As ComNavOps was reviewing some general naval history and pondering the Navy’s current force structure he couldn’t help but be reminded that the strength and backbone of the fleet (well, the surface fleet, anyway) is Aegis. Any surface combatant that doesn’t start with the letters CVN (carrier) is an Aegis ship, either a Burke or a Tico. I’m reminded that Aegis is a strictly defensive system. True, that's not exactly headline news but thinking a bit further I realized that the entire might of the fleet was designed as a defensive force. Now, by good fortune, VLS and Tomahawk have allowed the Aegis ships to project a bit of offensive firepower, as well, but it remains a fact that the Navy hasn't commissioned a purpose-built offensive platform since [not sure?]. If you care to look at it this way, the surface Navy consists of defensive Aegis platforms and carriers.
Still not earthshaking revelations. Where's this going? Well, it occurs to me that the Navy needs an offensive equivalent to Aegis. I'm not just talking about a better anti-ship cruise missile than Harpoon or a bigger gun but a complete game-changing offensive system.
Such a system should have several hundred mile to 1000+ mile weapons range. The weapons should be stealthy, supersonic, and pack a punch with a range of weapons varying from one-hit, one-kill on the largest ships to Hellfire size weapons for small targets.
The most important aspect of a game-changing offensive system, though, would have to lie in the sensor and fire control systems (SFC). A system should have the ability to detect and classify targets at several hundred to thousand mile ranges. The fire control should be capable of not just guiding the weapons but assigning individual targets once in the target area.
The problem, of course, is that current technology can't provide that kind of performance from the weapons launching platform. So, what about launching the sensor/fire control system along with (or ahead of) the weapons? The Soviets were working towards this but I don't know how far along they got. Basically, large missiles whose payload is sensors and fire control rather than a warhead. Several of these would form a line-of-sight SFC network for the accompanying missiles. By definition, this would involve a significant degree of autonomy. Basically, waves of missiles capable of reasoned search, target classification, and intelligent weapons allocation.
I could imagine waves of SFC missiles with accompanying anti-ship missiles sweeping the East/South China Seas. Maybe we have a use for the Mk57 launch cells?
To an extent, UAVs could do this except that no UAV has anywhere near the speed, range, and payload to be effective.
Going further, launching platforms, meaning the ships themselves, that can detect and target at the required distances would be nice. From what I can gather, the old Spruance Outboard system was attempting to do exactly that by collating passive sensor information from multiple sensors on multiple platforms – and not just sea based, either. Land and air based sensors can contribute just as readily as ships. The concept is that each individual sensor’s information is woefully insufficient by itself for targeting but that the combination of information from the multitude of sensors can be assembled into a targeting quality picture. Think of it as triangulation on a vast scale. If that could be refined, that might provide the hugely over-the-horizon detection that's needed. If you think about it, it’s not all that different in concept from the Co-operative Engagement Capability (CEC) that’s currently used for defensive anti-air warfare.
Well, enough rambling. I don't know the specifics but I just know that we need an offensive system equivalent to what Aegis gave us defensively.
What do you think? Anything to this or does ComNavOps need to up the dosages of his medications?