Thursday, February 26, 2015

Archers, Arrows, and Eyes

We’re all well aware of the conventional wisdom regarding Anti-Air Warfare,

It’s better to shoot archers than arrows.

For anyone who might not recognize this concept, the idea is that it’s easier and far more efficient to destroy a missile’s launch platform than to try to deal with the multitude of individual missiles after they’ve been launched.  An added benefit is that each launch platform that is destroyed is one less that’s available for future attacks.

Well, now there’s an amendment,

It’s better to shoot the archer’s eyes than the archer.

The world has quickly come up with very long range weapons that can cover many hundreds to thousands of miles.  However, as we’ve previously discussed, the ability to locate, identify, and precisely target objects at that range is an enormous challenge and is, essentially, non-existent today or in the foreseeable future.

Consider our own efforts at long range targeting.  Satellites have some utility for locating but, not being linked in real time to any weapon system, are unsuited for targeting.  AWACS assets are so valuable that they are held well back from any potential harm which means they have only very limited ability to provide long range targeting.  The P-8 is intended to be a front line ISR asset and could provide targeting but it is non-survivable in that it is not stealthy, fast, or maneuverable.  UAVs offer some possibility for long range targeting but, again, are only marginally survivable.

Note that we’re mainly talking about airborne sensors.  Ship’s sensors are just too limited in range.  Submarine sensors are also a serious threat but their presence and usefulness is a bit sporadic.  Their need to remain undetected tends to negate their value as real time targeting assets.

Note also that the relative number of targeting assets (the archer’s eyes) in any military are very limited compared to the number of available launch platforms.  Just as there are many more arrows than archers, so too there are many more archers than eyes.  The eyes are the weak link in the kill chain.  Destroying the few targeting assets can render the many launch platforms ineffective.

This should tell us something about the future of our own ISR targeting assets.  We need to develop very long range assets that have a reasonable degree of survivability, robust sensors (meaning long range), and strong communications (there’s no point collecting targeting data if you can’t transmit the information).  This sounds like an ideal mission for UAVs provided we can make them cheaply enough to use in large numbers because the enemy is going to find and kill many of them.  They need to be cheap enough to almost be considered one-way, throwaway aircraft.

All of this works both ways.  We need to focus on our enemy’s targeting assets and destroy them.  That requires a long distance ability to find and kill those platforms.  Given the long ranges of missiles and sensors, it is necessary to find and kill the targeting platforms as far away from their targets as possible.  We need a very long range air-to-air platform that is survivable and has sufficient electronics, both active and passive, to find the archer’s eyes and the ability to destroy them.  Some might suggest the F-35 but it is inadequate due to limited range.  In theory, if we knew precisely where an enemy targeting asset was and could provide tanking support, we could get an F-35 to the target and destroy it.  The reality is that we will not know where the targeting assets are – we’ll have to go looking for them which means we need very long range aircraft with significant loiter time.  It’s not enough to be able to make it out hundreds or thousands of miles – we have to stay there and conduct long searches with significant loiter times.  The F-35 can’t do this.  It would also be nice if such an aircraft were cheap enough to absorb losses.  An aircraft loitering for extended periods deep in enemy air space will eventually be found and killed.  Again, a good use for a focused function UAV – essentially a very long range, loitering cruise missile.

Of course, the best option is to destroy the targeting assets at their bases and, certainly, significant effort should be directed to that end.  Submarine launched Tomahawk missiles are well suited for that job and intermediate ballistic missiles can be effective against fixed bases.  However, we will still have to deal with airborne targeting assets.

We seem to not be on the right path regarding long range targeting, either offensively or defensively.  Our current ISR path is suited for peacetime patrolling but not war.  We need a survivable, long range targeting asset, probably a UAV.  On the other side of the coin, we need a survivable, very long range A2A killer to use against enemy targeting assets.

This is an example of the absolute necessity for having a comprehensive and coherent strategy, doctrine, and tactics and using those to drive procurement.  Instead, we’re allowing procurement to drive strategy and doctrine and the result is a collection of disparate, unrelated systems that do not support a common goal in a complementary fashion.  Worse, many of our random procurements are geared at peacetime operations and will be only marginally useful during combat.


  1. P-8 is intended more for ASW. ISR is really more the role of Triton UAS.

    Triton might make a decent scout/counter-scout given the right sensors. It's definitely got.the range and persistence.

  2. "having a comprehensive and coherent strategy, doctrine, and tactics and using those to drive procurement"

    That pretty much says it all. Until we get there it's just going to be one silly stupid mistake after another.

  3. "On the other side of the coin, we need a survivable, very long range A2A killer to use against enemy targeting assets."

    Sounds like something in the B-58 Hustler area of performance. Our best designs for pure aerodynamics were developed in the 1950's with slide rulers.

    Unfortunately, long range usually equates to big if you want it to go there on its own fuel load and still have the performance to "mix it up" in A2A. We're looking at aircraft like the F-111 again.

    1. "We're looking at aircraft like the F-111 again."


      Bring back the whale - A3D all the way!!

      It would solve our A2A refueling issue and let the fleet carry some of the larger A2G missiles currently available only to the USAF.



    2. So, we're looking at a combination medium strike, heavy air superiority fighter, stealthy aircraft that can function as an electronic warfare aircraft and has F-22/35 sensors or better, capable of long range ISR including stealth detection??

      Setting aside any lessons learned over the last couple of decades about trying to combine too many functions in one platform, what will this war machine of the gods cost?

    3. Smitty, I'm half with you and half not.

      The half I'm on board with is the need for a long range (meaning big) fighter with a heavy A2A load. This was the Tomcat, to a fair extent.

      The half I'm not on board with is your leaning (along with the entire military) towards squeezing too many functions and capabilities into a single airframe/mission. Stealth, speed, range, strike, A2A, sensors, EW, etc., all at max levels and all in one airframe is simply making an aircraft that is too expensive to procure in sufficient numbers and too expensive to risk for the high risk role outlined in this post (deep penetration A2A). I stated in the post that a deep penetration A2A aircraft would have to loiter in enemy airspace and would, therefore, be subject to losses. That being the case, we need to make such an aircraft cheap enough to be willing to risk it and cheap enough to be willing to accept the inevitable losses. So, said aircraft should have long range, moderate speed, decent dogfighting (but not world class - it's an interceptor, not a dogfighter), as much REASONABLE stealth as possible, a heavy missile load, a good radar, and nothing else. It would not have super sensors with 360 degree fusion, magic helmets, Mach+ speed, uber stealth, jamming, strike capability (though that could be an "aftermarket" addition like the Bombcat), sophisticated comms, UAV control capabilities, targeting capabilities, or anything else that wasn't directly related to "find and shoot".

      You've got a good concept but you're headed down the F-35 path by making it an "everything" plane.

    4. Why are we talking F-111 when the F-14 embodied alot of what we've spec'd out.

      CNO, I'm very much in your corner about reasonable stealth and numbers. But I still think you can design for one but still get a good other. By that I mean that the Bombcat wasn't bad as a long range strike aircraft. It wasn't designed for it, but it could do it. Similarly with the Strike Eagle. These aircraft aren't what I would want for CAS, but for general strike they did a good job. IIRC our first hits into Afghanistan were from Tomcats.

    5. "... reasonable stealth and numbers. But I still think you can design for one but still get a good other."

      I assume you're asking why we can't get stealth and numbers (meaning low cost). There's no inherent reason why we can't but so far it hasn't even come close to happening. Part of the reason for that is that we're loading every function and capability we can think of onto our stealth aircraft. The F-35, without the 360 degree sensor fusion, magic helmet, ISR, targeting, electronic warfare, self-diagnosing magic maintenance, etc. might, in fact, be a reasonable cost stealth aircraft - sort of a stealthy F-16. I suspect that it's the other stuff that has jacked up the price so much.

      Bear in mind that aircraft like the Bombcat and Strike Eagle are good strike aircraft IN A PERMISSIVE ENVIRONMENT. If we ask them to penetrate airspace defended by the Chinese equivalents of the F-22/35 (and Flankers and Fulcrums!), sophisticated SAMs, AWACS, ECM, jamming, and countermeasures, how successful and survivable will they be? You're correct that Eagles and Tomcats make good general purpose aircraft but only in low threat scenarios.

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    7. "At this point, you just can't build a large fighter aircraft inexpensively, stealthy or not. The last F-15Es we bought were over $100 million each, IIRC."

      The F-15E is a strike plane, as you know. Also, the cost you cite was for a couple of aircraft bought out of cycle in some kind of limited, odd deal. Be fair and objective when you cite costs! The generally listed cost of the F-15E is on the order of $35M per. The F-15A/C costs were in the range of $25M-$30M, as I recall.

      So, I see no reason why we can't build a basic, long range fighter cheaply if we maintain a focus on what its purpose is and don't add extraneous functions.

      The F-16 was on the order of $15M and offers the model for a basic fighter. Simple and basic. Increase the size to increase the range (as you are fond of saying, a little more size doesn't increase the cost much) and add a reasonable degree of stealth and call it quits.

    8. "... (high-end stealth, sensor fusion, HMS, speed, jamming) all DIRECTLY contribute to survivability. How much they contribute is debatable, but IMHO, it is considerable."

      They do contribute to survivability! Quite a bit. They also contribute to cost. Quite a bit. If they're needed for the intended role then they're worth the cost. If they're not needed for the intended role, then they're not worth the cost. For this aircraft, a long range, deep penetration sniper intended to take out high value targeting aircraft, that level of survivability is not needed. This aircraft won't be performing aerial superiority missions, won't be dogfighting, won't be engaging in one-on-one duels with enemy F-22 equivalents, and won't be asked to penetrate heavily defended airspace over enemy cities and land forces.

      If we want to add more roles then, of course, we need to add more functionality and hugely more cost.

    9. "Developing and buying 10 multi-role aircraft is far, far less expensive than developing and buying 5 strike aircraft and 5 fighters... "

      You're kidding right? You're just tweaking my tail? You want me to believe that 10 F-22s are cheaper than 5 F-15s and 5 F-16s, conceptually? I realize they're different eras and the costs are not directly comparable but you seriously want to claim that a modernized F-16 and a modern F-15 or A-6 would be more expensive than two F-22s?

      What do you think an F-35 without the 360 degree sensor fusion and magic helmet (just a basic radar), telepathic maintenance program, electronic warfare, etc. would cost? Just a basic F-16-ish fighter.

      "... multi-role aircraft bring far more to the table."
      They do! And with that they also bring cost overruns, schedule slippages, reduced numbers, risk aversion, greater maintenance demands due to greater complexity, and tactical limitations due to inadequate numbers.

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    11. "I assume you're asking why we can't get stealth and numbers (meaning low cost). "

      Kind of. I really mangled that when I re-read it.

      I'll try to restate. You can build a long range A2A aircraft that is focused on being a good long range A2A aircraft, but later adapt it and get a decent strike aircraft.

      F-14, IMHO, would be good in a permissive environment today... but if you have the Bombcat vs. an A2AD environment more contemporary to its age, it would be just fine. It could 'self escort' to an extent. And/Or be helped by other F-14's not fitted for strike.

      F-15E... I don't know that it wouldn't be good in a non permissive environment, if you kept it upgraded with the latest technology maybe Silent Eagle style.

      I guess that in the end I'm skeptical of stealth, and more trusting in tactics and in escort/EW.

      There seems to be this idea that an F-35 or FB-22 is going to slip un-noticed into a place like China, so we don't need as many of them and they can be super expensive to get the stealth they have. I really have a hard time believing that.

      I think losses would be horrific and would end any strike scenario we have quickly, because we just don't have the numbers.

      I think in a hypothetical war in which we wanted to strike China, to have any hope of success we will be reliant on big, long ranged aircraft with big, long ranged weapons. These will be supplemented with something like prompt global strike and tomahawks delivered from subs.

      In my minds eye I see a big carrier aircraft (a modern FB-111 or SuperTomcat 21 type thing) approaching the A2AD in numbers, low and fast as possible, then launching their long ranged weapons. Same with the B-1's from land bases. This would provide striking ability into the outer layers of the A2AD, and keep our strikers safer than trying to penetrate it.

      Prompt Global Strike would be used to hit the things deeper in, trying to hamper their ability to defend. As time went on, these strikes would attrite (sp?) them and naval aircraft could go in deeper with EW support. Later B-52's loaded with a large number of stand off weapons could help.

      All of these things would depend on range and speed to get in and out. Supercruise would be nice. The ability of the strikers to do some fighting would help too. Modest stealth would be great. But I'd rather have modest stealth and great flight dynamics than F-35 stealth and heavy/overweight mess. The purpose of the stealth is just to let you get a bit closer to shoot, not become invisible.

      Super High Tech penetrations would be the realm of a B2 and its follow ons. But expect alot of killed bombers there. If you want to put super stealth in try to make more autonomous UAV's for targeting for your long range weapons.

      Any war with a peer like China that has lots of money, technology, and numbers is only winnable if we act like Sugar Ray vs. Hagler. Use your reach as much as you can to soften them up for a long time before you ever try to get in and mix it up. And even then expect to get hit hard.

      And realize, that all this can be turned on us. A PGS missile hit on Dalian could well be met with a Chinese version on San Diego.

      Again, I'm not military, I'm not a strategist, its just my $0.02. :-)

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    13. "Developing any new aircraft is expensive. Developing two aircraft is twice as expensive. Maintaining two production lines is twice as expensive. Maintaining two spares, support, training and upgrade pipelines is twice as expensive."

      And yet, we did it for decades. It's only relatively recently that we consolidated to a single airframe. Has the ability to develop and support multiple aircraft suddenly violated the laws of physics or something? Only our obsession with hideously complex, multi-role, do-everything aircraft and the resulting runaway costs has dictated single aircraft development.

      Because we've fallen into some very bad habits, now you want to claim that can't do what we used to routinely do?

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    15. "Developing any new aircraft is expensive."

      Smitty, Smitty, Smitty, you've come to believe that our current development programs are normal. Nothing could be further from the truth! Quite the contrary, our current development programs are abberations compared to history. We've somehow shifted from developing solid, evolutionary aircraft (and ships, for that matter) to magic aircraft based on non-existent technology and fairy dust dreams. We took the F-14 from drawing board (a literal board!) to squadron service in five years or so, as I recall. Now, though, it's taking us twenty years to develop the F-35 and we still haven't reached squadron service. That's not normal - that's the abberation. It's sad that we've all come to believe that's normal.

      There is absolutely no reason why we can't develop a basic, evolutionary aircraft in five years.

      Please don't believe that our bad habits our somehow reality.

    16. "We certainly can, but we realized it was more expensive and have moved away from that model."

      You're tying yourself in knots trying to defend a flawed system. Developing two systems is more expensive than developing one unless that one is so hideously expensive that it dwarfs the cost of the two. That's exactly what has happened to us. Some idiot thought we could save money by developing a single multi-role, everything aircraft. Unfortunately, it turned out that the cost for that dwarfed the seperate strike and fighter aircraft, as I pointed out. Again, you've painted yourself into a corner trying to defend a badly flawed system.

    17. "Even the lowly Super Hornet has an $80 million APUC."

      Which is half the cost of the F-35 and has 80% of the functionality. Well, currently the F-35 has no functionality but you get the point!

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    19. " ... have moved away from that model."

      You're killing yourself ! Moving away from a model does not necessarily imply movement towards a better model. We moved away from a tight, focused requirements model and towards a model based on concurrent development, ever changing requirements, fantasy technology, and so forth. Yes, we moved away from the model and into a bubbling pit of incompetance and stupidity.

      Remember the Gods of the Copybook Headings? Change is not necessarily good and, according to history, is usually bad!

  4. Nice piece. 100% with you.

    I think the day of the long range naval ( or indeed general ) air to air UAV is rushing towards us at a hell of a rate.

    I would agree that in the first instance something small and cheap but numerous would be a good idea to protect our ships from discovery by small light UAV.

    A war headed “Scan eagle” ? Will need a radar. Can we get an air focused version of the NanoSAR.
    Don’t know, it’s going to need a sprint speed ? But with enough we may be able to provide an N hundred mile anti small \ medium UAV + targeting option. Current UAV’s don’t come with sense and avoid much so it really is just a matter of flying into another drone, nice blast fragmentation warhead, proximity detonator? ( these things are “off the shelf” )

    It’s not going to deal with your TRITON equivalents, AWACS or manned fighter platform, but it might at least see them coming.

    Long endurance in a small size.

    Option 2 we need a slightly bigger UAV able to carry our smallest AAM, unfortunately we then get into that thing where weights and sizes start to scale up inefficiently and long story short the endurance goes down and cost goes up, and ability to launch and recover from any ship is lost. ( Which I don’t think it the way to go for this solution. )

    Missile bearing UAV’s do offer the ability to start to threaten TRITON \ AWACS etc

    Can every ship can keep 4,6,8 aloft at all times. Its quite a big undertaking ?

    But being spotted by a few hundred dollar Chinese knock off drone and finding the entire { insert country name here } air force bearing down on you seems a hell of a waist of a good ship.

    There is also the obvious solution the multi billion dollar carrier born A2A UAV…. Meh.

    Yes its coming, but I don’t think that’s what the article is really about ?


  5. "The reality is that we will not know where the targeting assets are – we’ll have to go looking for them which means we need very long range aircraft with significant loiter time."

    This highlights to me that the fact that we are 'pivoting towards the Pacific' without any dedicated tanker support on the CVN's is nearly criminal.

    I remember reading where MacArthur would superimpose a map of the US on the Pacific theater to give his new subordinates a visceral feel for the size of the theater. It seems we need to reinforce that again.

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    2. "Nobody has bough F-15s or F-16s for those prices since the 90's."

      Just for fun, let's pretend that we both understand inflation and recognize that a $15M or $35M aircraft in 1998 dollars would still be way cheaper than a $150M F-35 today.

      Just for more fun, let's check those numbers after adjustment for inflation.

      The $15M F-16 in 1998 would be just over $21M today.

      The $35M F-15 in 1998 would be $50M today.

      Hmmm .... I guess two such aircraft would be much cheaper than a single F-22/35 today, contrary to your claim.

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    4. "Military programs have experienced a higher inflation rate than the overall economy. "

      Stop! You're killing me. I'm wetting my pants.

      Does the military use a different kind of money or a different economic system? The military hasn't experienced a higher rate of inflation - they've experienced a greater cost growth rate than the inflation rate. That's due to all the problems we've discussed.

    5. "ALL would be multi-role if we built them today."

      What they would be and what they should be are two different things. Don't blindly support a badly flawed system!

      You seem to be arguing that our current system is right just because it's current. C'mon, analyze our current problems and recognize that what we're doing is broken. Otherwise, you're just arguing for more 20-30 year development cycles.

      What's the point of spending all that money and taking decades to field an aircraft if by the time it's done we don't have enough money to procure the needed numbers and the performance is borderline obsolete?

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    7. Exactly! Inflation is the cost growth across the general economy. The military experienced the EXACT SAME INFLATION as the rest of the country. They have simply been subject to runaway costs as a result of an endless series of very poor decisions and policies.

      The military hasn't had higher inflation, they've had runaway stupidity and, unfortunately, stupidity costs a lot of money!

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    9. "I'm arguing that multi-role isn't the problem."

      Multi-role, as implemented today, most certainly is the problem or, at least, a major portion of it.

      There is a nugget of truth to what you say. Multi-role doesn't have to equal a procurement abortion but it does as we currently implement it. The WWII Hellcat, for example, was multi-role in that a bomb could drop from its wing. The bomb release mechanism added almost nothing to the cost.

      Multi-role today means combining every imaginable technology (most of it non-existent) to create several roles, each an attempt to be the most advanced version in history. Consider what you've asked for in this thread from a single aircraft: super range, super stealth, medium capacity A2G, heavy A2A, enhanced sensing and sensor fusion, electronic warfare, ISR, etc. You've given it every aerial role there is except ASW and that was probably just an oversight!

      When an aircraft has a clearly defined primary role and we want to add a minor, secondary role based on EXISTING technology, that's probably doable for a reasonable cost. Adding several roles based on non-existent technology inevitably leads to an abortion of a program.

      Multi-role as currently implemented most certainly is the problem.

      You can defend our current system but it's bankrupting the military and strangling other programs. The F-35 is almost singlehandedly hollowing the military in its quest to be an "everything" aircraft.

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  6. Sticking my nose in here with a piece of conjecture, if I may.

    You - basically - mention that submarines are incapable of performing the role of scout and AAW (effectively - thanks to their limited number and unwillingness to risk the asset, I collect), but honestly I would have to run counter to this (from my opinion alone, I admit).
    Or, at least, the concept of a 'submarine' preforming this role, that is.
    (The Los_Angeles', Seawolves, and Virginias are too expensive to use as throwaways, I agree)

    Wouldn't a WW2-style (diesel-electric, optimized for surface-running, relatively small, fleet) submarine with modern stealth techniques and technology incorporated into the design and equipped with a few (32) VLS tubes be perfectly capable of both roles if deployed in sufficient enough number to create a viable - but non-intrusive - virtual picket line?
    I say this because each boat should be capable of providing 'lock' over some 50-ish square nautical miles if given the appropriate missilery.
    50 or so of them should be perfectly capable of shutting down any nation's air-to-sea power in a hurry while pushing forward in a sensor wall revealing virtually any surface ship that was on the water... and this coming with the added advantage of performing the otherwise same role as a traditional (no Helos) frigate when when not performing picket duty. (Of course it's more complicated than that, but I was simplifying things.)
    Now of course, one look at that number (when speaking of ships) drives alarms of price overloads to sounding, of course; but my personal estimations places the cost of such a boat at only roughly $150 million per unit (or 1.5 F-15K 'Slam Eagle's) with a crew of 30 to 50 people...
    Or double the cost (and add an additional 20 crew) and add in support for 2 on-board Helos (admittedly, not as roomy back there as the pilots would like, but it would work).
    (For a comparison, a new-build modernized Gato-class submarine would only cost about $27 million, so you can tell where the money would be going)
    Of course, these are rough estimates, I haven't drawn up the plans or anything (yet) so I can't tell you the exact cost (again, yet), but according to all sense and reason (given the available material list) it should cost less than the LCS and still theoretically be able to fulfill the LCS's mission (if you added a gun, which is neither complicated nor expensive).
    Not to mention that survivability is relatively-high considering that our own stealth technology (specifically the 'Prairie-Masker' system in its evolved [80-90's] form) has proven the venerable Mk48 to be next to worthless against us (and Russian/Chinese torpedo sensors are not as good as ours and they don't use Prairie-Masker), so the response to virtually any direct assault against the boat would be a klaxon sounding and some one shouting “Dive, Dive! Prepare for Dive! Rig for Deep Submergence!”

    ...Yeah, I'm probably just a military fanatic dreaming here.

    - Ray D.

    1. Ran out of space, so this is a short 'Part 2'.

      Now, I'm not bashing the A2A units as you describe - we absolutely need those - no, where I'm coming from is that, in order to perform the mission you're asking for with an aircraft, you're requiring either a friendly airbase in the area or committing an CV to that one specific role. As you've already outlined elsewhere, the US does not (and most certainly will not at this rate) have the CV's to spare for that mission and any land air base within range (Okinawa, the numerous airfields in Korea, and - to some extent - Guam, for instance) will be next to useless in a hypothetical warfare scenario with China (or Russia) because, well... their 1000+ mile missiles may be useless in Anti-Surface (Ship) Warfare, but Land Strike is another matter entirely. Airfields cannot move and all it takes is one tiny crater to shut them down for hours or days even, which can easily be enough time to sink an entire fleet if a witty General/Admiral is given the opportunity.
      Thus, the idea of having a cheap and disposable ship based platform for the mission deploying from Pearl Harbor on rotation comes to mind. Although I admit they're MUCH slower (~33-40kts, by my estimate)

      Thanks for the time.

      - Ray D.

    2. Ray, I love out of the box thinking. Very good comment. I'll offer a few thoughts for you to incorporate.

      The idea of using small SSKs as barrier assets is not new but the idea of using them as part of a vast, mobile sweep system is. Very interesting.

      You're aware, of course, of the 3:1 rule of thumb? Three ships are needed to keep one deployed. Thus, to put 50 subs in the field would require 150 total. Now, if you're thinking of a one-time surge you could probably get 50 in the field from a total of 75 or so. Even so, the price tag is pretty heft. For 75 subs at $150M each (an optimistic number but we'll work with it), that's a total price tag of $11.25B.

      You lost me on some of your weapons and features. Are you suggesting the VLS tubes be anti-air? If so, that's 32 tubes times 50 subs (in your scenario) which equates to 1600 surface to air missiles. That's a lot! To the best of my knowledge, we don't have a sub VLS tube launched surface to air missile but that wouldn't be terribly difficult to develop.

      You mention helos. Are you proposing helos on a sub? That's going to add 75-100 ft of deck space for a flight deck and greatly increase the price. Also, such a ship would be acoustically noisy and be an easy target for enemy ASW. There's a reason why subs are shaped the way they are!

      The same holds true for adding a gun.

      All that said, the idea of a submersible ship is worth consideration. Heck, the Zumwalt is a semi-submersible ship so the Navy is halfway on board with your idea!

      I encourage you to work up a design and a cost guesstimate. I'd love to see it!

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    4. The idea of Ray's slightly submersible corvette and Smitty's turbojet SAM is interesting. I'm not convinced of its usefulness or feasibility but it's certainly worth some thought.

      You've likened it to a Gato. I wonder how a Gato would fare against modern ASW? Remember, if the submersible is shaped somewhat like a Gato and fitted with external guns and/or flight deck and whatever else, the fittings and non-streamlined shapes create noise when submerged, making it an easier target to find. Would they be sufficiently survivable? Who knows.

      I'm also concerned about the cost of a turbojet SAM, as described.

      I'm also dubious about the ability to detect aircraft targets from hundreds of miles away in an electronically contested environment and provide mid-course guidance from that distance and in that environment. Still, worth a look.

      I don't believe we'll be able to operate the kind of vast distance networks that the Navy envisions in a real electromagnetically contested environment. I really wish the Navy would conduct some realistic testing to find out.

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    6. Ah, I missed a lot. Good points all around. Let me go over this.
      ...I'll try to cram this into as few posts as possible, but I ended up writing an article's worth of responses, so I apologize in advance.

      CNO, first response:

      As for 3:1 ratio, you're right, the 50 number was for a surge and it still is a lot of money to spend.
      Honestly, I calculated the available budget for the project as the cost of a Ford-class CV(B)N and accompanying airwing, about $16 billion given the increasing cost of F35 procurement, which would give enough for 150 of the boats and STILL pay for R&D. As for why I wanted 50 of them, well... given the range of the AN/SPY-1D radar (in unfavorable positioning), between 50 of the boats the navy should easily be able to shut down the Chinese and North Korean coasts at the same time. Or, load them up with land-strike missiles and one could simultaneously ruin every single Chinese, North Korean, AND Russian naval base. You know, back up plans and all.

      As for the price tag, well... yes, from a modern view $150 million is considered unbelievably low for almost any type of naval vessel, but it actually IS possible depending entirely upon the requirements of the design.
      If all you're wanting from the boat is GUPPY-like specifications, then it's actually relatively simple to achieve.
      First off, you need a boat of 323' in length and 27' in beam, with a top speed of 22.7kts, a surface displacement of about 1,580 tons, and a safe depth of 400' or more.
      A breakdown would look similar to as follows (all prices are estimates and rounded up):
      602,919 x lbs of HY-45 or better steel = $400,000
      2 x GE LM-500 Gas Turbine Generator = $2,800,000
      1 x Rolls Royce Kamewa S3-63 Pump-Jet (booster configuration) = $1,000,000
      8 x 750-cell Lithium Ion Battery clusters (+ related equipment) = $1,500,000
      4 x AN/SPY-1D(V) Air Search Radar Arrays (+ related equipment) = $60,000,000
      1 x AN/SQS-53D (or similar) hull mounted sonar array (+ related equipment) = $20,000,000
      Computer network and cluster that rivals or defeats the AN/UYQ-70(V) system currently in use = $600,000
      4 x Mk-41 8-cell VLS units (+ some related equipment) = $20,000,000
      Misc. Weapons (mostly Torpedo rooms) = $5,000,000
      Quality of Living equipment = $5,000,000
      Electrical = $1,000,000
      Masker System = $30,000 (the boat doesn't need Prairie since it uses a pump-jet)
      Misc = $3,000,000
      Cost of Construction = $24,066,000
      Total cost of boat = $144,396,000
      Or $145 million for ease. That's pretty much how I came up with my $150 million estimate, although it wasn't that complicated the first time I did it for some reason. Of course, paper is a perfect world and all kinds of problems can creep it and raise the price, so you can never tell what's going to happen. The construction cost is 20% of the material costs, which is - of course - only achievable at a high rates of construction. I could prattle on about the supposed capabilities of this design, but my point was the cost, so I'll refrain.

      As for VLS and AA. I hadn't specified, but the VLS tubes would be a slightly modified Mk-41 VLS system, so there's no reason why they'd have to be carrying only AA missiles, but no reason why they couldn't either. It would all depend on the missions the boat was tasked with. Given the right loadout (t-hawks or those navalized 4/6/8-pack M26 rockets they had been talking about), it'd be one tiny-but-mighty land bombarder. Keep in mind that originally all submarines had to surface to fire their missile battery; it'd be no different for this boat in order to maintain compatibility with the ship-borne missilery (and be capable of utilizing its radar).

      Ah, out of space for my next blurb. Stay tuned for part two.
      - Ray D.

    7. Post 2.

      CNO, first response - continued:

      As for Helos, Guns, and Submarines. Honestly, when I said that it was more a jab at the LCS than anything. I mean, with the exception of MCM (which it's looking more and more like the LCS can not do) and 45kt speeds, this boat would be able to do everything it could AND dive to get away, and still do it for less cost than the LCS per unit.

      Aircraft Carrying Submarines are actually fairly old concepts. Admittedly, you need a minimum length and beam of 400ft and 40ft respectively, and it would still be a nightmare to operate off of, but it's possible.
      From history, the US captured a Japanese Sentoku-class SV (Submarine, Aircraft Carrier) and and studied it operationally for several years, finding that they were able to operate their then new helicopters off of it with relative ease and that it was no noisier than a Gato or Balao, save for the obvious deficiencies in the Japanese construction and design. As a matter of fact, according to what I've heard over the years, the navy actually expressed interest in building their own version of the design as a form of early Air-Insertion platform; however, the Albacore team's research and the advent of the Nuclear Submarine quickly dashed any hope of seeing that plan brought to daylight and the entire concept of the Aircraft Carrying Submarine was lost to annals of obscure history books.

      However, the concept may have been abandoned a little too quickly.
      While certainly, a (stock) Gato is a far cry from even the venerable Nautilus when it comes to stealth, none of the deficiencies of stealth inherent to the SV cannot be cheaply remedied with modern know-how and experience. For one, the lack of a crane jutting out of the deck helps a lot.
      But that's enough on that subject for one post. Putting a Helo on my designed boat was a stretch design capability in case what one really wanted was a submersible frigate, which I do not (although it would make for an interesting concept).
      As for the hullform of current submarines... as far as I can tell, they're shaped as they are for underwater hydrodynamics. They're optimized for speed and maneuverability underwater based on the conclusions of the Albacore testing and further developed from experience gained from the Sturgeon class. The inherent stealth of our submarines come more from our sound dampening systems than the shape of our hulls.

      As with the Aircraft Carrying Submarine, Gunfire from Submarines is also an old concept, specifically the Cruiser Submarine (SC), which was also abandoned after WW2 potentially much too soon (although I am personally not necessarily partial to the concept).
      As with the SV, there are really very few issues with Submarine mounted gunnery that modern know-how cannot easily resolve; in fact, in today's environment especially, it's actually easier to do thanks to the progress made with testbed platforms such as the Zumwalt.
      To give a gross simplification, all you really have to do is mount the gun in a watertight turret that has been recessed into the center-line and plug the barrel with a tampion. As long as you don't try to deploy the gun while submerged (in which case you've got a lot of barrel cleaning to do and a potential flood in a gun room) it should work as advertised.
      Of course, the 'not expensive' in my earlier post was only in relativity to the cost of the collected surface-ships themselves today, it's still in the order of several (20-30) millions of dollars in and of itself. I wouldn't bother adding the gun on the design I was calling for due to cost.

      As for a design and a more accurate cost guesstimate, that would take a few days at the least. Much of it is similar to the above, but a few bits different in meaningful ways. Of course, design schemes themselves are much more useful than claimed specifications or mere 'requirements'. So I wouldn't blame you for wanting them. I'll see what I can do.

      ...Out of room again. Part 3 coming up.
      - Ray D.

    8. Post 3.

      B.Smitty, first response:

      As for Subfighter. In all honesty, I had actually been considering something like that for a while, so overall we're in agreement as far as that goes.
      Diving is pretty much a game killer to an Anti-Ship loaded Aircraft, swarm swarm or not, they either have to head back and get their payload changed or call in an entirely different aircraft to do the job; and, verses an AA-kitted Subfighter, sending in ASW aircraft first thing is just asking for them to be splashed. Of course, the enemy mixing their loadouts is a possibility, but at that end you're forcing them to send up twice as many birds to achieve the same results (even when your Subfighters are not there, since they'll have no idea where they are unless you fail the stealth game that badly), which is still an economic/logistical victory for your side by forcing them to overextend themselves.

      As for your SAM concept. Well, your concept itself isn't bad in my book, and the BQM-74F would provide a good conceptual start for the missile that you're asking for, however there are some immediate problems.
      First off, the missile would have to be capable of launch from the Mk-41 VLS.
      The BQM-74F is a fixed wing UAV either dropped from other aircraft or launched off the back of a ship like a drone (as far as I can tell). Fitting it to have folding wings would cause problems with its maneuverability whereas giving it stub or delta style wings small enough to fit into a 21” hole would require a near complete design anyway.
      I'd go for a Rocket-Boosted Scramjet-powered delta-winged hypersonic missile, similar to the Brahmos 2, except it would have greater range and probably have a targeting package which would allow it to hit the side of a barn.
      It could be useful for Ballistic Missile Defense, but - as CNO points - out E-War is a thing and it could cause a whole lot of problems.
      That being said, that type of long-range engagement (extreme-range S2A warfare that has nothing to do with ballistic missile defense) is outside my preferred doctrine of warfare, and as such my field of 'expertise' (which is really only rooted in fictional design, so I speak like a child here), so I'll yield to those who may know better.

      As for your CONOPS. That was pretty much similar to what I had in mind for the Air-Interdiction mission capability, although I would attempt to have the Subfighter engage at closer ranges with a Standard or some-such and attempt to guide the missile in themselves while they have the chance. The less amount of time the prey has exposure to the stalker, the less information the prey can relay to those that would hunt the stalker.

      As for Subfighter and torpedoes and sonar. Well, they'd pretty much have to, right? Although which torpedoes you pick could differ due to cost and availability of space (keep in mind that GUPPY boats were already cramped and we're cutting out a good deal of space to allow for VLS tubes). Sonar is obvious due to navigational issues, but it's important to note that the last of the Diesel-subs and several of the Nuclear-subs used sonar systems almost identical to what our surface ships are using now - under-bow mounted bulb sonars.
      A TOW launcher is actually not that bad of an idea, possibly even a stealth turret for that purpose, but reloading it would be a pain regardless of how you put it on.

      Next for part 4.
      - Ray D.

    9. Post 4 (final).

      CNO, second response:

      As for your first paragraph, I assume you're talking about it as how B.Smitty described it, using their missile? I won't commit the text in case you are (because I agree with you).

      As for Gatos and survivability. Have you ever seen Kelsey Grammer's movie 'Down Periscope'? Almost everything tactically important in that movie actually happened at some point or another, including a wargame which pitted a lone diesel (a Balao) against the entire US Navy Atlantic fleet.
      The Balao won.
      Of course, this happened back in the days where the Sturgeon was the submarine king (unlike what the movie portrayed), but that's still not that long ago relatively speaking.
      Also, putting an exposed gun or external fittings on a submarine in today's environment is tantamount to suicide. Any flight furniture (fueling and rearming equipment, etc) on a SV would be mounted inside (hot refueling would be impossible) and that helicopter catching thing (I've never been able to memorize its name) would be covered over when not in use. Of course, that's for a SV.

      All other points in this post I'm in agreement with.

      B.Smitty, second response:

      As for space for hanger/flight deck vs VLS. Keep in mind that a VLS System must penetrate the deck by 25 feet minimum, which is cutting out a lot of space in an already cramped boat whereas a hanger/flight deck would go on top and not mess with anything underneath it.

      As for GUPPY Balao. Why not a post-GUPPY long-hull Tang-class, the last diesel that we used and the resulting design of the GUPPY experiments? Or for that matter, a diesel version of the Triton.

      As for hull-form and shape. As I wrote above, this is all only as far as I can tell, but the hull-form of a submarine contributes little to the inherent stealthiness of the design beyond setting the necessities of your counter-acoustical requirements. As long as you knew what you were doing, making a surface-runner like a Gato (GUPPY II style) just as quiet as a deep-diver wouldn't be any more complicated than vice-versa. It's just that our own acoustic dampening techniques were already better suited to the deep-diving design that we now use, so we immediately experienced a benefit.
      That being said, we actually did develop quite a few systems specifically for surface runners, such as the before mentioned Prairie-Masker system. In fact, we had Sturgeon nukes refuse to operate with GUPPY III Tench boats when they were running the system because they could never tell where they were.
      ...I had wrote an entire blurb about the Prairie-Masker system, but I'll cut it short here instead.
      Suffice to say that it causes the ship and everything in the general area to sound like light rain or gently rolling waves. Most sonar systems are programmed to automatically filter that sort of noise out and it takes a trained sonar man to pick out the location of the target even if they shut off that filter. This is even more effective against torpedoes outside of wire range because if one is programed to hunt that noise they'll automatically get confused and target the surface of the sea.

      Overall, the best hullform compromise is that of the Virginia-class. While better underwater, they're still capable of pushing themselves along at 25kts while surfaced. However, underwater performance is going to get hit severely anyway by the fact that no diesel can move at flanking speed while submerged, their batteries just can't keep up; so I don't see the point in focusing on underwater performance when they'll just be spotted on the surface where they have to run.
      As for your speed requirement. That's actually easy enough, you just need the horsepower and fuel to feed the engines (because you'd have to be running on your engines to achieve it).

      …looking over all of this, the number of my posts in a row is getting ridiculous.
      I may hate character-limits, but I admit that they're there for a reason.
      Once again, I apologize for the length!
      - Ray D.

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    12. “You'll never fit SPY-1D and SQS-53 on a boat that size, and i doubt the arrays would be amenable to diving. Also, you'd have to adopt a different VLS. ”

      The AN/SPY-1D(V) is a 12 sq. ft. 3-5” thick octagon which sends its signals to (and is controlled by) a AN/UYQ-70(V) computer-cluster.
      Fixing the AN/SPY-1D(V) arrays for diving is as simple as giving them the right coating or covering for the job. A simple 3” thick sheet of fiberglass would be sufficient for that task. Remember, WW2 submarines had radar units on them that were literally held together by solder welds and they rarely had problems with them. The only thing between those welds and 400' deep water was 3/8ths of an inch of fiberglass... well, okay, it's been a while since I looked up those radars, so my memory on them is hazy, but the concept applies regardless.
      The AN/SQS-53D hull mounted sonar array is roughly 50' in length (outside its bubble) and its depth is a non-factor, it also sends its signals to and is controlled by the AN/UYQ-70(V). Technically speaking, it can be mounted anywhere on the boat so long as you consider its location in the array's technical profile (on the AN/UYQ-70).
      The AN/UYQ-70(V) supposedly consumes roughly 18' x 12' x 9' of space (not counting movement space), the cluster is capable of being rearranged in any way necessary to fit into confined spaces. Since I did not have accurate measurements (or even a good image) of the equipment, I crammed a number of COTS super-units into a space until I reached an equivalency in capabilities and then worked from there.
      With all of this I don't see how these systems cannot fit in a boat of that size if it was specifically designed to accommodate them. Remember, this boat was designed for just one mission, everything else that it hypothetically could do is an afterthought.
      The sail is over 20' in height on top of the 7' of freeboard when surfaced and much of the interior has been rearranged in-order to accommodate the systems and many functions automatized in order to even further reduce an already small crew requirement (everybody does maintenance) merely to make up for lost work space in the interior. Of course, this incurs the LCS' problem of under-manning, but it's a submarine, they're always undermanned.
      Indeed, a cursory sketch just now also claims that everything would fit in there.
      The Mk41 VLS units are actually useable so long as you never directly expose them to the water pressures. My design called for having them under watertight missile-bay doors with about a foot of clearance between the doors and the unit as a cushion. That set up was cheaper than I thought it would be, not even $1 mil (covered under misc).
      (...That reminds me, I forgot the Motor. Oh well, I could cover that by moving around the fluff, it'd only be about $500,000)
      But yes, optimally I'd call for a new VLS type specifically for this purpose. Considering that it'd mainly be a Mk41 given a water tight pressure door of its own, it shouldn't be very expensive.

      The boat I described, while similar in length, width, and overall performance to the GUPPYs, should not be mistaken for a GUPPY. I never said what her draft would be, she'd have more height than beam - even discounting the sail.
      That's why the design schemes are so much more valuable than mere specifications, because those are confusing and misleading.
      Aside, outside the example specs I gave earlier, my design actually calls for a boat of 450' in length and 35' in beam, so in a sense I sort of agree with you overall on the space limitations.
      450' length and 21,456hp at the pump would provide sustainable speeds of 33kts, the speed I listed as my Top Speed in the first post, although that scheme will probably cost closer to $200 mil.

      Interesting concept, that SSGT, and indeed that's one way to do it. But it wouldn't work for the AA role.

      - Ray D.

    13. Ray, the concept is fascinating. However, you're flinging around lots of numbers and I may be missing some of what you intend. For example, you started with a 323'x27' / 1580t surface but just mentioned 450'x35' / ?t. Just for comparison, an LCS-1 is 378'x57' / 3000t. I realized a Gato-ish and an LCS are two completely different animals but are you sure about those length, beam, and displacement numbers. They don't seem right. For instance, a WWII Gato was 311'x27' / 1525t and you're proposing a larger sub with less relative displacement?

      That second set of numbers, the 450'x35', is enormous. It's far longer than an LCS and is begining to approach a Burke!

      Are you sure a VLS could fit inside a Gato-ish sub? The 27' - 35' beam includes a significant amount of ballast tank. The actual, usable beam would be, what, half or a bit more of the total? So, the usable beam would be on the order of 15' - 19'? Even a single 8-cell VLS module oriented the long way would require about 8' of width (beam) or so (sorry, I don't have my VLS specs in front of me) plus a few feet on either side for utilities, support, controls, and whatnot. So, the overall VLS width is around 12' or so? That's taking up most of the usable beam (essentially, all for the smaller version). However, simply fitting the VLS in is not the end of the fit problem. You need to provide passage around the VLS as well as maintenance space. So, add a few more feet.

      I'm also dubious about the hull penetration depth. The hull is going to be about, what, 25' in height? Can you really fit a VLS in that height and still allow room around it, especially if you want to add a cover of some sort?

      Finally, bear in mind that the hull is oval in cross section. Thus, the wide point of the beam is not the issue - it's the narrow point and whether that allows for fit.

      You indicate that you've sketched this out and thought it through but I'm really skeptical. Just for fun, consider posting a picture of what you've sketched with a few basic dimensions.

    14. Ray, you've mentioned that you don't think the hull form is a problem. Remember that every projection from the hull is a source of turbulence and turbulence is noise. Hence, protruding guns, deck equipment, etc. makes for a noisy sub underwater. In addition, hull shape can cause turbulence even without projections. Some shapes are aerodynamic (to us the air term that we're all familiar with) and some are not. A blocky superstructure or sail causes turbulence. Hence, the streamlined shape of modern subs (in addition to the relationship between shape and speed and other operating characteristics. A Gato-ish shape is inherently more noisy than a modern shaped sub due to induced turbulence. This was acceptable in WWII because the subs were very slow underwater and WWII era listening gear was not very good.

      I suspect that a Gato-ish vessel would be a fairly easy target, acoustically. That doesn't mean that the concept couldn't work but the loss rate might be substantial. Consider a modern SSK sent to look for these Gato-ish vessels. I suspect it would be a fairly one-sided live fire exercise.

      I know just enough to pose questions and concerns but not enough to offer any definitive answers. Just something for you to consider as you develop your idea.

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    16. I apologize for the wait, I was away from the internet.


      Sorry about the number wall. I get lost in the data sometimes and have a hard time getting out, tending to bring it with me. I'll try to cover the gist of it.

      “For example, you started with a 323'x27' / 1580t surface but just mentioned 450'x35' / ?t.”

      Those were two different schemes for the same class of ship, more or less. One is cramped and slightly inferior, but economically lucrative; while the other is spacious and more capable, but slightly more costly (on the order of $300 million or so... which is still less than the projected price of the LCS, if I recall correctly).
      I actually began designing the long hulled version first, as you'll note I said that “my design actually calls for a boat of 450' in length”, which is why it may well be more thought out overall. I only began designing the shorter version when I gave that earlier example, as there I was speaking of a hypothetical modern Gato.
      That being said, for the sake of clarity, I'll further refer to the short hulled version as 'Scheme 1' (since I introduced it first) and the long hulled version as 'Scheme 2'.

      “That second set of numbers, the 450'x35', is enormous. It's far longer than an LCS and is begining to approach a Burke!”

      Indeed. Such is the price of speed and power.
      If you took the design of Scheme 2 and gave it a nuclear reactor and about another $300 million worth of stealth material and actually got it built, it may well be the most powerful attack submarine put to sea. Or, ignore the nuclear reactor. That's actually a secondary benefit considering that the diesel would be capable of circumnavigating the world without refueling (@12kts).
      That being said, it wouldn't be the largest attack submarine we've had. Indeed, it's a similar size to a submarine that fulfilled the very same role that we've posited this one to do (Recon and Picket) - the legendary USS Triton (SSRN-586).

      If you're curious, I hypothesized that the weight of Scheme 2 would be in the neighborhood of 2700 tons (with about 900 tons of that being fuel), 21,456 shp installed power, 33kt top speed, ~27kt submerged speed (~12-18kt safe), ~64 VLS tubes in it, some sort of DD grade radar, and one of the best submarine sonar systems in the world.

      If you cannot tell, this whole thing has turned into an exercise in beating a dead horse - proving that the US Military is an incompetent spender.

      “I realized a Gato-ish and an LCS are two completely different animals but are you sure about those length, beam, and displacement numbers. They don't seem right.”

      Pretty sure, but I could be off by as much as 200 tons on Scheme 1 and as much as 500 tons on Scheme 2 (since I have not been working on it in the last few days, it hasn't been being refined).
      Ironically, many modern components are actually lighter than the ones they replaced, it's the addition of radar and the heavier sonar that added to the weight.
      Also, keep in mind that a Gato (and my Scheme 1) is less than half the size of an LCS, so it (and my designs) is heavier overall.

      -Ray D

    17. “Are you sure a VLS could fit inside a Gato-ish sub?”

      If you mean a sub literally like a Gato, then - on the contrary - I'm positive that you could do no such thing.
      The Balaos, according to the Booklet of General Plans of the USS Razorback (SS-394) from 1968, were only 20' deep from deck to keel, and this was ignoring the 13' restriction on both depth and beam of their inner hull, which was their pressure hull.
      Both of my designs use a single hull of 2” or 3” HY-80 steel (depending), which allows me to utilize the entirely of the beam and depth of the vessel at any time required, such as with the VLS tubes, although it places constraint elsewhere as one has to make up for the lost ballast and fuel.
      That being said, Scheme 2 is capable of fitting anything up to and including Trident 2 SLBMs into it's hull with relative ease (although that would be a violation of existing treaties).

      “Ray, you've mentioned that you don't think the hull form is a problem.”

      At this point, I think this may be more of an issue with interpretation of terminology than it is a disagreement.
      To me, a ship or boat's hullform is more or less the model of a ship carved from wood, but with every single hole filled flush and every last non-hull protrusion (including the propellers, fins, fence, and even the rudder) ground off and sanded smooth.
      In my book, you take a hullform like that and build it up with modern construction and stealth techniques in mind and you wind up with a boat that looks like the British Astute-class, which was stealthy enough to make a mockery of the Flight II Virginia-class USS New Mexico.

      When I say Hullform, I mean the form of the hull in its design phase, everything else is Applique' structure to me, which is to say 'not necessary'.
      I suppose I get a lot of people confused on that one.

      “I suspect that a Gato-ish vessel would be a fairly easy target, acoustically. That doesn't mean that the concept couldn't work but the loss rate might be substantial. Consider a modern SSK sent to look for these Gato-ish vessels. I suspect it would be a fairly one-sided live fire exercise. ”

      If it's doing the mission I set out for it, it would fare well enough.
      When a ship is on or is close to the surface, it has plentiful access to material to mask literally any sound it can make, if it is equipped to do so (again, the sliding scale of effectiveness vs economy rears its head).
      That boat would have access to virtually any anti-submarine technology that surface ships have, including auditory dampening (and the bottoms/sides of such ships would have to be acoustically negative).
      It has to be surfaced (or almost so) to be doing its job, after all.

      Of course, Scheme 1 would fall into the trap of not being suitable for underwater combat when forced into it by simultaneous air/surface and submarine assault, but it's a cost issue here.
      Scheme 2 however would fare a lot better in this regard as it actually meant to have a proper submarine sonar system installed and would be otherwise decked out for the job (Actually, it'd be close to a stretched land-strike version of the Astute-class...). In fact, I'd have to say that one was weaker when surfaced, even.

      “You indicate that you've sketched this out and thought it through but I'm really skeptical. Just for fun, consider posting a picture of what you've sketched with a few basic dimensions. ”

      Unfortunately, I have no means of digitizing the physical image (the scanner I had been relying on for years decided to up and quit on me three years ago and I've never gotten around to replacing it). However, I've been working on a purely digital version of the mock-blueprints. I should have a presentable version completed within the next few days or so, if you're still interested at that time.

      - Ray D.

    18. B.Smitty,

      I acknowledge that there are probably 'better' systems out there for the mission, but as for this design itself I can't prove anything unless I have a decent cost estimate, which was the point of this venture (to prove that the US Navy is incompetent with money).
      I actually passed over some promising entries because I couldn't nail them to a price (I waived this in so far as the Pump Jet and Motor in that other components of the ship that I did list have similar, if not functionally identical, parts contained in them, so I could make a convincing argument to that effect).
      I mean, of course, I want the design to 'work' - it's my pride as a fictional ship designer at stake after all.
      That being said, if you can relay any sources as to price estimates for those systems, I'd be more than interested in considering them into plans both future and present.

      “IMHO, on a Gato sized ship the best you're looking at is a radar in the TRS-4D, Sea Giraffe, or Smart-S range.”

      I'm honestly surprised that you didn't mention the more obvious AN/SPY-1F (Frigate) or AN/SPY-1K (Corvette). Both of those are derivatives of present fleet material, actually integrate with the AEGIS system off the shelf (meaning part, system, and training commonality with other vessels) AND work with the Standards, which is a requirement of this design.
      Of course, neither of them can target a Ballistic Missile, which was a stretch goal, but...
      ...well, you can't have everything.

      “For a sonar, look to the smaller end of the SSKs out there.”

      OR I could just take a page from our cousins across the pond and give it one of the most powerful submarine-mounted sonar systems out there, the Sonar 2076.
      England also managed to shove it in a boat that is 60' shorter but 3' beamier than a Gato, the Trafalgar-class submarine, but loses a lot of space to a Nuclear reactor.
      It, a complete system, only costs roughly $28 million to boot, so it is well within the price point as well.

      Oh, one more thing...

      “Beyond this, electronics and salt water don't mix. Electronics and submerged pressure don't mix. You need far more than just a "coating". You will need to retract the radar into a pressure vessel.”

      …Are you sure of this?
      Then how do the modern 'flat panel' sonar arrays work?
      No, seriously, I'm asking.
      With their coating removed, they look identical to flat panel radar arrays and all that coating is is fiberglass and rubber with a thin metal mesh running through it (like a tire).
      Give it the proper covering/coating and I see no reason why the AN/SPY-1D/F/K array would not operate just fine, depending on the depth that you intend to take the boat. 400' of pressure should be 'easy enough' to resist considering the type of machinery that they've taken down that far that have returned entirely functional.
      Laptop computers, for instance. In a special case, of course.
      I'm not asking for the 700 to 1000' the metal I've chosen has a pressure hull should be capable of.

    19. Somehow my third post failed to go through.


      You're right that there are probably better choices of systems to use in a design the size that I was speaking of that would also possibly have the side effect of driving down the cost; however, the point of this venture was to provide a decent cost estimate for the design, meaning I have to have some price-point data of the parts that I'm using or I wouldn't be able to make my argument.
      I only hope that made any sense.
      That being said, if you can relay any sources as to price estimates for those systems (or just price estimates), I'd be more than interested in considering them into plans both future and present.

      “IMHO, on a Gato sized ship the best you're looking at is a radar in the TRS-4D, Sea Giraffe, or Smart-S range.”

      Honestly, I'm surprised that you didn't mention the more obvious AN/SPY-1F (Frigate) or AN/SPY-1K (Corvette), seeing as both of these are derivatives of present fleet equipment and share a lot of the same parts, functions, and training, not to mention that they integrate with the AEGIS system off the shelf.

      “For a sonar, look to the smaller end of the SSKs out there.”

      Or, I could give it one of the most powerful submarine-mounted sonar systems in the world at present, the British Sonar 2076. They actually managed to shove it into a ship that is some 60' shorter than my Scheme 1 (but 3' beamier), the Trafalgar-class submarine, which loses a lot of space to a Nuclear reactor. Worst case scenario, expanding the beam of Scheme 1 to 30' would actually be relatively cheap (It would add a small bit to their weight however).
      The point? That entire system only costs $28 million USD, including everything from bow-mounted sonar and side mounted flat-panel arrays to towed passive sonar units.

      Speaking of which,

      “Beyond this, electronics and salt water don't mix. Electronics and submerged pressure don't mix. You need far more than just a "coating". You will need to retract the radar into a pressure vessel.”

      Are you sure of this?
      They've been using flat-panel arrays underwater for a while now; and, from everything I've seen and read, they're virtually identical to the flat-panel arrays of the AN/SPY-1 series (just one is emitting sonic pulses while the other is emitting radio waves). These are just covered - watertight/air-tight - with about 3” of fiberglass and a rubber/metal composite... from what I've read/seen, at least.

      - Ray D.

    20. B Smitty,

      It tends to hurt to admit you were wrong and that someone else was right, but in this case you were right and I was wrong.
      I was just going over the Main Deck configuration of Scheme 1 (323'x27' GUPPY-like) and I realized that there was absolutely no way that I could fit the AN/SPY-1D onto the Sail and still maintain the surface stealth features that I had initially laid down as a requirement.
      ...or, in English, I didn't have the room on the sail after I factored in the minimum 10 degree tilt.

      I had been so focused on the internal layout of the boat that I entirely forgot about something so simple.

      That being said, I will instead be trying to fit in the AN/SPY-1F or AN/SPY-1K onto Scheme 1, for now.
      Since they both are quite literally just pieces of the AN/SPY-1D unit I can still make a convincing argument in relation to their price point.

      That being said, seriously, if you have any idea what the prices for those other radar units would be, I'm not opposed to switching to one of them.
      (Of course, this is all more or less just for fun, so don't go out of your way or anything.)

      - Ray D.

    21. Ray, for what it's worth, the 2014 SCN budget line item doc lists the cost for a DDG-51 Aegis system as $234M.

      The doc does not break list the cost for the LCS radars.

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    23. Ray, as I said, the concept is intriguing, however, I'm concerned that your cost estimates are a world off. Consider... Your Scheme 2 is approaching a Burke in size and, to a degree, in capability. A Burke costs $1.5B - $2.2B depending on what set of numbers you want to use. Or, consider ... Your Scheme 2 is larger than a Virginia class SSN which costs $2.5B.

      Despite these relatively direct comparisons, your estimate is a few hundred million dollars. You can see why I'm concerned about your estimate! Any thoughts about the apparent cost discrepancies?

    24. B.Smitty,

      I'm not trying to come across as hostile here, so I hope you don't take it that way, I'm just trying to understand somethings.

      You insist that you cannot shield sensitive electronics from water pressure, and then claim that the comparative sonar system - which is almost identical in construction and material - because 'it was designed that way'. A transistor is a transistor, a capacitor is a capacitor, 0.3mm copper wire is 0.3mm copper wire. They will all blow or be crushed by pressure under the same circumstances regardless of what they are used for.
      And more importantly, what does this have to do with anything when tried and true methods of preventing that pressure from ever hitting them in the first place have already been laid out?
      You say you have to retract the item into a pressure vessel.
      Why? Why not just put it inside a pressure vessel that it can still do its job from in the first place?
      You can do that with a 3” thick sheet of reinforced marine fiberglass formed in a flat watertight bubble around the array that is filled with air or some other form of electrically neutral compressible gas. In fact, that's overkill. They've taken plain, relatively thin, glass down to the bottom of Challenger Deep (35,000'+) and it didn't even crack. You're to tell me that what was on the other side of that glass, Jacques Piccard and Don Walsh let alone the delicate scientific equipment of the time, should be red paste right now?

      Also, why does a ship have to weigh a certain amount before it may have a certain radar or sensor system installed on it? What does the tonnage have to do with working space? If the equipment fits in a ship and doesn't break its back, what is wrong with putting it there? Do you actually need to add 4000 tons of dead weight to a fast scout/picket ship just to give it a certain radar unit when you can have it AND the radar unit at 2500 tons via proper compartmentalization and construction methods?

      Again, I'm not trying to be hostile, rude, or even combative.
      I just don't understand the logic, that's all, I'm trying to learn.

      Anyway, on a less potentially contentious point, there's a 10'x10'x18' space in the sail that is not taken up by electronics or the funnels, is that enough for that system?

      - Ray D.

    25. CNO,

      A closer comparison may well be either of my designs against the British Astute-class.
      The last three of the class only cost ~$824 million in USD, which includes their ~$600 million Nuclear Reactor (not counting the cost of the required paraphernalia...). So, a diesel Astute would only cost about $220-$250 million.
      Thus, my Scheme 2 is actually more expensive than the Astute, relatively speaking, just to achieve similar results (plus VLS and Radar) and Scheme 1 only scrapes ahead by sacrificing basic submarine staples, such as 21” torpedoes.
      This was possible thanks to the British Navy realizing that the way they'd been going about it was no way to do business if they wanted to continue to exist, resulting in them upending their procurement and design philosophies and starting over. Their result was something I much respect, considering the situation with their Ministry of Defense.

      Yet, you essentially asked for a direct comparison, so I will try.
      ...Actually, this is less what I did to make my design cheaper and more what the US Gov. did stupidly to inflate the cost of their ships.
      Overly complex and inefficient power systems requiring multiple layers and auxiliaries; inefficient and mostly obsolete computer systems, requiring more systems and power than necessary; general over-reliance on computers and technology requiring that their tech-level be on the bleeding edge (which delays production and ramps up the cost per ship) but then never rolling it out fleet-wide which further drives up the cost; tech and gear where it doesn't belong; expensive and out of date fly-by-wire systems that are, as far as I can tell, finicky and prone to breaking down; multitude of redundancies that the crews don't even know how to use anymore (lack of training); a seeming insistence on special or complicated to manufacture parts and components; an insistence on calling Light Cruisers destroyers and Destroyers frigates (this affects their budgets, and has spread to all allied navies except the Japanese... who call everything destroyers); the ship designs are complicated and can require multiple years just to build one 'simple' destroyer; and various other numerical procurement deficiencies.

      I could go on, but after a point I would start quoting you, so I'll stop here. I think you get the picture.
      Seriously, how on earth they got a single AEGIS system to cost more than one of the world's most powerful super-computers, I'll never know.
      This would have never happened back when the Navy was held responsible for what they bought.

      On the other hand, my design calls for a simple power system (the gas turbines only need to operate at efficient speeds and there are 3 of them, so I don't need auxiliaries or back-ups); a comparatively spartan environment; an expansive, but simple, computerized workspace using COTS computers and technology; only putting tech where the budget permits putting them and, more importantly, where they make good sense; a cheap, simple, and fairly reliable fly-by-wire system that relies on steel cables and very simple programming; up to date technology that is commercially available; being simple enough to construct in 9 months or less; and finally... a production rate of 7 or more a year.

      As for the size of Scheme 2... well, it's only that length because of hull-speed. Increasing the size of Scheme 1 to that length and beam would only cost about $8 million more, and most of that is labor (HY-80 steel sheet can be gotten for about $1-3/lb). Steel is cheap and fairly light overall, the cost is in justifying the size of the ship/boat to the brass/congress, since they're going to want to cram that new empty space full of gizmos and gadgets, which cost... a lot. I only shoved in that additional 32 VLS tubes to provide that justification.

      - Ray D.

    26. Oh, also, I forgot something.
      The price that I had mentioned for that AN/UYQ-70(V) trouncer computer system was incorrect. I had misread my notes, it's actually on the order of $16 million.
      ...I blame my very messy speed-writing.
      I have adjusted my plans accordingly, thus Scheme 1 only has a modest computer network capable of handling its on-board systems at pace and still manage the Radar.
      Scheme 2 however gets that system.

      - Ray D.

    27. Ray, I'm not very familiar with British shipbuilding in general or the Astute class in particular, however, a cursory reading suggests that the current cost is around 1.3B(UK) which would be around $1.5B(US) and that's for a vessel smaller than your scheme 1. I have no idea what the cost for a reactor is.

      A CSIS report puts the cost for a generic diesel electric sub at $500M - $1B.

      The Soryu class diesel-elec sub is listed at $540M for a 275ft sub which is significantly smaller than your concepts.

      You get the idea. Real world costs are well beyond your estimates. Now, there are two types of costs that can be discussed: real and "should be". There's nothing wrong with talking about "should be" costs just as long as it's clear what you mean. We all bemoan and criticise Navy construction costs. So, feel free to discuss "should be" costs but recognize that the real world costs are much higher.

      One of the reasons why the Navy is reluctant to build SSKs is because they would wind up being a significant potion of the cost of a nuc with only a fraction of the capability. That may not be what the cost "should be" but it's reality, as badly flawed as that may be.

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    30. Okay, I'm going to try to tone things here down a bit on my end in order to prevent some kind of ungentlemanly argument or something. I seem to be getting a little too passionate about this.


      I understand what you are getting at; you think I'm being unrealistic with my cost estimates because there is no existing similar product to my claim for a comparative cost point.
      My argument is instead that, really, there is no existing comparative product in which to make a comparison to. Unless somebody out there actually is building GUPPYs, in which case my designs would probably be a world and a half more expensive.
      Therefore, my argument is that Scheme 1 would only cost ~$190-$200 million in the real world, and that's only because the procurement rates that I specified are unrealistic under the current navy administration so you could only expect maybe 2 of them a year.
      Perhaps it'd be better to consider these very small arsenal ships, just given the capability to sustain life and pick their own targets.
      One will, of course, notice that the estimated cost of my designs has been slowly rising. My designs are only a week old and I only almost have a 'rough' schematic drawn up. I haven't quite had the time to completely proof all of my costs yet either (I'm still not certain just how much steel I'd be needing, for instance).

      Of course, if you want me to take my fantastical schemes elsewhere and stop cluttering up your blog, I will. Perhaps I've overstayed my welcome already with my rambling.
      (That's the way most of my discussions end up.)

      In case of the contrary...

      The prices I listed for the Astutes were for the three boats currently under construction, Audacious, Anson , and Agamemnon, which use the COTS computing environment and such that I mentioned (of which they've already purchased). Unless you have some data that I don't, that is.
      Also, I would like to point out that the price you listed was well above the Ministry of Defense published costs sited back in 2011, when the first two were already put to sea and the third one was already mostly paid for.
      A US Congressional Budget Office report filed in May 2011 (titled 'The Cost-Effectiveness of Nuclear Power for Navy Surface Ships') indicated that, in general, the cost of a Nuclear Reactor and related systems can be estimated as $1 billion per unit regardless of platform, and further suggested that they thought this was cheap (it's been a while since I read the report though).

      The Souryu-class use expensive Air-Independent Propulsion systems with 'Silver Stirling Engines', which can cost as much as a small nuclear reactor each.
      I use 3 x $2,000,000 gas turbines and 6000 x $250 batteries ($1,500,000 total, plus about $150,000 worth of management equipment). In exchange, neither of my designs can maintain themselves underwater for prolonged periods and absolutely have to surface within short order if they want to get above 12kt (which they can only maintain underwater for about 3 hours).

      I have a relative who worked at 3 of the Big-4 US shipyards (Newport, Ingalls, Electric Boat) and retired as one of Newport's highest paid electricians (he was one of the people who knew the Enterprise's electrical system inside and out), and he's still close to the market. From what he told me, the rates preferred by the shipyards on Government contracts is roughly 30 to 50% (depending on complexity) the cost of the ship's materials times the number of years it takes to build the ship (bottoming out at 20%). That last part is usually the clincher, and he indicated that that amount usually gets floated into the price of other components on the reports.

      Perhaps I need to just go take a few days away from this to cool my head a bit.
      - Ray D.

    31. B.Smitty,

      I'm well aware of the space limitations necessitated by the shape of a submarine (you are aware that the pressure hull is not actually that thick, right? Many submarines were made with ~7/8th inch thick high tensile steel. 2-3” HY-80 is overkill for a 400' depth limit boat.), I'm also well aware of pressure hull shapes. A bulbed Pyramid shape is an acceptable pressure hull as well, even though it's not as efficient as a cylinder, which is in turn not as efficient as a sphere.

      You keep insisting that it's the depth pressure and salt water that would kill the radar array, but you continue to ignore or reject offhand my solutions as for getting around that issue.
      For fear of going over the character count again (so far I've done it with almost every post, and weeding is getting old), I'll keep this one simple.
      Put the radar array in its own pressure hull made from one or more of the numerous amounts of pressure resistant materials that do not incur the Faraday effect. Position this pressure hull so that it is barely sticking out of the sail of the main hull (or, better yet, incorporates said sail into its design in the first place. Bonus points if the sail's skin is made from non-Faraday materiel). Do this for all 4 arrays. Connect any antenna or other paraphernalia to telescoping masts that are contained in the sail. Wire the above electronics to a main system inside the main hull. Done.
      Now, why would this not work? You seem to know a lot about this field of electronics (although I disagree with several of your points, but that's just being human), so I ask to learn.

      Also, submersible radar units are old. NATO just abandoned the Submarine Radar Picket concept some ~50 years ago since they had AEW units.

      My design calls for 3 GE LM500 gas turbines, each of which puts out roughly 4.2MW of power, and a single Rolls Royce Kamewa S3-63 Pump-Jet, which is a 4300kW pump-jet. All in all, my Scheme 1 has roughly 6.3MW of power generation left over after it's covered most everything else (including the computer arrays) aside from sonar/radar units. Its 6000 Li-Ion batteries can provide up to 11.5MW of continuous power on top of that for up to 20 minutes if need be.
      Trust me, I set out to solve the power needs first thing.

      It would actually be fairly easy to shove that VLS system in the Harushio if she was just 50 ft longer. It's her length that's hurting her, not her beam. The Radar array too if they were fine with limited surface stealth (near flat sides excepting the placement of the arrays). Of course this would require a certain amount of build up on her deck, but it's nothing that's even relatively hard to do.
      So no, the answer for that particular boat is indeed 'it cannot be done', but that particular boat isn't the problem.
      It's an apples to apples approach, I admit, but you're comparing a Red Delicious against a Granny Smith and insisting that the Red Delicious is better for eating out of hand when the question was which is better in a pie.

      I've been mulling over the Booklet of General Plans of a GUPPY'd Balao for the last week and meticulously measuring every nook and cranny just to see how much space I could milk out of it (including by removing existing features). If you use a Bullet-like hullform, but still otherwise maintain the WW2 level amenities, there is plenty of space.

      - Ray D.

    32. Ray, as I've said in each comment, you have an intriguing concept and I commend you for it. What you need to recognize is that by putting your thoughts into a blog you implicitly accept the resulting discussion, positive or negative. You've probably noticed that a large chunk of the comments following any of my posts are critical. That's kind of what a blog and comment forum is! What you need to do is listen to the comments, debate them a bit to be sure you fully understand them, and then take any bits of information that you find useful and incorporate them into your design to make it even better. It's possible you may not find anything useful. That's OK, it's your design. You're under no obligation to incorporate any information. Best case, your design is improved and your conclusions are strengthened by the discussions. Worst case, you get no useful information from the discussions but you've still disseminated your ideas - not a bad thing!

      The hardest part of blogging (and commenting!) is to refrain from falling into the "defend my baby" mode where every comment is perceived as an attack. Smitty, for instance, has proven quite helpful and informative over the lifetime of this blog. His comments are not attacks; they're attempts to help you refine your concept. You may find them useful or not but they are intended to be helpful.

      Remember, you can always terminate a discussion that you feel is no longer productive by simply saying, "I understand your point and I'll take it under advisement."

      Also remember that most great inventions and advancements are not recognized as such initially.

      If you ever take your concept as far as an actual design sketch and concept of operations, I'd be happy to have you guest author a post about it. Creative thinking is always welcome even if not always universally appreciated! Status quo is a powerful enemy.

      So, stick with your concept, refine it if needed, and relax and enjoy the discussion and attention. Blogs and comments should be fun!

      I appreciate your contribution and I've enjoyed it. Thanks!

    33. Oh, I'm not done just yet.
      I've actually been thoroughly enjoying this discussion, including the points negative about my design.

      Since that turned out awkwardly, I feel I should explain why I posted that.
      I've actually been designing fictional military vehicles, aircraft, and ships (mock schematics and all) for several years now. As you may be able to guess, I have 'a bit' of experience with the online communities related to such, enough to have been burned by internet firestorms so many times that I've basically grown scared of the flame. Both being burned by it and unintentionally starting it.
      Unfortunately, I'm one of those headstrong firebrand-personality individuals that solves problems by beating it in with my head, thus my preferred solution to a disagreement is to argue/heatedly_debate it out until both parties come to a conclusion that they are satisfied with. Such activity is even entertaining to me (doesn't help my heart any, though), so I can get really into it at times. Naturally, that only works with someone who is like minded, otherwise it flares up pretty easily.
      Thus, when I noticed in myself getting a little too aggressive in my counter arguments, I decided that it may well be time to quit while I was ahead.
      You see, you and B.Smitty have been invaluable influence in multiple designs already, although few of them have actually made it to paper.
      Through more ways that just this conversation, I've picked up quite quite a few things merely by osmosis reading the articles and comments throughout this blog and it's given me quite a lot to chew on.
      So, to me, commenting here is like stepping onto a field of giants, giants of individuals who I have a lot of respect for.
      The last thing I wanted to do was to make those giants aggravated.
      So, those potential withdrawal paragraphs were mostly an invitation to tell me to stop in a socially amicable manner.

      As for B.Smitty's comments. I knew they weren't attacks. I just was unable to grasp the logic or reasoning behind of a few of his comments and statements. I was actually particularly enjoying that exchange... which is why I was unintentionally letting it get hotter, and decided that I may need to scale it back.
      I was also losing it badly. If that was a judged debate, it would be over already.
      I kept shooting down the other radar types he was suggesting on the other hand because I have no cost estimate for them. I actually cleared out a fairly huge chunk of the sail for a retractable radar array in hopes that he actually did have a price guesstimate.

      That being said, I was defending the design more or less as a devil's advocate against reason; or rather, I was the one who proposed the concept AND the numbers, so it was more-or-less my job to defend the point until it was killed through the debate.
      I was actually quite enjoying being hit upside the head with points that I hadn't thought of and fairly desperately trying to come up with legitimate counters. Pretty much pure concentrated fun to me.
      Honestly, I feel no particular attraction to either of these designs, particularly Scheme 1. It looks naked, cramped, and just plain silly to me. I'm also dissatisfied with the layout and would be mortified if told I had to live there... which is why I kept expounding Scheme 2, mainly so I could add in some layer of creature comforts. Actually, most of the additional cost for it was originally in setting up a ship-wide entertainment system, the schemes were originally otherwise virtually identical in capability aside from the already noted speed and range increase.
      It was mostly an exercise in seeing just how cheap I could make a throwaway boat with VLS capabilities.

      This can continue for as long as you allow it.
      Although I'm going to need to be slowing down on the designing a bit, my time off is drawing to its end here soon.

      - Ray D.

  7. Excellent article and comments as always! I really enjoy some of the exchanges of ideas.

    After re-reading it again, my first thought hasn't changed. I'm still leaning towards the less sophisticated, long range, lots of time on station, affordable and in large quantity platform. I really still believe what we need for the Pacific theater is the modern equivalent of the PBY Catalina.

    The closest thing today would be some kind of UAV since P8s would be too costly to buy and lose....the other high end solutions just come across as too much wishful thinking and super expensive, low quantity assets if they come to fruition anyways....We have to break out of that ever more sophisticated and expensive paradigm.

  8. The P-8 is slow? Compared to a 30 knot ship? 737s can reach 0.8 Mach and cruise at the same speed as a patrolling fighter aircraft. What is needed is an E-737 "AWACS" to escort and a B-737 with missiles. A detailed plan is here: If you bother to read this, you learn that carriers cannot rule the seas.

    1. Please keep your comments polite and respectful. You'll get a much better reception.


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