Tuesday, February 17, 2015

The Department of Anti-Weapon Development

We just discussed the Navy’s tendency to believe that the enemy will cooperate in their own defeat (see, "Thanks for Co-operating Mr. Enemy") and that all of our weapon systems will work exactly as intended, unhindered by any disruptive activities from our enemies.  Of course, that’s sheer lunacy! 

You know what we need?  We need an anti-weapon system group!  That would be a group whose mission is to develop counters to our own weapon systems throughout their fielded service lives but especially as those systems are being conceptualized, designed, and initially built.

Concurrently developing a weapon system and its counter(s) would allow early incorporation of fixes, modifications, and counter-counters rather than fielding a system and only finding out years later, the hard way, that the enemy has an effective counter that we didn’t think of or, more likely, opted to ignore so as not to paint a negative picture of the system while funding was being solicited from Congress.

For example, we’re aggressively developing UAVs, to put it mildly.  However, there are a number of potential ways to counter UAVs including jamming the communications and control links, attacking communication relay platforms, disrupting GPS signals, cyber (hacking) attacks, overriding the control signals with a higher strength signal, injecting false signals into legitimate control signals, overheating the UAV via directed but diffuse microwave and laser broadcasts, and so on.  And that’s just what I, a non-UAV specialist can think of.  What other ideas could an expert come up with?  Wouldn’t it be nice if we had a group dedicated to theorizing possible counters so that we could incorporate protections into the UAV designs before they’re set in stone?

Not every counter needs to be high tech, nor does it need to be directed very narrowly at a specific technology.   For example, an entire carrier group could be halted in its tracks by a plane, sub, or remote UxV seeding hundreds of false periscope decoys (maybe with a simple noisemaker to mimic an enemy sub’s sounds?) in the group’s path.  Imagine the convulsions the carrier group would go through prosecuting each decoy against the chance that it isn’t a decoy.  That would be a simple counter to an entire carrier group.  What’s our counter-counter?

You can bet the Chinese, Russians, and others have people dedicated to coming up with counters to our weapon systems.  Wouldn’t it be nice if those counters weren’t a complete surprise to us?


  1. Great idea.

    However you have to make sure they use a black box approach. That is they do not get to look inside of the weapon system to know how it really works. Too many times we exaggerate the threat by saying if they know what we know then they can do this or that.

    1. I would remind you that China's hacking and spying probably allows them to see the specs and details of our systems as fast as we develop them!

    2. Please - I have worked on these systems and we don't even meet our own published specifications so our Maskirova is working perfectly.

      I would be more interested in seeing the cell try more of the Millenium Challenge ideas. Often changing tactics is BETTER and cheaper than buying new tech.

    3. Anon, you make a great point. The US military's answer to every challenge is new technology instead of better tactics, training, and maintenance.

    4. Really China doesn't have to hack us to get the specs of whatever we make. The DOD's rampant issuing of waivers to procure rare-earth element sourced components from overseas means those suppliers can make an educated guess without doing anything untoward. Those overseas suppliers are always in China, which has a rare earth element monopoly because everyone else won't touch Thorium. Of course a little bit of hacking likely fills in the gaps, but we're just handing them the specifications for a lot of sensitive equipment.

      We're never going to fight China. They've already won. Are we to declare war and then ask them nicely to keep selling us rare earth elements (or even whole accelerometers) so we can build anti-ship missiles?

  2. Not unlike the "Red Cell" project that had Navy SEALs testing bases back in the 80's against terrorism/sabotage.

    Let's not forget that even if we don't directly engage the big boys like China or the USSR Part 2, they will be the ones supplying potential enemies with weapons and more importantly, advisors. Remember the havoc advise and supplies did to Russia in Afganistan...Putin hasn't forgotten.

    I worry about unconventional as well. Are we ready for Spetnaz style troops setting off an incendiary device like a thermite charge on the aluminum hull of an Indepedance LCS? While a missile might not ignite the hull, that might.
    How about an Iranian jetliner claiming a may-day over the gulf and heading for a carrier group? Would we shoot it down as the Vincennes did two decades ago? If not, even with no explosives on board it could easily take a 12 Billion dollar carrier out of the fight.
    We worry about jamming for drone.....what about old fashioned barrage balloons blanketing the edge of a town? I know, sounds dumb but many tactical drones are lower altitude prop planes, and this would force them es to fly either higher (for earlier tracking) or thru corridors (choke points) or at the very least obscure targets. They could even be equipped with IR decoys or covered in same chaff we use to decoy missiles. Our smart missiles aren't perfect after all.
    Heck, how much havoc could a powerful radar like our SPY-1 cause if instead of detection it blanketed the airwaves with a signal on the same wavelengths as GPS/Glossnass satelites. The enemy radar doesn't have to be as sophisticated as a SPY-1, just capable of the same power--many older Russian ground radars can beat it in kilowatts of raw power.

    For that matter, when we are relying on the F-35's stealth to keep it alive, what happens when it gets sighted by a Mark 1 eyeball wearing thermal goggles by a pilot flying an old Mig-29 with upgraded IR-homing missiles. We have Mig-29s available has anyone run it against them?

    1. Excellent point about China and Russia supplying arms around the world.

  3. It seem to me that what got now, The Services try to design and build the weapons they need, and the Bureaucrats spend all their time trying to kill them.

    1. Please if you think the service people have any idea how to even spec a weapon you have not spent ANY time with the military people in the various Systems Commands.

      They are either field people looking to make a star that can't spell acquistion or they are career engineers in uniforms that can't make it in the real world.

    2. The problem is not that specification are poorly written, the problem is that we treat the specs as laws of nature, that can not be changed. Worse this goes not only operational requirements, it been extended to all the operations of the corporations that manufacture those system, clear down to the height of the toilets in the women's restrooms.

    3. I'm not sure who the bureaucrats are that your refer to. Regardless, there are, indeed, a lot of people outside the military that are trying to kill some major programs like the LCS and F-35. Far from being a bad thing, this is good. These outsiders are asking the questions that the military failed to ask like, what role will the program fill, at what cost, and how effective will they be. Unfortunately, the answers are not encouraging and, thus, the programs deserve to be killed. The military is failing (rather badly) to criticize their own programs at the early design stages.

    4. Given that the major system requirements are written with Objective and Threshold limts, I don't know how you can say that specifications are written as though they are laws of Nature. Also, there has ALWAYS been a process for specification changes, request for variances, waivers, deviations, etc.

      The problem is a lack of knowledge and experience in the junior personnel at the systems commands, and a lack of intestinal fortitude on the part of the senior personnel at the systems commands.

      Again I will state the obvious follow the money that these folks get by steering money to their future employers!

    5. G LofFebruary 17, 2015 at 1:24 PM

      "The problem is not that specification are poorly written,"


      I disagree. Specifications (I believe you mean requirements in this context) are rarely challenged, and they are never vetted and prioritized.

      A prime example is the 40 knot speed of LCS - the old Navy would have had multiple checks and balances to prevent that nonsense.

      the *old guys* could not guarantee that bad requirements, specifications, and designs would not be adopted; but they ensured that war planners, fleet commanders, and the engineers would have come to a consensus only after the trade-offs between competing specs (cost, performance, time) were at least articulated.

      The joint weapon acquisition process broke a long time ago.


    6. GAB, you're quite right. The General Board and Buships performed exactly the functions you're describing. Their absence causes grave design flaws to this day. The Navy has abdicated their internal naval engineering responsiblility.

    7. I was at the DD-21 wargames that evaluated different capabilities against operational use. In particular the in stride mine avoidance capability was an excellent case in point. We tried everyway possible to get the Retired Captains who were in the game to take the Destroyer into the minefield since they had this capability. They repeatedly refused becuase the gun could reach so far that they satisfied all of thier missions. But guess what DDG 1000 has today - an instride mine avoidance sonar that was brand new tech that had not been proven out before.

      The Retired Captains all said why would I take my $2B (back then) destroyer into a risk I don't need to. Here was the proff but the NAVSEA weenies insisted on the Mine avoidance and the Fleet Reps all buckled.

      We all agree on one thing - the system is broke. I just beleive it is because we have smooth talking gutless future job seekers in charge that are corrupting the junior folks.

    8. CNO, Just a explanation of the "Bureaucracy" I talking about this time. I talking about ALL those people that control purchasing of the Federal government, not just the Pentagon's group of bean counters. The maze if requirement imposed over the decades it people who manufacture things for the government effect defence procurement as much as any provider to GSA, and other agencies.

  4. Will the same contractors who build the large acquisition projects be hired to do the anti-weapons system development? I could see Lockheed-Martin being paid big bucks to come up with a "counter" that exploits one of the software flaws in the F-35.

    1. The developer, such as LM, won't point out flaws in their product and risk losing sales. The anti-weapons group would have to be totally outside the acquisition process.

    2. Do you seriously believe that Congress will vote funds that not only don't go to their pet contractors, but may make those contractors look silly?

  5. https://news.vice.com/article/inside-black-dart-the-us-militarys-war-on-drones?utm_source=vicenewsyoutube

    Black Dart is the annual exercise on countering drones. At least there are people out there think about countering it. For other weapon systems, there probably are or probably not.

  6. Doesn't USA have an organization that tests foreign military equipment? I'm not sure if this is the organization, I vaguely remember that during the 80s reading about some office that tested foreign gear. It seems to me that they could expand a little their mandate and provide some sort of consumer report and make US DoD aware of certain vulnerabilities but as some have mentioned already, it really works and provides a benefit if you can do this early in the program! Too late for JSF and LCS!


  7. ComNav , what do you think about the semi-submersible thingy that those North Korean Spec Ops used to infiltrate enemy area ? what happened if Iran acquire some of those semi-submersibles (it is not Swimmer Deliver Vehicle, but some kind of half submerged boat) ?

    a mass attack of suicide boats (as diversion) in coordination with the hidden submerged suicide boats can be a bit of a suprise for US navy in persian gulf..

    if the balloon goes up

  8. the reason i bring up the rather primitive north korean type submersible / infiltration unit is because sometimes it is not the high tech weapons that got you , but the simplest KISS weapon system in the world.. so while the US NAVY CIC are busy taking out all high tech threats, a low tech / primitive weapon system leaked thru their net precisely because of it's unexpectedness..

    a WW1 or WW2 contact mine will wreak havoc on a high tech navy just as bad as before , if the fleet blunders into such minefield ..

  9. From Eric Frank Russell's 1957 _Wasp_:
    He'd been shown a sectionalized periboob. This deceitful contraption resembled an ordinary oil drum, with a twenty-foot tube projecting from its top. At the uppermost end of the tube was fixed a flared nozzle. The drum portion held a simple magnetosensitive mechanism. The whole thing could be mass-produced at low cost.
    When in the sea, a periboob floated so that its nozzle and four to six feet of tube stood above the surface. If a mass of steel or iron approached to within four hundred yards of it, the mechanism operated and the whole gadget sank from sight. If the metal mass receded, the periboob promptly rose until again its tube poked above the waves.
    To function efficiently, this gadget needed a prepared stage and a spotlight. The former had been arranged by permitting the enemy to get hold of top-secret plans of a three-man midget submarine, small enough and light enough for an entire flotilla to be transported in one spaceship. Mowry now had to provide the spotlight by making a couple of merchant vessels sink at sea, after a convincing bang.
    Jaimecans were as capable as anyone else of adding two and nothing together and making it four. If everything went as planned, the mere sight of a periboob would make any ship race for safety, filling the ether with yells for help. Other ships, hearing the alarm, would make wide, timewasting detours, or would tie up in port. The dockyards would switch frantically from the building and repair of cargo vessels to the construction of useless destroyers. Numberless jet planes, 'copters, and even space-scouts would take over the futile task of patrolling the oceans and bombing periboobs.
    The chief beauty of this was that it made no difference if the enemy discovered he was being suckered. He could trawl a periboob from the depths, take it apart, demonstrate how it worked to every ship's master on the planet - and it wouldn't matter. If two ships had been sunk, two hundred more might go down. A periscope is a periscope; there's no swift way of telling the false from the real, and no captain in his right mind will invite a torpedo while trying to find out.
    Bill the Shoe


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