Monday, December 23, 2013

The Navy's Christmas Wish List

I know most of you are probably just about done with your Christmas shopping, you’re checking your household budget, and you’re realizing that you still have a few billion dollars left unspent.  Well, here’s the Navy’s Christmas wish list if you want to get the Navy a last minute gift.

SSGNs – The Navy could really use several more SSGNs.  They’re loaded with deep strike Tomahawk missiles which will bring joy to good little Admirals.  Unfortunately, they’re very hard to find this season (you know, cause subs are stealthy and hard to detect – little humor, there, heh, heh).

Intermediate Range Ballistic Missiles (IRBM) – If Santa’s weapon’s workshop could get this into Navy stockings for Christmas we’d have lots of happy ship’s captains.  Unfortunately, dreams of IRBMs are a long way off (you know, cause of their long range – heh, heh).

Long Range Air Superiority Fighter – The carrier mafia in the Navy would jingle their bells for a true long range air superiority fighter with all the stealth, range, and payload needed for those pesky A2/AD scenarios.  This might be the dominant gift under the tree (you know, cause of how air superiority aircraft dominate the skies – heh, heh – hey, I’m a naval analyst not a joke write for Leno so cut me some slack!)

UAV Carrier – The Navy says UAVs are the future of naval aviation so what naval strategist wouldn’t want a dedicated UAV carrier with lots of UAV goodies?  These come packaged pretty full, though, so wrap them tightly (you know, cause of how carriers are stuffed full of aircraft – heh, heh).

LST – What Marine commander doesn’t want a large capacity ship that can transport Marines and their heaviest equipment right onto the beach?  You might not be able to find these on the store shelves, though.  They’re just now reaching our shores in time for Christmas (you know, cause reaching the shore is what they do – heh, heh).


  1. It would be nice if we can have more SSGN's equipped with non-Nuclear conventional UGM-27 Polaris or UGM-73 Poseidon. We can use them for prompt global strike


    It looks like USN is now more interested in a bigger UAV than what they were talking about just a few months ago...

    1. The UCLASS concept they are now talking about is much closer to the concept that was extant between 2006 and 2011, which was for an airframe somewhat larger than the X-47B carrier operations demonstrator.

      As to why the pre-2011 UCLASS concept airframe has now been expanded even further to be as large as an F-14 is now a topic of much speculation.

      The first thing that came into my own mind when I read the article was this question, will there be room for an airman (or two) inside of this latest concept for UCLASS, if they are small enough and are placed in a reclining position?

  3. Replies
    1. Ouch! How do you know comedy isn't my day job? There's a lot of comedy shows on TV that aren't very funny and somebody has to write their material!

      Nonetheless, point taken!

  4. Really bad puns. Good Christmas list though.

  5. OK, let evaluate these, for they strengthens and weaknesses.

    SSGN, while the four converted Ohios have been useful, they have one shortcoming, they concentrate much of our long range firepower on a few platforms. This is the same problem the Marines have with the large landing ships, where the lost of a single platform weaken you too much. I suggest a better solution would be to mount your Long Range Missiles over as many platform as possible not just submarines, but surface ships as well.

    IRBM, have a problem of low cost effectiveness, they payload are small compare to their cost. And while kinetic energy might make up for some of that lost, it require pinpoint accuracy to work. Now with GPS, that may be possible, but it will come at a price to high when compared to other systems.

    Air Superiority Fighter, this is the idea I highly agree with, a manned, long range fighter is an absolute necessity not only for the Navy, but the United States as a whole. Without these aircraft, maintain any sort of military superiority, not just air superiority is impossible. That why killing the F-22 WAS AND IS SUCH A BLOODY F............ The quickest way in my option to gaining such an aircraft is instructing Lockheed Martin to turn all construction plans for the F-22 to Boeing (because they now build the F-18s), and have them upgrade its design to be carrier capable, and reducing the cost through material changes.

    UAV Carrier, it make no sense to build ships to carry only unmanned aircraft when there is no advantage over building them able to build ships to operate both manned and unmanned aircraft.

    LST, directly beaching any ship is a bad idea, that why the Navy/Marines adopted the LCAC to replace conventional landing craft. Still those craft do need based ship with docking decks. Still they don't need to be as big as LPD-17s and LHDs. ships the size of the Harpers Ferry class, would be just a useful in transporting cargo.

    This also lead to the need for smaller personnel transport ships, like the APD of WWII. These ships were adopted by the Navy because of the lost of major ship during the North African landing. I suggest that the next generation LCS be design to act as a combination JHSV, LSV, and LCS. Much as the Danish Absalon class ship combine like functions. This would also help provide the additional manpower many of the critic of the current LCS designs claims to need.

    1. GLof, I'm not sure I was going for that much seriousness but OK.

      While your point is potentially valid about risk, the flip side of that is cost effectiveness. The four SSGNs equal 22 Virginias in terms of Tomahawks. It's a lot cheaper to build, crew, and operate 4 subs than 22! Yes, there's a risk, as you point out, but the risk is acceptable given that SSGNs are very, very hard to find even after they announce their presence by launching. Also, if we wanted to launch an all out strike, would it be better to place 4 subs in position or 22? 22 constitutes a target rich, cluttered environment for the enemy ASW and huge friendly fire self-defense issue for our subs. All that considered, I come down on the SSGN side of the argument but your view is not without merit. We've just got a different take on the same issue. No problem with that!

      IRBMs as land attack on fixed sites is quite accurate. IRBMs in an anti-surface role needs further development, as I've pointed out about the Chinese carrier-killer threat.

      I actually have a vastly different concept in mind for a UAV carrier. I'll discuss it in a future post.

      The Marines currently have a get-our-equipment-ashore problem especially if they contemplate a vertical assault. They desperately need a way to get large quantities of men, heavy vehicles, and supplies ashore quickly. An LST would fill the need and I can't see a better approach. I'll qualify that by saying that I'm not a ground/amphibious expert so I'm open to alternatives. How do you see/suggest the Marines get tanks, heavy weapons, and supplies ashore quickly? How about for an inland, vertical assault?

      Good thoughts!

      Merry Christmas!

    2. GLof,

      I am a big fan of conventional IRBMs for ship to shore use.

      An updated naval version of the Pershing missile would make for a very long ranged and devastating conventional weapon used to bust up the airfields and sensors needed to support the A2/AD threats the USN is beginning to face. Simply releasing solid tungsten cubes at altitude would devastate airfields, radars, and SAMs, while a kinetic penetrator weighing several hundred kilograms and impacting at Mach 8+ would blow through the side of a mountain.

      You have to consider that carrier based air will never have the range to directly compete with land based bombers and tacair. Yes we can use tanker aircraft, but that has serious trade-offs as well. Even fielding the F35 promises marginal increase in range compared to the threat.

      There is nothing in the procurement pipeline that can address the range issue, meaning that any new aircraft or missile will face at least a 15-year delay before production. A container launched Pershing or other solid fuel ballistic missile could be fielded far sooner, because these weapons are already proven.

      The upfront cost of a ballistic missile would be great, but the lifetime cost of maintaining even a drone like the X-47 will dwarf the cost of a ballistic missile.

      The only real challenge is the politic will to use them. Given the reality that the Chinese, Koreans, and Iranians are fielding these weapons in mass, there is no reason we should not use them as well.


  6. I would add an S-3 replacement to that list. The Navy desperately needs a long-range, organic ASW platform that can double as a tanker.

    One could even argue that bringing back the S-3 for a decade or so would be money well spent.


    1. Matt,

      I agree fully - a carrier based MPA is sorely needed.


    2. GAB,

      It's refreshing to see that we agree on something. An early Christmas miracle perhaps? :)

      I meant to add that SSGN wouldn't place high on my X-mas list.

      I recall reading the fleet has something like 9,000 VLS cells. And that doesn't include the numerous strike weapons carried by Hornets in our ten carrier air wings.

      The Navy's capability and capacity to strike land targets seems adequate for most contingencies. I'm more concerned about it's ability to conduct war at sea.

      I'd probably wish for more SSNs and a 'new' S-3 Viking (let's call it S-X) rather than more SSGNs.



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