Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Swarm Reality

C'mon, people.  Think this swarm thing through.  If we are in an all out war with Iran which includes 20 mile free fire zones with no regard for civilian casualties and collateral damge, unlimited attacks on bases, ports, and small boat piers (again, with no concern for collateral damage), aerial sweeps for small boats, etc. then the swarm threat is no more than a minor nuisance - an afterthought.  A swarm attack won't even be able to get started.

Unfortunately, that's the least likely scenario.  Far more likely is that the US will either be ambushed with no warning or will allow itself to get sucked into a "limited" conflict with politically guided, proportionally graduated application of force coupled with extreme concern for collateral damage.  In these scenarios, we won't be identifying and engaging everything in a 20 mile radius - we'll be forced to wait for demonstration of hostile intent (we won't fire until fired upon) and we'll be forced to obtain unmistakable positive ID of enemy boats before firing.  Is that boat a civilian boat or does it have RPGs hidden under the usual piles of junk?  We won't know until someone shoots.  That swarm boat that we can see is beside a civilian boat - we won't shoot.

These are the circumstances in which swarm attacks will be effective.

I'm seeing way too many unrealistic assumptions about helos.  An LCS carries one helo (the -2 version may possibly carry two although that's highly questionable and has never been demonstrated to the best of my knowledge).  Helos are notorious for being down all the time for maintenance.  Even when operable, they're only airborne for a few hours each day.  The odds that a helo will be airborne, in the right position (not investigating something a hundred miles away), and appropriately armed at the moment of an attack is extremely poor.  

Further, a helo can carry 4-8 Hellfires.  So, a single LCS (or Burke) can, in theory, kill a maximum of 4-8 boats (realistically, probably only a couple) before it's out of weapons (assuming the boats have no shoulder launched SAMs which helos have been proven to be highly vulnerable to).  That still leaves the rest of the swarm to deal with.

Helos are not the answer.  At best, they may be useful as a small part of a layered defense.  Most likely, they won't be available.

Don't just match up individual weapons.  Instead, think through the overall scenario.  Yes, a helo can kill a boat but in a realistic scenario will not likely be all that effective or available.  Ask yourself what weapons the Navy actually has and what platforms would realistically be available.  There's nothing wrong with "what we ought to do" suggestions but recognize that those are different from "what we can do".  

Don't just spit out individual weapons.  Think through the scenario.  Reader GAB had a great comment about the perils of exposed personnel trying to operate anti-tank-ish weapons while receiving incoming rockets and shrapnel.  Yes, in isolation, a Javelin or TOW or whatever can destroy a boat but what is the reality of the overall scenario?  Can exposed personnel effectively aim a weapon from a high speed, pitching, rolling ship being showered with rockets and shrapnel?  Can you even target a boat that is hidden in the waves or spray half the time?  Sure, a weapon can pitch up to get a clearer view but it still needs an initial target lock.  What is the effective target lock range under those circumstances versus the Wiki specifications for weapon range?

Circumstances, rules of engagement, and practicalities are going to have far more impact than weapon specifications so let's think along those lines.  What I'm asking is that we think this through from a realistic perspective.


  1. CNO,

    There shouldn't just be one LCS. Think in terms of task forces, not individual ships.

    A task force would be composed of multiple ships, multiple boats and multiple helicopters or UAVs.

    Helos can carry numerous APKWS, which is more suitable for killing swarms.

    I agree that helicopters are tough to keep aloft constantly in a defensive posture. They are more useful after hostilities start, or for scouting queued by other persistent resources.

    I think both you and GAB greatly overestimate the ability of Iranian swarm boats to "shower rockets and shrapnel" on a vessel from anything more than point-blank range at operational speeds. Remember, Javelin has more than a 2.5km effective range. If it can identify targets as hostile, it can engage them well before they get within effective range of their unguided weapons.

    Certainly exposed crews should take cover if there are incoming. And a more protected launch position is just some steel hillbilly armor plates and a torch away.

    Look back to WWII era ships and see how many had open gun mounts, or gun mounts with minimal crew protection.

    This isn't rocket science. Look over that article i posted in the previous thread about Sea Javelin.

    If anything spray and waves impact laser guided munitions like APKWS, Griffon or (non-Longbow) Hellfire more than Javelin. Remember, Javelin is designed to detect targets partially shrouded by cover as well, on land. If anything, sea targets are easier due to the larger thermal variance between vessel, sea and air.

    1. "There shouldn't just be one LCS. Think in terms of task forces, not individual ships."

      This is exactly my point. Think like the enemy. Think overall situation. Is Iran going to attack a task force? Good grief, no!!! They'll pick out an isolated ship or a ship tied to convoy escort or some such.

      "... Javelin has more than a 2.5km effective range. If it can identify targets as hostile, it can engage them well before they get within effective range of their unguided weapons. "

      Those 107mm rockets have a nominal range of 5 miles. If their effective range is even half that, that still has them as longer ranged than Javelin.

      Javelin has a 25m blast back zone behind it so it would require clearance that is not readily available on a ship's deck or it would have to fired from a fixed location with blast protection. It could be used relatively freely from a flight deck, of course.

      I'm unconvinced that an IR imaging system could see a small boat approaching head on, especially at night when the boat is cooled. The hottest part of the boat, the engine, is at the stern and "buried" as the boat squats at speed - it would not be visible to an IR seeker. Whether the bow, bouncing up and down into the water would offer enough of a heat signature for a target lock is questionable.

      It might work but until someone demonstrates it under realistic conditions, I'll remain skeptical.

    2. "I'm unconvinced that an IR imaging system could see a small boat approaching head on, especially at night when the boat is cooled."

      There's more to IR sensors than just the heat output.
      Metal, Fiberglass, Plastics, and most other common boat construction materials have an entirely different Radiological (Thermal) Reflection type than water, so they would stick out like a sore thumb against the ocean to IR sensors.
      Of course, there are ways to circumvent that (certain types of Rubber), but I don't think that would be within the cost margins of a swarm boat.
      I also don't know if the targeting system of [whatever] is designed to handle that type of difference.

      Just sticking my nose in.

      - Ray D.

    3. Don't let a ship get isolated. Plan appropriately. Move in convoys with multiple vessels and boats.

      107mm rockets can fly 5 miles, but are notoriously inaccurate even from fixed mounts against fixed targets. A bobbing boghammer is going to scatter them all over creation. I'm willing to bet a guided Javelin on an LCS will be able to hit a small boat MUCH further away than that same small boat will have even a slight chance of hitting an LCS with a 107mm rocket.

      Javelin backblast zone..

      4-61. The soft launch capability enables the gunner to fire from inside buildings because there is little overpressure or flying debris. Anyone in the enclosure should wear a helmet, protective vest, ballistic eye protection, and hearing protection.

      It is designed to fire from enclosures. Just have to watch out for debris.

    4. "Just sticking my nose in."

      Glad you did! I don't know the IR imaging technology of Javelin so I appreciate any info anyone can offer. Thanks!

    5. "107mm rockets can fly 5 miles, but are notoriously inaccurate even from fixed mounts against fixed targets. A bobbing boghammer is going to scatter them all over creation."

      Dozen(s) of boats launching many dozens of rockets (prox fused? - there's your shrapnel storm!) are bound to hit the target. Let's be consistent, here. While a bouncing boat is not the most stable platform, let's also acknowledge that a high speed, pitching, rolling, heeling LCS is also not a stable platform - better, but not stable. Neither system will produce perfect results. Javelin has a range of 1.5 miles, nominally. I'd guess an effective range is about a half mile. At that range, I'd also guess that more than enough rockets would find their target.

      Just out of curiosity, where are these extra Javelin toting crew going to come from? The existing crew has no extras for this work.

    6. They aren't bound to hit anything unless they are extremely close.

      LCS is going to be worlds more stable than a boghammer at speed. Simple physics.

      Javelin has demonstrated 4km shots with the existing CLU. It has been operationally used at 2-3km ranges (on land) on a regular basis. This isn't a spec sheet number.

      Guided munition accuracy doesn't diminish at the same rate as unguided munitions as distance increases.

      Crew could be add-ons, or pulling people away from existing duties during combat.

    7. Well, arguing numbers with non-existent data is not going to get us anywhere. If you ever hear of a realistic test of a Javelin missile in a maritime environment, let me know.

    8. Not Javelin, but the USN did test conduct tests of the similar Israeli Spike LR missile from a ROSAM mount on a USV. I believe they used the longer-range, fiber optic cable LR variant instead of the closer-to-Javelin MR variant.


      Obviously not a realistic test. It was against a target panel with an inert warhead. But if you watch the end, you'll see Spike LR's man-in-the-loop mode. This would be a very handy addition to Javelin and would mitigate some of your concerns about wave obstructions. Not sure why the services have pushed for this this.

    9. What about the old Bronco's?

      I got this from another website (Sorry CNO):

      "The Navy, on the other hand, operated the Bronco in as a dedicated close air support platform in and of itself. In order to provide a quick response capability to support the Brown Water Navy, the Navy commissioned a squadron of OV-10s as a Light Attack Squadron, VAL-4. Typically loaded with 5” rockets, and occasionally with a 20mm gun pod on the centerline, the Black Ponies of VAL-4 would be overhead from dawn to dusk, and could almost instantaneously provide close air support to SEALs or Riverine forces in contact."

      If the Bronco's were shore based then and could provide nearly constant air cover to the brown water navy, it might be possible here. To me that's the ideal solution. From what I've read the Bronco's have a much better readiness ratio than Helo's, and it sounds like they can provide a constant top cover if you have alot of them.

      Less ideal, but still possible if we don't have nearby bases, we know they can take off from 'phibs. There you'd have you're escort carrier.

    10. "I got this from another website (Sorry CNO):"

      There's other websites out there??! This is like admitting you're having an affair. Hey, I have a list of websites I peruse on a daily basis. There's lot's of good ones.

      Regarding Broncos (or any form of air cover), the problem is where do you send them? You're looking at this like a single point of contact which is known. From the Strait to the somewhere near the other end of the Gulf, you're looking at 450 some miles. Which single point do you have the air cover orbiting over? What's the odds that that is where the attack will occur? If you could predict exactly when and where an attack will occur then we can have Broncos, A-10s, AC-130s, B-2s, and whatever else we need waiting for it. But, if you have no idea when/where then trying to place air cover over one particular spot is just a guessing game and will tie up lots of resources for a very unlikely benefit.

      Do the math on an attack. If you don't have air cover directly overhead at the moment of attack, it will be over before any air cover can arrive. This is why I'm not a fan of air support as an anti-swarm tactic - it's just not practical unless you can predict the exact time/place.

    11. "...USN did test conduct tests..."

      This is one of my pet peeves, in general. The Navy (and the military, in general) sets up completely unrealistic tests (rock solid firing platform, perfect weather, scrupulously maintained and tweaked equipment, perfect operator knowledge of the target, stationary targets, very short range, warm up shots, etc.) and then extrapolates those to actual usage, proclaiming yet another wonder weapon has surpassed all expectations. Consider the videos of the LCS 57mm gun during development tests. The gun was amazing. Of course, all the staged conditions I just described applied. When they tried to fire the gun from an LCS during very, very mildly more realistic conditions they found they couldn't hit anything and the gun jammed.

      More generally, we've seen videos of surface drones motoring back and forth while various guns blaze away, registering about 1 hit for every 10 shots (and that from a range of about one or two hundred yards and the firing ship sailing slowly and steadily).

      So, I give next to zero credence to any staged test. They prove mechanical functionality, to some extent, but nothing more. Put Javelin (or any other missile or gun) on an LCS running at full speed while twisting and turning and have it shoot at a target also running at full speed directly towards the ship and see what happens. That test I'll believe.

      A guy sitting calmly on a test range, under perfect conditions, firing at a stationary target, tells me nothing. Let's see the same guy get a target lock while the ship is at maximum heel and he's trying not to slide off the deck into the sea and the target is within moments of reaching its firing range and it's bouncing in and out of the waves and let's see how he does.

      Staged tests are fine to prove out mechanical functionality but useless for evaluating real world applicability.

      Rant over.

    12. I agree, CNO. I did not mean to indicate this test was close to an operational capability.

      This was performed as part of an evaluation of missile capabilities on USVs. They used Spike because Rafael had already integrated it with ROSAM (aka mini-Typhoon). It's not clear if the USN would even be allowed to buy Spike, since it's a direct competitor to Javelin.

    13. Frankly, I don't understand why the military isn't eager to perform realistic tests. Yes, it's a little embarrassing to have a weapon fail or underperform but isn't it better to find out during a test than find out during combat?

      I also understand that reporting less than 100% results might jepordize funding but that's a matter of educating Congress that weapons don't work perfectly, even good ones. Further, there is a moral obligation on the part of Navy leadership to not send our sailors in harm's way without knowing what the weapons can do.

    14. "Further, there is a moral obligation on the part of Navy leadership to not send our sailors in harm's way without knowing what the weapons can do."

      Amen!!! For all the talk about swarms do we even know if the latest Aegis version is able to handle things like the Brahmos? Or the DF-21 in Ballistic mode? We've seen tests, but it seems they are tests against the capabilities of the missiles of a generation ago.

    15. "Do the math on an attack. If you don't have air cover directly overhead at the moment of attack, it will be over before any air cover can arrive. This is why I'm not a fan of air support as an anti-swarm tactic - it's just not practical unless you can predict the exact time/place."

      I don't think air cover is the end all be all... but I think its a piece. It might be able to sniff out swarm attacks faster. Aircraft can be deadly to these boats.

      As to it being available, I'm not talking about covering the persian gulf. To me its like playing ball control offense. You know where the defense is going to attack: The ball! So you don't have to spread out all your force all over the field, you can concentrate it at the point of attack.

      In the PG example, we pick what we are going to defend. The way I see this happening is we have my neo-cyclones in the PG doing escort duty, or show the flag duties, in small flotillas. You cater the Bronco's to where they are. If Flotilla I is escorting tankers, you make sure they have some bronco's over that that are armed. If Flotilla II is doing show the flag duty farther south, you task Bronco's for that. Try to have places you can fly out so you can range the gulf, or in air refueling. But they don't have to be everywhere all the time. They can stay over the patch of sea and ships they are trying to defend in a rotation and be where they need to be right when they are needed.

      If you end up with a higher level conflict (we have to move a crap load of stuff) then we move in a 'phib with broncos on it to provide air cover while the cyclones are close by to provide sea cover.

      Anyway, maybe its not feasible. Maybe that's not the way we operate. Its just how I understand it.

    16. Jim, did you read the post? The most likely scenario is ambush and limited conflict type stuff. In those scenarios, the Navy's job is to keep the civilian shipping safely moving (the world doesn't stop wanting oil just because we're conducting some kind of idiotic limited conflict. Thus, we'll have to protect all the ships in the shipping lane not just a couple spots. Of course, we could always pull back, concentrate our ships and hide from a possible attack but then what's the point of having a Navy?

      The last time we had tanker escorts in the Gulf, we had one or two ships escorting each convoy with other ships scattered around. That's a lot of spots to try to cover. Again, it would take a sizeable air force of Broncos (or whatever) to provide 24 hour coverage of many multiple spots.

    17. "Jim, did you read the post?"

      Indeedy do. :-)

      "The last time we had tanker escorts in the Gulf, we had one or two ships escorting each convoy with other ships scattered around. That's a lot of spots to try to cover."

      And I think that was a bad way to run a railroad.

      The tactical situation is, in some key ways, similar to the western approaches in WWII.

      U-boats weren't fast, but were very stealthy and until we had HF/DF perfected their attacks were just (to the shippers) as much of an 'instantaneous ambush'. Most times you didn't know a type VII or IX was out there until you had a ship burning.

      What we did when we were doing tanker escorts the last time was the same type of mistakes we made in early WWI, WWII, and which the Japanese continued to make through most of WWII: Not be strict about convoys.

      They work. They allow you to decide the point of attack and marshal your resources there. They allow you the only real chance to attrite the enemy.

      If we are going to do sea lane protection in the PG; we should do so with convoys. If certain nations choose not to work within our convoy, or take orders from the convoy commander, well, good luck with that.

      Again, just my $0.02

  2. I'll bite. :-)

    If I think of the missions we've done in the PG alot of it has to do with presence, and occasionally escorting of assets like oil tankers.

    Its why I think we keep flotilla's of smaller boats in the area; and let them do those missions. A Cyclone-esque ship could defend against alot of the threats a tanker is likely to face in a limited conflict environment. I don't see the need to send in a billion dollar anti-air destroyer to defend against piracy and small boat attacks. If they start using AShM's from PAC's that's a whole nother level of conflict, IMHO; and our ROE just got bumped up, making the destroyer's job easier if it has to be there.

    So, how would these Cyclone esque type craft work? Work on some sort of fire and forget missiles like Griffen's or TOW's for longer range, maybe hellfire. Then as things get closer guns.

    Why are we painting a picture of John Rambo on the deck with his twin '50 mount and no protection other than his manly aura and his pecs?

    Griffens already have launchers that don't need to be manned, from what I've seen. And the same with TOW's (the Bradley crews didn't pop out to launch their TOW's).

    As thing get closer small remotely operated mounts aren't new or rocket science. IIRC the add on mounts to the LCS are remote. The Abrams has a remote MG in its TUSK kit. Put the crew inside armored against the cannon that the swarmers are likely to bring to bear; and let them shoot it out there.

    You have Stingers if they want to bring in a helicopter.

    Its small, has some layered defense (small missiles then small guns) and it doesn't cost a billion dollars, nor is it a major national embarrasment if they are lost. As heartless as it sounds (and I don't diminish the lives of the seaman at all) its an attrition unit to deal with other attrition units.

    This unit won't be able to handle everything. A missile armed PAC will likely sink it. But hopefully they won't want to drop a million dollar AShM on a 300 ton boat. A submarine could sink it too, but then we are in a different threat profile if Iran decides to start pot shotting ships with subs. It will provide presence, a powerful punch for its size, and fulfill what we've done in the past.

    Just my $0.02

  3. Don't be so quick to say we can't be near a shooting war, look at the Oil Platform conflict when the Stark got hit.

    Also even if we are hitting the harbors and known shipyards DO NOT underestimate the ability to make a platform. With all of our sensors we cannot detect the drug cartel building pretty capable submersibles and using them to ship drugs.

  4. All that's true, but I think its also a question of perspective.

    If we get to a situation of an Oil Platform war then we need to start upgrading things a bit. (Incidently this is where I think a multirole Frigate would be a nice step up...).

    As to the drug cartel submersibles... I think alot depends on what you are doing. These semi-submersibles are nice for what they do. But they are working at an almost WWII Type VII level. Smuggling drugs against CG cutters that aren't designed for ASW, and don't train for it, is one thing. But if one of these things starts shooting at one of our bigger ships, say a 'Burke, then its going to get our attention really quickly.

    Now, I'd like to say we'd detect it and sink it quickly, but I don't think we've trained up to that level yet. But we would find it and sink it. And if we actually took ASW seriously again it wouldn't last long once you started attacking warships.

    Again, just my $0.02

    1. Jim

      My point on bringing up the Cartels is that if it is that easy to build a submersible in the jungle undetected, how hard will it be to build a shell hull and strap some outboards on it?

      We can't stop the flow of outboard motors and with a simple one way fiberglass hull you have a pretty constant flow of swarm craft. So it will not just be take out the ships in the harbors and the threat goes away.

      So how do we economically take on the swarm threat

  5. Sea Ram can be used in a anti-surface mode for small boats according to this article. http://www.scout.com/military/warrior/story/1590690-navy-fires-new-ship-defense-missile
    There is a RAM Block Two missile as well, with longer range....
    Both LCS variants have only 11 ready round missiles in the launcher however.

  6. I know some think we should nuke everything lest we be accused of excessive ROEs. He is a better example. The USA is asked to help defend the Philippines with its 7000 islands and 80 million curious and friendly people with thousands of small boats. How will it looks if our ships began to shoot up any boat that came within 1000 meters? Ship would soon run out of ammo killing Filipinos. But if we don't Chinese commandos can pull up close and fire as simple big rocket at a billion dollar destroyer packed with 90 missiles. Boom! Ha Ha.

    And what about neutral nations. War with China means Indonesia, South Korea and maybe Taiwan opt out of WW III. If they cruise by too close will we sink their ships and boats? Among these islands they have no choice but to pass close.

    And how do you enforce a blockade without coming near ships? How do you pull into a friendly port? Naval commandos will be a huge problem, as this webpage show:


    1. You lost me. Maybe a language problem? You laid out the problem but I failed to grasp your recommendation, if any. Try again?

    2. The bit about passing too close amongst islands is confusing; international law, and territorial waters should eliminate this confusion.

      The Persian Gulf/NAS is a different issue owing to the extraordinary flow of commercial traffic and oil.


  7. I do not think that the USN has carefully thought this one through at all.

    1. This will be in contested waters.

    2. That means other threats like naval mines. They will be of varying quality, some improvised and frankly, worthless, but others could be deadly indeed.

    3. There will be many small craft. Some of these craft will have terrible crews, while others will be reasonably experienced and quite dangerous.

    4. The enemy will have the typical defender's advantages like being familiar with the waters and short supply lines.

    5. The USN does not have many reliable weapons for killing small, agile boats that are relatively well armed for their size.

    Plus, look at the size of Iran. That's a decent sized coast to be fighting over. While the US may have its Arabic allies on its side, the Iranians are no slouch either and it would better to overestimate rather than underestimate them.

    1. "Plus, look at the size of Iran. That's a decent sized coast to be fighting over."

      Good point. That's around 450 miles, depending on where you choose to measure from. While the likely engagement points can be fairly well predicted (the Strait, common tanker shipping lanes, obvious ports, etc.) that's still a lot of water to contest.

    2. The advantage though with smaller craft though is that they can be launched from relatively unpredictable places for maximum surprise, which they will be.

      The War of the Tankers gives a preview of the types of logistical difficulties in getting oil tankers through.

      That also reminds me of the attack on the USS Stark, which also happened around this time. Small missiles can do lots of dmaage.

  8. I would shut the waters down, institute a no-sail zone, and create a convoy system for any commercial vessels. Then sink everything else, ofc as you said this is unlikely to ever happened, to much pussy-footing around from pathetic western leaders.

    In that case, and in the case of contested straits, you are going to need tonnes of cheaper assets like patrol boats, there are some nice examples from scandanvia. And a shit-tonne of aviation power to sift-through the Fog of war. And even then, how do you really know.

    What looks like a seemingly inconspicuous fishing boat could actualy have some serious ASMs onboard, same goes for a German operated comercial freight vessal, in reality even that could have been hijacked, how would you know?

    You can't fight a war with both hands tied behind your back.

  9. CNO,

    Like so many issues with the fleet and FMF, there are solutions to this issue, but nothing has been done due to bureaucracy, service politics, and flawed thinking from the tactical and strategic level.

    1. Stop sending high value naval units into the PG/NAS! Given the plethora of allied airbases there is zero reason to put an aircraft carrier or aegis cruiser in these waters.

    2. Strength in numbers: flotilla isn’t just a historical artifact.

    3. Use existing weapons and technology for a baseline solution.

    a. Hellfire and 70mm hydra missiles are proven killers of Iranian Boghammers. Griffin is an expensive, but likely killer. Take the proven mount for the RAM missile and CIWS, add a launcher array for multiple munitions, and get them into the fleet.

    b. 5” Zuni, or TOW 2 fitted with laser guidance and a bunker buster warhead are also likely killers that are in the inventory (or could be modified by experts at Crane/Dahlgren/McAlester etc. with little effort).

    c. Lasers, microwaves, sonic devices etc. can be lethal, set to maim, or be less-than lethal. Permanent blinding of savages may be a more effective deterrent to future barbarity in certain cultures than killing said savages outright.

    d. VLS Hellfire (assuming it actually works) would be a great asset.

    In all of this the point is to provide a realistic kill capability and get it to the fleet without relying on gold platted weapons, fantasy weapons, untested weapons, or sticking Joe and Jane sailor/marine running around topside in an artillery barrage or to face 23mm, 14.5mm weapons that turn people into hamburger.


  10. Strictly from the Iranian standpoint, it may be desirable to attack the oil production facilities of Saudi Arabia directly across the Gulf and vice versa.

    That is another variable to consider.

    Remember this war is about the oil. That's the main objective here oil - and by extension power.

  11. The small boat swarms are made up of, well, small vessels. That means small arms. Wouldn't decent armor protect against these things? I mean, not totally, but an RPG fired against a ship with 3" of armor plate would probably do much less damage than an RPG that hits a thin-skinned LCS. So if a couple of rockets or missiles or small torpedoes hit the target, then the target is still in business if a bit damaged.

    1. What ship in the US Navy do you think has 3" armor?

  12. Perhaps what is happening is similar to when the machine gun came into existence. Before then massed attacks were the order of the day regardless of losses. Now with long range missiles, smart missiles, or small highly dispersible munitions (cluster bombs), maybe dispersal of forces is the only way to fight.

    So maybe landing or inserting small numbers of forces is the way to go until there is sufficient suppression of the enemy long range missiles, smart missiles, and cluster munitions to allow concentration of forces.

    Certainly after the Machine gun and massed artillery of WWI, relatively small battle groups (Panzer divisions and armies) were able to move fast enough to negate those weapons.

    It might be time to stop thinking about Land the Landing Force, and think instead about inserting and supporting groups to run amok in the enemies valuable areas.

    If this is true stop trying to fight past wars and look at what the conditions are now. The post does a good job at starting that.

    1. Fascinating comment. How would these small groups penetrate an A2/AD zone undetected, make their way ashore, and, as you put it, run amok, without being detected and caught? Could small groups accomplish enough to be worth the effort? What would these groups do? Call in attacks? Conduct sabotage themselves? Where would these groups look for enemy missiles? The implication is that if we know enough to tell them where to look, we probably don't need them to look in the first place. If we don't know where to tell them to look, it would be like looking for a needle in a haystack where every piece of hay is trying to kill you.

      You've intrigued me. Now, flesh out the idea with practicalities. If you can do it, I'd consider guest post on the topic.

  13. First off, hello. (First time poster, but not first time reader of this very interesting blog.) Second, into regards, to defeating a swarm attack, the first and really only defense, is detection. That has been mentioned several times in this blog and the previous blogs on ths topic. UAV's and sats are probaly the best options followed by local intelligence, such as the commercial shipping that passes thru the gulf daily. However, failing detection, your looking at a sunk or severely damaged CV and/or escorts. That has also been mentioned. What I believe hasn't been mentioned, is that if, Iran's navy launches an attack on US naval assets, then Iran's other military branches, will in turn, launch attacks on the respectful counterparts, i.e. the US Army and Airforce, probably as a preplanned combined arms attacks. That would most likely be scud missile attacks on bases, airstrikes on airfields, swarm attacks on the CV battlegroup. An attack of such scale, is one hard to do all at once, in sequence, increasing the odds of detection for one or more affected branches. An attack on only one or two, still will warrant immediate counterstrikes by the unaffected and/or now alerted units in country. But what if the attack is so successful, that all three branches of the US military in the region, is destroyed or damaged beyond being an effective force you say? As cold as it may sound, we have assets around the world who can be shifted to this region, and the threat destroyed. Iran knows this, and barring rogues and radicals or the possibility that Iran develops the an Atomic bomb, I believe all attacks from Iran, are at this point suicidal and will not happen. Thank you for your time, and am looking forward to a comment, or rebuttal.

    1. Andrew, welcome!

      You've may be assuming an unlikely scenario. I think a swarm attack is intended to be used against commercial shipping or isolated, small warships rather than carrier groups or large warships. If for no other reason, this would be due to the inability of the swarm weapons (RPGs, machine guns, rockets, etc.) to actually inflict significant damage on large ships. This is the equivalent of naval guerrilla warfare - small scale ambushes on water. It is simply not possible to sink a carrier or other large ship with swarm weapons. Thus, the swarm attacks will be used against commercial, small, or isolated ships, most likely.

      You are also applying a Western logic to a country that has demonstrated repeatedly that it operates with a radically different logic system - we would almost characterize it as insane. Thus, the possibility of retaliation, no matter how severe, may not be the preventer of action that you envision. Iran espouses suicide attacks and racial genocide. That is not a country that operates within a "normal" framework of thought.

      You're correct that the threat of retaliation does act as a brake, to a degree, on Iranian actions but only until they view the overall outcome as acceptable and that overall outcome is likely not what we would view as acceptable. Our failure to back up our "red lines" only makes it more likely that the Iran will take action.

      Finally, detection of a swarm is not the real issue - ROE is. Our obsessive desire to avoid collateral damage will likely ensure that the swarm gets the first shot off successfully. We've proven this in ground combat repeatedly. We're willing to accept US casualties in order to avoid even the remote possibility of collateral damage. So, even if we detect swarm craft we may not be willing to fire first, especially if they are mixed in with civilian shipping. If we could declare a 20 mile exclusion zone and kill everything that moves within that zone then swarms would just be a minor annoyance - but we won't.

      What do you think? Does that make sense?

  14. I think, rereading my earlier post, I did not clarify my main talking points clearly. The point I was trying to make is, if Iran commits to attacking either commercial or Navy assets, they will also target Army and Airforce assets. If an attack comes, I can imagine from their perspective, the need to destroy as much of our capability as possible at one time. An attack of such scale could only be planned at the highest levels of the Iranian government, such large, combined arms operations often due not go according to plan. One phase of the attack being out of sequence, would provide the other targets a chance to react before being attacked. Currently, from past events, Iran will not do so, rather allowing 3rd parties to try accomplish the goals for them. Until there is a change in their government, this shall continue as long as something doesn't force them to act. It's not really a western logic, it is right now about personnel survival of the ruling class. However, should the ruling class be replaced with a more radical new generation, well, all bets are off.

    Isolated Boghammer attacks against commercial shipping could be a problem, thou mostly for us trying to stop them. However, I think the biggest threat facing commercial is land based or air launch anti-ship missiles, as they have no real way of defeating them or us stopping them due to limited time of engagement till the reach the target. As you stated ROE will be a problem, rightly so. However, I think, your underestimated a speedboat combat capability utilizing rather obsolete weapons. Take the Millennium Challenge 2002 or the sinking of ROKS Cheonan for example. MC 2002 show multiple gaps in are capabilities, that allowed subpar combat ships to "destroy" multiple advanced warships. Gaps that I think that have return in this era of budget cuts or that were swepted under the rug. The Sinking of the Cheonan, proved outdated, dumb weapons, if they hit, are often enough for a catastrophic kill. I do believe a 107mm rocket is really no threat to a CV, its the 220mm rockets or the 324mm torpedos that are. Limit capability weapons on fast platforms are quite effective if the they are allowed to be with in 1km of the target, before positive id can be made on them and destroyed. My closing statement is, if an ongoing attack is not detected, it will most likely be successful, causing the United States to shift assets from around the globe to replace those damaged or destroyed. Those Assets are currently outside the reach of any significant Iranian military attack. It will be these replacements that will decimate the Iranian military. And the reason an Iranian attack hasn't happen yet is due the ruling class of Iran not yet wanting to do so. Thank you for the discussion, looking forward to some thoughts on the points I have made.


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