Thursday, March 21, 2013

Surface Force Commander's Vision

Defense News website (1) reports on a classified memo, “Vision for the 2025 Surface Fleet”, from VAdm. Tom Copeman, Naval Surface Forces, that contains a number of fascinating recommendations.  Among them are,

  • Discontinue the dual buy LCS at the 24 already built or on order and, instead, select one or the other or, alternatively, an up-gunned version of one or a completely new ship.

  • Recommends against building the DDG-51 Flt III in favor of a larger purpose-designed cruiser.

  • Recommends increased reliance on mobile landing platforms (MLP) and afloat forward staging bases (AFSB).

  • Recommends new amphibious construction scaled down to the size forces more commonly used.  Presumably, this is directed towards Company size landing forces.

  • Calls for new electronic warfare systems to replace the SLQ-32.

  • Calls for more effective ship launched ASW weapons.

  • Calls for more effective anti-ship missiles.

A few things are interesting about this.  The top surface warfare commander is advocating for an end to the LCS, at least in its current form.  He appears to recognize the developmental difficulties facing the modules.  If the value of a carrier lies in its air wing, the value of the LCS lies in its modules and those modules are many years away from achieving even a modest level of usefulness.  While not offering a specific alternative, the suggestion is that the current incarnation of the LCS is a failure. 

While that’s hardly a surprise to the rest of us, it does represent a radical departure from the Navy public relations line and that’s the other interesting aspect to Adm. Copeman’s LCS position.  The Navy has been ruthless in ensuring that anyone connected to the Navy has nothing but glowing remarks about the LCS.  Either Adm. Copeman is displaying career ending candor in going against the Navy line or he is merely reflecting a growing sense of disappointment within the Navy about the LCS and the sentiment is strong enough that he feels safe to state it publicly.  I suspect the latter.

ComNavOps has talked repeatedly about the overabundance of Navy amphibious capability relative to reasonably foreseeable need and has advocated the use of Company size ships and landing forces.  Adm. Copeman seems to be echoing this though, again, we’re lacking specifics.

The call for a new electronic warfare system is a recognition that Aegis/Standard is not the only way to deal with incoming missiles.  In fact, Aegis/Standard may not even be the most effective way.  Regardless, a new, more effective electronic warfare system will provide a means to upgrade the effectiveness of every ship in the fleet.  Whether such a system can be developed remains to be seen but it’s at least casting an eye in the right direction.

The call for more effective ship launched ASW weapons is outstanding.  The current ship launched torpedos are not really adequate.  If we’re going to use the LCS (or Copeman’s successor platform) in an up close and personal ASW role then we definitely need more and better ASW weapons.  A modernized version of the Hedgehog system would be a good starting point.

Taken together, Adm. Copeman’s comments paint a vastly different picture of the future of the surface Navy than the official version.  We’ll have to wait and see what, if anything, comes of this.  Regardless, I applaud Adm. Copeman for his vision and courage in going on the record with it. 

By the way, you’ll recall that this is the same Adm. Copeman who I singled out for praise in an earlier post for recognizing that the Navy has been hollowed out and for suggesting a different means of dealing with the sequestration than CNO Greenert is using.

Perhaps Adm. Copeman should be the CNO?


  1. As calling for a better ASuW weapon, navy has several options under consideration: a Tomahawk IV derivative dubbed Interim OASuW, DARPA's LRASM based on JASSM-ER frame, Network Enabled Harpoon BlockII+ (Harpoon III resurrection).

  2. Lockheed is trying hard to sell its LCS-I concept. The combat system is a scaled down version of Aegis SPY-1(D)? A block of VLS cells (2x8 or 3x8 configuration) located on the front deck. The Freedom class hull can also host OTO Melara 76 rapid gun. Meanwhile, HII is pitching a light patrol frigate design based on its national security cutter.

    1. There are plenty of options and almost all are better than continuing the current LCS!

  3. A modernized Hedgehog? What do you mean by that. I know nothing of ASW but doesn't a Mk54 replacement with faster speed and a larger warhead sound better instead of mortars

    1. This was directed at shallow water ASW using an LCS (or similar) platform against diesel electric subs. The Navy has been developing bigger, faster, longer ranged, larger warhead torpedos for some time but the rationale is for open ocean use against fast, tough, double titanium hulled subs. In contrast, shallow water diesel electric subs are slow and thin-skinned. We don't need bigger torpedos, hence, my suggestion that a Hedgehog-ish system might be useful - especially if we're going to ask noisy LCSs to conduct ASW. They'll undoubtedly find themselves in need of a short range, quick response ASW weapon. Remember, torpedos have a minimum arming range. Hey, I'm not an ASW tactical expert either - just pitching ideas!

      Maybe a Hedgehog-ish launched mini-torpedo where several can be dropped simultaneously around a suspected location?

      Another problem with torpedos is magazine storage space - they're pretty big. Also, launcher room is at a premium on an LCS or any small vessel. Again, a Hedgehog-ish system might be ideal.

    2. Ok, ok, I got you now. I was thinking blue water against Akula class submarines and what not.

      Yeah a Hedgehog-ish system would work fine in littoral ASW. A mini torpedo with a 30 kg warhead that is launched like a mortar instead of an ASROC or torpedo tube would be nice in the littorals and on small ships. Good idea.

    3. I think you guys are underestimating the difficulty in detecting a small diesel submarine in the littorals, and the utility of short-range weapons. It's not WW2. If you're close enough to throw a short-range 'hedgehog', odds are a modern diesel submarine has long since detected you and developed a targeting solution.

      When it comes to ASW, the surface ship needs to detect and kill the submarine at arms length. Right now it's ASW "main battery" is its helicopter. The ship's pretty much just a sensor node (hull-mounted sonar) and hangar.

      In the future, I definitely think we need a much better lightweight torpedo, and possibly something that can deliver a torpedo tens of miles from the ship (improved ASROC).

    4. Anon, just the opposite on my part. The LCS is going to have a very difficult time finding subs and will find itself the target on a frequent basis (I don't actually believe the LCS can be an effective ASW platform). That being the case, the LCS may find itself needing a quick reaction ASW weapon for those where'd-he-come-from moments.

    5. Anon, do you mean something like the Sea Lance? ComNavOps has convinced me of the need for something like a modernized Hedgehog as a last line of defense so I think we should still go with that.

    6. I've edited a comment by Anonymous to remove a possible personal slight. The remaining comment is below. We can debate and even attack ideas but not the people.

      Mk54 replacement? Due to budget pressure even the modest Mk54BlockII upgrade was shelved by the navy. LCS lacks organic ASW, it relies on the helicopter to conduct anti submarine mission. MH-60R usually carries only one Mk54, its operational range is also limited.

  4. I think the SWO community is starting to realize that the LCS may not deliver as promised and they should have cut their losses and cap them at 24 and use them in Mine warfare operation or create a corvette/Fast attack class like most Navies do.

    As for what would Replace the LCS, maybe an enlarged version of the US Coast Guard's National Security Cutter or buy into the rights for the Type 26 Frigate, Frances FREMM Frigate or even Germany's F-125 frigate. What ever replaces the LCS, it has to be a Multi-Role Frigate with AAW, ASW and ASUW capability and limited land attack to Naval gun fire support.

    I also think the US Navy should seriously look into buying SSKs for CONUS duty and defense of CONUS. SSK's and Frigates can work together in the littorals and shallow waters. SSK's such as Japan's Sōryū-class submarine or Germany's Type 212,214 & 216 SSK. They can be used for CONUS/EEZ patrol, ASW/ASUW adversary training and even be used to transport Special forces close to enemy shores in the littoral region. SSK's would free up SSN's for overseas work and can be used for CONUS work.

    I also think they should go ahead with the Flight III burkes and just simply call the Flight III burkes the CG(X). The Flight III Burkes would simply be an evolution of the Ticos and Flight IIA burkes combined.

    1. Nicky, I agree with your thoughts in the first few paragraphs. Regarding the Flt III, though, it would have some severe problems. Unless it were significantly upsized, the Burke hull and engineering plant can't support the full size AMDR, as I understand it. Also, the Burkes are notoriously cramped as is and trying to fit additional generators, VLS, etc. would be an immense challenge. A Flt III would start life as a weight and stability challenged platform with no room for growth. Of course, bear in mind that these comments are offered without any actual Flt III specs to compare against so it's just speculation!

      I think the main reason for the Navy pursuing the Flt III is to avoid the kind of program oversight that would accompany a new design. By claiming that the Flt III is just a simple upgrade the Navy bypasses a lot of scrutiny.

    2. The flight III Burkes would be similar to what the South Korean Navy has called the Sejong the Great-class destroyer. I think the Flight III Burkes would be a cruiser version of the Sejong the Great-class destroyer.

      Here's specs on the propsed flight III Burke

      Sejong the Great-class destroyer

    3. Nicky, just to be clear, the links do not contain specs for the Flt III but, instead, are a proposal from one individual based on what he thinks a Flt III might be. Interesting but not authoritative. The closest thing I can find to official Flt III "specs" are the description in the Congressional Research Services report and that contains only vague hints - nothing concrete. In fact, that's one of the criticisms that CRS has for the Navy; they're asking Congress for money with no specs to evaluate - buying blind, in essence.

      Correct me if you think I'm wrong but if so, provide a link to something authoritative.

      The Sejong would make a reasonable starting point for a CG(X) though it would probably have to be enlarged to accomodate the AMDR.

    4. I think you can base the CG(X) from the Sejong the Great-class destroyer. It has more Missiles than the current Burkes IIA and Ticos combined. Only the Kirov-class battlecruiser beats the Sejong the Great-class destroyer by 224 missiles. The Sejong the Great-class destroyer would make perfect cruiser to base it off from and maybe buy the rights to build a version of Sejong the Great-class destroyer in the US.

    5. Agree completely about Flight III. Just like the F-18C/D and Super Hornet. Much easier to sell to Congress if pitched as new iteration of existing, proven design. And just like the Super Bug when all is said and done the Flight III will have very little in common with earlier flights.

    6. That's why maybe we can base the future CG(X) from the The Sejong the Great-class destroyer. It would be the basis for the Burke III and the Burke Flight III would be a version of The Sejong the Great-class destroyer with more missiles.

      It would be an easy sell to Congress and using the The Sejong the Great-class destroyer as a basis for the Burke III would make an excellent case for a cruiser replacement.

      The Sejong the Great-class destroyer is essentially a cruiser and an evolution of the Ticos. It would pack more modern punch of a Tico.

  5. None of these proposal should surprize anyone who have studied the history and science of naval technology.

    The LCS was alway had to be a continuing development project. The current designs are realy nothing more that test objects after all, intended to develop the know how to build the future LCSs.

    The reason we have two groups of ten design is because someone jump the gun, trying to skip the trial and error stage of development. This is not saying the LCS will be failure, just that they will not be as useful as a design developed after a few years of working the prototypes would be.

    As for there modules, so what if they are late, the biggest advantage of modular systems are they are independent of the sea frame. Engineers working on modules are not holding up work other work on the LCS because their sub module are not ready. In the long run this design method will save the USN billions in refitting and modification cost alone on new vessels, not to mention the cost of midlife updates.

    The AMDS will need a larger hull, more power and better layout than any current ship. More over, the Navy need to cut crew size will force adoption of automation, which also will need more space, weight, and power than current ships design have available. Also increasing hull size has multitudes of other advantages such as greater survivablity, endurance, weapons payload, and habitablity. And remenber the saying, steel is cheap.

    As for new hedgehog, you got to be kidding, may be ne Mousetrap (rocket powered hedgehog bombs) but that will require a hull large hull sonar that will cost you speed. My suggestion in the past was an apsulated Mk48 attached to a adio bouy and a sonar sensor array. This would be dropped overboard at the first sign of an submaring and the ship would then retreat. The weapon would then look for any enemy subs, and report back to the mother ship. Then the target is found, then the torpedo is fired and good by sub. If the was no sub, the the LCS could return and recover the unit for later use.

    1. GLof, you indicate that you're comfortable with the modules taking a while to reach maturity because that's what they're designed to do. In concept, I agree, however, the reality is that the modules are several years away from fielding, yet, and in the interim the LCSs are just very lightly armed Coast Guard vessels. For a ship with only a 25 year designed lifespan, many of the ships will be halfway or more through their careers without any module. That's a lot of money being spent to build ships that can't do anything for several more years.

      Further, the modules that are coming won't be what was promised. The modules are very, very average in capability. Modules that even begin to approach what was envisioned are probably 20 years away, if ever. So, again, that's a lot of money for ships that will only have very average capability.

      So, while I agree with you in concept, the reality is that the modules have been a complete failure.

      Do you see a worthwhile module coming in the next several years?

    2. In a perfect world, everything would be avialable when wanted, and would function perfectly. This is not a perfect world.

      Forunatly, we don't need perfect, all we need is good enough. The current modules designs have many shortcoming, and main of the sub systems are not ready, still some are now good enough, the light cannons and the Helo support unit for example. And combined with the existing Seaframes, the will provide a vessels that good enough for some missions such as anti-pirate and anti-drug patrols, special ops and transport.

      Also while the mission modules are not ready, neither are the production seaframes, so the modules are not yet needed. It is true that we need these modules to replace those elderly system and ships the LCS will replace, but mounting the system permanent on single purpose hull as done in the past will only delay their deployment more as we have to wait for the new system are finished before we could start building those ships.

      As for when usedful modules become available, I suspect it closer than you think. I expect sub system for tow array sonar will be tested soon. Lancher for harpoon and sea sparrow were developed by the Danes can be adopted by the USN. Other existing systems can be mounted in modules if exist programs do not results in suitable modules. The trick will be learning how to do so.

    3. GLof, you say all we need is good enough and, to an extent, I agree with that. The problem is that the current modules that are being developed won't be good enough even if/when they're ready.

      Take the ASW module, for example. The ASW version of the LCS is supposed to replace the Perry FFGs which had a full towed array, hull mounted sonar, Prairie/Masker, triple torpedo tubes, and, most importantly, two Seahawks. Contrast that with the LCS and ASW module which provide a small version of a towed array, a VDS (nice!), and a single Seahawk helo. Missing is a hull mounted sonar, ship launched ASW torpedos, Prairie/Masker, and a second helo. If you consider that good enough, then we'll have to agree to disagree. I look at that and see only half the capability of the ship it's replacing!

      The same goes for the other modules.

      It's fine to be optimistic about the development of modules but it's clearly going to be several years (and I'm being generous - it's actually going to be 10-15 years, if ever) before modules are ready that can even match what they're replacing.

  6. Get more exercises with diesel subs, if that means buying some new ones, then so be it. We can build a new generation of American diesel subs that countries like Israel, Pakistan, and Taiwan will gladly buy. Right now we are forfeiting potentially big sales because we have nothing in SSKs to offer.

    Put Harpoon and towed arrays on back all DDGs. That will make all of them more capable, instead of "potentially".

    Instead of rotating 25mm mounts between ships in the Persian Gulf AOR, add them to all ships. Ideally that should be the remote MK 38 Mod 2. This is probably the cheapest idea here to improve our ships, yet it's not getting done. Why?

    Put Sub-Harpoon back on SSNs again.

    Restart Sea Lance, which was a Subroc replacement with a lightweight torpedo. If the original design is used, it should be relatively inexpensive to produce.

    Stop giving away Perrys and put the Mk 13 launcher back on, perhaps with four or more Harpoons loaded in the magazine?
    Make the anti-ship Tomahawk Block IV and restart Harpoon Block III. The Harpoon is a good missile; it just needs an update, which hasn’t happened in some time.

    The SLQ-32 family has been around for a long time. But the Admiral must want to have a fresh start on a new design for ESM/ECM. Not a bad idea, especially if it can be made to fit the weight and space of its predecessor.

    I’m glad he is asking for a new ASW weapon as VL-ASROC has not been updated since 1993. If the diameter of the rocket motor is widened to 21” like the latest Standard missile (SM-6) then the range will be significantly longer.

    None of this requires cutting edge technology; it is all things the Navy cut for the most part. Even the diesel subs, if based on an improved Barbel design, could be done smartly.

    1. Lockheed is working on an extended range VLA. The standoff range for firing the missile is beyond 100 Km from where the warhead (Mk46 or Mk54 torpedo) enters the water. A diamond back style foldable wing is attached to the torpedo body for gliding at high altitude.

    2. That works too. Do you have a link to that?


      search for the term VLA-ER

    4. Both Lockheed and Raytheon are designing torpedo specific glide wings for both aircraft launched and VLA application.
      VLA's rocket ignition system (the one which propels the missile out of VLS cell during hot launch) is also being utilized for surface launched JASSM-ASuW (LRASM candidate).

    5. At a quick glance, I can't find any mention of an extended range VLA after around 2009. Was it cancelled?

    6. It's not cancelled, but it's not a program of record either (not yet). Lockheed treats it as a pet project and hopes to draw the interest from navy, very similar to Raytheon's approach of marketing JSOW-ER.


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