Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Cooperative Strategy - Review

The 2015 update to “A Cooperative Strategy for 21st Century Seapower” has been released.  As with its predecessor, it is largely a meandering statement of naval desires that is not a strategy in any way, shape, or form.  That said, let’s take a bit closer look and see if there is anything of interest in it.

One of the items that stands out is the statement describing our overall military requirements.  The combat requirements for the U.S. military have steadily shrunk over the years from fighting two major conflicts and containing a third to the current requirement to fight one major conflict and contain another.  Sadly, the decrease in requirements has been based on after-the-fact rationalization of decreasing capabilities rather than some kind of logical, strategic based requirement.  This is, frankly, a worrisome devolution of our national will and military capacity.

On a positive note, the document actually states the name of potential enemies, China included!

The document elucidates five essential functions:

All Domain Access – This provides recognition of the increasing importance of cyber warfare in all its forms.  The Navy is currently highly dependent on data flow, networks, and communications which are increasingly subject to disruption.  While it is encouraging that the Navy now recognizes the importance of this broad area of warfare the reality is that it is only lip service, at the moment.  The Navy is not conducting data, comm., and network denied training, is not challenging itself to find its own weaknesses, and is not aggressively pursuing offensive cyber warfare.  Recognition is a good first step but the time is long overdue to begin practicing what is preached.

Deterrence – This correctly identifies our core combat power (carriers, subs, Marines, etc.) as the key to deterrence (to the extent that one believes deterrence is a real phenomenon) and yet fails to reconcile that recognition with the reality of a shrinking fleet, carrier and submarine shortfalls, and increasing numbers of non-combat vessels like LCS and JHSV.  Additionally, deterrence can only work if the enemy believes we have the will to use our deterrent forces – something that we have been severely lacking of late.  Rather than back down from Chinese forces, for example, and allow an Aegis cruiser to be chased off on the high seas, we need to steadfastly counter aggression even at the risk of escalation.  Rather than accept highly risky harassment from Russian and Chinese aircraft we need to aggressively counter these moves even at the risk of escalation and combat incidents.

Sea Control - This section blandly states the obvious and offers nothing.

Power Projection – See the preceding.

Maritime Security – This is the one area where cooperation with smaller foreign naval forces makes sense since this function is best conducted by patrol type vessels.

One positive item stood out regarding the relationship between offensive and defensive aerial threats.  The document seems to recognize the self-defeating path of ever more complex weapons as counters to increasingly sophisticated cruise and ballistic missile threats.

“…greater emphasis on force-wide, coordinated non-kinetic capability and counter-targeting techniques as opposed to engaging each threat with increasingly expensive kinetic weapons. In short, we must become more comprehensive in our offensive capability to defeat the system rather than countering individual weapons.

Barring a Star Wars type of breakthrough in laser employment, defensive systems are on the losing end of the cost effectiveness curve versus aerial threats.  Recognition of this reality requires that we focus on shorter range kinetic defenses, much greater emphasis on electronic countermeasures (soft kill options), and a willingness and capability to attack the source of aerial threats rather than dealing with the result, meaning incoming weapons.

The document’s recognition of this is commendable.  What’s needed now is suitable doctrine, tactics, and equipment to implement this modified approach to dealing with incoming threats.

And, finally, of course, there is the ever present Pentagon Buzzword Bingo!  What military document would be complete without it?  Some examples,

“Cross-domain synergy is achieved when these elements are synchronized, providing Joint Force commanders a range of options in all domains to defeat anti-access/area denial strategies.”

“Modernize the Navy’s total force personnel system with a holistic strategy that evolves the All-Volunteer Force, creating more agile and family-friendly career paths in line with 21st Century social and economic realities.”

So, if this document isn’t a strategy, what is it?  Well, I can best describe it as a sales and marketing brochure aimed at securing Congressional funding for the Navy’s acquisition wish list.  There’s nothing wrong with that but an actual strategy would sure be nice!


  1. I unintentionally spiraled off into a long off-topic thought from a single sentence in your article, I apologize.
    However, you don't seem like the type to mind digression too much, so I'll go ahead.

    Subject: Maritime Security
    Specifically, Hard-Kill AA cost exceeding the cost of the air attack.

    Well, if the grape vine is right (is it ever?), there are apparently cheaper ways (per kill) to hard-kill an incoming threat, it just depends on the manpower and the size of the hulls you're willing to deploy for that purpose.

    I say this because the grape-vine tells me that in the late 80's, as part of the Flight III BB reactivation program (the part that never got realized), they (DARPA) revisited the concept of the '5"/54 cal Mark 66 Dual-Purpose Twin Hyper-Gun' turret, with the intention of replacing 4 of the BBs' 6 5” turrets with them.
    Of course, that never got off the ground, but it's their rationale that I'm calling on here.
    What I've heard they claimed is that they had managed to improve upon the Mk66, making it 'fully capable of dealing with full-scale Soviet swarming missile threats'.
    Considering that the Mk66 (which was already designed, prototyped, and thoroughly vetted) was already capable of traverse and train faster than the Mk45 we now use, has 100rnds at the ready per barrel, AND somehow managed to have a fire rate of 48rpms/barrel sustained... if they somehow improved on that, I'd just surrender if faced against it (a literal 5” machine gun, that).
    Supposedly, the claim was that 'just 3 rounds' (2 seconds of fire time/mount) was enough to 'splash missiles at ranges of ~12 nmi'.
    I'm assuming that it was using some kind of special powder charge considering that the Mk45's shots hit the ground at that range.
    Anyway, back then each round supposedly cost $500.
    The grape-vine continues that they again revisited the BB concept - apparently the DARPA guys don't have anything better to do then play around with dead designs (as much as I love them) - in the 2010 era, still insisting that the concept was still viable in the modern war scenario, costing ~$35k for a 'statistically guaranteed kill' as compared to a $913k '90% chance'.
    The problems being each mount was $25M, weighed ~180 l.ts, and required 8 crew for sustained fire.
    Now, I don't trust statistics (when they're that obviously shiny from polish), but just say they're only 1/10th right. The price still manages to come out to $350k/kill vs the $550k it takes for a mid-tier AShM.
    Their argument was apparently that ECM was capable enough to cause incoming missiles/aircraft to slam into the wall of lead the guns threw in the air.

    Of course, this 'report' was all hearsay to me (a friend told me about it), so it... well, it's discreditable hearsay.
    That being said, it does raise the question (and my point) about there existing cheaper alternatives to missilery when it comes to hard-kill fleet defense.
    Putting a gun-based CLAA on bodyguard position on each side of the super-capitals would only be expensive in terms of manpower, since - as you know - the requirements for AA gunfire amounts to a fancy towed gun-barge with a couple of radar arrays, computers, a generator, and a fuel tank.
    Alternatively, smaller Attack Carriers (capable of fitting through the Panama-canal) that have the guns installed directly onto itself would be a viable option.
    On the upper end, I've heard of designs for gun-fired radar-and-laser-guided homing 5” HC-AA projectiles that supposedly only cost ~$50k each (since it's a relatively short range, it makes sense. That's close to the cost of a 155mm Excalibur). These apparently could be used for land attack as well.

    I'm curious as to your opinions of Gunfire AAW (on all scales), alternative AA hard-kill methods in general, and med-caliber Gunnery on a Carrier.
    If you care to indulge in a bit of whimsy for fun, that's all.
    ...Well, it's sort of strategy related.

    - Ray D.

    1. I just wanted to clarify something that was bugging me when I reread this.

      That was $25M/mount in the 80's, it's closer to $54M+ now.

      - Ray D.

  2. I wonder if the SLQ-32 upgrades are capable of doing more in terms of EW against missile threats? Maybe zone or area air defense now would be a more robust version of an EW suite with ESSM's as a backdrop? This might be the cost effective way to combat incoming sea skimming missiles. Electronics advance pretty darn fast, so upgrades could keep up with the advances of missiles and make point defence (CIWS, SeaRAM) more effective.

    I like how you include the LCS as a non combatant. When you look at its basic loadout, it really does look that way.

    I was comparing it to the Malaysian LCS, an extended Gowind Corvette, and the LCS looked poor by comparison. For less (admittidly projected) money, you got a vessel with more range, the same endurance, commited ASW complete with Torpedoes, either the NSM or the Exocet for ASuW, and what appears to be an ESSM analog for some zone defense anti air.

  3. Ray,

    I did some research and didn't find anything about a Mk. 66 Hyper gun?? Do you have any sources/links?


    1. Jim,

      Last entry on the page, and the entry above that one.
      Basic proof of its existence, although that and a mirror site is quite literally the only major references to the gun online (everything else is mentions, like here).
      Although, they say it wasn't prototyped, I disagree.

      It's important to point out that a 'Hyper Gun' is a rapid firing gun that does not qualify as a machine gun, a chain-operated gun, or an auto-cannon, and therefore does not count as a NFA item (still need a DD permit for anything over .50cal). Essentially it's, a fancy way of saying 'very big semi-automatic gun optimized for burst fire'.
      It's a term that developed from the extreme shooting sports industry, not military, so I shouldn't have used it (that friend of mine was relaying the information in the way he knew I'd understand, and I repeated it). Naturally, the military just refers to them as 'guns'.

      - Ray D.


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