Friday, October 10, 2014

Surface Combat and Air Support

Here’s a statement I came across that will have most of us shaking our heads in disbelief.

“The Navy will not be able to fight its way into denied environments and maintain open sea lines of communication without the Surface Force being able to take the fight to the enemy in environments where air assets are not available or are unable to effectively or persistently operate.” (1)

Think about that statement.  It’s saying that the Navy cannot do its job unless it can fight without the protection of air assets.  This runs counter to the entire basis of Navy operational and doctrinal thinking.  The assumption of air support and, indeed, air supremacy, is central to naval doctrine, tactics, planning, and procurement.  The Navy takes, as a given, uncontested control of the air and unlimited aviation support for its surface forces.  Yet, now, someone dares to come along and suggest otherwise?  What treasonous and militarily ignorant person said this and why?  Let’s form a lynch mob and put this idiot to death.  I’ve got pitchforks and torches for everyone.  C’mon!

We’ll blow this idiot out of the water with logic.  Let’s start by examining the relevant historical background.

Our carrier force is unsurpassed.  Yes, we’ve seen the number of carriers steadily decline from the 20’s to the current 10 (9 active) and there is no reason to believe that number will ever increase.  Sure, we’ve seen the size of carrier air wings drop from around 90 aircraft to the current 60’s.  Of course, even that is misleading in that several Hornets in each wing cannot be used as combat aircraft since they are needed to fill the tanker role.  True, the Navy has stated that when the F-35 enters service, squadrons will be reduced by a further 2-4 aircraft each.  Granted, the Air Force is undergoing similar reductions.  Admittedly, our basing options in the Pacific are limited and far from any relevant operational area and even our basing options in the MidEast are suspect.  Depending on the parameters of the conflict we may or may not be granted permission to use those bases in a combat role.  Combine that with potential overflight restrictions and MidEast basing is problematic, at best.

Ah, …  Maybe we better set those pitchforks and torches down for a moment.  We may have to dig a bit deeper than I thought to discredit this idiot.

OK, so we may not have as many air assets and aviation basing support as we once did but at least what we have will be uncontested and unbeatable, right?  I mean, it’s not like our enemies are developing their own stealth aircraft.  Well, I guess China and Russia are and they’ll undoubtedly be exporting their aircraft aggressively.  Still, their existing aircraft are, well …  actually they’re pretty good – at least on par with ours or maybe better in some cases.

Alright, so we may have a problem with the whole aviation presence and supremacy thing but, heck, our enemies will have the same basing issues we do.  I mean it’s not like China will have hundreds of airbases in range of the likely areas of conflict and …  we, ah …  we …  Oh, crap.  China, Iran, and N. Korea do have hundreds of bases within range of the likely areas of conflict!  They’ll be able to generate much higher sortie rates than us with much greater numbers of aircraft to call on.  Of course, the RAND report demonstrated that numbers alone don’t matter so, ah …  wait a minute, my bad.  I got that backwards.  The RAND report actually demonstrated that numbers do matter, even more than quality. 

I guess now that I think about it, trying to operate in, say, the Chinese A2/AD zone will severely limit our air support given our decreasing numbers of carriers, shrinking air wings, dwindling Air Force, limited bases, huge distances that must be traveled to reach the areas of interest, increasing enemy numbers, prevalent enemy surface to air missiles, and extensive enemy airborne and land based radar surveillance.

Clearly, the Navy will be fighting with less and less air support as time goes on.  Could this idiot’s statement be right?  I hate to say it but it would seem so. 

Who is this guy?  Let me check the source reference …  Ah, it’s VAdm. Thomas Copeman.  Well, that explains it.  You’ll recall that ComNavOps has praised Copeman several times in the past as one of the few (only?) clear thinkers in the ranks of Navy leadership.  It seems VAdm. Copeman has done it again.  He has identified the trends and pointed out the logical conclusion:  if the Navy wants to operate in enemy zones, it must be prepared to operate without the assurance of aerial supremacy or even support.  I guess instead of lynching him we should be gathering to praise him. 

So, if he’s right, what does this mean for naval ship design and construction?  It means that we need to be designing and building ships for independent operations (independent from carrier or Air Force aviation support).  Such a ship will need certain characteristics that differ from today’s designs.  For instance,

Stealth – This becomes mandatory.  If we don’t control the skies then we’d better be as hard to find and hard to lock on to as possible.  We covered this in a previous post.

Armor – If we don’t control the skies we will take hits.  Armor is mandatory to mitigate damage and allow us to continue to fight.  Cheap kills cannot be accepted.  We covered this in a previous post.

Soft Kill – As we’ve previously documented and discussed, the Navy needs to place much greater emphasis on soft kill AAW measures.  We need a soft kill CEC as we just recently posted.

Close-In – We need many more close-in weapon systems per ship than we currently have.  Without control of the skies, the enemy can just continue to hammer our defenses and missiles and aircraft will get through at much greater rates than we imagine.

UAV – With limited aviation support, our ships will have to generate their own surveillance and targeting.  Extensive use of UAVs will be required to “replace” the Hawkeye/AWACS function.  A couple of UAVs per ship won’t cut it.  We need the ability to hangar and operate dozens at a time and continue doing so in the face of significant attrition.  Remember, we need local situational awareness, not oceanic awareness.  We need small UAVs as opposed to BAMS size.  The UAVs must be reasonably stealthy, as well.

AAW – If you want to operate inside someone’s A2/AD zone and don’t have air superiority, you’ll have to fight to stay there.  A robust AAW capability is mandatory.  In addition to Aegis/AMDR type systems, we’ll need more VLS cells for sustained engagements, more illuminators for redundancy, better separation of illuminators for survivability, a robust backup radar system that is physically separated and isolated from the primary to the maximum extent possible, effective EO backup systems, much greater close-in defenses, and greatly enhanced soft kill systems.

It’s clear from the preceding characteristics that such a ship will be quite large and quite expensive. 

Contemplation of the above leads to two supporting conclusions. 

If we’re going to operate without aerial support we ought to be giving serious thought to increasing our submarine forces.  A submarine bypasses many of the problems associated with the lack of aerial support. 

We need to re-evaluate our current trend of declining carriers and shrinking airwings.  In addition, we need to re-evaluate the type of aircraft we’re procuring.  In an A2/AD scenario, the carrier is going to be acting as the escort for the strike units (Tomahawk) rather than being the strike unit as has historically been the case.  Thus, there is a need for a much longer range air superiority fighter. 

The carrier has been both the Navy’s crutch and addiction for too long.  While incredibly powerful and useful, the carrier has limited Navy operational and doctrinal thinking.  We need to give serious thought to future operations in the absence of significant air support.  Simply saying we won’t operate without air support may be constraining ourselves to the point of defeat.

For those of you who think that ten carrier task forces are more than sufficient to deal with any enemy, even China, you might want to remember that Cold War carrier doctrine called for carriers to operate in pairs and that was when the airwings were much larger than now.  Single carriers were not considered survivable and effective.  Thus, we actually can only muster a maximum of five carrier task forces.  Indeed, the reality of combat may dictate that carriers with reduced airwings need to operate in groups of three or more against modern militaries.  Throw in the inevitable combat losses and we may find ourselves hard-pressed to assemble two or three carrier groups after only a brief period of combat.

The point is that unless we’re simply going to refuse to act without carriers we may find ourselves forced to fight without air support at some point.  Adm. Copeman clearly believes that to be the case.  If he’s correct, we need to develop doctrine and ship designs to support that doctrine.

(1), “Vision for the 2026 Surface Fleet, VAdm. Thomas Copeman III, Commander, Naval Surface Forces, Jan 2014, p.5


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    1. That's a bit simplistic in that it forces us into a very limited set of options. It's difficult to envision gaining sustained air superiority in the Chinese A2/AD, for example. We can either concede the region or come up with other ways to achieve our goals. Your approach would limit us to air superiority or defeat with nothing in between.

      Nothing wrong with using submarines, by the way. No argument there! However, just as our air power is dwindling, so to is our submarine force even under the wildly optimistic 30 plan. Again, we can concede or we can explore alternatives.

      I find it interesting that Adm. Copeman, the Navy man who has shown the best grasp of modern naval issues, suggests the need to be able to fight without air superiority rather than simply saying we need to pull back if can't establish superiority.

      Finally, I would suggest that sometimes we can't pick and choose our moments and wait for the perfect conditions. The Guadalcanal operation is an example of being forced to fight under less than ideal conditions.

      Are you sure you don't see any possibility of exploring an alternative?

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    3. B.Smitty, so what do you think Adm. Copeman was driving at? You don't have to agree with him but what do you think he was trying to accomplish?

      I think he was recognizing the A2/AD China scenario and suggesting that we need to recognize that we don't, and won't, have a favorable aerial situation but that we need to be able to conduct operations anyway.

      I think it's a bit simplistic to think he was promoting surface capabilities just because he's the surface commander. Of course, there's always the possibility that he's totally incompetent - a condition I believe is common among Navy leadership - however, I've highlighted several of his issues in the past and noted that he's the only Navy leader that seems to have a grasp of the problems and solutions. Search the archives under the keyword "Adm. Copeman" if you want to refresh your memory.

      Based on his history, if we give him the benefit of the doubt and ascribe a rudimentary degree of competance to him, then we have to assume he was highlighting both a problem and a solution.

      What do you think he was after?

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    5. I think it's just what I said ... He's recognizing that we don't, and won't, have air superiority in the Chinese A2/AD scenario and is suggesting that we still need to carry out operations so we'd better come up with ways to fight without air superiority. I think he's also recognizing the air power trend. China is building better aircraft at a faster rate than we are and building up their many air bases. Conversely, we're building fewer aircraft all the time in the pursuit of exquisite technology that doesn't match operational needs (like range) and we have no hope of acquiring additional bases. With that recognition, we can either concede the entire South and East China Seas because we won't/can't achieve air superiority or we can devise alternate ways to operate without air superiority.

      Regarding his previous works and my posts about him, no, there is nothing earth-shaking. He simply recognizes common sense trends and suggests common sense solutions - which puts him head and shoulders above any other Navy leader!

      So, since you disagree with him concerning operations without air superiority, how do you suggest we deal with the Chinese A2/AD scenario in light of our decreasing submarine force levels and decreasing aerial assets?

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    7. To continue the analogy, if your budget precludes a fix then you do figure out how best to wash by hand. The alternative is to stop eating.

      Our budget precludes buying hundreds or thousands more aircraft so what idea do you have for achieving air superiority given the budget and basing limitations?

    8. I'll repeat the question. Do you think Copeman is that incompetent that he doesn't have the least idea of the relationship between air power and ships or do you think he has the possibility of a valid concept?

    9. Hmm... there is two possible ideas floating around about how to increase the number of submarines. One is the US sell SSNs to allies like Japan, ROK and Australia that can lower the production costs in the US. The other that the US buy some SSKs off-the shelf like Australia is rumored to be planing to do. To be honest, I readed a lot of the ausis debate on their succesor to their Collins class and SSNs are quite expensive, not as ease to learn to use and to operate and support. Also foreigner SSKs are going to require changes for install american sensors and weapons. But I think that it is worth debating the idea of offer to aliies an export Virginia class, smaller, cheaper and with less sensitive tech or Join Australia and develop an americanized Soryu class with more endurance. Japan is planning to swicht from AIP to Lithium-Ion batteries intheir next batch of submarines, so that may help to narrow a little the capability gap and lower maintenace costs. For the record I am japanese, but despite the apeal of my country exporting submarines I find the idea od my country buyng affordable american SSNs a lot more atractive.

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    11. Well, astoundingly, you and I disagree again. Fair enough! I'll give you credit for your consistency of support for air power.

      I really don't think Copeman was simply trying to maximize his command's potential. He was describing a radical change in doctrine - whatever you may think of it. He clearly has an idea in mind.

      I don't believe minor tweaks can allow the surface fleet to fight without air support, either. It would require a new design AAW ship (a heavy cruiser specialized for AAW and survivability) and a radically revamped doctrine. I don't believe Copeman was suggesting one extra CIWS and call it a day.

      I think your air superiority or nothing approach will hamstring us, operationally, but that's a valid difference of opinion so I'll gladly grant you your position.

      By the way, "Our budget doesn't preclude anything." is exactly the point I've made to you a few times in response to budget limitation suggestions. Glad to see we agree on that!

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    14. B.Smitty, set aside your initial reaction to this and comtemplate the premise of the post as it would be applied under reasonable conditions. Imagine a group of cruiser size ships (they would have to be to carry all the features I've described!) with Burke-like escorts for ASW and land strike. Now, rather than doing something foolish like sending them entirely on their own deep into Chinese waters on day one with the entire Chinese military devoted to nothing but destroying the group, imagine the group used in a scenario where the group is one effort among several and the Chinese forces have been attrited at least a bit (like day two or beyond) so the group is facing opposition that is stretched a bit thinner. Further, imagine the group not just sitting in one place in a contest to see how long they can survive but, rather, conducting offensive operations (land strikes) to significantly hinder the Chinese aerial assaults while the group carries out its specific mission (ASuW and land attack, presumably). With all that, can you see even the remote possibility of a group with ships such as I've described being able to operate as Copeman describes?

      If you can, then maybe you have the begining of an understanding of what I think Copeman was talking about. If you can't, then we'll just have to disagree and move on!

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  2. I asking a favor from you, I would like you to stop using the term armor and use the term passive protection. Most people think of armor as old fashion harden steel plates, ad mostly they are correct, except for the development Kevlar.. But there many other well proven, non-active, way too improve ship survivability that should be stress before armor plate. The two most important are hull flexibility, and compartmenting hull both of these protect the hulls water tightness better than any armor. Then there are advanced damage control systems that reduce the number of people require to do damage control. And there redundant systems that can replace damage systems when necessary.

    All those methods can be group under the term passive protection, along with armor plate. And all are just as (or more) important means to protect ship. Therefore a again as you to use the more general term of passive protection when you are talking about ship survival

    1. GLof, when I'm discussing passive protection I'll gladly use the term passive protection. However, when I'm specifically discussing armor (as in added steel plate, thicker hull plating, stronger steel, etc.) I'll use the term armor.

      In this post, I specifically called for better armor. I didn't specifically call for better passive protection, not because I don't want it but because it's a short post not a book and I couldn't cover every aspect of ship design, but I'm certainly in favor of enhanced passive protection features.

      I've previously discussed armor and the need for it and you undoubtedly read the post dealing with the topic. You may agree or disagree with that view but I'm being consistent and specific when I refer to armor. I've also discussed the need for passive protection many times in comments although I've not done a post devoted to it.

      I hope that puts your mind at ease regarding my terminology.

  3. With regards to Copeman it is a shame to see that he retired on the first. I would have liked to see him put on a 4th star.

  4. When you say "armor" do mean to armor a ship from stem to stern? Or merely armor the vital sections of the ships (engineering spaces, CIC, etc…) like the old "all or nothing" armor schemes that US BBs used?

    1. USSHelm, my usage of the term armor encompasses additional applied belts of armor as well as generally thicker hull plating and stronger steel. So, in a sense, armor means stem to stern in that thicker hull plating made of stronger steel would provide improved "armor" all around. In addition, I also mean specific belts or bands of added armor around critical areas and broad bands of armor along the hull.

      Did that answer your question?

  5. when's the last time US navy encountered enemy in real shooting war that use massive ASM salvoes in combination with submarine attacks , including Sea Mine (passive and active) ? The current trend of US military propaganda focusing on High Tech to minimize casualties is pipe dream and in a real war against near peer or peer enemy the coat of american lives will be high.

    i agree totally with ComNavOps, it is part hubris and part folly seeing how dismal the LCS and Zumwalt program of today , including the F35 debacle. Someone in the chain of command really dropped the ball on reality of war. A bullet made in time of Boer's rebellion can still kill a modern day infantryman.. a lowtech seamine can cheaply damage/sink expensive ships (see Galipoli disaster mine effectiveness)..

    i think the image of a totally destroyed ukrainian armor convoy by rebel's Grad MLRS (primitive weapon) showed how carelessness in modern battlefield will result in unexpected casualties.. When the last time US ground forces ever encounter massive artilery or rocket bombardment on their soft skinned vehicle ?

    dont forget the air assaul by helicopters, helo gunship support / A10 / AC130, fast movers , even help medevacs will not be available 100% of the time if the enemy denied the air access. The ukraine air support totally supressed by the rebel's air defense and thus left their ground forces vunerable to ambushes..

  6. comnavops, what is your opinion if a carrier battle group was destroyed with high numbers of american casualties / dead in a conflict against China (hypothetical). what do you think the US gov will do ? escalate to limited nuclear strikes against enemy military assets ? Can a massive conventional war casualties/loss resulted in escalation toward tactical nukes ?

    how ready is the current sub force to deter the enemy's Ballistic Missile submarine patrol ? reactivate the SOSUS ?

    1. "b", I don't think the US would use nukes in any form unless attacked with same or unless on the verge of national defeat, as a last resort. On the other hand, China/NK/Iran take a very different view of things, I suspect. To them, the resulting mass casualties would simply be a minor setback that natural birth rates would rectify in relatively short order and physical destruction can always be repaired. One of the lessons the US desperately needs to learn is that not everyone thinks the same way we do.

      You raise an excellent point about SOSUS. I would hope and assume that a SOSUS-like system is being (has been) set up in and around the first island chain around China.

      I would also hope that our subs are carrying out the same monitoring of Chinese subs that we applied to the Soviet subs.

  7. Who would use a Nuke against a nuclear armed opponent?

    It has after all never been done.

    Russia and China have always held tactical nukes to offset the superior conventional firepower of the US. The objective was and continues to be deterrence, it worked in the Cold War and as a result the the US and Russia ever engaged in open war fare with each other.

    China is now in the mix as well, but game remains the same.

    I cannot imagine any circumstances, short of a Nuke strike on US soil, which would deliver that kind of escalation.


    1. Mark, refer to my comment to "b" above and ask yourself if your assumption still holds. It may not. China has a different view of the "badness" of nuclear weapons than we do. I believe China would use nukes and would even accept an exchange of nukes if they thought they would come out ahead in the end. Further, I suspect that they're begining to think they could get away with using nukes with no retaliation from us. What?!!!! No way!!! Well, we drew a line in the sand over Syria's use of chemical weapons and then didn't act when that line was crossed. China has to be wondering if they could get away with crossing the nuke line. I'm not saying they're on the verge of initiating nuclear attacks or that they would casually start throwing them around with little provocation but the "line in the sand" had to change the calculus a bit for potential enemies. Regardless of the politics, Obama's line in the sand failure was a strategic blunder whose ultimate consequences have yet to be fully manifested. Was Putin influenced to act more aggressively by the line in the sand failure? Hard to say but I suspect it encouraged his actions. All right, enough politics from me!

    2. Coupe of things

      My comment was in relation to our US, not China's use of nukes.

      In relation to a strategic exchange of ICBM's I do not agree, China would not want to go there.

      On the use of tactical nukes, yesChina would use then.To me an example would be US airstrikes against the Chinese mainland launched from US Navy carriers, in this case we can expect then to try to nuke the carrier which launched the attack.

      If this were to happen, I do not believe a full MAD response would be automatic.

      In fact we would have no choice but to back off.

      Regardless of who is in power no politician will ever iniate a nuclear strike onthe US.

      We will come to regret our inaction of recent times, just keep in mind you are talking about European decisions at the end of the day. These are their choices and they will have to live with the consequences.


  8. ComNavOps, basically totally agree with you 6 point requirements (boring I know). I think you’re a bit ambitious with your 10’s of UAV’s but a good few targeting ( scan eagles ) and 2- 3 larger AEW \ AAW \ EW could be a way to go for the future.
    Having said that I’m now going to stick up for B.Smitty mildly. I do think the idea of intentionally running a marine landing or NGS mission without air superiority is going to go very VERY badly wrong.
    But shorter duration missions just within the zone, will likely be a requirement, or could occur accidentally. I ship must be able to defend itself , should it find itself within enemy carrier strike range, whilst it withdraws, say. Stealth will allow penetration but also potential cover a withdrawal so the amount of time you must provide your own cover could be limited.
    The F35B offers some coverage here, the possibility of escort carriers is now again possible. Obviously amphibious assault ships seem an option, but at a push in the Falkland’s civilian container ships were used for a very basic form of Harrier support, to cover auxiliaries coming into the Falklands. Lilly Pad refuelling was also possible off frigates and destroyers (there are some great videos on the net somewhere). Britain operates Royal Fleet Auxiliary aviation ships (really for helicopters), does the USN have an equivalent?
    Obviously you’re going to be limited by the need to do a vertical take-off, but you are only looking at 4 AMRAAM or equivalent and a relatively short duration mission.
    I don’t however feel this method can establish total air superiority, just partial cover so Adm. Copeman’s statement holds.

  9. ComNavOps, as I've previously mentioned on this forum concerning other topics, over the last several years I have been working on a concept I call the Capital Seaframe Warship, a series of very large notional surface combatants which have their roots in the Burke Class design philosophy, but which are very much enlarged over the Burke Class.

    It was issues similar to the ones Admiral Copeman has raised which spawned Concept CSw-21 as a focus topic for organizing and examining a variety of related defense sub-topics. Here on this Navy Matters thread, B.Smitty and others raise a number of other issues which revolve around the subject of what can or can't be done by a surface combatant fleet acting independently in the absence of total air superiority which is operative throughout all regions of the battlespace.

    The goal of Concept CSW-21 is to become a catalyst in spawning further informed debate over future trends in warfighting doctrine, in weapons technology, and in the methods and means we employ for acquiring large expensive combat systems. The CSW-21 concept comprises three major warship flights covering seven distinct notional designs. The three CSW-21 flights include a 780-foot 35,000 tonner, an 880-foot 45,000 tonner, and a 1200-foot 100,000 tonner.

    The general mission areas to be covered by a CSW-21 Capital Seaframe Warship include strategic and fleet defense BMD; fleet defense AAW, ASW, and ASuW; NSFS/NGFS long range strike; NSFS/NGFS doctrinal fire support; LCS & ISR operations support; and NNFM flotilla operations support. Illustrations of the concept can be found here as a series of five PDFs located in a Dropbox folder.

    In order to view these PDFs, it is necessary to use the Dropbox "Download" function at the top of the file list window to place the PDFs onto your own machine. They cannot be successfully downloaded individually, they all have to be downloaded all at once into a ZIP folder using the Dropbox download function.

    B.Smitty has offered important remarks concerning the ability (or lack thereof) of a surface combatant force to operate within a contested battlespace, one where true air superiority has not been established. Over on the forums, reader "XV" asked me to elaborate on certain facets of Concept CSW-21 which touch upon this topic. Mr. XV asked if I thought a task force (or task forces) composed of some number of CSW-21s plus their supporting warships could take down a US Navy carrier battlegroup.

    That isn't my intended purpose for the notional CSW-21, but Mr. XV's request was an appropriate question in that it illuminates what kinds of issues are involved when thinking about how to gain control of an Air-Sea battlespace in the anbsence of having a CVN's airwing at your beck and call.

    So I offered up a scenario in which I successfully take down a carrier battlegroup with my CSW-21s, but that success depends in large part on having significant airborne ISR assets available throughout the combat engagement. In the scenario I describe, I choose to place these airborne ISR assets aboard America Class LHAs which operate as fleet escort carriers acting in support of the CSW-21s.

    The main conclusions of the scenario are that submarines are good for sea denial, but they are not good enough at establishing true sea control in a contested battlespace. The other conclusion is that no surface combatant fleet, even one deploying warships as well-equipped offensively and defensively as a notional CSW-21, could establish control over a battlespace without very substantial support from airborne ISR assets.

    This scenario is described in detail here on the forums at:

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    2. B.Smitty, I'm in the process of writing an extensive paper to be entitled "The Capital Seaframe Warship: an Exercise in Risk Management". As you might guess, the paper is already three months behind my original schedule and well over its original budget stated in terms of scott-hours expended.

      Shipbuilding budgets and costs are two among a number of subtopics that are spawned when you start thinking seriously about constructing a larger surface combatant like the CSW-21, not only topics concerning the design of the ship itself, but also all the other external factors that would cause one to think about building such a warship.

      Another topic is spending the money needed to logistically supply its VLS cells and its magazines with a variety of VLS-launched and gun-launched ordnance types, ones which currently either do not exist, or which exist in very insufficient numbers compared to what is needed to support a CSW-21's theoretical combat throughput capacity.

      My guesstimate is that the first-of-class ships of the CSW-21 Flight I, Flight II, and Flight III variants would cost roughly $13 billion, $15 billion, and $18 billion respectively, including non-recurring design and R&D costs. The costs for the subsequent ships in their respective production runs would fall to roughly $7 billion, $9 billion, and $14 billion for ships that have an expected service life of 50(+) years.

      Expensive yes, but on the other hand, a single CSW-21 could carry as much as ten times the on-station offensive and defensive combat throughput capacity of a DDG-1000, depending upon the CSW-21 Flight and its embarked configuration -- more when you consider that a CSW-21's VLS cells, its guns, and its adjunct magazines are reloadable at sea. The ship is intended to become a magnet for attracting an adversary's attention, consuming some good portion of the offensive resources that an adversary might otherwise target at a CVN.

      Much of the R&D cost for a CSW-21 beyond the basic design naval architecture design work is for the megawatt-class defensive lasers, the kilowatt-class defensive lasers; for advanced conventional gun designs, and for combat integration of the various radars, lasers, VLS, CIWS, RAM launchers, and ESSM launchers which are distributed among the ship's numerous self defense stations. The goal with this last effort is to maximize overlapping coverage of each the ship's twelve (+) defensive zones.

      Other significant R&D costs go for design and testing of the Flight I and II external propulsion pods. External propulsion pods are used aboard Flights I and II in order to allow room in the hull for the aft gun turrets, which are 50% taller than the equivalent Iowa Class turrets. Current civilian grade external propulsion pods are not up to the task, so military versions have to be developed.

      The biggest technological question marks are the megawatt class and the kilowatt class defensive lasers. How well will they perform under real world conditions? Provision is made aboard the CSW-21 for later installation of advanced weapons systems. If those systems aren't ready for prime time, the spaces they are to occupy either remain empty or are used for other purposes until the first practical devices become available. Otherwise these ships are unremarkable in their design and construction compared to current warships. As for stealth, there is none in the CSW-21 designs, because warships of this size cannot be made stealthy regardless of how much money is being spent on it.

      A warship like this one cannot be fitted into the Navy's current shipbuilding budget. But it is also true that the Navy's current 30-year shipbuilding plan cannot be fitted into the Navy's current budget. My best guesstimate is that the Navy's shipbuilding budget must be augmented somewhere between 50 and 100 percent to build a fleet which could successfully cover all of the Navy's currently existing worldwide commitments.

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    4. B.Smitty, I too am of the opinion that a 50-100% increase in the shipbuilding budget isn't in the political cards. (Not in the near term, anyway.) The primary reason why that situation might change would be if it is eventually perceived by the Congress that the process of constructing tangible, high-visibility naval platforms such as the CSW-21 represented the most practical means of keeping a declining American industrial base busy building "something of national value."

      If that circumstance arises, then why not just build more Ford Class CVNs at faster production rates? One reason why an argument might be made against that course of action would be the severe lack of adequate numbers of true 5th-generation combat aircraft needed to keep a CVN fully combat capable.

      In any case, thinking about building something like a CSW-21 raises a variety of issues whose issue resolution alternatives affect a number of other defense related topics. Facilitating the analysis of these various alternative resolutions for a variety of current defense issues is the reason I came up with Concept CSW-21.

    5. Scott, excellent point about the lack of numbers to keep a CVN fully combat capable.

  10. just curious, how the navy prepare itself against sabotage from navy personell who worked for "the other side" or a symphatizer.. i assume the chinese or iranian already infiltrated the US military in some kind (under disguise or falsified nationality) and they will be triggered in the event of real war..

    i dont mean the fanatics / crazies who shoot soldiers at fort hood, i mean real sleepers with specific target and purpose, even spusing suicide bombing if necessary..

    1. "b", whatever security measures the Navy has in place, they're certainly not sharing with the public!


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