Saturday, October 24, 2015

Accept the Threat

A couple of decades of fighting incredibly lopsided conflicts has led to the development of skewed priorities for America’s armed forces.  Mission (the big mission) accomplishment has given way to avoidance of casualties and collateral damage.  We would rather lose a battle than lose a man/ship/plane or inflict collateral damage.  This unwillingness to accept losses has, in turn, led to avoidance of threats as our doctrinal (dare I say, strategic?) and operational default imperative. 

For example, avoidance of the A2/AD threat has led the Navy to abandon any attempt to operate surface ships in contested waters.  Our carriers will remain well outside an A2/AD zone until it becomes “safe” to enter.  Isn’t that a contradiction in terms?  The job of a carrier is to enter the A2/AD zone and make it safe, not wait for it to somehow, magically, become safe.

Consider the Navy’s new doctrine of 25-50 mile standoffs while conducting amphibious assaults.  The standoff is to avoid the threat of land launched anti-ship missiles.  The fact that that kind of standoff distance dooms any assault from the start (meaning we no longer have a viable amphibious assault capability against a peer-defended objective) is now deemed less important than avoidance of the threat and, hence, risk to any ship.

We have built a fleet of mainly defensive ships in an attempt to avoid the anti-ship missile threat.  We have poured huge amounts of money into ever bigger and longer ranged Standard missiles and, now, ballistic missile defense systems.  At the same time, how much money have we put into offensive weapons and systems?  On a relative basis, very little.  We’ve become so frightened of the threat that we’ve forgotten why the Navy exists.  It exists to wage offensive war.  To attack.  To defeat.

Hey, there’s nothing wrong with recognizing and protecting against threats.  We’d be idiots if we didn’t.  But when our focus shifts from dealing with threats so as to enable our offensive actions to strictly avoiding threats because we’re unwilling to risk losing ships and aircraft than we’ve forgotten why the Navy exists.

What does all this mean?  It means that we need to change our thinking from avoidance of threats at all costs to accepting threats and the inevitable losses so that we can accomplish our mission.  We need to accept the threat of the A2/AD zone, sail into the heart of it, attacking the whole way, and fight to carry out our offensive mission.  We need to accept the threat of land based anti-ship missiles and move up to the shore so that an amphibious assault stands a chance of success and we can move one step closer to accomplishing our mission.  We need to accept the threat of the Chinese carrier killer missile so that we can get our carriers in range to conduct offensive operations.

So, am I suggesting that our current fleet should sail right into an A2/AD zone?  Not at all.  Our current fleet is not built to accept the threat.

What does it mean to accept the threat? 

Well, it means that we start by acknowledging that losses will occur.  And with that, we immediately see our first problem.  We have fallen into a spiral pattern of ever-increasing costs of ships and planes which result in ever-decreasing numbers.  In simpler terms, we’re on a path of putting our eggs in fewer and more expensive baskets.  No wonder we don’t want to risk them!  Losing a $14B Ford class carrier along with its $6B air wing would be catastrophic.  If it were up to me, I’d park that carrier in a cornfield in the middle of Nebraska and leave it so nothing could threaten it.  That’s the only sane thing to do with that much treasure tied up in one ship.

We need to reverse the trend of fewer and more expensive ships and planes.  We need to begin building smaller, cheaper, and more numerous assets.  Attrition must become a recognized feature of high end combat and its impact must be factored into our acquisition plans.  Instead of building Fords, we need to be building downsized Nimitzes.  Downsized?!  Yes, downsized.  Something about 2/3 the size of a Nimitz would probably be about right.  It would be big enough to carry a full air wing of 40 combat aircraft plus the various support aircraft and yet cheap enough that its loss wouldn’t cripple us.  Being cheaper (yes, that’s an enormous assumption), we could get carrier numbers back up to 15-18 which greatly reduces the impact of any single loss.

The same reasoning can be applied to aircraft.  We’d be better off with ten Hornets than one F-35.  Sure, we’ll lose aircraft in combat but individual losses won’t be nearly as devastating and sufficient numbers will ensure that we can complete our missions even in the face of losses.

Accepting the threat also means recognizing that we will have to stand and fight rather than run away.  This suggests that we need to re-evaluate how we build ships.  We need to build ships that can stand and fight.  We need ships with armor, great point defenses, more robust passive defenses, greater redundancy, and simpler systems that can be maintained and repaired at sea.

Accept the threat.  Deal with the threat.  Destroy the threat.  That’s what a Navy does.

The threats won’t go away and neither should the Navy.


  1. Given the size of the Nimitz/Ford carriers, today's Carrier Air Wing could easily support another squadron of Super Hornets and maybe a short squadron of 8 Super Hornets as dedicated tankers.

    At best, I think we could build 5 65,000 to 75,000 ton non-nuclear carriers for 3 Fords. If the baseline is a 10 carrier fleet, that would give the Navy 12 carriers.

    But, that requires the Navy to field 2 more Carrier Air Wings and build another 8 to 10 Burke's and a couple more Virginia's for support. Not a trivial investment.

    To get to 15-18 carriers, the Navy would have to build a much smaller carrier, probably in the 40,000 ton range. But, a carrier that size would only be able to support a couple of squadrons of Super Hornets or F-35's plus support aircraft and helicopters. And, that would mean building even more Burke's and Virginia's too.

    I'm not sure what the right balance is, but I doubt the Navy will be able to afford building more $10 to $12 billion Fords much longer.

    1. Walter, I don't recognize your name so if you're new, welcome!

      I've previously proposed a Midway sized carrier. Midway, as built, was around 45,000 t though she probably increased in later life as she underwent refits for operating jets. Notably, Midway operated an air wing of around 60 aircraft which is the size of a current full wing. The typical composition was 3 squadrons of Hornets, 2 A-6s, Prowlers, Hawkeyes, and other helos and support aircraft. So, a smaller size carrier with a full air wing has been done and should be quite doable again.

      The Nimitzes were designed to carry around 100 aircraft and did operate around 90 at the beginning of their lives. We're now down to around 60 so two or three squadrons could be added.

      I'm not sure that building a few more carriers would require building more Burkes. Currently, we deploy three or four Burkes per carrier. That's a max total of around 44 escorts. We have around 70-80. The Burkes are also used to escort amphibious groups so that would account for some more. In short, I think we have enough Burkes for a few more carriers, at least at today's escort density.

      Thanks for stopping by!

    2. "We need to reverse the trend of more expensive ships and planes." Someone said quantity has a quality of it's own.
      Fewer F35's and more advanced super hornets, less expensive carriers and subs. Here's a link about a foreign AIP sub development...
      Stealth fighters are nice to have, but what about radar jamming aircraft like the growler paving the way for generation 4.5 fighters like the advanced super hornet etc .
      Will proposals for the future generation 6 fighter break the bank ?
      Secretary Mabus' assertion that the F35 will be the last manned strike fighter may be very expensive as well.

    3. Thanks for the welcome. I've posted here before but only anonymously.

      I was speaking in terms of full load displacements and after their modernization, the Midway class ended their service displacing about 65,000 tones.

      If I understand you correctly, you're proposing something the size of the Clemenceau class, which operates about 40 aircraft and helicopters. But, the Super Hornet has a maximum takeoff weight of 66,000 lbs., which I suspect is a little too heavy for a smaller carrier.

      If we're only building a few extra carriers, we might not need more Burke's. But, if were building 6-8 more to get to 15 to 18 carriers, we're going to need more Burke's and Virginia's.

      I agree whole heartily that the Navy needs more carriers. But, money is a challenge as the Navy plans to build a replacement for the Ohio-class and buy F-35B's and C's. Something has to give.

    4. I doubt a 60,000Tonne CV would cost that much, that is an outrageous sum, the UK RN CVs were going to cost 3Bn including some development costs before they were delayed and costs rose to 4.5bn, and they are just starting to come out the assembly lines.

      Keep in mind it has been a long time such a ship was built in the UK, and many problems were experienced, the US should not have this issue, indeed it should be even cheaper with larger scale of production. Mind you Cats were never equipped in that budget, but I doubt that would more than double the price too between 6-8.4Bn per ship...

      Infact I find it hard to believe that the electric CATs cost as much as a frigate to build and install.... And that is around the inflation adjusted price of the last nimitz, finished in 2006... I don't see how a ~60,000tonne ship costs as much as a similarly equipped ~100,000+tonne ship...

      I think anywhere from 2Bn-4Bn would be 'reasonable' for a conventionally powered CV ranging from 30,000-60,000tonnes. With the lower-end being based on the izumo. And I imagine lower-end, smaller CVs would be best suited, to operate with cheaper escorts.

    5. Another data point is the 45,000 t American class LHA. Those are around $4B each and cannot operate conventional jets. Adding cats and arresting gear and making it angled deck would probably add another couple billion (no, not just for the cat equipment!).

    6. Yeah you raise a good point about that LHA, you aren't going to easily get a larger ship from the same yard for less money, and I am under no illusion that such a CV would likely be built in the US for that price.

      Only that based upon foreign-built ships (and the UK and Japan have high wage rates and compliance/saftey regulation), I would expect to be looking at a ballpark figure between 2-4Bn for a small to medium sized conventionally powered carrier with cats, built in serial production at scale.

      I recognize that in the US much military procurement is a scam for a corupt military-industrial complex, that most major projects are over-budget and behind schedule, that you see ships like burkes coming out of the USA for twice the price of their license produced counterparts in korea, replacements for the nimitz (which appear to be very similar) costing 50% more than the inflation adjusted price of the last nimitz launched in 06.

      And some systems, systems like the Zumwalt and the F35 are astronomically priced, the rounds for the zumwalt are a few hundred thousand each, which considering their reduced lethality over the tomahawk, put it up in terms of pricing with one of the proposed tomahawk variants which was too cost 750K.. When you are shooting rounds costing several hundred thousand, it defeats the purpose of a cannon....

      Anyway point was, only that it seems dooable, not that it will be done in a country rife with procurement corruption.

    7. What was the last cost of the last Nimitz built? I like the idea of using smaller ships ('phibs) as I've stated before for creating a low intensitiy air wing; but I wonder if it might not be easier and far cheaper just to keep building the Nimitz class. There's nothing inherently wrong with it; we have tons of experience, and the yards are (at least were) set up to build them.

      I can't see that the Ford gets us much improvement. The biggest waste I see now is us building Supercarriers with medium carrier air wings. The solution to that, for me, isn't 'smaller carriers', its 'bigger, better airwings'.

      If we are just going to build carriers that just do (relatively) short range strike, and get out of the blue water power projection business, then yes, lets get out of the Super carrier.

    8. "At best, I think we could build 5 65,000 to 75,000 ton non-nuclear carriers for 3 Fords. If the baseline is a 10 carrier fleet, that would give the Navy 12 carriers. "

      According to Wiki, the total cost of construction for each ship was around $4.5 billion. So for the cost of the Ford we could almost build 3 Nimitz. And I strongly doubt we'll get 3 Nimitz worth of utility out of the Ford.

      The DeGaul, at 42K tons full load, cost about 3 Billion Euros.

      That's awfully close to a 100K ton Nimitz, for less capability.

    9. Jim, never take any costs at face value. Dig a bit deeper. If you follow the Wiki reference you'll see that it's a CRS report and reading the report reveals that the actual construction cost of CVN-77, the last Nimitz, was $6.05B in 2006 dollars ($7.14B in 2015).

      That means that compared to the Ford's cost of $13B, we could build almost two Nimitz. Still a better value than a single Ford.

      Worse, never accept foreign cost figures. If you think it's hard getting solid numbers on our stuff, foreign costs have all kinds of factors that we don't know.

    10. I did actually, at least a bit. The 'Last Nimitz' was the Bush; and it was more of a bridge design to the Ford that made significant changes on the way to the Ford class. (We should have known when the bridge changes increased the cost by nearly 2 billion that the Ford was going to be a nightmare). The ones prior to that actually had costs go down due to more modular construction.

      That said, you're right. Ship costs infuriate me. Often I see the cost of a ship ($1 billion for a Burke, as a hypothetical) and then find out that this cost only gets you a steel hull with piping, a gas turbine, and various propulsion and hotel devices.... but no weapons or sensors. That's ridiculous. Its not the 'Out the door' price.

      The foreign costs are a puzzle to me. I can only go with what they say. I'm guessing though that like us they report low, not high.

    11. Foreign costs are worse than simply being reported low. Different countries have different economic and governmental systems which can obscure costs. Chinese industry, for example, is significantly state owned and/or subsidized which hugely obscures the true cost of ship and aircraft construction. Factor in exchange rates and all kinds of other factors and foreign costs are nearly useless for comparisons.

      The "true" cost of a Burke is probably on the order $3B. You can see this by looking at historical costs before the Navy started using accounting gimmicks like government furnished equipment and deferred construction. Several years ago, the Burkes cost around $2B-$2.5B. Now the Navy would have us believe the costs have magically dropped by half?

      Factor in post-delivery fitting out and ships cost a huge amount more than claimed.

    12. For what it's worth, in GAO-15-342SP Defense Acquisition Assessments of Selected Weapon Programs, US Government Accountability Office (March 2015), the cost cap for CVN-79 is $11.5 billion. The GAO reported the Navy is counting on unprecedented levels of efficiency to achieve that cost cap. That doesn't sound encouraging.

    13. Walter: Wonderful.

      I honestly am getting to the point where I think that our acquisition issues and our number gaming have become national security issues. To paraphrase Cicero, money is the sinews of war; and while we are a huge nation with a huge GDP we aren't an infinite pool. I think the amount of wastage we have is a big reason we have un-upgraded Burkes, ill-maintained vessels, 40 year old IFV's, 60-70 year old connectors, and an impending fighter gap despite and almost 600 billion dollar defense budget annually.

      If we were wise our next major national security move might be to hire a team of auditors and align the military with GAAP. It might be scary (you can't build new stuff and maintain your old stuff) but the transparency might lead to CNO doing less spotlighting of inconsistencies in government reporting and more highlighting what is needed to be done.

      It might also lead to a real strategy. 'With X amount of money we can only have Y ships and aircraft in good shape deployed Z amount of time'. I think the current 'wooly' state of the US military budget allows things to happen like what happened in the one Romney-Obama debate (I'm not taking sides, just disagreeing with a point). 'The admirals don't tell me there is a problem'....

      We hide the state of our fleet and military in the face of what politicians on both sides want to do; and that creates a gap where politicians can create unreasonable demands without paying for them.

      Just my $0.02

  2. "Consider the Navy’s new doctrine of 25-50 mile standoffs while conducting amphibious assaults. "

    That doctrine has been discredited and shown impractical in this article. If our Admirals and Generals would take time to read this, things should change:

    1. It's been discredited in this blog!

    2. I think there is another factor that has been overlooked with the risk-averse mindset inherent in current amphibious landing doctrine and other areas. It's bad for morale and shows a coward's mentality. Battles and wars are won by taking risks and being willing to accept losses. Of course, no one wants to suffer unnecessary casualties or have a bombed out school show up on CNN because someone made a mistake, but people get killed and wounded in war and collateral damage will happen sooner or later. These are unavoidable facts of life in war.

      What did John Paul Jones ask for during our Revolutionary War? "A fast ship, because I intend to go in harms way".

      Imagine what would have happened if Jones and George Washington had had the same politically correct, risk-averse, zero-defects mindset that today's politicians and military leaders have? Entire generations of American military leaders, from John Paul Jones to Chesty Puller to Arleigh Burke, are no doubt spinning in their graves as we speak.

  3. I agree with parking carriers in Nebraska. Why can't our Navy plan on conducting sea control from land bases, as was done in World War II. Put some assets at Anderson AFB in Guam for example, and reopen Adak? Yes, fixed airfields can be hit, but they don't blow up or sink. You just got to patch some holes.

    This guy agrees

    "If admirals foolishly send carriers to secure the Western Pacific in time of war, they will suffer the fate of the mighty British battleship HMS Prince of Wales along with the heavy cruiser HMS Repulse when they sailed from Singapore to confront the Japanese Navy at the beginning of World War II. As their respected admiral executed World War I era tactics for a great ship battle, his first class warships were attacked by a swarm of pesky land-based aircraft and quickly sunk!

    Dr. Andrew Krepinevich assessed modern maritime warfare up to 2015.

    He wrote that the advent of long-range sensors and strike capabilities may ultimately shrink oceans to “Mediterranean size,” imposing severe restrictions on the freedom of maneuver of surface naval forces, similar to those faced by navies operating in the Mediterranean in World War II where naval warfare involved Allied ships fighting aerial threats. In 1940, 21 obsolete British Swordfish biplanes (pictured) attacked the Italian fleet at Taranto, sinking one battleship and heavily damaging two others with the loss of just two aircraft! Later in the war, the Axis had limited assets yet often inflicted serious ship damage with aircraft and torpedo boats causing admirals to avoid engagements.

    Even the Pacific, most air combat missions were launched from land bases. Experts agree that if Japan had focused production on land-based aircraft and submarines rather than large warships, the war may have resulted in a stalemate. For example, tremendous resources were devoted to the three massive Yamato class battleships. Admirals feared committing them to any serious naval engagement knowing the embarrassment should one be sunk, as will be the case with current American super-carriers. When forced to deploy toward the end of the war, all three super-battleships were quickly sunk by torpedoes from submarines and aircraft.

    Remember that all this occurred before torpedoes and bombs had guidance systems!"

    1. I suggested that in a prior post, imagine the land based naval aviation capabilities that could be brought to the table by deleting the requirement for just one 20Bn carrier, which costs 2Bn a year to operate (i believe), this equates very conservatively to 40Bn in present day money or about 4Bn a year for 40 years.

      Even if building up naval basing capabilities (buying rights, building infrastructure, setting up defensive networks to protect it, increasing logistics capabilities) to enable existing AF assets to participate in the pacific theatre took most of that budget, leaving little room for new capabilities, that is still a heck of a lot of extra capability brought to the table.

      And more basing, would enable cheaper 'lower-end', smaller platforms with less range and endurance to be operated effectively, supplementing larger more expensive platforms with greater endurance.

      For instance the C295 Persuader vs the P-8 Poseidon, the C295 is smaller than a CH-53k, would cost well less than 20% of the poseidon (particularly when considering the running costs), but with sufficient basing can provide decent coverage out to 1,000KM. Smaller planes like the S-3 Viking, very lightweight fighter planes like the grippen NG, and cheaper, high-transit speed, conventional submarines, smaller frigates/corvettes, midget-submarines, that sort of thing.

      Currently, due to the basing situation, the USN operates a fleet of what is basically cruisers, operating in the role of anti-submarine, and escorts. I believe zumwalt and hughes suggested very similar, smaller distributed assets based from forward stations...

    2. I get the sense that many land basing discussions are generic in nature meaning that the benefits and drawbacks are theoretical and generic rather than specific to a theater. For example, do the benefits described actually hold in the Chinese/Pacific theater? There just aren't many basing options within operationally useful ranges of the likely areas of conflict.

      Where do you see sufficient numbers of bases than can be had in that region that will provide adequate sortie rates?

      Similarly, where do you see bases being established in the Mid East that will allow us assured operational rights in time of conflict and provide the sortie rates we need for use against Iran? We can get basing rights during peacetime but if war comes those rights are questionable, at best.

    3. There are nearly 100 civilian airfields that could be used if basing rights were requested, but no one even asks. We already have Clark, Mactan, and Andrews in the Phils, and Singapore. But the key is pre-positioned stocks of tents, munitions, fuel, and engineer equipment (to repair craters), along with a caretaker staff of a dozen US military or civilians and 100 locals. We could establish a dozen of these for less than the cost of one aircraft carrier. Some we already have rights to: Adak, Iwo Jima, Midway, Darwin, Tinian, and the civilianized former Navy airbase in Guam (Aguana I think) to back up Anderson.

    4. Besides the 1st & 2nd island chain, there are a large number of islands spread across the pacific, there is also the island chain by Alaska.

      It may not be perfect, but keep in mind even a small C295 MPA can reach out 1,000KM, the P8 can reach out 2,000KM both with several hours on station & the SAAB Gripen NG will have a A2D range of over 1,000KM, so to will something like the Embraer R-99 AWACS.

      Tomahawk missiles will reach out quiet farm, the US has 4,000 of those, and when they are due to be replaced they could be based on these islands. You can use these islands to field land-based aviation which is a heck of a lot cheaper than putting anything on a carrier. And you can deploy drones and naval vessals from them, technically I imagine you could get alot of coverage from these islands.

      In the ME its possible too, take baharain for instance, what about Cyprus in the Mediteranean, the RAF has a base there, imagine if it was just upscalled, with at least one full wing there as a skeleton crew, and short-ranged MPAs stationed there permanently, but with a swing-capacity that was much larger...

      The US also has a base in Eritea, so if you built an air-base there with a strong naval port, you would controll both sides of the Suez.

      >Don't forget the value of holding islands for basing of smaller vessals, I imagine something akin to the helicopter destroyer or harrier carrier, would do a good job as Destroyer (with the role being the classic role of a destroyer, asw), when based from those islands, it could go out like 2-3K Clicks, or transit between islands, spend most of it's time on station, then turn around.

      You can actually cover much of the pacific from a dozen or so island bases... And the best thing, most of those bases are within combat radius of the next base, so it would be very hard to take the island, build your own airbase and move up like they did in WW2.

    5. There are many advantages. KC-130s can operate from them to refuel any aircraft and support carrier ops. CSAR ops could from them. Alternative sites for damaged aircraft or to refuel or rearm. Subs can visit at night to take on food and munitions. SAMs like Patriots can provide some regional dominance. With these bases, the carriers could remain in support east of Guam while their aircraft used the FOBs to fight, while the carrier provides rest and aircraft maintenance support.

      But as you mention Tomahawks (land-based anti-ship missiles) and anti-sub helos land based. But there is no reason why Tomahawks cannot be carried by FA-18s or C-130s or P-8s, but dominating WestPac from land bases. A dozen FOBs is a far better idea than spending $20 billion for a new Marine airbase on Okinawa that is politically impossible and outright stupid since the China is so close it can destroy that base within in hour; Kadena too.

      The carrier group is even more stupid if one looks at the logistics required. A big replenishment ships is required every few days that sail from just a few possible bases. Subs can knock off those easily or just follow one to the carrier.

    6. "There are nearly 100 civilian airfields that could be used if basing rights were requested ... Clark, Mactan, and Andrews in the Phils, and Singapore. ... Some we already have rights to: Adak, Iwo Jima, Midway, Darwin, Tinian, and the civilianized former Navy airbase in Guam"

      A quick eyeball check of the distances show average distances to likely operational areas of 2000 miles. The closet bases would be in the Philippines where the distance to the center of the SChina Sea is 600 miles, to the EChina Sea is 1200 miles, and to Taiwan is 900 miles.

      Those are long, long distances and would severely limit our sortie rates. Bases in the Philippines might well be worthwhile but would also be problematic in the even of hostilities as the Philippines might well choose to sit out any conflict and deny usage rights. The other locations you mentioned are just too far to be of any significant operational benefit other than as rear area staging. We're not going to be able to support useful sortie rates and certainly not CSAR from thousands of miles.

      All of those bases are within range of Chinese ballistic missiles which have advertised ranges of 7000-11000 miles. A land base is a fixed target. We would have to devote a lot of defensive effort to protecting bases which would contribute little to offense.

      There is a limit to what the US can do as far as land bases for a war with China. It's not a good situation. Review the distances as compared to the combat radius of our aircraft and you'll see the problem. Yes, with sufficient tanking we can get the aircraft to an operational area but the sortie rates would be very poor. Transiting one or two thousand miles to reach combat means a limit of one sortie per day, at best, with a very short time on station.

      Think about the specific distances rather than just the generic benefits of a land base and tell me what you think.

    7. Distance to what? It sounds like you are fixated with striking targets ashore, which can be done with Tomahawks or USAF bombers. Our navy should focus on sea control, and all those locations are good for sea control. And we want to be out or easy aircraft range since the Chinese will have more fighters in the region. We want to knock off their ships and subs when they attempt to move far from shore, and engage their aircraft when they are far from shore with little fuel and no radar support. We don't need to attack China, just enforce a ship blockade from afar and let them suffer. Make them come out to fight.

      And because these bases are distant, China must use its larger and more expensive ballistic missiles to crater runways, which can be fixed in a few days. And we have plenty of marines to defend these bases. They just need to give up the insane idea that some fool will order an amphib assault against China with just 15,000 Marines.

      And our experts need to read more about modern China Taiwan relations. There is nothing be gained by a stupid war among cousins. They are major trading partners and Taiwan is cutting its army size. Its not an issue! Japan vs China is the potential conflict, and the Taiwanese and South Koreas will stay neutral.

    8. Those distances are to the approximate center of Taiwan, the East China Sea, and the South China Sea.

      Sea control is an interesting idea but is only one aspect of what the Navy should be doing. Given the immense distances and lack of useful basing, the Navy will have to carry more than its share of the offensive combat load. Simply sitting back a couple thousand miles and waiting for a Chinese ship to sail out into range won't do much.

      Of course, it all depends on what our military strategy is. Any likely combat scenario will take place well within the S/E China Seas and bases a thousand or two thousand miles away will be of limited usefulness.

      I think you also underestimate the destructive power of a ballistic missile on a land base. While we might fill in craters, as you put it (albeit immense craters!), we won't reconstitute fuel storage facilities, munitions depots, control towers, hangars, maintenance facilities, housing, etc. in a day or two. A base hit by several ballistic missiles will be out of commission for quite a while.

    9. Other than P-8s, "land-based naval aviation assets" are a euphemism for "United States Air Force assets that are outside the budget, and control, of the United States Navy." That will never be acceptable to the Navy brass. And for good reason: The Air Force cannot be trusted to provide CAS to the Army, so why should they be trusted to be subservient to Navy priorities?

    10. That's why FOBs are best. Most people think only of big main operating bases like Kadena. A FOB is just a place where combat aircraft can refuel and rearm. I see the aircraft based further away (safely), as well as the carriers. Depending on the operation, they fly closer to China, refuel, attack, maybe fly a couple more sorties, then back to the rear area. China has lots of missiles that can hit Okinawa, but beyond that they have far fewer and will run out after a few days.

    11. This comment has been removed by the author.

    12. "The Air Force cannot be trusted to provide CAS to the Army, so why should they be trusted to be subservient to Navy priorities?"

      The Air Force, like the Navy, can certainly come in for their fair share of criticism but let's be fair, the Air Force will provide CAS. It may not be the highest priority they have in terms of training or missions but they will be there when needed. They've proven that in Desert Storm and every conflict since. Yes, there may be occasional issues with loiter time or availability or weather but the AF is there when needed. I'm not the AF's biggest fan but even I have to credit where credit is due.

  4. Asking your pardon about my English…

    Naval warfare is about achieving Sea Control, in a certain area for a certain time, so that you can use the sea to project power ashore, in order to accomplish your strategic objectives.

    In doing so, when necessary, Naval Task Forces need to go in harm’s way, to achieve the said Sea Control. Confronting the emerging air-, surface- and subsurface threats is the job of the escorts of the Task Force.

    You can see this job as a defensive one, because the escorts defend themselves (and the capital ships under protection) using any available means. Actually, is a very offensive one, because the escorts do permit the capital ships (carriers and amphibious ships) to project their power ashore.

    Will you loose escorts? Maybe, but loosing an escort is the ultimate way for protecting a capital ship. History provides many examples.

  5. And a few thoughts a little off topic… Regarding to the carrier group and its escorts, we shall not forget the ASW escorts. As the Perrys provided escorts for the CBG, so is supposed to do the LCS and the LCS/FF.

    With the ASW module, the “flight 0” LCS should perform ASW duties not only in littoral waters, but also in “blue waters”. Otherwise you wouldn’t understand that the said module incorporates a VDS and a Multifunction Towed Array System (MTAS), because in shallow waters those sensors aren’t very useful.

    In its new itineration, the LCS is supposed to simultaneously perform ASW and ASuW duties, with the same sensors, plus a torpedo decoy.

    Actually, I think that you can’t conduct ASW operations in shallow waters neither with a VDS nor with a MTAS.

    For ASW you need sensors, processing capacity, decision making’ capability and “shooters” (ie, platforms which can launch torpedoes or depth charges) (And doctrine, training and readiness, but I just want to say some things about the hardware).

    With the emerging Chinese and Russian threat, CBG should revert to their Cold War’s strength, with at least 7 escorts (3 CGs/DDGs + 4 LCS) and 1-2 SSN.

    Of course you need to perform offensive ASW, attacking the enemy’s submarines in their bases, disabling their command and control system, etc.

    But in any case, you need to perform defensive ASW: First of all, with the SSN’s to sanitize the waters some hundreds of miles in front of the CBG.

    Then, – as I think – you need 1 DDG performing as the ASW coordinator plus 4 LCS equipped with ASW modules.

    Finally, you need need at least 2 AAW/ASW escorts (CGs or DDGs) acting as “goalkeepers”.

    The DDG performing as the ASW coordinator probably will have to process a big amount of ASW data from different sources; also it has to exercise the Command and Control of the ASW effort of the CBG.

    The ASW equipped LCS should operate in pairs, with each pair at either side of the CBG making “sprints and loitering”: one LCS will rush at 40 knots for several miles and then she will loiter at low speed deploying its VDS and MTAS; as she loiters, the other LCS will sprint to the front of the CBG. The same “sprint and loiter” will be carried out by the other pair. With two pairs performing those “sprint and loiter”, the CBG will have at each side and at any time, an LCS with her ASW sensors deployed.

    Is the LCS to noisy for that kind of ASW operation? I really don’t know: 1) The LCS will operate at low speed; 2) I suppose that MFTA can isolate some frequencies or noises; 3) MFTA doesn’t “hear” to the “front”, just to the “sides”.

    I think that this “sprint and loiter” operation is the answer for the cath-22 presented by the LCS’s speed and her ASW sensors.

    I also think that the there is an enormous mistake when Capt. Dan Brintzinghoffer says that the LCS/FF will be heavier and, by simple physics, just slower. And less stable, as stated by “Nick”.

    What about seakeeping in a heavier and a less stable ship?

    I don’t have a definitive opinion about the LCS, but I know that a warship has to be as stable as possible and should have as much endurance as possible. Making the LCS heavier, you won’t get any of them. And you will loose the possibility of conducting those “sprint and loiter”.

    Back to my ASW concept: What about the shooters? If we are trying to detect enemy submarines at the first convergence zone, the only available shooters with such a long range are the SH-60R helicopters.

    Because the carriers are operating with 60+ aircraft instead of 85-90, I think that they should embark as many SH-60R helicopters as possible. Maybe, over 20 SH-60R, so that neither the DDGs nor the LCS have to embark those choppers permanently. They could act as lily-pads, refueling and rearming those choppers when necessary.

    Without permanently embarked helicopters, the LCS would become lighter and more stable. The DDGs would not have freeboard problems.

    1. Why not perform ASW with aeroplanes like the S-3 Viking, or even Helos launched from a Helo Carrier, covers much more area. The ACTUV drone proposal sounds good too, I imagine it is possible to have some sort of effective airborne MAD drone with long endurance for ASW warfare.

      Cover much more area, and have it's own defensive aircover, i.e. STOVL like harrier, or CATOBAR LW fighters.

      Ironically without such aircover I don't see how your Surface Action Group is going to survive an encounter with an aircraft carrier, or STOVL armed Helicopter carrier, of any size.

      Once they detect your large group, with all it's emmisions, they are going to pound you from outside your engagement envelope, and pick all your ships off...

    2. Andres, your LCS ASW escort role for carrier groups is interesting but hopefully you recognize that the LCS has some serious limitations regarding open ocean escort work. The ship has very limited range and would spend almost as much time refueling and resupplying as conducting ASW. The seaframe (hull) is shallow draft and reportedly handles poorly in any kind of weather. Reports are that Freedom got beat up pretty significantly making the open ocean crossing to Guam for the Singapore PR deployment. The seaframe was just not built for open ocean work. Structurally, the vessel is too weak for sustained open ocean sailing. Worse, the vessel's water jets are extremely loud and would provide an acoustic beacon for hundreds of miles around pinpointing the carrier group's location.

      I'm unsure what sea states the LCS is cleared for helo operations in. Again, it was designed for shallow water work.

      Finally, the LCS speed has been steadily downgraded. The ship is currently only capable of around 38 kts and that will decrease significantly in any but calm sea states.

      People keep trying to find jobs for the LCS but the ship's inherent structural and design flaws really limit what it can do.

      The Navy ruled out the LCS as a carrier group escort, presumably for these reasons. It remains to be seen what the LCS/FF can do but the fundamental flaws remain so I wouldn't think it would be suitable for open ocean work, either, but we'll have to wait and see.

  6. Regarding ASW operations in shallow waters (Persian Gulf, Baltic Sea), I think it is not possible to deploy VDS or MFTA, so that the sonobuoys are the only sensor that you could deploy from the CBG.

    Using a hull mounted sonar isn’t a solution, cause the submarine will have always an advantage over the ship: at any distance where the ship detects the submarine, a torpedo can be launched against the ship.


    1.- Naval warfare is about achieving limited Sea Control for projecting power ashore.
    2.- Escorts do embark defensive weapons, but is purpose is an offensive one.
    3.- Is the escorts job going in harm’s way.
    4.- Loosing an escort is the ultimate way of protecting a capital ship.
    5.- LCS can do a relevant contribution to the CBG ASW effort.
    6.- The LCS/FF should not loose her speed.
    7.- A heavier LCS/FF will have not only less endurance but also less stability.
    8.- Carriers should embark a bigger number of SH-60R.
    9.- SH-60R are the ultimate ASW shooters of the CBG.
    10.- Using hull mounted sonars isn’t a solution for shallow water ASW.

  7. Excuse me for not being clear enough. I was writing about the escorts of a CBG, a Carrier Battle Group, meaning that a carrier needs at least 7 escorts: 3 CG/DDG + 4 DDG.

    Because it is the escort of a carrier, there are several aircraft around.

    I didn't to write about systems which are not longer in service (S-3) or are long away from coming in service (unmaned ASW systems).

    1. Andres, you're quite right about the need for more escorts during war. Of course, that leads to the question why we aren't deploying and training with several escorts if that's the way we intend to fight. Navy training is seriously flawed on many levels.

  8. Do you remember this idea
    It has many drawbacks but it was intersting. More about this design you can find in Norman Friedman book about US carriers design.


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