Tuesday, October 7, 2014


Anti-air warfare (AAW) is the backbone of the Navy.  You’d think the backbone would be some sort of offensive capability, wouldn’t you?  But, I digress …  We’ve discussed how the Navy has lost its offensive focus and become defensive oriented (see, "The Best Defense Is A Good Offense").  Our frontline ships, the Burkes, are primarily defensive platforms with only a modest and limited capability for Tomahawk strikes.  Anyway, given the importance the Navy attaches to AAW, let’s take a closer look at it.

We’ve already discussed the relative value of active (hard kill) versus passive (soft kill) defenses and the track record of each (see, "AAW - Hard Kill Or Soft Kill?").

Let’s look a bit closer at the hard kill side of the issue.  A few things jump out:

Effectiveness – The historical data shows that AAW missiles are only marginally effective with success rates of 1% - 25%.  Against modern supersonic aircraft and missiles supported by ECM and decoys the success rate will probably be in the 1%-10% range.

Engagement Density – The speed of modern aircraft and missiles makes for very short engagement windows which means that the number of missiles (the density) that can be launched per target is very small.

Cost – The Navy’s Standard missile costs $1M+ each and the more advanced versions (SM-3 & SM-6) are more than that.

What do these factors mean?

The marginal effectiveness means that you need more missiles per target to ensure a kill.  That’s straightforward but the limited engagement density precludes increasing the number of missiles to compensate for marginal effectiveness.  Worse, when the marginal effectiveness is combined with the cost, the desire for more missiles per engagement leads to skyrocketing costs even if we could increase the engagement density.  This is a self-limiting path.

The preceding suggests that the Navy’s emphasis on long range, hard kill missile-based AAW will be only marginally effective and exceedingly expensive.  Compounding this is the Navy’s neglect of short range AAW defense.  The Burkes, for example, typically carry a single Phalanx CIWS (some ships carry two).  That’s hardly adequate.
It’s easy to project the ultimate result of the Navy’s current path.  AAW missiles are getting bigger and more expensive.  As the Navy attempts to build ever faster, longer ranged, smarter AAW missiles they will be able to afford fewer and fewer.  Missile size will soon exceed the Mk 41 VLS cell size and have to switch to the Mk 57 Peripheral VLS system of the Zumwalt with the attendant decrease in cell numbers.  Thus, we can foresee a path of increasing costs and decreasing numbers.

We’re already able to see a dilemma involving enemy UAVs.  Do we really want to spend $1M+ to shoot down a $5K or $50K UAV?  If not, what’s the alternative?

So what’s the solution?

Conceptually, we can engage at greater distances to increase the engagement density.  The further out we begin the engagement, the more time we’ll have and the more AAW missiles we can throw at the target.  That’s expensive but would be effective.  The problem is targeting.  Modern anti-ship missiles are generally sea skimming high-subsonic or supersonic which is difficult to detect especially in an ECM environment.  Thus, attempting to engage at greater distances won’t work unless we come up with a breakthrough advance in detection technology.

Conceptually, we can engage at the same, or closer, distances but with much greater engagement density.  The greater number of weapons would compensate for the marginal effectiveness.  The problem is that we’re limited in terminal guidance and target detection and discrimination once missiles start exploding in the target’s vicinity.  Thus, greater numbers are only going to result in untargeted or incorrectly targeted AAW missiles being wasted at $1M+ each.

So, conceptually we can increase our AAW hard kill chances but there are significant problems.  Now what?

Well, this is where we reach the point of this post.  The following is a conceptual missile-based hard kill AAW system patterned after the CIWS.  Imagine a missile that is medium to short ranged (we aren’t going to detect anti-ship missiles beyond that range anyway! – ballistic missiles notwithstanding), cheap, and doesn’t require precision guidance.  We could fling large numbers at targets and increase our overall effectiveness.  

Such a missile system is based on the CIWS concept.  The missiles are fragmentation types that are intended to explode in the path of the incoming target, creating a “wall” of debris for the target to fly through.  As such, precise targeting and guidance is not required since skin-to-skin contact is unnecessary.  A salvo of several missiles thrown in the approximate path of the target ensures a “hit”.  As with CIWS, the missiles can be continually launched until a kill is achieved.

The missiles would be relatively cheap since they would be short to medium ranged and would not need a sophisticated seeker.  In essence, a proximity fuze is all that’s required.  The missiles would not be guided but would simply be launched at a calculated intercept point.  Of course, they would need to be high speed to minimize the amount of maneuvering the target could accomplish before the missile’s arrival.

An added benefit is that massively capable radar systems like Aegis/AMDR are not really necessary since very long distance, precise targeting and guidance is not needed.

In essence, this is a CIWS missile with a much greater range than a conventional CIWS gun.

On an interesting, related note, occasional attempts were made to do something similar to this in WWII using large caliber battleship guns which would fire shells into the water in front of low flying, incoming aircraft with the hope that the planes would fly through the resulting water spouts and be knocked down.  It wasn’t tried often and I’ve never heard of any success with the technique but it is an interesting parallel.

You'll note that I've left out any specific discussion of ESSM.  This is because it falls under the same cost and capability path of diminishing returns and because it has some severe problems to the point that it may not even be functional on a practical basis.  Admittedly, I'm drawing somewhat suspect conclusions about this from various reports.  Regardless, it doesn't change the premise of the post.

This is one of those conjectural posts that ComNavOps comes up with from time to time.  It’s offered as an interesting discussion point and an outside-the-box idea.  Would it work?  Who knows?  It’s worth a few minutes thought, though.  Feel free to offer alternatives that would address the hard kill AAW issues because the current AAW path is unsustainable.

On a related note, I think the Navy recognizes the unsustainable path they’re on and are responding by trying to develop lasers and railguns.  Unfortunately, those technologies are still decades away from practical use.  The approach in this post offers a shorter term alternative.


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  2. How are unguided munitions losing relevance? Missiles are able to jink and jerk in smaller and smaller amounts as they get closer to their target, this is where CIWS/Goalkeeper/Kashtan systems come into play. If a missile is going to hit a ship, it MUST enter the firing solution for defensive guns. The way I see it, there are defensive envelopes, first you want to kill the launch platform before it gets a shot off (may be pretty difficult when you are dealing with subs). Next you have medium range missiles, I call it medium range because when you take into account response time and time of flight for your counter missiles get there, the enemy missiles will have covered a lot of ground. Follow this up with near range missiles like CRAM, and then your final defensive envelope is guns, flares and chaff. Electronic warfare, lowering radar and IR visibility and whatever other soft-kill countermeasures play an equal role. It needs to be a multi-tired defense, in which close-in-weapons have an important role. I think the key is to be able engage the enemy missiles as quickly as possible, and have overlapping defenses from initial engagement to contact distance (not to mention maximized armor and damage control in the event that you do get hit, directly or indirectly).

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    2. So you are saying to just give up once the missile is inside of the minimum engagement range of the counter missiles? I may be wrong but disrupting the airframe (or getting lucky and disrupting the warhead) of a missile and getting hit by debris or shrapnel beats the hell out of getting hit by an intact missile.

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    4. Unguided munitions, such as CIWS, is a great investment. Less damage is always preferrable to more damage and the impact of CIWS mounts on a ship is minimal since they're largely self-contained. There are still a lot of subsonic missiles that are quite susceptible to CIWS kills with little damage to the defending ship. Further, even supersonic missiles may be deflected off course sufficiently to completely miss the ship. Not every missile (or debris) will automatically continue on its original ballistic trajectory to strike the ship.

      While a CIWS may not guarantee total safety for the defending ship, it's far better to have it then not. This is same argument as our armor discussion. The answer is not fewer (or no) CIWS - it's more CIWS, given the minimal impact on the ship.

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    6. Hence, the point of this post!

    7. Gun based CIWS is guided, radar directs the gun and calculates intercepts based on projectile ballistics and known cone of dispersion, if you add in proximity fuses (40mm and up) or programmable airburst (30mm up) it is very valid, and damn cheap inside it's range envelope. Don't forget that trailer mounted Phalanx can knock mortar and artillery rounds out of the air.

      Can you build the small cheap guided missile that competes with guns in cost/round and rounds-on-target in the engagement period? My instinct is that airburst rounds for a gun are going to be a lot cheaper to put on target than the cheapest guided missile for that final engagement envelope, and modern guns can put a hell of a lot of round downrange fast. Just to clarify my stance, for the sake of this argument I'm looking at modern gun systems like the Oerlikon Millennium gun firing 35mm airburst rounds.

      If you have to use a surface mount (no deck penetration) cheap volley missiles may be a better option than Phalanx, if for no other reason that the 20mm is firing dumb point-impact rounds. Airburst beats hit-to-kill.

      The two big problems I see with USA gun systems is that the 5" and 57mm are not enough by themselves (single mounts can't put enough rounds downrange in a short amount of time) and the 20mm relies on direct hits to make a kill. The RIM-116 has a max range of 2km from what I can find, compared to 4km for a 40mm (Dardo fast-fourty, AK630), 3.5km for an Oerlikon 35mm (and 30mm Goalkeeper), and 2km for the Phalanx.

      The number of mounts (RIM-116 or guns) comes into play when you look at engagement from multiple directions.

      Here is something to ponder, what do you get when you take a WWII warship and replace the 40mm and 5"/38's with their modern equivalents like an Otobreda 40L70 Dardo and 5" mk45 guns firing modern ammunition and directed by modern fire control? I find the number of short range missile and gun mounts on Russian ships an interesting contrast to what the USA uses, I wonder what they are thinking?

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    9. B.Smitty, the article you cite is fascinating and offers some general conclusions. However, it is flawed in its basic premise and quite limited in scope. Further, their conclusions are suspect. The conclusions I draw from it are different from what you and they drew. This is a comment so I don't have room to do a detailed analysis but I'll offer a few thoughts.

      The obvious, and most important, conclusion is that non-maneuvering targets can be effectively engaged. This is the critical conclusion as it ties into their flawed premise.

      The flawed premise is that the maneuvering missile is continually maneuvering and begins its maneuver at the precise moment the defending gun is fired. While this may be true at certain, momentary points during a missile's flight profile, the missile must, by definition, resume a relatively straight-on profile for major portions of it's approach. Otherwise, the missile would never be able to approach - it would continually maneuver in random directions around the target. A "maneuvering" missile uses a few discrete maneuvers (pop-up, side-to-side jink, etc.) combined with straight on paths. In the terminal phase, all missiles approach straight on or else they would not approach the target. Even during a maneuver, the missile does not use its full g-rated maneuverability throughout the maneuver. It may execute an abrupt change in direction but then enters a more gradual curve. The articles assumptions are fundamentally flawed regarding maneuvering targets.

      The article deals only with a small (Maverick sized) missile. The results would, presumably, be quite different with larger missiles. Trying to apply the "conclusions" to larger missiles is highly suspect.

      The results also show that intercepts can be statistically achieved at ranges of around 500m which is perfectly acceptable for a Maverick sized missile. A hit on that size missile at 500 m will not likely result in any sizable debris reaching the defender.

      All that said, the article offers the valid general observation that guns are not a highly efficient way to hit a target. Of course, WWII clearly demonstrated that! The overall conclusion I draw is that guns are well worth having especially given the other tasks that the gun perform which further justify their existence.

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  3. I'm surprised no-one is talking about the success of the Israeli trophy system in protecting tanks in Gaza:


    "On July 14, 2014, the Trophy system successfully intercepted a Kornet anti-tank missile fired from Gaza at an IDF tank.[24] Since the beginning of the Israeli Operation Protective Edge to July 20, 2014, at least four Israeli tanks of senior commanders were saved by the Trophy system in the Gaza Strip.[25] According to reports from the front, since the beginning of the ground operation, the system successfully intercepted five anti-tank missiles that were aimed at armored IDF vehicles in Gaza.[7] On July 22, 2014, according to a video by a Palestinian group, the Trophy system installed on a Merkava IV tank successfully intercepted an RPG-29 rocket fired at the tank.[26] According to Debkafile, Hamas has tried to stop Israeli tanks with two kinds of advanced guided anti-tank missiles, the Russian Kornet-E, and the Konkurs, but the Windbreaker intercepted them successfully.[27] The appearance of near-invulnerable mobile land platforms suggest the current warfare paradigm may need revising."

    surely a scaled up version would be similarly useful for warships?

    1. I thought about that one, then held back, I'm not sure if it would scale to missiles and warheads the size of anti-ship missiles. It damn sure seems to be working though! Of course the Russians already have a counter for it, RPG30 launches two rockets, first one is a decoy to set off the defenses.

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    3. B.Smitty is correct. On the other hand, modern ships do have the Trophy system, in concept. It's called CIWS. It just operates at a greater range. CIWS autonomously detects an incoming missile and reacts by spraying a wall of lead in the path of the missile thus destroying it. Trophy, in essence!

  4. I think you missed the obvious lesson here is why the hell are your missiles failing to do their job.
    For all your engagement density, range and time windows, it would be great if a missile might actually get an acceptable hit rate.
    All these Ideas about sub munitions and fragmentation warheads should really be being applied to the AA missiles, at a range that does not endanger the ship.

    From something you said before possibly we need a very long range chaff \ radar decoy ( but then we are back to detecting the incoming missile at range )

    AshM are almost exclusively active radar, do you know of any HARM variant seekers that might be used ?

    On another note
    The Otto Melara 76mm comes with rounds the follow a radar beam to the target, and have a timed warhead to explode in the path of the missile with a large fragmentation warhead. The can be steered on route by a very cleaver method. This allows comparatively long range engagement and a continuous high rate of fire.

    No idea is it works. But France and Italy have 2 per Horizon class AAW Destroyer instead of phalanx.

    I'd still rather have a missile that did what it said on the box tho !


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  5. You all got the concept in the post, didn't you? From the discussion, it sounds like some have missed the concept. To summarize, the concept is a CIWS-like rocket for much longer range intercepts and much larger blast dispersion patterns.

    1. Actually that's where I was going with the STRALES system. It’s that idea but with long range shells instead of rockets.

      I’m not convinced about the unguided bit thought I’m afraid.

      @ 25 miles * supersonic the most minor change or miscalculation in course of much less than a degree will evade a blast pattern of 100 meters.

      You would need a virtually constant stream of very high velocity rockets a la HYDRA rocket pod on “full auto” but a lot bigger to get a wide flak explosion pattern.

      Do able, possibly less expensive than 2 * SM2, but I think (as you pointed out to me a couple of weeks back ) the sky would be so full of metal, you would have no idea radar wise where the hell the incoming missile had gone. Right up to the point it hit you.

      ( probably a huge problem with the French \ Italian system come to think of it ? )


    2. These rockets would be much, much smaller than Standard missiles. The resulting debris radar reflections would, therefore, be much smaller. How much of an interference would it still create? Don't know! Worst case, you'd launch several with enough dispersion to create a wide blast field and then wait to see the result, then shoot again, in necessary (shoot-look-shoot).

      Hey, no system is perfect! The point of the post was that this was a much more affordable path than ever bigger, ever more sophisticated, ever more expensive Standard missiles. Further, it offers the ability to shoot down UAVs without spending millions to hit a thousands UAV.

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    4. What about laser-guided? Several manufacturers have recently brought out laser-guided 2.75 in. rockets, I think Hydras too. Just mount the laser designator co-axial to your gun. Also very hard to jam and good versus light surface targets.

      Randall Rapp

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    6. I would have though laser guidance would ave the same primary issue you get with a semi active radar seeker, your laser can only guide one missile at a time, limiting your number of targets you can engage at any one time .

      My thinking is a simple data link is a better idea. You have low cost, as you are not putting an expensive radar or infrared sensor in the missile, and because you can redirect the missile in flight, you can increase your chances of success.


  6. The key to this whole topic is accurate missile effectiveness and capability data.

    If the missiles are effective we don't need to have a close in system.

    If they are not we better fire the missile guys and get several close in systems NOW!

    If the incoming missiles really can jink and avoid at high speed, then we need a different kind of close in system.

    The reason I saw really is that I lived and worked on Fire Control systems for the Sparrow and Sidewinder. I only learned later that they were pretty useless. I then lived through the Phoenix era where everything would be killed at extended range. Again if it was that good, why did we get rid of it? I think again I got tols a load of BS!

    I haven't followed the later generations of missiles, but given their track record, I don't believe what the missile folks keep saying.

    So show us the test designs and data so that we can make informed decisions on how best to defend our ships.

    1. Anon, the problem with anti-air missile systems (or any system, for that matter) is that they're designed for a fairly specific circumstance. For example, we need a medium range anti-air missile that can intercept an incoming missile at this range, this altitude, this speed, this angle-off, and so on. The resulting missile is probably fairly effective in that specific scenario. The problem is that specific circumstance only occurs occasionally in the real combat world and the 99% other scenarios are what cause the poor performance since the missile wasn't designed for them.

      A Sparrow missile launched under the exact set of conditions that it was designed for was probably reasonably effective. It's just that that exact set of conditions rarely occured in combat.

      The manufacturer and Navy tests of Standard (or whatever system) show pretty good results because the tests are carefully scripted with all variables known ahead of time, all equipment carefully tweaked to maximum performance, and all other variables removed from the test. Unfortunately, those other variables are what we call the real world of combat and include ECM, degraded sensors, poorly maintained equipment, partially trained operators, bad weather, command confusion, surprise, less than optiumum engagement angles, late commit decisions due to fog of war, etc.

      The historical data is quite clear about anti-air systems. There are those who refuse to believe the data offers any insight to future system performance but that's just blind hope. I'm not suggesting that anti-air missile systems shouldn't be part of a layered defense. I'm suggesting that we recognize that our systems won't perform as advertised and we should plan accordingly. "Accordingly" should include a much greater emphasis on medium and close range systems, an acknowledgment that many more attackers will "leak" than we anticipate, installation of many more medium and short range systems, and, most importantly, a much greater emphasis on soft kill systems. In addition, we need to focus on armor to mitigate damage, stealth to reduce the strength of target locks, damage control practice and equipment (including crew size!), and more damage resistant ship designs, greater compartmentation, spaced armor, reactive armor (?), greater stability and buoyancy reserves, greater separation and redundancy, etc.

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  7. Question:
    My understanding was always that we had:
    Aircraft (Tomcats). -Outer Air Battle. Now defunct.
    Standard version (X) - long range AAW guided by Aegis - multiple ships can launch and Aegis can guide all those missiles
    SS/ESSM: ranges shorter than Standard - can be guided by local mount control or slaved to shipboard radar (this doesn't work?) - can be stand alone mount.
    Phalanx/SeaRAM CIWS: The last resort. Phalanx is now a little too small to be effective; but SeaRAM was supposed to take care of that. Can be stand alone mount.

    It seems like to me SeaRAM is starting to blur with the capabilities of ESSM?
    I thought ESSM was supposed to be somewhat like CNO's idea, but more expensive?

    For AShM's:
    I hear that some supersonic missiles are sea-skimming (I.E. Brahmos/Sunburn)... but then I've also read that the way they get to that speed is similar to what Phoenix did: Launch to high altitudes and burn the rocket than dive down to the altitude of your target. I'd read that this was a problem with those missiles being hard to detect because while they have a sea skimming terminal phase you know its coming from the super hot hypersonic bloom it creates when accelerating. Is this true?

    FWIW, I like the idea CNO. With the threats out there we either need to make Standard alot better with % of hits or find something else. My question in an earlier post about rail guns had me thinking maybe the future could have small rail guns that could saturate an area with cheap, plentiful projectiles (I know this isn't the case. Just providing an example of how I thought a new way might be accomplished.

    I have one more dumb question: We talk all the time about how poor AAW missiles can be on the intercept. Have there been studies done on how good the new uber missiles are at hitting things? Or is that just a given considering how relatively show ships are.

    1. Jim, I always understood there to be 6 levels of defense in depth, your 4 plus numbers 1 and 6 below:
      1. AEW
      2. Aircraft
      3. Long-range missiles
      4. Short-range missiles
      5. CIWS
      6. Damage control

      In this regard, it is useful to look at the RN experience in the Falklands/Malvinas. Yes, that was 30 years ago, but it’s still the last time that a naval task force confronted an enemy with sufficient modern capability to threaten the naval ships, and it’s probably a reasonable conceptual template for a battle we might have to fight. With respect to each of the 6, they had:
      1. Nothing. They had no AEW platform that was launchable from their ski-jump carriers, and analysts from Sandy Woodward down have described this as a major failing. Some have argued that with adequate AEW, they would likely not have lost a ship, and it’s not an unreasonable argument.
      2. Harriers. What probably saved them is that the Harriers vastly exceeded expectations, probably due primarily to the professionalism of the Brit aviators.
      3. Sea Dart on 6 ships and Seaslug (outmoded) on 2. Sea Dart was supposedly their latest and greatest AAW missile. Unfortunately, it encountered problems because 1) on several occasions the loading doors salted shut in the high seas experienced in the southern ocean, and 2) their fire control radar had a difficult time tracking aircraft over land. They found themselves in an embarrassing situation where their top of the line AAW ships were unable to defend themselves against air attack. Two of the six were sunk, and a third heavily damaged.
      4. Sea Wolf on 3 ships and Seacat on 14. Sea Wolf performed well, and no Sea Wolf ships were lost. So well that the solution to the Sea Dart problems was for the Type 42s armed with Sea Dart to be paired with the Type 22s armed with Sea Wolf to protect them from air attack. An embarrassing solution to an embarrassing problem, but it seemed to work well for the most part. Seacat was essentially outmoded. Two of the 14 Seacat ships were sunk, and four more encountered major destruction.
      5. Nothing. They did shoot down at least one Argentine aircraft with manual .50-cal machine gun fire, but that’s about it.
      6. Damage control. Here is where it gets interesting. Nine ships (Type 82, County, Leander, and Rothesay classes) had been built to navy damage control standards. Fourteen ships (Type 21/22/42) were built to civilian or other lesser standards to save money. Of the 9 built to naval standards, 4 sustained major hits, none of which sank. Of the 14 built to lesser standards, 5 sustained major hits and 4 of the 5 sank. Pretty convincing argument for the importance of DC.

      While this blog is about AAW, it should be noted that essentially all of the damage came from the air. There may or may not have been one unsuccessful sub attack on one ship, or possibly two, but British ASW and the presence of 5 nuke and one diesel sub in the area pretty much kept the sub threat at bay, clearly illustrating the importance of ASW, reiterating another theme on here.


  8. There is no way to know whether an operation today would unfold exactly like the Falklands/Malvinas, almost certainly not, but there are nevertheless some lessons to be learned.
    1. AEW and ASW are paramount.
    2. So is damage control.
    3. Nothing ever works exactly the way it is supposed to, and the more ballyhooed the expectations, the flatter on its face it is likely to fall. It’s good to have as many options as possible when that occurs.
    4. There is no substitue for good people. Professional performance cures a lot of faults.
    5. As noted in the original post, offensive capabilty is what is needed. The Falklands campaign was a success not because they avoided ship losses, but because they managed to pull off a successful amphibious campaign despite the losses. The Brits won in large measure because they were willing to take chances and use their assets to win. Would the US be willing to take such risks to win?

    One other point. I use the Falklands/Malvinas terminology for a reason. The RN operation would have been impossible to execute without the carriers Hermes and Invincible and the LSDs Fealess and Intrepid. At the time Argentina invaded, Hermes was scheduled to be transferred to India, Invincible to be transferred Australia, and Intrepid to be broken up. If Argentina had waited six months to invade, the islands would be the Malvinas today.

  9. One way to improve your point defense would be to move it closer to the missiles and further from the ship. I was just reading about how the navy is putting in service small surface drones armed with .50s for close-in surface defense, so why not an enlarged version with a single phalanx mount?

    Randall Rapp

    1. Randall,

      While getting away from the core point of this post.

      The idea of small unmanned craft acting as a defensive screen to me has merit.

      Given you want to keep down the cost of these, so you can deploy a number to protect each of your capital ships, my thinking is for these ships should be unarmed. Although placing soft defensive measures on these ships would also appear to have merit.

      My vision is of a small ocean going craft carrying just two primary sensors, a radar specializing in surface and low flying targets plus a towed sonar buoy for ASW.

      The thinking being the best way to defeat a threat like a anti ship cruise missile is to detect the low flying threat as far out as possible, maximizing the engagement window.

      An AWACS would be nice but can you count it being in the air 24/7?, especially if your asset is not a CVN, you have the same problem with ASW helicopters. To be successful outside of the short time frames of an exercise you need persistence of the kind only a surface ship can provide.

      The idea of a mounting a CIWS has obvious appeal, but if were to have say four craft, at say 10km out, you leave huge holes any modern missile can simply out fly around to attack your capital asset.

      That said if you detect your target at double the range I would expect you would more than double your chances of a successful interception.


    2. Randall, the idea of a small unmanned craft to extend the range of protection is interesting but there are some inherent problems.

      1. Where do these small, unmanned craft come from? How are they deployed? They would be far too small to self deploy across oceans. If they're to be launched from, say, Burkes, they would have to be the size of RHIBs which would be too small to accomodate a CIWS. If they're the size of PCs (Cyclones) then they're too big to be deployed from another vessel. So, what did you have in mind, size wise?

      2. The smaller the craft, the lower the sensor (radar) is mounted which greatly limits the range of the sensor.

      3. A CIWS is really only effective when the attack is coming at it. Side (passing) shots are very low percentage. Unless the axis of attack is almost perfectly known, any small craft that's even a bit off-axis would be almost totally ineffective. That either requires near perfect knowledge of the axis of attack or a very large number of craft to cover all possible axes.

      What do you think?

    3. Mark, you're describing a deployable sensor net to increase detection range. Remember, though, that detection is only one part of the engagement sequence. The long range AAW missiles that the USN uses require mid-course and terminal guidance from illuminators (or, more recently, possibly from the radar array itself). Simply detecting the missiles farther out may not be sufficient. If the illuminator on the central ship can't see the target, it can't be intercepted even if it's detected. If we mounted Aegis type arrays and/or illuminators on the extended ships, that would work (it's CEC, essentially) but once you've gone to the trouble and cost of mounting Aegis/AMDR, illuminators, plus an ASW fit, you've essentially created and paid for a Burke and you might as well go all the way.

      The idea is interesting and has been done in the past (WWII saw the use of radar picket ships, for example) but does have some inherent challenges.

      On a slightly related note, the LCS was originally intended to field a rapidly deployable ASW remote sensor net. That never panned out and has been dropped, as far as I know.

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    5. B.Smitty, I had forgotten about the SM-6 active homing. Thanks!

    6. Okay. I'm jumping way out on the limb....

      if we are looking for high radars that can keep up with the fleet, what about blimps? They can cruise at around 60 MPH and have a decent range. Could you hoist an aircraft AESA radar on it that can look down as well as out?

      Refueling would be challenging... but I don't think technically impossible. It couldn't carry weapons but at least maybe you could hoist a ring of them around whatever you are trying to protect.

      Of course, it depends on the ability of the Aegis system to take input from other radars. Could you build/code Aegis to not only rely on the SPY-X but also take in data from outlying sensor pickets to do the mid course correction, etc?

      Just a thought. :-)

      P.S. One other thing I hadn't thought of before, but that is relevant:
      Even if all this works, you still have the problem of magazine size. SUppose we could put a radar picket out there that is usable by the Aegis ships to really knock down missiles a long way out. Suppose we really increase AAW missile accuracy. AFter one saturation engagement, you still might have to turn your battle group around to reload before you can go back into harm's way.

    7. Jim, be careful that you don't fall into the trap of isolation where you consider a problem from an isolated perspective. In this case, you want to increase radar range/coverage so you postulate a blimp. That's great and it solves the immediate problem but what happens when you factor in the enemy's response? Is the solution still valid? In this case, it's hard to imagine an easier target for the enemy to destroy than a blimp out on its own. So, for the enemy cost of a single additional missile to kill the blimp, the enemy is right back to getting too close.

      Same applies to the radar picket idea. A radar picket ship out on its own would have a very short life span and then we're right back to the original problem. Rolling back of the escorts is a well known tactic.

      As you contemplate ideas, be sure to assess them in the context of the entire combat scenario.

      And yes, Aegis can take other input - that's CEC.

    8. I'll admit I have a hard time wrapping my mind around that criticism:

      Every idea has a counter from the enemy. That's why they're the enemy. Its a cost benefit analysis to see if you can get the most out of it.

      " for the enemy cost of a single additional missile to kill the blimp, the enemy is right back to getting too close..."

      can be 'for the cost of an extra Torpedo, the U-boats can nail the Flower class and you're right back to where you started...' or 'If the Russians send more backfires from multiple directions, you can end up dispersing the Tomcats, and you're right back to where you started..."

      The answer to both questions is 'Yes, of course'. But having U-boats deal with Flowers slowed down their attack on the convoys. Having the Russians have to deal with the Tomcats means they have to spend more time and effort to burn through your defenses...

      In either case you're taking the initiative. No defense is perfect. I'm not defending the blimps per-se but just the idea that anything can be countered.

      You've floated the idea before (if I understood it right) that the Navy should have a purpose built ship that is affordable to handle a mission: A MCM. An ASW frigate. Etc. instead of having modular stuff like the LCS.

      Well, okay, the enemy will counter that. If a chokepoint is mined what's to defend the MCM from swarm attacks... etc. Does that mean we should just give up MCM? Or that our MCM should have 40 20mm cannon and be able to go 40 kts?

      I don't mean to sound snarky. Just trying to understand. Of course you have to factor in the enemies response. But if we go too crazy with that we will end up in a circular logic spiral that will kill us.

    9. Jim, this is good. You're starting to look at the larger picture. Now, what's the difference between the blimp/picket ideas and the Flower/Tomcat examples you cited? It's the fact that the Flower/Tomcats had the ability to directly affect (counterattack) the attackers. Compare that to the blimp/picket idea. The blimp, when placed at a distance to extend the radar range, has no ability to attack the enemy or even defend itself. The picket, when placed by itself at a distance to extend the radar/missile range, has no ability to attack the enemy. It will be simply a missile sponge and rapidly eliminated.

      You make the good point that the blimp/picket will still be "bumps" in the road that the enemy will have to deal with but if the cost of dealing with them is too slight, then they provide no benefit.

      What could we do to make the cost of dealing with them greater? We could extend aerial support (if we have it available), we could add additional pickets or more capable pickets (like a Burke), we could provide aerial escort for a blimp, and so on. The question then becomes whether these actions provide sufficient benefit to justify the effort.

      If our action (blimp/picket/whatever) can be countered easily, they're probably not worth doing. If the counter requires the enemy to expend great efffort then they're probably worthwhile. So, take your ideas and run them through the overall cost-benefit analysis and then tell me if they're still worth it and, if so, under what circumstances. Note that I'm not saying they're not good ideas - only that in the original, isolated concept they're too easy to counter and would only get blimps and pickets destroyed for little gain. So, rethink and then describe how they would be employed so as to create a significant gain in the face of likely enemy responses.

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    11. The Navy has experimented with aerostats on JHSV in the Caribbean. A sensor at altitude will certainly help long range detection of low flying targets when the E-2 isn't airborne or available. I don't know if the ship was moving or stationary, though.

      I'd fit the unmanned RHIBs with radar reflectors, RF and EO/IR decoys, and SRBOC, deploy them in the direction of the threat to complicate the targeting problem and act as "missile sponges" - a floating MALD-J.

  10. Ill sell you a box of SeaCeptor 99kg, Active Homing, Sensor agnostic.
    Cold vertical launch.
    They are saying >25 miles but difficult to verify.
    You basically could get a few of them on the back of a Rhib and que via IR \ web cam \ small Radar.
    You would need a few Rhib's to establish a decent picket. but I was loving the swarming boat video USN released this week ?

    1. Ben, I'm not really familiar with this missile so correct me if I'm wrong about some aspect of the following. If you're suggesting that these be launched off a RHIB, the launcher (rack of some sort) would take up a significant portion of the RHIB. That aside, the missile requires mid-course guidance until the active homing can take over. How would the target queing and guidance occur? If launched in IR mode (I think it has one??), the range would be very close and we already have Stingers.

      Can a missile be launched off a pitching RHIB?

    2. Imagine trying to acquire a pinpoint IR target source from a pitching RHIB!

  11. Hi,
    With Sea Ceptor you don’t need a pinpoint lock. The missile’s Active RF (not IR) seeker head will get the hit.
    You just need to que it with a rough point to fly to where it can acquire. Any sensor system will do.
    2 way Data link is an option not a requirement, the missile is designed to be totally fire and forget to manage saturation attack. It’s basically a small version of what’s on the TYPE 45 AAW Destroyer. (Sea Viper)
    The missile comes in a container, pretty much like a very small VLS, and does need to launch when roughly pointed UP. But then “pops” out of the container with a cold launch piston system, up to about 30ft orients with squib thrusters and goes to Mach 3+.
    The missile is now on trial on RN frigates; same missile (in a box) will deploy with British army in a few years, and then will attach to the F35 when it joins the RAF.
    There’s the sales blurb (which I would be reticent to go by except in verifiable testing it is currently exceeding all expectation) e.g. it now comes with a surface attack capability.

  12. I had been following many of the discussions in this blog for some time (as an observer) because I find them interesting and meaningful. Connected to the subject of AAW, there is a recent document from CSBA outlining the rationale for a change in tactical approach of AAW from layered defence to a concentrated defence. Typically this fits in well with the theme of this site. I thought I would post the link to get some meaningful comments on this change.

    1. Anon, I'm familiar with this report and you're correct that aspects of it are compatible with my thinking. I've advocated for decreased emphasis on long range engagement in favor of a medium and short range strategy backed by greatly increased close in weapons and soft kill (ECM and decoy) measures.

      Welcome aboard! Don't hesitate to jump in on a post and comment.


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