risk to people and we’ll be able to buy it in quantity and without waiting decades to complete development.

 

 

 

__________________________________

 

[1]Task and Purpose website, “This Is The Marine Corps’ Wish List For Its Next High-Tech Recon Vehicle”, Max Hauptman, 17-Dec-2021,

https://taskandpurpose.com/military-tech/marine-corps-lav-replacement-advanced-reconnaissance-vehicle/


Tuesday, January 4, 2022

P-8 Poseidon – Ship Killer

The Navy is awarding Boeing a contract to begin integration of the LRASM with the P-8 Poseidon.  Given that we already have multiple ways to launch anti-ship missiles (LCS, Burke, F-18 Hornet, Constellation, etc.), why is the Navy doing this?  Well, the Navy’s answer is,

 

The whole goal here, at the broadest level, is to create problems for Chinese military planners. [2]

 

Hmm … Let’s circle back to that in a bit but, for the moment, let’s review the P-8 concept.

 

The primary function of the P-8 is anti-submarine warfare (ASW) although, in typical Navy fashion, as documented on the NavAir website, they’ve loaded on broad area maritime surveillance, directing Triton UAVs, maritime and littoral operations, strike warfare, and search and rescue.[6]  As we’ve seen, multiple functions dilutes training time/focus and produces less-than-expert operators … woefully less than expert.

 

P-8 Poseidon

Heading into 2020, the Navy had a validated requirement for 138 P-8 Poseidons[1] but halted purchases with an inventory of 128.[2]  So, optimistically, on any given day we have 80-100 aircraft available to cover the world’s oceans and operate against Russia, China, Iran, and NKorea, among others.  That’s a lot of ocean to cover with not many aircraft!

 

GAO puts the program unit cost at $200M each in 2012 dollars (program unit cost = $270M each).[3]  The combination of limited numbers of aircraft and high cost suggests that the wise commander will very carefully utilize and preserve the aircraft and avoid high risk operations that place the aircraft too near enemy anti-air forces.

 

The P-8 is capable of carrying torpedoes, Harpoon missiles, and SLAM-ER.  The Navy is also looking at adding additional weapons to the aircraft.

 

NAVAIR states that possible weapons systems to be integrated on the P-8A include “the 500 [pounds] to 2,000 [pounds] class of Joint Direct Attack Munition (JDAM) variants, Mk 62/63/65 Quickstrike mines, the Small Diameter Bomb (SDB II), Miniature Air Launched Decoy (MALD), Bomb Rack Unit BRU-55, and Universal Armament Interface (UAI).” [4]

 

So, not only has the Navy loaded the aircraft/crew with multiple functions on top of the primary mission, they now want to turn the aircraft into a multi-mission strike aircraft capable of mining, stand off strike, and close in strike … identical to the F-18 Hornet.  Isn’t that kind of multi-faceted strike capability a full time training effort by itself?  Where’s the time for ASW and all the other multi-missions?

 

Does every platform in the military really need to be capable of conducting every type of mission with every possible weapon?  Isn’t that how you become incompetent at every mission instead of expert at one?

 

Just out of curiosity, where will the P-8 get its targeting data (see, "LRASM - A Good Half Of A Weapon System")?  Yes, the aircraft carries its own radar but a large, slow, non-stealthy aircraft that is radiating is another way of describing a dead aircraft.  If the P-8 is close enough to a target to detect it, it’s close enough to be easily detected and killed by the enemy.  Let’s bear in mind that naval targets (meaning ships) are not going to be spotted at a thousand miles.  Every ship, today, is stealthy to varying degrees.  Chinese ships, in particular, visually appear to be more stealthy than ours and a searching aircraft will have to get quite close to target them.  I’m guessing Chinese ships will be detectable at around 30 miles.  That puts the P-8 well within the ship’s AAW kill zone.  Is this the kind of risk we want to take with our only fixed wing ASW asset and one that is limited in numbers and exorbitant in cost?

 

Returning to the LRASM issue, the P-8 will likely be able to carry 4 LRASM.

 

The P-8 has four wing pylons. Each of these stores stations, which are rated at 2,500 pounds, are able to carry standoff cruise missiles, such as AGM-84 Harpoons and SLAM-ERs, and eventually the stealthy Long-Range Anti-Ship Missile (LRASM). [5]

 

Does the ability to launch a maximum of 4 LRASM justify exposing rare and expensive aircraft to enemy defenses?

 

So, to sum up, with the P-8 program we have,

 

  • not enough numbers to be effective given the mission load
  • an aircraft too expensive to risk
  • an aircraft/crew tasked with too many missions to be expert at any of them and the focus/training for the primary mission will be diluted
  • an aircraft that cannot self-target without exposing itself to destruction
  • a concept that will result in operating a large, slow, non-stealthy aircraft too near enemy defenses

 

Now, as promised, let’s circle back to the initial bit about how a LRASM missile-armed P-8 will ‘create problems for Chinese military planners’.  How will a large, slow, radiating, non-stealthy, non-maneuverable, defenseless aircraft create problems for the Chinese?  To the enemy, the P-8 is what is known as a target drone and all the Chinese need is for the aircraft to fly within range so that they can leisurely shoot it down.  How is serving up a valuable, rare, expensive target drone on an aerial platter creating a problem for Chinese military planners?  Isn’t it far more likely that the Chinese will be sending us thank you notes rather than scratching their heads over the problems we’ve created?

 

This kind of delusional thinking is how people will get killed when war comes.

 

What is it with the Navy’s refusal to become outstanding at one task?  The belief that a single platform/crew can competently perform dozens of functions is delusional.  The dilution of training time, alone, guarantees that this cannot happen.

 

 

 

___________________________________

 

[1]Forbes website, “US Navy Plans To Stop Buying P-8 Poseidon Sub Hunters Despite Growing Undersea Threat”, Loren Thompson, 2-Dec-2019,

https://www.forbes.com/sites/lorenthompson/2019/12/02/us-navy-plans-to-stop-buying-p-8-poseidon-sub-hunters-despite-growing-undersea-threat/?sh=2857adb159fe

 

[2]Breaking Defense website, “With missile upgrade, P-8A Poseidon brings capacity, complexity to China fight: Analysts ”, Justin Katz, 2-Dec-2021,

https://breakingdefense.com/2021/12/with-missile-upgrade-p-8a-poseidon-brings-capacity-complexity-to-china-fight-analysts/

 

[3]Government Accountability Office, “Defense Acquisitions, Assessments of Selected Weapon Programs”, Mar 2012, p.117

 

[4]The Diplomat website, “US Navy to Arm P-8A Poseidon With Long-Range Anti-Ship Missile”, Franz-Stefan Gady, 6-Feb-2020,

https://thediplomat.com/2020/02/us-navy-to-arm-p-8a-poseidon-with-long-range-anti-ship-missile/

 

[5]The Drive website, “The Case For Stripping The P-8 Poseidon Down Into An RB-8 Multi-Role Arsenal Ship”, Tyler Rogoway, 22-Jul-2021,

https://www.thedrive.com/the-war-zone/40859/the-case-for-stripping-the-p-8-poseidon-down-into-an-rb-8-multi-role-arsenal-ship


[6]https://www.navair.navy.mil/product/P-8A-Poseidon


Friday, December 31, 2021

LCS RAM Untested

The LCS program problems are many and, generally, well known.  Still, there are aspects that are surprising even for this troubled program.  One such issue is the Rolling Airframe Missile (RAM) anti-air defense weapon for the Freedom class LCS.  The issue is that the RAM system has not been tested on the Freedom class and the Navy has decided not to conduct any tests.  No tests.  None.

 

The Navy has not fully tested these combat systems and the Navy does not plan to conduct further air warfare operational testing of Freedom seaframes 1 through 15 in their current combat system configuration. The Navy has accepted the risk of continued operation with a combat system that is not operationally tested. (1, p.190)

 

The Navy has neither resourced nor conducted any air warfare test events against anti-ship cruise missile surrogates planned as part of the DOT&E-approved Enterprise Air Warfare Ship Self-Defense Test and Evaluation Master Plan (TEMP) or the LCS TEMP. The Navy’s Program Executive Office for Integrated Warfare Systems halted all work to develop a Probability of Raid Annihilation (PRA) M&S suite of the combat systems in FY15 and has not yet restarted the effort. (2, p.141)

 

RAM Launcher


Yes, the Rolling Airframe Missile itself has been tested (is that a true statement?  I’m not sure) but the launcher, combat system software that controls the launcher, the sensors that have to integrate with the combat system and launcher, and possible sensor interference has not been tested.  That’s a lot of potential problems.  For example, prior to the Navy canceling testing, DOT&E noted the need to,

 

Correct the SSDS [Ship Self Defense System software] scheduling function to preclude interference with the RAM infrared guidance capability stemming from prior intercepts and warhead detonations. (1, p.209)

 

The Navy is knowingly sending Freedom variants into combat with untested point defense missile systems.  This ranks right up there with the WWII torpedo fiasco.  The only saving grace is that no one, not even the Navy, believes that the LCS is an actual combat asset.

 

On the plus side, the Navy appears to have standardized on the SeaRAM instead of the RAM so if they’ll quickly follow through and retrofit SeaRAM onto the Freedom variant then the testing halt is acceptable.  If not, it’s simply criminal.

 

SeaRAM Launcher


This does, however, raise a few questions/issues:

 

  • Who initially thought having two different point defense systems (RAM and SeaRAM) within the same general class of ship was a good idea?  Someone should be fired for that.
  • Who thought a point defense system without a self-contained targeting sensor (radar) was a good idea?  Someone should be fired for that.
  • This is what happens when you allow two variants of the same ship to be built using completely different equipment.  Who thought that was a good idea?  Someone should be fired for that.

 

The larger point is that the Navy has been exhibiting a marked tendency to truncate or eliminate testing over the last decade or so.  For example, the Navy delayed the shock testing of the LCS as long as they could and attempted to eliminate the shock testing of the Ford.  Numerous other examples of the Navy skipping testing are documented throughout the DOT&E annual reports.  This is what happens when there is no watchdog.  The Navy cannot be trusted to conduct thorough testing or, indeed, any testing at all.  This is what makes the recent decision to classify, eliminate, or significantly reduce public DOT&E reporting so concerning.

 

 

 

 

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(1)Director, Operational Test and Evaluation, FY2017 Annual Report

(2)Director, Operational Test and Evaluation, FY2019 Annual Report