Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Deployments and OFRP

As reported by Navy Times website (1), the carriers Vinson and Truman will wrap up 10 month deployments next year.  This contrasts with the Navy's optimistic Optimized Fleet Response Plan (OFRP) which is intended to limit deployments to 7 months.  Of course, the first attempt at implementing the OFRP already failed when the scheduled carrier couldn't make it due to maintenance issues.

In any event, there are two relevant observations about the OFRP.

1.  The OFRP, even if it works as intended, still results in 7 month deployments which are a month longer than the historical and preferred standard of 6 months. 

2.  Given the Navy's litany of failures when it comes to planning (anything), the odds that the OFRP program will work are poor.

We'll keep an eye on this.

(1) Navy Times, "2015 outlook: Fleet faces op tempo, repair challenges", Lance M. Bacon, 24-Dec-2014,

Saturday, December 27, 2014

Right or Wrong?

As we near the end of the year, it’s common to look back and assemble lists of various things.  As regular readers know, ComNavOps is highly critical of Navy leadership, believing them to be, generally, an inept, incompetent, and idiotic group who have violated the trust of the sailors and the American public.  ComNavOps has repeatedly documented their failings but are these just snapshots taken out of context or is the pattern of incompetence as clear as I claim?  Let’s sum things up in the form of a list and see.

Here are some of the major decisions the Navy has made over the last couple of decades or so and how those decisions have played out, right or wrong.  These are in no particular order.

Wrong – Minimal Manning.  This was one of the worse decisions ever made and led to maintenance issues that still plague the fleet.  Worse, the woeful maintenance has led to forced premature retirements of major ships which has shrunk the fleet and placed unnecessary demands on the budget for new replacement ships. 

Wrong – Steel vs. Aluminum.  The Navy opted for aluminum and, after some notable disasters, appeared to realize that was an error.  However, they have returned to the use of aluminum with all its attendant weaknesses.

Right – Aerial ECM.  The Navy’s decision to accept the aerial ECM role has paid dividends many times over and will continue to do so for the foreseeable future.  One can’t help but wonder what the Air Force was thinking when they abandoned the role.

Wrong – Quality vs. Quantity.  The Navy opted for quality as the counter to enemy quantity.  However, the world is in the process of matching our quality which leaves us with a greatly reduced fleet of marginal quality advantage and on the wrong side of the numbers.  That’s a recipe for defeat.  Further, our shrinking fleet is being forced to undertake longer and longer deployments with the previously standard six month deployment now stretching out to 8-11 months and the trend is steadily increasing.  Our shrinking fleets is being worn out prematurely which will only worsen the numbers deficit.

Wrong – Maintenance.  The Navy deliberately opted for reduced and deferred maintenance in order to save money and it came back to bite them in the ass big time.  Ships began to fail INSURV inspections so frequently that the Navy took to classifying the results so as to avoid embarrassment.  Systemic equipment failures become endemic with the fleet-wide Aegis degradation being the prime example.

Right – Submarines.  Easily the Navy’s most potent force, the Navy has continued to maintain the decisive asymmetric advantage that the undersea fleet offers although the numbers are projected to decline alarmingly.

Wrong – MCM.  The Navy bet all-in on the LCS as the MCM platform of the future and allowed the Avenger class to literally rot pierside.  Of course, we have yet to see a single LCS deploy as an MCM vessel, the MCM module has been under development for years and there is no sign that a viable module will be ready any time soon, and the heliborne backbone of the MCM turned out to have insufficient power to safely tow some of the MCM equipment.  Worse, the LCS has been capped and it looks like there will be only around 12 MCM versions ever.  The MH-53 MCM helos can’t operate from the LCS, are aging, and there is no replacement in development.  The Avengers have been neglected and are still scheduled to be retired in the near future regardless of the status of the LCS.

Pass – JSF.  The F-35 is a failure on multiple levels but, to be fair, the Navy never really seemed to buy into this and is probably being forced to go along.  While the proper action would have been to flat out refuse to get involved, as was done with the F-111/F-14, I give the Navy at least partial credit.  They earn a pass.

Wrong – LCS.  Nothing further need be said about this.

Wrong – LPD-17.  The construction issues plaguing this program are well documented and the Navy was glove-in-hand culpable in those problems.  Further, the small well deck has, and will continue, to adversely impact amphibious assault capabilities and connector hosting.

Right – P8 Poseidon.  This appears to be a reasonable replacement for the venerable Orion and was accomplished without falling into the Star Wars/Powerpoint trap of unattainable technology.

Wrong – Force Structure.  The Navy under CNO Greenert has opted to emphasize the low end of the combat spectrum and is focused on peacetime activities.  The decision to rework the fleet structure to have up to one third of the fleet consist of the LCS is a monumental failure as we will learn when we engage in high end combat.

Wrong – Strategy.  The Navy has completely lost all strategic and doctrinal thought capacity.  Strategic thinking has been abandoned.  Our amphibious assault doctrine is completely invalid.

Wrong – Training.  We have completely abandoned realistic training in favor of set piece exercises that emphasize safety and environmental adherence over combat.  Multi-carrier strike group exercises are non-existent.  We are as unprepared for combat as I can ever recall.

Right and Wrong – Hornet.  The decision to abandon specialized aircraft in favor of a generic, combination strike fighter, and a short-legged one at that, marked the beginning of the decline of the air wings and the decline of carrier striking power.  On the plus side, the Navy seems to be pursuing a program of evolutionary improvement to the Hornet that looks better and better when compared to the F-35.

There are many other decisions that could be added to this list but this a fair collection of major decisions.  The obvious conclusion is that Navy leadership has, generally, been pretty consistent in making poor decisions.  Even some of the good decisions are bordering on becoming poor ones, such as allowing the submarine force numbers to decline too far.

The Navy needs to engage in some serious soul searching, recognize its institutional shortcomings, and learn the lessons that its decision making history offers.  Thus, we close with the final item,

Wrong – Lessons Learned.  Sadly, the Navy shows little or no ability to learn from its mistakes.

Tuesday, December 23, 2014


Commenters (and ComNavOps!) have often stated the desire for motherships in various roles.  Most people view a mothership as a vessel that provides fuel, munitions, maintenance, and supplies for a group of otherwise short-legged vessels thereby allowing the smaller vessels to operate at greater distance from ports or operate for longer periods of time without returning to port.  For example, a common suggestion is for a mothership to support squadrons of LCSs.  Another example is a mothership to support small MCM assets.

The mothership concept can be further extended.  Not only can the mothership provide sustainment support for smaller vessels but it can also provide active combat capabilities that support and enhance the capabilities of the ships it’s supporting.

For example, an ASW mothership and a group of ASW configured LCSs (assuming they ever get a functional ASW module!) can complement each other while acting as an ASW hunter-killer group.  The mothership, presumably a small amphib type, could provide more capable radar and sensors and host several ASW helos to augment the LCS’ limited aviation capabilities.  The LCSs, in turn, could provide expanded reach for the mothership allowing longer range prosecutions at no risk to the mothership.  In addition, a modified LCS could provide more robust, layered AAW protection for the mothership.  Thus, in addition to providing sustainment support, the mothership and its group can complement each others combat capabilities.

Another interesting example might be an LCS, suitably modified for extended range, better sensors, and medium range AAW, acting as a mothership to a group of Cyclone type patrol vessels.  The patrol vessels act as the hands of the LCS and conduct extended range patrols and boarding activities while the LCS provides a small degree of aviation support and superior sensor awareness to guide the smaller vessel’s operations.

I’ll leave it to you to imagine other mothership combinations that could prove useful.

Without getting into specific design concepts, motherships operating in the type of role outlined here would generally take the form of small ampibs, like the old LSDs and whatnot, and would mount enhanced AAW, sensors, and whatever else makes sense for their specific role.

The point is that motherships can perform more than just simple resupply and the Navy should begin to think of them as force multipliers.

Saturday, December 20, 2014

The Answer Is 35

ComNavOps will now amaze and astound you by answering a question before it is asked (apologies to Carnac the Magnificent).  The question has been kept in a guarded and hermetically sealed envelope and is completely unknown to ComNavOps.  Only ComNavOps’ all-seeing and all-knowing military knowledge and expertise could possibly allow him to divine the answer prior to knowing the question. 

The answer is,


There you have it.  The answer is 35.  But what does it mean?  Let’s open the envelope and see what the question is.

The question is,

How many rounds must be test fired to certify the maturity and performance of the Zumwalt Advanced Gun System (AGS)?

Boo!  Hiss.  That’s wrong.  No way.  Boo!

Alright, calm down.  I admit the answer seems way too small.  A mere 35 rounds isn’t nearly enough to demonstrate the maturity and performance of a brand new, major gun system.  Could ComNavOps have answered incorrectly?  I mean, not knowing the question at the time of the answer would ensure that any mere mortal would only have a 1 in a gazillion chance of answering correctly.  Still, ComNavOps is far superior to normal men.  Let’s see if ComNavOps is wrong.

A search for announcements about AGS test firings reveals the following events over the past several years.

June 2005 – 1 round, 59 miles

Aug 2011 – 2 rounds, 45 miles

Aug 2012 – 4 rounds

June 2013 – 4 rounds, 45 miles

Sep 2013 – 9 rounds, 45 miles, demonstrated multiple round simultaneous impact (MRSI)

Wow!  That’s really not many test rounds fired.  Maybe I missed some announcements or maybe there were a ton of test firings that just weren’t publicized. 

Well, note this comment, reported after the Jun 2013 test (1),

“ 'These tests bring us closer to completing the 35 tests required by the U.S. Navy to demonstrate the maturity and performance of the system,' said Richard Benton, LRLAP program manager at Lockheed Martin Missiles and Fire Control."

Well, that seems to pin it down.  There are only 35 test rounds (each round is considered a “test”) required to demonstrate the performance and maturity of the AGS.  So, ComNavOps’ answer was right!  That’s an amazing demonstration of clairvoyant and prescient knowledge.  All right, back to the AGS.

Seriously, does anyone consider 35 rounds, broken up in very small groups over a several year period, to be a demonstration of the performance or maturity of the system?

Note that with one documented exception, all the test firings were at a range of 45 miles.  The AGS, you’ll recall, is claimed to be able to hit targets at 70+ miles with pinpoint accuracy.  Well, how do we know it will really do that since we haven’t tried it yet?  What’s the sustained firing performance like?  How will accuracy be affected as a function of sustained firing?  We have no idea since we haven’t tried it.

System maturity?  With only 35 rounds?  How does 35 rounds fired over the course of a few years tell us anything about the maturity of the system?  That doesn’t tell us anything about the required maintenance, systemic problems, mean time between failures, material fatigue, barrel and system longevity, or anything else that might describe the maturity of the system.

Why is the threshold for acceptance so low?  I don’t know.  I do note, however, that the rounds are reported to cost $35,000 - $50,000 each depending on the source.  I suspect that with that kind of cost, the Navy is simply cutting the testing woefully short to save money. 

If 35 rounds is the limit for testing of the system, you have to wonder how many rounds, if any, an operational ship will be allowed to fire during the course of a year for normal training.  I suspect we’re going to have operators who will come and go from the ship without ever firing a round.

Do we really want to wait for actual combat to tell us what’s wrong with the AGS rather than spend a little bit of money and find out now?  For the cost of one stinking LCS we could fire 14,000 rounds.  Isn’t a thorough evaluation of the Zumwalt’s main armament worth building one less useless LCS?  If you don’t want to sacrifice an LCS, we could fire 5700 rounds for the loss of one F-35C.

We’re pouring money into the black hole, money pits of useless programs but we won’t even thoroughly test the AGS?

On a related note, is it possible that one of the lessons to be learned from this is that when your weapons become too expensive to routinely test and train with you may be hurting yourself more than helping?

Are we really going to send sailors into combat with a gun that’s only been fired 35 times?

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Another Relief

In another disturbingly repetitive occurrence, the CO and XO of the Tortuga were relieved due to “loss of confidence” in their ability as a result of their ship striking a buoy.

There are no publicly available details so we can’t pass judgment as to whether their relief was appropriate or not.  However, at some point, don’t we have to start questioning either the standards that we’re holding our commanders to or the process used to select our commanders?

Every year, dozens of COs are relieved due to “loss of confidence”.  Are every one of these guys total incompetents and deserving of relief or are we unrealistically demanding absolute perfection with zero tolerance for any mistake no matter how minor? 

The problem with setting the standard to absolute perfection is that it leads to several bad outcomes.

  1. Potentially good commanders are lost to the service because of a single mistake that may not even be directly their fault.
  2. The Navy loses the enormous investment that goes into producing a commanding officer.
  3. Zero tolerance fosters an atmosphere of micromanaging.
  4. Zero tolerance absolutely squelches a mind-set of healthy risk-taking.
  5. Zero tolerance discourages delegation of responsibility to junior officers because they might make a mistake that will cost the CO their job.

On the other hand, if these dozens of COs are, indeed, incompetent then we need to look very carefully at the screening process that selects such incompetent people.  In fact, I would argue that for each CO who is relieved for incompetence we should also relieve everyone involved in screening and recommending them for command because clearly the screeners were totally incompetent and utterly failed at their job.

Finally, consider that the dwindling number of available ship commands combined with the brevity of command tours and the atmosphere of avoidance of risk taking is actually causing some of the problem.  The opportunities for the practice of shiphandling are becoming limited and the unwillingness to allow junior officers to freely practice is creating COs who have limited shiphandling experience.

We’re our own worst enemy.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Washington Refueling and Overhaul

As you know, carriers undergo a mid-life nuclear refueling and comprehensive overhaul (RCOH) and the USS Washington is the next up in line.  She was scheduled to begin the refueling in 2016 but budget questions have delayed the work until at least 2017.  In fact, the Navy had floated the possibility of an early retirement for the carrier and had publicly stated that they would wait until the 2016 budget to make any decision, thereby ensuring further schedule delays.  Predictably, this caused a bit of an outcry in Congress which responded by including $850M in the 2015 budget for Washington’s refueling.

The $850M was widely reported as ensuring that the Washington would be refueled, overhauled, and retained, thereby maintaining the 11 carrier force level.  Unfortunately, that’s not even remotely correct.  The RCOH is estimated to require 44 months and will cost around $4.7B.  The $850M is little more than enough to get the ship into drydock.  At best, it might cover the removal of the spent fuel which has to be done whether the ship is refueled or retired. 

Thus, the ship’s RCOH is hardly assured, yet.  Add in the fact that a second round of sequestration is scheduled to hit in Oct 2015 with the attendant likelihood of additional budget cuts and the future of the Washington is anything but assured.  The Navy was willing to retire the Washington before and future budget cuts will probably ensure that retirement.

There’s another factor at play, here, that we’ve touched on briefly and that is the fact that the Navy only has 9 active air wings.  A carrier without an air wing is useless.  If Washington is retained, we’ll have 11 carriers (one is always in long term overhaul so that equates to 10 active carriers) and 9 air wings.  So, only 9 carriers could actually operate.  Does anyone think the Navy will pay for the operation and upkeep of an idled carrier that has no air wing?  Some carrier is going to be early retired.

I believe the Navy deactivated the tenth air wing in anticipation of Washington’s retirement and have found a bit more resistance from Congress than they anticipated.

Of course, there’s always the possibility that the Navy could form a new air wing but the procurement cost of the aircraft alone would be on the order of $6B and that’s without considering the personnel costs and all the other associated costs.  Does anyone think the Navy is going to come up with $6B for a new air wing?  Not likely!  Add to that the near certainty that the Navy’s F-35 buy will be significantly reduced and we see that air wings are going to continue to shrink, not form new air wings. 

A carrier is going to be retired early. 

Alternatively, though less likely, the Washington might be refueled and returned to service and the next carrier in line, the Stennis, I believe, might be the candidate for retirement.

ComNavOps has been saying for some time that the carrier fleet is on its way down to 8-9.  This is the next logical step and the budget issues make it almost inevitable.  Note that I do not agree with this trend – I merely observe it happening.

On a somewhat related note, we’ve seen that the Navy has attempted to early retire a carrier, half the Aegis cruiser force, several big deck amphibs, and various auxiliary support ships, all while aggressively pushing for 52 toothless LCS’s.  Honestly, if the Chinese had slipped an agent into the CNO’s position and instructed him to disrupt and dismantle the Navy, he couldn’t do a better job than we are doing to ourselves.  But, that’s another topic …

Sunday, December 14, 2014

What's New In Combat?

As we know, China, Russia, and virtually every other country in the world is working hard at developing high end combat power.  Hardly a week goes by without reading about new ships, aircraft, and armored vehicles being developed and acquired.  In addition to churning out equipment at a prodigious rate, the Chinese have been training hard at carrier operations, amphibious assaults, and high end armored operations.

OK, let’s take a peek at what our own United States Marines are working on.

As reported by Marine Times, a new non-lethal mortar is under development (1).

“A new 81mm mortar can deliver a terrifying barrage of flash bangs to distances beyond a mile while minimizing collateral damage.

Grundy [manufacturer’s rep] was inspired to pursue a non-lethal mortar after a visit with 3rd Battalion, 5th Marines, at Camp Pendleton, California, in the summer of 2008, shortly after the unit returned from a deployment to Iraq. The unit's Marines described the harassing fires they took. Rogue mortarmen would lob rounds toward their forward operating base from civilian populated areas, the executive officer said.

‘Three-five had restrictive firing rules so they couldn't respond in kind because of the risk of non-combatant casualties,’ Grundy said.”

There’s your situation.  Marines taking mortar fire can’t respond in kind and need a non-lethal option.  The rest of the world is gearing up for high end combat and that’s what we’re working on.  Outstanding!

Seriously, if avoidance of collateral damage is the number one priority (and clearly it was in this case if Marines can’t return mortar fire) then let’s simply not be there.  Let’s stay home and then there won’t be any risk of collateral damage and we won’t have to spend money on non-lethal weapons.

Once again, ComNavOps motto:  In it to win it, or don’t get in it.

Well, that wasn’t very pleasant but let’s see what else the Marines are working on.

Another Marine Times report describes challenges facing the Marines as they integrate women into combat units (2).

“Early into weapons training at the Ground Combat Integrated Task Force, Marines with the provisional rifle platoon encountered a very gender-specific problem.

The regulation hair buns of the female Marines would cause their Kevlar helmets to slide forward over their eyes and prevent them from maintaining good visibility on targets through their rifle sights in the prone position. When the trouble persisted, female noncomissioned officers with the platoon met for an hour-long brainstorming session with the unit's male leaders. They emerged with a solution: women with the platoon would wear French braids, allowing them to stay neat and professional while keeping their helmets in place.”

So, the Marines have now come up with a woman’s hair style that is neat and professional in combat.  Outstanding!

The world is gearing up for high end combat and we’re working on looking neat and professional.

Yes, I cherry picked these articles but the fact they even exist is troublesome.  That we would spend time on non-lethal weapons given what the rest of the world is working on is just asinine.  Does anyone think China is working on non-lethal weapons?  That we would devote precious time and resources to women’s combat hair styles is beyond belief.  Seriously, women, if you want the equality that gets you into combat that badly then buzz your heads like the men and be equal.  Again, asinine.

The Marines:  The Few.  The Neat.  The Non-Lethal.

I weep for the Corps.

(1) Marine Times, "Marines, soldiers could soon carry 'flash bang' mortars", James K. Sanborn, 6-Dec-2014,

(2) Marine Times, "Marines grapple with combat integration test challenges", Hope Hodge Seck, 7-Dec-2014,

Budget Winners and Losers

Defense News website reported some highlights from the new defense budget that just passed Congress (1).  Here’s a few of the noteworthy items.

  • Funding was provided to continue the refueling of the carrier Washington.  This is the truly baffling item in the budget.  The Navy currently only has 9 airwings.  If the Washington is refueled, the carrier force will be 11 when the Ford joins the fleet.  One carrier is always in extended overhaul and refueling so that will leave us with 10 carriers and 9 air wings.  Given the current budget restrictions why would the Navy want to pay for the operation and maintenance of a carrier that has no air wing?  I don’t think they would.  I think an early retirement of a carrier is a foregone conclusion with the resultant permanent drop from 11 carriers to 10.

  • Ship operations and maintenance (O&M) took a $1.7 billion cut from the Navy’s $39.3 billion request.  The fleet is suffering from over a decade of neglect and poor maintenance and yet the O&M is cut?  That’s astounding.  That’s also poor leadership and management by the Navy.  They should have told Congress that O&M was their number one priority over any new purchases.  Instead, as they’ve always done, they’ve sacrificed everything to ensure new construction.

  • The MQ-4C Triton broad area maritime surveillance program was cut by $41M.

  • Three unrequested MQ-8C FireScout unmanned helicopters were added.

  • Congress largely shot down the Navy’s request to inactivate 11 cruisers and three amphibious ships.  No more than two cruisers per year will be allowed to undergo the Navy’s “modernization” program.  As you know, this was the Navy’s attempt to informally retire ships.

Saturday, December 13, 2014


As we just noted, the Navy has selected their new “frigate”, a slightly upgraded LCS (1).  All right, it’s a decision I strenuously disagree with but it’s a matter of professional opinion and perhaps the Navy has information that is not publicly available that puts the decision in a different light.  If that were the extent of my disagreement I could leave it at the level of a professional difference of opinion.  Unfortunately, when you have to lie to justify a decision it moves the disagreement from professional opinion to fraud.  What am I talking about?  Consider the issue of AAW protection.

You’ll recall that one of the major conceptual faults with the LCS was its inability to provide even a small degree of credible self-defense from aerial and missile threats - not surprising given that the ship’s only AAW capability was a single SeaRAM launcher on the Independence version or a single RAM on the Freedom version.

Now, however, the Navy claims that the new LCS (or Small Surface Combatant, SSC, to use their nomenclature) is completely capable of operating independently.  According to Assistant Secretary Sean Stackley,

“Are you going to need an Aegis ship to protect this ship? The answer is no,” said Stackley. One major criticism of the original LCS was that it lacked the anti-aircraft and anti-missile defenses to survive on its own against any serious threat, requiring escort by expensive cruisers and destroyers equipped with the Aegis defense system. While threat environments vary, Stackley said, “we have given this multi-mission [LCS] the degree of self-defense that it needs so it does not have to be operating underneath the umbrella of an Aegis ship.”

What is this remarkable degree of self-defense?  It’s a single upgraded SeaRAM which, for the Independence version, means that nothing has changed.  For the Freedom version it means swapping out the RAM for the SeaRAM which might be considered a very modest upgrade for that version.  However, the Independence version’s self-defense was previously considered inadequate and remains unchanged while the Freedom merely comes up to that same inadequate level so how does that constitute a sufficient increase in self-defense to claim that the LCS no longer needs Aegis protection?

Let me summarize and repeat that.  The AAW weaponry is unchanged and yet the LCS no longer needs protection.

Now, to be fair, they’ve added some decoys and a stripped down ECM system.  That will help the AAW situation, to be sure, but if that’s all that’s needed to no longer need Aegis protection then why do we even have Aegis?  It sounds like all we need is to add some decoys and a stripped down ECM to any of our ships and we don’t need Aegis at all.

This is absolute garbage that goes way beyond a positive spin.  This is, pure and simple, fraud and lies.  We’re going to send sailors into situations that they are hopelessly unprepared and improperly equipped for and people are going to get killed.

Once again, Navy leadership has violated the trust of the men and women they lead.

(1)“LCS Lives: Hagel Approves Better Armed Upgrade”, Sydney J. Freedberg Jr., 11-Dec-2014,

Friday, December 12, 2014

New Frigate - Wrong Again!

The Navy has selected their new “frigate”, according to a Breaking Defense report (1), and in a continuation of a nearly unbroken string of incompetent and incorrect decisions has decided to continue the LCS rather than pursue a foreign design or a new design.  Of course, this is the exact outcome forecast by ComNavOps and nearly every other commentator in the world.

What makes the story noteworthy is the degree to which the Navy has decided to stick with the LCS.  Even ComNavOps did not foresee this.  I assumed that the Navy would choose the LCS but would add VLS and a larger gun (76 mm was my prediction) among other additions.  However, the new LCS is going to add very little.

The new version will not have the Vertical Launch System (VLS) and will, therefore, have no area air defense capability, no ability to launch the forthcoming vertical launch Harpoon replacement (LRASM), no ability to launch Tomahawk, and no ability to launch ASROC ASW torpedoes.  Frankly, I’m stunned.  I had assumed a VLS was a given.  I was wrong.

The new version will, apparently, keep the flawed 57 mm gun it currently has and which the Zumwalt program rejected.  This gun is not even radar guided and has been demonstrated to be unusable at speed due to excessive vibration.  I had assumed that a new, radar guided 76 mm or larger gun was a given.  I was wrong.

The new version will, apparently, retain its high speed engine which has so negatively impacted the rest of the design, consumed so much internal volume, and contributed so much weight.  I had assumed the engine system would be changed to a moderate speed, conventional system.  I was wrong.

So, what will the new version gain?

  • An upgraded version of the existing SeaRAM missile launcher
  • An unspecified number of additional 25 mm guns
  • New decoy launchers
  • A degaussing system
  • A downgraded version of the electronic warfare system, dubbed SEWIP-lite
  • An unspecified over-the-horizon anti-ship missile (hint: remember the recent LCS test launch of the Norwegian Kongsberg Naval Strike Missile?)

That’s it.  That’s the improved LCS.

This is as far from being a capable, modern frigate as you can get without being the original LCS.

By the way, do you remember the post about the weight and stability issues of the LCS (see, "Fat, Drunk, and Stupid Is No Way To Go Through Life")?  We noted that the LCS simply has no weight margins and this is the result.  By sticking with the LCS, there was no weight margin for VLS, bigger guns, etc.  I had assumed that the engine system would be “conventionalized”, thereby freeing up large weight reserves and that the ship would likely be lengthened, also allowing greater weights.  Again, I was wrong.  The new LCS will remain badly weight challenged.  The article states that the Navy is going to have to look very closely at shaving every pound it can just to be able to squeeze in the minor improvements that have been listed.

In addition, all the fundamental flaws that made the LCS such a poor design still remain.  The ship has weight and stability issues, lack of compartmentation, structural weaknesses, excessive vibration at speed, weak flight decks, poor seakeeping by both versions, insufficient stores, inadequate range, poor endurance, sub-standard survivability (though some additional shrapnel protection will be added), etc.

Finally, and note this well, the new version will not be able to function as an MCM vessel, according to the Navy.  MCM is, arguably, the Navy’s number one need and we’ve now dead-ended our MCM program.  The original dozen or so vessels can still be MCM and I assume that they will be dedicated to that function but there has been absolutely no indication that the Navy intends to buy additional MCM modules, assuming they can get them to work.  This may be the most noteworthy and serious development in this whole saga.  The Navy will come to regret this.  A single mine detection can halt a carrier group in its tracks.  We need a robust MCM capability and this confirms that we won’t have it.

The Navy, given the opportunity to select a better way forward for its force structure, has made yet another incredibly bad decision – worse, even, than ComNavOps thought they would do.  When you think the Navy has lowered the bar as low as it will go, they dig a trench and lower it further.

(1)“LCS Lives: Hagel Approves Better Armed Upgrade”, Sydney J. Freedberg Jr., 11-Dec-2014,

Thursday, December 11, 2014

2015 Budget Request Weapon Costs

From the Department of Defense 2015 Budget Request document published by the Office of the Undersecretary of Defense Comptroller (1) comes these weapon costs.  Note that the costs are for procurement only.  R&D costs are excluded.  Quantities and costs are requested and may by modified by Congress.  If you “disagree” with the costs, argue with the Comptroller of DoD, not me.

2013  Qty=19            Cost=$2.9B  $153M each
2014  Qty=19            Cost=$3.4B  $179M each
2015  Qty=26            Cost=$4.0B  $154M each

USN  F-35B/C (breakout not specified)
2013  Qty=10            Cost=$2.0B  $200M each
2014  Qty=10            Cost=$2.5B  $250M each
2015  Qty=8              Cost=$2.3B  $287M each

USN  MQ-4 Triton (BAMS)
2013  Qty=3              Cost=$613M  $206M each

USN  P-8A Poseidon
2013  Qty=13            Cost=$2.6B  $200M each
2014  Qty=16            Cost=$3.6B  $225M each
2015  Qty=8              Cost=$2.1B  $262M each

USN  Joint Air to Surface Standoff Missile (JASSM)
2015  Qty=224         Cost=$337M $1.5M each

USN  Evolved Sea Sparrow Missile (ESSM)
2015  Qty=104         Cost=$119M $1.1M each

USN  Standard Missile (SM-6)
2015  Qty=110         Cost=$446M $4.1M each

USN  Tomahawk Missile
2015  Qty=100         Cost=$194M $1.9M each

USN  Burke DDG
2013  Qty=3              Cost=$4.5B  $1.5B each
2014  Qty=1              Cost=$2.1B  $2.1B each
2015  Qty=2              Cost=$2.9B  $1.4B each

USN  LCS (includes unspecified module costs)
2013  Qty=4              Cost=$1.9B  $475M each
2014  Qty=4              Cost=$2.0B  $500M each
2015  Qty=3              Cost=$1.8B  $600M each

USN  Virginia SSN
2013  Qty=2              Cost=$4.8B  $2.4B each
2014  Qty=2              Cost=$6.6B  $3.3B each
2015  Qty=2              Cost=$6.1B  $3.0B each

USN  Ship to Shore Connector (SSC – LCAC Replacement)
2015  Qty=2              Cost=$123M $61M each

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

F-35 Attacks Burke!

F-35 Attacks Burke!

This just in – F-35s were seen attacking a Burke destroyer.  Actually, no they weren’t but they should have been. 

The Chinese are developing the J-20 and J-31, counterparts to the F-22 and F-35.  That means that our naval air defenses will be facing the equivalent of F-22s and F-35s (setting aside the fact that we have no idea what the actual performance of the Chinese aircraft will be).  Thus, it would be a good idea if we exercised our naval air defenses against our own F-22s and F-35s as surrogates for the Chinese aircraft.

We should be conducting simulated attacks against our Ticonderogas and Burkes to find out what the detection ranges are and what kind of defensive tactics we need. 

I previously stated that we need to conduct multi-carrier doctrinal and tactical training and this ties in with that quite nicely.  Let’s turn a squadron of F-35s loose to attack a carrier group using whatever tactics they can come up with – none of those useless, set piece exercises that the Navy is so famous for.  Turn a bunch of creative pilots loose and let them expose the weaknesses in our air defense now, before we actually go into combat.  This is the kind of thing pilots would go wild for!  We can simultaneously develop attack tactics, useful against Chinese surface groups and their eventual carriers, and defensive tactics.

I’ve got to be fair, here.  I have no idea whether we’re doing this type of thing or not.  Maybe we are.  I hope we are.  Based on everything I know, including feedback from active duty surface and aviation personnel, I highly doubt we’re doing anything even remotely like this.

Peacetime is a gift bestowed on the warrior to allow him time to prepare for war.  Use the gift!  Start training realistically.

Sunday, December 7, 2014

Tactical Unit of the Navy

I’m not a land combat expert so forgive me if I misrepresent some of this.  The Army’s tactical unit is the squad.  The tactical unit’s are combined, as needed, into larger units (platoons, companies, brigades, and so on) to accomplish larger and more difficult tasks.  The key point is that the underlying tactical unit doesn’t change.  A division still depends on individual squads.  Yes, as the units grow in size, additional equipment and capabilities are incorporated such as tank platoons, artillery, HQ, and so forth but the tactical unit is the foundation of the Army.

What is the tactical unit of the Navy?  Is the concept even relevant?  What small unit of the Navy can carry out a worthwhile task and can be combined into larger squadrons, task forces, and fleets?

The short answer is, there is no tactical naval unit in the current Navy.

But …  Could there be?

What’s needed is the equivalent of a WWII Fletcher class destroyer.  This was a ship that was moderately capable individually, could combine numbers to produce a significant offensive and defensive capability, was cheap enough to be built in quantity, and could operate with, and contribute to, larger task force missions.

In today’s Navy, the Burkes are capable individuals that could be combined to create larger and more capable units but they’re a huge overkill for most naval tasks and very expensive.  The tactical unit should be appropriately sized for accomplishing the mundane tasks (like the individual Army squad) as well as being able to combine to accomplish more challenging tasks.

The LCS is appropriate for many of the mundane tasks but lacks the capacity to combine to take on more challenging jobs.  Regardless of how many LCSs are combined, they have no fundamental, useful, offensive or defensive capabilities to build on through numbers.  It’s interesting, though, that with a relatively few changes in construction and a huge change in philosophy the LCS could offer the potential to be the tactical unit.

The LCS has, or could have with relatively little effort, an effective surface attack capability via bolt on Harpoons (or 16 or so VLS cells in a somewhat more significant redesign to accommodate the anticipated vertical launch LRASM), a credible short range and point AAW defense, a credible ASW capability, and an ability to conduct UAV operations.  In combined units, these capabilities could offer a significant ASuW force, significant AAW self-defense or close-in AAW screening for nearby ships (escort function), and a viable hunter-killer ASW capability.  With the deletion of the current propulsion system and reduction to a more realistic and useful 30 kt, conventional propulsion system the LCSs could operate as strike group escorts (assuming modifications to increase range and endurance) in a useful role by providing point defense and ASW.

Tactical Unit?

Of course, this would require a total philosophical abandonment of the LCS concept and reversion to a more conventional operational and tactical role. 

Conceptually, a tactical naval unit should be Fletcher-ish in size, combat power, and cost.  A modern, capable frigate would be about right.

Alternatively, this concept leads to consideration of tactical units composed of dissimilar vessels that might complement each other.  For example, a small dedicated ASW vessel paired with a AAW/ASuW focused Fletcher-ish destroyer would make a flexible and useful unit that could be scaled up as needed.

Now, some of you may be thinking that the concept of a scalable tactical naval unit is a bit of a stretch and, honestly, you may be right.  This is one of those topics that is worth some thought but may not be directly applicable.  On the other hand, perhaps there is a seed of a valid concept, here.  The value in this thought exercise is the forced consideration of alternate operational concepts and force structures.  It never hurts to challenge one’s accepted notions.